13 December 2013

On Advent and Liturgical Fundamentalism

Posted in Church

adventcandlesI recently posted a rant on Facebook about how so many ministry leaders were posting about the color of Advent candles and singing Christmas hymns in Advent. It went something like (well, exactly like) this:

“I have no patience for debates over the color of Advent candles and whether or not to sing Christmas songs in Advent. God became incarnate *mind blown*...and candles and carols are all some church professionals on Facebook can post about? Give me a break.”

I had seen so many colleagues posting about these things that I finally snapped and posted about it. 139 likes, 45 comments, and 5 shares later, it seems to have hit a nerve. Facebook informs me that its on of my most popular posts of 2013. Oh, well.

Here’s my problem with all this.

09 December 2013

Make Your Neighborhood Your Cathedral (Video)

Posted in Digital Ministry, Emerging, Church

stmarksThis fall I was invited to speak as part of a series called "Conversations that Matter" for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. I gave the talk live at the first conversation in Nazareth, PA and then we recorded it for subsequent gatherings. The invitation was to speak about the future direction of the church in a way that provoked conversation and reflection.

This 22-minute video called "Make Your Neighborhood Your Cathedral" explores something I am deeply passionate about and I think is vital to the future of the Church—getting outside our church buildings and being present in public local and digital gathering spaces, whether it is the local cafe or pub, Facebook or Twitter. (Email readers will need to click here to view the video.)

  

 photo credit: alag_pl on Flickr

23 October 2013

Keeping Sabbath With My Confirmation Class

Posted in Church

Remember-SabbathWe are learning about the Ten Commandments in our Confirmation class this fall, and most recently the Third Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy" and Martin Luther's explanation of it in the Small Catechism, "We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God's Word, but instead keep the Word holy and gladly hear and learn it."

Inspired by the work we are doing in my class Catechism as Platform and conversations on experiential learning with Bethany Stolle, I decided to craft a Confirmation class that was an experience of Sabbath, rather than just a discussion about it. It turned out to be a great mashup of premodern and postmodern, ancient and digital.

Luther's explanation of the third commandment, as I understand it, is about taking time to encounter the Word of God, whether that's on the traditional Christian Sabbath of Sunday morning, where we gather for worship and engage with the Word in Scripture readings, sermons, and the liturgy, or simply time apart from our busy routines in order for rest and renewal so that we can encounter God in the Word—which, for me, can be Scripture, or another person, or nature, or any number of ways people encounter and experience God.

When I introduced the session and told the kids that I just wanted them to relax and there would be time for them just to chill, they were pretty shocked. They are so programmed, just like adults, they weren't expecting to get permission just to be kids—really, just to be.

So, here's what we did, including links and resources. The entire experience lasted 90 minutes.

How are you cultivating experiential learning in your ministry? Share your good ideas in the comments.

16 October 2013

Two Talks on Evangelism in the 21st Century

Posted in Leadership, Church

Ethiopian-iPhoneWhat does evangelism in the 21st century look like? How is it different than 5, 10, 15, or 25 years ago?

In these two talks/sermons, I take on those questions and offer up strategies that have worked for me.

In short, evangelism must begin with repentence and it should involve more listening— holy listening— than it usually does. 

I draw on the work of the Barna Group in the books UnChristian and You Lost Me, Nadia Bolz-Weber's spiritual memoir, Pastrix, research from Elizabeth Drescher, and the work of Paul Hoffman described in Faith Forming Faith

What does evangelism at the ouset of the 21st century look like where you are?

13 October 2013

Checking-In at Church

Posted in How To, Social Media, Church

CheckInLast Sunday we began posting this message before worship as people entered the sanctuary, and the response has been great.  

People are checking-in, tweeting, and sharing pictures way more already.

The simple idea is that by checking-in and posting to their social networks, people can help spread the word about what's happening in our congregation.

Why does this obvious but brilliant little slide work so well?

It gives people permission to break out their smartphones in worship—still kind of a new idea. And it feels fun. You can interact with other people from church in a playful social media way.

04 October 2013

Pastrix: Nadia Bolz-Weber's Cranky and Beautiful Memoir (Review)

Posted in Emerging, Leadership, Spirituality, Church

Pastrix3Nadia Bolz-Weber makes me want to be a better pastor. She also reminds me that I'm bound to fuck it up.

In her new book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, Nadia chronicles her upbringing in a fundamentalist church, her path to self-destruction as a young adult, her improbable call to ministry, and her journey with her people at House for All Sinners and Saints.

It is beautifully written, funny, and heartbreaking. It will make you laugh out loud and, if you're like me, choke up and wipe away the tears pooling up in the corner of your eyes. Often all on the same page.

Surely, Pastrix is one of the first great spiritual memoirs of post-American-Christendom.

Pastrix speaks profoundly to those who are alienated from the church. I want to buy a copy for all my friends, and I've got plenty, who have given up on church long ago.

For my part, I can't help but read Pastrix from my own perspective as a ministry practitioner and Lutheran pastor.

What I have learned from Nadia, in our conversations and again in Pastrix, is that being a better pastor is not about accumulating skill sets and eventually, finally, getting it right. Its about being open enough to God (who she refers to as "Jesus the Boyfriend," who gets all up in our shit) and God's people to have your heart broken.

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