11 December 2012

Should I Stay or Go? Three Questions and Resources for Discerning a New Call

Posted in Church

GoDiscerning whether to seek and accept a new call to ministry is an intense experience.

A myriad of ideas, dreams, and worries swirl around in your head and heart. It can be hard to know your own mind, motives, and true desires, let alone God’s.

In my own experience of deciding to leave one call and take another, these are the three central questions that helped focus my discernment—and the resources that helped me answer them. I hope they can be helpful to you in your own process of discernment.

05 December 2012

Remembering The Rev. Dr. Ronald Thiemann

Posted in ELCA, Leadership, Church

On December 5th I had the honor of preaching the funeral sermon for my mentor and friend, The Rev. Dr. Ronald Thiemann. We lost him too soon and will miss him greatly.

ron thiemannFirst Meeting

I remember the first time I met Ron Thiemann. It was 1996 and I was a newly minted first year Master of Divinity student at Harvard Divinity School and Ron was the Dean. I was invited, along with all first years, to the traditional welcome cookout at Jewett House, the Dean’s residence. We shook hands in the receiving line and said hello. And that was it. In that brief moment, neither of us could have possibly imagined that our journeys would somehow lead us here today.

I never had a class with Ron, a fact he would later tease me about frequently. I tried to explain that he just wasn’t in my area, but he didn’t buy it. But I did see him often. You know, at Harvard, professors are our versions of celebrities and Deans all the more so. I remember seeing Ron walking hurriedly across the Div School campus. I’d say, “Hey, there’s the Dean!” It was like seeing a theological rock-star. I knew that he was brilliant, important, and busy teaching and guiding the Divinity school, which he did for 13 years.

So, perhaps you can imagine that when Ron and Beth appeared unannounced for Sunday worship here at Redeemer when I was serving as pastor, I had to do a double take. I peeked into the sanctuary from the back door and said, “Is that the dean? That’s the dean!” I walked up and, I’ll never forget, I nervously said, “Hello, Professor Thiemann, I’m Keith Anderson.” And Ron said, “Yes. I know.” Eek! And then I had to preach in front of him a sermon I didn’t particularly like. My heart thumped in my chest as it did for my sermons in the weeks to come. After weeks of calling him Professor Thiemann, he finally had to say, “Keith, please, call me Ron.”

And in the time since, I came to know Ron, not only as the incredibly accomplished scholar and institutional leader, advisor to political, religious, and business leaders, but as a colleague, a wise mentor, and, truly and most of all, a friend.

26 November 2012

Pastors, Stop Complaining About Sunday Morning Sports

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Church

soccerIt’s a common complaint among clergy types, “Sunday morning sports is taking people away from worship!”

This lament and the exasperation that accompanies it goes deeper than just whether a family shows up on a particular Sunday. It is the lament of the loss of the privileged place that the Churchand clergyonce enjoyed in our culture. And in our lament we risk alienating the very young families we seek to engage.

The emergence of Sunday morning sports is just a symbol of a shift that’s happening in our society where the church is no longer accommodated or propped up by our culture.

Clergy lament this. It makes our jobs harder. But, if we are honest, there is something deeper: it is the resentment of the loss a privileged place of not only religious institutions, but Christian institutions, and not just Christian institutions, but Christian people, and the leaders of those people, the professional clergy, us. We are mourning our own diminishing cultural position and privilege. That’s what I hear just under the surface when clergy complain to each other about Sunday morning sportsits the loss of our place, our privilege, our position.

13 November 2012

What Churches Should Learn from Mitt Romney's Defeat

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Leadership, Church

romneyA fundamental problem that led to the defeat of the Romney campaign, and Republican party more generally, in the 2012 election, is the same one that faces mainline congregations: mistakingly thinking that simply maximizing a coalition of aging white men is sufficient to win the future.

Much of the early analysis in the final days of the 2012 presidential campaign has focused not on policy, ideology, or ads, but strategy: polling, turnout, and, specifically, demographics.

It turns out that the downfall of the Romney campaign was not appreciating the demographic shifts that had taken place in the country over the last four years. America and the electorate had become more diverse and urban - and the tone, resonant issues, language, and culture had shifted along with them.

In many ways, the mainline church now finds itself in the same position as the Republican party - scrambling to catch up to changes in country and culture. The Church must understand the lesson of the Romney defeat and pivot toward the culture that exists now rather than the one that used to be.

07 November 2012

Leadership for a Church on the Edge: Wisdom from the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Posted in Emerging, Leadership, Church

lewisandclark

The church finds itself on the verge of uncharted territory, a geography that is unsettling and unfamiliar.

No one knows how the future is going to unfold. Our answers are partial, at best.

Sometimes it seems like we standing at edge of a cliff, but, for me, it feels more like the opening of a vast new territory that calls us to exploration and adventure - and I am excited for it.

I recently took heart in this from reading Stephen Ambrose's excellent book, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, which tells the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-1806 to find a route to the Pacific coast.

It was an epic journey, one with great lessons for the church as it finds itself thrust into a new age of exploration. 

Here are six pieces of inspiration and wisdom I took from Lewis and Clark for church leadership now:

29 October 2012

The Rise of the "Nones" and My Trip to Asheville

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

Asheville Love Local

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released its study "Nones" on the Rise, which stated that the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen to 20% - and tops out at 34% among those under 30.

This increase in the unaffiliated corresponds to a decline in those that identify as white (evangelical and mainline) protestants.

There are plenty of takeaways from the report, but it is clear that there are simply fewer and fewer people with whom the church has a traditional, historic affinity - people who might attend a church out of expectation,  obligation, or habit, be it for familial, ethnic, or cultural reasons.  

It is also clear that the cultural space the mainline churches inhabit is shrinking fast.

The challenge here is not about finding some great new outreach program, but entering into our culture, which is increasingly defined by the unaffiliated - and discovering, as Elizabeth Drescher has argued, the many spiritual connections there.

This place of the church in culture (or lack thereof) came home to me in a dramatic way on a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina.

<<  1 2 3 4 [56 7 8 9  >>