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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.

26 August 2013

Catechism as Platform: Teaching Catechism in a Digital Age

Posted in Spirituality, Church

livingwordonlyToday I begin co-teaching, along with Martin Lohrmann, a new online class at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia called Catechism as Platform: Teaching the Catechism in a Digital Age.

Here's the course description:

Luther's catechisms were written to invite parents, youth, teachers and pastors into a way of life built upon the good news of Christ crucified and risen for us. In 21st century terms, his catechisms were more like a "platform" than a "page." This course will study Luther's Large and Small Catechisms, with an eye on the many ways they continue to inform faith, worship, prayer and daily life. At the same time there will be a focus on developing fluency in today's digital technology, learning to communicate Luther's "platform of faith" through various social media resources. The course assumes that the catechisms are assets for public theology, sharing the faith both inside and outside our churches.

Needless to say I'm excited about the class, mainly because I think we are charting some pretty new territory when it comes to teaching the catechism in a world shaped by digital social media.

01 August 2013

Make Your Neighborhood Your Cathedral: My Pilgrimage to Humble Walk

Posted in ELCA, Emerging, Church

humblewalkweb

When I was younger, I pilgrimaged to medieval cathedrals. Now I pilgrimage to new mission churches.

Last week, I made pilgrimage to Humble Walk Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, a mission start congregation of the ELCA.

Humble Walk is true inspiration to me. Their pastor Jodi Houge is just amazing and gave one of my favorite interviews in Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. As she told us there,

"We recognized that most people don't come looking for a church, in our demographic. And so, we through from the beginning, 'We know this. The church is sinking.' The facts are on the table for the mainline denominations. So, we're not going to these big glossy things that try to draw people to our cool, fancy, hip church. We're going to be where people already are and try to be the church where they are."

29 July 2013

Millenials, Consumerism in Church, and the Idolatry of God

Posted in Emerging, Church

pleasepayhereRecently, Rachel Held Evans published a post at the CNN Belief Blog entitled "Why Millenials are Leaving the Church" and gives as clear and complete summary of those reasons that you'll find. It's a must read for ministry leaders.

One of the reasons she identifies is consumerism in the church. That is, when the church treats itself like a product and potential members (and current members, for that matter) as consumers.

In light of declining attendance and cultural irrelevance, she says, churches think the answer is to repackage and rebrand themselves so young adults (and others) will want to come. She writes this:

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

This critique of consumerism doesn't get much play in conversations around the church. Why? Probably because we are so ingrained in consumer culture (work, politics, economy) that we can't even tell that we are part of the system. Like fish in water, it is our whole environment. We don't even notice it. 

At the same time I read Held Evan's post, I picked up a copy of Pete Rollins' latest book, The Idolatry of God: Breaking our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction. Pete takes this consumerism head on, outlining how we sell the church, and sell God, and how it hurts the people we intend to help.

25 July 2013

Practicing Theology Without a Net: Theology Pubs, Spiritual Direction, and Letting Go

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Church

guerillatheology

Lately, I've been practicing a lot of what I have been thinking of as theology without a net.

Theology without a net happens in public spaces. It does not involve a presentation, PowerPoint slides, or a written text. It does not rely on the expert knowledge of professional ministry-types.

It does not offer or promise neat answers. It is an ongoing conversation, which is shaped by whoever shows up that day. It is responsive, not leading. It listens more than speaks. And it has to be authentic. It lives at the intersection of faith and life.

This is different from how I was trained to do theology. Theology happened controlled environments: in church or academic buildings, classes, and worship, with subject matter experts (pastors and professors), who were training me to become one too. And, hey, I loved it. I absorbed it. I got good at it.

But the world we live in demands that we do theology in a different way, on-the-fly, in different places, with different people, on someone else's turf: theology without a net.

18 July 2013

broken liturgy and Peter Rollins

Posted in Emerging, Leadership, Church

brokenliturgyLast night I attended broken liturgy with Pete Rollins.

Wow. It was amazing.

broken liturgy is, as the creative team behind it (John HardtChristopher Cocca, and Lin Preiss) will tell you, hard to describe.

It deconstructs liturgy and church (the tag line is "church undone") and at the same time is incredibly generative. It is avantgard and ancient. The MacBook sits on the piano. Hand cut figures are hand-placed on the the digital projection screen. It does not promise answers. It offers an experience, which is open to whatever you bring to it. It doesn't explain. It doesn't tie things up neatly at the end. The lights just come on. The ending is liminal: no permisson, no instruction, no dismissal. (Unlike my Lutheran tribe, which can't leave a room unless someone says, "Go in peace. Serve the Lord.") It is music, poetry, art, and story, beautifully and carefully combined. And it is broken. Over pints afterward, the team and Pete recounted some of the hiccups in the program and also noted that that's kind of the point. We are broken people—and this is a liturgy by and for broken people.

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