Culture

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.

27 March 2013

Explaining the Holocaust to our Nine Year-Old Daughter

Posted in Culture, Church

seder plateThe other night we had to explain to my 9 year-old daughter what the Holocaust was.

Not because she is learning about it in school, but because it is part of our family story. It is part of her story.

I’m a Lutheran pastor. My wife is Jewish. Her ancestors come from Poland. My wife’s grandmother, we call her Bubbie Helen, was just a teenager when World War II erupted. She lived with her mother, Ella, an accomplished portrait photographer, who owned her own studio in Warsaw, and cared for her sick mother. Her father Eser was a traveling encyclopedia salesman. When the war broke out he was in the United States and he sent them letters urging them to leave Poland before the Nazis invaded. Helen’s mother refused to leave her sick mother.

But Helen did leave. At 16 years old, she set out from Poland. Her father would send her letters leading her to the next safe house. They led her across Siberia, to China, to Japan, where she was on the last US refugee ship to California before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

She arrived in California speaking only Yiddish and with no money. She was taken in by two professors at Cal Berkeley who taught her English. She believed her father was in New York City. His last name was Goldberg. And they called every variation of that name in the New York City phone book until they found him. It took two years until they were reunited.

Later they learned that the rest of Helen’s family died at Auschwitz. My wife’s small family is all that remains.

Now my daughter knows the horrible tragedy of the Holocaust, but also that she comes from a line of strong women, like her great-grandmother Helen, her grandmother, her aunt, and her mom. She knows more now about the evil human beings can perpetrate against one another. She also knows more about strength and courage and living in hope. It is a lesson that our younger three children will also learn in time.

18 March 2013

This is the World You Live (and Lead) in Now

Posted in Culture, Digital Ministry, Social Media, Church

You may have seen this photo published by NBC News about the difference in the crowd in St. Peter's Square from when Pope Benedict XVI was elected the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the announcement of the newly minted Pope Francis just last week.

It is an image that dramatically captures the rapid advance in technology and culture—and the difference in the way we live our lives—over these last eight years. 

This change has profound implications for how we live, lead, and minister today.

stpeters

Remember that in 2005, the iPhone, the advent of the modern smartphone, didn’t exist. It was still two years in the offing. Facebook was available to college and high school students, but would not be open to the public-at-large for another year.

07 January 2013

The Church's Generational Log Jam is Making Everybody Cranky

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

logjamMinistry leaders can be so busy lamenting the fact there are fewer people in our churches these days that we often miss how the people who do attend are crammed together generationally.

We are unwittingly cramming six distinct generations into three traditional roles, and it causes all kinds of congregational tensions, which present persistent challenges to ministry leaders.

That’s the important point that Carroll Sheppard and Nancy Burton Dilliplane make in their helpful book Congregational Connections: Uniting Six Generations in the Church. I had the pleasure of co-leading a conversation on generations in the church with Carroll at a recent gathering of the Philadelphia Area Ecumenical Resource Network, and I appreciated this point:

“This is the first time in the world’s history when significant numbers of six demographic cohorts have all occupied the stage at the same time.”

“What is intensifying the problem is that these six generational cohorts are trying to squeeze themselves into an outdated three-generation model of elders, households raising children/career singles, and children.”

“In the six-generational cohort society, it is often unclear who is in charge, who will do the work, and who is raising the children.”

28 December 2012

Best of the Blog 2012: Digital Ministry, Pastoral Transition, and Church Leadership

Posted in Culture, Social Media, Church

20122012 was the most challenging and gratifying in my professional career. I published my first book, left one call and accepted another, and relocated our family of six from Boston to Philadelphia. It was a great year to be blogging to document it all.

What I've learned about blogging is that one does not only write a blog to process the present moment, but also to observe how one's own perspective, style, and interests evolve over time.

I blog, in part, to discover what I'm interested in, what seems worth writing about, and to chip away at larger ideas and challenges in 1000 words or less. In short, in blogging, like all writing, I suppose, the thing you learn the most about is yourself.

So, in a new a new tradition (drum roll) here's the best of my blog, 2102 edition:

Here's the 2012 edition of the blog in raw numbers: 

  • 48 posts
  • 36,134 visits, of which 25,670 were new
  • from 25,727 unique visitors
  • who viewed 57,583 pages on the blog

Top five posts:

Here are more highlights organized thematically:

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.

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