Leadership

31 October 2014

The Church Kids Will Be Alright...You're Welcome

Posted in Leadership, Church

Skateboard-WingtipsLost in the debates over generational shifts in the church between Boomers and Millenials is a forgotten generation, Gen-Xers. And we might have a chip on our shoulder about it. Check out my new post that's getting a lot of buzz on the new online magazine, The Narthex, which I edit with Elizabeth Drescher.

Here's an excerpt:

You see, Gen-Xers know that the church has never and will never belong to us — not that we would want that. We are deeply skeptical of institutions. We understand that we are a transitional generation. We console older generations in their lament for how things used to be, even as we pry their clutched fingers from the reigns of power and control. And we are hurriedly trying to prepare the ground for Millenials, with their much needed technological and cultural fluency, to have voice and shape the Church and American Christianity.

Most of us are not digital natives, but we love technology and lead digitally-integrated lives. We are the last generation to enter seminary or divinity school thinking that ministry was a stable livelong career choice. And it turns out — lucky us — that we get to help preside over the death of Christendom and nurture whatever it is that comes next. We grew up with Boomers — our parents—but we associate ourselves with Millennials.

Read the full post here at The Narthex.

Photo credit: Jay Mantri. CC 0 license.

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?

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.

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.

19 June 2013

What's Your Tough Mudder?

Posted in Leadership, Church

tough mudderWhen was the last time you set an audacious goal for yourself—when you committed yourself to something you weren’t sure you could actually do?

Last month I participated in the Tough Mudder. It’s a 10 mile course with 20 obstacles that include, among other things, lots of crawling, climbing, and jumping into freezing cold water.

It’s designed by British Special Forces and described as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” You have to climb over an eight-foot wall just to get into the starting area, for God’s sake! And not for nothing, the day of our Tough Mudder was over 90 degrees. So, it is a beast. (Check out the video below for a taste.)

I decided to do the Mudder as a way to motivate myself to get back into great shape. And, honestly, to make me feel better about turning 40 next year.

So, I committed myself to this crazy thing—and to doing something I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. I trained like crazy for five months—running, swimming, suspension training, kettlebells, weight lifting. Many early mornings and many late nights at the Y. It took our team just under three hours to complete the course, but we did it. I finished.

A big part of the Tough Mudder is about confronting fears, whether its jumping off a 20-foot high platform into water below, crawling through dark underground tunnels, or running through electroshocks. And that fear can either paralyze us or it can propel us. That is the fundamental lesson of the Tough Mudder.

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