I'm sure you've noticed that things have been pretty slow here on my blog of late. The reason is that I'm working on a new book: The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, to be published by Church Publishing, the publishing house of The Episcopal Church. (Yes, they let Lutherans write for them too.)
I'm really excited about this project. It builds on many of the ideas I've been writing, blogging, and speaking about—and experiencing in my ministry—over last few years. It builds on ideas Elizabeth Drescher and I introduced in Click2Save: The Digital Minsitry Bible, but goes beyond the basics of how to use social media, and explores the character of ministry leadership that is required today in our digitally-integrated world.
The Digital Cathedral is intended to evoke an expansive understanding of church in a digitally-integrated world, one that extends ministry into digital and local gathering spaces, recognizes the holy in our everyday lives, and embodies a networked, relational, and incarnational ministry leadership for a digital age.
I 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.
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.
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.
It’s a lie we tell ourselves: “I am too busy to exercise. This work is too important.”
Pastors are among the biggest culprits in perpetuating this myth, and not surprisingly suffer from high rates stress, emotional distress, addiction, and burnout. Many pastors sacrifice their short- and long-term health in the name of their ministry, which to them seems too busy and important to pause for even a 30-minute workout. In the end, their ministry suffers and, at times, is even cut short.
“When he awakens at seven, he already has a jump on things. He arrives at the gym on the third floor of the residence, above his bedroom, at 7:30. He works out until 8:30 (cardio one day, weights the next)....”
“‘You have to exercise,’ [Obama] said, for instance. ‘Or at some point you’ll just break down.’”
You have to exercise or at some point you'll just break down.