Most would agree that the UK is now very much a post-Christian nation. Christians in the UK are having to rebuild the Church from the ground up, and their desire for renewal is truly inspiring. Consider for a moment that The Alpha Course and Christianity Explored are two British innovations in Christian education, outreach and evangelism. Perhaps it would be worth a look at how believers in a post-Christian nation are rebuilding and even thriving in their changing cultural climate. We Canadians are not far behind – do we have a plan for rebuilding the church, or are we just holding on and hoping our out-dated strategies will carry us through the next decade. Below is a photo of an abandoned old church in Paris I stumbled across a couple years ago. A timely reminder that Christ-centered renewal and ministry innovation is essential. History reveals two options: deep change or slow death. Read the rest of this entry »
Exploring the Inside of the Christian Tradition Esoteric Christianity. Part 1: Two Kinds of ReligionOctober 29, 2009
It has been fun blogging. Writing, reading and commenting. I am starting to wonder . . . what comes next. The intention that began a process that led to this blog was “How can we create a space for aconversation about renewal? How do we create a space where God’s renewing spirit can flow?” (or at least something along those lines).
So I am now wondering what next. How does the conversation grow? Perhaps a conversation that all are invited to at Pastor Study conference? Perhaps conversations over coffee? Perhaps an invitation to new writers? I don’t know.
For now I am drinking coffee waiting and watching for the spirit to blow. I swear I can feel a slight breeze on my neck. So I am just wondering which way the wind is blowing so we can set the sails.
It is no secret that seminary education in the mainline church is facing tremendous challenges. Fewer people enrolling, tighter budgets, and so on. Those challenges make us ask the big question, is Lutheran seminary education properly forming the leaders needed for today’s church?
I recently read a remarkably inspiring article by Leonard Sweet, written as the forward for a book by Carl Savage and William Presnell. It is called, “18 Rungs in The New Ladder of Learning.” You can find the article online here. In the article, Sweet offers 18 “transformations that are changing the nature of how we prepare leaders for the church.” Many of the ideas directly challenge how our seminaries currently operate – numbers 8, 9, and 14 seem particularly poignant. I found this article to be very cogent and concise – a helpful tool for examining norms in the ELCIC.
I would like to know, what do you think of Sweet’s offerings? Which point seemed particularly inspiring for you? Please post your comments below.
Why is it that we so often fear the change that may make things not only different, but better? I think that we really do not believe that change is possible. We know the power of habit and the comfort of the usual, but change could bring a whole new level of understanding, of cooperation, of happiness. All of our powers of thought, science, theology, passion, and grit have brought us to where we now find ourselves; might they not also be used to bring about a whole new world. We must believe in the possibility of change if we want change to be a possibility in our lives. If we feel we are powerless and hopeless and we cannot see a way out, we are most to be pitied. But if we cannot put up with the way things are now (decreasing membership, biblical illiteracy, conflict) what is to stop us from doing a major makeover of what we are as church. Only believing that change is really possible…
For years now we have been trying to do church better? We get more creative about worship or adopt the latest technology. We hire a youth director or sing a few “youth” songs. We jump onto the latest program craze. Some of us have even uprooted our churches and replanted them in a different location. So why does “new and improved” often feel and even look like the same old thing?
We have tried for years to make our church better with all sorts of great ideas and activities and yet, they have been a poor substitute for the genuine spiritual vitality that people are hungering after today. So what will turn the tide for us?
Maybe instead of “going to church” and “doing church” we ought to find a room at the local hotel or maybe a table at Tim Horton’s and take a “Pentecost Sabbath” to pray, waiting for the Holy Spirit to bring about something new. I know, I know…what about our buildings and paying the bills and pastors being out of work? Well perhaps these are the very things that are holding us back from becoming that new kingdom creation Christ is calling us into.
So let’s try it. The worst that could happen is that some of our churches would close down, we’d have some debt and we’d lose some pastors to other jobs. Heh, isn’t that what’s happening already?
This year the global population swung from being predominately rural to having an urban majority. Until this year MOST people have lived in rural areas. Still to this date MOST ELCIC Lutherans live and worship in rural settings…and yet we are captive to urban literature, programs, politics, and the list could go on. If you do not beleive me, stir up an image from your imagination of what a successful congregation looks like? Did you imagine a part time pastor? Were people parking on the lawn on Sunday morning? Were members $10,000 poorer than the average Canadian? Was the neighborhood sparsly populated – like one house every mile or so? Was the building 100 years old and just big enough to squeeze in 65 people comfortably (as comfortable as creeky wooden pews can be)?
Likely not. We are captive to an urban idea of success that MOST ELCIC congregations simply can not fit. And yet…
What if we stopped long enough to take a drive in country and see what is going on in rural churches? We would see the grassroots in action!
You won’t find a study group gathered to talk about the latest study released from Winnipeg. As good as the study might be the people are simply too busy fixing up the local playground, running the local 4-H club, setting up for tonights A.A. meeting, visiting a neighbor in hospital and meeting with the mayor (who just so happens to be on church council) to discuss pressing matters of the community – like the price of gas, public school policies, environmental degredation of water ways and the part time pastor’s salary. Sure it doesn’t look flashy, but it’s what the mobolized grassroots looks like. Its chaotic. Its interwoven. Its unmanagable by even the most sophisticated governance board. And it’s happening everyday across the country side of Canada.
For inspiration, hope and a good dose of what really works, I invite city Lutherans to take a drive in the country. You will what grass roots looks like.
p.s. Take a moment at your next council meeting and ask your leadership to identify those in your church who came from rural communities. Urban congregations might be surprised to realize that rural churches have gifted them with some of their brightest and committed leaders. This is no coincedence. Rural churches have become less, that urban missions might become more. Didn’t Jesus say something about this being God’s chosen model for minstry?
How many knuckles do the leaders of the ELCIC have buried into the grass? I’m talking, of course, about how well church leaders make decisions or gain momentum by way of grass roots innitiatives. An organization rises and falls on its ability to return to its roots for renewal, vision, and direction. Anytime in history that the church has seen growth, its been because the local church was invited, challenged, and empowered to speak out and act with boldness. Jesus and Paul worked with locals, perhaps we need to rediscover the potency of God’s work among ordinary people.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a project called, “Project 10 to the Power of 100.” It’s a Google innitiative to collect ideas – big ideas that could change the world in areas such as community, government, environment and others. The result has been amazing – 150 thousand ideas, and they are truly innovative. Their motto is great: “may those who help the most win”. Check out the website here.
What if the church asked for ideas too?
What if leaders in the ELCIC mined for new ideas among ordinary people? Instead of a small group of leaders holding the reigns of innovation, could we trust God to work through the people? What if big problems like money, unity, theological discord, and stagnant growth were allowed to be picked over by ordinary lutherans who have a passion for the church and for the gospel of Jesus Christ? I’m not talking about forming a new committee, but the creation of an idea pool. Perhaps it’s a kind of open source church development where ordinary people submit ideas for restructuring the church, doing missions, developing leaders, planting new churches, renewing old ones, getting involved in our communities, engaging youth, inspiring worship and prayer, and so on. This would be a transparent process where ideas are gathered, examined, reviewed, and with some fortitude the best ideas could be implimented to the glory of God.
Hey, it’s just an idea.
I have been quite saddened by the recent dismissal of Paul Johnson from our National Office. For those of you who don’t know Paul and his work. He has represented our church ecumenically and internationally for the last seven years and he has done a fabulous job. Folks I know in the ecumenical community expressed their shock and sense of loss that our church would dismiss someone who has been such a gift.
So I am back reflecting on how we treat people. We need more then just a hoped for improvement, I think it is time we took some pretty concrete steps addressing how we treat our workers from the ground up.
So what if we gathered some people who can begin to improve how we treat people, especially those who work professionally for the church. What if we gave them a mandate to look at the whole process: From recruitment, development, training, pay, working conditions, job expectations, support, continuing education, how we dismiss/transfer/promote people. What if we look at how our workers develop and thrive spiritually. Perhaps we need to even look into the very idea of professional church workers . . .
What if we this group was made up of people who are largely not already a part of the system and thus can look at with the new eyes of an outsider. What if we had people dedicated to ensuring we had the best and happiest workers, instead of insuring things as they have been. Oh sure have a pastor or a bishop to give some context. Lets fill the group with those who have expertise in human resources, in psychology, recruitment, management. In other words those who have been called and equipped to care for people and help them share their gifts in the most effective and manner healthy.
For the people God has called to serve the church are a precious and important gifts God has given us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these folks could thrive, share their gifts to the fullness. Image if people would again proudly say that working for the church is a wonderful, life giving calling, filled with opportunity and joy.
Every two years Church Planting Canada holds a Congress, and the next one is November 17th-20th in Calgary!
Their Vision… To see every neighbourhood transformed through the presence of multiplying missional communities incarnating the gospel.
…the transformation of Canada, thus we will by all means seek to multiply new discipling communities.
…collaboration, thus we work freely sharing time, materials, expertise and resources.
…diversity within shared purpose, thus all chart their own course with a sense of shared mission.
…multiplication at multiple levels.
…the local church being missional, thus we will focus our intentions on providing environments that help churches become missional and to multiply.
…visionary leadership, therefore we will by all means help recruit, resource and release quality people to church planting.
What if the Lutheran Church became a multiplying, missional Church?
An example of a multiplying church: Metro Community in Kelowna (I spent time there this weekend and was profoundly inspired)
An example of an old denomination making big changes to their structures in order to focus on developing leaders and to become more missionally focused: Mennonite Brethren
Missional Network resouces: Forge Canada
Maybe the problem with church is that we do not take the whole person seriously. When was the last time your pastor asked you about your physical exercise or nutritional habits? How about if you were studying anything at the moment? We often as church goers only think about the church as helping learn more about our spiritual selves, but what if the church looked beyond the worship and prayer focus and also gathered for exercise classes and studies on quantum mechanics? What if we thought that spirituality was only one part of us and we worked as hard in the church to also provide opportunity to foster greater health in other parts of our lives.