February 11, 2011
Get this, I read today that, “Although many churches are worried about offending people by sharing the Gospel, less than 1 percent of the population complained Christians are too aggressive in their evangelistic efforts.”
Last week I had to deal with a challenging situation in the community. A domestic dispute involving a number of people. After a time of prayer with our staff, I entered the fray wondering what God would have me face. I went in realizing that I could not solve any of these problems, but Jesus could bring peace, if only we talked with him and about him. Very soon I was praying with some new friends and found that instead of being offended by my offer of prayer, they were delighted to have me talk to Jesus with them. The police that were there said that a minister can do far more to diffuse a situation than any police officer. Friends, let’s talk about Jesus more often. The Gospel is truly good news.
February 3, 2011
I was at a seminar on prayer last week. I reluctantly went. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my Friday learning about 5 glorified steps to spiritual clarity and enlightenment…which is kind of weird (my reluctance, that is) because if there is anything that I really long for it is spiritual clarity and enlightenment. I know that I am not alone in my unfulfilled desire. Most people I run into admit to having lackluster spiritual lives marked by uninspired dialog with God. So how does the blind (or deaf) lead the blind (and deaf)?
Turns out I don’t have to. God will. God does. We receive eyes to see and ears to hear. I think it’s time I stopped assuming these were metaphors. This is the actual promise of our actual savior who lives with the Father in constant prayer on our behalf and thanks to the Holy Spirit, we get to listen in on the conversation. It’s right there in the Bible -pretty much everywhere (Check out this Sunday’s Epistle reading: 1 Cor. 2: 1-16). How could I have possibly been so thick as to have to attend a seminar to discover it. God actually speaks and guides…me…us. (Does this make me a Lutheran renewal guy?)
Did you know that the word “Behold!” occurs in the Bible 1400 times and “Lo” shows up another 200 times. What if… God actually means it? – “Pay Attention! Look! I’m going to show you something!”
I will admit that as I have pondered the daunting task of church renewal among the cloudy ambiguity that is our perceived future I have felt discouraged by the seeming impossibility of it all. I will also admit that I’m an idiot. GOD IS SPEAKING TO US. GOD IS ACTUALLY SPEAKING TO US. GOD IS TELLING US WHAT TO DO.
This Sunday’s O.T. Reading (Isa: 58:1-12) dampens my embarrassment as it reminds me that as pastor, moping around like a deaf and blind guy I’m in good company. The dialog is between God, a prophet and a group of religous folk. Turns out they couldn’t hear God speaking to them either…and then God did. God actually spoke! God told them what to do and promised that their obedience would impact the world.
Why don’t we talk about this more?
Why don’t we expect God to speak to our church?
Speak Lord and give us an education in “saltiness”.
February 1, 2011
I spent the other week with a group of people all working in small rural parishes while at the same time studying this ministry at a graduate level. It was for me a great opportunity to hear about all of the struggles and joys of this type of ministry. It has got me thinking. The reality is that there are a reletively small number of people in medium and large congregations. Alot of our people are in small congregations. The problem with this is not that there are small congregations, the challenge is how can these congregations see themseles not as struggling but thriving places of discipleship.
The reality is that it is often only small communities that our discipleship can be deepened. In larger churches we have to create this setting through small group ministry. In small congregations the whole congregation can have the richness of a small group. If you think like myself that it is though deepening our discipleship that our chruch can have a future, then our small congregations may in fact hold the future of what our church can be.
Still there are some real challenges that I have heard from people wiser them me. Bishop Mark MacDonald has asked an important question, How do we shape ministry and the chruch so that it can be a chruch people can afford? Prof. Cam Harder asks another question, how do we make sure small congregations do not have the sacraments withheld from them because they have to pay for it? (It is interesting that two of the main challenges are related to structures and their financial consequences – do I sense constantine’s shadow). I would add how do we in our chruch culture lift up and celebrate the gifts of a small congregation?
Perhaps it is time for us to create more means by which we can celebrte and enable small congregation ministry.