Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faith, Family, and Fame

Here's a great read about what's going on at the Crystal Cathedral, including this section about Robert Schuller's grandson:

Bobby Schuller is an innovator like his grandfather, but the way he delivers his message of Christianity is drastically different. The stereotypical church, he said, is about a perfect building filled with perfect people, music and a perfect preacher.

"In other words, it's not like life," he said.

He ponders his vision in his office — located in his garage. A bookshelf lines one wall, and a large jug of home-brewed beer (inspired by Harry Potter's butter beer) sits in the corner. Parked on the street, there's his gold Toyota Camry, which has clocked more than 200,000 miles.

He wants his church to be about community — and something "messy people with messy lives" can relate to.

Volunteers set up for the service each Sunday and take down the chairs and tables that afternoon. When the work is done, they all go out for pizza. More than 90% of church funds go toward social justice issues such as homelessness and domestic violence.

"Our goal is to make big Christians, not big churches," he said.

I echo Bobby's perspectives, and wonder (once again) if church renewal is truly possible...or if there is a natural life-and-death cycle that needs to be tended to more faithfully.  Thoughts?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Worship Grumbling

I've often thought about making a list of pet peeves I have about working in a church.  Shortly thereafter, I realize that the publication of such a list will (likely) result in unemployment.  So instead of unleashing a 700-page "church gripes manifesto" I'll share one of my biggest complaints:

Age-specific or Gender-specific Worship.

When did the act of Christian worship become a "program" that needs to be compartmentalized?  What components of a youth worship service are only germane to young people?  Which aspects of a women's worship service are considered unfit for men?

My armchair sociological analysis is that these kinds of worship gatherings were helpful in a time when certain groups of people (women, youth, etc.) were unable to fully participate in worship.  The only way these folks could elbow their way onto the worship scene was to have a service for "their people"...and to do it really well.

By and large, those days are behind us.  The ELCA has been ordaining women for 40+ years.  Young people serve as liturgists, preachers, musicians, lectors, communion assistants, ushers -- everything their adult lay counterparts can do.  Why do we continue to hang onto these antiquated practices?

From my perspective, every time we place parameters on church events (age, gender, race, etc.) we remind everyone around us of our differences.  If we are truly one in the Body of Christ, why do we spend our time and effort declaring the ways in which we are separated?

With all rants, it's highly possible that the ranter is missing the point...a possibility I fully concede.  What do you think?  Are age/gender specific worship services helpful...important...necessary?  I'd love a little dialogue on this topic, because I think it points to something embedded much deeper in church culture.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Me Thinking

My friend, Dwight, got me thinking today with a couple of articles and some fascinating questions.  Here's our email exchange...


I find myself thinking about you for two reasons this afternoon.

In conjunction with my latest post on http://centerforrenewal.wordpress.com, I find myself wondering how you speak to youth about vocation/ministry in daily life? What do they know of it? How can we connect youth with MIDL?

Second, I'm haunted by the Christianity Today article, "The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church." Especially by the line that indicates that we've "inoculated" young adults with a weak (the author says 'superficial') form of Christianity that prevents the real thing from coming to life. Just wondering if you saw it...


- - - - - 


Thanks for your note.  I appreciated your comments on the Center for Renewal blog.  Regarding the use of vocational language among young people, this is something I try to tend to on a consistent basis.  I spent most of my teen years believing that the only way to serve God was through ordained ministry.  Clearly, that is not the case.  The best way to address this with young people is through guest speakers.  Find adults that believe that they are doing God's work as they live out their vocations in the public/private sector.  When young people hear their stories, they begin to see that "ministry" most often happens outside the friendly confines of church.

The Christianity Today article seems to piggyback on the research surrounding "moralistic therapeutic deism" and its implications for the future of the church.  GenX, Baby Boomer, and Greatest Generations have grown many American churches on a wimpy foundation of teaching people how to be "moral, successful, and nice".  This version of Christianity is a major turn-off to Millennials who see religion and spirituality with more nuance and complexity.

My dad pointed me to David Kinnaman's book "Unchristian" earlier this week (which was referenced in the Christianity Today article).  I haven't had a chance to read all of it yet, but Kinnaman points to six broad themes about the church perceived by those outside the church:

1.  Hypocritical
2.  Too Focused on Getting Converts
3.  Anti-homosexual
4.  Sheltered (old -fashioned, boring, out of touch with reality)
5.  Too Political (conservative politics)
6.  Judgmental 

Here's the rub...

Lutherans actually are in a great position to do something about this (if we can just get out of our own way).  

Here's what Saint Nadia thinks:

I fervently believe that we, as Lutherans, are uniquely poised to be church in an urban and postmodern context. Our rich liturgical heritage brings with it the gifts of ancient ritual and mystery. This speaks to those who seek that which cannot be explained, who wish to touch the sacred in a-rational and embodied ways. Our theology is full of ambiguity—which is actually comforting to many post-moderns. We do not spoon-feed theological certainty but live most comfortably in the discomforting tension of being both sinner and saint, living in the now and the not-yet of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Our theology of the cross—the proclamation of a self-emptying God who would rather die than be in the sin-accounting business—is rich and dark and nourishing to those who suspect, based on their own lived experience, that it’s not all about happy-clappy victory parties. Then the proclamation of the lush grace of God, which simply is, washes over us in the proclamation that we are the Beloved of God.

I tend to agree with her analysis.

Thanks for getting me thinking...