Read this article from Kathy Lynn Grossman of USA TODAY, “Relationships Are the New Religion for Many,” and tell me what you think. This is good Jacob’s Well conversation.
I think the article’s observations are right on, the conclusion isn’t. [It really reminds me of some elements of our message yesterday. (3.24.2013)]
My analysis says that “church” has failed to deliver value or relevance to people at their gatherings (worship services and more) for so many decades that we now have whole generations who have no idea that the church might actually have any. What people still have is the relationships that once found amazing, empowering, loving context in being church, and so they gather around those relationships instead. And for the most part “church/religion/the institution” continues to gather those who are left around nostalgia for what doesn’t connect.
How will we teach those looking for more that there is more when so few are trying to reclaim what church can be?
Posted in change, church, community, current news, doubt, emerging church, God, jacob's well, marketing, preaching, precarious, public
The numbers game is one of the trickiest in the God world (aka church). There are at least three pieces to this dynamic.
1. We all say it isn’t about ‘how many’, but we all compare our ‘how many’ and feel either inferior or superior because of it. Some of us more than others.
2. Then there is the sustainability dilemma. If the church is going to support itself it takes enough people to make that feasible. But then it isn’t about making money, or guaranteeing an income for the pastor and other staff.
3. On the more positive side we know that we have a responsibility to grow in both depth and breadth. Not one or the other.
As you evaluate your ministry try dealing with the numbers game this way: Numbers are important. They let you know some very important things about the sort of systems and resources needed. The numbers help you set goals that match your vision and calling. And they tell you whether your ministry is growing or shrinking. Remember, the answer to “Why?” is the important piece to this.
But while that bigger number is important, the key number is always ‘one.’ Never take your focus off of the individual. What is each person’s experience who enters your doors, who attends a small group gathering, who is encountered at a service event, who has a crisis in their life and needs your community’s ministry, who is met by a person shaped by your community? Who are you for the person standing right in front of you, right now? There is no such thing as the community’s experience, or the neighborhood’s reaction to your church. It is the experience and reaction of each individual. Build, equip, structure your community to be about the number that always comes first, one.
What is Leadership today?
It’s not looking at the report of Protestantism losing it’s lead while the religion of None swells its ranks and saying, “Oh no, what can we do to get them back?”
Leadership is asking, each and every day, “How can we be church today?” and then trying to be it.
Laurie Goodstein reported on the Pew Research findings in the 10/9 New York Times (read it here) that protestants no longer make up a majority of the US population. What’s more, it is a rapidly changing trend. And it isn’t because people are switching churches. They are simply opting out.
The clanging bells and flashing lights of this warning might just get our attention this time. So, in case you couldn’t see it, hear it coming before, well… business as usual is coming to an end. We are staring face to face with the fact that what churches are doing is connecting with and engaging fewer and fewer people every year. And it isn’t because God has changed. People simply have not been experiencing sufficient relevance or value in churches to make them orient their world around them.
It’s time to get out from behind the safety of our institutions and doctrinal checklists and start being what we tried to define, describe and defend. It’s time to be the church. It’s time to make mistakes, build less, love more. It’s time to stop worrying about the orthodoxy of what we believe and how we do things, and to start risking the extravagance of living out love no matter what it looks like.
Maybe people aren’t leaving the church because they don’t believe in God, in fact the study showed that only a minority of those who have given up on church have also given up on God. They are leaving because they don’t see the church being big enough to hold what they believe God is. So they have left hoping to get a peek of God out in the immensity of the rest of life.
In case you were wondering, it looks like the stop arm is descending from the semaphore. It isn’t when or if things really need to change; it is time. Time to let God be BIG again. So big that God bursts the seams of church and we go spilling out all over the place. Those places all those people are. Those places where God already is.
Folks, this article… the way I see it, it’s good news.
Posted in change, church, church transitions, emerging church, God, love, precarious, risk, Why Believe?
Tagged believe, change, church, emergent church, faith, God, New York Times article, not-church, Pew Forum, praxis, protestants
If the Bible has a few clear messages, one of the clearest is that life is about community. And church is not just an hour on Sunday morning, a building you go to on Sunday morning, or the people you go to gather with on Sunday morning. Church is any and all people getting together making the kingdom of God apparent.
Today, Tuesday, August 2, 2011 is National Night Out. Hit your street. Grill a burger, have a beer, put on a nametag, fill out your name and contact info on a a map of your block, and get to know your neighbors at your own block party. I’ll be at mine.
If your block doesn’t have a National Night Out event, then take an hour and go around and talk to some of your neighbors about getting one together for next year. It makes the world a little more like Jesus pictured it for us to be together.
This is a little too amazing to believe, but a Muslim is scheduled to speak at Jacob’s Well the week after bin Laden died and this opportunity has great potential for healing.
Jacob’s Well began a new worship series on May 1 that we call “What if…?” We think “What if…?” is the way God looks at the world and our lives. We have a God of possibilities and creativity, and likewise God has made us to be “What if…?” people. During these five weeks we are trying out some big what if’s, including, “What if religion united us instead of divided us?” And to do it we brought in a local Muslim leader, Abdisalam Adam, who spoke to the gathering at our Longfellow location last Sunday (May 1) and will be doing the same at our Field location this Sunday (May 8).
The purpose is to get a deeper understanding of another faith tradition and let that help us respect and learn from each other. Osama bin Laden’s death, and all the controversy surrounding that (see my last two blog postings, “Ought I rejoice…” & “Moral High Ground: Doing the right thing…“), has opened a window for learning. What is Islam? Who are the people who follow it? Did bin Laden represent them? Even though Muslims no longer live half way around the world, but right in our own backyards, we see them as strangers rather than neighbors. What if we actually saw them as neighbors?
Here’s a chance to make a little progress in that direction. Join us at Jacob’s Well Field this Sunday, 10:30, or watch for the audio or video of the service later through our website, www.jacobs-well.net.
[By the way, if you come to our Longfellow location you will hear Carla Barnhill, ABC-News runner up for their national advice guru, an amazing South Minneapolis citizen and thinker, co-present on “What if… love really did win?”]
So Easter happened. Many people say that means Jesus is alive and God has defeated the powers of darkness. But what’s different? It isn’t a different world than it was on Saturday… Every year we celebrate Easter, and every year the same problems abound and then we celebrate it again. So Christ is risen? What’s changed?
This is a huge challenge that needs to be taken seriously and as I wrestle with it here’s what I come up with… This isn’t a question that we should fling at God. Like, “Come on God, make the world more like your kingdom now!” Rather, it is the question that God persistently and hopefully and powerfully puts to us. Like, “I have empowered life and love and forgiveness – now I need you to trust them and go and start making the world more like our kingdom!”
What if… that was how we understood Easter and therefore what we did as followers of Jesus? What if… making that happen was why people got together to be a church?
That is a vision of the church that I can get excited about!
As a pastor I feel a strong responsibility to ‘be there’ for people. That’s not a bad instinct, but sometimes I can’t. It is easy to feel as though I should do whatever it takes for the people God has called me to serve. Strong theological themes like ‘sacrifice,’ ‘servanthood’ and ‘self-expenditure’ come to mind. But then there are other messages like self-care so I am there for the rest of the flock, not just the one that is lost. I also believe that the ministry I’m called to give myself away for is more than my role as pastor of a church. My larger ministry includes first of all my family. If I give everything to someone in my congregation who is hurting, who calls out to me, what about myself and my family? Dilemmas of limits and boundaries versus trusting God in all things challenge me.
Paul is oft quoted for saying he had become “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9.22) and maybe he did… few people gave as much as consistently as Paul, but are we all called to be Paul? And didn’t he lose his temper with some congregations and groups? Didn’t he refuse to stay and care for nascent congregations in order to fulfill his larger role in ministry as an apostle, leaving others to stay, care and nurture?
Jesus wasn’t the person for everyone either. He healed and ministered to many, but not everyone. He taught, he healed, he moved on. I suppose he didn’t give up on the Jewish authorities, but he sure didn’t lose any sleep over their inability to figure out who he was. I note that Jesus didn’t chase Nicodemus down, just messed with his mind (spirit) when Nicodemus kept coming back for more. Jesus even walked away from Nazareth concluding that a prophet just isn’t going to ‘be the one’ for his hometown (Mt 13.54ff).
It’s complicated, but I don’t think I can or should be everything any one person needs at all costs.
I still struggle with the tension between giving of myself without measure and drawing the line saying I can’t do it, but I am also growing in my appreciation that it is a mark of spiritual/personal maturity to discern the difference and act accordingly. It also drives me forward on intentionally crafting a community made in which people will, all in all, be there for each other. I don’t assume responsibility to be the one for everyone or anyone else, rather I assume responsibility that the culture, systems and support are there so that we can be the sort of community where the right person will be there to be the one.
Plaids are interesting. They allow you to put together colors that would normally never be found in clothes. And strangely, plaids need those surprising contrasting colors to save the base colors from being boring and unnoticeable. They don’t belong there, yet seem to at the same time.
As a person chosen by God to be God’s holy people (1 Peter 2.9) you are the contrast colors to the world. You don’t quite fit in, you aren’t part of the usual script, yet somehow you look good there and belong there. You are not only valuable, you bring hope, breathe life and redeem the fabric of humanity from itself. You do it because the color you bring is the color God gave you.
Wear plaid. Do plaid. Remember.
Shane Claiborne said some things about Acts chapter 2 that opened this up for me when we were talking about poverty as part of our JustStart> at Jacob’s Well. The relevant verses are Acts 2.44-45
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Now one can throw up all sorts of complications around this passage, like how they pooled and distributed their wealth, and the difference between needs and wants. Such controversies miss the point, however, which is that when the church began, they happily and mutually filled the holes in each others lives.
Elimination of poverty isn’t a requirement or a duty of the church, it is simply what happens when church happens. In other words it isn’t giving your congregation a name, a constitution or erecting a building that makes you a church, it’s God working among and through you to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. When people are church, they start living differently – others see that and like it. They want to be part of it. And when they do, they too are part of the church and their needs are met. The contagious, ever expanding, life-giving movement that introduces the kingdom of God is happening.
What is a sign that a church just got born? Needs are met. Poverty – all types – ends.
- If you are thinking of starting a church, don’t miss this.
- If you are wondering what to do with your church, don’t get distracted from this.
- If you are looking for a church, look for this as a sign of a living one.