I was teaching a session of a Kairos course at Luther Seminary yesterday on “Faith and Everyday Life.” I began by telling them, “Faith In Everyday Life is a difficult thing for me to talk about because faith and everyday life isn’t something that we do at Jacob’s Well. [pause] It is the ONLY thing we do at Jacob’s Well. If something doesn’t relate to everyday life, we don’t bother with it. Why would we?”
If nothing else, it got everyone to look up from their screens. We then spent an hour talking about how we do it.
Teaching that class gave me a new way of looking at what I strive to be about. I know this is an ideal we don’t live up to all the time, but nonetheless I believe it is a fundamental commitment of our community [this goes way back, see this entry]. Why devote time, effort, money or staff at something that doesn’t make a difference in people’s lives? Churches get caught up with events, traditions, structures and activities that have achieved ‘sacredness’ other than helping people live their faith. That’s a problem. It happens naturally, but it is our job to continually ask, “Is this event, tradition, structure, event building community, equipping people, opening lives to the presence of God?” And if the answer is no, then it’s time to re-evaluate.
What helps you connect faith and life? What aspects of “church” make it feel distant and foreign from everyday life?
I’m speaking to a class of students at Luther Seminary on Friday who are preparing to do ‘mission development’ as either a new enterprise, or within the context of an already established church. LOTS of things to talk about, including a bit about the story of Jacob’s Well, but I’ve only got 45 minutes. So here is the 5 point checklist I’m giving them (and yes, it feels a bit inadequate to me too.)
- Are you really called? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? (’cause it will take it!) Who are you as a leader? (strengths/non-strengths, assets/liabilities)
- What is your vision? What are your expectations, what does ‘success’ look like? Is your vision clear enough for others to follow and big enough to need God to make it happen?
- What is your plan? (models you are watching, strategy and systems, including funding)
- Who is your team? How will you find them? How will you prepare them and use them to complement and balance you?
- How will you evaluate? Don’t overlook this!
Given this is just a sketch… what’s missing? Particularly anything that can’t be fitted into one of these 5 points?
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