Friday, April 1, 2011

It's Here... Transforming Churches pt. 3

The next episode in the unfolding story, "Transforming Churches, Changing the World" is now available, featuring the outstanding ministry occurring at St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Chicago. Click the link below to check out this excellent congregation for ideas for how your local church can change the world.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Young People and the Church

Thanks to Tamie Fields Harkins, by way of Bp. Kirk Smith in Arizona, for a great posting about young people and the Church. Anything you would add to her list?,0

Transforming Churches - Trinity, Phoenix AZ

In this second in the series, "Transforming Churches, Changing the World", you get to see some of the incredibly great stuff happening at Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix AZ. Be inspired by their great work... but even more so, see how their experience can inform your own.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Transforming Churches: Changing the World

Check out this first video in a monthly series about Episcopal Congregations that are making the world a better place. Christ Church, Philadelphia is this month's featured congregation.

What can you learn from Christ Church's story that might help your congregation in its own ministry and mission?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Developing Leaders for Evangelism

In the mid 1990’s I hit a sort of crisis in my life. It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but it was most certainly a crisis of vocation. It might have been easier for me if that crisis had emerged as a bolt of lightning, jarring me from one world into the next. But this crisis happened much more insidiously, sneaking into my consciousness like a cat in the night. I am a life-long Episcopalian, and the awareness that was emerging within me, this dis-ease which was becoming ever-more present in my life, was that the Church in which I had been raised, the church where I was baptized and confirmed and ordained and at that point had been a priest in for about 10 years – that Church simply didn’t exist anymore. The problem was, though, I didn’t have any idea what was taking its place. And so, that crisis led me into a period of re-evaluation and re-formation… trying to figure out if there was a place for me in a Church that was not yet formed, in a world that was changing faster than I thought I had the capability to keep up with, in a relationship with God that was not so neat and tidy and sterile and predictable as I once believed it was.

Survey after survey indicates a growing percentage of the population – both within the US and around the world – as being (by one definition or another) “Spiritual but not Religious.” Now, as a religious insider and one who is overly-steeped in the church culture, I used to scoff at those folks as little more than shallow, self-indulged wanderers who were simply looking for the next new trend to hang their heart on for the moment. But as the numbers of those “Spiritual but not Religious” swelled, they started to creep their way into my world – into my family, into my circle of friends, into my neighborhood, and yes even into my church – until they were no longer this disembodied mass of humanity that I could simply caricature and dismiss, but instead had real names, and real faces, and real needs.

So now, I have come to the point that I view the “Spiritual but not Religious” among us as some of our greatest teachers. You see, I have come to understand that we live in a world filled with people who are deeply concerned about spiritual issues. The problem is, they come to us looking for God, and we give them the Church. They come looking for some way to make sense out of the chaos of their lives, and we give them a list of committees they can join in our local parishes. They come looking for some kind of deep, genuine, and transformative community experience, and we give them a pledge card and a time and talent survey or spiritual gifts inventory so that they can identify all the ways they can serve the Church.

“Extra Ecclesiam nulla salum.” “Outside of the Church there is no salvation.” The earliest account of that phrase traces its way all the way back to St. Cyprian of Carthage in the 3rd century. By the time of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, it had become the official doctrine of the Church. Whatever the original intent of that phrase, it has, over the past 1800 years, sort of crept its way into our DNA to the point that we have all come to behave as though it is true… whether we say we believe it or not. Unfortunately, for many people (both inside the Church and outside) this phrase “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salum” has come to be less about saving people’s souls, and more about saving the institution of the Church.

I was struck by Bishop Dan Edwards’ blog post following the presentations at the House of Bishops meeting on September 16 by Anne Rudig of the Office of Communication and Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Bishop Edwards wrote: “There was one proposing a medium; the other proposing a message.” I must say, Dan, that I think you described for me the discontinuity I heard in their respective presentations. One offered a medium, a platform through which we can tell a story. But there was little sense of what that story could be in people’s lives. The other gave a compelling argument to be clear about our message, but in an almost disdainful way which disregarded the need to be intentional and strategic and proactive in communicating that message.

All of which brings us to the issue of the day… developing leaders for evangelism – both lay and ordained – is about bringing together both the message and the medium in such a way that people’s lives can be changed. Is there something unique about the Christian story – grounded upon the birth, life and ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ – which is so compelling that we echo the words of Robert Wadsworth Lowry’s hymn:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing.
All things are mine since I am his – how can I keep from singing?”

I believe that there is, and that it is not only our responsibility as Christians, but our joy as well, to sing that song every moment.

At the same time, we have to sing that song with text and tune that make sense to the world around us. And equally as important, we have to learn to sing that song in venues where people will actually hear and be changed by that encounter. In other words, the medium matters. This means moving away from the insularity of the walls which we have constructed to protect us, and shelter us, and separate us from the rest of creation – the insularity of our buildings, the insularity of our polity, the insularity of our canons, the insularity of our language, the insularity of our presumed position at the center of the cultural circle – and in its place to find ourselves firmly planted in the world as it is, in that world in which God is already fully present and actively involved. When we do that, we will be in a position where we can truly make a difference in the lives of the people around us.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The evolution of our worship

In a recent article on the Alban Institute website, Graham Standish writes:

"The church has to adapt its worship because our culture doesn't recognize the value of worship when done as it was in generations past. Each generation is different in what it resonates with because over time the culture changes. The result is taht worship rooted in previous generations loses its power to connect with each succeeding generation and leads us to address spiritual questions that are no longer being asked, or at least not being asked in a way that can be addressed in forms familiar to today's older generations."

The full text of his argument is found here:

Take a read of Standish's thoughts for yourself, and let me know what you think.

Evangelism < 30's

The current issue of the Alban Weekly posts an article by Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook entitled "Evangelism and the Under 30 Crowd." I think it is well worth the read, as she raises some of the critical issues revolving around effective ways to build connections with young adults in 2010 (and beyond). Here's the link:

What are ways you have found to actively and authentically engage young adults in your community?