April 30, 2007
Worship teacher and pioneer died last weekend.
Theologian, scholar, and worship guru Robert Webber died Saturday, April 27. He was 73.
Webber will be remembered (and appreciated, mostly) as the man who gave a name to the quest to recover both philosophy and experience of worship that were endangered by contemporary evangelical practices in the late 20th century: He was the father of "ancient-future worship." His book by that title was followed by Ancient-Future Faith, Ancient-Future Time, Ancient-Future Evangelism. Webber wrote more than 40 books on worship. His most recent works are The Younger Evangelicals and, soon to be released,The Divine Embrace.
Remarkable about Webber is his spiritual journey, and how, a generation ahead of the emerging leaders he later chronicled, he created a new cutting edge in evangelicalism by leaving its "contemporary" expressions in search of older and more mainline ways of doing and being Church.
And he took a lot of heat for it.
Continue reading Robert Webber's Ancient-Future Journey Was Our Journey...
April 26, 2007
A new leadership paradigm is emerging, but is the church listening?
Recent excerpts we've posted from An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Baker, 2007), edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, have generated a lot of discussion. This final installment should keep the trend going. Sally Morgenthaler writes about our cultural shift away from an autocratic CEO model of leadership toward a more reflexive and cooperative model, and why many churches have failed to get the memo.
Significance, influence, interaction, collective intelligence - all of these values describe an essential shift from passivity to reflexivity. We are no longer content to travel in lockstep fashion through life like faceless, isolated units performing our one little job on an assembly line. This attitudinal shift is nothing short of revolutionary. True to form, Western Christendom seems oblivious to its implications. But it is the entrepreneurial church (congregations of roughly one thousand and above) that seems particularly clueless about the shift from the passive to the reflexive. And this, despite all its posturing about cultural relevance.
This disconnect shouldn't really surprise us. Large-church leaders have been trained in the modern, command-and-control paradigm for thirty years. Here, organizations aren't seen so much as gatherings of people with a common purpose but as machines. There is no irony here. Machine parts don't have minds or muscles to flex. They don't contribute to a process or innovate improvements. Machine parts simply do their job, which is, of course, to keep the machine functioning.
The mechanical paradigm of organization largely explains why modern church leaders are trained as CEOs, not shepherds.
Continue reading Shepherds or CEOs?...
April 24, 2007
"If I'm to preach to people effectively, I must be freed from my need for their approval and applause. As long as I am chained to that need, then my preaching will really be trying to fill up something in me that I can never fill."
-John Ortberg is pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. Taken from "My Holy of Holies: How all-too-human preachers can prepare their souls to preach." in the Spring 2007 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.
April 20, 2007
Shane Hipps on moving toward, against, and away from the culture.
Url: You moved from a career in advertising to pastor a Mennonite church. Is that reflective of a generation that's reacting against consumerism? Do you see a trend of younger people preferring smaller, less market driven, ministries?
Hipps: We are a consumer culture. I am a consumer. I understand that it's insidious and dangerous, but I am still a consumer. That's just how we're shaped. That's the cultural currency. And so mega-churches will thrive. They will always thrive. The emerging church used to say mega-churches are going away. They're not going away. They're predicated on the metaphor of consumerism. And as long as consumerism is the dominant mode of our culture mega-churches will always thrive. Some are saying that this next generation hates that. They don't. They love it.
So if the younger generation is not reacting against consumer church, what are they reacting to?
I make a distinction between three different kinds of consumerism. One is mainstream consumerism; the dominant hegemony that happens in our culture. Mainstream consumerism is mega. Walmart exemplifies this kind of consumerism, as does the mega-church. Boomer consumerism is mainstream consumerism.
Then you have counter consumerism, which is savviness. They are aware that Walmart and [Microsoft] Windows are trying to dominate, and they resist just like they resist mega-churches. But the odd thing is they're no less consumers. They're just counter consumers. A counter consumer buys Apple. It is absolutely consumer driven. They are consuming an identity that says we're different; an alternative from the rest of you.
Continue reading Dancing with Consumerism...
April 18, 2007
Pastor and professor Scott Wenig understands the profound responsibility church leaders face in the aftermath of a tragedy. Nine years ago his community was devastated when two teenage gunmen entered Columbine High School. Wenig shares the wisdom he gained after that heartbreaking event with church leaders now struggling to respond to the murders at Virginia Tech.
"Death in the morning," the eighteenth century lexicographer Dr. Johnson said, "powerfully clears the mind." Just as they did nine years ago at Columbine, our minds once again got tragically cleared this past Monday with the dreadful slaughter of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech. In light of this horrendous event, pastors, teachers and other Christian leaders will seek to provide some words of comfort and understanding to those under their spiritual care. What can they affirm that might supply some solace? And what should they avoid lest they unwittingly hurt rather than help?
First, I would suggest that we avoid well meaning words of unintentional foolishness. Telling our listeners that those who were murdered are now "in a better place," or that "God needed him or her for a job up there" or that "Someday we'll know why this happened" may not be true and almost certainly cannot heal hurting hearts. In our desire to minister, let us be pastorally reflective rather than theologically sentimental.
Second, I would suggest that we avoid any sort of theological pontification.
Continue reading Death in the Morning...
April 13, 2007
LaTonya Taylor is an editor with Ignite Your Faith magazine. Here she offers perspective as a Christian, an African-American, and a woman.
The maelstrom radio shock jock Don Imus started when he referred to members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" is winding down. The Scarlet Knights issued a statement accepting Imus's apology for words he called "insensitive and ill-conceived."
I find this outcome so far only partially satisfying. People heard something outrageous and were outraged. They understood Imus's words were both racist and sexist, attacking the Rutgers players' beauty as people of color, as well as their stewardship of their sexuality. And the market spoke. After initially suspending Imus in the Morning for two weeks, CBS canceled the radio show, and NBC Universal canceled his TV simulcast on MSNBC's cable channel.
But part of me hopes that Imus's remarks also lead to a redemptive conversation within the Christian community. I hope we can move from satisfaction over Imus's punishment to think about ways we can redeem his situation--and others like it.
Some commenters in the blogosphere, on message boards, and in the mainstream media have raised some important questions: What's the big deal? Some shock jock said something kind of rude, but sticks and stones, right? Don't rappers say worse things every day? Isn't Imus's real mistake mocking the wrong group? And wasn't one of the players overreacting by saying his comments had made her "scarred for life"?
All good questions. It's possible the "scarred" comment was the statement of an overwrought college student. But I don't think so. At one of the most important moments of her life, a moment she and her teammates had striven to reach, a moment culminating years of positive choices, she realized that some will still view her negatively because she is a woman--and an African-American. That's a startling realization, particularly for those of us who've been insulated from some of the struggles of our forebears.
Continue reading Imus's Scarring Words: An opportunity to learn...
April 13, 2007
How we label others and ourselves gives life and takes it away.
What is a Christian response to the flap over radio personality Don Imus's description of the Rutgers women's basketball team? Is his firing a concession to pressure groups or an appropriate judgment? In this debate, is there something deeper to be said about language and the coarseness of public conversation? This column by Mark Labberton, appearing in the Spring issue of Leadership and arriving in mailboxes this week, was written before current controversy. In it Labberton speaks to the deeper issues of naming and labeling. He offers a biblical perspective on the words we apply to others and to ourselves.
Every day our naming of the people around us gives life and takes it away. Really? Really.
Being rightly named means being truly known. It changes our lives. Embedded in our words, and in our actions, are the names we give to and receive from others. Gestures of value, nods of recognition, glances of curiosity, looks of compassion, signs of paying attention build one another up.
God created by naming: "Let there by light," and "let us make humankind in our image." In turn, the human beings named with unflinching instinct, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Yet right from the start our very capacity for rightly naming includes our freedom to misname. "Did God really say . . ." are words that rename God's intent, and reality cracks. "This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" easily becomes, "The woman you gave me."
Misnaming misidentifies who we are and our relation to others. The tragic consequences are everywhere.
Continue reading Name Calling...
April 12, 2007
Can a church embrace those on the margins without excluding its core?
This week the New York Times ran a story about a controversy dividing a church in Carlsbad, California. Outside Pilgrim United Church of Christ hangs a banner that reads "All are welcome." Now that claim is being tested.
In January, a 53 year old attender at the church, Mark Pliska, informed the congregation that he had been convicted in the past for molesting children. The leaders and members of Pilgrim United Church of Christ now face a dilemma. Can the church be inclusive, even to convicted child molesters, and still be a safe environment for children and adults healing from past sexual abuse?
The pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Rev. Madison Shockley, finds himself caught between two factions in the congregation. The Times reports:
Before introducing Mr. Pliska to the congregation, Mr. Shockley spoke to a few congregants who had been abused as children and to parents, and none objected to Mr. Pliska's inclusion.
But Mr. Pliska's introduction unlocked a flood of emotions among the 300 members.
Continue reading (Some) Sinners Welcome...
April 10, 2007
Letting go of certainty and learning to flow with the future.
Barry Taylor is back with another excerpt from An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Baker, 2007), edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. As our culture abandons any sense of certainty, how should Christians respond? Taylor invites us to consider a less dogmatic and "muscular" view of our faith in favor of one that is comfortable in the ever-shifting currents of our world.
The times in which we live are intense on any number of levels. The threat of terror haunts the world like a specter; issues of global poverty and disease are constant reminders of economic disparity
and human despair. Our world has also recently been rocked by a series of natural disasters, the sheer force of which has raised renewed concerns about environmental issues and the ramifications
of our commitment to fossil fuels, chemicals, and other resources on the planet. The impact of globalization and its many discontents on various parts of the world is a continuing part of our daily lives. Along with this, we in the West find ourselves drowning in choices, trying to balance our rampant materialism with a renewed desire for meaning and purpose.
These are certainly not the times to be seeking self-preservation, but that seems to be the general focus of the church today. Everywhere we turn we see books, conferences, workshops, and a host of other
resources that focus on what can be done to preserve the church, and we are willing, it seems, to employ any marketing device to make it happen. Trend watchers and marketing strategists offer ways in which churches can connect with the culture. We brand and market Christianity in attempts to make it viable again.
But what if we let go of our need for a branded and marketable entity and turn instead toward a new way of living and being in the world? This is not an entirely new idea. Dietrich Bonhoeffer posited a "religionless Christianity" in the 1940s, but what if it is an idea whose time has finally come? What if "religion," and by this I mean the institutional and organizational form around faith, is no longer necessary for the future of faith?
Continue reading Muscular Christianity or Fluid Theology?...
April 6, 2007
"When our goal of worship is to receive God's help to be successful, pride is taking over. Then we are just using God to further ourselves. Could it be that we want church-growth secrets, or even God's Spirit...for the wrong reasons? Have we slipped into a proud and competitive mode? Is this part of the reason why the American church seems so crippled right now?"
-Miles Finch recently retired as pastor of New Life Christian Center in Polson, Montana. Taken from "Surprised by Pride" in the Spring 2007 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.
April 3, 2007
His unreliable Ford helped Gordon MacDonald understand brokenness.
Leadership's editor-at-large, Gordon MacDonald, is back with further reflections on life and faith. This time he addresses the nature of spiritual brokenness - a truth incarnated by his temperamental 1950 Ford. (Sorry, I have a weakness for bad puns.)
My first car was an 8-year old 1950 Ford (stick shift on the steering column) purchased for $200. Its mileage was north of 100,000. To call it a lemon is not an exaggeration. The starting motor was a fifty-percenter, meaning frequent pushes. The radiator leaked like a sieve. The fuel gauge was accurate to the nearest 25 gallons. The engine drank a quart of oil every 200 miles. The tires were bald, and the muffler was absent without leave.
On cold winter nights, I had to park the Ford at the crest of a hill near my college apartment and drain the water from radiator to prevent a freeze-up. In the morning I would refill the radiator, nudge the car downhill, release the clutch and hope that the engine would leap into life. No amount of prayer seemed to directly affect the success of this process.
I used to imagine that the Ford talked to itself when it saw me coming. "Looks like he's in a hurry today. I'll slow ?em down." Or, "he looks like he's dressed for a date. Probably wants to impress a pretty girl. He's toast." I tell you, it was not hard to believe that the Ford despised me.
Continue reading Jesus and the Art of Automobile Maintenance...