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Showing posts from November, 2009

Does Applause Worship God?

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“…if worship is a gift, then it is absolutely not what I am looking to get out of it, but what I am looking to give.”

Brewin, Signs of Emergence, p. 149.

My home church, Lakewood UMC (Ohio) has a magnificent organ and sanctuary. In my youth, appreciative postlude fans would gather just to hear the artistry of John Christian as he lit up the organ each Sunday. Dr. Joseph Albright, the Senior Pastor in those days, would cajole us during the worship service to, yes, enjoy the postludes, but please no applause because this was John's private worship.
Applause interfered with something that was between John and God alone.

I always wondered how applause could interfere with worship. Wasn't this brilliant organist playing for us, for our adulation and response? If it makes you feel good, then why not show it? But if his music was an act of worship, what would happen if he measured his offering not by his own sense of giving to God, but by the decibels of applause? What about human fickle…

Follow the $ to a Deepening Health Care Crisis

Last week, I received in the U.S Post (warning: socialized delivery system) a lovely glossy fold-out from my Congressman, John Culberson of Texas (R), explaining to me the evils of the current health care reform bill as well as regurgitating the favorite hang-dog of corporately owned politicians like Culberson, law suit "abuse."

The American Nurses Association estimates that $1.8 million has been and continues to be spent per dayto defeat any public choice in health care reform. I wonder who pays the price for mass mailings like Culbertson's? I live in an hysterically red district, why is it necessary to oversell the faithful? Is it because all the resources marshaled to stall reform have created a nasty image problem of being the force for obstruction in the face of the 40+ million without a physician?

I don't know who pays for the behemoths' propaganda. But when your premiums rise to about 40% of your income in a little while, as we have been told they will, you…

Kester Brewin's "Signs of Emergence"

The words attributed to Einstein, "The same consciousness that created a problem cannot solve it" provides the mission of Signs of Emergence. (2007) Bringing together Fowler's stages of faith with a prophetic critique of hierarchical church, the author's intent is one of raising consciousness for the "Conjunctive church," or Fowler's Stage 5. This stage follows the arrogance of Stage 3 and Stage 4's "dark night." Stage 5 is where doubt is not extinguished but tensions are accepted, and mystery truly appreciated.

Brewin is not talking about stages in an adult's faith, but rather, what the corresponding emergence looks like in faith communities. He has more success is describing what it's not: "So we feed the ecclesiastic furnaces our burned-out wrecks: tired leaders, disillusioned ministers, fatigued congregations- marshaling them to dance longer, march faster, pray harder, cry louder in earnest for God to come...We must be bra…

Hearing George Barna: Why Houston Christians Don't Go to Church

"Why Houston Christians Don't Go To Church" was the topic of the conference sponsored by Chapelwood and area churches yesterday at First Baptist Church, Houston. With many churches represented and about 250 present, the event was a project of the Houston Coalition of Church Communicators. The Barna Group surveyed self-defined Christians who had not attended church in the last six months, nor do they have plans to so in the next six months. The area studied was generally the Katy Freeway corridor of West Houston. "We know them," Barna quipped, "because they're just like us." Barna described these folks as "self-absorbed." Success, health, family, and maintaining a comfortable life rank highest among values.

Barna presented conclusions from both the Houston study and his national research on unchurched adults over 18. He was passionate about treating this audience with respect. Marketing obviously only goes so far, but phone calls and home…

Questions for Leave Taking

What is the personal and congregational cost/benefit analysis of taking- and not taking a leave?How do I plan a leave? Planning a leave two years out is not unreasonable. Writing a proposal that's specific and realistic is the first step.
What do you want to call the leave? The "sabbatical" is academic in nature, where one takes a leave to study, work and write. Most D.Min. programs are academic and concurrent with full time ministry. What will be the main focus? Use "clergy renewal" when the focus on study or reading is combined with deepening prayer life, spiritual formation, rest, travel, family. It's an extended break from full time ministry. How can the time away be managed financially? Be creative; requesting to save or carry over vacation or continuing education time could provide you with a block of several weeks.
A great resource is Clergy Renewal: The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning.

Making Room for Others

I'm convinced that we cannot welcome new people into our lives until we make room. The same is true of churches. Having space is an attitude which allows others access without an appointment. We can build bigger and bigger buildings; if we don't create open spaces in our lives then size matters not.

The other extreme is making our acceptance conditional, our welcome driven by a hidden agenda. A very popular book on evangelism called The Contagious Christian explained how we can "leverage" our conversations for Christ. Terrible word. That's exactly the kind of thing that stereotypes Christians as manipulative, and takers, rather than givers.

David Burchett in When Bad Christians Happen to Good People, lists an "Unbeliever's Bill of Rights." The memorable title is mentioned in Beginnings: Around the Fire by Langford, Rawls, and Weber in the chapter, "How Do We Share What We Have Discovered?" I have the right to never have faith forced on me.I…