Why THIS Church Matters

Our church is going through a season where we are facing difficult budgetary constraints for the first time in our history. And so we’ve been talking a lot about “why does this church matter?” This is (one) of my answers to that question:

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Last week I got briefly distracted on Facebook by a Washington Post article about the Noah’s Ark replica that creationist Ken Ham built in Kentucky. While the article was mostly about Ham’s intention to build more theme-park style Bible attractions, the article also reported that the “single largest source of funding was actually $62 million in junk bonds floated by the town of Willamstown [sic]…”

Groups like the ACLU have been critical of the project, specifically the organization’s discriminatory hiring practices that should render it ineligible for state funding.

“As a condition of employment, the museum and ark staff of 900, including 350 seasonal workers, must sign a statement of faith rejecting evolution and declaring that they regularly attend church and view homosexuality as a sin. So any non-Christians, believers in evolution, or members of the LGBT community — and their supporters — need not apply.”

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Yes, I read the entire statement of faith. And yes, it represents a very conservative evangelical view of Scripture, theology and the world. I think most of you who would read this post probably aren’t that conservative.

However, it’s a loud view. It’s a definition of Christianity that gets a lot of airtime both because of media interest and also because part of what makes evangelicals “evangelical” is their boldness about their faith, their willingness to “stand on street corners” and wear their faith on their collective sleeve.

But this is what concerns me: many modern people are rejecting Christianity because “Christian” to some has become synonymous with a strictly literal reading of the Bible, rejecting evolution and judging homosexuality (their word, not mine) to be a sin (among other things).

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This is why I believe the progressive evangelical church matters, and specifically why I believe that my church – Imago Dei in Peoria, IL – matters.

Listen, I’m not going to throw stones here. If you know me, you know I disagree with a lot of things in the Answers in Genesis Statement of Faith. I think some of their beliefs are harmful and unhealthy. But I don’t feel compelled to call them “heretics” or anything like that.

But I do hope to offer a counter-narrative. I do hope to say to everyone, “there are many ways of being ‘Christian.’” What makes us “Christian” is that we’re all followers of Jesus of Nazareth. We believe his words, his teachings, his “way” matters, and it’s still worth following, 2,000 years later. It’s worth talking about, it’s worth arguing about, it’s worth orienting our lives around.

We don’t agree on lots and lots of things. But even though we disagree, we can still worship together, we can still argue together, we can still serve the poor and take communion together. THIS is what I think Jesus means when he says, “ that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

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So here’s why I think my church matters. In the midst of an increasingly polarized culture where being “right” is more important than being loving, kind or civil, our church insists on 3 things….

The unity that Jesus is talking about in John 17 as the most significant form of witness.

That how we treat those at the margins is central to the “gospel.”

God loves everyone just as much as he loves Jesus. Everyone.

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With Trembling Hands

Yesterday at church my hands were trembling as I stood up to teach.

I’m not a nervous speaker. When I used to pastor at a megachurch, standing in front of large crowds didn’t unnerve me in the least. And while putting on a microphone and talking about the mysteries of God and the universe, doubts, and abstract ideas like love, justice and forgiveness would freak most people out, it’s just the thing I do. No big deal.

Except for yesterday.

We’ve been having a tense conversation in our church for the last couple of months. We’ve been having a conversation about what the church should say to our LGBT brothers and sisters. And really it has been a conversation as we wrestle with the Bible, tradition, reason and our own experiences. (We’re not Wesleyans, per se, but we’ve always found the Wesleyan Quadrilateral useful in our deliberations.)

And so, since the beginning of the year, we’ve collapsed our two morning services into one service during which I teach, and we’ve set aside the second service time for conversation. We’ve welcomed people to ask questions and make comments, and every week during this series, I’ve walked away feeling so in love with these brave midwesterners wrestling with big issues.

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As the pastor, I probably think about these things differently than most. As pastor, it’s not about theoretical ideas about morality, but rather about relationships. And it’s not just about my own story and experiences, but rather the collective story and experiences of everyone in the church. Ken Wilson, in his excellent book A Letter to My Congregation describes it this way:

“The members of a congregation have a commonly held conscience on many, but not all, matters. A pastor stands at the crossroads of a congregation’s conflicted conscience. It’s a congested intersection, this place. Standing in the middle of it can be dizzying, frightening, awful, especially under the intense scrutiny that comes with religious controversy.”

And so, yesterday, as I prepared to stand up and say things that would challenge nearly every one of us, my hands shook in nervousness and anxiety.

Help me, Lord Jesus, to be faithful to the pathway you seem to be leading me down. Help me to say what I say with grace, humility and kindness.

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I’m a lucky guy. I sometimes hear stories of pastors who come into conflict with their congregation and lose their jobs. Or I hear stories of how parishioners leave a church angrily, “telling off” the pastor as they go. Yes, we’ve had a few of those, but not very many. The church I pastor is filled with kind, lovely people who, I believe, really believe Jesus when he says that everything hangs on how we love. Again, my experience is reflected in Wilson,

“Strangely, very few of you have actually asked me this question directly. Congregations learn to read their pastors. And many of you sense that I’ve been wrestling with this one for a long time. You’ve heard sermons that indicate a certain lean away from the traditional consensus, perhaps. I suspect that some of you haven’t asked me where I draw the line because you haven’t wanted to put me on the spot. Others haven’t wanted to situate me, your pastor, on what you may regard as the wrong side of an important moral issue. Or you may just be nervous for me, for us. In any case, I want to say: thank you.”

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I’m writing this on Monday morning. I feel emotionally spent. I could have spent the day in bed, which is why so many pastors take Mondays off. (They also tell us to never write our resignations on a Monday. Good advice!)

I actually don’t remember much of what I said. I don’t know if it’s this way for everyone, but there are times when I’m so “in it,” so focused on what I’m doing, that afterward I don’t remember the specifics. I’ve thought about listening to the podcast, but that sometimes leads to self-loathing. (Oh do I hate the sound of my own voice!) We’ll see how I feel in a couple days.

What I do know is that when I preach that kind of sermon, with that kind of emotion and intensity, I feel super-vulnerable afterwards. (I know from talking to pastors, musicians and other artists this is common.) I feel vulnerable because it’s not just a task I performed but, rather, I feel like I’ve given a part of myself to a whole bunch of people at once. And so, my tendency is to want to run and hide – to find any excuse to get to my office and close the door as fast as possible.

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In my younger years, I needed a lot of praise in these fragile moments just after the sermon to satisfy my fragile ego-self. But I’m learning that what my ego wants almost always leaves my soul feeling hollow. So I’m trying to learn to pay attention to my soul. My honorary-big-sister-even-if-she-doesn’t-know-who-I-am Liz Gilbert says,

“I know that I am not only an ego; I am also a soul. And I know that my soul doesn’t care a whit about reward or failure. My soul is not guided by dreams of praise or fears of criticism. My soul doesn’t even have language for such notions. My soul, when I tend to it, is a far more expansive and fascinating source of guidance than my ego will ever be, because my soul desires only one thing: wonder.”

I would add, in addition to wonder, my soul also longs for intimacy. In that moment, I need connection with my wife, boys and friends. I need my most intimate friends to tell me, “You are loved.”

[This by the way, is the greatest gift a church can give to their pastor: the freedom to have their own intimate circle of friends, even if those friends don’t attend your church. Yes, your pastor should be friends with everyone at some level, but your pastor also needs an intimate space of people who can authentically say, “We will love you regardless of anything about you that is ‘pastor.’” Let your pastor have a circle of people to whom they can say, “I need something from you,” so they don’t need it from the congregation.]

After the service, my wife grabbed me in the center aisle and hugged me, and my good friend sought me out as I was trying to escape into my office and gave me a hug and reminded me that I’m loved. And my closest circle – the ones who know that I need them – tended to my fragile self throughout the day with texts and love. That’s what my soul needed.

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My hands were trembling yesterday before I got up to speak to these beautiful people that I get to lead. But there’s goodness here. I think I said some things to challenge all of us. And, to the best of my knowledge, I’m leading our church down the pathway that is right for us. It’s not easy. And there will be sadness and tears to come.

But we’re together in this.

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I See You

This past weekend was full of all kinds of meaningful conversation and gatherings. My good friend Steve was with us Saturday night and Sunday morning, and we talked and talked and talked. We had a gathering of almost 20 people in my living room Saturday night, discussing Exodus 3 and the name God gave himself, “I will be what I will be.”  Sunday morning, Steve taught at Imago Dei Church, and then Steve and I had a “pastor-to-pastor” conversation in front of a crowd about tensions in local churches. Anyway, here’s one of the thoughts bouncing around my head after this weekend.

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There’s this story in Genesis 16 about a woman named Hagar. Hagar was a the servant of Sarai and was given by Sarai to her husband Abram because Sarai and Abram couldn’t conceive. (Yes, the ancient world was just a bit different than our own!) But when Hagar “got with” Abram, tension arose between the two women (duh!), and the text tells us that “Sarai mistreated Hagar, so Hagar fled from her.” (Mistreated? Bullied at the minimum, probably closer to “abused” or “beat” her).

The text then tells us that an “angel of the Lord” found Hagar hiding at a spring in the desert and, when the angel spoke to her, the angel informed her that she was pregnant and that her son would be a “wild donkey of a man” (is this supposed to be a compliment?) and he would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (good luck with THAT!).  Later, in Genesis 21, God assures Abraham (he had a slight name change by this time) that this child of Hagar — Ishmael — would become a great nation.

But here’s the point that Steve got me thinking about this weekend: after the “angel of the Lord” told her she’s preggo, Hagar responded by naming God, calling him “You are the God who sees me.” And as an explanation she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

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FullSizeRender-3A year ago, someone gave me a gift of a tiny ceramic bowl, and in the center of
the bowl it says
namaste.

Namaste comes to us from the Hindu tradition and is used both to say “hello” and “goodbye,” just like aloha. Strictly speaking, it means “I see the divine in you,” and it’s intended as a form of respect and honor.

The person who gave me the bowl took the idea a bit further, and she explained to me that when we say namaste to another person, it’s a way of saying “I see you. I honor you.” In a more specifically Christian way, it’s a way of saying, “I see the way you bear the Image of God.”

I don’t say namaste a lot. But when I do, I mean it to say, “I see you.” (And yes, Avatar made this super-cheesy.) But, to be seen, to be noticed, to be missed is a gift we can both give and receive. And when I say it I mean to acknowledge not just that I physically see the person standing in front of me, but rather I intend to say, “to the very best of my ability, I see your suffering, I see your challenges, I see your hurt, your pains and your joys too, and I stand with you in those.” (See, it’s just simpler to say “namaste.”)

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It’s easy to only see myself. To see only my own dramas, to hear the chatter of my own drunken monkeys, to be overwhelmed by my own moods and feelings and season of life. But, one of the ways I’m being called to expand is to be one who see others.

I know from my own experience, when I’m in my seasons of greatest suffering, frustration or despair, I don’t generally want advice, platitudes or even the most well-meaning-but-vague assurances that “it will all work out.” Rather, I simply long to be seen. To have those who know me best, who know the specific ways in which I uniquely suffer to say, “namaste.”

So, today, who are you being invited to see for the first time? Or who do you need to remind that “I see you.” Perhaps it’s your spouse, friend, neighbor or maybe it’s a coworker who you know faces hells at home and yet every day puts on their “game face” and does their job well. Maybe today, just before closing time, you need to acknowledge them — “namaste” — and the battle they are in.

After all, what would the world look like if we were all able to get out of our heads and see each other?

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Your Pastor Isn’t Your Authority

At my church – Imago Dei in Peoria, ILwe’re having a conversation about generous orthodoxy. Each Sunday I’m teaching during our first service, then during the second we’re doing a question and response; a moderated discussion. I intend to post thoughts here over the next couple of weeks. For the first week we started with “what is a church?” which led us to “what authority does a church have?” Who knew our church was so full of anti-authoritarians?

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Boy, do church people love talking about authority. Does the Bible have authority? Does the church? What is the extent of the authority of a pastor? Who’s the final authority in a marriage?

If you don’t know “church world” very well, this might seem like an odd conversation to be having — especially when the American zeitgeist is so strongly anti-authoritarian, all the way back to the Boston Tea Party.

But I think this obsession mostly comes from a good place. I think most Christians genuinely believe that there is a best way to live and so all the discussion about authority is really a discussion about “how do I know who to trust to tell me the right way to live that will please God?” In other words, what authority is going to tell me how to live?

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Sincere woman in our church in our question and response: “Charlie, as the pastor of Imago Dei what do you think is the basis for your authority?”

Me: “Ummmm…..Next question?” (laughter)

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I believe pretty radically in the “priesthood of all believers.” This is a doctrine that emerged out of the Protestant Reformation and asserted that we don’t need priests or “the church” to mediate our experience of God. All Christians believe in this priesthood to a varying degree. For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes that the priesthood of all believers applies to the spread of the Gospel, while most liturgical and sacramental functions are reserved for the ordained priesthood.

There is a whole range of ideas about what the “priesthood of all believers” means, and I fall on pretty much the exact opposite side of the Roman Catholic Church on this one. I’ll give credit to my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist upbringing here. (See? I DO say good things about Baptists sometimes!) While we granted the pastor a degree of authority, we were fiercely (and might I say, proudly) independent of any denominational interference.  We believed authority rested in the congregation, not in any one man (as there were no women pastors in that particular context).

So, in this conversation about the authority of the local church and by extension the authority of the local pastor, I’m radically committed to the priesthood of all believers. I don’t claim any authority for the church as the pastor. None. Zilch.

Rather, I believe any “authority” I have is something my parishioners have voluntarily granted to me. It’s not because of the title. It’s because of the relationship.

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When it comes to the news, I consider NPR an authority. Because of its reputation, because of its journalistic standards, because I think NPR works to maintain balance in its reporting, I trust NPR in a way that I don’t trust a random article that someone posts to Facebook declaring President Obama the spawn of Muslim aliens from the planet Zorg.

I think this is how authority works in the spiritual life too. There are pastors, writers, teachers, organizations and close friends I trust when it comes to helping me follow Jesus, and I’ve granted them various levels of authority in my life. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they teach, say, write or do, but it does mean that on the whole, I trust them. They’ve proven effective at helping me along in my spiritual journey.

Of course, it’s a sliding scale. I’ve granted a lot of authority to some people in my life, much less to others and to some, none at all. Some people are on the rise — I’m granting them more and more authority — while others are waning and I’m not listening to their voice in the same way that I used to. Some authorities in my life I know very well, others I only know from a distance. Some I grant authority because of the investment they’ve made in me, others, I grant authority because of a position or expertise they hold. Some have an authority in one area but none in another (think of your accountant, lawyer or doctor in this regard).

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Back to my church…I don’t believe I have an innate authority over the people of my church because I have an advanced degree or because I have a particular title or because I’ve been ordained by a particular group (I haven’t been ordained at all, by the way). I don’t believe I get “special rewards in heaven” or have a “direct line to God.”

However, in the context of my local ecclesia, because I stand up in front of a group of people week after week, and because I have a role that gives me the freedom to study, to think, to meet with people, to listen to their stories, to stand at their bedside when they’re sick and to stand with them at the altar when they marry, they in turn, grant me a lot of authority (in fact, probably more than I’m comfortable with, most of the time!). Or, as I summarized it on Sunday, because of my role in the church I have a greater opportunity to be granted a degree of authority in individuals’ lives.

I know that many of you have religious contexts that may teach something quite different from what I’m saying here about pastoral authority. But this is the one that seems most comfortable to me. How do you think about it?

 

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Regarding Generous Orthodoxy: An Open Letter to Brian McLaren

Dear Brian,

We’ve met a handful of times, but you don’t know me. The first time we met, in 2008 at a conference in Kansas City at Jacob’s Well, I introduced myself then blubbered through a thank you. See, when I read A New Kind Of Christian in 2000, while the youth pastor at a Baptist Church, it set my life on an entirely new trajectory.  After reading that book — and subsequent books of yours — multiple times, you became my spiritual father of sorts.

I met you again a couple months ago in Minneapolis at Solomon’s Porch, and even though I wanted to thank you again I refrained for the sake of my own pride; I didn’t want to cry again, but knew I would.

When I met you the first time, I was in the early, heady days of planting a new church that had sprung organically and unforeseen out of the tight bond of a group of friends. We read ANKoC together and it — along with Generous Orthodoxy — became the common language of our young church. In fact, your ideas were so important to us that when we sat around my dining room table discussing the core ideas that would give definition to our community, the idea of generous orthodoxy became core to who we are as a church.

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We are committed to historic, orthodox Christian faith as found in the Apostles’ Creed. We are committed to a generous orthodoxy under a banner of love and grace. As such, we commit ourselves to faithful reading and study of the Bible, finding new and creative ways to live out what it teaches.

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It’s been 8 years since we crafted that statement for our little church here in Peoria, and about 10 since you wrote the book. And I still deeply believe in a generous orthodoxy. I think it’s a sad statement about the Body of Christ that since the Protestant Reformation, we feel like almost everything is worth dividing over. There are a lot of great things I was taught growing up Baptist, but one of the ugly things I learned is that when you disagree with someone, you move away from them.

But I don’t think this is the way of Jesus. In fact, I’m more convinced than ever that tension and disagreement have always existed side-by-side in the church. Peter v. James, Paul v. Jerusalem Church, Paul v. Barnabas, James v. Paul…  Throughout the Scriptures, I see our church fathers arguing with each other over the nature of what it means to follow after Jesus. We’ve always had “disputable matters” (as in Romans 14) that have caused us to question our brothers and sisters.

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Over the last couple of months, our church has been engaged in a conversation over the role of LGBT persons in our church community. Some say that, of course, “generous orthodoxy” extends to the LGBT persons in our church, prohibiting them from nothing; others say that we can be generous, but this lies outside the lines of “orthodoxy,” and should therefore limit their participation in certains facets of our ministry.

And while we’ve always made space for gays and lesbians in our church, we’ve been intentionally ambiguous about the specifics. But it’s now time for us to address what “generous orthodoxy” looks like when it comes to the role of LGBT persons.

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Here’s what I see, Brian, that bothers me and it’s the reason for this letter. In some of the churches that I admire, who have moved to an “open and affirming” position, there is no generous orthodoxy, only a new orthodoxy. In other words, it feels like some have only changed their minds about what the Scripture affirms or denies, without maintaining the spirit of graciousness that I’ve seen modeled by you in your writing. And so a church “affirms” one group that was formerly ostracized but now tells another group they’re not welcome because of their beliefs.

And it’s not just churches, it’s people. It’s people who have changed their view on what the Scriptures condemn or allow and are now just as ungracious being “liberal” as they were when they were “conservative.” It’s like they’ve completely forgotten their own journey and the sometimes slow process of changing one’s mind.

So, my question is, even if we expand our “orthodoxy,” how do we maintain generosity? Even if we feel like God is calling us to accept people that the church didn’t used to accept, how do we maintain a spirit of generosity towards those who just can’t get there yet, and perhaps never will?

With Great Admiration,

Charles

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Okay, it’s doubtful to me that Brian McLaren will ever read this post. But I’m curious, what do you all think about the relationship between generosity and orthodoxy? What do you think about “orthodoxy” changing, as it does from time to time? What are some of the specific practices you believe a local church should employ in order to create a space of “generous orthodoxy?”

And even if you don’t want to engage in the discussion here, please drop me a line and let me know if this post is beneficial and thought-provoking. Over the next couple months, we’ll again be exploring the idea of “generous orthodoxy” at Imago Dei Church, and I’m intending, from time to time, to “spill” some thoughts over here to my blog.

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From the Vault: Jimmy, Bono & Joe

On Mondays, I’m going into the vault, reworking an old post, and then reposting it with some comments attached. This morning’s post comes from February 18, 2014. Additional thoughts have been added at the end of the post.

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Facing a mix of “winter blues” and the remnants of a head cold, I was ready to pull the covers over my head by about nine o’clock last night. But, like many of you, I was excited to see Jimmy Fallon take the reigns of The Tonight Show, so I stayed up to watch, but channel surfing during commercials.

On AXS.tv I came across a re-airing of Def Leppard‘s “Viva! Hysteria” concert shot in late-2013 in Las Vegas. I was in 7th grade when “Hysteria” came out and Def Leppard was my favorite of the “hair bands.” When I started driving, Def Leppard was always in heavy rotation as I attempted to blow out the speakers of my red Buick Skyhawk. So, I was intrigued to hear what Def Leppard sounded like 25 years later.

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Back to Fallon, U2 was performing their new song “Invisible” on the roof of The Rockefeller Center. It was beautifully shot with the sun setting in the background over New York City. (You can watch it here.) And performing with a drum line from Rutger’s University, U2 sounded amazing. What an iconic kickoff for The Tonight Show returning to NYC.

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Commerical. Jump back to Def Leppard. Joe Elliott is trying to get through their 1987 hit “Love Bites,” but he’s having a hard time finding the notes that came so easily 25 years ago. My friend Jamie, who saw them when they came through Peoria in the late 80’s told me that they could never reproduce in concert the background vocals that gave them their unique sound. And if that was true in the fall of 1987, it’s more true today. While the music is still there, the vocals – lead and background – are long gone.

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Back to The Tonight Show, Jimmy has U2 on the couch and wants people to hear how good U2 is even when they’re not in front of an arena, so he asks them to do a song acoustically. And they perform their Golden Globe Winning “Ordinary Love,” the song they wrote as a tribute to Nelson Mandela. The Edge starts off playing the opening riff of “Stairway to Heaven,” they laugh, then he starts “Ordinary Love” and it’s so good. No, Bono doesn’t have the strength of vocals that he had back in the 80’s or 90’s, but because they’re writing new stuff, they create things that work today.

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One one channel, an 80’s hair band trying to re-live the glory days, to reproduce something that is long past. They still dress much the same way. Phil Collen still has his shirt off, they’re doing the same old songs and it comes off as tired, sad, and not very good or particularly relevant. I don’t see anyone in the crowd much younger than 40.

On the other channel there’s another band from the 80’s, except this band is constantly writing new material, “reinventing” themselves, still pursuing something, not looking back. They’re as relevant as they were when they recorded “The Joshua Tree,” in 1987.

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It seems like many religious people are like the 80’s band trying to relive their glory days. They pine for “the way it used to be,” they talk about “getting back to the good ol’ day when…” They ask the same old questions, belt out the same old answers, and wonder why the next generation chooses to stay home on Sunday mornings.

But for me, faith is like the 80’s band that isn’t resting on their laurels, simply replaying all the songs that made them famous. Instead it’s forward facing, asking new questions, offering new answers, describing new ways of what it means to be God’s people in the world. It’s relevant and significant because it’s interacting with the world now, as it is, and not as they wish it would be again.

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This was fun to go back and revisit about a year-and-a-half later. My writing has gotten stronger – I changed some words, cut a lot, and reworked probably 10-12 sentences. In the original post, the links had been uploaded yet, but I’ve included them here. 

I had a conversation 6 months ago with someone who was asking me about how our church is relevant to young adults. The church I pastor is the desired demographic for many churches – young adults, young families. I told him that it’s not because of music, or because we serve coffee or wear jeans, but rather it’s because of what I describe in this last paragraph.

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Am I Ready to Go Back to Church?

Tonight, I’m leading a wedding rehearsal. Tomorrow, I’m officiating a wedding. Sabbatical over.

And as the end of my Sabbatical has rapidly approached, I’ve had more people ask, “Are you ready to go back?” Truthfully, I haven’t really had a good answer, and so I’ve been ruminating a bit on it. But I’ve finally found the words, and here’s my answer: No, I’m not ready to go back to church, but I’m ready to begin churching again.

Maybe I ought to explain myself.

When I think about church, I do so through the lens of being a career pastor. While I had lots of odd jobs through high school, college and graduate school, being a pastor is the only real, adult job I know. So, for me, there’s a component of my thinking about church as the grind; setting my alarm, getting up every morning, punching the clock, preparing a talk, meeting with committees, giving a talk, staring over. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. And actually, I tend to thrive in a certain level of routine. But, seriously, who misses setting the alarm and going to work? If you had 3 months where you weren’t required to be any specific place, at any specific time, and could stay in your pajama pants every morning reading and writing, would you want to go back to the grind? Of course not!

But I miss churching. I miss being with people, having meaningful conversations – whether one-on-one or in a group setting or even in the Sunday morning setting. I miss having bigger conversations about faith, life and meaning. And besides conversations with Jennifer, my life during Sabbatical has been devoid of those kinds of meaningful interactions, except for these highlights:

Talking yarn-spinning and Jesus and Ghandi with the owner of a haunted biker-bar/hotel in a small town in Nebraska. (post link)

Meeting the Rainbow Family in Southern Illinois and talking about how God loves us all. (post link)

Reading Psalms together on the trail and talking theology with Justin.

Talking to teammates late at night at the cafe attached to our hotel in Phnom Penh about spiritual journey and finding God’s love to be more expansive and inclusive than our upbringings taught us.

Gathering with other like-minded pastors at the OPEN Network Summit in Minneapolis last week, meaningful conversations over meals, meeting up with my friend Steve… (link)

This is what I’ve missed on Sabbatical: meaningful conversation. I can’t wait to get back into a routine where I meet people for coffee, breakfast, lunch, or beer and assist them in their spiritual journey, encourage them to keep searching, and to look for God everywhere. To quote a Facebook rant from Steve:

We are pastors, called to walk alongside people in all seasons of life, whether they are “growing” or dying (and whether we are growing or dying).

Yes, this is what I miss. This is what I’m anxious to get back to: walking alongside people in all seasons of life. I just noticed today, in the short bio in the sidebar, I describe myself like this:

I love to laugh (loudly), cook, drink good beer, run long distances, hang out with my family (4 boys!) and friends and read novels. More than anything, I love to sit with people and have meaningful conversations.

This is my calling. This is why I’m a pastor.

Am I ready to go back? Not necessarily to the “job,” but absolutely yes to the calling; no to church, yes to churching.

[photo credit]

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