Tuesday, November 21, 2017

FLIPPING THE SUSTAINABILITY QUESTION


Last month, I wrote about the changes I am seeing in the baseline health of American protestant churches now versus a generation ago.  The challenges are rising - and thousands of churches are experiencing collapse in this decade.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

THE DIFFERENCE TWENTY YEARS MAKES



It has been 22 years since my first local church consultation with St Jude Episcopal Church in Valparaiso, Florida. I prototyped a process of intervention based on the work of Lyle Schaller, Bill Easum and Kennon Callahan. I recommended to St Jude in 1995 that they sell their building and move to a neighboring town. They did not blink. They bought land across the street from Niceville High School, built a new campus, and tripled in size within a few short years.

Friday, September 29, 2017

WHAT WE LEARNED AT WEIRD CHURCH CAMP


For three days in late August, nearly 100 of us gathered at 8000 feet above sea level in the heart of the Rockies for a first-ever-experience: Weird Church Camp. Inspired by the title of the book that Beth Estock and I published last year, this was a place where creative souls in ministry could gather to network, to do Sabbath and to find encouragement for their journeys. For those who read Weird Church, you know that this is not a TYPE of congregation. It is not about out-of-the-box ministry even. It is about doing what might seem counter-intuitive to church institutions that are still grounded organizationally and culturally in the mid-to-late twentieth century. That's it.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

PLEASE SHOW UP AS SPIRITUAL LEADERS!




Ten years ago, my friend Amy Butler was the pastor of the Baptist church down the street from my home.  In DC, the Baptist brand has been dinked pretty badly by its association with right wing American politics, so Amy's church adopted a tagline: A Different Kind of Baptist.  A decade later, a lot of United Methodists are sensing a need for such a tagline to distance their congregations from an unending food-right over human sexuality as our denominational nightmare unfolds in slow-mo.  Then, last week, two and one half pages (not column inches, but full pages) of USA Today were devoted to the total breakdown of the Roman Catholic Church in Guam in protecting pedophile priests, reminding us of the similar sagas that have been unearthed in all corners of America in the Catholic Church.  And now, post Charlottesville, we are left with two bastions of support within President Trump's political base, who will not budge even after unending moral failures of the current administration: the two groups being neo-Nazis and evangelical Christian pastors.  One of the latter (a not-so-different kind of Baptist?) let us all know last week that it is perfectly and divinely justified to rain down nuclear bombs on North Korea.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A NEW DAY IN THE CITY




In all the years that I have written this monthly column, I have never before pitched another pastor's book.  But I have run across one so outstanding that I am going to break that tradition.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A PENTECOST INVITATION






After enjoying a late-night drink and walk across downtown San Antonio with retired United Methodist bishop Will Willimon during the 2017 Festival of Homiletics, I made myself get out of bed to hear him preach the next morning. (I would have otherwise skipped an 8:30 am service or lecture.) The place was packed... with people sitting in the aisles and windowsills; but I found myself a little space on the balcony floor. I couldn't see anything, but I could hear.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

VIDEO SCREENS IN THE SANCTUARY!




Whenever I hear church people put their feet down and say, "There shall never be video screens in their church's sanctuary," I pause, look straight at them and ask why. They nearly always respond that they are traditional. And I say, "OK, good; and what does this have to do with video screens? Does your church have indoor plumbing, because traditionally, churches sent people to outhouses. Church outhouses are very, very traditional, and ecumenical - so far as I can tell, up until about the year 1900, outhouses were as fundamental as Trinitarian theology to Christianity worldwide." People either smile or glare when I say this.