Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Ed Friedman, the brilliant congregational systems thinker and author of Generation to Generation and Failure of Nerve, is one of my primary mentors. I never knew Ed personally, but I have devoured his writing over the years, and listened to many of his lectures. His thinking is deeply influential in the way that I approach congregational consultation.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Cognitive dissonance is the human capacity (indeed penchant) for holding simultaneously contradictory values, beliefs or practices. We see it in individual people, and we see it in faith communities. Among conservative Christians, it might be love of guns or participation in the military alongside worship of a character who was practically a pacifist. Among liberal Christians, it might be belief in the theory of evolution alongside a belief in divine creation - that somehow both are true. Or for all Christians, cognitive dissonance occurs when we claim to believe in an all powerful God of love, but we also live with problems of evil and suffering that seem to have no redemptive value.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
In the days ahead, the results will be widely published from the landmark survey of American church planters sponsored by Lifeway. The UMC and several major denominations participated in the study. We will be able to break it down regionally and learn volumes about the nature of conventional church planting in the USA. By conventional, I mean those plants that function with a salaried pastor and seek to launch public worship in the first few months, and to attract tithing members who financially bankroll the young church.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Last Sunday, before I preached at the grand opening of Cornerstone Centre near Toronto, a woman approached me in the lobby. She said, "I used to go to a church based community centre in Toronto - my daughter and I loved it - we shared in many activities there. But that church never grew. Why not?" I asked, "Did you ever attend a service there?" "No." "Did anyone ever invite you?" "No." "Did you get to know many of the church members?" "I don't know if the people I met were members or not - no one ever talked about the church."
Friday, August 28, 2015
Greetings from Indianapolis, where my Epicenter colleague Beth Estock and I are leading a ministry track focusing on social evolution in the United States and the future of the church. A few years back, Beth introduced me to a comprehensive theory of social evolution called Spiral Dynamics. Spiral Dynamics is based upon the work of a social scientist named Clare Graves. It is similar to faith development theory (a la James Fowler in the mid 80s) but it looks beyond the individual's own human development to consider changes in cultural values paradigms over time. We are finding it a very helpful framework for making sense about what on earth is going on in the United States regarding church participation of late.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
When I was a kid growing up down South, they used to talk to us in Sunday school about 'inviting Jesus into our heart.' There was a song we used to sing in church with the words "What a wonderful change in my life has be wrought, since Jesus came into my heart." That is old-time religion, and I don't know many Sunday school classes that use this jargon today.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
In both the Pittsburgh area and nearer to Baltimore, I interviewed a dozen prospective church planters last week, nominated for consideration and conversation by their overseers. It was really a delightful week meeting some talented people.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
One of the most helpful books to fall into my hands in the last few years is a new little booklet from The Barna Organization entitled Making Space for Millennials. Every single person reading this needs that book. And most of the people you supervise need that book. Based on 30,000 interviews with American young adults, the Barna team has some important information for us. (Dave Kinnemon, author of You Lost Me, is the new head of Barna, buying the company from founder George Barna.)
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
As I write this, I am staying as a guest in the home of Jeff Petrillo and Beth Estock in Portland, Oregon. Beth is a coach with Epicenter Group and a collaborator with me, reflecting on the challenges of Christian ministry in the twenty-first century. Beth and I are working together this week, talking through the major ideas and movement of a book, to be released in 2016. The book concerns the future of the church - what will it look like by mid-century. Many prophets of doom remind us (correctly) that the sky is falling. Beth and I agree with that assessment, but we also have a strong sense of what is emerging! Indeed we believe that the church has a very bright and wonderful future - albeit a future that may seem weird by twentieth century sensibilities.
Monday, January 26, 2015
It's January and the season for leader retreats. New board members, new lead team members, and established teams needing to vision for another year! We have all suffered through some lame and tedious retreats. And most of us have been involved in some really productive ones.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Advent has long been a somewhat puzzling season to me. We start out focusing on Second Coming (of all things), and then switch to Mary and Joseph narratives, and finally bring out the Wiseman the week after the Christmas tree comes down. Most mainline Christians are not oriented to keep an eye open for a literal Second Coming of Christ. But we are oriented to a shopping season that introduces Nativity images and Christmas Carols around Thanksgiving... and so it all just gets kind of fuzzy-weird.