Please, pastors, next time don’t be “that” pastor. Do your homework and talk with photographer ahead of time. And, don’t be a jerk about it.
It is well established that mainline Christian denominations are shrinking. According to several prominent Christian practitioners and thinkers, the term “Mainline Christian” officially… well, sucks. That is my interpretation.
The indelible Carol Howard Merritt is one of the growing movement of folks who want to drop the ”mainline” term. She writes in her Christian Century column that she refuses to use the term “mainline”. The term “mainline” truly reflect a society with specific racial, class, and cultural marks. Carol explains why would should ditch “mainline”:
It was not a term that denominational leaders came up with, but we have embraced it for many years. Now, it’s a good time to discard it. Why? It white-washes our influences… Even though we often look to the male European Reformers for much of our theology, even though a quick browse through the theology departments of most seminaries will reveal an overwhelming number of older, white men, we also know our thought for more than hundred years has been challenged by those working in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, with the civil rights movement, from subjugated women, and in the midst of immigrants’ struggles.
Perhaps what is the striking is that most new growth in established
mainline denominations comes not from hipster churches, but from ethnically diverse immigrant communities. Carol rightly points out that continuing the mainline label ultimately hinders the future of churches:
Would you ever tweet, blog, or Facebook your sins? Is social media the place for confession and atonement?
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for Jews, occurred last week. Yom Kippur is the day of repentance for past sins, to seek forgiveness, and to make amends. NPR featured a fascinating twist on this holy day. A synagogue in Miramar, Florida invited congregants to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share their wrongs. Cantor Debbi Ballard explains how social media can connect her congregation to confession and restoration:
…let’s use the technology and have it enhance our atonement today by tweeting or texting our sins away, and looking at those sins on a big movie screen. And then letting them roll past us so that we can let them go, so that we can live a more powerful life this year. I think that’s what Yom Kippur and atonement is about.
It may seem odd for some to share their “sins” on social media. Who wants to leave their confession in a world that caches and stores your information for the world to see? Ballard explains the value of interactive and communal confession: [Read more...]
The ancient Greek stories of the pantheon of gods were full of lust, envy, jealousy, and revenge. Though gods, they acted just like humans. They could be tricked, lied to, and make deals. They are fickle at best and even in their most glorious moments act in ways that are selfishly motivated. They really serve better as cautionary tales rather than models to follow. (For a great summary of ancient Greek pantheon read “Mythology” edited by Edith Hamilton.)
In America, we have created our new religion pantheon of gods and goddesses with their own special powers and temples. Our pantheon of gods are usually built around real people who did impressive things. Their temples are movie sets, concert venues, and celebrated theaters. Their feast days occur nearly daily with award banquets, premier days, and contests where viewers get to elect the next god into the pantheon. Our pantheon of warriors are not in fact warriors at all but athletes who conquer their foes on the playing field rather than the battle field.
With the recent biogenesis clinic problems that MLB is facing in suspending twelve players for 50 games and one of their most notable warriors Alex Rodriguez through 2014, we are reminded much like the Greek pantheon, our gods are all too human. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, entertainers, and others we hold up as our heroes fall from grace on a regular basis, some even end up as convicted criminals. We watch their larger than life dramatic stories much like the Greeks listened to the pantheon of old. We scrutinize their actions and celebrate the consequences to their actions as though they are fictional people without real feelings, damaged hearts, and wounded families. It serves as our entertainment and as our worship.
The one big difference between the Greeks and us is that the average Greek probably didn’t believe they could become a god. True enough some humans married gods or had half-god half human children. But for the most part this was not the norm. But these humans never became gods or were ever worshiped themselves.
We have moved from the worshiper to the worshiped. We can become a god.
We are training our children that through hard work and focus they can become gods in professional athletes, musicians, or the next governor. The biggest church in many states is their state university football stadium (it certainly is in my state) or pro baseball teams cathedral. We drive our kids from soccer, to band, to baseball, to dance, to whatever else because we may not admit it, but we really believe these kids will go pro and become a god.
We can have a difficult time seeing the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it in the midst of this pantheon of athletes, entertainers, and other gods. Our worship of anything other than God is an idol. But to believe we are not worshiping these things is to lie to ourselves. We may not have mythical heroes of ancient tradition, but we certainly have a growing new religious pantheon full of temples and gods all across this country. None of them are Christ.
Greg Mamula is an ordained minister and the Associate Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska.
It’s that time of the year where I usually say, “I’m done. I’m done blogging. I quit.” It’s summer and my focus on blogging usually takes a dive. My children are out of school and the lake calls to me to swim. Then, I question if I want to continue to write blogs. I’ve been doing it for over 4 years now.
After 414 blog posts, I ask, “Is it time to end it? To quit?”
It is time to end it, for now…
One thing I learned writing my Judson Press book, “The Work of the Associate Pastor” (My mom thinks it is a great book and you should buy it) is that you cannot blog and write a manuscript at the same time. You just can’t…well, you can but it is really difficult. Blogging requires regular rest and sabbath.
I’m working on my second book this summer. My goal is to have the introduction and two chapters written. What’s the topic? Well, I can’t give everything away. I will tell you that it is on Baptist life. So far, the introduction is written and I keep telling myself that I’m going to have fun writing this book. Writing a book is a labor. If you don’t have fun with writing it becomes an obligation. Obligations are no fun.
So there it is. I quit.
I’m done writing blog posts this summer. Other quest contributors may post on my website, but I’m taking off July and August.
See you in September!
I’m here in Kansas City for the American Baptist Church USA Mission Summit Biennial. That’s a mouthful. American Baptists get together every two years for meetings, worship, share resources, and attend to the needs of the denomination (elections, motions, etc…). You can read about the last biennial info here and here.
I’m also here for the famous Kansas City BBQ… well, that’s just a bonus. I’m also here for meetings as a Board of General Ministry director. For the last few days we met to attend to the business of the denomination and also met collectively with the boards of Home Mission, International Ministries, and Ministers and Mission Benefit Board.
We spent some time getting out of the meeting room and visited several American Baptist supported ministries. Our breakout group went to Bethel Neighborhood City in the Kansas City Area. This 100-year-old ministry is a vibrant American Baptist ministry that has helped thousands of people find community, learn job skills, and find meaning in life. As a Board, it was very helpful to see our efforts and historic support working for the Kingdom of God. We met folks who started in the program as children and then went on to become staff and board members.
On Thursday the second American Baptist Theologians conference at Central Seminary. Break out sessions and papers were presented. My friend and fellow board member Jonathan Malone present a paper on denominational life. It was exciting to see so many American Baptists talking about the future of the church, theology, and ABC life.
Check back for more updates on Baptists and BBQ!
Someone at church once asked me, “When is your day off?” I replied, “Friday.”
“Wow.” He said. “I wish I could have Friday’s off. Must be nice.”
“Well, I don’t many Sundays off. That must be nice to have a Sunday or a full weekend off.”
The reality for most ministers is that Sundays are a true “work day” – we labor. Leading worship, preaching, greeting, teaching Sunday School, marriage counseling, Bible studies, and church meetings occupy most of my Sundays (as well as my weekdays). And why not? That is what pastors do, right? Sure. It’s what we are supposed to do.
But, it is not always easy.
As the only full-time ordained pastor on staff, it’s hard to get away for a weekend. Most families enjoy graduations weekends, beach or lake weekends, reunions, weekend family celebrations, camping weekends, friends weekends, or even that ultra cheap last-minute fight to Miami for the weekend. I hardly ever do those things. For me, I have to plan weeks and months in advance to take a Sunday off.
Sunday is the Sabbath Day for most Christians but for ministers, we need more true Sabbaths. A weekend with a Sunday of rest from our labor, which is ministry. A weekend where we are not counseling, preaching on Sunday, visiting people in the hospital on Friday, attending a meeting Saturday morning, officiating a wedding or funeral on Saturday afternoon. Sometimes, that Sabbath Day for me is Saturday. Other times it is Monday.
As a pastor, I have a movable Sabbath.
A movable Sabbath is convenient but it is stressful. Having a day insures a type of rest but not knowing when that day will be makes my family life unpredictable. Sometimes, I don’t get a Sabbath let alone a weekend. Daily staffing needs, counseling, trouble shooting urgent demands, congregant frustrations and mediating conflict every day of the week are typical requirements. It’s a constant crescendo of events. It’s exhausting. My labor comes home with me everyday. It never turns off. My wife, children, and even some friends, have a connection to my labor at church.
I covet and miss the freedom to block a weekend for my family and my friends on short notice. Sure, there is the vacation week, but I miss a lot of important family and friend events on weekends because Sunday is a fixed ministry labor day. The stress and demands and fulfilling so many expectations leaves me drained. When I come home for my day off, I have nothing left to give my immediate family.
In posting about this stress on Facebook, a few friends had some responses to Sabbath and stress. My friend and mentor, Charlie Updike posted:
One of the things I’m aware of at the end of the journey is that I wish I had taken a Sabbath approach to the Sunday work and take a Sunday off every seven weeks…that is still preparing and preaching 45 Sundays a year.
Another minister, Liz Lemery Joy posted,
I began taking a hard look at that beginning last February. I creatively had to cut back a little. It’s hard to do in ministry… I schedule set times for rest in my calendar now. I believe we need to incorporate the Sabbath rest- in order for God to be able to minister to us, get refreshed and energized
A member at my last church had the best advice (Thanks Scott!):
Tickets to the Washington Nationals…….road trip, hot dogs, cold beer…..come back refreshed and ready to save some souls!
This year I decided to do something different. I took advantage of some family gatherings clustered togeter. I’ve told my church leadership that I need this time. It is stress reliving and very fulfilling. We leaders and ministers need to plan for the sustaining practice of intention fixed Sabbath weekend rest.
Last night I moderated #chsocm [It’s Church socialmedia. #ChSocM (ch-sock-em)] on Twitter, which is a weekly chat about using social media. We had a great discussion around the topic of viral social media stories, pictures, videos, etc… I enjoyed the experience. I sought to guide the discussion towards how church leaders in social media can use viral content for engagement. To my amazement, the discussion sometimes lacked ideas on how to use viral social media content.
I asked, “What viral “churchy” or “non churchy” news/video/pictures have caught your social media attention recently?”
The responses were broad: Vine, recent general news stories, and other current events topics. One person said:
T1 In our circles “going viral” is more bouncing around the echo chamber. Not sure there are #chsocm Bieberisms
— Beth Felice (@bfelice) May 29, 2013
In general, the term “viral” means: an object or pattern that is able to induce some agents to replicate it, resulting in many copies being produced and spread around. (wikipedia)
There were a few people who understood what I was asking for:
T2: We typically don’t. Sharing viral vids or even “hot topics” questions haven’t proven very thought-provoking in our spaces… #chsocm
— Marcus A. Cylar (@pastorcylar) May 29, 2013
We’re excited to get 50 RTs on an evening prayer. Does that count as viral? #chsocm
— Episcopal Church (@iamepiscopalian) May 29, 2013
— Paul Steinbrueck (@paulsteinbrueck) May 29, 2013
— Episcopal Church (@iamepiscopalian) May 29, 2013
Many included using Facebook and Twitter for viral content, but there were others who don’t use Mashable, Stumbleupon, Buzzfeed, Reddit, or NewsWhip. This told me that some church leaders are not utilizing viral content into ministry, preaching, or evangelism. Those videos or stories that are feel good, funny, shocking, or just plain strange can help spark social media interaction. Viral social media bits can be shown in worship, shared on Facebook, or used in a small group.
This realization of mine was educational and not judgmental. I realized that there is an opportunity for church leaders to use viral social media stories for more than just laughs. Viral social media content can be shared, analyzed, used as a discussion starter, or to lighten the mood. Non-tech people can still take part if the content is show on video or printed out.
Church leaders don’t have to make viral social media content but they can copy it (legally of course) or put their own spin on it. Videos like the Harlem Shake or a Jesus photobomb can make it easy for church leaders to share or create their versions. That is part of why something goes viral. When the content is copied, shared millions of times, and spawns imitators.
I think most of us know what makes something viral worthy. Some responses during the chat included:
— Thomas W. Healey (@ThomasWHealey) May 29, 2013
T4 Essential element to go viral: taps into some kind of universally recognizable/relatable thoughts or emotions. #chsocm
— MeredithGould (@MeredithGould) May 29, 2013
— Paul Steinbrueck (@paulsteinbrueck) May 29, 2013
#chsocm T4 Hmm, I think dramatic content (life loss, harsh pictures), significance (weather or polit events affecting many), or humor
— Caroline Carson (@Conductor222) May 29, 2013
Viral social media content is an easy way for church leaders to grab attention, engage an audience, or just spark an idea. So go ahead! Use that viral social media nugget for yourself and your ministry!
A lot of you are wondering, “What the heck is #chsom?” It’s Church social media. #ChSocM (ch-sock-em) is a weekly Twitter-based chat about using social media to build church and faith. Welcoming, informative, ecumenical. Tuesdays, 9PM, ET. Commentary, interviews, transcripts, and fun stuff on the blog.
My good Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest friend Meredith Gould started the Twitter chat topic/community about 2 years ago. Since then, it has grown into a weekly meet up for lay people, pastors, seminarians, and social media church geeks (that includes me).
Don’t be a non-participate observer! Join in! (I loath the word “Lurker” or “lurking” for social media listening. It’s too creep-stalker-ish. See you tonight on #chsocm!
What do church leaders usually do when someone vandalizes the side of a church with graffiti? Cover it up, repaint, or remove the vandalism. A church in Randolph, New York was recently vandalized with the words, “Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?” The church responded in a remarkable and unconventional way.
Grace Episcopal Church allowed the vandalism to stay, but the church added their own reply:
The above picture circulated around Facebook and Twitter with folks generating a conversation about spirituality and community.
Elizabeth Drescher at Religion Dispatches covered the story and found out why the church responded in this way and how it relates to modern religious expression:
Rather than approaching the tagging as a criminal act, however, church leaders decided to take the graffiti seriously as an expression of something spiritually meaningful—a cry for help.. They approached it relationally, using the church building itself as a social media platform, and responding with their own message of hope.
It’s the story of a fairly traditional church actively recognizing that religious doubt, religious critique, and all manner of theological questioning that once would have been seen as belonging squarely within the clapboard walls of a village church unfold in a much wider, much more broadly networked universe.
What started as a process to respond to church vandalism turned into a broader conversation on social media. With hundreds of shares, likes, and comments on Facebook and Twitter, this church’s vandalism response sparked mostly positive reaction. Some of the replies on the church’s Facebook post tell of the conversation around suicide, religion, and young people:
“As a pastor who has lost a young adult son to suicide, let me add that the forum is 100% appropriate and the response is as well. Song lyrics or no, any indication that an individual might be contemplating suicide needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness.”
“I’m not of this faith, but I really respect and admire this response. It goes beyond religion for me. It comes down to basic, good old-fashioned human kindness, which, sometimes, is the one thing a desperate person needs.”
“This is what I got from this message (go ahead and kill yourself God loves you) should have been worded differently indeed! And so as long as I ask for forgives before I kill myself its all good right.”
“I think the response was great — people in that much pain need to know that not only does the Church love them, but that God loves them. Who knows, this might be just the turning point that this person needs to know that people and God cares”
“my experience working with suicidal people is that the thing that might encourage someone to get help is the sense that someone has heard them. We also don’t know if the person who painted the original message is suicidal or whether the are in profound grief after someone else’s suicide… or if something completely different is going on. You can’t really counsel an anonymous message written on a wall – sounds like the parish is doing the best they could have done under the circumstances”
This story is a lesson in leadership. Rather than react with, “Who would dare do this!?!” The church was proactive and asked, “Why is this person hurting so much to do this? What can we do to reach out in an equal response?” Many Christians and churches are quick to judge, but we must find creative responses to brokenness – as Jesus did.
As stories come out of Oklahoma’s terrible tornado that left dozens dead, one cable anchor received an unexpected response from an interviewee.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed a survivor only to find that she did not share the same religious beliefs:
“We’re happy you’re here. You guys did a great job,” Blitzer said to Rebecca Vitsmun
“You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”
”I — I’m actually an atheist,” she said.
“You are. All right. But you made the right call,” Blitzer said.
“We are here, and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord,” Vitsmun said.
Was it improper for Blitzer to ask such a question?
How do you think the interviewee handled the question?
Respond using the Facebook window below or the comment box at the bottom of the post.
When does art cease to be art? Where do we draw the line? Case in point: A naked street performer took a ride on a moped with a cross. The artist called his performance art. That has some Christians up in arms. Unfortunately, someone took pictures.
And then there’s this one:
Brian Ashcraft incorrectly identified a cross is a crucifix. A crucifix is a cross with Jesus on it. A cross is without a dying Jesus. (The word “Crucifix” comes from Latin word, cruci fixus meaning “one fixed to a cross”.)
So, what would drive someone to do this? The performer said,
“Every time I finish a run, I always check online to see what people online are saying about me,” said Li. “The internet creates such a wonderful way to interact, and I really want to see what others think of this thing I’m doing. It makes conversation online.”
So, is this art or sacrilege? Comment below via Facebook or Disqus.