Thursday, February 25, 2010

Church discontinuity...

While there was considerable continuity in American Christianity between 1800 and 1960, the past four decades have been marked by an unprecedented degree of discontinuity. One example is the rise of the Made-in-America church.

Congregations of European origins, including most Protestant faiths, often seek ministers who will lead that congregation in attaining its goals. The Made-in-America church tends to be more open to the pastor who challenges people to fulfill the potential that God has placed in that congregation.

Lyle Schaller, Discontinuity and Hope: Radical Change and the Path to the Future

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is this the future?

Let's cut to the chase. The typical church today has a rapidly expiring shelf life. Despite the activity and chutzpah emanating from thousands of congregations, the church in America is losing influence and adherents faster than any other major institution in the nation.

The core attributes of our society - language, customs, dress, values, and the like - are substantially reshaped every few years. Most American churches, however, hold fast to programs and goals established by their charter members years ago. Many deny the cataclysmic cultural changes around them, responding with cosmetic changes that make little difference.

George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A lighter side of Lent...

While in college, I had a job as the organist in a local church, during which time I heard some of the worst preaching in my life. Most organists have an automatic shutdown valve that goes into effect the moment the minister begins to speak.

I remember one particularly awful Lenten series, "The Complexion of the Crowd." In succession, we heard sermons about those who were "Blue with loyalty," "Purple with rage," "Green with envy," and "Black with treachery." Lent was very long that year.

Peter Gomes, Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living

No church door is completely open...

It may not be as easy to get people into your church as you think. Most churches attract and absorb people who are very much like those who are already members. But a second type of church establishes systems that attempt to attract and incorporate people who are different.

Both types of churches carry risks. People who are different will change the church; people who are the same will keep the church from changing.

Leith Anderson, Dying for Change

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Difficult to open up...

My congregants were expected to welcome an unexperienced, 28-year old minister into a community as tightly sealed as a jar of pickles. The church had decreed that henceforth I would be spiritual guide, public teacher, and beloved sage with the stroke of a wand. God - or the bishop - had just made me an expert in troubled marriages, alcoholism, teen sex, and farm subsidies.

Richard Lischer, Open Secrets

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A third way?

Liberalism should be a counterculture to secularism, not a reaction to fundamentalism. It needs to present itself as a third way.

An indication of such a church is a strong commitment to small groups which provide positive examples of faith journeys.

Robert Wuthnow, Christianity in the 21st Century: Reflections on the Challenges Ahead

Monday, February 8, 2010

The budget as theology?

Almost all church budgets are compromised, watered-down, and squeezed-out documents. They are negative. They have no power to stir people's souls. They are divisive and invite argument.

The hard-nosed giver, when invited to pledge, will ask, "What's the budget?" Answer that question and no matter what you say, you are lost. The average budget provides no reason for generous giving and countless excuses for token giving. It is at best hesitant and fearful and at worst static and apologetic.

Ashley Hale, The Lost Art of Church Fund-raising

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Always more?

Our society hungers always for more: more body surgery, more cosmetics, more cars, more beer, more sex, more certitude, more security, more money, more power, more oil, ...whatever.

This hunger is a true sign that we do not trust the goodness of God. But religion is about those who are pledged and empowered to act differently; differently in the neighborhood, differently in the economy, and as citizens of the last superpower, differently in the world.

Walter Bruggeman, Mandate to Difference

In the comfort zone...

The vast majority of pastors have settled into a comfort zone. This involves dwelling in the moderate middle, and an avoidance of extremes. In addition, most church leaders will go almost any distance to avoid criticism; resulting in the continual effort to maintain unity at all costs, to keep everyone happy.

We might also add valuing the normal; and finally, a sense of gradualism, that the rate of change should be kept under strict control, and the best change is that which occurs very slowly.

Kerry Thorpe, Doing Things Differently