Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two quotes...

A few days ago was the birthday of John Adams, patriot and the second president of the US. He once said that revolution is, "Setting little brush fires in people's minds." A less well-known figure is Serge Diaghilev, an impresario and a fan of composer Igor Stravinsky. He once said, "Life is tolerable only to the extent that one can summon up marvels."

I was just thinking that these would be excellent traits of clergy and lay leaders, setting some little fires and summoning up a marvel or two, along with a few surprises and quirks now and again. This would make church ever so more interesting, and address Baptist minister Peter Gomes' view that much of contemporary life is fern-bar quality that passes for reality in these tedious times.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things are mostly OK...

Major change is usually impossible unless most people are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices. But people will not make sacrifices, even if they are unsatisfied with the status quo, unless they think the potential benefits of change are attractive.

Most leaders underestimate how difficult it is to move people out of their comfort zones, and how new ideas can be talked to death by skilled filibusterers. A common attitude is, "Well, we have our problems, but they aren't all that bad, and we're mostly OK."

John Kotter, Leading Change

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Error #1

By far, the biggest mistake people make when trying to change any organization is to plunge ahead without establishing a high enough sense of urgency. This error is fatal because transformations always fail to achieve their objectives when complacency levels are high.

John Kotter, Leading Change

Monday, September 20, 2010

What to believe?

Some people believe it to be physically true that Christ was born as the son of a virgin, while others deny this as a physical impossibility. Everyone can see there is no logical solution to this conflict, and that one would do better not to get involved in such sterile disputes.

Both views are right and wrong. Religious sentiments are of this type. They refer without objection to things that cannot be established as physical facts.

C. G. Jung, Answer to Job: The Problem of Evil; Its Psychological and Religious Origins

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Lord works in mysterious ways...

Church logo tattoos are the latest in offbeat testimony at an Orange County, California church that holds Sunday services in a punk rock nightclub and collects offerings in KFC buckets.

Pastor Kyle Steven Bonenberger told worshippers that God "tattooed your name on his heart" and it was time for an everlasting commitment to Him and the church. About a dozen members of the City Church of Anaheim got tattoos of the red-heart church logo, fulfilling a pledge they made if the church doubled its normal attendance.

(The tattoo above is not the church logo, but rather an example of this type of religious expression.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who shall lead them?

Our interviews with nationwide, representative samples of Protestant ministers consistently show that most pastors do not consider themselves to be leaders. Fewer than one out of twenty ministers believe he/she has the spiritual gift of leadership.

Fewer than one out of four ministers claim to serve the church as a true leader. Most of them feel they have been called, trained, and hired to preach and teach. Leadership is viewed as an unfortunate duty they must endure as part of the deal.

George Barna, The Habits of Highly Effective Churches

Monday, September 13, 2010

The modern world...

Too often we preachers have taken it as our task to make the faith fit with the modern world, rather than to challenge it. In years past, when I was confronted by people who said, "I have a problem with Easter, just can't buy it," I would make it easier by saying that Easter is just a symbol or a metaphor.

Now, when someone says they have trouble with Easter, I reply, "Well, that's not surprising. You live in a closed world, a world that is fully explained and predictable. No wonder you have trouble with Easter, with the claim that God is breaking into the world, doing a new thing. This is difficult for satisfied moderns. But take heart, with God all things are possible."

Anthony Robinson, Transforming Congregational Culture

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A path of many steps...

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear.

When I look back at some of those resting places - the boisterous home of the Catholics, the soft armchair of the Christian Science mom, adoption by ardent Jews - I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant path of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today.

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A matter of law...

In Jewish tradition, tzedakah, or acts of justice, is considered a divine commandment that Jews have an obligation to observe. Tzedakah is a matter of justice and therefore a legislative obligation. You are obligated to be generous to those in need whether you feel like it or not.

One who does not give tzedakah to the needy is not simply uncharitable of heart, but in violation of the law.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, founder of the Simply Jewish Fellowship