Give me that spiritual feeling like at camp

While working on a sermon about stewardship this week, this came out as I typed. It most likely won’t make the cut, but wanted to put it somewhere…

I hear a common question from youth and young adults: why do I feel connected to God at camp and not in everyday life? As we grow older, I think we come to just accept that that’s just the way life is – life is most certainly not like camp.

But I wonder if there is another reason. Maybe the real reason is that most of our lives are not spent focusing on God, or worshiping and praying a few times a day, or discussing our lives and how God is involved in small groups, or listening to someone speak about God and the amazing stuff of grace. Most of us are fortunate to have that once a week for an hour. For those who volunteer in Children’s Ministry, they may get it twice a month. Some of you are only able to make it to church about once a month, some even less frequently.

We can’t wonder at our feeling of connection to God, when we spend so little time with God. A lot of this feels out of our control. Other things take priority – which is the very reason we needed things like camp when we were younger.

But, for followers of Jesus, why is Jesus not part of our every day. Is it because we just don’t feel it? Or is it because we haven’t taken a few minutes to acknowledge Him? Is it because we don’t feel it, or is it because we want the “spiritual feeling” but are afraid or unwilling to really obey Him? Is it because we don’t feel it, or is it because we only want Jesus on our terms, when we feel like it, or when we want him.

I’m not sure we really want the Jesus of the Bible all the time. I think we want the feeling of “camp God”, but I don’t think we want the Jesus who told the rich man to give away everything he had. We want the nice feeling of Jesus – but primarily we are not the people in need of the freedom and liberation that Jesus does provide. We, in north American Middle class Christianity are not the needy – rather we are people in need of the challenge that Jesus brings – and that’s really a Jesus we don’t want in our daily life.

This is felt most painfully in our bank accounts and in our accumulation of possessions, which of course, brings us to stewardship.

Maybe it will make the cut – we’ll see.

Books or Blogs

Some people are avid readers. They have a few books on the go all the time – fiction, non-fiction. They have their favourite magazines. They subscribe to hundreds of blogs and keep up with them. They even read all their emails. I’m not one of those people. When I’m reading a book, I find it difficult to read the blogs I subscribe to. When I’m really into reading stuff on the Internet I don’t pick up a book at all. This is not a good thing.

Books are great because they end and you can read at your own pace. Blogs just keep going. Books are great because they have a sustained plot or argument that leaves a lasting impression even if you can’t remember the details. The best blogs can do this too, but mostly they are little loosely connected ideas. Blogs are great because they are raw, unedited, timely pieces of writing that we wouldn’t otherwise get access to.

I’m thinking I need to read more books. I’ve gone through a real drought lately, and stopped reading books in favour of blogs. I’m tempted to not take my time with a book, with an argument or with a plot. I’m tempted to find the next good idea and move on. You have to sit with a book, you have to invest time. But what’s interesting is that the more blogs you read, the more time they suck up time without you noticing. When I read a book I notice the time I’m putting in and often think I’m wasting my time. But when I think about it I’d rather know what I’m getting into. With blogs the time disappears and you only notice after a few hours of reading that that time is not gone. It’s easier to be disciplined with a book, at least it is for me. Time for more books, I think.

Sometimes twitter finds you some gems

Sometimes when I talk about twitter to people they don’t get it. How do you have time for that? they say. Why would you want to tell people what you’re doing? Why would you want to read what other people are saying, especially if you don’t know them?

I got “followed” on twitter today by Mark Waltz. I have no idea who Mark is, so, like I do with most new “followers”, I clicked on his profile and read a few recent tweets. Usually my next step (when I have no clue who they are is to either:

1) Realize that the “person” following me is really a scam and block them from following me.
OR
2) Do nothing and think – that’s cool someone else is following me and they probably won’t read my tweets at all, because they don’t know me, and my tweets aren’t really that interesting anyway. If I added them, I probably wouldn’t read their tweets, so why bother following them just to be a reciprocal follower?

But, this time, this tweet caught my eye: “Guest Services Best Practice #18: Surprise Your Guests” with a link to Mark’s Blog: Because People Matter I visited the blog and there is some awesome stuff on there.

If you are reading this and you are interested in how to help people feel comfortable and welcome in Church, visit his blog now and start soaking in the ideas. Some of it is common sense, some of it is revolutionary, some of it is simple. I don’t care if you belong to a small church of 40 people that can’t afford a pastor, or if you’re part of a staff team at a large church and your full time job is “pastor of connections” (that’s Mark’s title). I don’t care if you are Southern Baptist or Presbyterian (like me), the stuff he’s putting on there is invaluable to all of us in the Church.

After all that, I followed him on twitter, and probably more importantly, I subscribed to his blog.

Mark, if you’re reading, you’ve got a new reader. Thanks for following me. And thanks for the great ideas!

A website that needs to happen…

October in Winnipeg seems to be the month of Educational events in the Church. It doesn’t seem to matter what faith tradition or denomination, there are/have been opportunities galore for learning more, with some amazing speakers.

Just a few…
The Anglicans put on an event on “the Missional Church” with Alan Roxburgh earlier this month.
Alan Hirsch is at CMU on Oct 26 talking about similar issues.
Phyllis Tickle is at Booth College talking about the Great Emergence on Oct 31.
I’ve heard of an event on the Church and Web 2.0

Someone really needs to keep track of all this kind of stuff and create a central place where church leaders can check in and see what is going on in our own city. There is so much. Unfortunately, most of us are run off our feet working…

VBS for Seniors

Now this is a smart idea written up on the Presbyterian Bloggers blog. So many churches talk about how they need to “get more young families” – as though that is the silver bullet. What happens when your congregation is mostly older and your neighbourhood is older too – then you need to find ways to reach out to older people, not wait for the magic young families to come from somewhere.

Revolutionary Jesus

Funny how this post about the revolution (not evolution) of the Internet from Colin Carmichael got me thinking about Jesus and the gospel. Jesus is sometimes portrayed as the next step along the Judeo-Christian continuum, but he was/is revolutionary.

To slightly change Colin:

The truth is this: [Jesus] is a technological revolution that has transformed, and continues to transform, our global society. Nothing will be spared the impact of [Jesus]. Our socio-political structures will change, our understanding of personal relationships will change, and, eventually, our churches will change too.

What I find really interesting is that we sometimes do with the gospel what Colin has done with the web: tried to make it easier for people to accept. Colin did this by telling them that the web is a natural evolution from printing press, phone, tv, etc. We’ve done this sometimes by making the gospel easier, summarizing it, “updating” (ie. truncating) it, telling people it’s natural (and forgetting it’s supernatural)…

I do have to in the end disagree with Colin just a bit. I think the printing press was revolutionary for its time, I also think the phone was revolutionary. I think there was tons of fear about these inventions. I also think they weren’t all that revolutionary for the woman in sub-sahran Africa who has to walk 5 miles a day for clean water. I’m not sure the web will touch her either, or have any transforming effect. My hope and prayer is that the web may enable people to better help those in the greatest need. But in my heart, I believe that should the world be transformed into a place where the web or any technology for that matter was used solely for good, it would have more to do with the transforming power of Jesus which goes beyond race, class, and culture.

Communication

I’m thinking that the main gathering of a Church is the main way that you communicate who you are as a Church. I haven’t spent enough time thinking about this. Our communication of who we are is often just done through talk (in a sermon usually, which is often mostly forgotten), or happens by accident. For example, we have some pretty great musicians in our Church, so the music is usually pretty high quality. This communicates that we value music as a primary way of worshiping God, but this was basically “accidental”. Good musicians showed up, they played/sang, other musicians showed up…

Then we have something like children’s ministry. A ton of work, from a lot of volunteers goes into making it a good experience for the kids, but none of this is “seen.” You can’t see a lot of the results of the work, because we’ve put more time into planning activities than we have into visuals. But people need to see something week after week to know its important. Churches with sets, signs, fun colours, places to climb and play for kids. Those churches are communicating that they value kids. We value kids too, but there is very little visually to tell people that, and that’s going to have to change.

We also value giving and service. We give 10% of our offering away to one local and one global project. We have organized opportunities for people to visit the local mission we support and a few have gone. But at our main gathering, all we usually get is one or two lines in the bulletin that says that we give the money away. Visually, there is nothing reminding people of our commitment to giving and service.

A new person should be able to tell right away when they walk in what your church values by what they see – whether it’s posters, coffee maker, sets, stained glass. And those things that they see need to be intentional. So far at Trinity, we’ve thought more about function than “presentation”. Not in all things, but in some of our key areas. We need to start shifting to realize that what people see week in and week out is who they will think we are and how they will decide if they “fit”. In other words, we need to get our outside to match our inside. The way we look as a Church needs to match our heart (or we need to wear our heart on our sleeve as it were).

Worship at Alt7

There’s something about having communion every time you worship that is simply wonderful. In each worship at Alt7 we have had communion. To be totally honest, at each worship service I have held back tears because of the communication of God’s grace. Alt7 has been such a blessing for me. To be surrounded by people I do not know, but people so welcoming, people my own age, people in my own tradition (even though another country and another denomination), people struggling with similar things, people hopeful for similar things, people joyful about God’s amazing power in Christ and by the Spirit – being surrounded by this community for these few days has been… well, powerful. I am so thankful for a God that can use twitter to let me know about conferences like this. I am so thankful to God for calling these amazing people into leadership in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I am so thankful to God that I got to learn and worship with this community this week.

The worship services weren’t flashy, they weren’t perfect. They were what I needed, and were certainly a highlight of the conference for me. They were honest, they were reformed, they were connected to who we are, not just as ministers, or as Presbyterians, or as 20 and 30 somethings, but simply as followers of God made known in Christ through the Holy Spirit working in and among us.

Thanks be to God.

Moving It

Went to an amazing workshop this morning at Alt7 with Jan Edmiston called “Moving the Traditional Church into the 21st Century”. Jan has a lot of passion. She loves the Church, was incredibly encouraging and managed to provoke a few more thoughts in me. A bunch of it was about moving traditional churches, but a lot applied pretty well to New Church Development.

Here are two things that really stuck…
1) What is the Church addicted to? Many churches are addicted to the ABC’s: Attendance, Buildings, Cash.
When we focus on these, the church dies.
We instead need to focus on NOP: Neighbours, Organization, Paradigm.
2) When congregations are asked whether it exists for those who are there or those outside the church, most will answer – both! Kaiser in “Winning on Purpose” argues that we need to choose one or the other, because if we say both, one will end up winning. The main point here is to choose to answer that we exist for those outside (even if they never show up at worship) – we exist to serve others, not ourselves.

There was tons more in this workshop, but mainly it was Jan’s passion with which she spoke that struck me. Overall, I am meeting fantastic people here. So much hope for the future.

Emerging Worship

Yesterday I attended a workshop led by Troy Bronsink and Adam Walker Cleveland called “Emerging Worship Environments. Biggest complaint/compliment – we needed more time. They had good stuff to offer and my brain was having to work pretty fast. I really wish the worship planning team for Trinity could have been there.

Here are the thoughts that intrigued me (at least I think they did, because I wrote them down) and some lingering questions:
1) Regular intentionality. Or – always be intentional in what you are doing in worship. Along with this was the idea of building rituals around the every day. Not sure exactly what this would look like at Trinity, but again, I was intrigued.
2) Liturgy (ie. worship) is the work of the people (okay, I already knew this) – the point is: worship is work. That when people worship together they are producers, not consumers.
3) Do we really practice re-formed worship or is it “pre-formed” worship? Is there a set pattern, and is that really reformed/Presbyterian worship? Or should worship be a more fluid thing? I am going to be thinking a lot about how we are connected to the roots of our tradition – and I mean the real roots of it, not the idea of tradition as “what we like from our own lives.” We need to reach back into our history and forward into our future. Okay – not all that was said in the workshop exactly, but it popped into my head.
4) There was a lot about the whole congregation participating in theology, or in the story, or in being creative. I’m all for that, but my big question is that where does that leave the proclamation of the gospel? At some level I really believe that the gospel is a message that needs to be told. Maybe we just need to tell one another, except that increasingly people simply don’t know the story. Are all ways of understanding God really equal? At what stage should someone have authority to name the common theology of the community? Also, is there any value in someone teaching? They may teach through various means, but someone needs to lead that, and we need to be aware that we are in a teaching role. This was a pretty complicated part of the workshop where we could have spent way more time.
5) Is it just plain easier to do “emerging worship” at night, because really isn’t it just about lighting some candles and stuff like that? Seriously, how many new worship experiences are at night?