Posts Tagged With: ecumenical

Hostile Takeover in Churches?

When I work with congregations after a pastor’s retirement or resignation, my goal is to help them prepare for whatever’s next in their congregational life. I lead them through a SWOT Analysis—thinking about their…

S-Strengths,

W-Weaknesses,

O-Opportunities, and

T-Threats.

This winter, I’m the Interim Pastor of a church in Connecticut. When we got to the “Threats” section of the process, it occurred to me that most congregations, no matter their denomination, are vulnerable to similar external dangers.

Partisan politics have entered the church house. In fifty years, we might have just three denominations: Republican, Democratic and None. Previously, men and women who’ve cancelled each other’s votes have been able to worship God and study the Bible together, acknowledging the Lordship of Christ. Nowadays, we talk past one another, emphasizing different portions of the Bible or ignoring Scripture altogether. Result?

  • “That preacher’s got to go.”
  • “I’ll never come back to that Sunday school class as long as that teacher is there.”
  • “Did you hear what the denomination did?”

Encroachment by those from different faith traditions. Some conservative Christians are fearful of the Interfaith movement. Hindus, Muslims and ISIS have never been a threat to the congregations in which I’ve worshiped. The problem we have in Baptist churches is crossovers from Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Evangelical and Reformed traditions whose beliefs are similar to traditional Baptists, but different enough to create havoc. “Christian” radio and television, as well as parachurch movements, create the impression that all Christians ought to think alike. But we don’t. That’s why, for hundreds of years, we’ve had Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist congregations in the same community. I’m an ecumenical soul, but I do not believe a lot of things some folks who show up in a Baptist church assume I believe.

Hostile takeover. That’s not a concept most people think about with regard to churches, but it happens every week. A new pastor sometimes has an agenda. Baptist churches call someone as their new pastor they believe is a “traditional” Baptist minister, whatever that means to them, only to discover they now have a Reformed Baptist or a Fundamentalist in the pulpit. Then come chaos and a church split.

Church shopping, combined with impossible expectations of pastors and staff. About one of every hundred preachers is what I call “lightning in a bottle,” with Billy Graham charisma, with clarity of voice and message. People look for a preacher that is the most humorous, the most inspirational, and the most charming. Denominational or church loyalty is almost a thing of the past. Megachurches with an entertainment mindset are sucking the bodies and the blood out of traditional congregations. The questions of this generation are,

  • “What have you done for me lately?”
  • “Is it fun?”
  • “Will it cost me anything?”

Secularism. Low priority for spiritual and church matters. Youth soccer games scheduled for Sunday morning at 10 a.m. are the norm, not the exception. Busy-ness. Crowded schedules.

When a culture no longer gives props to the church, Christians have the opportunity to demonstrate their own faith by acting counter-culturally. It’s not the culture’s job to do the church’s work.

Read the Bible. Pay attention to Jesus. Be still. Pray. Be grateful for what we have. Fear not. Think. Listen. Don’t worry. Make peace. Evangelize. Be generous. Let your light shine. Don’t judge. Learn grace. Speak the truth in love. Forgive. Major on the majors. Love one another. Serve others. Trust God.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” Psalm 23: 1

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Phases/Chapters/Stages/Layers/Transitions of my Life

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Some people, when they reach my age, are still thinking and saying pretty much the same things they said when they were 18 years old, freshly minted high school graduates. I can name clear phases where my life has been altered—more or less in this order:

 1)   Where I began: Conservative/Cultural—I thought and said what I had been taught to think and say by my parents, church and culture. Also, I love nature, sports and reading.

2)   Friendships—The importance of peer pressure is huge for teens as well as adults. We tend to become like the people we spend time with. I have been fortunate to have good friends with positive influences.

3)   Intentionally Evangelical, but, at the same time, less churchy. Young Life was important.

4)   Socially Conscious—I became aware of ethical issues in the world, particularly racism. “There are none so blind as they who will not see.”

5)   Ecumenical, I became aware that the Christian world was larger than my Christian denomination.

6)   Family commitments, marriage and daughters altered my worldview and priorities.

7)   Pastoral care skills learned—I discovered there is pain in the world I had never experienced. The knee-jerk responses, opinions and habits that were intuitive to me were inadequate to deep challenges of the human condition.

8)   Travel—In my early thirty’s, I began to travel and discover worlds about which I had been ignorant. The world opened up for me.

9)   Listening better and paying attention affected every area of life.

10)  Professionalism, i.e., developing the skills needed to manage/administer/lead the organization(s) and people that paid my salary.

11)  Scholar. Eventually, I discovered I had a brain and enjoyed thinking. Wrote two books about worship.

12)  The language of Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependency became important to me as I attended AlAnon meetings for half a year.

13)  Humor—I discovered not only that I was funny but also that the world has plenty of irony and paradox at its core.

14)  Grace—I was slow to get to grace, but eventually I did. Wrote another book: Overcoming Adolescence.

15) Interfaith. Aware of the positive values within other faiths: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other. My understanding of God kept getting bigger and bigger. God told Moses his name is, I AM WHO I AM.

16) Yoga—Not sure yet what I will discover, but, after half a year, already I am learning and profiting from this new experience of focusing on breathing and mindfulness.

I’m 67 and still growing, wondering what’s next…

What phases, transitions or chapters have you experienced since adolescence?

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Military Shall Lead Them?

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 On Monday, November 4, 2013, I experienced something that was borderline inconceivable to me.  Sometimes, a short trip takes us a long way!  We overuse the word “incredible,” but this event was on the edge of an entirely new thought—at least for me.

 I attended an event at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, where the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (of which I am a member) was hosted.  We were given a tour of the chapels provided for various faith groups—Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Protestant.  These are used not only for worship but also to train military chaplains. 

 Did you know our military chaplains are cross-trained?  A Jewish chaplain is not required to baptize a Protestant, but he or she is obligated to make sure that such an option is made available.  And, vice versa.  A Christian chaplain must ensure that a Jewish soldier has the right to observe his or her high holy days.   The free exercise of religion extends not only to Baptists, Methodists and Mormons, but also to Pagans and Hindus.  All American military service personnel are entitled to worship freely within their tradition.

Typically, I don’t think of the military as cutting edge culturally, but they are way ahead of our congregations with regard to Interfaith accommodation and understanding.

I knew the Chaplain Center and School for the entire military was housed here in Columbia, South Carolina, and I had been on the site for a meeting once.  But I had never toured the facilities, which include a small Chaplain Corps Museum.  I am grateful for the foresightedness and commitment within the military that provides training opportunities for our chaplains. 

If you would like for your church’s senior adult group to take a tour, Marcia McManus (803-751-8079) is Director of the Museum and Chaplain Lembke (803-445-4184) is Director of the Center for World Religions.  The Museum will be enjoyable to senior adults because of the nostalgia of the mementoes.  A tour of the school, which is small but impressive, however, may stretch some folks who have never given a single thought to the worship of other people with different faith traditions. 

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Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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