Category Archives: Community

Ideal and Divine Realities

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

This passage, pointed out by a trusted mentor, has been important for me this week. Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves. I’m not perfect… so sue me.

Advertisements

An Open Letter to Congregations Welcoming New Pastors

My own thoughts (some hopefully beneficial, some potentially harmful) on just what to do about a new pastor arriving less than a week from today prompted me to draft an open letter to my church. It addresses the “fix-it” list mentality that we can get caught up in whenever new leadership comes into an organization…

January is here! No doubt, this is the month where God’s blessing on us manifests itself in the form of a gifted and passionate shepherd to serve as Pastor and Head of Staff. Thanks be to God! I can’t help but think that our gracious and providing God has a sense of humor. How appropriate that Pastor Bill arrives in January… that he arrives in a month saturated with new beginnings and new chapters, with renewed hope and renewed vitality. Personally and professionally, I’m very thankful for God’s blessing on us. I’m excited to work with a fellow climber, a fellow bibliophile, and a fellow questioning pilgrim, to name a few of Bill’s qualities.

The arrival of a new pastor after a long interim period is great news, but it’s also an occasion for extra diligence. Over the past few months, each of us has probably said that some problem or another will just get better when the new pastor comes. I know I have. But the more I think about it, the more I’m wary of that attitude. Indeed, the presence of a pastor inherently clears up certain potential conflicts. For example, although we could not have survived this period without the leadership of dedicated laypersons who stepped up to the plate, I eagerly anticipate having just one supervisor. Just one person to report to. Where hierarchy exists, it exists most efficiently in simple form. So, Pastor Bill’s arrival itself is somewhat of an automatic solution to certain organizational challenges.

But we know we’re not a perfect congregation. No congregation is perfect. There are still ways for us to streamline the way we carry the gospel out into Durango. There are still ways for us to more enthusiastically fold newcomers into our midst. There are still ways for us to harness 21st-century technology for the purposes of building God’s Kingdom this year. There are still ways for us to become a tighter family of many generations working together.

Join me in rejoicing that our Pastor has arrived, but also let us remain diligent, both as individuals and as a corporate body. Before I ask Bill to make a drastic change that I may personally want to see, may I give him the time he needs to observe us and strategize about how to best lead us. May I avoid the temptation to hand him a “fix-it” list. May I be eager to discern how my unique gifts might best combine with those brought by Bill. Join me in enthusiastically welcoming Pastor Bill in this way!

Let us take to heart how Paul ends his admonition to the believers in Rome: “And now to him who is able to establish us by the gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey him, to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen!”

Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving vacation in Monterey has been great. Although this town is like Durango in the transient nature of its young inhabitants, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in how many people from the old days I’ve run into while here. A couple brief conversations with my closest friend Chris, and a longer hangout on the schedule for tomorrow. Great times with my brother-in-law Pat, wondering what it would be like to be Indiana Jones and halfheartedly plotting to drop off “the grid”. A pipe-smoking session with Uncle George, learning about his seminary days and hearing his stories of traveling to Brazil and moving around among parishes.

Went to church a couple times today. First, we caught a service at Shoreline, where I used to work. It’s definitely changed. They’ve built an impressive facility in an old warehouse. I’m really excited for Pastor Howie getting to see his dreams come to fruition. He started from scratch over a decade ago, and now the church has a thriving body of believers. What I admire most about Shoreline is its dedicated core of volunteers that keep at least some portion of virtually every component of the church running smoothly. They’ve got to be sold on the vision Howie’s casted. Major kudos there. Like I said before though, a lot has changed since I was there, as things do. The new facility, while impressive, didn’t quite resonate with me. The sanctuary is very spacious, and has who-knows-how-many thousands of dollars of technology, but it didn’t feel like a church. There were no Christian symbols anywhere. Really, this isn’t a rant… I’m a firm believer that you can’t make everyone happy. I just need my worship space to have some worship aids that push me towards an encounter with God. Anyway, the service was so-so for me, but I’m sure it’s great for the people it reaches. No faith community has a monopoly on how to reach and serve everyone.

This evening Anina and I went to a new house-church, Stone Harbor. It was planted by a respected colleague named Johnny Potter, and another humble Christ-follower named Tom Green. Johnny has this amazing quiet wisdom that makes him such a natural shepherd. Without any discussion, Anina and I both knew he was the one we each wanted to perform our weding (and he did). Johnny pastored at Shoreline almost from day one, but has felt called to start Stone Harbor very recently. The gathering is about 60 people that meet in the Potter home. Really cozy in there, hahaha. It was so organic and no-frills. Quite a contrast to how I felt while I experienced a Shoreline service. Fairly typical layout, with worship songs up front, followed by a brief and easy-to-take-notes-on message, then closed of with a time of singing and praying. After things ended, I was so amazed to see clusters of people spontaneously forming and praying for each other. The norm was for people to socialize for a few minutes, almost inevitably followed by a short but sincere couple minutes of praying for each other. But it was so low-pressure. Like, you know how sometimes people can be praying, and you feel odd if you’re not doing it too? Yeah, not like that at all. It was just what these believers wanted to do with each other. No pressure. Wow.

Originally this post was titled, “The Way It Should Be”. But I realized that I couldn’t use that if I really believe that nobody has the market cornered on ecclesiology. But I’ll tell you what… if I lived in Monterey, I would make my home at Stone Harbor. It was so refreshing.

A couple more days of vacation, and then back to work. More details to come…

Hell Houses

Recently I got a letter from a neighboring church, inviting me to send people their way for a special “Outreach” they’re doing. When things get sent to only me, I can ignore them pretty easily. However, this invitation letter was also forwarded to our Children’s Director and our church’s Outreach & Fellowship Committee. Since I have some objections to the program the letter describes, I decided it would be wise to go on record with the committee about my thoughts.

The committee moderators replied promptly after, echoing agreement with my basic reasons. Well, that was fun, but it was also too easy. So I’m offering my thoughts here at the blog to generate more discussion. Without further ado, the letter: Continue reading

Student Ministry Blog

After too much red tape (and too many HTML headaches) to get a youth ministry page posted within my church’s website, I decided to just let WordPress help out. Got the “Why didn’t I think of that before?!?” idea from a colleague of mine who also uses a blog format for his youth ministry page.

It’s here: http://1stpresdurangoyouth.wordpress.com

Head over. Check it out.

  • What could be done to make it more functional, specifically for use as a youth ministry communication tool?
  • If you’re in youth ministry and use a blog for getting info out to your students, what lessons have you learned?
  • Thinking about adding a Flickr widget for ministry photos… potential privacy issues? How did you address them?
  • Have you been able to make it foster anything near the community that the social networking sites promote?
  • What cues can a blog take from the standard youth ministry webpage?

Unity

Reading my email this morning, I was reminded this morning of a couple passages in chapters 13 & 17 in The Gospel of John. Jesus prays for unity among those who claim His name.

Francis Schaeffer points this characteristic as the “mark of the Christian.”
Schaeffer goes further and reminds us of its inherent challenge:

“Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon his authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.
That’s pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, ‘I’ve something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians.'”

A tall order from the Prince of Peace, no doubt.

Interesting Aspect of the Facebook / MySpace Dichotomy

Came across an article about trends of class differences common in the main user groups of Facebook and MySpace. Seems like the easiest route would be to somehow convince each site to compile and release a report on their demographic breakdowns.

But no, that would be too easy… So I respect the author for making a great effort to do the bulk of her research through interviews, both formal and informal. I’m no expert on research methodology, but the author’s process seems pretty sound:

I have done formal interviews in California, Washington, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts. When I do this, I do not capture parents’ income but I do get parents’ education level and job. In each of these communities, I have spent time roaming the streets and talking informally with people of all ages. I have analyzed profiles from all 50 states (and DC and Puerto Rico). I use the high school data from these profiles and juxtapose them with federal information on high school voucher numbers to get a sense of the SES of the school. I have spent time in cities, suburbs, small towns, and some rural regions.

She also acknowledges possible weaknesses of not spending much time in rural areas or the Deep South.

The essay opens with a history of the rise of the two sites. Also discussed are the roots of bad blood between each site’s loyalists.

Next up is an exploration of socioeconomic trends among Facebookers contrasted with MySpacers. “Look and feel” factor in immensely. Facebook users tend to be

very aware of MySpace and they often have a negative opinion about it. They see it as gaudy, immature, and “so middle school.” They prefer the “clean” look of Facebook, noting that it is more mature and that MySpace is “so lame.”

Loyal MySpace users, on the other hand, interpret what the Facebookers criticize to in fact be

“glitzy” or “bling” or “fly” (or what my generation would call “phat”) by subaltern teens. Terms like “bling” come out of hip-hop culture where showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued.

So those are just a few things to get your gears turning. The author also points out interesting divisions in the sites’ user bases that surface within the military…

All things considered, it doesn’t seem like the author tries to stretch the facts to make a point… I think she’s on to a pretty intuitive but not-often-expressed difference. I’ve read the article once at this point, and just had some basic reactions. I plan on going back over it a few times. You should too:

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

[HT]: CPYU, “Articles & Research” section