We live in a fast society. Everything happens quickly, if not instantaneously. While it’s nice to have things available whenever we need them, it can teach us be impatient with those things that need time. Spiritual formation and developing mission are among those things that take time. We need to be willing to take this things slowly.
In their book Slow Church, John Pattison and Chris Smith write about slowing down the ways that we do church and cultivating the patient way of Jesus. Initially, the idea of slowing down church may be off-putting to some because either church is boring enough and doesn’t need to be slower, or there needs to be an urgency with which we share the gospel because the world is in need. The good news is that they don’t mean that church services should be slower, although times of slowing down are helpful, and they don’t mean that we need to slow down the spread of the Gospel around the world. Instead what they are advocating is a less franchised and McDonaldized version of the church. Instead of planting churches that are the same no matter their context or the culture of their local community, we need to take the time to cultivate a church that in some ways embodies the spirit of the community (or the “taste of the place” as the call it) and also seeks to meet the real needs of that community. Continue reading →
A few days ago, Rachel Held Evans wrote an article about why Millennials are leaving the church. This article has stirred up a lot of debate. I don’t really wish to comment or or argue with either article, others have done enough of that. What I’d like to do is to say that this is something the church needs to be discussing. I think there are many things that Evans gets right, and think that there are some things that are probably overstated. Frankly, whether she is right or wrong is not nearly as important as the fact that Millennials are leaving the church. Continue reading →
In his new book, I am a Church Member, Thom Rainer tackles the tough question of what it means to be a church member. He does this is in a surprisingly short book by building the book around 6 pledges that we should make as church members. Each chapter explains one of the pledges and ends with a formal pledge with a line to sign and date. The pledge is followed by questions for study. Continue reading →
I’m not a Catholic, but like most have kept up with what’s happening over in the Vatican. I watched as Benedict left for the last time as the Pope, and followed the announcement of the new Pope yesterday. In all of this, I have watched and shook my head as the American media has tried to understand what it means to be a leader in the church. They have talked about the power that the pope has in the world and speculated (quite a lot) about whether or not they would elect an American. Listening to the news, it all began to sound like election time in America. They were asking who was qualified, what kind of changes would this person make, and did they have the right leadership skills to be the Pope. It was all primarily about the power and position of the papacy.
Then yesterday, the church and the new pope did something that messed with the media’s perception of “power” in the church. They elected someone that no one in the media considered and he choose a name that truly demonstrated what Christian leadership is all about. They elected man who has served the poor and chose to forgo some of the privileges that his previous role allowed him. They elected a man who is known for his act of washing the feet of 12 AIDS patients in 2001. Then they announced the name of the new pope. His name is Francis. He took the name of a very famous saint who is famously humble. Saint Francis chose a life of poverty and spent his life serving the poor and preaching the gospel. Of all the names he could have chosen, I think that this name is quite appropriate for someone who is supposed to lead the church. When it comes to being a leader in the church, it’s not about power or wealth. It’s not about having the most impressive resume or being the smartest guy around. It’s not about being able to dominate the boardroom or be at the top of your field. It’s about being like Christ. Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-8 NIV)
While I’m not a catholic, I am impressed with the new pope’s choice of name and I hope that he lives up to it. I hope that he emulates the life of Francis and the life of Christ. I hope that he leads in humility and shows the world that Christian leadership is different from political leadership. He is a man with a lot of influence, and I pray that his influence spreads the gospel and shows the love of Christ to those in need.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV)