May 28, 2010

this week's round-up (may 27)

Come to church, win some cash...

Nice thoughts on the Lost finale here, here, here, and here. Overall, I thought the finale was good. While I agree that the idea of the "sideways world" is problematic from the perspective of Christian theology (to me it seemed to be something more than "purgatory" - I saw it as a place they chose to go, rather than "had" to go to work out their redemption - to me it was more of a "mini-heaven"), I did like the idea that in this place (which was beyond time) the connections remained. I was also glad to see that Hurley became the protector of the island, Ben was redeemed, and the conversation the two shared about how Hurley now had the power to change the rules and be a different kind of leader.

Speaking of leadership, in Leading Ideas this week, Lewis Parks writes on A Better Script for Small Churches. There is also a great article from J. Clif Christopher on What Report is First on Your Church Council Agenda, which is something Lovett Weems talked about in the conversation I was a part of last week. How we tell the story influences how we live the story, and something as simple as moving the Finance Committee report to the end of the meeting can send a significant message about our priorities.

There's an article this week from the United Methodist News Service about United Methodist clergy job security. It's a tough topic. As some suggest in the article, I find myself feeling a little nervous about how "ineffectiveness" might be defined, evaluated (and possibly abused) and my own sense of perfectionism keeps telling me in the back of my mind that I won't measure up. At the same time, I know there are clergy out there who are hurting congregations; who consistently make poor choices and haven't received or responded to the personal, professional, or emotional help when it's been made available. Furthermore, when I read quotes like this one:
"After being assigned for the last 30 years to clean up behind broken colleagues, suffer abuse at the hands of clergy-killing congregations with no intervention from the superintendent, questionable appointment practices, and never once complaining or requesting reconsideration, making multiple salary concessions and living in substandard housing that I would spend up to six years renovating, I am now … serving a system that has NO reciprocal obligation to care for or support me.”
I find myself wondering about the bitterness and the level of effectiveness of the person making the comment. I understand occasionally following pastors who have made poor decisions, I understand that occasionally there are congregational systems with unhealthy dynamics, and I even understand the occasional frustration at the lack of denominational support, but if a person's experience is that these things have been a constant for 30 years, surely at some point they need to start questions if they might be part of the problem, too. I can confess that I've had that same mindset of "Ok, I've paid my dues, now where's my reward?" but I know that's not a healthy attitude toward ministry, and I've been working hard at developing an attitude on focusing on today, and letting go of tomorrow.

The reality is we need more accountability AND we need more grace, and both those things need to be extended in both directions. If the Cabinet and Boards of Ordained Ministry are going to get serious about clergy effectiveness, they also need to have programs and systems in place for healthy mentoring, training, and vocational re-direction. Likewise, clergy need to be better at trusting each other, stop expecting the system to automatically reward them, and develop systems that keep them accountable and fit for ministry. I believe some good things can come out of this study, and I'm excited by the possibilities it has to offer.

Jeremy Smith posted an interesting article about "breaking up" the United Methodist Book of Discipline into much more manageable parts. Although I'm not sure about the idea of juggling three different books instead of just one, I think there is some merit to the idea. I especially like the idea of a small volume with core doctrine that people could use without having to get bogged down with all the administrative rules that govern church life.

On a similar note, I've been interested in the idea of bi-vocational ministry and found this article to be a interesting look on the subject. I tend to feel uncomfortable with my salary being such a large part of the church budget. I like the idea that bi-vocational ministry provides some financial freedom for the congregation, as well as gets the pastor into the community in a significant way. At the same time, I've give a lot of thought to the downside as well - that is reduces time and energy that can be devoted to ministry. Bi-vocational ministry limits opportunities to schedule things like mid-week funerals or other emergency pastoral care situations if the person is committed to another job.

Scot McKnight shared some interesting data on mega-churches which suggests that aren't as bad as some of us might think.

Donald Miller wrote on loving your enemies where he included this great video.

No significance to this week's music selection, the White Stripes just sounded good this evening, as I was putting the final touches on this post.

May 23, 2010

this week's round-up (may 20)

A few days late because of Annual Conference. Time to bask in some introvert time, and watch the end of LOST (hoping, hoping, hoping not to be disappointed - which means, I for one, DON'T want all the questions answered - leaving us with a little mystery is absolutely necessary to the beauty of the story, in my mind).

Of interest this week:

Cigarette vending machine repurposed to sell books.

Creating community spaces.

Wendell Berry - The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Guy Kawasaki on Mission Statements vs. Mantras:

Watch it on Academic Earth

Ed Stetzer has a great article on embracing the congregation's unique identity. It's a good warning against the temptation to create "copycat" churches where you just try to do whatever the flavor of the month is doing. Overall, I think I do pretty well, but I understand the temptation to try and be more like Mike Slaughter, instead of being the best Mike Mayo-Moyle I can be.

Falwell: Measurements in Ministry Success are Messed Up interesting data: 50% of pastors would quit if they could, 70% are fighting depression, 90% can't cope with the challenges of ministry. Those numbers seem high to be, but his larger point is good - success isn't about building the next mega-church, our focus needs to be on just one person at a time.

I've mentioned my friend Marcus, and his family, before - he's an amazing guy (in general), but what I really appreciate is how he genuinely lives out his Christian faith. One of the ways he's been doing it has been by opening his home to a group of students had when he taught in Mississippi. This past week the last of those students moved back. As Marcus notes in his blog this has been a tough week as he's had to face the seeming insurmountable obstacles of poverty, culture and poor education. It's hard reading, but it's honest, and reminder that the change we hope for doesn't always come.

Another Annual Conference is finished. Good times "holy conferencing" especially outside the spaces of sessions. I had the chance to have lunch with Lovett Weems who is both funny and insightful. I need to add his books to my reading list. One of his presentations on change can be found below. (I'll also plan to add video of a spoken word piece I collaborated on later this week).

In a similar vein, I liked this reminder to Get Excited and Change Things.

Music for this week - Jonsi Go Do. This one is a little on the strange side, Jonsi is from Iceland (also the lead singer of Sigur Ros), and his music isn't in the realm of mainstream pop, but I enjoy it.


This is a spoken-word piece a group of us wrote for Annual Conference. I'll get video posted soon.

Written By Revs. Jeff Nelson, Eric Kieb, Michael Mayo-Moyle, and Jeremy Peters

Presented during worship on Friday, May 21.

sprinkle me
splash me
dip me
dunk me
dowse me
drown me
pour me
plunge me
spew me
spray me

bring me to the water
take to the river
open up the fire hydrant
fill the kiddie pool

just baptize me now
and I care don’t how

baptize me
in Sunday morning worship water
a whole world waiting to happen
a kingdom around the corner water
newborn promises and weepy eyed mother water
first cry of new creation
aww...ain’t she cute in her little white suit water
make me a brother
to the usher
and the preacher
and the Sunday school teacher,
to the sleepy-eyed dudes
who snooze in the pews,
to the faithful attenders
and the salvation vendors

Hit me with a fire hose.
Make me a brother to all of those
who remember Selma in ‘63
and a dream they said could never be
and a King locked up in a Birmingham jail,
I want to march with them past the gates of hell,
with a song on my lips
and a fist in the air,
make me care
about freedom and justice and civil rights,
make me a brother to the other,
red and yellow, black and white –
bury me beneath the rubble of Sixteenth Street
with four little girls
Addie, Carole, Cynthia, and Denise.

Baptize me in the river Jordan.
Make me a brother to the Canaanites
who sleep behind a wall tonight
a brother to the alien,
legal and illegal alike,
a brother to Joshua, Jesus
and Jose,
a brother to the desperate man
trying to find a way
across the border,
crossing over
looking for the Promised Land,
help me to stand
with the ones who have wandered desert sands
from the Sinai to Arizona and everywhere in between
All: hold me down in water so cold it makes me wanna scream!

Baptize me in solidarity with the poor
the downsized and marginalized
the victimized and brutalized
the left out
the least
the last
the lost
the loser
and the loner

stick my head in a toilet
and pull the lever,
make me a brother of every little guy
who’s ever lost his lunch money
and then his pride,
let me be on the side
of the tiny and the picked on
curly-haired, swirly-scared kids of this world.

Baptize me in water
that celebrates the I in you
and you in me,
the us in Thee
and the one in three
because it takes
more than a village
it takes a head, hand,
eyes and ears,
Body of Jesus community
that beats with the
of our Abba's heart
and runs with the everliving blood
that flowed
from the hands and feet & side
of the Beloved
as he died;

Baptize me in black and poisoned British Petroleum water.
Baptize me with the jellyfish
and the smellyfish
and all the upside down – belly-up fish
make me go
down below
where the dolphin knows
that a gallon of gas
doesn’t cost
just two bucks –
make me a brother to the ducks
and the turtle
and the tern
help me learn
to love my neighbors
with fins and flipper feet.

Baptize me in confessing water.
Baptize me in reconciling water.
Make me a brother to both sides
of Dawson Auditorium;
in the name of Jesus Christ
let us declare a moratorium
on pretense and posing and puffer and pride,

because I come as I am
and so do you,
beaten and

I come with a burning
yearning to abide
in waters that
waters that
the man beneath the satin suit
and academic robes

baptize me in ark rocking,
chaos riding,
olive branch and rainbow promise water

in Red sea splitting,
manna eating, milk and honey treating
leaving all things behind for 40 years of wondering water

baptize me in exiled Babylonian river water
in cloud splitting, heaven opening,
phenomenological phenom of a sprit dove descending
“This is my child do what he says,” water
thirst-quenching, life-giving woman at the well
spirit flowing from a pierced side
water poured from gold trimmed pages
broken open until every word is wet with wonder water

sprinkle me
splash me
dip me
dunk me
dowse me
drown me
pour me
plunge me
spew me
spray me

bring me to the water
take to the river
open up the fire hydrant
fill the kiddie pool

just baptize us now
We care don’t how!

May 14, 2010

this week's round-up (may 13)

Fairly slow week, in terms of stuff that caught my attention...

Lifehacker offered up their Top 10 Motivation Boosters and Procrastination Killers as well as a nice peek into a tiny office arrangement - that's pretty relevant to me because my new digs are probably close to 1/2 the size of my current office, so utilizing space will be a priority (and I have no need for that triple monitor arrangement).

Adam Hamilton offered some brief thoughts on the 10 Largest Churches in the UMC. His note about worship attendance vs. membership is important, but I also appreciated how he explained that the membership-to-attendance ratio varies significantly between the churches. He doesn't go into it, but I know the membership philosophies between Resurrection and Ginghamsburg are differ in some key ways, and I'd be interested to see Hamilton comment more on that.

Scot McKnight posted a quick comment regarding Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's book The Wisdom of Stability. As someone serving in a denomination that embraces itineracy rather than long-term stability it's a question I wrestle with.

Wil Wheaton posted some thoughts today on the Space Shuttle launch. What hooked me was his mention that he was home sick the day of the Challenger disaster, and on that day I happened to be home sick, too. I also appreciated his comment at the end, where he says:

We humans are a flawed species, to put it mildly, and I think we could do a much better job taking care of our planet and each other ... but when I see what we're capable of doing, it gives me hope that the future I pretended to live in twenty years ago will actually arrive some day.

Thinking about the small office space thing in Lifehacker, made me think of this song:

May 7, 2010

this week's round-up (may 6)

Both Donald Miller and Kem Meyer delve into the topic of slactivism - being an "activist" with a minimum amount of effort (ie buying a t-shirt where part of the proceeds go to a charity and then feeling really good about your contribution to end world hunger). It is easy to wear a ribbon or wristband, put a magnet or sticker on your car, or change your facebook status for a cause you believe in, and those can all be worthy things to do, but if our commitment ends there, have we really done anything at all? The internet is powerful in being able to draw attention to important issues, but if the only thing that happens is attention (which is fleeting), and not action, then we've missed an important opportunity to make a difference - or in religious terms, to help reveal the kingdom - which, hopefully is what we are aiming for.

Jonny 5 writes on the decision of his band, The Flobots, to not cancel their planned concert in Arizona on the Sojourner's blog. In part of the discussion he makes this point:

A friend of ours who grew up in Arizona remembers being a child in Arizona during the boycott over their refusal to honor MLK day. Despite the boycott, Stevie Wonder and Rosa Parks played a show at her high school. She describes it as a “joyful, uplifting experience that defied the hatred and negativity of those on the other side.”

I personally don't have a problem with boycotts, but something Jonny 5 hints at, and something pointed out to me by Joe Stroud (whom I had the pleasure of knowing when I was in Ann Arbor) is that boycotts frequently are a difficult device of protest, because they can hurt the people on the bottom instead of the top. You always have to modify the strategy to the situation, but I think we do have to be very careful about choosing a strategy of disengagement (like a boycott) because it can prevent discussion or a positive message from even getting out. (In addition, as I think more about it, boycotts also seem to have that slactivist problem - people can feel good about doing nothing).

Over at Wise Bread they offer 30 practical tips towards maintaining a greener office.

Ready for some growdivation? (This is absolutely brilliant):

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.
(Via bedeviant)

Jeremy Smith posted this video on his blog from Darren Rowse on the church's role in social media. Rowse makes some great points saying that as church "we are in the business of community" and the social networks that have been built over the internet speak to the need for community and offer a place for community to be formed. I also appreciate his thought that the church needs to have an incarnational mindset to ministry on the web, not "build it and they will come," but go and listen - engage the culture of the web, and focus on dialog instead of monologue. Check it out:

Surprise Guest Message for TransFORM from TransFORM on Vimeo.

I've been leading an adult Sunday School class and right now we are in the middle of Francis Chan's book Crazy Love - which is a challenging, yet inspiring read. (I'd have to agree with one of the members of the class who made the comment, "I'll read a chapter, and get really angry and think, 'Who does this guy think he is?' Then I'll read it again and realize he's making a really good point.") So it was interesting to see that Chan has decided to resign from Cornerstone, the church he founded. Due to polity differences the transition is much different than what I'm used to, but I really respect the process he proposes - giving people an opportunity to speak to him personally and ask questions during prayer meetings. I'm also interested in his plan for the rest of the year, which includes a couple months for discernment and three months of service in a "third world" country.

I knew, when I picked it out, that Chan's book would be a hard read for some of the members of my class, but one that others would be completely on board with. That kind of diversity can be difficult, but it is important. We have to be ready to listen to "the other side" if we want to grow. This week Scot McKnight posted some of President Obama's comments on a similar "plea for civility" from his recent speech at the University of Michigan.

Just because I've had this song stuck in my head because of the news coverage of the anniversary this week:

May 1, 2010

this week's roundup (april 30)

A "top pick" this week would have to be Shane Claiborne's article in Esquire. I really appreciate Shane's witness and writing in general, and in this one he offers up some nice little gems like:

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination.


The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it... it was because "God so loved the world." That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven... but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name.

Gil Rendle has an interesting article on the story our congregations tell. Storytelling is important - it has the power to heal, but it also has the power to hurt and to hinder if we are telling the wrong sorts of stories. One of the many things Amy has done really well was to have her congregation tell the story they had been operating under, identifying some of the the misconceptions and false assumptions behind it, and them helping them live into a better story. The outcome was freeing - the congregation really began to regain vitality once they understood their story.

Also in Leading Ideas there is a nice, little article about what congregations can do to help a healthy transition to a new pastor. I know the handful of people who stumble upon this little blog are on the "other side" of that situation, but it is good, basic information to be aware of, and hopefully something we can pass along to our SPRC's when appointment time comes.

At Lifehacker this week there was a reminder that we should spend more time examining what went right instead of obsessing over what went wrong (important advice, especially if your personality is anything like mine).

Peter Rollins posted a video this week from his recent Insurrection Tour. There was a stop in Grand Rapids that I'm sorry I missed. If you have time check out the video, there's some interesting stuff - plus I just dig listening to his Irish accent.

Peter Rollins at Baylor University from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Over at Church Marketing Sucks a blog post was put up about Twittering in church. I think it makes a lot of sense based on how they present it. I'd much rather have people processing and interacting with my sermons via Twitter than being completely disengaged or distracted in some other way (and I say this as someone who was regularly writing and passing notes about the sermons I heard in high school). From the perspective of the "other side" I am usually so oblivious about what's happening in the pews while I'm preaching that to see someone typing on their keyboard, wouldn't really phase me, even if I were to notice.

On the same site, there is also a solid piece about who we compete against as a church. As I mentioned last week in regard to having a "kingdom mindset" - if we see (as we so often do) the church down the street as the "competition" - we're done for. Instead of being in ministry to "the least, the last, and the lost" we've turned our focus on just shifting members from one church to another and bring everybody down in the process. There are better battles to be fought than trying to convince someone that this church is better than that church. Accept our differences, celebrate the fact that we are one body with many parts, and let's start focusing on loving and serving people like Jesus did, and not worry so much about which building they worship in on Sunday morning.

Donald Miller has another great post, this time on the question of if God has a specific plan for your life. His answer: probably not, which is where I basically lean as well. I believe God offers possibilities and opens doors, but the "plan" is never so rigid that all is lost if we don't travel down that certain path.

With this weekly roundup music selection I'm starting to lose track of what I have or haven't posted, so you'll have to forgive me if you seen this one before. The Hold Steady are a great band - they have a new album coming out next week (though I am a little nervous about the more "mainstream rock" sound they seem to be moving toward, based on what little I've heard). This one is from their last album and a good personal reminder - we've got to stay positive