March 30, 2011

this week's round-up (march 30)

Fantastic post from Jay Voorhees that I needed to read this past week - Do United Methodists Believe in Hope?

On the topic of the United Methodist Church, check out Dan Dick's A Church Shrouded in Mystery on the United Methodist identity crisis.

Another essential post from Donald Miller - What Kind of People Does God Use? Also see the follow-up, Ten Characteristics of a Disciple.

Mason Slater is Tired of Witch Hunts

Dallas Willard - The Problem with Vampire Christianity.

I unfortunately stumbled upon this last week. It creeps me out, but I'm fascinated by it's very existence. You have been warned.

New Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck) out this week - I haven't given it a full listen yet, but so far it seems good. Here's a few songs from NPR's Tiny Desk Concert, John Darnielle did last year.

March 24, 2011

this weeks round-up (march 24)

Backlogged again. Here's what's hit me over the past few weeks:

Tony Jones is launching "Ecclesileak"- leaking memos, letters, etc. to expose the "dark underbelly" of denominations. His first target is the United Methodist Church and a memo about how to treat a visiting Bishop. I was expecting the worst, but reading it, I wasn't all that shocked - maybe I've drunk too much of the kool-aid, but it seems to me to be a primer on basic hospitality for any special guest (make arrangements prior to the visit, make sure a parking space is available, have someone available to show them where to go, provide a space for them to prepare for worship, provide a brief introduction during worship, and basic protocol about processing in and out of the service). It doesn't even say reserve the best parking spot, or have Evian bottle water perfectly chilled at 41 degrees with a quarter slice of organic lemon, or anything. Seriously - if you are going to go after the UMC there have to be far better targets. To me, the real indictment is against the local congregations who don't have basic hospitality down for visitors from every walk of life.

More on Rob Bell, from:
Jesus Needs New PR
Jeremy Smith also check out this one.
Jason Gray (on the nature of the conversation).
My friend Jeremy Peters has started blogging and has some great insight into Bell's book and the nature of heresy.

Through Jeremy, I also found out about Chad Holtz who is was(?) a United Methodist pastor who was "fired" for writing about Rob Bell on his blog. There seems to be more than to the story than meets the eye (and his Rob Bell post was simply the "last straw"), because it doesn't really fit UMC polity for a local congregation to fire their pastor. (Practically, I understand how it might happen - simply refuse to pay him a salary - but functionally only the Bishop in consultation with the cabinet has the power to change appointments). Holtz's "five rules" frighten me a little as someone who does actively use social media (even though I do self censor at times). I found these words from Chad to be especially poignant:
"To close, I need to say something about the community where I had the privilege and honor of pastoring for the past four years.   They are not the bad guys of this story.  What has happened to me is not their fault.   This is merely one small story that highlights a symptom of a far greater disease.  
 If pastors are shepherds then I lay the majority of blame at our feet.  We have long histories of not striving for excellence in our shepherding but have instead settled for managing.   It is easier to churn out good citizens as opposed to faithful disciples.  We are merely reaping what we have sown."
Social Media Etiquette Guide to dealing with bad news (from Lifehacker).

The Death of Seminary Education? (Semi-related - Wil Willimon on "Making Clergy").

An unfortunate combination of signs (via)

Andrew Conrad on Paternity Leave (great explanation & sample letter of how to make the request for UM clergy).

Lynne Hybels - An Apology to my Muslim Friends.

Roger Olson - Walter Wink and Greg Boyd on the problem of evil.

Donald Miller - Jesus wants us the use common sense.

Seth Godin - Bring me stuff that's dead, please. The theological take on this is perhaps best expressed by Mike Slaughter, "God does his best work in graveyards!" Also his post on Idea Tourism has a lot to say (without saying it) about church attendance, membership and discipleship.

What Your Favorite Classic Rock Band Says About You: Part 1. Part 2.

This version by Nick Lowe is a little more mellow than the one you might know (and if you know the song at all, you are probably more familiar with the version Elvis Costello did), but it's Nick's song and he does it well.

March 9, 2011

baptism reflection

As part of our Seven Churches United, Ash Wednesday service this evening, I'm supposed to be talking about Lent at a time of "spring cleaning" and incorporating the image of water, so I'm dusting off this little meditation I wrote a few years back.

Just a simple twist of the knob
each morning
and warm water rushes over me
Water that washes away
the dirt, grime and sweat
of the day before
Water that
helps me open my weary eyes
awakens me from sleep
Water that
refreshes, rejuvenates
prepares me for a new day
A miracle?
Not quite
But a reminder
Of Jesus who entered the Jordan
and was refreshed by God's grace
     Spirit-descending, declared "Beloved" by on high
A reminder
of my own baptism
(even though I was too young to remember)
A reminder
that God's grace is still at work
in my life
Washing away the old
Preparing me for the new
Opening my eyes to the day ahead
New possibilities
In the presence of God
Many miles from the River Jordan
We still follow Christ
Stepping into streams of blessing
Washed by the showers of God's love.

March 7, 2011

this week's round-up (march 7)

Should churches compare attendance numbers? Interesting take from a non-UMC perspective, where we are so focused on numbers; make sure you read the comments there - I find myself wanting to answer, "Yes number (tracking attendance, visitors, etc.) is important, but it's the comparing part that can get you into trouble, by inviting in feelings of pride or failure that can distract us from the real issues of each congregation's unique DNA, and place on the life-cycle.

The Un-fit Pastor. Important reminder for me.

Seth Godin's latest endeavor is The Domino Project and they've recently released the book Poke the Box. I haven't read it yet, but they've also released a free PDF worksheet to accompany it that has some good questions, check it out here.

From Jesus Needs New PR - fantastic retelling/personal interpretation of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Roger Olsen on N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham and British Evangelicals.

Brilliant, convicting, short little video from Alan Hirsch on why Christians avoid risk-taking. (via)

Alan Hirsch - Are You Stuck In A Rut? from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Back to the '90s for today's music selection - great song, outstanding video:

March 3, 2011

this week's round-up (march 3)

Eventually I hope to get back to a Sunday or Monday release schedule; here's what's of interest:

From Last Call to My Call, Jerry Herships' article challenging us to take the church to where the people are from this month's Circuit Rider. (This is one of those strange "Is God trying to tell me something?" moments for me, a week or two before I read this article I was having a conversation with someone about being in ministry with people outside the church by building relationships in bars, and I've had a couple incidents after reading this touching on the same theme).

Donald Miller: Characteristics of a Creator.

My pal Casey practices turning the other cheek at a McDonald's Playland. We could all learn from his example.

Kem Meyer on 5 things to remember about winning people over.

Bri starts to unpack her trip to Israel, and writes on discovering God in unexpected places: In Search of Holy Ground.

Angry Birds: Letters from the Front Lines. Short, humorous little read from McSweeney's.

Rage Against the Machine... marching band style... (pay attention to the girl in red playing the piccolo)

 From Jesus Needs New PR: Check out what this church does not allow. (I know that it is begging for some commentary, but I'm going to resist).

 My blogroll exploded this week about a controversy among evangelical and emergent-types surrounding Rob Bell's new book. The book itself hasn't been released yet, but there is speculation that Rob embraces some form of universalism which seems to bring some people to near hysterics. Here's a few of the reflections on all of this:
Jesus Needs New PR: How to Survive Rob Bell's New Book Release.
Julie Clawson: Love Always Wins.
Slacktivist: The Epistemology of Team Hell.
Michael Gungor: Rob Bell, Dualities and Meanies.
The very best has to be the short, brilliant theological reflection from Anne Jackson.

 Another, more wide-spread, church-related controversy was the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church/Fred Phelps to protest at the funerals of soldiers. The Atlantic, I felt did a good job of reminding the reader that this, ultimately, is a First Amendment issue. Just because you don't like what they say, or how they say it, doesn't mean they should be kept from saying it. It's easy to demonize Phelps and his little clan, but as I had to remind myself beneath the hate, bad theology and misguided tactics are just some people who are broken and in need of grace just like everyone else. It would be easy to try to shut them down, or sue them into oblivion maybe we all just need to find better ways of telling a better story.

Music from Gungor this week: