A member of the congregation I serve died this week. It was fitting. The shadows of death linger about us this week. Like Peter, warming his hands by the blazing fire, trying to hide and catch glimpses of what Jesus suffered, I stood at the edge of the Holy Week shadows, watching for this central drama of mortality to unfold.
Like it or not, Wikipedia is here and it will probably stay. Everybody from third grade history students to graduate level scholars use them. Even when Wiki pages cannot be cited, we still use them. We are forming history on that site.
We know about all of the shifts in communication and technology, but there are also huge changes when it comes to giving money. Younger generations often think much differently when it comes to finances and budgeting, and we should think differently as a church as well.
The main characters personify different attitudes toward life. Each of them exhibits the unique charm of their perspective, allowing it to grow so that it becomes a part of us. We nod in understanding, if not consent, even as their defects of character become startling.
It’s been a long time since Mr. Show with Bob and David has been on HBO, but there are a few sketches that come to mind even now. Especially when I read about the PC(USA) in the news. In particular, "The Fairsley Difference."
I grew up in the midst of the Prosperity Gospel movement, and it’s left its mark, I’m afraid. I believed that God would bless (meaning financially bless) those who served the Almighty. It wasn’t only service, but God’s favor also came with financial reward.
In the blog-o-sphere, pastors like to complain. Mainly, because this is a good space for it. Where else can church leaders vent? Also, it's good to strategize here. But I also love to remember just how good I've got it. I know some of these sound trite. I know they sound silly. But they are the things that make me really happy and fulfiled.
Yesterday, I heard some dismal new student recruitment statistics for a Presbyterian (USA) seminary. They weren't the first ones that I've heard. Admissions are low. Really low. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering we are in the midst of a recession. God’s call on my life to go to seminary became loud and clear when I was in a horrible job.
Those who know me well know that I have a teenaged daughter who speaks most fluently in the language of books. We've always enjoyed stories together, so these days I spend a great deal of time reading teen and YA literature. She reads much faster than I do, and there’s no way to keep up (especially since I need to nurture my own reading along the way).
I worry that our iconoclast history was more of an act of conquest than it was an undertaking with enduring theological gumption. We know the many rituals of conquest: force military might, imprison the charismatic leaders, scatter the intellectual base, rape the women, enslave the children, and defile the sacred images. Now as Protestant people, the trajectory of the treatment of our images has twisted into something terrible.
Churchidom is worried about the lack of men. Because, after 2000 of almost entirely patriarchal rule, women are a threat. And now that women have begun to pastor a tiny portion of Protestant churches, the clergy has become a “pink collar” profession (like librarians, nurses and other underpaid professionals with a lot of education and skills).
As church leaders, we have our ears, hearts, and words. We pray that God will use them. But we also have limitations--time, energy, and ability. And even though we feel helpless, like we can never do enough, sometimes being the person who takes the picture, who tells the story is our most important job.
You’re asking small churches to give money to seminaries, some of which have massive endowments. Do you know how many secretaries some of these seminaries have? Their secretaries have secretaries. And they keep adding vice presidents. The weirdest thing about the addition of all the management? The student body keeps dwindling. Many of these seminaries have residential student bodies that are the same size of our small church.