One line I read a few weeks ago about congregational life together has stuck with me in a big way. I’ve brought it up, in one way or another, several times already. In a Christian Century article, “More People, Looser Ties” David Eagle drops the sentence, “Think of it this way: a congregation with 100 married couples today has 1,000 fewer hours of potential volunteer labor to tap than it did in 1970.”
In a nation where, increasingly, belief in God cannot be assumed, and where Christianity is losing more and more of its sway in public discourse, what does membership in a church offer? Or, to put it another way, how might we say that church matters?
I’m curious how faith leaders might answer these questions because I recently ran across a very difficult sort of answer.
Since I teach stewardship and a course called Money and Mission of the Church, I often get asked my perspective on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program. For the uninitiated, Dave Ramsey is a best selling author, financial guru, and public speaker. His syndicated radio show on financial matters attracts more than 8.5 million listeners each week. Ramsey is also a born-again Christian and markets his curriculum, Financial Peace University, to churches.
When it comes to teaching, I think a lot about maintaining the fine balance between clearly, loudly, explicitly teaching my students thingsto know, and subtly, quietly, implicitly teaching them ways to think.
Classes started this week at Luther Seminary following a service complete with presidential sermon and abounding in Harry Potter robes. Last week was “First Week” when we welcomed new students to campus and barraged them with orientation information until they begged to start classes and get started on their homework.
Within ten minutes on Monday morning, I ran into not one, but two news stories covering the “Christian reaction” to the Supreme Court’s ruling last week affirming the rights of citizens to same-sex marriage. At first I was annoyed by the stories’ characterization of Christianity, but now I’m not so sure.
Usually, it’s a man who says it. He wants conversation to go deeper. He’s hoping for more self-disclosure. With the best of intentions, he wants to move past the mundane. He desires this time to be different. So he says, “Go ahead. Share. This is a safe space.”
Language matters. Particularly, the language we use in worship matters. So, my ears perked up recently when in worship congregation members were besieged by many, oh so many, opportunities to “volunteer.”
When pastors make the news, it’s often bad (e.g. murderous DUI, sexual abuse, or curious stunts). It was particularly interesting, then, to read the positive coverage of #usemeinstead—initially positive, at least.
Branding is all about claiming distinctiveness. What can your product do that others can’t? What looks or feels better than the others? What tastes stand out? Sometimes we treat faith communities the same way.
The best controversies are those in which the headlines make you think one thing, but the full article pushes you another way. Eventually, you say, “I have no idea what to think on this one.” That happened to me last week when investigating Facebook’s social experiment on happiness.
This week, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, in a segment about the race of Santa Claus, reported a bomb shell. No, it wasn’t that this Christmas, in support of Obama’s socialist policies, not just Rudolph’s nose but his entire face will be painted red.
Not since Kony 2012 has my Facebook feed been awash in such a prolific meme: red Human Rights Campaign equal signs. I’m not exaggerating when I say more than half my Facebook friends (with recent updates) either have changed their Facebook profile pic or shared and/or liked the image. We discussed the fad in my Faith and Leadership class yesterday. After that conversation, I’m somehow both less cynical about social media and more convicted about the power for meaningful conversations face-to-face.
Does Christian stewardship look different for millennials who grew up in our increasingly post-Christian world replete with Facebook, Justin Bieber, and legalized marijuana? Is the sky blue? Is North Dakota cold in winter?
This election cycle has included enough religion-related bickering for a lifetime of elections — there was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” Mormon bashing, continued ignorance of President Obama’s Christian faith, and Billy Graham’s surprising endorsement of Mitt Romney (orchestrated by son Franklin?). Even though much election rancor softens after election day, our deep divisions do not simply disappear on November 7. We may take down our yard signs, but we will still be divided.