In a recent essay, Marilynne Robinson attributes the struggles of mainline Protestantism to preaching. She claims that the sermon, as the center of worship in the contemporary mainline church, is “pretty nearly defunct.” Is that true, and if so, why?
A Harvard-trained sociologist, Ault immersed himself in the life of a fundamentalist Baptist congregation in northwest Massachusetts. A great read as well as a chance to see the human beings beyond the stereotypes.
Is leadership, specifically pastoral leadership, a spiritual practice? Dorothy Bass has defined practices as “those shared activities that address fundamental human needs and that, woven together, form a way of life.” Does leadership address a fundamental human need?
When I speak in churches across the country, I often hear “former pastor” stories, or stories about struggles that involve a former pastor. What is this “former pastor problem”? Simply put, it refers to pastors who hang around after they are no longer employed by a congregation—and meddle.
This book is radical in a couple of senses of the word, including the original one of “returning to the roots.” Purves, who is the Hugh Thomson Kerr Professor of Pastoral Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, returns to the theological roots of his discipline, giving particular attention to the work of Athanasi
As I travel around the country visiting and consulting with congregations and clergy, I find that many are caught in vicious cycles. The vicious cycles seem more common than the virtuous ones. They are easily recognized by a chilly climate of anxiety, which these days seems to be more common than the common cold.
This volume collects prayers with which, over 42 years, famed Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann began his classes and led worship. The prayers are rich in imagery, grounded in scripture and passionate in faith.
Part travel guide, part history and theology and part entertainment, Carmen Renee Berry’s book delivers what the title promises: guidance through the twists and turns, options and choices available to anyone trying to find a spiritual home.
Some exegetes and preachers have tried to persuade us that the Song of Songs is an elaborate allegory about the love of God for Israel or of Christ for the church. Yes, the book may have something to teach us about the divine-human relationship, but it is also, and without doubt, a song of erotic love. It is sensual, playful, beautiful and filled with longing.
What happens when power is seen as inherently suspect and even evil? What happens when power in the church is viewed as bad? What are the implications for the church when its leaders eschew power and influence and consider them qualities or capacities to be avoided?
What is a healthy congregation? For some clergy and laity, health is simply the absence of conflict. But we may be confusing a healthy congregation with a placid one. While conflict is seldom fun, its absence may be less an indication of health than of an insufficient sense of urgency or challenge about being the church.
Though the past quarter century has been a challenging, sometimes discouraging time for mainline congregations and their leaders, many positive things, often hidden from public view or statistical analysis, have been going on. Many mainline congregations have learned to see scripture afresh, have profited from more biblical preaching and have rediscovered the power and beauty of worship.
A year ago my wife took a leave from teaching middle school to enter a graduate program in school administration. I soon noticed that she and her colleagues were being assigned lots of reading on the topic of leadership, especially on the role of a leader in times of institutional change.
Among the congregations I know, two challenges loom especially large for leaders: maintaining a clear focus amid competing agendas, and bringing about needed change when people are resistant or at best ambivalent about change. With that context in mind, here are ten rules of leadership, more or less in the order in which I learned them.
When violence breaks out and murder occurs, we want an explanation, a reason, and preferably someone to blame. After Buford Furrow shot children at a Jewish day-care center and then a Filipino-American postal worker in Los Angeles, the media trained its sights on the Idaho-based Aryan Nations, to which Furrow belonged.
Seattle's Plymouth Congregational Church could be described as an "old first church." Founded in 1869 when the population of the city was 1,000, the church conceived of its mission as one of civilizing this rough-and-tumble city on the nation's western edge. Members of the congregation have served at one time or another on the City Council and school board and as mayor.