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.
It was my first winter in rural South Dakota, and despite the worrisome weather, I was planning a road trip. On Sunday morning, one of my parish members came up to me and solemnly handed me a coffee can. It contained a roll of toilet paper, a candle, some matches, and a candy bar. “Put this in your trunk,” she said. I had no idea what this was. “Thank you,” I said.
Maybe it’s because I’m a pastor and my social media is flooded with churchy headlines and hashtags, but I’ve grown weary of the Christmas tradition of bemoaning the commercialization of the season and criticizing others (usually referring to non-Christians) for being so materialistic about Christmas.
I mean, I’ve got my own gripes with Black Friday and Xmas music in late September but is there anything more cliché than surveying the wrapping paper debris on the curb and the pine needles on the floor and lamenting that we’ve missed the meaning of Christmas?
When it comes to conversations about government spending, two subjects tend to get conflated. The first is an ideological debate about whether or not the government is in general any good at doing things. The second regards the actual effectiveness of specific things the government does. And the second conversation is far more concrete, productive, and important, which is why it drives me crazy when the first one prevents people from engaging the second.
Ron Haskins's new book is pretty wonky, but the articles he's written to promote it are quite readable.
I was part of a conference call recently with a number of young-ish pastors in our denomination where we were talking about Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that the his followers would be “one.” Anyone with even the most cursory understanding of church history will know that, well, we haven’t exactly done so well with this little ideal.
Indeed, we might be forgiven for laughing out loud at the idea that there could be such a thing as a unified church.
It is at this point that Jesus reminds us that God completely throws off our human calculations of what will be constant and what will change, for “what is impossible for mere humans is possible for God” he insists.