Having had the privilege of serving downtown churches in Columbus, Ohio, and in Chicago, I have watched city churches struggle to respond faithfully to dramatically changing environments. Broad Street in Columbus is a street of churches—stately edifices constructed in a time when many of the members lived in the surrounding neighborhoods. But the neighborhoods changed. Members moved away.
The church suffers from a bit of schizophrenia about Palm Sunday.
Should the focus be on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the
“Hosannas!” of the shouting crowd? Or should the emphasis be placed on
the cross and the “Crucify him! Crucify him!” chants of the people? Is
this a service of exultation or a service of passion?
I’ve noticed an alarming trend in ministry with college students:
they use words better in technological media than in person. Emails,
text messages and even facebook.com posts are often thoughtful,
eloquent and witty. But one-on-one, the same students and I will
stammer about, our words bumping into one another in mid-air.
Every time I happen upon Psalm 16:6, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” I think about how any of us comes to be who we are. Some of us in ministry can name the incident or date when we encountered a call to this vocation, but for most of us, I think, the call is a process, not an event.
A folk-singing friend taught me that if I could link a sermon to a
song, listeners would remember the song, and thus be more likely to
remember the sermon. Music resides in a part of the brain that is
resistant to amnesia, he said.
An Alcoholics Anonymous group that has been meeting in a Baptist church in Keithville, Louisiana, for more than five years was told that it can no longer meet there. The church is forcing the group out for fear that if it lets nonchurch groups use the building, it could be forced to let it be used for the marriage of gays or lesbians. The pastor said the church was acting on the advice of an article in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message. A spokesperson for People Acting for Change and Equality said the church’s action is misguided. “Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country, no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don’t want to,” she said (KSLA News, September 25).