Often the focus of my own religion, Christianity, mimics the same focus of American society- more, never enough, increase increase increase. We often spend too much time looking at our deficits, how we are not measuring up or good enough. We often look at our world and marvel at the injustice, evil, and immorality.
Faith is not deficit oriented. It is blessing oriented. Rather than anxiety, faith orients around grace. Jesus told of a love, a grace, a God that was breaking forth into our world. Jesus reminds us to open our eyes and look for the many ways the kingdom of heaven is bursting on scene into our world.
The ancients assumed that chaos and evil were everywhere and that God could show up and do something extraordinary in the midst of such chaos. Our assumptions tend to be more negative assuming that order and blessing should be the status quo. This sets us up to be in a constant state of let down when the waves of life crash over us.
Are you oriented towards deficit or blessing, limits or abundance, weakness or strengths? How will you allow the grace of God to shape you towards a center of love and grace?
We cannot be in the future who we are today. That is a fact. We change. We grow and we age. My congregation, Columbine United Church, is an evolving organism. Just look back five years ago to see how much has changed. Go back 10, 15, or 20 years and you will find something that seems to be an entirely different church. So the question before us at this moment is who will we be? It is not,how do we maintain our current situation?
Scrolling through social media news feeds and blogs feeds, I regularly come across friends who are raising money for a variety of service organizations. I, too, have used my friends network to raise money for walks, runs, and rides that I have participated in for really good causes and organizations out there. Here is what we know, our friends and networks will support us when we engage in a really great cause, project, or event.
This is where my post gets controversial and my mind is openly experimenting with some various thoughts. Do we believe in what we are doing in our congregations? Do we truly think that our churches are doing good in the world? What would it be like to take specific projects we are doing in our churches and ask people in our networks to support these projects? Do we get nervous because the project is attached to a religious institution? I would love to hear some thoughts.
Being a member of a great team is priceless. Right now at my church, Columbine United Church, we have a remarkable team. Our Pastor, Steve Poos-Benson, and I have reflected several times recently on how and why we have such a great team. Of course, many ideas come to mind. Today, I came across the reasons. Jeff Haden, a columnist for Inc. Magazine gives these 8 reasons. Check out the article for more information on any of these:
1. They ignore job descriptions.
2. They’re eccentric.
3. But they know when to dial it back.
4. They publicly praise
5. And they privately complain.
6. They speak when others won’t.
7. They like to prove others wrong.
8. They’re always fiddling.
I think most of the traits apply to our team at CUC. What I think makes us run really well are numbers 1 and 8 – we move outside of our job descriptions and we are always, always, always fiddling!
I love my job as Pastor to Children, Youth, and Families at Columbine United Church. Each Sunday I get to participate in an energetic and growing ministry. Here is the problem – our building, rooms, and space for this ministry is less than adequate. For the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with a dedicated team of volunteers looking at our space issues. We are looking at busting down walls, shifting where various age groups are located in our building, and a wide variety of other space shifts. Because of this, I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past month contemplating what makes a great space for kids and parents?
- How can we improve traffic flow?
- How can we create a more effective check-in and check-out process?
- Can we create a great communication & welcome center that all parents and kids pass through on Sunday mornings?
- Can we create a space where we can greet new families and connect them with other families?
- Can we not just remodel but redesign?
The above picture is of a children’s ministry check-in area at some church I’ve never attended. It’s the kind of space I would really love to have.
Over the past eight weeks, a huge wave of energy has moved into my current congregation. Our staff is buzzing, our lay leaders are jazzed, and each week more participants are coming up to me wanting to know how they can get on board. Several questions are at the heart of this new energy.
1.) What does it mean to be church today?
2.) How does one participate in church?
3.) Why are people participating in our congregation?
4.) Why do most people not participate in a congregation and how can we address that?
5.) What, if any, are the differences between online participants and physical participants?
6.) Most congregations function in Stage 3 of Fowler’s Stages of Faith. We do a decent job of helping people get to Stage 4. How do we become a congregation that facilitates people’s journeys beyond Stages 4 into 5 and beyond.
The church of tomorrow is already arriving. It many ways it’s unmapped terrain which makes it exciting but also produces fear and anxiety for those who were really comfortable with the church of yesterday.
Currently, we are doing a sermon series through James Fowler’s Stages of Faith on Sunday mornings. I have the task of preaching-teaching on Stage 5 – Conjunctive Faith. Only a tiny percentage of the population reaches this Conjunctive Faith, mostly because it requires such an intense and sustained look at the “self” and soul.
The deep examination of the inner self is a frightening act. Its difficult to be both honest and gracious with ourselves. We tend to either minimize or maximize our frailty. We also tend to either minimize or maximize our greatness. What we find in ourselves scares us — for inside the soul we find God has truly shared divinity with us, that we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined, that we can change the world. But we also find our shadow selves – the nasty, horrific thoughts, attitudes, prejudices and desires that we want to believe are not part of our “true” identities.
Stage 5 is the place where we come to accept all of it without scandal and without cynicism. We continue to recognize the importance of intellect and ego, but we do not allow intellect and ego to trump intuition, mystery, and the unknown. The ego is put in check – an extremely difficult act, a terrifying adventure to embark upon. But embark one must to finally arrive at stability and serenity with the world.