Sunday, September 28, 2008
This is a question that we all should ask when new technologies are presented. Although there are many things that could potentially be a problem with facebook (an illusion of community, inappropriate behavior & pictures, etc), but for the church we have a great opportunity. Through something like facebook, we can bring information, proclamation about God and the Word in a whole different way than email or even websites.
In my theory, communication on facebook is much different than on email. Facebook builds community online in a more personal way than conventional email. You have pictures, descriptions, friend connections, and an outlook on what the person values. This amount of information is actually more than what we know about most of our friends. Instantly, we are connected with those whom we become friends with on facebook, and a chance to do God-talk. On top of that, people are more willing to ask questions online about faith, due to the fact that there is less judgement and no facial expressions.
This gives the church a chance to do a number of things:
1) Discuss theology in an open forum and to teach what being part of the church means.
2) Invitations to worship has more of a personal touch than email
3) Provide information on theology in a quick and effective manner
4) Strengthen relationships with people already in a congregation with support.
May God Bless this opportunity to bring Christ to the nations
Friday, September 26, 2008
Things are different now. Most youth today text over two thousands texts a month, they talk to friends instantly after getting home on the computer, and they probably stay up much later than I did because they can still communicate after midnight. The relationships between people are much different than 10 years ago and the need for a community has changed also. One of the reasons I went to youth group was because of friendships and connecting with people, and in many ways the reason I kept going to church, was due to friends to hang out with. And for many years, the church has try to sell itself as a way to meet people, to hang out with friends, and get together with people. However, what happens when the friendships are being connected at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning and church starts at 8 a.m.? Then why should I go to church?
I think we are at a critical stage in the church, but not in how we do church, but how we speak of it. In the past 20 years, we have lost the reason for worship, Bible Study, and membership. But now we are at a point, where we can teach the wonders of being in God's house. No longer will people listen to the response of why go to church, "To be with other people." That was never a good response anyways. We can teach about how God brings His gifts in worship. He brings forgiveness that the world does not give (if you mess up in the work world or in school, it requires many thing you have to do in order to bring atonement). His Holy Spirit changes our hearts. And we learn more about what it means to be a baptized child of God. Overall, to teach about what God does instead of what we do, will be a great way to bring the excitement to what church and worship is all about.
Next time I will address how we can use facebook to uplift our churches and keep our confessional heritage....
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
One thing that I have noticed growing up as a pastor's kid and serving on the ministerial health committee here in the South Wisconsin District is that congregations don't really need to do much for their pastors. All they need to do is give an occasional thank you, throw an occasional gift certificate, and invite the pastor out to lunch 1x a year. Simple and done.
However, what I would say is the key is the shower his wife (of course, if he is married) with love and care. Buy her gift certificates, give her pedicures, thank her for supporting her husband, call her and see how things are going, ask her if you can do anything, and ask about her life (not her husbands). The key to effective ministry is the pastor's wife! If you shower her, you will have a more effective, energetic, faithful pastor! Provide your pastor's wife this month with a gift and not just your pastor!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
In a post-church culture, the need for great teaching is in such great demand. No longer will everyone know the Bible from Sunday school, because they never went. No longer will people just know how to live, because they never learned how, other than the culture. We need a teaching revolution that incorporates such strong teaching based on the truth of God's Word that people are left wanting more and more of God's Word which is the perfect opportunity for things like our confessional writings.
These studies do not need to be just on Sunday morning, but at coffee houses, home groups, anywhere and everywhere. People are looking for truth. And when they read the clearness of the confessions, it is like feeding a steak to a man who hasn't eaten for 5 days. It is our role to find new and exciting ways to teach the Word of God, while upholding what it means to be biblical, confessional Lutherans!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
However, we are at a turning point in the confirmation process (as is the church and her ministry) because I do not know how much longer we will be able to expect the typical 7th and 8th grade confirmation, Wednesday night study, required church attendance, memory work, etc will be an effective way. I am a big proponent of it, but I wonder what changes will be needed in the future.
In the same way, I believe it is the same with how we do church (worship, teaching, evangelism, etc). I do not believe we need to change our worship format, get bigger buildings, or give up on centuries of tradition, but there are some things that we are going to struggle with.
Here are some examples:
1) Are we willing to change our times of worship if it meant more disciples and more in attendance? (not format, but time!) Is there another day that might work?
2) Are we willing to let more lay people lead major aspects of ministry (lay visits, small group Bible Study) while still having pastoral oversight?
3) Are we willing to look at reducing the size of our buildings and increasing the amount of ministry on a simple level?
4) Are we willing to look at the possibility of working more together as a Synod churches to get some aspects of ministry done (food pantries, youth workers, counseling services, etc)?
5) Are we willing to make sure that Christ is uplifted and not ourselves? If increased ministry means letting some groups fall apart, are we ready for that?
These are all questions, I struggle with. And I struggle with it because I have a strong desire to keep ahold of our confessional heritage (and cling to it very strongly) and live in our world today in how we do church. I am open to any insight anyone may have and pray that the Holy Spirit may guide us on this endeavor!
Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy
Monday, September 15, 2008
We live at a time where the church is not the social norm. People do not assume church membership like they used too, and they don't just go to church because everyone else is (especially the Millenial generation of 20-29 year olds). Actually, the position of the church is usually downgraded even within the church (try telling people that living together before marriage is wrong and base it off the Bible).
So the question for today is, what does a post church culture look like now and in the future?
Here are a few ideas for now:
1) Kids sporting events on Sunday morning
2) The most popular churches function like a YMCA social club
3) Most restaurants and stores are open Sunday morning
4) Pastors do not get respect due to the office of the ministry, but due to how nice they are!
5) Any idea of religion and politics somehow being together is almost completely dismissed.
6) Church being ridiculed for its view on marriage and abortion
Here are a few ideas for the future that might happen:
1) Churches paying taxes for the land they are on?
2) Another day as the prominent day for worship instead of Sunday?
3) Pastors are expected to have other jobs and do simple pastoral acts (worker-priests)?
4) The church having to go underground due to gay marriage?
5) Hospital and military chaplains have to practice all religious beliefs in order for benefits.
Our world is going through some major changes and we are attempting to bring the light of the world in the midst of it. However, in the middle of this all, what is encouraging is that people want solid, strong theological stuff. They want a liturgical service, they want to learn the confessions, they want to dig deep into scripture, they love the candles, incense, and chanting. We will not know about tomorrow, but we know that when we stay strong in our confession and live together according to His Word, the gates of Hades will never overtake the church (even if we don't have tax benefits!).
Next time, I will reflect on how the church might look like in a post-church culture
Friday, September 12, 2008
However, there are some major changes in our culture over the last number of years, sometimes subtly, but some things have turned our world upside down. Here are a few changes that show our culture have changed...
1) Businesses are open on Sunday morning.
2) Sports activities (NFL to Pop Warner are scheduled on Sunday morning) and parents are choosing those activities above worship.
3) When Supreme court justices were chosen, a major issue was whether or not they were Christian.
4) Sarah Palin's Christian views are trying to be portrayed as a hindrance.
5) People are most commonly saying, "I don't need church to be a Christian"
For this post, I am simply asking the question, are we in a post-Christian culture? What signs do we have to support it? And if you do not think we are, why do you think we are not?
The next few posts will go as follows:
1) What does a post-church culture look like?
2) If we are in a post-church culture, what should the church look like?
3) How do we keep our confessional heritage while addressing the needs of today's world?
Please drop your comments and questions...
Thursday, September 11, 2008
That day we experienced the worst of the Old Adam. When our sinful nature becomes so hardened and convinced of something, we tend not to think about the consequences or who we hurt. This happens on a personal level when we do not serve our neighbor in need and even up to the point of terrorism.
Today we remember what happened 7 years ago, but more importantly, we keep all families affected by this tragedy in our prayers. I also believe that God has used this day to show all of us the problems in our world and the dire need of a Savior who has conquered it all on the cross!
May we cling to that promise.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"Please God, let the Packers stop the Vikings" a man in front of me prayed with his strong beer breath, his hands folded, and arms outstretched above his head. At the Monday night game, I noticed that many people had their hands folded, eyes closed, and head bowed as they awaited a pass by the Vikings Tavarius Jackson with 48 seconds left in the game. If the Vikings would score, they win, if not, the Packers win. This was obviously a time to look for some intervention from a higher being. If the Packers were to lose, all the Packer fans would have to deal with Vikings fans taunting on the way out of the sacred Lambeau field, but if they won the Packer fans would be able to strut around as if they won the Super Bowl (remind you it would be a win without the Baal idol Brett Favre at the helm). So they prayed.
How often does the whole Christian church pray with such vigor outside of the NFL, MLB, NHL, etc? How often do we realize that we have no control over a situation (like a football game) and go to our knees in prayer? During a NFL game, WE have NO control over what happens in the game, whether we are there or not, no matter how much we scream or sit still, the outcome will still be the same. It is the same with out Christian life, God is in control, no matter how much we try to control things, we are still in the palm of our gracious Father's hands, redeemed by His Son's blood, and He has promised never to leave us until His promise has been fulilled at the resurrection.
So let us pray on bended knee as if at a Packer/Vikings game and trust that our Lord will give us the strength to handle whatever happens nextr (even if the Vikings threw an interception and the Packers won! DUH!)
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Every day of the year, the reader will follow the daily office of prayer, Scripture readings, a hymn to meditate upon, and an excerpt from the Lutheran confessions. The use of this devotional will deeply enrich the faith life of pastors and lay people alike. I would highly suggest for everyone to purchase this resource and my hope is that many from St. John's has a copy by their bed.
Friday, September 5, 2008
On September 14th, our congregation celebrates "Connection Sunday." It is a time where we gather together for one service (we normally have 2), we have a potluck/pig roast, and we finish with an auction to help support missions at our church and throughout the world. This will be the first year we are "connecting" both services into one and just celebrating.
I think we as a Church need to just celebrate more. Gather around food, bring in a comedian, do an auction, play crazy games, sit around and chat, and relax. We tend to be very serious in our Christian walk, time at church is seen as a serious time and people people run home to relax. But wait a minute, am I to understand that the first Christians in Acts 2, were all dressed up in a suit and couldn't wait until they got back to their house to relax? Absolutely not, they did EVERYTHING TOGETHER (prayer, fellowship, breaking of the bread). And I can guarantee there were some rip roaring times after they made it passed some very serious things (persecution, public executions, etc).
Pray for many people to attend on Connection Sunday and that they may celebrate the Connection with have with one another centered on our Connection through the crucified Christ!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The typical Christian parent encourages, almost demands their children to wait to get married until they have a retirement account started, a down payment on a house, and two stable jobs with benefits. The desire is that their children will not go through financial struggles, that they finish college, and can send off the kids without worrying about basically anything (at least in our minds). Makes sense doesn't it?
However, there are a plethora of implications. #1-If it came down to a choice in our world of having sex before marriage or getting married at 20, it would be more scandalous to get married. Why is this a problem? well, God's Will (Genesis 2, Hebrews 13, 6th Commandment, etc). When we mess with God's will, then things get mucked up (a.k.a. 50% divorce rate) #2-People are doing all the major things before marriage because marriage is now seen as the last step. Most friends and young couples I know today have bought a house, bought a dog, tried or had a child before marriage. In our world, we love to have commitment BEFORE we make a big decision, however, today buying a house, a dog or having children doesn't require commitment, but can get "whatever" and then commitment is the last thing.
I'm not saying that parents should stop saying wait for marriage, but we should be thinking about what we believe about marriage, abstinence before marriage, the commitment needed when entering marriage, and in many cases what difficulties did I go through in marriage and how was that actually helpful for our marriage. We often think as parents about what can I give to my kids that I didn't have, that we forget to give them what we did!
I think we are at a very serious time with the view of marriage and I would argue that in many ways we are encouraging a lessening of marriage by our practice (even if it is no intentional)
Monday, September 1, 2008
At the same time, as we are called to show the mercy of our Lord to others, we can help in various other ways.
1) Support Christian relief agencies individually such as LCMS World Relief (http://www.lcms.org/page/default.asp?NavID=891). These agencies have the connection of how to help in the most effective way, let them do the dirty work.
2) Organize a group from your church to schedule help to clean up. Organize such efforts through groups like LCMS World Relief/Human Care because once again, they have the connections!
3) Take a door offering at your church this weekend for all affected by the aftermath. Once again, LCMS World Relief/Human Care would be the best place to be directed toward.
Christ have mercy...
Then I went to a sign describing camels, and the words said, "The Evolution of Camels." It went on to describe how camels evolved into what they are today. It brought me back to Genesis 1, where God made all the creatures on earth and said the words, "It is good." When we see the animals as God's creatures, created in an image that is interwoven with the rest of nature, we realize that it could not have happened over a long period of time. As a baptized child of faith, what a joy it is to go to things like a zoo, farm, or to walk in nature. In those settings, we see how our Father in heaven, the creator of all things is still in control!