How the church could talk about every hot button issue of all time

In case you have not read the last post, I would encourage you to do so not only to see where this post is coming from but also to see a bit of the irony laced within it.

When preachers preach sermons designed to fill a need, like the best ways to "invite people to church" or "have a conversation with an atheist", preachers are ultimately doing the congregation a disservice.

What these sermons are really doing is providing fish for people to eat, which will fill them up and make us feel good for a time, but when we grow hungry again we come back to the source (the preacher) for more food. You may have heard it said, "Sunday is where I get fed" or "Worship is where I am filled up." The concern is that these words are really too true.

Are we setting up sermons to be places where people come to be fed? Is the sermon nothing more than a dish that is prepared by the preacher only to be served up on Sunday morning?

Rather than preaching sermons that fill a need, preachers need to preach so that people walk away with a fishing pole and bait, not just another fish for the day. 

Take for instance the idea that preachers preach about the homosexuality issue. This is a specific issue, so specific in fact that once the church decides on what the "answer" is to the debate, the answer they come up with will not help in any other conversation.

The church may preach they are against homosexuality for a set of reasons - they understand scripture in this way or "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" sort of argument. The church then can check that issue off the board as now they have the answer to the homosexual conversation.

But then there is a new conversation - what about transgender people or people who are born one sex physically but are another sex mentally? The "answers" from the homosexual conversation are not helpful in this new issue/conversation and the church must start a new conversation. Thus the problem with application preaching.

However, if the church were to preach their understanding of, say Anthropology, then the answers that come into focus can be applicable to other questions.

If the church understood that in Christianity, all people are created in the image of God and all people matter to God and that God called all creation very good. If we focus on how Christianity and Anthropology intersect, then we not only come up with answers to the homosexual conversation but also to the transgender conversation.

Anthropology is not something that is easily "applied" into our lives through three points and a poem. When we preach to these larger ideas then we give the congregation a bit of credit for actually having the brain to think through their own answers to specific issues. When we preach to the larger ideas we are teaching people how to fish. 

Children's Sermons - reconsidered

Children's sermons/Children's time is something that plagues many a congregations (and I am not alone in this assessment - see Bishop Willimon). We want to help our children and let them know they are important in worship, but the best we can come up with is a 'moment' in worship when we tell the children some silly story, over their head object lesson, or many times use them to get a laugh.

I am sure there are people who do this moment very well - and you are few and far between.

Teaching children in worship - if only given one moment in worship - can be a tricky thing and I have been thinking about it for a while now (this post made one reader sick).

As Estee and I consider our move to a new faith community, we have batted around the idea of having only 52 pre-set children's sermons that repeat each year. Each lesson would focus on a spiritual discipline with the purpose of helping the kids learn practices that form them in the faith.

For instance, we might have the first Sunday in January we would talk about breath prayer. The second Sunday in January would focus on icons, while the third Sunday in January would look at lighting candles, and the fourth Sunday would look at alms giving and so on and so on. The lessons would repeat again come the next January and once again the kids would hear about breath prayer, icons, candles and alms giving.

In just a few moments sent on this we have about 30 ideas.

We would look to rename it from Children's time/sermon to something else, but we don't know what yet.

What do you think?

The Idea Store

My friend Kyle and I have been thinking of ways to generate and encourage people to share ideas around the conference and between churches. When we ran across the "Idea Store" by Double A Projects, we decided to contact them to see if we could create our own version. They were nice enough to say yes and at the Annual Conference in June, in Waco, the first ever CTCUMC Idea Store will launch.

More pics will come, but in the meantime, here is a little animation to get you thinking of how it "works".

Ministry re-tweeting

There seems to be a couple to types of people I encounter on the internet - tweeters and re-tweeters.

Creators of content (tweeters) and replicators of content (re-tweeters).

Both serve a function and have a place.  I will be honest however, I do not care to much about reading the re-tweeters re-tweets.

Re-tweeting picture :)
Re-tweeting is rather safe to do and involves little engagement with the re-tweet.  Most of the time when I re-tweet I just post what I am re-tweeting without any context as to why I am doing so.  "Hey! Here is a quote I found. Re-tweeted by a person."

Re-tweeting is not a bad thing at all.  It however is not the same as tweeting.

When you tweet you create something new and put yourself out there.  You have to give some context as to what you are doing or why you are tweeting it.  You have to share something about yourself and be expose to criticism.  When we only re-tweet we have the ability to hide behind it and no one is sure if we agree, disagree with the re-tweet.  No one knows if a re-tweeted comment is meant to be a joke or serious.

Many of us clergy in my beloved denomination might be described as ministry re-tweeters.  We say we want to do different ministry or creative or innovate ministry, but this is a code for something else.  Most of the time clergy want an different/creative/innovative ministry that someone else has somewhere else but no one is doing it here.  For instance, I ministry re-tweeted the Fort Worth Dish Out.

A ministry re-tweet is not bad, it just is much safer and puts the clergy at a safe distance from the failure or success of the ministry.

tweeting pictures :)
What the UMC is perhaps missing are clergy and laity who are ministry tweeters.  The ones who are creating content/ministry.  The ones being vulnerable, exposed and opening themselves up to failure and even, dare it be stated, shame.  I am currently working on a couple of ministry tweets: Jubilee Bank (a micro-finance for the working poor in Fort Worth Texas using the connectionalism of the UMC) and Five Thousand Words (which first incomplete draft can be found here).

Others can account to the amount of ministry tweeting and re-tweeting I participate in, but the UMC might be a fruitful place if we were to find a balance between ministry tweeting and  re-tweeting.