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. 

If everyone has access to expert, then what is the function of clergy?

I had a conversation with my friend Kyle and we were talking about how he did not need a plumber to fix a leak in him home because he watched a YouTube video on how to repair it. What would have cost him hundreds of dollars just a few years ago, cost him much less because he did not have to pay for the knowledge the expert plumber has.

The access many people have these days to 'expert' knowledge has called into question the need for a number of jobs. Why do I need a travel agent if I have Travelocity? Why do I need to hire a professional camera person when my friend has a nice camera and would enjoy taking my family pictures? Why do I need a minister, who used to be the local theologian, if I have access to the same resources?

For a while the minister was the local 'expert' on morality and theology and ethics. People would seek out a minister for a number of spiritual, moral and ethical problems/concerns. The minister was the one with the 'expert' knowledge and the seminary education which qualified the minister to be the local theologian.

While some people still come to a minister for questions and counselling or theological questions, it is more and more the case that people are self-diagnosing and using the internet to come to their own opinions and understandings on the questions they have.

So if everyone has access to "expert" knowledge, then what is the future of the "expert" theologian minister?

Perhaps one of the roles of the minister is to no longer be the expert but the one who is given trust and time to pilferer through all the "expert" knowledge that is out there and discern what is of value? Perhaps the minister is a job that morphs from "expert" to "filter". Perhaps the minister is a job in which one is asked to take the time to help filter out the noise that is all around us and invites us to hear what is Good.

I am sure there are still places in which the minister is the local expert and there are ministers who see themselves as the expert on a good number of things. As I see it, spending time being an expert is a fine thing, until everyone knows what you know.

Christians are not experts in salvation or faith or religion or spirituality. We are called to be filters who observe and listen to the world and discern what is Good. What would a spirituality look like if it was not pursuing expert knowledge but becoming a noise filter?

Jobs within the job

A few of the full-time jobs within the call of a senior minister in the UMC (alphabetically): 
  • Administrator
  • Chaplin 
  • Councilor
  • Consultant
  • Custodian
  • Emergency responder 
  • Event planner
  • Funeral director
  • Fundraiser
  • Hospitality coordinator
  • Middle manager
  • Marketer
  • Preacher
  • Publicist 
  • Social worker
  • Sociologist
  • Spiritual guru
  • Teacher
  • Wedding coordinator

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.