Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clive Staples Lewis

I enjoy reading all sorts of things like fictional thrillers, historical fiction, historical fact, theology, biblical studies, and I have even read classic literature and Shakespeare.  I am not saying this to brag but to set a base.  I have read more than some but quite a bit less than most.  But it should seem that by the time I turned 30, earned a BA in Religion and an MDiv in Religion, spent 10 years in the local church setting, and now in a denomination setting that I should have read at least sections of most of the important theological and biblical studies that have shaped our understanding of scripture, church, and theology.

It turns out I am still not even close to scratching the surface.  There are thousands of great authors and historical figures that have shaped our understanding of present day theology, church life, and biblical studies. Some are obscure figures from the past that only most PhD's are aware of and then there are others that seem to show up time and again.  For the past 100 years or so people like Karl Barth, Immanuel Kant, Friederich Schleiermacher, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Hans Kung, Feminist Theology, Liberation Theology, Robert Alter, Walter Brueggemann, NT Wright, Eugene Peterson, and hundreds others have shaped how we think today.  And if they have not shaped how we think they certainly have shaped the conversations we have.

I have read many of these authors.  Some of them I have read quite a bit of.  But there is a name missing from this list.  One I have completely missed.  One that is dear to the heart of many for his ability to take complex theological issues and turn them in conversational illustrations. No not Jesus' Parables, though those are quite good.  I am talking about Clive Staples Lewis.  Better known to most as C.S. Lewis.  For more information regarding the life of Lewis see this list of websites:
http://cslewis.com/about.aspx
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis
http://www.cslewis.org/

I have somehow missed his works of theology.  I have read the Narnia adventures but I am sure many have as well.  I recently realized my short coming when a young adult group in a church in Lincoln decided to read his "Screwtape Letters."   I like that they are reading books and having conversation, but I quickly realized if I was in that room with them, I would have nothing to say or contribute because I have not read it.  So I have decided to read the so called, "C.S. Lewis Signature Classics" this summer.

  1. Mere Christianity
  2. Screwtape Letters
  3. The Problem with Pain
  4. The Great Divorce
  5. A Grief Observed
  6. Miracles
The goal is to be aware of C.S. Lewis's thoughts but also to again stretch my spiritual imagination.  I will be writing about my readings often this summer.  Feel free to join the conversation by commenting on this blog.  You can get copies of these books at just about any book store or online in paperback or in digital format.  I look forward to sharing what I discover and hope you will join me as well.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is Young Adult Ministry an Extension of Youth Group?

There are all sorts of churches available to young adults. Some are big, some are small, some are in big cities and others in rural towns.  Most do not have a specific young adult ministry and if they do they generally lump anyone under the age of 45 together and call them the young adult Sunday school class.  This is not all bad, let's be honest some of these churches and towns honestly don't have a young adult demographic.

But what about those churches that do?  There are many churches that do have young adult ministries.  Some are quit healthy examples of good ministry and good fellowship.  But one thing I have noticed about young adult groups is they look a lot like youth groups. Pictures of young energetic 20 somethings eating ice cream, going bowling, having group picnics at parks, and traveling together to go to a game or movie seem to line the walls of many young adult ministry areas.  Young adult rooms have couches and coffee/tea makers and flat screen tvs.  Some even have video game units and play board games together.  Many of these young adults still live at home...a topic for another post perhaps.  The only thing that seems to separate the young adults from the youth group are diplomas and college debt (which why so many live at home).

My simple observation leads me to simply ask, is this wrong?  Is this bad?  Is this what it means to be a young adult in faith, ice cream, movie nights, and being groomsmen in each others weddings? Is the reason we can't seem to "attract" and "keep" young adults to our churches because we treat them like 16 year olds with jobs?
Are we engaging them in deep theological conversation or are we bathing them in ice cream and movie nights and wondering why they are walking out the door?  Do we look at our young adults and see key ministry area leaders or as young people with the energy to be chaperons to youth functions?  Are we fostering an environment where people are challenged to mature not only as adults but also as ministers?

So I am throwing that out there for conversation in the comment section below.  What is your take on young adult ministry?  Useful or useless?  Why or why not?  Is it an extension of youth group like some third phase of adolescents (jr. high, sr. high, young adult) or is it a unique form of ministry?  How can we make young adult ministry better?  What are some of the pitfalls you have experienced or avoided.  Comment below and share your thoughts.

Some Web-Links to browse through this week

Single in your late twenties or early thirties...No problem.  Read how being single is good.
“Single adults cannot be seen as somehow less fully formed or realized human beings than married persons because Jesus Christ, a single man, was the perfect man"
Do you have a job or a calling? There is a difference.  I know I struggled with just having jobs before embracing my calling.
Those who are careerists focus more on the advancements and prestige of their work. Their level of job satisfaction tends to revolve around their perception of whether or not they are getting ahead at the pace they expect.
“But people with callings are different,” Barnett continues. “They see their work as a positive end in itself. They feel good about what they're doing. They give more to their work. They get more from it.”
Only 2% of Church goers ever invite someone to join them in worship. This is a staggering number.  When was the last time you invited someone to join you in church.
So if you’re a person in the pew not inviting anyone to church, it’s time to ask why not. Maybe you’re scared they’ll say no, maybe you’re embarrassed of your church, maybe you just don’t think about it. Or maybe like a lot of us in Christian circles, you just don’t have that many unchurched friends you can invite.I always tell my kids either stop complaining about a problem or fix it. 
23 Year old Michael Wear to head Obama's "Faith vote outreach."  When I was 23 I was...well not helping elect anyone to office. Certainly not being placed on a national religious stage.
Michael R. Wear, who has worked in the White House for the past three and half years, will move to Chicago to become the campaign's Faith Vote director next week, White House officials confirmed on Monday (May 14).
Trouble with Staffing Churches continues to be the norm rather than the oddity.  There are a myriad of factors but many churches are starting to rethink how and why they hire staff.
...healthy congregations are discovering that a significant part of their staff’s time must be devoted to engagement with their community, rather than simply servicing the wants and desires of the congregation’s members. Being a congregation on a mission to transform a community requires staff that ventures outside the property lines of the church daily. Healthy congregations encourage this and welcome it. 
Having trouble understanding Religions mixture with Politics over the past 30 years?  Here is a book that might help you better grasp what happened and the bag young adults are left holding.
people are reacting, not necessarily to the church, but to the culture-warring mentality that pervades the church.
New Testament Professor, Author, and Blogger Scot McKnight shares some thoughts on The book linked just above.
The single biggest mistake of the neo-evangelical coalition, and here I’m thinking of the late 70s through the 80s and into the 90s, was its decision to glue itself to the Republican Party. Led by the architects — Francis Schaeffer, James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson — neo-evangelicalism lost its single-minded evangelical focus. Instead, it was intoxicated with the potential power in winning the culture war, and nothing represented its hope more than overturning Roe v. Wade. (That never happened, as you know.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Great Week

Because sometimes going to church is just like, WTF

I had opportunity to be present with a majority of our Regional Pastors this week.  I also spent time at a Mission Festival where I got to see first hand many of the great mission work going in American Baptist life.  It was a week blessed with new relationship, deeper relationships, and unique encounters with God. 
The thing I think most mattered to me this week was the acceptance and care that I received from my fellow ministers in Christ.  It is always daunting to start a new ministry or job.  It is always a little exciting and frightening to move to a new town.  But this week was the first time I have been in the same room with many of these leaders since moving out of local church into a regional role.  If I am honest I was a little nervous at how I might be received.  I realize now I never should have been concerned and almost feel guilty for ever thinking they would be anything but gracious and accepting.  I am blessed to be part of this group of pastoral leaders and look forward to finding ways to minister along side them in new ways for many years to come.

Theology Matters:

  1. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God?  Well yes and no.
  2. Dr. Roger Olson compares Emergent Church with Jesus Movement
  3. Living beyond limbo...how to turn "somedays" into "nows"
  4. Post Denominations?
  5. Churches, young adults, and contraceptives...is there a place for this conversation?
  6. We all want our sports team to win, but we also joke about God not actually caring about the outcome of a sporting event...but does God also not care about the outcome of your business meeting?

School debt is killing churches:
Ever wonder why more young adults don't give more time and money to church...because they are giving all their time to their jobs so they can give all their money to their loan agencies.

Facebook is a money maker:
Apparently Facebook will be able to earn an average $5 off of each of its members this year through .  Let's see $5 x 901 million monthly active users = that's alot of zero's!

Craziest Beards Ever:
German Beard Championships were held on April 21st.  You have to see some of these crazy beards to believe it!

Speaking of crazy things:
Anglicans in New Zealand name a dreadlock wearing, tatooed skined, cargo short wearing, 29 year old bishop!  Seems I am not the only youngin getting hired for denominational work these days.

What Young Adults Care About...
here is a neat chart that compares a variety of current issues to see which things young adults care about most.

Politics and Faith:

  1. No Separation of Church and State say conservatives...except for healthcare, food, and other Jesusy things...
  2. Death Penalty has to go
  3. Most Religious Countries?...US is number 5
  4. What are the most harmful websites?  Religious ones.