What’s the good word? This Sunday I started a new series at Messiah based on Max Lucado’s book Grace. It’s the most important series I have ever done. It was the perfect Sunday to start this series, with it being Easter. Here it is:
And That’s the good word for Today.
What’s the good word? We are reading a book as a staff and right there, on page 8, the words stuck out at me: “As a scholar of American Religion, I believe that the decline and even the end of the Protestant establishment is an inevitable outcome of our religious history. The Protestant mainline is no longer mainline; establishment Protestantism simply doesn’t attract a large audience anymore.” What? Wait. Let me go back and read that. Yes, you can too. Let it sink in. That’s where my church is at. My congregation that I serve is a part of mainline Protestantism. We are coming to an end? Well, if you go to any synod assembly, if you read anything that comes out of the ELCA you will constantly hear about our decline. Been hearing it for years. So, could it be that we are nearing the end of that timeline?
As I look at my congregation, we don’t seem to be falling in line with his thoughts. In the three years that I have been here I have seen our worship attendance grow by 6%, 6%, and 13% respectively. But that’s here. What about the rest? As Paul Harvey would say, “What’s the rest of the story?” From the folks that are coming into our congregation, it’s an even split- some are from other Lutheran congregations, some are from other denominations, and some have been away from the church for a long time and are returning home. Here’s what I’m finding out: Those that weren’t Lutheran aren’t joining because we have “Lutheran” in our name. They are joining because of the community they find. It’s not until they are joining that they are asking the question, “What does it mean to be Lutheran?” For some, just learning to be Christian is a hard enough first step. But I think that is where we are heading. I don’t think there will be “an end” to the mainline Protestant establishment, but I do believe we are in for a seismic shift and change. It won’t matter if you have Lutheran, Methodist, or Presbyterian in your name. What will matter is what they will find when they come to your congregation, what your congregation is about, and if the message of God will touch their hearts. Will they be judged, or will they be accepted? Will they be welcomed, or will they be left to wander the labyrinth of a new congregation on their own? You see, I don’t think it matters if you have Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian in your church name or not. You can still be those denominations without them in your name. Because your theology, how you look at the world and scripture will still come through in your messages and in your studies. And I don’t think you will attract more people if you did take those denominational names out of your church names. However, I might argue, you might attract different folks from a variety of different backgrounds. A Majority of new members into denominational churches are strictly through church transfers. 80%. That’s not a whole lot of new folks. Just moving the chairs on the deck.
What about you? Are you a part of a mainline Protestant church? If so, what are your thoughts about that statement? What is OUR response? If you aren’t a part of a mainline Protestant denomination, do you see that as true?
And that’s the good word for today.
What’s the good word. This Sunday I begin a series at my church entitled, “The Least of These”. Following that, we will launch a series on Easter entitled “Grace,” based on the book by Max Lucado. Let me start this post with a statement that is sure to be an underlying theme of the 40 days of Lent and then heading into the Grace series: grace isn’t fair. We like to think about grace as this good and wonderful thing, and it is, but it also isn’t fair. Here’s what I mean:
When I was growing up there was this chair at my grandma’s farmhouse that I loved to sit in when we went up to the farmhouse during my summer break. It was an old recliner. Every morning my grandmother and I would go up to the farmhouse for a portion of the day and I loved sitting in that chair. Grandma didn’t like it so much that I sat in it, because technically it was her chair. I think about that chair often. I have a new chair in my movie room and while it gives me the satisfaction for a while of that chair at the farmhouse, there’s nothing like the feeling of those moments in that chair. It made me appreciate what I had.
In the book of Deuteronomy there comes a point when Moses is telling the Israelites that if they forget a sheaf they should leave it and not go back for it. They should leave it for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. He goes onto say that after the olives have fallen they shouldn’t go back and beat the branches a second time because they should leave it for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. He doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say that once they have picked the grapes in the vineyard they shouldn’t go back for the ones that they missed, but leave them for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. Why? Why is that fair? How is that fair because I am the one who has done all the work and it’s my vineyard!
Perhaps Moses was letting them know that it wouldn’t always be this way. They wouldn’t always be in the position of want and need. That once they got to the promised land they would have vineyards, and olive farms, and have plenty of sheaves left in the fields. Perhaps they were not to forget those times. Because what happens is that we loose a sense of gratitude for what we have been given. Perhaps that’s why so many folks give up something for lent. When Jesus speaks all those times about serving and giving during his ministry, he’s not saying those things to give us a long list of things to do, but perhaps he is telling us to serve and give so we are reminded of what we have had all along. Rob Bell once said, “Your overflow is someone else’s necessity.” When we leave that corner of our sheaf we help someone else’s suffering and perhaps we too find ourselves being saved- saved from indifference, from the inertia of inaction, from taking what we have for granted.
Jesus said, “Whenever you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”
And that’s the good word for today!
What’s the good word? The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. It was certainly humble to read. 2012 had more visitors than ever since I started this blog. There are times I wish I had time to write more and I hope in 2013 that can happen. In the meantime, thank you for reading and for sharing. Happy New Year! And that’s the good word for today.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.
What’s the good word? I recently preached about that I believe there is a difference in preparing for Christmas and preparing for Christ. At times the enthusiasm, commercialism, and flashy lights can tend to eclipse the preparation necessary to prepare for the coming of Christ. And, as I say in the message, preparing for Christ isn’t as flashy as preparing for Christmas. How can we live in the tension of both? Here’s my message from Sunday:
And that’s the good word for today!
What’s the good word? Well here we are in Advent. This is the first week of our season that helps all people prepare for Xmas. What? What’s wrong? Yes, I put Xmas. I was reminded this past week that it is actually theologically correct to do that. Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. The letters of the word “Christ” in greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, because symbols of Christ and Christianity. For example, the first two letters of the word Christ, or “Christos” in Greek are the letters Chi and Rho. You’ve probably seen this symbol around your church (Chi is the X and Rho is the one that looks like an English P):
So you see, Christians have really been putting the X in Xmas since A.D. 33 (thank you Old Lutheran!)
Now back to Advent. It’s a season of preparation and anticipation. All of us participate in preparing for Christmas in our own ways. I am preaching a series at my congregation called, Anticipate, and my hope is that it will help people prepare spiritually for Christmas.
Here’s the latest message for this week number one. And that’s the good word for today.
What’s the good word? This past Sunday was All Saint’s Sunday. I delivered one of the most important messages I have preached. Here’s are some quotes and highlights from my message this past week. It’s based on 2 Timothy 4:6-8. It’s about passing on the faith:
Everyone is called to be Paul (a mentor) to someone (Timothy), but we never stop being a Timothy ourself.
Faith is caught more than it is taught.
Think about a sprint relay team. Doesn’t matter how fast the runners are, a sprint relay is about the exchange.
God has handed us the baton of faith and it is up to us not to drop it in the exchange zone.
Christine Cain once said: If you do not know how to honor others who have come fore you, you will forget that there are those who will come after you.
This is our race and today on All Saint’s Day we are reminded of those who passed the baton of faith onto us. Let us honor them by taking the baton of faith and not drop it in the exchange zone.
All Saint’s Sunday reminds us that we are to run the race of faith, to take that good news that we have been handed, to run our race, finish the race, and keep the faith
To hear the whole message, click here. And that’s the good word for today.