Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Small Church: A little of this, a little of that.

As I sit here in the confines of my office, surrounded by the pastoral trappings of the church, I think about our future.

The church as we know it is a mix of GPS and stained glass.  It is a mix of history, both recent and ancient and of modern culture.  It's a mix of the pipe organ and the electric guitar.  It's a mix of the Public library and of the HD Television.  Clearly the mission of the modern church requires understanding that the mission is a mix of the old and the new.

And in the church, sometimes we find that a tension exits between the old and the new.  This happened here in our church recently when we replaced the hymnals for our worship service.  You wouldn't think people would get worked up about hymnals would you?  After all, it's just songs on paper, right?  There were some who thought the hymnals we were using, which were published in 1956, were good enough.   There were other people who felt that it was time to upgrade to a new hymnal that included some of the more modern music as well as the traditional music we have become accustomed to.  So as you can see, there are times when there is a tension between the old and the new.  The people who wanted the older hymnal were threatened by something new.  The people who wanted a newer hymnal felt like the old one was irrelevant and obsolete.

Although this is a truth every Christian must understand, it sometimes becomes a barrier to the mission of the church.  What is it that makes it so difficult for human beings to make adjustments in their lives?  Why is it so difficult for churches make adjustments?  Or do they simply not see the need?  Yet, churches today continue to use the same methods that were used thirty, even forty years ago.

I lived in England for a year and served a baptist church there.  As a Staff Person at the largest baptist church in the area I was given opportunities to preach at other churches from time to time.  There was one church that I was asked to preach at several times.  I'm sure it had been at one time a vibrant and wonderful church.  But at the time I was there, it was five or six people who worshiped twice a month in a tiny building in a tiny English village.  Five or six people...that's all that was left.  I wonder if there was ever a time when they thought "Maybe we should make some changes."  I don't know if that ever happened, but if it did, they either didn't make changes or didn't change enough.  I've always wondered how they got to that point. 

I write these things not because of some need to desire to communicate certain values or beliefs of mine, but simply as a way of processing and thinking through some of these issues of the small church.  In the coming weeks, I am going to try to write a series of entries about my observations and questions about the future of the small church.  As I contemplate the future of the small church, and especially of my small church, I am convinced that it's understanding of and willingness to embrace change lies at the very center of it's future.      

So God, bring the changes we need.  Give me a heart to embrace your changes not mine.  Make my desire to lead my people a burning fire that can't be put out.  Give them a burning desire for Jesus.  Amen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I just passed a Clown in a Volvo

So the other day we were on the way back from the North Carolina Coast from my parents house.  On the return trip we were driving west on I-40.  We approached a early model Volvo driving a little erratic.  Of course, every time I see an older Volvo I think Hippie-granola.  They always seem to be the kind of people who are always talking about "going green."  Only in this case they really were green, the ugliest color of puke green you can imagine: Yuck!  As I got closer I noticed that they had a University of Virginia sticker in the back window.  My brother in law and sister in law are graduates of the University of Virginia.  As I got closer they continued to weave back and forth.  "It figures" I thought, thinking about that rear window sticker.  Finally I accelerated to pass, making sure to look over at the driver and give him or her my "You shouldn't be allowed to drive" stare.   This is where things got interesting.  When I looked over I realized he was wearing Mime makeup.  Yeah, that's right, Mime makeup, or maybe it was clown makeup.  Who knows which it was.  All I could think to myself was "I just passed a mime in a volvo down I-40."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pastor Chris' Lent Challenge

Ok Baptists, Tar Heels  and well, everybody else.
Lent starts soon.  Now I realize that as baptists we are not supposed to know what in the heck Lent is.  Unless, that is, you grew up Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican or soon other more liturgical denomination.  I know, Baptists aren't in  to that kind of thing.  Well, for those of you baptists who are saying "What is Lent?"  Lent is the season on the church calendar that immediately preceding Easter.  This is a time for the Christian of prayer, repentance and self denial.

One of the traditional ways of observing Lent is to refrain form eating Meat during the season of Lent.  This is how I am going to observe Lent this year.  I challenge you to observe Lent with me.  Join with me by denying yourself something.  Give up Coffee, or sweets or meat or, well whatever, something that you love.  Give up something that you long for, that you experience every day.

Lent starts on with Wednesday March 9, commonly known as Ash Wednesday.  It ends on April 24 on Easter.  I encourage you to join me in observing Lent this year.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't you just love Christmas?

I was at the Mall during Christmas doing some Christmas shopping with one of my children last week. My son and I were shopping for some things for my wife and daughter.  As we waited at the counter to be helped, the lady behind the counter informed us we would have to wait for a few minutes.  My son spent his time waiting by rifling through a nearby container of "clearance items," occasionally stopping to inform me of a "good deal." 

As I stared off into the distance thinking of my happy place I became aware of someone standing beside me. I really didn't pay that much attention to him until he spoke.  As we were surrounded by the trappings of Christmas he say the words "Don't you just love Christmas."  I responded by saying "I do, I really love Christmas."

Now here is the amusing part of this story.  Almost as soon as I responded I thought to myself "Wait, was he being sarcastic?"  He was.  I guess it just goes to show how different one person's view of things might be than the next person.  People are so different.  People think that other people share their values, attitudes and perceptions.  They don't   People are radically different, and that is what makes our relationships with one another so rich, we are all different.