Archive for the 'The Future of Church' Category

Why I consider myself an inclusive Christian

When I first interviewed with the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, and every year since, I’ve discussed the controversial topic of same-sex partners in the church.  The first time it was a question directed to me, and I didn’t have a solid answer, other than to confess that I was firmly planted on the proverbial fence as it related to the issue.  I felt like I could see valid points to the arguments in either direction, but could not make an opinion that I could call my own.  I was unsure and fearful of taking my own stand on the wrong side of the debate.

Every year since, I’ve volunteered to speak on where my soul-searching and Scripture-searching has led me on the topic with the Committee.  I feel as a Christian, and especially as a candidate in ministry, I have a responsibility to research, discuss, question, and pray on sticky topics until I have some place to put a stake in the ground and say “this is what I believe.”  … even if I have to put a footnote that indicates that this is subject to change without prior written notification.

A few months ago I felt I finally reached the point where I am ready to put a stake in the ground as it relates to who should be “in” the church.  I recall the exact moment the thought came to me, almost as an epiphany:

When I stand before the throne of judgement to give an account of my life, I would rather answer the question of “why did you let these people in?” than answer the question “why did you keep these people out?”

For me, after that thought entered my head, things looked a lot clearer on the issue that previously felt like nothing more than a gray fog.

If you have an issue you can’t decide right from wrong, please don’t give up.  Keep wrestling with it until you can take a stand on it.  Once you’ve taken a stand, keep listening and wrestling.  We must remain humble in our judgments because we are mortal and finite beings, trying to understand the will and direction of an immortal and infinite God.

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Music: Incarnation

Perhaps stating the obvious, music plays a great role in the experience of worship.  There are many reasons it is important, and many ways it influences us.  Some of those I will explore in future posts.  In this post, I’m looking at the way that music serves as an invitation for the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives.

I sing in a small choir in our church.  Sometimes we sing something that I’ve never heard before, but more often we sing songs that I’m at least somewhat familiar with.  Some of them I know peripherally, having heard sung as a hymn a few times, or perhaps I heard it on the radio.  Some I know a little more, perhaps having heard them many times on the radio, maybe I even own the CD, or regularly sung along in the car (perhaps to the giggling of the driver in front of me watching in their rear view mirror).  Something different happens when I sing the same song as part of a choir.  I often learn a part other than the melody.  I pay attention to enunciation, pitch, and listening to the volume of those singing around me.  In a nut-shell: I become much more aware of the dynamics of the song, and the meaning that gets conveyed when we, as a choir, sing it in a certain manner.

Usually after our choir performs a song in a worship service, the song is still stuck in my head and my heart for a long time.  I find myself meditating on the lyrics.  I start to think about the meaning of the lyrics, connecting it to scripture, and listening intently for what God speaks to me through the song.

I enjoy attending live musical performances.  There is something unique when a song is sung by the person who wrote it.  Knowing precisely what they meant when they penned a certain lyric, or wrote a melody in a certain way, they are able to put a certain emotion in to it that is rarely duplicated when it is covered by another musician.  There are exceptions, to be sure, but I usually feel a much deeper connection when the author of the music performs it.

Some time ago, Josh Wilson asked his fans to send in video clips of themselves singing along, dancing, or playing an instrument to one of his songs.  He collected these clips and carefully edited them into a new rendition of his song.  Take a look:

Once I got past the fact that this song is powerful in its own right, there was something else that drew me to this rendition of it: the communal nature it inspired by having a collaboration with so many musicians and fans.

I suspect that each one of the people who contributed and saw their own face on the final work felt an amazing connection with the lyrics, more than they did by simply listening to the song alone.  The love of God must shine a little brighter through these individuals than it did before.

Both of my sons, after watching this video, wanted to make a contribution as well.  Even though we were not a part of the video, we still felt in communion with the song and its message, just by knowing that “regular people” were involved in the creation of the final work.  The power of the internet is making new types of collaboration possible that could not have been dreamed of even a few years ago.  We can expect to see this type of connectivity and distance-independent communion grow.  Speaking of communion …

Music can lead to communion.  When we participate in the art of music, we join together to create something greater than any one of us could create alone.  Moreover, where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, He will be with us also.

Music can lead to incarnation.  When we internalize the message of God, found in music inspired for worship, the presence of the living, resurrected Christ comes to live within and through us.  This is where the true power of the experience inspired by worship music comes to fruition.  Once God is in our heart, we are not the same.  We cannot be the same.

Thank God for the power of the musical arts to bring the great incarnation to life in us.

Ubiquitous Church

Seth Godin posted an interesting thought in the Domino Project Blog this week on the topic of Ubiquity that is worth reading.  The gist is that in our current technological revolution/evolution, we are moving toward paying for things as a subscription.  In other words, you don’t buy a movie, you buy a subscription to receive access to a collection of movies.

Basically: we want it all.  … and with the Internet giving us the ability to have access to everything, all the time, we expect it all … right now.

I can’t help but wonder how this will impact the Church as an institution.  How do you:

  • worship on-demand?
  • care for a congregation in real-time?
  • create a sense of communion without being face-to-face?
  • create spiritual growth opportunities that come alive with a mouse-click?  … on a cell phone?
  • dare I consider sacraments?

I don’t consider any of these unreasonable, but they are paradigm disruptors to be sure.  It is an exciting time to see how faith and technology intersect.  It is also a challenging time to see how that intersection challenges our faith and our traditions.


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