Thursday, August 22, 2013

Small Sips Lacks a Good Bolded Lead-In

Gearing up for change. See what I did there? No? Whatever. I've been ranting a lot lately about "church daydreamers," those who theorize and deconstruct without offering real road-tested replacement solutions. Well, Jan is one of the few "daydreamers" I still like to listen to, though she's better about the solution thing than others:
Engineers are trained and gifted in re-working systems as opposed to technicians who address specific problems. Radiological techs take and read x-rays. AC technicians fix the air conditioning. There are highly skilled technicians and low-skilled technicians but both have more expertise than the average person who tries to install her own ceiling fan.  
The church needs more ecclesiological engineers. Wise and hopeful congregations will seek leaders who come in with a solid foundation of the basics – theology, pastoral care, preaching – but who are also creative enough to know how to tweak the way things are done in order to fulfill the greater mission of God’s people.  
The greater mission does not involve details like organizing Vacation Bible school or ordering biodegradable coffee cups, although those things are important and they point to the greater mission. But many pastors find themselves doing those tasks – tasks the members should be doing.
Essentially, Jan's point is that systemic change is what most churches need, much more than aesthetic changes, and pastors need to "engineer" those changes.

It's been my experience, however, that sometimes aesthetic tweaks can help engineer systemic ones. Tweak something in worship, or enough things, and people begin to view the whole enterprise differently. Tweak enough mission activities and people begin viewing how the church should do it in a new way. And so on. You still need to have the conversations about why these changes are happening, but people being able to see the why goes a long way.

True riches while being broke. Or something. Brant pushes back against the "children are too expensive" mentality that our culture seems to be adopting:
Bruce [Brander] wrote a terrific book, called Staring Into Chaos, and it's about how civilizations, you know, go down the tubes. And Brander notes a commonality: Declining civilizations look at children through a cost/benefit lens. They see them as a drag on our personal autonomy, or another personal accoutrement, to enhance our status. It's plus and minus, and minus and plus, and maybe it's worth having one, if it doesn't make me cancel my Bahamas trip. 
(Is it incumbent on everyone to have children? Of course not! But you might want to root on those who do, and create a culture and policies that support marriage and families, even big ones. Other people's kids are wonderful, joyful things, too. For one thing, you need them to retire.)  
Of course, this whole "kids are too expensive" thing has a funny familiarity to it, and by "funny", of course, I mean, "tragically unfunny". It's precisely where we are. And precisely why western civilization, demographically speaking, is most definitely, irreversibly, going out of business. The numbers don't lie. As a culture, we simply love ourselves too much to burden ourselves with little versions of ourselves.
Honestly, I think it took me a while to fully realize and accept the changes that Coffeeson brought into my life. This was after he was born. Also, they were changes that I needed to make, and included changes in my attitude about the whole thing to begin with (systemic change!).

News flash: your life changes when you have a kid. This freaks pretty much everybody out. Some respond by clinging to studies like the above. Others muddle through until a best way to go about the new routine and lifestyle emerges. Regardless, being a parent has been one of the most rewarding things I could do. Yeah, there's less disposable income and I have to be creative with whatever free time I end up with, but I'm enjoying the crap out of it now that I've accepted the cost part.

I'm not very good at these bolded lead-ins today, so I'm just going to give up. Rachel Held Evans gives an important reminder related to the delicate art of online interaction:
Over time, as your life gets distilled into these little pixels, it’s easy for the people who see them—be they friends, acquaintances, or perfect strangers—to assume they represent you in your totality. Even more frightening, as you gather feedback and gain friends/followers/subscribers, you can start to believe it too. 
But we are not our messages, no matter how much we believe in them. We are not our filtered photos, or our tweets, or our political and religious ideologies. We are not even the stories we tell, no matter how carefully and truthfully we tell them. 
We are not our brands.  
We are human beings—little bundles of cells and relationships and hopes and fears that can never be crammed into images or words. 
There are certain online personalities who irk me. I see that they have a new blog post with their usual catchy or inflammatory title and I roll my eyes. Then I can't help myself and click on the link, mostly so then I can get mad or annoyed at what they write. Then I pass judgment not only on their viewpoint but on them personally, and I feel awesome about myself for doing so.

It's nice to have the sort of reminder that I'd probably enjoy a cup of coffee with this person in real life; that he's really an okay guy apart from his online brand.

Or we still might not get along. But then I'd know it's us not getting along in real life rather than me not getting along with his internet persona.

Hamsters neckties wombats applesauce. Here's a blog post from a former pastor-turned-woodworker who names all too well some of the struggles that those in ministry deal with. My favorite today:
9. Ministry is a hard job. Sometimes it’s said as a joke, sometimes it’s said in anger, that ministers don’t work very hard. That it’s a cushy gig. If that were true I doubt I’d know so many ministers who have quit swearing never to return, including myself. The best way I can think to explain why ministry is hard is to compare it to being the parent of a young child. From the outside it might not look like a lot of ‘work,’ but from the inside it’s the most exhausting thing you’ll ever do. Because it’s not just about the amount of things you do, it’s the total emotional drain of it. It’s worrying all day every day about the people and programs you’re in charge of, being on call and not ever feeling really free to be away, feeling like you live in a fishbowl with hundreds of eyes watching you all the time and never really knowing what they are all thinking of you (unless they complain, which some of them do with regularity). It’s caring for people to the point that you have nothing left for your own family when you get home, yet expecting that they show a certain spiritually-put-together face to the church (because the church expects that). It’s often feeling empty, yet pretending to feel full. It’s presenting yourself and your work to hundreds of people, several times a week, for evaluation, and often getting no feedback except ‘constructive’ criticism. And after all of this, after years of this, it’s looking out at the people in your church and seeing little or no change. Ministry is very hard, albeit perhaps in a different way than your job is hard.
Another former pastor once said that ministry is more aptly measured in scars than outward numbers. That has always stuck with me, because it's true. Think about being responsible for 50-150 people's lives, being on call for them in their toughest moments, inevitably needing to enter into that pain at least for a time. Imagine occasionally being sucked into damaging pathologies that you think you can help work out but that go way deeper than your ability. Imagine always wondering whether the phone is about to ring or who might stop into the office on any given day.

I love what I do, but it's also exhausting sometimes. I'm very thankful for this blog post.

Misc. Jan on bi-vocational ministry. Jamie on the first day of school. Nadia Bolz-Weber has a book coming out this fall, and I already have my copy pre-ordered. She's doing a small tour in conjunction with the release, but perish the thought of coming to Ohio. You should just read everything that Gordon Atkinson writes.