Thursday, October 05, 2017

Small Sips Is on a Committee

God and our own reflection. You may have heard actor and evangelical figurehead Kirk Cameron call Hurricane Irma a message from God to repent (while, by the way, he was waiting for a plane to evacuate the area). Jon Pavlovitz has a response to him, and offers some thoughts on the relationship between our theology and our own personality:
Maybe we who claim faith should refrain from pretending we understand how this world works when it comes to faith and pain and suffering.
Maybe we should admit the mystery, discomfort, and the tension that spirituality yields in painful, terrifying times.
Maybe when people are being terrorized by nature or by the inhumanity around them, instead of shouting sermons at them—we should shut up and simply try to be a loving, compassionate presence.
Maybe we should stop trying to make God into something as petty, hateful, judgmental, and cruel as we are.
Pavlovitz says this all so well that I don't feel like I need to add much. If one's theological statements tend to be tone deaf to real human need, that's less "just speaking the truth in love" and more just an excuse to be a jerk in the name of Jesus.

He has a point. Carl McColman reflects on the relationship between contemplation and privilege:
Maybe this is more prevalent because I live in the south, but when I’ve spoken or led retreats in other parts of the country, it often seems that even there, the same types of folks keep showing up. Folks who, frankly, look and talk like me. 
Some of this may have to do with the demographics of Christianity in America. Contemplation seems often to be most warmly embraced either by liberal Protestants — Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and so forth — or by progressive Catholics, folks who are familiar with the writings of contemplatives like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, or Richard Rohr. And since mainstream Protestants and liberal Catholics tend to be white, educated, and affluent… well, you get the picture.
I've been thinking about this point lately, that contemplative exercises tend to appeal to a certain demographic. Or, alternatively, a certain demographic tends to have the time and resources for such practices. Like McColman, this is rooted in experience more than any kind of statistical analysis, but it seems like a study would back this up.

McColman does go on to note that historically, these practices have had much more global appeal, in part because some of them originated in places far different than WASP America. Furthermore, he explores how contemplation tends to make one aware of one's privilege by nature of its call to self-awareness and reflection.

Why "dones" become done. On his Holy Soup podcast, Thom Schultz interviews Andrea Syverson, a self-proclaimed religious "done" who wrote a book about her experience.
She writes: “Maybe the Dones need a bit of rebranding. They may not be so much about being done with church as they are about coming full circle and realizing that it’s all done. God did it all for us! We can’t do anything to change that–not by building a church, not by going to church daily, not by attending a Bible study every day, fasting for 40 days and nights, not by any other holy, holy, holy means we can think of. God already did it all for us. It’s done. He simply wants us to be in relationship with him and receive his gifts.”
The interview is worth a listen. I'm putting her book on my reading list, too.

Partnership, Not Micromanagement. Jan Edmiston shares her thoughts on what makes an effective Church Personnel Committee:
1. Agreement on Why The Church Exists and a culture of working side by side to make the Church’s Mission flourish. The Church doesn’t exist to prop up the Pastor, perpetuate an institution, or ensure that the floor is always clean and the flower arrangements are always fresh. Jesus didn’t die for any of those things.
2. Authentic relationships based on trust and the reality that Church isn’t about us. If we trust each other, we can say pretty much anything (even hard-to-hear-things) and it’s not nearly as threatening. Because we are serving something greater than ourselves and it’s about That.
There are ways for people in the church to relate to one another that are constructive and productive for both pastor and congregation, and there are ways that are...not. When all sides are able to recognize that they're in this together and that they're meant to be partners in ministry, the church has a better chance of flourishing. When staff in particular hears that they are appreciated and supported, their mindset will allow them to do better work. A quality Personnel Committee goes a long way to helping this happen.

Obviously. Pie chart:

Misc. Jon Pavlovitz also gave the Nashville Statement the "plain reading" treatment, helping show that it's a simplistic, hateful gasp from a dying institution. Jan Edmiston again on the voices in our heads. Rick Chromey on how churches created the Millennial exodus through over-programming.