Latest Entries »

Solomon, meet Paul

Apostle Paul-MonrealeKing Solomon

In my current Bible reading plan, I am reading through the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms each daily for a year (or a little more, after some missed days). Today, I happened to come to the (ostensibly very different) conclusions of two books.

Here are some quotes from the NET text in the key verses:

Gal 6:15 “the only thing that matters is new creation”

Ecc 12:13 “Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.”

The way I see it, one of two (slightly wild) things is going on here. I don’t have a final answer, but you can probably judge by the rest of the post which one I’m leaning toward. View full article »

Advertisements

Union Gospel Mission Seattle

First, listen to the song On a Corner in Memphis by Todd Agnew and let yourself take the words in a couple of times. I’m working on about time 83.

Now think back to the last time you saw a panhandler on the off-ramp, and consider how you reacted. Did you give her money? I’m guessing most of you did not. And one key reason is that you don’t want to be an enabler of drugs, alcohol, or whatever else that person’s pet sin might be, right?

Besides, somewhere along the way, someone probably said something like “You know, if you gave someone a fish, they’ll eat for a day, but if you teach them how to fish they can eat forever.” Maybe you even listened to the Arrested Development song and are willing to admit it.

In this case, both approaches might be wrong. I want to propose a third way, one that eschews condescension toward our neighbor in favor of love, real understanding, and empowerment. View full article »

#3 by Ilya Khoteev

My friend Pastor Dean Grier got me thinking about today’s gospel (Mt. 5:1-12, the beatitudes).

Nearly every Christian (and many who aren’t) is familiar enough with this passage they could make up a likely sounding version from their head with just the prompt “blessed are the…..”

I would be willing to hazard that only a very small portion of those have ever stopped to wonder, however, why Jesus, who is on a roll describing all kinds of unexpectedly blessed people (the meek, the mourning, the poor in spirit, etc.) suddenly switches pronouns for his final beatitude.

It’s easy to see in the English and even clearer in the Greek; “Blessed are those/the…” begins every one of Jesus statements in this section but the last. Here’s my thoughts on one reason why he might have done it. View full article »

I am amazed at the depth and breadth of ministry discussion that happens among Christian leaders online. A recent discussion was initiated by a friend with the status “How does your church define active membership?”* If you’re in a hurry to see what I mean, click this link to the see the entire transcript of the 64 responses on Google Docs. A little discussion of my thoughts on the opening question and some of the other conundrums follows in the rest of this post.

View full article »

Here is a fascinating article (thanks to the Duke Call & Response Blog) on how one organization is changing the way nonprofits think about money. It’s purpose is to provide capital and support to move nonprofits to sustainable growth, and the results are impressive. For example, VolunteerMatch increased the value of volunteer hours they enabled, increased their budget by over 50%, and relied around 70% less on outside funding.

Churches have the same sickness as nonprofits at times: we assume that because we do good things, people should give us money to accomplish them and keep giving us that money. The more we are willing to thoughtfully approach the idea of growing our ministries and our incomes at the same time, the more effective congregations can be at ministry and the more our money can be multiplied in God’s service.

This already happens sometimes. Lutheran World Relief has offered fair trade coffee, tea, food, and crafts for congregations to sell for a number of years. Our congregation started doing this and was able to fund coffee for our fellowship hour entirely, not a small feat for Lutherans, and Seattle area Lutherans no less. At the same time, we enabled the livelihood of people in a variety of countries that produced the crafts and food, and began to better live out our rhetoric by using fair trade ourselves.

The trick is applying this kind of philosophy on a larger scale without prostituting the Church, because the Church’s mission is not able to be so concisely defined in a way that is coexistent with making money. Instead, the church exists to proclaim and love. But, organically self-supporting ministries are, I believe, a serious growth opportunity for our reach. Redeemer in Minneapolis, Minnesota offers apartments for rent specifically to high-risk tenants that other places turn down. They have gotten burned before, but because they have high (yet realistic) expectations of their tenants, they have had a positive impact both on the stability of family situations and on the long-term personal development of their tenants without taking up an undue portion of the budget.

In the same way, Church of the Beloved in Edmonds, WA is a 3-year-old church with 40-60 average attendance but is in the process of purchasing the 200-year-old mansion where we worship. The rest of the mansion houses an intentional Christian community of young adults seeking truth, each of whom pays only $300 a month in rent. But together, that rent will basically pay our mortgage, leaving the rest of the offerings for other ministry, while still offering the powerful ministry of community to those young people.

What are your stories of financially sustainable ministry? And do you have a broader vision of how a congregation might be able to comprehensively integrate their ministry to become more self-sustaining without becoming focused on money or prosperity? Please share in the comments.

The Nonprofit Financial Model Never Worked; Here’s a New Model That Does | Fast Company.

I was a little surprised yesterday when I received a Facebook message titled “Thank You!!!” from a “shirt-string friend”, someone I knew only through her membership in a local Bible literacy initiative I had been webmaster for.

I was more than a little humbled when I opened it and read that because of a paper I posted online, her life had changed and she was now training to become a pastor.

View full article »

So I was listening to Metallica on my way home tonight. They are one of my favorite rock bands because:

  1. So much of their music was about something that mattered
  2. They’re bloody good at what they do and
  3. You can actually understand what they’re saying most of the time

This third characteristic caused me to stop (not literally, I was driving) and do a mental double take. I thought they were suddenly channeling Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Let me explain.

View full article »

I have a confession to make.

For some time, whenever I’ve really seriously prayed the Lord’s Prayer and sat down with it, it’s rubbed a little wrong.

Not because I think it’s corrupted, or difficult to understand, or male-centric, or anything else I have heard people level complaints at.

No, it’s because of this one line: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Really, the mental conversation goes, I have to forgive everyone who sins against me in order to get forgiveness myself? Even the counselor who encouraged me to destroy my marriage? Even the manager who completely disregarded how her actions affect other people?

Is that really grace? Did Jesus die for that? Because, not to say it wouldn’t still be really amazing or anything, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make that cut. And I thought God had a little more grand style than that anyway… View full article »

Random ministry insight of the day: If God blogged, we would be the entries. Period.

Not static pages (like the “About” page), not the theme: we would be the blog and the blog would be us. We are not only God’s hands and feet, but God’s very image and self in creation, and his mission through that self is to bless all of creation.

Wow! The only question is, how do you read?


View full article »

Congratulations if you have decided to read this post. Having the words church and politics in the same sentence once is enough to drive most self-respecting people far away.

However, as I reflect on Northwest Washington synod assembly 2010 (an annual gathering of local ELCA Lutheran leaders to determine shared agenda/budget/representation and share about the good work going on), two things need to be said about the two words together.

View full article »