Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vacation time

I'll be on vacation with the family until April 4. So probably no new posts until after then. Have a good couple of weeks.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gentle Wake-Up Call...

Sometimes I become very task oriented. So much so, that I lose site of the relational nature of life. I fear I miss opportunities to love others, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The other day I came across a story of a very out-of-the-ordinary cab ride. (HT: Zeray Gazette) I kind of felt like weeping at its simple beauty and out of shame for how I neglect to be present to opportunities to love others in my own life.

I am thankful for such a gentle and beautiful reminder to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others. I am also thankful that such stories remind and encourage us.

Do you have an "out-of-the-ordinary cab ride" story you wish to share?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gen Me & Church Structures

Last week I posted on the book Generation Me, by Jean Twenge. I wanted to spend some time reflecting on how the generational shifts she describes affects the church. In a previous post I mused on Gen Me and evangelism.

Today, I would like to consider how such a generational shift affects the polity or structures of the church.

First, there seems to be more vocal dis-satisfaction with processes within the institution. At the same time there are positive movements of young clergy to work for change. Certainly there have always been gadflys in the UMC, but Gen Me has a proclivity to be more outspoken. Their parents had more of a "take one for the team" mentality. Thus, when this generation comes across structures or processes that don't make sense to them, they speak out. For instance, the young clergy in my conference are organizing a meeting with the bishop to discuss young clergy issues.

Secondly, Gen Me's difficulty receiving criticism affects structures and polity. Take the ordination process for instance. Not everybody passes on the first try. At times during this process there is a need for negative feedback. This becomes a big challenge to Gen Me's. Gen Me bristles at the thought that their work may not be good enough. There is currently a lot of noise about the process and how it needs to be changed. The challenge is filtering out the "criticism-sensitivity" noise and addressing the weaknesses and injustices that exist in the system.

A third way Gen Me affects systems and polity is the way they collaborate in a different way. A characteristic of Gen Me is emphasis or primacy of the individual. However, Gen Me still finds ways to bring their individual voices together in collaboration using technology. (Web 2.0 and Social Networking) I have seen this in and outside the church. First, is the coming together of young clergy across the nation to join together to address some of the issues they see in the church, sharing ideas and resources over Twitter, Facebook, liveblogs, and weblogs.

In the larger culture the open-source movement and the beta culture are relatively new ways of collaborating on projects. In the beta and open-source culture the software is usually encountered as an individual and then comments/fixes/or changes are made as an individual to repository or the software's original maker. So, many people collaborate, but the role of the individual is still primary.

How do you think generational shifts are changing church structures, polity, and culture as a whole?

Monday, March 23, 2009

How do you get your news?

Listening to the news on the radio this morning, I realized I can't remember the last time I picked up a physical newspaper and read it. Scanning headlines on news media websites, or listening to a news radio station is typically how I know what is going in the world.

However, I rarely read the entire article when I do follow the link. Or if I am listening to news on the radio or web, I am usually doing something else while doing so. Why is this occupying space in my brain?

Because of a statement attributed to Karl Barth. He is reported to have said the Christians must "read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other."

I wonder if somehow my ability to engage the congregation and the culture through my preaching is somehow diminished because of my peripheral contact with news. (Not to mention my ability to engage culture as an informed citizen who is a follower of Jesus.)

How about you, how do you keep tabs on what is going on in the world? How do you engage current events as a follower of Jesus?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gen Me & Evangelism

Yesterday I posted about Jean Twenge's fantastic book, Generation Me. I wondered how this cultural shift affects the evangelism, church structures, and ways of being the church in the world. Today I reflect on Gen Me & evangelism.

So how does a shift in the attitudes and traits of Gen Me, people born in the 1970s, 80s and 90s affect the way we share the Good News of Jesus, or evangelism?

What if evangelism wasn't merely about "saving that soul" or making sure "I" had eternal salvation? What if evangelism is connecting people to: the movement of God in creation, most concretely seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; a movement that is transforming creation into the New Creation; a movement where, once one is connected to it, "eternal life" and "transformation" are the fruit that is born out of the connection, or relationship, with God through Jesus.

And it would seem that we can't be in a transformative relationship to God without being in relationship to those around us. (the first and second greatest command, the sheep and the goats, etc.)

So maybe evangelism with Gen Me is about connection. Helping connect individual stories with God's Story. I once heard someone say that the goal is not to see how God fits into our story (a very individualized thought, eh?) but how our story connects with God's Story, the Eternal Story. (My apologies to the originator of that idea, I just can't remember who said it or wrote it - any help?)

The next connection, I think, would be to connect people with a community of faith where the community seeks to live out God's Story in creation - justice, righteousness, holiness. I think when people see others honestly trying to live this out in real, get-your-hands-dirty, authentic way they can't help but crave such authenticity.

So I guess the rabbit trail of my reflection on evangelism and Gen Me leads to this: sharing the good news (or evangelism) with the generation born in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s is about making connections: connecting our/their story with God's Story and connecting with a others who are seeking to live out God's story. The fruit of such connection is life-giving transformation, justice, righteousness, and holiness.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Clarification on Gen Me...

Okay, I need to clarify something. In discussing this book and my observations with Jill (my wife) she asked me an interesting question - is there anything good about Generation Me? D'oh! I didn't communicate as clearly as intended!

Twenge's book takes a fair look at the good and the bad of Generation Me. I believe her purpose is not to criticize Gen Me, but to point out characteristics of this new generation of young adults. (Now that is not to say there aren't things we need to hold our generation accountable for - i.e. when healthy self-esteem spills over into narcissism.)

So when I attempt to summarize her arguments (which by no means does her book the justice it deserves) if I paint her book or observations in the book as mostly critical the fault is mine.

So in case my previous post suggested that there is no good in Gen Me, let me make amends by pointing out several positive attributes of Gen Me:
1. Gen Me is more open social differences.
2. Gen Me is more willing to speak up when they see something that doesn't seem right.
3. Gen Me, while skeptical, also tends to be more optimistic about the future.

Okay, so now that's been said. Tomorrow I will begin reflecting on the how the generational shift from the boomers to Gen Me may affect:
church polity/structure
forms of ministry

So stop by tomorrow and add your two cents in the comments!

How does Generation Me Affect the Church?

We are in the midst of cultural shifts. A quick glance at headlines and book titles at Borders illustrates this. However, I wasn't fully aware of the generational shift happening parallel to (and in response to) the cultural shifts. That is until I picked up Jean Twenge's book, Generation Me.

Wow! What an eye-opener. As one who is at the older end of the Gen Me span, I found Twenge's book fascinating, witty, and straight forward.

For instance:
- 18-35 year olds have higher self-esteem than previous generations thus more they tend to be more focused on the self/individual and seeking personal happiness than previous generations

- Gen Me's were taught "you can do or be anything you want if you put your mind to it" as we were growing up. So we enter our places of work with high expectations for how quickly we will advance (i.e. expecting to be a corporate executive making six figures after 5 years with the organization.)

- Gen Me's struggle with anxiety and depression significantly more than generations before them (mostly as a result of realizing that no you can't be or do anything you want to...there are realistic limits).

(For a full discussion of Twenge's book, jump over to Scot McKnight's series at Jesus Creed, where I first heard about the book. He works through the book in 15 posts that do a great job of summarizing and reflecting on the book.)

While reading this book I couldn't help but wonder about the impact of such generational shifts on the church and Christianity, more specifically in my context in the United Methodist Church.

- How does this generational shift affect evangelism?

- How does such a shift affect structures and processes in the organization of the church (i.e. ordination)?

- How does such a generational shift affect the culture of the church and how the church operates going forward?

In the coming days I will reflect on each of these questions in a separate post. What are your observations?

Please join the discussion in the comments.

Monday, March 16, 2009

One of the greatest sounds...evah...


I just finished reading David Denby's book Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation. Denby lays out the history of snark and how it has (d)evolved over time. He suggests that a lot of our current rhetoric falls into this category.

What is "snark" you may ask? "Snark" is a type of snide, or rude, remark. (Denby never really defines the term, but gives many illustrations of "snark" in his book.)

The problem with "snarky" rhetoric is that it does nothing to further conversation or discussion over an issue, situation, or person. Rather it casts judgment in such a way that there really can be no conversation, or if there is it sounds like petulant children arguing on the playground.

I heard (and continue to hear) a lot of this language with the presidential campaign, as both sides attempted to tear down the other side's candidate. Not helpful, and ultimately very frustrating.

Now the questions I have: where do we see "snark" in the church? How have you responded to "snarky" rhetoric? What was the result?