A Terrifying Thought

So what if all the decline our congregations and denominations have experienced in recent decades has little to do with a failure of leadership (what congregational leaders fear) or changes in theological or political stances (what more conservative church leaders assert) or a degenerate or disinterested generation of believers (what people in the pew too often feel) or with any of the other things we usually attribute it to. What if the decline is simply the result of a massive cultural shift? That is, what if we now live in a world where the emerging generation a) has tons of options for ways to think about and make sense of their lives,...

What Do We Talk About At Church?

Yesterday I posted a video about the devastating effect media messages about beauty can have on all of us, but particularly our youth. Part of the challenge, as I suggested yesterday, is that our kids are so media-saturated – far more than they are media-savvy – that it’s difficult to provide a filter. Which means that we need to counter the voices of the culture that regularly seek to make them feel inadequate with messages about their inherent worth and dignity. And this, when you think of it for even a few seconds, is something that should come naturally to us. We proclaim, after all, that we and all people are children of God,...

Still Learning from Apple

As I was tracking the Apple tech conference yesterday – yes, I’m just that much of an Apple fan/geek – and noticed I was increasingly nonplussed – we all new about the bigger iPhone and had heard for months about the coming Apple Watch – I began to wonder just how longer we’ll care about Apple’s announcements. Perhaps, I thought, Apple’s day in the sun is over and we’re becoming as jaded to their innovations – okay, so they don’t really innovate as much as they take existing platforms to a higher and more beautiful level – as we are to innovations and evolutions in other industries. But then I found myself thinking...

Thank God for Church Camps!

Church camps are, in my opinion, one of the treasures of the church, a treasure that is simultaneously highly valued and grossly undervalued. It’s valued by those thousands of persons who had their faith nurtured at camp, had their leadership skills strengthened at camp, and had their identity stretched and enriched at camp. At the same time, I don’t think outdoor ministries receive nearly the support they deserve from congregations or adjudicatories (synods, presbyteries, conferences, etc.) that they deserve. I understand, of course, that there are numerous demands on the dwindling resources of church bodies, but I’d argue that we...

What Role Does the Church Play in Our Lives?

Here’s the simple but just a little troubling question I’ve been wrestling with since participating in Luther Seminary’s recent Rethinking Faith Formation conference: Given how many other groups and movements legitimately lay claim to our allegiance today, can the Church ever expect to exert the level of influence in our lives that it once did? Let me explain: in medieval times the Church was everything and everywhere – involved in politics, in control of the banks, the arbiter of salvation (or damnation), the final authority on all matters of domestic and public life. The omnipresence of the Church has been declining for...

Whole Foods and the Art of Practiced Hospitality

We tend to do a fair amount of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. (Yes, I know the jokes about “whole paycheck,” but we’re loyal.) One of things I’ve noticed about shopping there is that whenever I can’t find something and ask for help, the employee I ask stops whatever he or she is doing to take me to the item I’m looking for. And this happens even when I say that I can find it on my own if they just tell me the isle. But they insist. Actually, they don’t insist or make a big deal of it. They just take me there. It’s clear this isn’t by accident, as this happens every single time. (And, yes, I seem to have a hard time...