Hard Times for the Mainline

Wither the Mainline church? It’s a question those of us who are part of a mainline/progressive denomination have been wondering for years.  Or, it is a question we continually hear about.  Our numbers continue to shrink, as does our monetary reserves. Everyone has their reasons as to why mainline churches seem to be in sort of the death spiral.  I want to use this blog post to share some of those responses and what they offer to our churches. The most common response to shrinking numbers in our churches is one of mild annoyance.  Fellow Disciples Pastor Derek Penwell, shares … Continue reading Hard Times for the Mainline

Diversity in Name Only

A friend on Facebook linked to an article in First Things by Mark Regnerus.  Regnerus is an interesting fellow.  He is a sociologist at the University of Texas and  has been at the center of some controversy in recent years over a study he released on gay parenting that did not put same sex families in a positive light.  Knowing that, I was a little hesitant to share this article because so many will dismiss this article at first read because of who wrote it. I disagree with Regnerus, but his article on diversity in mainline churches did hit at … Continue reading Diversity in Name Only

God Is A Concept.

When I was in journalism class in high school, I remember seeing a poster in the teacher’s classroom that caught my attention.  It was one of those posters that shows something like a big sky or the stars at night.  At the bottom of the poster were these words: “God Is A Concept.” I really didn’t know what it meant.  I originally thought it was nice to talk about  God.  I remember talking to the teacher about it and while I can’t remember the words she said, the point was made that we didn’t have the same view of God.  … Continue reading God Is A Concept.

Sermon: Swimming in the Deep End

I Kings 19:1-18 and Matthew 14:22-33
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 10, 2014
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

Listen to the Podcast.

YMCA
A postcard of the YMCA in Flint, MI. I took swimming lessons here in the 1970s.

I’ve shared some stories in the past of my taking swimming lessons when I was growing up.  I would take lessons sometimes at the local YMCA and at the YWCA which was just down the street.  Most of the time we took lessons, we practiced in the shallow end.  Being seven or eight meant that the shallow end was already a challenge.  But at least I could touch the bottom of the pool.

What scared me was trying to swim in the deep end.  I can remember treading water out towards the middle of the pool feeling the pool’s floor slipping away from me.  At some point, I couldn’t touch anything other than the water that was surrounding me.  It felt like I was like an acrobat; working without a net.

Then there would come that day when we would work at the deep end, learning how to dive into a pool.  I would make my dive, scared that I wouldn’t be able to get to poolside fast.

But I was able to do my dives on the deep end. Albeit with me probably bawling up a storm.

As much as I hated swimming in the deep end, I had to learn this skill.  I had to learn this because the reality is that we will spend a good majority of our time in waters that can be very deep.  We have to stop clinging to the pool floor and step out in faith.  You have to believe that the skills you have learned will keep you afloat will be enough. Continue reading “Sermon: Swimming in the Deep End”

Yet Another Post on Church Planting

It’s been a bittersweet time for me. On the one hand, I am excited of being pastor at First Christian.  There are a lot of challenges; the church is down a faithful few and we are starting to find ways to grow numerically and spiritually as well.  Most churches that are down to a handful would just close and that was suggested to the folks at First.  But they decided to stick together and keep on keeping on.  I am amazed at their faith and feel honored to journey with them as First-St. Paul becomes something new and yet the … Continue reading Yet Another Post on Church Planting

Why is the Mainline Losing Young Adults?

On Saturday, Methodist pastor Alan Bevere wondered why mainline churches are losing their young adults.  This was my response. This is probably going to be a future blog post, but I will offer a few observations. First, mainline churches have done a poor job when it comes to campus ministry with one exception: the Lutherans. When I was working for the local Presbytery, there was one church that was heavily involved in campus ministry at the University of Minnesota, but it was on the conservative end and therefore not given much attention. That church is in the process of leaving … Continue reading Why is the Mainline Losing Young Adults?

Sermon: “Do You Remember?”

Isaiah 58:1-12 and Matthew 6:1-21 Ash Wednesday March 5, 2014 First Christian Church Mahtomedi, MN It’s been nearly 20 years since Ken Burn’s documentary on the Great American pasttime aired. Baseball talked about the early beginnings of the sport, what impact it had on American society and how it was impacted by American society. There was a certain poignancy in watching this mini-series in 1994, because during that fall there was no baseball due to a strike. For the first time since World War I, the bats of October would fall silent; there was no 1994 World Series. There are … Continue reading Sermon: “Do You Remember?”

All Means Almost

I’ve never watched Duck Dynasty.  I didn’t really know about Phil Robertson until he uttered his beliefs on homosexuality and race. It’s no surprise that I don’t agree with either of those views.  But there is a question that keeps rumbling in my mind.  It’s not directed at Robertson, it’s directed to my fellow Christians in mainline/liberal Christianity:  would we welcome Phil Robertson into our churches? I tend to believe that the answer, the true answer, is no.  We won’t say that out loud of course.  We will look at Robertson and hear his views and will promptly write him … Continue reading All Means Almost