renewal

Juliet Vedral 10-21-2015

Image via A24

There’s a beautiful moment in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (now in limited release) in which the character Ma explains the reality of their situation to her bewildered son. Contrary to what she had taught up until that point — that they were the only people in the entire realm of existence, which was limited to the room in question — she explains that they are actually held hostage in a small garden shed in their captor’s backyard. Sensing that Old Nick, her kidnapper and Jack’s father, might kill them because he will lose his house, Ma enlists her son’s help in an escape plan.

In shock and denial he says, “I want another story.”

Ma replies, “This is the story you’ve got.”

Tom Ehrich 04-22-2015
Photo via Goran Bogicevic / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Goran Bogicevic / Shutterstock.com

I am in a lovely college town to help a congregation discern its path forward.

It faces challenges that many church leaders will recognize: leadership, finances, isolation from the surrounding community, not enough young and middle-age adults to carry the congregation forward.

It also has pluses. The members aren’t deeply divided or mired in distrust and disdain. They aren’t afraid of change. They don’t bury the future in grand laments about a lost “golden age.”

I think they have a good shot at turning a corner and building a healthy next phase. I hear reports from across the nation that things are improving for Christian congregations. A new generation of clergy is exploring new ideas. Fresh energy is emerging. Denial is losing its hold, as congregations whose average age is 60 to 65 realize they must change or die.

Denominations are slower to adapt, but they, too, are moving forward in practical ways such as training in leadership and stewardship, and flexible deployment of resources.

Yet for this fresh day to last, church leaders will need to embrace a truth that goes beyond organizational development and resolving present issues. It’s a truth that many congregations simply cannot hear.

That truth is this: There is too much shallowness, not enough depth.

Over the years, in a process that isn’t at all unusual, we have equated faith with attending Sunday worship, maybe pitching in on a committee, and forming friendships within the fellowship. People enjoy belonging to the congregation. They radiate a palpable joy in being together. They seem content.

Julienne Gage 10-07-2014

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child, by Linda Lawrence Hunt. Westminster John Knox Press. 

Brittany Shoot 06-03-2014

The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. HarperOne.

Robert Manaster 10-02-2013

Be the pulse driven from a broken shell.

Linda Kaufman 06-05-2013

A story about falling in love with Jesus all over again.

David P. Gushee 01-07-2013

Evangelicals are gearing up to be makers of peace. Are they ready for the serious responsibilities that entails?

Sheldon Good 01-12-2012
Port-au-Prince church post-earthquake. Photo by Colin Crowley via Wylio http://w

Port-au-Prince church post-earthquake. Photo by Colin Crowley via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4293703467

How does one dig out from under such tragedy? How does one have hope for a better life, for a new Haiti?

In a meditation titled "The Gates of Hope," Minister Victoria Safford writes:

"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope -- not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness ... nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of 'Everything is gonna be all right,' but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."

Indeed, we need to plant ourselves at the gates of hope and work toward a just peace, on Earth as it is in heaven.

Claire Lorentzen 07-01-2011

At the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina last weekend, I was able to speak with Anna Clark, author of Green, American Style, president and founder of EarthPeople, a green consulting firm, and a contributor to Taking Flight: Reclaiming the Female Half of God's Image Through Advocacy and Renewal. Anna has a heart for equipping churches to make small and big changes for the sake of creation care and stewardship of the earth's resources. How can Christians do this, you ask? Read our conversation to find out.

Aaron Taylor 04-26-2011
Is the gospel about Jesus rescuing us from hell and transporting us to heaven
Tracey Bianchi 02-23-2011
Lent. It's an odd word, not exactly one that shows up in the vernacular of our everyday.
Leslie G. Woods 08-27-2010

I arrived in the faith-based advocacy community in Washington, D.C. fresh out of divinity school.

Multiple Authors 04-19-2010
We wanted to make sure that folks saw this letter that circulated in the Irish Times
Charles Honey 04-09-2010
The Grand River flows through Grand Rapids, Mich. with power and peace on its way to Lake Michigan 30 miles west.
Heidi Thompson 12-17-2009

At a recent holiday party, I tried to describe my hometown of Warren, Ohio.

"Warren?" I said. "Well, it's a lot like Detroit. With none of the perks."

Margaret Benefiel 10-26-2009
At a major conference at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts recently, 500 evangelicals met to discuss how to "renew the evangelical mission."
Victoria Hicks 10-20-2009

"It's time."

"Dallas needs this."

Those are the two statements Aaron Graham (Sojourners' Justice Revival Coordinator) and I heard over and over again as we visited pastors and other community leaders all over the city, lifting up the vision of a Dallas Justice Revival.

Mimi Haddad 09-02-2009
Have you ever pondered the dangers of reading the Bible?
Barbara Grady 05-27-2009
Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, has been dividing rich and poor, black and white, jobless and employed in this city since the days of Jim Crow when it was a legal line of segregation.
Troy Jackson 03-17-2009
In the March 10 edition of The Christian Science Monitor, Michael Spencer predicts "the coming evangelical collapse." Much

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