Practicing Congregation

Politics as an Approximation of the Kingdom of God and Politics as Baal

Posted on Oct 31, 2019

As a Christian pastor I am as dismayed and grieved as anyone about the political divisions of our present day in America which are rending churches, families, relationships and communities. In face of this concern I offer a distinction between politics as an approximation of the kingdom of God and "Politics as Baal," to use the phrase of Will Campbell and James Holloway in their 1970 book, Up to Our Steeples in Politics

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Worship Is Boring, Unless It's Not

Posted on Aug 08, 2019

In the past couple of years I've had thefortune of worshiping in close to forty congregations, speaking on my book, Practicing Midrash, or visiting out of town. Several churches have impressed me with their creative approach to worship--using the arts, mixing music genres, adding movement to what is typically an hour of sitting. Unfortunately, I have also been amazed at the number of worship services that are just plain boring.

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Small But Mighty Co-conspirators

Posted on Jul 26, 2019

Peace of Christ Church is a small but mighty community in the heart of Texas doing the work of radical love and total inclusion. We believe this work is best exemplified through the life of Jesus, and so our vision is to create a safe space for all people seeking to embody the love of Christ in a hurting world.

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A New and Diverse Church in the 'Burbs

Posted on Jul 11, 2019

It's not every day that an American BaptistChurches-ordained pastor and a Lutheran-ordained pastor find enough community to join their efforts in the planting of a new church. For Kelvin Roberts and me, it was a natural move. Had All Saints Church been imagined a few years earlier, it might have been an "ecumenical partnership" or a "trans-denominational church," but we've landed in different territory.  

We had previously served together on the staff of another Chicago-area church and are not only colleagues but share a close friendship that encompasses our families. 

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Black Mama Bailout

Posted on Jun 27, 2019

"Somebody just asked me if I wanted to bail black women out of jail," I relayed to a friend in disbelief. For starters, I didn't know this kind of thing happened -- concerted efforts to bail people out of jail, and black women in particular. The invitation came from Southerners On New Ground (SONG) an organization working hard to dismantle the cash bail system. While they tackle policy, SONG is getting people out of cages now through their bailout campaigns.

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Getting to Easter through Good Friday

Posted on Apr 22, 2019

Good Friday stands on the calendar like an obstacle that must be crossed to get to Easter. You can't get there without going through Good Friday -- at least on the calendar. Theologically? Maybe that's up for debate.  

The prevailing view in the Church is that Jesus died on the cross to save humanity from their sins. Open a hymnal and you'll see what I mean. But there's a lot to question about this view of the cross. Did God really kill Jesus because God was angry at the sins of humanity? Why couldn't God be forgiving, instead of wrathful? And why would your sins and mine destroy our relationship with God? Can't God's love look beyond our problems?

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Stretch as you seek to tell that 'old, old story'

Posted on Feb 28, 2019

“Tell me the old, old story/of Jesus and his love.” So goes the old hymn, and it is still true that the church’s calling is to tell that old story. 

The challenge we face is how to tell it in new and fresh ways in a culture that keeps changing with stunning rapidity. How can we communicate the timeless truth of the gospel in ways that will touch minds and hearts bombarded by a steady barrage of competing messages and noise? How do we tell that old, old story in ways that are compelling and attractive? 

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Churches change

Posted on Dec 03, 2018

Churches change about every seven years.

That’s what a long-term pastor told me 30 years ago while I was in seminary. Rick was a visiting fellow on campus as part of his third sabbatical. For 21 years he had served his congregation and was using the sabbatical to prepare for another seven years. 

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Lessons learned bring 'remarkable change'

Posted on Oct 23, 2018

I remember elementary recess. Tag was an all-time favorite game...Although recess usually ended too soon, we nevertheless experienced re-energization.

Thirty years later I have learned a valuable lesson from this game: labor, whether in adulthood careers or childhood schoolwork, requires recess moments. God understands this as well, hence, the Sabbath. As a kid gym and recess were my times to “cut loose” and enjoy myself. As an adult, Sunday worship is such a moment. 

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Fall Programming

Posted on Sep 14, 2018

Whether your congregation has a full slate lined up, or you are preparing to open your whole children’s department in a single classroom, fall programming is a vestige of 20th-century American Christianity—and I’m not just talking about the bright colored construction paper stapled to a bulletin board.

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