Practicing Congregation

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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When you are ready to do more than talk, let's talk

Posted on Jun 30, 2018

Near the end of a conversation I was having with an African American pastor, he said, "When you're ready to do more than talk, let's talk." As a white pastor of a predominantly white congregation, I had earned those words.  

In some ways I was more hopeful about the Church becoming a place of racial reconciliation when I graduated from seminary 30 years ago than I am today. Though maybe naiveté was just masquerading as hope.

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