Moving from P-yoo to Pew…

Here is your official invitation – so pay close attention. Over the next week or so I want to feature your thoughts about the church – or as I have affectionally titled it, Moving from P-yoo to Pew.

In this space I will feature your post about the church – the things that confuse you, that challenge you, that you wish you saw more of, that you wish you saw less of, that make you scratch your head, that make you shout for joy…anything to do with the church.

Anything that represents your wrestling with what the church is and what you long for it to be is welcome!

If you would like to write a post for this, please do! Aim for 300-500 words, include a bio, a related photo, and email it to quakerleaders(at)gmail(dot)com.

Together let’s have a conversation about the church.

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Toy Story and the Disposable Church

June 29, 2012 1 comment

One of my favorite scenes from an animated movie occurs in the bedroom of the evil neighbor Sid, a troubled child the viewer is introduced to in Toy Story. Sid collects toys, tears them apart, and then puts them back together in hideous creations that cause fear in the hearts of every healthy toy. Yet something surprising happens just when Woody and his pals are confronted with these toys as Woody tries to rescue his fellow toy, Buzz Lightyear. It’s this scene that comes to mind as I think about a conversation I had over coffee today.

As I talked with this friend today, the subject of church came up (always seems to happen when I’m talking…) and our conversation was centered around the consumer mentality engrained in humanity’s collective psyche.

As we talked, I spent a fair amount of time talking (always seems to happen when coffee is involved) about how the consumer mentality breeds in us a disposable mentality.

And as I talked, I realized that perhaps part of the issue behind a lack of involvement by men in the ministry to youth and children is that we are afraid of people seeing how much we are broken. We are afraid that if others see our brokenness, it won’t be long before we are thrown away.

Because, you see, that is what we do. My shirt gets a hole in elbow (which all of my shirts always do!!) and I throw it away. The soles on my shoes get a bit worn down, and its time to find a new pair. My computer runs a little more slowly than it should, so I buy a new one.

And I realized that the less time I spend serving others, the less people really know me, the less they see my brokenness, the longer they are apt to keep my around.

When I choose to serve in the classroom of a child, or to speak to a group of middle school students, or lead worship for some high schoolers, it won’t be long before they see my brokenness. They’ll notice my analogy was a bit weak. They’ll hear me play a wrong chord – once, twice, even three times! They get bored of my speaking. This will happen. This has happened.

I am a broken person, and I don’t want people to see that. But the more I try to hide it, the more I pull away, the more I stay uninvolved, the more I pretend as though the opportunity is just not the right one.

Health in the church, in the world, will come when we are not afraid to say, “I will mess up, people will experience my brokenness, they will come to see my weaknesses.” And that as we say this, we still choose to engage, to become part of the fabric of a community that, like a baseball glove, is healthiest when it broken in, when it is pliable.

Back to Toy Story – its here, confronted with the maimed toys, that a paralyzing fear enters into Woody’s heart, and he is certain he has seen his final moments as a plush pull-string cowboy. But to his surprise, the broken toys come together and help Woody retrieve and re-assemble Buzz. It is a beautiful scene interrupted only by the reappearance of Sid. (Don’t worry, toys, you’ll exact revenge on Sid soon enough!)

Let’s stop disposing of broken things, and instead embrace our brokenness. For as you see my brokenness, I hope you’ll allow me to experience your brokenness. And together, we’ll come together like the toys in Sid’s bedroom, to serve each other, to bring each other into wholeness, to send each other off into service in the church and in the world, all for the glory of an unbroken God who longs to bring us into wholeness.

The Fallacy of the Glass Slipper…(Part 2 of, “Where Are All the Men Hiding?)

June 28, 2012 4 comments

There has been significant interest in my previous post, and I have been thankful for the feedback, questions, support and general feelings of resonance – and, not surprisingly, most of the feedback has come from women! (Surely men read blogs, too?!?)

As I have been able to think about the responses I have received, I have realized one important problem that perhaps need to be addressed above all the others – I would like to call it The Fallacy of the Glass Slipper.

The glass slipper, as the story goes, was made to perfectly fit Cinderella and no one else. It had unique design features that made it impossibly uncomfortable for anyone else who put it on, and was only at home when snuggled perfectly on Cinderella’s foot.

As improbable as this seems, it has become a cultural myth we unthinkingly embody.

We have come to believe that unless something fits us perfectly, it is not meant for us. We have come to believe that there is a glass slipper out there for us, and it is just a matter of time before it finds us – but until then, we are just fine waiting for it to appear (even better, waiting for the dignified person who is surely seeking me out, slipper in hand, because they know how talented/beautiful/awesome I really am).

I see this in many college students with whom I am privileged to journey. There are dreams spoken of that include the perfect job in the ideal location, the right spouse at the right time, the best church when I am most in need. Are these dreams wrong? I don’t know. I do know that these dreams are stifling, and that in itself is a problem.

This image of perfect fit has become an idol, and it has created within us an acute case of Cinderella-itis.

The world I know is not a world of perfect fits. This is a fallen world. I have had several different jobs within higher education, and while I have really enjoyed them all, none of them have been a perfect fit. It’s not because of the job, but because there is no such thing as a perfect fit.

There will always be aspects of anything we do (that is, anything we do that is worth doing) that doesn’t quite feel like it fits. And in this moment of realization we have a choice.

Our choice is this – we say “no thanks” to the opportunity, sit back in our comfortable chairs, and wait for the next one to come along (to which we will most likely say no thanks, or take begrudgingly which will quickly lead to life-sucking cynicism).

Or, we develop the ability to listen and to trust, and step into shoes that might not seem to fit at first, and maybe even seem like they will never fit. But as our feet get used to them, and the shoes grow with us (these are not literal shoes, people!), we begin to see that maybe our perceptions of the perfect fit were imperfect themselves.

And we begin to like these shoes. Sure, there is scuff mark here, and they might not be quite wide enough or have enough arch support. But I can dance more beautifully in these shoes than I ever have danced before, and it almost seems easier than I imagined it would be.

Let’s be people who learn to live beyond the maxim, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Instead, let’s be people who say, “The shoe might not fit, but I am not Cinderella.”

Where Are the Men Hiding?

June 26, 2012 17 comments

I want to start this post by stating something I want everyone to hear clearly – I am not writing this as a guilt trip. I am not trying to manipulate or coerce service out of anyone.

But I believe this message needs to be shared, needs to be heard, and ultimately, needs to be acted upon.

Two occurrences have happened over the past two weeks that have made me no longer able to keep silent:

1) During Vacation Bible School, in which 200 children were present every day from 9-11:30 engaging their minds, their hearts, and their bodies with the wonder of a life lived for Christ, there were hardly any men who volunteered to help out. Out of what was probably 50 volunteers (maybe more?) less than 10 were male.

2) When the summer list of volunteers came out for the children’s programming at my church, there were a total of 100 spots that needed filling. 60 of them were filled by women (women who also serve in classrooms throughout the school year), and 10 of them were filled by men (of which one man is filling 8 spots).

And the issue is this:

Men are, generally speaking, absent from our children’s classrooms in the church – and I don’t think this is just a problem at my church.

This is not ok.

I am not suggesting that our educational programs in the church are lacking due to the many women who work tirelessly to plan lessons, share Bible stories, listen to children talk about their week, and create a safe environment for kids to encounter Christ. In fact, in my church experience our children’s classrooms are places where all of these things happen extremely well.

I am not in any way advocating for men to take over the education of our children. That would be equally egregious to men staying out of the classrooms.

The spiritual education of our children is not just the work of women. It is too serious of an enterprise to just leave all of the work to one gender.

The women get this. Thank God for these women!! And here, just like when Jesus rose from the dead and Mary and Martha were given insight to be shared with the men who had scattered, our women are sending us a message we need to hear. The spiritual formation of our children is a vital enterprise in which men and women are needed. The women get it. The men, for the most part do not.

Let’s stop hiding, men! Let’s stop expecting the women to do all the work. Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s join together, men and women, to create space where our young people can see that Christ is present and moving in all of us.

They see it in the women who serve them every week. Many of our children do not get the chance to see it in men.

And so I am calling you – dad, single guy, grandpa, young, old – to be courageous and volunteer your time in a child’s class. You are capable of holding a baby, of rolling a ball across the floor, of reading a Bible story, of telling a child about how you saw God this past week.

The spiritual growth of our children is everyone’s business. Stop making excuses, either to yourself or to others, and give one hour a month, or perhaps even 1 hour a week, to investing in our children. Help them to see that many people care about who they are becoming, how they are experiencing Jesus – because the more people they have in their lives who express care for their growth, the more likely they are to remain committed to serving Jesus their entire life.

A view of the FOG…

I’ve asked a friend to write a post about his experience as part of 5 o’clock gathering at Newberg Friends Church. Below is his post – thanks, Rick!

_______________________________

When Jamie asked me why I connect with Five O’clock Gathering (FOG), an alternative worship
gathering based out of Newberg Friends Church, I was more than happy to provide him an answer.

My wife and I first started attending FOG about two years ago because it offered something that other
worship gatherings lacked. Take its name, for starters.

Five O’clock. That’s 5 p.m. on Sunday evenings. I mean, who really wants to get up early on a Sunday
morning anyway? I work three jobs and love NFL football, so not me.

Gathering. FOG isn’t a “service” in which I can mindlessly sit back and receive every week; rather, it
encourages me to be an active participant in what is taking place week in and week out. FOG also isn’t
a “meeting” in which I’m subject to the authority of agendas, PowerPoint slides, and unspoken codes of
conduct. It is a “gathering” in the truest sense of the word.

Here are a few more things that make FOG refreshingly different from other churches.

Kid-Friendly
FOG is a great environment for kids. As new parents, we weren’t coerced to deposit our baby in the
nursery, and whenever he let out the occasionally cry or delighted shout during a gathering, we weren’t
met with disapproving glances or glares. Even when he transitioned into toddlerhood and began running
recklessly down the aisles and loudly throwing his toys about, the warm and understanding smiles we
received made us feel welcomed and accepted.

Creativity
Above all, the intentional use and support of the creative and unexpected is what I value
most. “Normal” church services are hopelessly predictable. They open with 15-20 minutes of upbeat
music followed by a 30-45 minute sermon that, if you’re lucky, gets introduced with the occasional
drama or—Heaven forbid!—a video clip from a secular movie. Sprinkle in a prayer or two, some ancient
tradition, the offering (can’t forget that!), and—despite someone’s best efforts to make them exciting—
a spattering of tremendously boring announcements. Sound familiar?

Thankfully, FOG doesn’t look, feel, or sound like that. It doesn’t even smell like that (though, that’s
usually because the aromas of our shared meals waft up from the kitchen as they’re being prepared
during the gatherings). Instead, FOG opens itself up to a range of creative arts as well as unorthodox
methods of teaching and preaching. At any given FOG, you literally have no idea what might happen
next. To borrow an observation from one of the great philosophers of our time, “FOG is like a box of
chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get.” Consequently, FOG is a welcomed deviation from
the monotony of the traditional church gathering.

Unanswered Questions
One of FOG’s more challenging aspects I value is their commitment to unanswered questions. Where it’s
typical for a preacher to dissect a passage of Scripture by asking a few less-than-challenging questions
and then fill in the blanks for you (sometimes quite literally), FOG just leaves the blanks, well, blank.
In other words, they don’t spoon-feed the answers to you; rather, they provide the space for you to
discover them for yourself.

Community
While there is usually time to search for the answers to these aforementioned questions during the

course of the gathering, it’s the shared meal after every gathering that’s the better space. It fosters real
community. Don’t get me wrong, I can do the whole “greet your neighbor” act on Sunday mornings—
introducing myself and making small talk for a couple minutes is no trouble at all. But ask me to sit down
and share a meal with someone? Now, that’s intimate.

And the absolute brilliance of it all is that the person you’re sitting down to dinner with is working
through those same questions posed to you earlier. What better place to struggle through those
questions than with fellow believers and sojourners?

In sum, I’d say FOG values elements of our humanity that other gatherings take for granted. It’s been
both a blessing and privilege to serve and be served by this humble and creative community over the
last couple of years. I hope it continues to bless us and others in the years to come.

_______________

About the Author
Rick currently works as a marketing associate for MyBinding.com, a local binding and office supply
company in Hillsboro, Oregon. He also serves on staff as a worship leader in a Portland-area church.
And legend has it that if you’re up early enough he can be seen driving your children to school in a big,
yellow bus. He is husband to Christine and father to Ariy, his little lion man.

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Bridge the Gap…

The other day I wandered into the woods of a local park.

The combination of a coffee drink in one hand (a prerequisite in the Northwest) and a sunny day in April (a rarity in the Northwest) brought me and my two boys to a muddy little creek tucked behind a set of tennis courts in the very same park I had played in as a little boy.

The creek – which created a border between the park and a local neighborhood – was muddy and cold, but that was no deterrent for two ambitious and adventurous little boys.

We followed the creek bed for a bit until arriving at a u-shaped bend, where the creek had left the park boundary and cut back into park territory, creating an island just far enough away that we could not jump over to it.

And, as though someone had been in that exact spot before, and had had the same exact thought as we did, a bridge had been created. It was not a pretty bridge – a bunch of sticks thrown haphazardly across the creek – but it allowed passage between both sides. 

To read the rest, click here.

 

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Edward Scissorhands and Me: Cultivating an on-line pastoral presence

I was 21 when I was handed my first hedge trimmer. As a seminary student I was often confined to a square study carrel in an even squarer library that smelled of cloth and dust. Every day I climbed the stairs, passed through overgrown arborvitaes, and entered the gaping maw of the bibliophile’s heaven.

Afraid of becoming a permanent fixture of the library, of blending into the wallpaper, I sought whatever means I could to escape esoteric theologians and overly loquacious authors. Offered an opportunity to work with the grounds department as a part-time work-study student, I eagerly agreed.

Keep reading here.

 

Image.

 
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