Archive for November, 2010

Announcing a new book review beginning this week.  This was originally published in 2000 by Progressive Christians Uniting.  The question is how progressive are progressive Christians?  Additionally how interested is the general public in the progressive agenda?  I think I am a progressive…not sure…guess I will find out!


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You say tomato, I say tomahto.  You say Potato, I say potahto. 

Congregations. Change. Redevelopment. Transformation. Leadership.  When congregations want to experience change in order to redevelop and transform their ministries, they often look to their leaders or to their next leader in order to innovate and persuade toward the change.  Leaders buy right in because they are are searching for congregations in which to exercise their pastoral leadership and experience effectiveness.  As pastoral leaders and congregations court one another in the call process, I can imagine that they brainstorm with one another about what is possible for the local ministry.  Perhaps they feel the Spirit as they brainstorm and dream.  With the sense that the Spirit has blessed their courtship, the pastoral leader and congregation discern a call and their partnership begins without more specific language. 

What follows are the challenges of translating the pastor’s language to the congregation’s language and vice versa as they implement what they have dreamed about.  Experts in psychology and counseling understand that as individuals communicate, what they mean and how they are understood can be two very different things.   For example, author  Gary Chapman has written books on The Five Languages of Love  in order to guide couples through the challenges of understanding each other more accurately. 

Congregations and pastors have an interpretive tool at their disposal when they intentionally assess the extent of redevelopment that may be required in a congregation.  With the help of a discerning Presbytery, a congregation and pastor in the courtship phase of conversation can look specifically at the areas in the congregation’s life that are in need of redevelopment.  For example, is redevelopment needed in Sunday School, in worship, in staff development, in stewardship, in rapport with the community, or in programming for the membership? The more areas identified the higher the stakes.  The higher the stakes the more important it is to assist pastors and congregations from the brainstorming phase to intentional discussions about style and goal setting for ministry.

Organizational Development expert Warner W. Burke, author of Organizational change:  Theory and Practice,  makes a distinction between evolutionary and revolutionary change.  Revolutionary change is characterized by quick changes to structure and parts in order to get a rapid result.  Evolutionary change is characterized by slower changes that alternates between changes to the structure of ministry and attending to the effects of those structural changes on relationships.  There is an irony involved.  I believe that the more areas that need redevelopment the more the pastors and congregations may brainstorm in a revolutionary style.  However, once they are on the ground, the congregation finds the revolutionary style impacts their relationships.  They call for more pastoral attention and less change.  Pastors’ may feel frustrated that their change efforts are so ill received.  They declare in frustration that the congregation does not really want to change.  The truth of the matter is that the revolutionary style may be much better suited when redevelopment is only needed in a few areas.  

The revolutionary model of leadership is critically important to new church development where new community and relationships are a part of the equation.  However, in urban, rural and suburban areas of redevelopment, where relationships can be longstanding a more evolutionary model is more likely to  sustain the entire Body of Chirst (structure and relationships).  While the revolutionary model is much sexier then the evolutionary model, Organizational Development experts remind us that when reconfiguring an existing organization, the evolutionary model provides the most resilient results. 

How we help congregations and pastors have these sorts of specific conversations may determine the vitality of the Presbyterian Church USA as it both launches novel Christian communities as well as revitalizing its existing communities. 

Do you have experience with redevelopment?  Does the premise of this blog fit with your experience?  I would welcome your feedback.

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Defining Dark Matter and Energy - Simplified C...

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In the November 2o1o issue of Scientific American there is a great article on dark energy and dark  matter.  I have been following the research and discovery related to dark energy and dark matter for some time.   The subject often baffles me but I believe the particular area holds promise in the relationship that must exist between science and faith.  The article written by Jonathan Feng and Mark Trodden suggests that dark energy and matter has a “rich inner life” that provides a sort of scaffolding for all that is visible for the human being.  The key to understanding dark matter and energy begins with an understanding of WIMPS or weakly interactive massive particles.  WIMPS respond to gravity  and weak nuclear force (41 Scientific American).  They can be detected in at least three ways:

  1. Destruction – when two WIMPS collide, they annihilate each other and leave a cluster of particles (electrons, positrons and neutrinos).
  2. Direct Detection – When a WIMP bumps into an atomic nucleus and the WIMP recoils “…just as a pool ball does when struck by the cue ball” (44).
  3. Production –  This is dark matter destruction played backward.  When normal particles collide, dark matter is produced. 

The point of connection between people of faith and the scientific community might be that what is essential is also invisible and requires careful attention to perceive. For the scientific community, dynamic dark matter/energy and for the Christian community the Creator who lures all of creation to a faith response.  This faith response is, itself, “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)   

Philip Clayton and other emergent thinkers might observe that it is not completly appropriate to satisfy ourselves with a physical or reductionist approach to all that sustains life.   Could the emergent  Christian Community playfully respond to the wisdom and tenacity of the scientific community and say something like,  “The scaffolding of the universe may be built by WIMPS but  perhaps it will be fully realized through SSITE (strong, subtle interactive tapestry of experiences).  So that the scaffolding is not just particles bouncing randomly but also intentional and loving relationships.  These relationships provide the thread for the tapestry each time they forfeit violence for constructive conflict.  Forfeiting alienation and incubation for relationships however uncertain they may be.

Christians have been known to refer to Jesus’ attention to the scaffolding of the human community as Light (John 1).  Perhaps the faith community’s light could be likened to Feng and Trodden’s “…’light’ that is invisible to us” (45).  But then again…they also talk about halos…. Alas, even if I am overly playful, there are so many wonderful bridges between science and faith!

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