If you live in North Carolina, you may have heard Steven Furtick’s name in the news recently. Rev Furtick is the pastor of Elevation Church, a growing mega-church in the Charlotte area. Turns out, he’s building a house. Normally this wouldn’t be big news; people build houses all the time. But this house is pretty big. It’s probably pretty average for Charlotte suburb standards (I’m not a realtor nor do I know anything about real estate) but people get a bit antsy when a pastor builds a big house. Because pastors aren’t supposed to be in it for the money.
People are getting even more antsy because there are questions about the finances for the house. Not everything seems to add up right; boundaries may have been crossed. There appears to be a lack of accountability and neither the church nor Steven Furtick are saying much.
The story has been shared all over social media, especially among pastors. I found myself wanting to post as well. No, I don’t think this story reflects the kind of life Christians are called to live. Yes, I agree that this reflects poorly on clergy. And yes, I too am glad that I serve in a denomination with levels of accountability to prevent such problems.
And you know, it felt really good to point a finger at a pastor doing wrong. “Look at that pastor over there! Look at them handling money improperly! Look, look, look! Thank God I’m not like that pastor.”
Then I remembered the Gospel passage for this Sunday: Luke 18:9-14.T he parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple. And what does Jesus say? “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 8:14)
And I remembered that while I may not look wealthy compared to some in America, I’m doing just fine. And compared to many, I’m living large.
So to Rev. Furtick and the leaders of Elevation Church, do consider the effect your building project is having on others. I’d appreciate avoiding another painful reminder of my own pride.
Posted in Musings | Tagged accountability, Charlotte, Elevation Church, house, mega-church, pastor, Pharisee, pride, Rev Furtick, Rev Steven Furtick, Steven Furtick | Leave a Comment »
Feasting on the Word is a lectionary commentary that offers questions and considerations on the four lectionary texts for a given Sunday. The Worship Companion offers liturgical resources, mainly prayers, based on those weekly readings.
All the resources are very well written and composed. I appreciated the depth of the writing and that the prayers move through a service from beginning to end. I especially liked the call to confession and invitation to offering. Typically when I introduce those parts of the service I simply name them. But I think linking those moments in the service with the Scripture would make them even more meaningful.
There are two additions that show an attention to seeing worship as more than what happens for one hour on Sunday: Questions for Reflection and Household Prayers for the morning and evening. These two additions offer simple ways to involve worshipers who are not a part of a worship planning. I also think these additions would be helpful for intentional communities or house churches who want to involve the lectionary into their worship.
There are a couple things to watch if you’re planning to use this resource. Because different denominations follow slightly different lectionaries, especially when it comes to picking Old Testament readings, you may find that some of the prayers don’t fit what you’re reading. Also, each element is tied to only one passage. This helps keeps the prayers focused but also means if you do not read all four passages that certain prayers may not fit your service.
Feasting on the Word Worship Companions are an excellent resource for any church looking to expand the use of Scripture during their worship service.
Posted in Book Reviews, Liturgy | Tagged Feasting on the Word, lectionary, liturgy, Prayer, RCL, Revised Common Lectionary, Scripture, worship | Leave a Comment »
I’ve been musing about current YA fiction and their movie spin-offs. Harry Potter and Twilight films did much better than their Percy Jackson and The Mortal Instruments counterparts. I’m sure there’s a host of reasons why and I know nothing about the movie industry. But what if the success or failure of the movies depends, at least in part, on people being able to enter the world? For a fiction novel to be successful, readers need to be able to imagine the world, especially if it is based on our own. And even more, movies based on books need to attract more than just their own readers to be successful.
Perhaps a world of wizards or vampires is easier to imagine than one of Greek mythology or demons. Although I love Greek mythology, I didn’t imagine the Percy Jackson world actually being the world I live in. But for some reason, Harry Potter seemed a little more possible.
If the success of YA fiction is based on readers being able to enter the world, then does the same principle apply to sermons? Perhaps the reason certain sermons don’t take off is because those hearing can’t enter the world that the sermon imagines.
Sometimes sermons can get stuck in “Bible times,” discussing historical context without ever relating the message to those in the pews. One of my Duke professors talked about stained glass window theology. Everyone looks happy, clean, and perfect; they don’t look at all like regular people. Sermons like that leave a congregation saying “That’s fine, preacher, but no one could live it today.”
Sometimes we need to help to see the world of the sermon. Sometimes we need help seeing God’s grace. God’s grace really is incredibly big and absurdly expansive but we can have troubling believing it.
All this means the preacher has to invite people to see differently. Chuck Campbell talks about reading Paul with cross-colored glasses, that Paul only makes sense seen through the cross. While it may seem the world is the same, Paul argues that Christ’s death and resurrection have changed everything. If we look carefully, we can see moments of the kingdom breaking through and grace rushing in.
How do you help others to see? What helps you to see?
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, sermons, The Mortal Instruments, Twilight, young adult fiction | Leave a Comment »
I’ve expressed concern before that Rachel Held Evans didn’t understand her influence. Turns out, I was quite wrong.
This is a really good reflection not only on “branding,” but also more broadly how we judge others based on limited knowledge.
I think there’s a couple reasons for her popularity. Broadly, she writes in a very accessible way about faith that is often easier to understand and better written than many pastors’ blogs. In the evangelical world, I think she’s an important voice as a woman and a liberal. Because those voices have traditionally been absent in evangelical circles, people have been waiting for someone to speak their faith language.
However, that popularity comes with a price. She becomes a face of liberal Christianity. If you don’t like liberal Christianity, you can take a shot at her and people who agree with you will understand. But instead of taking a shot at an institution, now you’ve taken a shot at a person. We all do it. Stereotypes exist because they’re easier. But when we forget that there’s a real person on the other end, we can do real damage to one another. And the Internet can exacerbate this damage because we never have to get to know the person in real life, never have to meet with them face to face.
Perhaps the most radical thing we followers of Jesus can do in the information age is treat each other like humans—not heroes, not villains, not avatars, not statuses, not Republicans, not Democrats, not Calvinists, not Emergents—just humans. This wouldn’t mean we would stop disagreeing, but I think it would mean we would disagree well.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged brand, evangenlical, person, popularity, Rachel Held Evans | Leave a Comment »
Entering into a relationship is one of the most beautiful and most maddening things a person can do. When we find that person we can’t imagine living without, who captures our heart and imagination, they are often the same person who can frustrate us more than anyone else in the world. So we make a commitment to that person. When the reality stops living up to the fantasy, what happens next?
Adam Hamilton’s newest book, Love to Stay, tackles the question of marriage and how to make it last. Love to Stay weaves together data from a Church of the Resurrection survey, specific stories from couples, and Hamilton’s observances about his own marriage and his experience as a pastor officiating weddings and counseling couples. The results is a very accessible read that balances broad generalizations with specific personal vignettes.
At the end of each chapter there are suggested activities for couples, a prayer to pray together, and an adapted activity for singles. Adam Hamilton is very good at linking faith with practicality and this book is no exception. I especially appreciated the suggestions for singles since marriage books often either ignore singles altogether or offers very limited and cliched advice.
I received a complimentary copy of Love to Stay from Abingdon Press for review purposes.
Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged Adam Hamilton, commitment, love, Love to Stay, marriage, relationship, sex | Leave a Comment »
The language is Paul’s epistles about wives submitting to their husbands has been much debated over time. I’m not here to rehash that debate but to show a small slice of what it looks like in my home.
I’m a pastor. So is my wife Kathy. Thus our relationship to submission has a lot of dimensions.
We’ve submitted to Christ in our vocation. We’ve agreed to serve God and the world through this beautiful and heavy calling as those who stand in the gap between the world and the divine.
We’ve submitted to the church. As United Methodist pastors, we are appointed to our churches. Unlike other denominations where the local church “calls” their pastor to come, we are sent. So while we get some input, we know that at times we’ll be moved at times when we would prefer to stay, when the church would prefer us to stay.
We’ve submitted to one another. To support one another at home and in ministry, it’s a necessity. We each have crazy days and slow days. When one of us has a full day of meetings or a difficult pastoral care visit, then the other steps up around the house with meals or chores.
At some point, I am certain that Kathy will have a great opportunity to move appointments into a setting that fits her gifts. And unless the Holy Spirit is very sneaky, it will probably involved me changing my appointment. Which I will do, without hesitation or complaint. Because who am I to stand in the way of her calling? Who am I to stand in the way of her flourishing? And so part of my submitting will be supporting her in that, regardless of what it means for me.
That is what I committed to in my vows. That is our covenant to one another. That is what it means for us to hold God at the center of our marriage.
Posted in Musings | Tagged clergy couple, Itinerancy, marriage, submission, United Methodist Church, vows | 1 Comment »
Sounds like a strange term doesn’t it? Envy is a bad thing, right? How can it be holy?
I picked up the term from Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World. Holy envy is allowing yourself to admire something from a religious tradition not your own (p130). I feel holy envy a lot, so this may be a theme of posts to come. This week I was reminded of my holy envy of the Jewish tradition, which is how they talk to God and about God.
Unconcerned about getting it “just right,” sometimes they just let God have it. “Where are you? Why are you not with us?” Reading through the Psalms you’ll find statements to God that might make you blush and they’re presented bluntly, matter-of-factly, without pretense.
This holy boldness also inspires the rabbinic tradition that talks about God in a playful way at times. Here’s one example from Rachel Held Evans A Year of Biblical Woman.
Some rabbis say, at birth, we are each tied to God with a string, and that every time we sin, the string breaks. To those who repent of their sins, especially in the days of Rosh Hashanah, God sends the angel Gabriel to make knots in the string, so that the humble and contrite are once again tied to God. Because each one of us fails, because we all lose our way on the path to righteousness from time to time, our strings are full of knots. But, the rabbis like to say, a string with many knots is shorter than one without knots. So the person with many sins but a humble heart is closer to God. (p303)
It doesn’t matter if that’s right; it is beautiful.
If you hang around with enough professional storytellers, you’ll learn a storyteller’s truth. The story is absolutely, 100% true. The facts may not all be right, but the story is true.
I think the rabbis talk of God the same way. What they say is true. It may not be factual but it is certainly true. And that truth is beautiful.
Posted in Musings | Tagged Barbara Brown Taylor, fact, God, Holy Envy, Jew, Judaism, Prayer, rabbi, rabbinic tradition, Rachel Held Evans, storytelling, truth | Leave a Comment »