Monday, August 14, 2017

The "Unchurching" Comic Book and the Unfinished Business of the Reformation

Friends - I've been mulling recently about what I consider to be the "unfinished business" of the Reformation as we are in the midst of the 500th anniversary of all that getting going. To me, the unfinished business is the empowerment of the "laity," which is the churchy word for "everyone who's not a clergyperson."

Luther himself proposed a bold move for that, but never launched it, and I've written about that on this blog before. That may be the most important post on this blog, come to think of it.

In the mean time, I want to lift up for you the work of Richard Jacbson who's written a really engaging book called "Unchurching: Christianity without Churchianity." There's a Facebook group and podcast around that now, and the latest incarnation is a comic book version that the focus of a Kickstarter campaign featured below.

I encourage you to take a look, and consider supporting this work! I for one believe it is past time for us to be asking better questions and launching bolder experiments in how we follow Jesus and bless the world. I salute Richard for being a part of that work.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Interview with the Blogger


My friend Ry Edwards just posted an interview he did with me! It's 20 minutes and touches on why I believe in God, my favorite metaphor for understanding what it means to be human, and a Developers Conference I'm presenting at coming up in August. I've written about The Pipe metaphor on this blog before but I think this video gives a better introduction. Take a look and let me know what you think!


Here are some links you may want to check out as well:

Gofundme page for my conference expenses: www.gofundme.com/resource-developers-conference

The website for 3dm: 3dmovements.com

My blog of occasional posts over the last 10+ years: http://feralpastor.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Little Bit of Kingdom Come

People sometimes think that God *causes* bad things to happen in order to bring other good things out of it. Most of us, I think, have a problem with that as an "ends justify the means" kind of thing. But among Christians I think it gets currency from various directions.
  • Some people read Romans 8:28 in that way, as if it said "we know that God is the cause of everything and no matter how awful it seems it's actually good because of the good that comes out of it."
  • Our tendency to recite the Lord's Prayer as "Thy will be done, (hard stop) on Earth as it is in heaven" as opposed to "Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven" plays into a kind of resignation in the face of tragedy rather than an appeal for God's *good* will to actually be realized on Earth.
  • Plus, there's that sense that if God is "omnipotent" then it would seem that everything that does happen is ultimately because God wants it that way.
  • The kicker is the story in John 9 where most translations literally say God caused a man to be born blind in order to heal him later. (I think Eugene Peterson gets it right in his The Message version.)
I don't buy any of that stuff, but it's out there and feeds into the notion that God works evil to obtain good and we just have to deal with it.
At any rate, what I do believe is that in every situation - regardless of how it came about - God is present and is an active force to bring good forward.
And here is a very beautiful and touching example of what that can look like.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Burnt Over District - video reflection

This is a seasonal reflection I created on video a couple years ago. The music is "The Burnt Over District" by Hem. I I slowed it down somewhat for time and effect.

video

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Done With Church but Not With Faith? You're Not Alone.

There's a large and growing group of people who have left traditional church life (buildings, budgets, programs and pastors) but are decidedly not walking away from their faith in Jesus. Or from their desire to follow him and bless the world. Or from their hunger to be in community with others. In fact, many of them have "left the church in order to save their faith."

Sociologist Josh Packard has coined the term "the Dones" to describe this group in his book Church Refugees. He finds the term "refugees" particularly apt because it speaks about people who didn't really want to "leave home" but felt they had no other choice and often flee out of a sense of self-preservation.

I highly recommend the book. Below is my own summary, drawn largely from the book, about who the Dones are. If you would like to download a copy you can find it here.


Key Research Findings on the Dones
Timothy Thompson, 4.4.17, FeralPastor@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, observations presented here are from Packard and Hope, Church Refugees, (Group Publishing, 2015); Joshua Packard, Exodus of the Religious Dones: Research Reveals the Size, Makeup, and Motivations of the Formerly Churched Population (Group Publishing 2015); and “Meet the ‘Dones”” by Joshua Packard (Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/summer-2015/meet-dones.html)

1.       They were highly active in their churches.  Dones are not disgruntled consumerist Christians whose preferences were not met, or controllers who stormed off in a huff when they couldn’t get their way. Neither are they marginal members who drifted away over time.  Rather, they were typically very active and highly committed members in their congregations, frequently having served in leadership roles.

2.       They didn’t want to leave. Dones often worked for years to reform the church from within and address the challenges they were encountering.  This is a key insight, and why Packard refers to them as “Church Refugees,” evoking the plight of people who desperately wanted to stay “home” yet felt compelled to leave as an act of self-preservation, suffering a deep sense of loss as a result.  One person interviewed described it this way; “At first it was just survival, man. Spiritual survival. We had to get out.”

3.       They felt stifled by church structure. A key factor in why the Dones left is not that the church was flawed, which they expect to be true for humans and their institutions, but that the structures in place prevented them from helping to address the flaws. “I don’t think the institutional church is filled with bad people. I think the church in America is an inherently flawed structure that compels people to make poor decisions” said one person interviewed. This distinction between the structures of the institution as opposed to the people and the faith itself is what is expressed by the saying; “They are done with the church but not with their faith.”

4.       There were four key desires that they found frustrated by life in the conventional church:
a.       They wanted community in the form of an extended spiritual family of care with shared life and substantial intimacy.
b.      They wanted to be able to affect the life of the church.
c.       They wanted spiritual conversation that invited exploration rather than doctrinal teaching that squelched it.
d.      They wanted meaningful engagement with the world.


The Dones are a large and growing group. Barna and Kinneman (Churchless, Tyndale Momentum, 2014) argue that the “dechurched” comprise about 33% of the American population and are the fastest growing segment as well. Packard estimates that about half of the unchurched - roughly 30.5 Million people - would qualify as Dones, no longer attending church services but retaining their faith in God and Christian identity. An additional 7 Million still attending church report that they are “on their way out the door” as Almost Dones.  Beyond the sheer size of the group, it should be stressed that the impact of these people leaving congregational life is greatly multiplied by the fact that Dones tend to come from among the most active and committed members in the church.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Illumination Conflict Sermon

Conflict in the community?
Family bonds strained?
Division among religious leaders?
People disputing the facts?
Personal attacks on the sources?
Beliefs impervious to evidence?

I had the opportunity to preach at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church yesterday and those are some of the themes I found playing out in the story of the man born blind in John 9. And amidst all that furor, there's a story of a man who receives his sight, finds his voice and comes to faith as well.

If you're interested in hearing the sermon, I've provided the audio for you below.

It's a call to action in challenging times with a word of comfort to take along with you.

Blessings!

Tim