Early this week, I received a letter informing me that Berryton UMC was a participant int he 3rd wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS) and that I was “one of a small number of religious leaders from across the U.S. chosen randomly to again represent [my] religious community in the 4th wave of the NCS.”
This is pretty great! I have looked at the key findings of the previous waves of NCS research and have appreciated the research. I participated in the phone interview this week and it was fun to be part of the ongoing research on religious congregations in the United States.
I was asked a number of questions about Berryton United Methodist Church, including around the history of the congregation, staffing, worship services, groups and activities, financials, and my background. I am looking forward to seeing the results of the work when they are published and glad to have been part of the process.
You can find out more about the National Congregations Study here.
Columbus Day, Columbus Day. Each year the United States, along with other countries in the Western Hemisphere commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus in the “New World.” There is much that could be said about the legacy that Columbus left, but instead of diving in to what could be a quagmire, I’ll ask instead:
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land — not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8:11, NIV.
What a powerful illustration! The previous chapters of Amos outlined many possibilities for physical difficulties for the people, however this is perhaps the most threatening. God’s Word is integral to our life in right relationship with God and others.
Throughout my life, I have kept a regular journal on and off throughout the years. I have a stack of journals from elementary, high school and college in our basement. Currently, I have been keeping a one sentence journal up to date. I am looking at options (Office Drop for the outsource and my ScanSnap for cheaper in dollars and more expensive in time) to digitally capture these journals to store for the future on Evernote (Is that even going to be effective?)
I enjoy looking back at my perspective and important events from years ago. In the future, I hope to be able to do the same for my life today. I do not believe that Facebook will be a useful tool to reflect on my life in the future. The birthday wishes, comments and status updates fade into the internet, unlike a birthday card that is received in the mail. Even scanning a birthday card captures the color, handwriting and sentiments that were expressed at a particular time in the past.
I spent last week at a youth camp, Institute 2010: God’s All Stars, which is a ministry of the Conference Council on Youth Ministry of the Kansas East Annual Conference. This post is part of a series reflecting on the week and making applications for the local church.
Institute is an institution with the good and the bad that it brings. There are rich traditions and a history that brings the past to light and looks to the future. Many of the adult leaders at camp this summer remember an experience of the very same camp when they were young. One of the pastors among the adult leaders remembers feeling first called to ministry in the very place where we had morning worship during the week. However, the rich history has the side effect of narrowing the vision of what could be possible for a camp among the high school students of the Kansas East Conference. There are some practices that are clearly leftovers from time gone by and while faithful have ceased to be relevant.
What about in your local church? How has the past shaped who the community is today? In what ways does the history shape both the present and the future?
I have continued to pitch micro churches as a way of finding renewal within The United Methodist Church and building Christian communities where non religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. I am currently working on training leaders to launch these faith communities. I hope that by the end of August there will be three micro churches worshiping regularly. I want to share with you the documents and presentation that I am using as a guide to train these leaders.
These continue to be works in progress. I am working on a document now to address sacraments and will post in a later post when it is prepared. Will you please take a look at these documents and offer your response, ideas or opinions?
I am excited for the potential that exists for micro churches to create new places for new people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes history can be found just under our noses. Sometimes in our attics. And every so often we can find it in our local church archives! Such is the discovery of a rare audio recording of the Evangelical United Brethren Declaration of Union worship service of 1946. The recording was made on two transcription disks which were found by the Rev. Ron Kite of Faith United Methodist Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.
I recently read A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story, the latest book from Diana Butler Bass. Bass takes the reader on a jaunt through the history of the church from the first century right up to today dividing the years into: early, medieval, reformation, modern and contemporary Christianity. In each of these eras Bass examines the particularities of devotion and ethics that characterized the believers of that time. These are each illustrated through stories of Bass’ own life journey and through characters of history – some well known and others less known.
While I am familiar with some of the general themes of church history from my courses in seminary, I found this to be a quality refresher. Addressing devotion and ethics was a somewhat tedious, yet predominantly helpful, mechanism to move through thousands of years of history in one book. I particularly appreciated the attention to particular characters throughout time that sought to love God and their neighbor in their time and place.
I recommend this book to someone that is looking for an introduction to church history and is willing to engage in the stories of individuals. Bass is a quality church historian and writer.
Last week, I received several questions from a Resurrection member who had been using a DVD series to study as a part of a small group. I will take some time today and over the next few days to respond as I believe that there may be others who are interested as well. Always feel free to email me questions on topics about which you would like to see me write.
What non-biblical sources of evidence support (or corroborate) any of the Christian claims about Jesus?
There is little debate about some of the basic facts of Jesus’ life – teacher and healer from Galilee that was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Some scholars debate whether the events as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are an exact historical record. You can more information about this debate here.
I believe that Jesus was born, lived and died in first century Palestine. I believe that the accounts of the gospels are true. There is evidence of Jesus historical existence outside of the Bible. However, claims that Jesus actually existed are not particularly Christian claims. Distinctly Christian claims are around Jesus being fully divine and fully human and one of the persons of the Trinity. I am not sure that I would expect for there to be sources that support particularly Christian claims that are not a part of the Bible. You can read a bit more about books in the bible at – How were books of the Bible chosen?
Here is the bottom line for me – There is non-biblical evidence from the first several centuries for Jesus and Christians but these do not necessarily point to the particular Christian claims of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain the best portrait of Jesus life and, along with the rest of the New Testament, are the key texts for Christian claims about Jesus.