I have attended Leadership Institute at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection every year that I have served under appointment as a United Methodist preacher. I was only able to be present for one day this year, but it was still worth it. Here is what made it good:
- Connection – It is great to reconnect with both congregants and staff at the church, as well as colleagues from across the conference and around the connection.
- Remembering – Nicole and I began our life as a married couple serving as associate pastors. They were formative years in discovering how to be a couple and how to be a pastor.
- Time Away – I am able to rest in the reality that, even for just a few moments, someone else is tending to all the details at church.
- Inspiration – The speakers and workshops are excellent. They help stretch my mind beyond what is to what might be.
- Being Present – It is good to be around a big group of people that are committed to making progress in their local church – wherever that may be. There is a tangible sense that we are all about God’s work in the mission field.
I realized this year that it has become a bit of a pilgrimage for me and I am glad for the opportunity to return.
Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I was fascinated. I had no idea that there was scholarly work being done on the subject. My background in biology and small experience in research combined with my current job description as Pastor of Resurrection Online lead to great interest for me. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.
Spiritualising the Internet: Uncovering Discourses and Narratives of Religious Internet Usage by Heidi Campbell was published in 2005 in the Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. You can download a PDF copy here. “Spiritualising the Internet means the Internet is seen as a technology or space that is suitable for religious engagement, whereby allowing users to include Internet-based activities into [the] rhythm of their spiritual lives” (2). Campbell presents four ways in which the spiritualization of the internet could be discussed:
- “The Internet as a spiritual medium frames the Internet as a technology possessing, within the hardware and wires, an unseen realm where humanity can encounter the transcendent and spiritual experience” (13).
- In this discourse, the internet functions as a ‘spiritual network’ (14).
- “The Internet as a sacramental space discourse frames the Internet as space which can be shaped to allow people to engage in new or traditional religious rituals online” (13).
- In this discourse, the internet can serve as a ‘worship space’ (14).
- “The Internet as tool for promoting religion frames the Internet as resource able to connect with religious people and activities that can lead them to spiritual transformation” (14).
- In this discourse, the internet is a ‘missionary tool’ (14).
- “Finally, the Internet as a technology affirming religious life frames the Internet as a resource for building a communal or individual connection with a particular religious tradition or form of life” (14).
- In this discourse, the internet supports ‘religious identity’ (14).
I very much appreciate Campbell’s treatment of the subject and find these four discourses to be a good classification.
The internet as spiritual medium does not make much sense to me and I do not believe that this way of spiritualizing the internet could come out of Christian tradition. The final three ways of considering the internet are all ways that Resurrection Online is seeking to spiritualize the internet.
- Resurrection Online seeks to encourage people to engage in both traditional and new religious rituals through the internet. Right now, this is primarily in the weekly worship service.
- Resurrection Online seeks to be an evangelism tool which can be used to connect with non religious and nominally religious people. I believe that this is a tool for those that are already connected with Resurrection to use when inviting others into the community.
- Resurrection Online seeks to affirm a United Methodist way of being a Christian with the flavor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection with a particular purpose, vision and journey.
What do you think about the categories that Campbell presents? How might Resurrection Online live more fully into these categories? Would that even be helpful?
Will you share your thoughts, feelings or opinions in the comments?
On Monday, the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Kansas West Annual Conference recommended me for ordination and full membership. This is officially a recommendation to the clergy session of the annual conference, however practically it was the final approval in the process for me.
This was a journey that began for me before high school when I remember writing in my journal that I may be a pastor one day. In the fall of 2002 I felt called to go to seminary and during the summer of 2004, while working in Yellowstone National Park, I felt called to be a pastor in the local church. I was officially commissioned as a provisional elder of the anual conference in May of 2007 and in a few months I will be ordained.
Thanks to all of you that prayed for me on Monday and that have been guiding, equipping and caring for me throughout this journey.
What kind of pastoral care did Jesus provide?
I continued to consider this question at our small group this week when we read the story of the man born blind from John 9. Jesus makes some mud, puts it on the eyes of a man who was born blind and sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam in verse 11. The man’s sight is restored and he has a series of run ins with the religious leaders of the day and Jesus is nowhere to be found.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
I don’t know. Where is Jesus? He disappears from the picture until verse 35.
It is important to walk with people through difficulty times in their life, but it is not necessary to walk every step of the way with them.
What do you learn about Jesus’ pastoral care from this story?
I have several hopes for the new year. If you want to understand them as New Year’s resolutions, I think that would be fine.
- Journey through the year in photographs with Project 365.
- Keep a one sentence diary each day in 2009.
- Be healthier on December 31, 2009 than I am today, including weighing 185 pounds on or before that date.
I am looking forward to the year. What are you planning / hoping for in 2009?
I heard this question last week and it really stuck with me.
It is a simple question that can say a lot about someone’s journey of faith. I think that it could be asked effectively to both Christians and non-Christians. It doesn’t have a pre-supposed “right answer” and is non-confrontational.
Jesus is my Lord and Savior. He continues to teach me about what it is like to live as one of his followers in a kingdom that is not of this world, but is coming into the world.
What is your response?
My Beautiful Idol by Pete Gall is an autobiographical journey through five years of transition in the life of the author. Gall originally self-published this work and it is his first published book.
My Beautiful Idol is a story of seeking, recognizing and following God. Gall records his journey of faith and life chasing God’s will from a highly paid career in Chicago to Denver and through a series of jobs, ministry settings and relationships. Scattered throughout the narrative are lessons about the reality of poverty, the desire to be loved and God’s dream for individual lives. Gall is open with his thoughts, emotions and struggles in his life during the five years that are recorded in the book.
I found the narrative to be moderately compelling, but at times tedious and repetitive. There was insightful wisdom about life and relationships sprinkled throughout the book that I found to be fairly interesting. I recommend this book to those looking for open honesty in the life of another.
Gall, Pete. My Beautiful Idol. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.
This series is about your thoughts. Each day I will post a sentence starter and invite you to finish it with a comment.
The next step in my journey of faith may be…
I have had the opportunity to lead the Builders Sunday Morning Small Group for three weeks studying the gospel according to Mark. This question was from a breakout group studying Mark 8:27-30.
Peter’s confession is the first human confession that is recorded in Mark. To this point in the narrative the naming of Jesus identity had come from demons that had been cast out by Jesus.
I think that Peter knew what he was saying. He would have likely had some understanding of the expectation for a messiah and what that might look like. However, I do not think that Peter understood the depths of the truth that he was saying and the nuances of how this would actually take place.
There are two places where I think Peter may not have fully understood what he was saying. Jesus is savior not just for the Jewish people, but for all of creation. Also, suffering was a key part of Jesus journey to resurrection.
You can find previous responses to questions coming from this class here:
My wife and I really enjoy watching college basketball. This lead to a dilemma last Sunday night. I was leading the 5:00 PM worship service and she was on duty at the church as well. This meant that we were going to miss the Davidson / KU basketball game. However, we taped it on our DVR and were planning on watching the game when we got back.
Nicole was adamant about not finding out who won until we watched the game ourselves. I did not find out the final score, but did not mind finding out who had won. I found out that KU won, but did not know the final score.
When we got home we watched the game from beginning to end. Here is the amazing thing – even though I knew the destination, the journey was really fun. It was a great game and knowing the final outcome did not spoil the excitement of watching each play.
I believe that this is like our Christian journey – We may have a picture of the ultimate outcome (God wins) but that does not take away from the journey of becoming a deeply committed Christian.
Last week one of my colleagues asked, Are you comfortable with the influence that The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection has on the United Methodist Church?
Yes, I am comfortable with the influence that Resurrection has on the denomination. I think that Resurrection seeks to represent the extreme center in the United Methodist Church and within the religious dialogue in the United States. I think that this is a voice that is desperately needed within the denomination and a voice is able to speak in meaningful ways to those outside the denomination – both non religious persons and those of other denominations. I believe that Resurrection is thoroughly Christian, Methodist and Wesleyan and I feel great about those influences shaping the denomination.
However, I also recognize that there are many churches and leaders across the world that are working for renewal within The United Methodist Church and within local churches. I think that Resurrection has a lot to learn from others as well. I think that the denomination is healthier with many congregations and leaders actively seeking and working toward renewal.
Every day that I am at church I pray for spiritual revival in Kansas, renewal within The United Methodist Church, wisdom and endurance for delegates to General Conference and Resurrection‘s purpose, vision and journey. I believe that all of these can be and are influenced by the others and I hope to be a part of God’s work in this place and time.
- What do you think about all this?
- Do you think that Resurrection has an influence on the denomination? If so, is it an appropriate level?
- What congregations do believe have significant influence on The United Methodist Church?
- What individuals do believe have significant influence on The United Methodist Church?
- What other topics did I leave out of this conversation which need to be addressed?
On Sunday night, Nicole and I had the great opportunity to be a part of a small group teaching from the newly released – Prayer: A Small Group Curriculum. I had a great time.
I received a follow up email from Nelson, a member of the group, from a conversation that we had that evening. He had some questions as a follow up from watching a few videos on YouTube. They are:
I listened to several minutes of each video and my sense is that the main topic being raised here is that of intersexuality and the way that gender is addressed in the Bible.
This is a topic around which I do not profess to have expertise, but I will do my best to respond to the topic. I believe that gender in the Bible is identified as male and female. I do not believe that there is any reference to the possibility of intersexuality. This may be partly a result of the scientific worldview at the time – not having any idea about chromosome arrangements.
I believe that God created humans as male and female. What does this mean for those who experience intersexuality or are transgender? God loves each person – no qualifications. As a Christian, I am called to show God’s love to others, to help others on their journey of discipleship and to receive help in my journey. I am called to perfect love of God and neighbor.
I recognize that I did not nearly address this topic comprehensively. This is a subject around which I continue to think, grow and learn. What do you think?