In many conferences, there's a mass exodus of the "old guard" of clergy; megachurches are seeing their pastors retire,larger churches are seeing their founding pastors retire, and there's a great need for seasoned middle-aged and young clergy. I wonder how the retiring clergy could more effectively phased-out of church leadership while bestowing helpful thoughts and wisdom to the next generation...
In the business world, when people retire they get a party and a gold watch. Except nowadays at American Express (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan):
Rather than retiring and leaving the company at once, participants gradually give up their day-to-day responsibilities, while replacing some of their free time with activities like mentoring and teaching master classes to their successors. In addition, they get more time out of the office doing whatever they want—be it planning for life in retirement or doing charity work. The phased retiree continues to receive a portion of his previous salary, benefits as usual, and the company in turn gets to hold on to some of its most valuable employees a year or more past traditional retirement age.Are any churches or conferences experimenting with clergy retirements that they want to discuss? I could see this implemented in a few ways:
- Retiring clergy go to "half-time" while the incoming minister becomes the full-time minister. This could lead to conflicts of personality and people not seeing the new pastor as the "real pastor" but could be helpful to get on-the-church training.
- Retiring clergy could become mini-district-superintendents and lead accountability groups for a cluster of clergy for a year after retirement. They would have the experience to be helpful, and be "outside the system" enough that clergy would confide unofficial thoughts with them.
- Retiring clergy could read HX.net and train their lay leadership to make their pastors irrelevant in a few years time. :-)
Rob Brink over at Emergent Village has something right in line with HX.net concepts: a grassroots wiki-like sermon written by the blogosphere. It takes a top-down medium and makes it bottom-up...I like it!
Read Rob's original blog post (hat tip to ThinkChristian.net)
Edit the Sermon (we are crafting the purpose right now)
We've got a few weeks to see how this project works...let's all contribute and see how it works!
Question to ponder: If the Spirit moves different words through different people, will the corporate adequately reflect the Spirit?
(originally titled "Repentance for Breakfast" but then I realized my mistake...during breakfast! Ha!)
Quote of the day is from The Emerging Christian Way (2006), a compilation of progressive Christian theologians and authors. I found one that screamed HX to me.
Recovering Christians outnumber practicing Christians in the world today.There walk among us persons whom the form of Christianity they have received is broken, unable to support the reality in which they find themselves. The old images and orthodox theologies don't speak to them. Detractors may say "there's more Christians today than ever before" but are they practicing? And by practice, I don't mean going through the motions and actions, but actually integrating discipleship to Christ into their daily life and putting their whole trust in his grace?
Matthew Fox, "A Postdenominational Priest in a Postdenominational Era" found in The Emerging Christian Way, 114.
It is to these people who attend Church every sunday, who do good works for the poor, but find their intellectual and spiritual appropriation of the Good News to be stunted and unwieldy that HX is good for. We talk about different off-kilter ways of seeing the Good News that may be helpful.
Why not invite a friend, one of those recovering Christians, to read us today?
Lifehacker has a post up on "Hacking the Technical Interview" by a professional interviewer who uses some pop psychology and basic sociology to help people become better interviewers. Yes, the workshop leader has a website.
So the next position you interview people for, watch for these tactics. Then you can throw them off their game by saying "are you anchoring yourself right now" and if they look guilty, you've caught yourself a hacker. Hire them.
Someone at the GBOD must be reading Hacking Christianity...or at least sipping from the same water fountain. Looks like a team of UMs are putting together an Open Source Liturgy project...and I'm psyched! They based the model off of LINUX!!
Open Source Liturgy Project
We're now in the process of inviting developers to a writers conference to be held in Nashville, November 13-15. At the conference, we'll start to build community among the developers, representing the diversity of our church and including at least two other denominations (UCC and Presbyterian Church in Canada), provide deeper grounding in the concepts of open source development, introduce the technical platform that enables this work to be done online (a series of "nested wikis" we've built), and practice together writing new ritual texts around the cores.Wow. Gonna keep close close tabs on this one, and pray that personalities don't overcome mass participation...
This is absolutely amazing videography. I'd love to see them insert stormtroopers into my congregation videos.
Thanks to Charmon for the link!
Oldie but an inspirational goodie!
(hat tip: Zen Habits)
This isn't something you see everyday: a church refuses an offering. The specifics are that a Baptist Church in Florida refused a $600,000 donation from.....a lottery winner.
After Robert Powell hit the Florida Lottery jackpot last month and took home more than $6 million, he thought of his church.Quite the dilemma! If the church deems the origins of a donation unacceptable, then how can they accept the money...even if it is used for God? Read on for more...
And he offered to drop his tithe, around $600,000, in the collection plate of First Baptist Orange Park.
But the church and Pastor David Tarkington politely declined and told Powell they will not accept the lottery winnings.
It's a little known tradition that churches can reject large donations. For example, any UMC can choose to reject a donation from an individual if the person puts restrictions on it ("Must be used to buy more cowbell") that the church deems out-of-sync with their mission.
There's a lively discussion on the article comments about the church's actions being dumb, hubris, and steeped in utilitarianism: who cares where it came from if it can do good? From the article:
Many churches do not approve of the lottery and gambling but on the other hand Pastor Dr. Lorenzo Hall of the El-Beth-El Divine Holiness Church says $600,000 can do a lot of good.In the comments and from the Holiness minister above, there's a lot of "I don't agree with gambling, but the money could do good" which smacks of a double standard: how can you oppose gambling but will accept the benefits?
"I'm against the lottery, but if one of my members won the lottery, I wish and I hope he would give 10% to the church, we could do a lot of things with that money," says Hall.
As a Holiness minister, Dr. Hall says he does not ask where members get the money they decide to donate.
To get at the heart of this dilemma, one has to decide what one thinks about gambling. Me? Glad you asked! For me, lottery money is blood money: a tax on those who are poor that is disguised as a chance to achieve the American Dream. And it is out of that ethic that I support this church's actions. There are many people in my life who have shown to me the example of rejecting the benefits of injustice.
- A college theology professor refuses to eat bananas knowing the reason that they are so cheap is that they often are picked by children who earn 17 cents a day. Cheaper bananas abuse the working poor.
- A seminary friend refuses to buy diamonds because while there's all sorts of guarantees that particular ones are not blood diamonds, the entire industry rewards such practices. Cheaper diamonds kill people.
- A fellow colleague actually refuses to buy ethanol gasoline, not because she hates the environment, but she knows that ethanol consumption has tripled the prices of tortillas in Mexico, burdening the working poor. Cheaper gas leaves people hungry.
Ours is a world in which excellence is typically configured within a means-end paradigm where (a) ends are external to means [and] (b) means are merely instrumental relative to those external ends...the judgment that winning is "all that matters" is a judgment inappropriate to a practice.If the means are external and instrumental to the goals of the church, then accepting the money makes sense. But if the practice of the church includes evaluation of the means, then considering the origins of the donation (the lottery) and our ethical stance on the origins must be considered.
Bryan Stone, Evangelism after Christendom (2007), 50-51
So I applaud this church for considering the origins of their donations. They had to decide if it is more important to have money to advance the kingdom of God or to bear witness to the kingdom of God's stand against injustice.
It is true that I don't know if any money in my church's offering plates is lottery money; some of it may be! But in this situation, silent tithes are a bit different than the spectacle of a large offering. When the lottery winner made the gift a spectacle, then the origins are very important. In this case, if the church's conscience is clear and steeped in prayer, then rejecting it out of principle is clearly the right thing to do in my book. I don't mean to say that people should be dishonest in how they got money, but making a spectacle out of it exacerbated this situation.
Which will does God value more: money or witness against injustice that makes people say "huh..I wonder why they did that?"
But I'm not the only voice. What do you think? If a person won a buncha money in the lottery and wanted to give it to the church. Or say they got it from the sale of drugs or online poker or prostitution.
- If they got money by the means which you deem unethical, can you ethically accept the donation to the church?
This is just plain awesome. My birthday is in two weeks, incidentally.
It reminds me of the scene from CRASH where the little girl believes that her father has given her a protective cloak and jumps in the way of a bullet to "save" her father. She is saved through sheer happenstance, but undoubtedly the father learns something about how seriously children take their parents' claims to truth.
In the same way, "Armor of God" pajamas can be a helpful object lesson for children, but they shouldn't become reckless claims that God will stop a bullet. I'm not saying kids who wear these will try to stop someone from stealing a volkswagon, but the theological claims that God protects some people more than others...well, it can lead children down a very difficult path that I'm uncomfortable with.
An inspirational video from Will Smith that the secret to life is running and writing.
Well, I guess I'm halfway there just by blogging! :)
(hat tip to Zen Habits)
Is Joker too scary? Don't worry, these kids have redone the Batman trailer for you to make it more wholesome.....kinda.
In a preaching workshop I took last year, we were to craft a 60 second sermon. Much like the Twitter the Gospel in 140 characters exercise, it forced us into an economy of words, images, and lessons.
Here's mine below the fold. What do you think?
60 Second Sermon (timed at 72 seconds actually...my bad)
I believe in a God that makes the ordinary, extraordinary.
God who makes ordinary stuff into extraordinary means of grace.
Hear the Good News: God takes our ordinary lives (Even yours!) calls them God's own, and molds them into extraordinary witnesses to the Kingdom of God.
Now with this great blessing comes great responsibility.
For these ordinary people we must shed our silence,
break our own thresholds and witness for them.
No child of God is below the extraordinary.
Why can't you be bothered with the ordinary? Amen.
PROS: nice trios, energetic, no yelling even when condemning society, inclusive language, emphasis on service and justice, solid theological parallels and dichotomy, unexpected reversal of "bread and wine" not becoming the body of Christ but instead the people.
CONS: starts too strong, one voice and speed throughout makes it a runaway train, no stopping points for people to dwell on, sermon doesn't become an "elevated conversation" with conversation tones
What's your evaluation or thoughts on the above 60-second sermon?
Post your own 60-second sermon in the comments!
a worship.hack (defined here) is a proposed change or question of the way worship typically works to open it up to more people, either in substance or in style. Read on for relevant critiques of worship!
Ah, the Church Bulletin. You know what I'm talking about. The ubiquitous item that you are handed when you come in the door. It's become a staple part of every congregation, filled with more than service information but volunteer opportunities and prayer lists as well. It is here to stay......or is it?
Park Community Church in Chicago has gotten rid of the weekly bulletin. Their Communications Guy Tim Shraeder blogged about the Death of the Church Bulletin (hat-tip Church Marketing Sucks) as they transitioned from weekly paper bulletins to a monthly and web version of their bulletin.
Tim writes why they transitioned:
- the budget savings... we cut our monthly printing budget 75% going this routeIn short, Tim writes that churches should know the primary way the congregation receives information and communicate to them that way!
- the environmental savings… we’re not killing as many trees. It’s a “green” choice and one that people in our church would rally behind.
- in terms of our organization, it forced our ministry leaders to plan out their events way in advance and caused them to be more organized instead of waiting to the last minute… which tended to be how we did everything.
- it forced us to prioritize and condense. We went from publishing everything to being careful to choose what would further the mission and vision of our church. And we had to do so in a few sentences versus a whole paragraph.
Tim is very clear that what works for his congregation may not work for others. For my parish, this is not a great option. Since my scale is not as much (Park Community saved $2000 in printing costs...I think that's twice my annual office budget) and my average age is not at the computer-and-internet level (Park Community's average age is 29), then moving to monthly or internet bulletins is not a significant step forward in innovation and cost-savings.
But for many congregations, this can become a worship.hack: a rethinking of something ubiquitous to try to make it more accessible to people. Hacking a bulletin to make its information and opportunities fit into the information flow is certainly a worship.hack! Well done!
However, it strikes me that bulletins are not only instruments for worship, but instruments of interaction. They give someone the excuse to say "hello" to someone. People who are not as outgoing may not greet people, but will happily stand at the door and hand out a bulletin to them. Bulletins serve a purpose as an instrument of interaction between two people, not simply broadcast communication between the church and the pew.
So by hacking the bulletin and removing it, you are also affecting an area of interaction...sometimes the only interaction people get on a Sunday morning. If you are going to remove this instrument of interaction, it might be best to replace it with something else. Volunteers who hold open the doors for instance.
So if you are looking at this as a worship.hack, ensure that it doesn't remove an area of interaction even as it attempts to streamline communications. The broadcast nature of the bulletin does have interpersonal aspects to it, and as we look at fitting top-down communication to the congregations' routine, it would be wise to not remove bottom-up interaction from it.
Thoughts? Welcome to our visitors and your comments are welcome!
Christianity ... is always in need of re-simplifying, going back to its origins, ridding itself of the excessive superstructure it has acquired through history.
- José Comblin, Catholic theologian in Brazil
In a simple phrase from Fr. Comblin, that encapsulates one mission of this website.
- That's what the writings on Wikipedia are all about: removing the layers of bureaucracy to expose Christian opportunities and lay empowerment.
- That's what the writings on starfish churches are all about: removing the layers of the hierarchy to expose Christian community
- That what Hacking Christianity is all about: peeling back the layers and removing the wallpaper that covers up the truth and life of the Christian faith.
I met fellow Methoblogger Blake Huggins today. He really does exist in a three-dimensional space.
I think it's pretty neat when Methobloggers meet each other in real life. Oddly, Blake was almost exactly what I thought he would be like. Meaning he was pretty awesome, insightful, and funny.
So, who's the next Methoblogger to move to Boston? There's a greeting committee here ready to...blog about meeting you! Ha!
Following up on The Prisoner's Dilemma Part 1, I wrote this:
Structurally, we want Methodism to remain connectional, so pastors are moved around often. But for the local church, research shows that pastors need more time to build up local churches before being wisked away. So the game is how to find the right balance.One aspect to the game revolves around the Staff-Parish Relations reports. They are the basic communication aspect between the Conference and the local church about the pastor. Thus, they form the backbone of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Read on for how they fit into the game.
Since we just passed SPRC evaluations time in the Methodist church (fun times), here's what I see as the prisoner's dilemma elements:
- The Conference says that if you give the Conference honest feedback on your pastor, they will keep the pastor there as long as they can.
- If the LOCAL church cooperates, they will send accurate reports to the conference in trust that the conference will keep their end of the bargain.
- If the LOCAL church defects, they will embellish reports to the conference in attempts to keep the pastor there as long as possible. I say this not as a negative "those lying SPRC meat-heads" but as a commentary on human nature.
- BOTH COOPERATE: If the Local church offers honest feedback and the Conference keeps up their end of the bargain, then we have parity. Trust prevails!
- LOCAL COOPERATES, CONFERENCE DEFECTS: If the local church offers honest feedback and the conference moves the pastor, then the local church may feel betrayed. Great care must be taken on the Conference level when moving a popular pastor to ensure future evaluation standards.
- LOCAL DEFECTS, CONFERENCE COOPERATES: If the local church exaggerates on their evaluations or covers up pastoral difficulties or malfeasance, then the Conference may follow along. While it is in their interest in the short term, in the long term choosing the pastor over the Conference may lead to a dark dark road of congregationalism and pastoral malfeasance.
- BOTH DEFECT: if the local church doesn't keep the conference in the loop, and the conference moves the pastor anyway, then pretty much everyone is miserable. Dude.
Two lessons from this:
- Building and retaining trust is absolutely essential in the appointment system. If a pastor has to be moved, then great care must be done on the Conference level AND on the SPRC to ensure proper participation in the process. By degrading trust in the system can lead to congregationalism drift and a level of pastoral accountability that is damaging to all parties involved.
- Pastors have a huge role to play in this. If pastors encourage connectional participation and expose their parishioners to more connectional (district or conference) events, then there's a greater sense of "we are in this together" rather than "us versus them." This has been a bigger push in recent years, particularly around younger clergy who are a bit "outside" the system and have noticed the effects of congregationalism in a connectional church.
In light of the last post's scoring of whether I value hacking or humor more, here's the definitive answer.
I will leave interpretation up to you. Hat tip to my facebook friend Joseph!
Let's take a meta-moment here. In light of the way how Dr. Horrible begins his sing-along video, I thought I'd respond to a few emails I've gotten over the week.
Actually, just two regarding one topic.
Two different emailers asserted that for a website that "claims to hack Christianity" ... I seem to "post on fluffy stuffs [sic]." It made me stop and think. And since I'm a big fan of scoring stuff, let's score at the last 10 posts (excluding this one):
- Christian commentary: 4
- Humor: 4
- Series content:1
- Web stuff: 1
So I hope I provide as much hacking and group theory as I do the light stuff for the readers of this weblog. If you'd like to see more or less of either, or have ideas or links for me to peruse, feel free to drop them in the comments!
This is a 40-minute web production by Joss Whedon of Firefly and Buffy fame, so check it out if that tickles your tailfeathers!
(it was breaking the website, so I've moved the video to below the fold. Click READ MORE to view it if yer not on a feed reader!)
It's very well done. Some moments of innuendo, but no cursing. And, there's closed caption mode so you can watch it at work *without* getting the songs stuck in your head! Enjoy!
Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies ("defects") for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?You see the dilemma and how sticky issues like "trust" affect how a person will "play the game?" Do I betray the other to help myself, do I betray because I think they will betray me, or do I trust that we can both get out of this? This is classic and effective.
Why is this in the news? It's in Batman: The Dark Knight. If you haven't seen Batman by the time of this blog post, go watch it immediately! I won't go into the details out of fear of spoilers, but trust me: it's there.
What struck me is that the United Methodist Church is also in a Prisoner's Dilemma. Read on for more...
Let's get out the meta-level (beyond two people) of the Prisoner's Dilemma first. One commenter on the article "Game Theory and the Dark Knight" (spoilers!) offered this perception on the U.S. Congress Prisoner's Dilemma (edited slightly to remove movie spoilers)
[The Dark Knight] is the classic Prisoner's Dilemma. It is also how we elect Congress. The entire US will benefit from continuously changing the politicians. But, their seniority system means that each state gets more if they reelect their own state's politician. Do what's best for your state and the US suffers. Do what's best for the US and your state might suffer. You can only do whats best for everybody if you trust everybody else...Congress uses its seniority system to manipulate the people in each state. Same payoff matrix [as The Dark Knight].In the United Methodist Church, we are in the same dilemma as Congress when it comes to clergy transitions and itinerant ministry.
- Do what is best for the global church, and the local church suffers
- It is in the local Methodist Church's interest to keep their pastors as long as possible, as most pastors don't see returns until year four and often churches suffer during transitions.
- Do what is best for the local church, and the global church suffers.
- It is in the global Methodist Church's interest to move pastors around often (less than four years) so that local churches stay connectional and don't drift into congregationalism.
Trust is an inherent part of this system as churches feel betrayed by their conference overlords if their pastor is removed "too soon." While I'm not privy to see how we appoint people, I'm sure this is an expressed concern on everyone's parts.
I have more on this, but I'm disciplining myself to shorter blog posts. Thoughts?
- Is there an inherent tension between local churches and the conference as far as the benefits of a pastor's tenure?
- Is this an accurate meta-level of the Prisoner's Dilemma?
Here at HX.net, we are often looking for the perfect hack, for the convergence of many streams of ingenuity and creativity to form a perfect method of doing things.
Friends: the perfect hack has been found. This is brilliant
Wake n’ Bacon alarm clock is different from your average variety clock in that it doesn’t use sound or harsh vibration to arouse a weary sleeper. Rather, the unit cooks a slice of bacon for you to fill your bedroom with the smell of breakfast.The way it works is that a person puts a slice of frozen bacon into the tray of the clock before going to bed. In the morning, the alarm clock then activates ten minutes before the alarm time and turns on two halogen lamps which slowly cook the bacon. Ten minutes later you are supposed to wake with the delicious smell of cooked pork in your bedroom. If that doesn’t do the the trick, then a backup alarm sounds to wake the individual.Yes, this is perfection.
I've met someone who really annoys me.
Here's a picture of them:
Next time you see this person, please give them...the Peace of Christ.
For more info on the picture, please click here.
Can't see the picture? Click there anyways.
Yes, it is a joke via facebook. Enjoy!