This article in the Alaska Dispatch News is a pretty good round-up of the varieties of Presbyterianism in Alaska.
The Bible as an enjoyable reading experience — does that sound wonderful to you? Or maybe even ‘unimaginable?’ Watch this video:
I’m not enthusiastic about doing so much work on the reading experience while using an older translation. The ASV, for example, predates the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Still, it’s much better than the KJV, and the archaic word forms are being eliminated, so it’s not bad.
What do you think? Should the Bible be enjoyable to read, as well as practical to study?
One of the topics we discussed when I met with some local pastors yesterday was the megachurch-and-branch-campus model used by churches like Saddleback and North Point. (This model is also important to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, as discerned by Christianity Today but — curiously — not the PC(USA) in its own reporting.)
None of the pastors I met with were very enthusiastic about this model. We can look at a John Ortberg or an Andy Stanley and recognize what great preachers they are, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about being a “campus pastor” with modest or minimal opportunities to preach. (This emphasis on sermonizing is reflected in the polity of the PC(USA), where pastors are “teaching elders” — and before that, “ministers of Word and sacrament.”)
But the pastors I met with were all full time ministers. There are reasons to believe we are not the wave of the future. Rather, the church seems to be moving toward a model of bivocational pastors, where pastors have a day job to pay the bills, in addition to their vocation as a pastor, as described last year in the Presbyterian Outlook. This week, the Atlantic wondered about this trend:
Working multiple jobs is nothing new to pastors of small, rural congregations. But many of those pastors never went to seminary and never expected to have a full-time ministerial job in the first place. What’s new is the across-the-board increase in bi-vocational ministry in Protestant denominations both large and small, which has effectively shut down one pathway to a stable—if humble—middle-class career.
What happens when you combine this trend with the multi-campus, multi-venue model with the trend toward part-time ministry?
(This article is cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)
As you may have heard, at its 221st General Assembly last week, the PC(USA) approved same-sex marriage both by authoritative interpretation and by a proposed change to the constitution. Here’s an article from the Religion News Service, and a blog entry from More Light Presbyterians (pro) and a pastoral letter from Presbyterians for Renewal (con).*
I — Pastor Luke — am studying these measures to understand the logic behind them, but my initial impression is that the authoritative interpretation is gimmickry designed to work around the clear words of the constitution, as evidenced by the proposed changes to the constitution which accompany it.
Sadly, the PC(USA) is not alone in misusing church processes to achieve extra-constitutional ends. The UMC has reinstated Frank Schaefer after previously defrocking him for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. I previously posted about the UMC situation here.
As a citizen of the U.S., I believe that civil rights should be recognized equally for both straights and LGBTs. Indeed, that is (for me) a bare minimum, and I go well beyond it, as I have posted before.
The case for calling same-sex unions marriage in the theological sense is weak, however, and the Church, however, is not free to make things up.
* I won’t sport with you by pointing you to the PC(USA) website for information. There’s an article there, but it can’t be linked, only downloaded. (Seriously! in 2014!)
From an unlikely source comes a surprisingly good (fair) explanation of the situation in the United Methodist Church regarding same-sex unions:
(The source is non-sectarian public-policy think tank, and I think they should be congratulated for wading into a theological argument to try to help explain it. Their position seems to be pro-SSM but they are reasonably fair in explaining, or at least briefly summarizing, the anti-SSM position.)
(Cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)
I hope every member of the church can find a few moments to watch this video message from Bishop Grant Hagiya regarding Imagine No Malaria:
We invite you to join us in celebrating the life of Joe Billingslea on Saturday, May 3. Pastor Luke Jones will officiate in a service of witness to the resurrection. The service will be held at noon, in the green worship center at Jewel Lake Parish. (Directions are here.) The family and members of JLP invite people to remain after the service for conversation and light refreshments in the education center next door.
Want to improve someone’s mood? A Gallup survey showed a strong correlation between church attendance and positive emotions, even when controlling for variables like age, education, and income. People who come to church regularly are, on average, happier than people who don’t.
That could mean trouble for Alaska. In a Pew Center survey of the importance of religion in people’s lives, Alaska ranked in the bottom five states in nearly every category, and was last the category of “Worship Attendance.” If you run into someone who’s unhappy, it might not just be the lack of sunlight in our short winter days that’s got them down.
Why not invite them to church? Maybe it will perk them up!
Sometimes, Christians get confused about evangelism. They think it’s their responsibility to make converts or even to make sure their friends get into heaven. That’s not true. Only Jesus can do those things. Evangelism is just sharing good news. (Look it up, that’s what the word means.) Evangelism is just telling people what you’ve found and inviting them to check it out for themselves. (See John 1:39–51 for an example.)
People won’t think you’re weird for inviting them to church. (Unless you’re weird some other way.) Researcher Thom Rainer writes, “82 percent of the unchurched are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to attend church if they are invited. …to restate it: More than eight out of ten of the unchurched said they would come to church if they were invited.” (The Unchurched Next Door)
On top of that, Easter is the #1 most likely time for unchurched people to come to church. So invite a friend or neighbor to church next week. You might make them happy!
Here’s some things to avoid:
In worship on April 6, Pastor Luke mentioned the “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” written by Martin Luther King in April of 1963. A complete set of links, including the message can be found on the JLP Worship blog.
I liked this video:
One man's life changed the course of history for billions of people across the globe. He is both revered and reviled, famed and feared and you know who he is without a single mention of his name.
Download this Video and Watch More at www.movingworks.org. Incredible Score by Tony Anderson (www.tonyandersonmusic.com). Additional Note: Arial Earth image owned and licensed by NASA.