What is Church?

Not only am I serving as a new start pastor with the Sellwood Faith Community, but I also get to serve an existing congregation half time.  This is a lovely group of folks who are trying to discern God’s call for their future.  Recently we had a good conversation about the word church.  Sometimes we use it to refer to the building, sometimes we use it to refer to a specific faith community, sometimes we use it to talk about our regional denominational body, and at other times we mean all Christian faith communities. All of these are in some sense church and all of them have times of importance.  What we came to at the gathering I was at is the sense that the community of faith, the people are what matters the most. None of the rest of it the buildings, the denominations, would exist with out the people who love and live as community. This notion is captured beautifully in a song I learned as a child in sunday school, I Am The Church.             I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.            All who follow Jesus, all around the world.            Yes, we’re the church together.  It also fits the little finger play I learned back then,  Here is the church,  here is the steeple,  open the doors and see all the people. Yes the word church is used for the building, but it’s not an empty building, but one full of moving people.    As we...

Are You Replaceable?

When I was a nonprofit manager our executive director wold always ask what would happen if we got hit by a Mack truck.  He wanted to make sure that each of our departments weren’t becoming silos of singular responsibility. If the critical services we provided rested on just one person and that was not healthy for us, the organization, or our clients, Mack truck or no Mack truck.  The work we did needed us, but was not ultimately about us. I’ve carried this lesson with me into the church, sometimes more successfully than others.  It can be tempting as the only paid staff in a church to do everything.  Yet I realize that this is not what the kingdom of God looks like.  We all have calls and gifts for ministry.  I’ve found the most amazing richness in those times when I got to serve as a part of a team, and especially when that team could keep on leading after my ministry with the organization had come to an end. This week our family missed both the Thursday & Sunday night SFC dinners.  Luckily within the 17 people a week that we average at our gatherings, there are lots of people who can take on the dinners.  Chris, Kat, & Michael hosted Thursday night at our house.  Sarah, Josh, & Aaron hosted Sunday night at their house.  I had no worries about the welcome that would be created or the conversation that would happen at dinner. Each of us has special gifts and a wonderful call to lead and minister.  My role at SFC may be unique, but...

Being About God

Last week I got to spend three intense, lively, inspiring, challenging, and fun days with my colleagues.  We heard one another’s stories, competed for one another’s fabulous home made items in a silent auction benefiting Imagine No Malaria, ate delicious food, and spent lots of time talking together and playing games.  This was a gathering of the Order of Elders.  This group is made up of all the ordained elders of the United Methodist Church in Oregon and Southern Idaho.  We meet every other year to grow together and to support one another. I came home from OOE (I just love acronyms!) on Thursday afternoon and got ready for the Sellwood Faith Community’s  Thursday night dinner.  This month at SFC we are talking about the teachings of Jesus.  After checking in with one another and starting our meal we had a fruitful discussion on the first part of the sermon on the mount contained in the Bible in Matthew chapter 5.  Then it fell apart.  My head & heart were so full from OOE. I made a comment about that and all of a sudden we weren’t talking about God or faith anymore, we were talking about church.. Now there is nothing inherently wrong in talking church.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  The problem comes in when as a community we stop being about God and start being about something else.  And usually what we do is start being about ourselves.  That conversation has it’s place, but that is not what Thursday night dinner is about.  Thursday night is about us exploring faith and journeying...

Leadership

Many years ago Jeff and I led an emerging worship experience.  We worshiped every week and used movie clips, all sorts of music, visuals, and interactive elements to create a place where people had an experience of God.  At first Jeff and I did everything.  We picked the music, planned the worship, and crafted the visual experience.   A few months in we realized that in order to speak effectively to a diversity of people we needed a diverse leadership team.  People experience God in lots of ways and the more people we had designing worship the more avenues to God that would open.  And it was apparent that worship was indeed way better with the team.  Our visual person created amazing videos and found the perfect images to accompany our slides.  We have actors and idea people who came up with things that I never would have considered.  I learned so much about God and ways to worship from this team. When we were appointed to a new church that worship experience was able to continue as a result of the leadership structure in place. Due to the some times nature of the United Methodist appointment system I realized how important it was to create teams to carry on programs and pieces of the culture. This last weekend we got to have some dedicated time with the leaders of the Sellwood Faith Community.  We did a day long retreat at the Alton L. Collins Retreat Center near Eagle Creek.  There are so many fabulous ideas, such great gifts, and much passion about God, our neighborhood, and this community....