transforming christian theology - parts 3 and 4

I was just reading a book review in the Christian Century that had this quote "In an era in which more clergy know their Myers-Briggs score than can explain the doctrine of the enhypostaton, [this book'] is a breath of fresh air."  Confession time:  I am a pastor.  I know my Myers-Briggs score.  I have no idea what the doctrine of enhypostaton is.  As I was finishing up Philip Clayton's book, I found the dichotomoy between the opinion in the Christian Century and Philip Clayton's premise to be striking.  The author of the review in the magazine saw the major problem with the church was that clergy were not educated enough in the doctrines of the church.  Clayton suggests that the people in the pews need to be doing their own theology; that it is not enough that pastors can know and use big theological terms; that if we all can't talk about our faith and see how it applies to our lives then we are lost.  I tend to agree with Clayton.

I appreciated this final part of the book and think that going through the Converstaions Worth Having with our session would be great.  The one area that I question is the idea about getting involved with a community for a community.  I feel the danger there is that we only interact with those we are comfortable with and it would be easy to end up with basketball ministries and book club ministries and just doing things we like and calling them ministry.  I see that trap already in the church and want to be sure we realize that following Jesus requires more than doing what we're passionate about with a prayer and calling it good.  

By the end of the book, I still have the same question that I had when I began.  Can older, established churches do the kind of transformational change laid out in this book?  I hope so.  I think the changes are needed and vital to being the church in the future.  But I just can't picture it.  I see new churches forming and old churches being put on hospice or greatly diminished.  Lucky for me, God is bigger than my vision.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Big Tent Christianity- Part 3

The other day I got an email from Steve Knight asking me to participate in a Synchroblog for the Big Tent Christianity Conference happening in Raleigh, North Carolina this week. I'm hoping to join other Christian bloggers, including Beloved, in setting out a vision for what the church will look like in the future.

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transforming christian theology - theologies that can transform the church part 2

I appreciated Clayton's discussion of the two warring camps - those who advocate using traditional language more and are not as concerned with relevance and those who are highly relevant but have a hard time connecting to the texts and traditions of Christianity.  I feel like I am pulled at by both sides of this battle.  How do we stay relevant without giving up what makes us uniquely Christian?  How do we react to changing times and also recognize the tradition from which we emerged?  Clayton says, "When you can't do without a word, you have to fight to redeem it.  Theology is in the same category as Christian, disciple, and church.  We need all these words or else we'll get locked into a conspiracy of silence about things that we just have to talk about."  This was so affirming to me.  There are many in the emerging church world that I have talked with who think we need to give up these words.  They tell me that we can't say church, that Christian has too much baggage.   And I feel that if we can't reclaim these words then we have lost much of what makes us Jesus' disciples.  Sometimes it makes me feel like the old and stodgy one because I want to keeping talking about Church and Christianity.  I am uncomfortable when too much of our ancient language is lost.  I hope to be part of the generation that reclaims these words so that they have positive meaning.

Clayton spends  a lot of time showing an example of how a person can begin to articulate their own theology.  It gives me ideas about ways to encourage my congregation to share their testimonies, to connect their life experiences to their understanding of God.  My fear is that I will invite folks into this process and no one will be interested.  That I will be faced with the possibility that many folks in church are in the pews for reasons other than a burning passion to deepen their faith.  Or maybe it's just that I don't know how to articulate why this is important.  Whatever the reason, I probably need to get past my fear and extend the invitation.

transforming christian theology - introduction

So my husband got this book and was supposed to blog about it.  The list of books he needed to read beforehand got longer and longer just at the same time that I read a review of it and wanted to check it out ........... so now I'm the blogger.  Just from reading the introduction I'm really excited to read further. The main idea is that folks in church don't know how to talk about their faith, what they believe and that this is a huge issue for the mainline church.  As a pastor, I couldn't agree more.  I'm curious to see what the author recommends for how to deal with this.  I have encouraged congregants to write their own statements of faith with little success.  Recently I asked some of our oldest members what faith in God had meant in their life for a video we were doing and I got one word answers or no answers at all.  It seems we are uncomfortable talking about faith.

Having gone through the ordination process, I had the opportunity to recount my sense of call and my faith journey numerous times.  In seminary, I was asked to write a statement of faith and I presented that statement of faith at my trials of ordination.  (It's now hanging, framed, on my wall.  One of my parishioners thought I should have it to remember that moment.)  All of these experiences helped me get more comfortable talking about my faith.  Even still, if someone outside the church asked "What do you believe?"  "Why does God matter to you?"  "What was so important about Jesus?" the truth is that I'd have trouble boiling it down to a few sentences that didn't include some big theological terms.  I'm hoping this book will give me some tools to help myself and my congregation to talk about our faith a bit easier.

It's interesting as I read the statement of faith on my wall how many things I'd already say differently and it's only been 3 years since I wrote it.  Faith is fluid, belief changes.  We don't just "do theology" once and are done with it.  It's a ongoing process that I need to get better at.  Here's hoping the rest of the book is as interesting as the introduction!