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Posts Tagged ‘presbyterian’

Multisite and Bivocational Ministry

July 24th, 2014 No comments

One of the topics we discussed yesterday, when I was meeting with some local pastors, 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, as described last year in the Presbyterian Outlook, where pastors have a day job to pay the bills, in addition to their vocation as a pastor. 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?

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Kirsten Powers’ Conversion Story

November 4th, 2013 No comments

Via Donald Miller, the fascinating story of Kirsten Powers’ conversion to Christianity:

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

Read the whole thing. There’s even a Presbyterian connection.

Important Cases Go to Court

October 29th, 2012 No comments

The PC(USA) G.A. Judicial Commission to hear three major cases. One is a ruling by the Los Ranchos Presbytery to reinstate the old “fidelity and chastity” clause of the Book of Order at a more local level. The Synod ruled such resolutions were constitutional. So it’s being appealed. This is the “tails you lose, heads we win” school of polity. More-local councils should only be allowed to make decisions when they make the right decisions. Or at least the politically correct ones.

But you say, connectionalism requires that presbyteries are subordinate to [the discernment of the will of God expressed by the Holy Spirit through] the councils to which they belong? Hmm. I’m minded of this observation by Kevin DeYoung, which is generally supportive of a presbyterian approach to church discipline:

the elders in a Presbyterianism system serve as Christ’s representatives and with Christ’s authority, but they are not mini-Christs. The presbyters do not have a blank check to decide whatever they want. The keys of the kingdom must always be tied to the King’s words.

The context was discipline within the local church, but if you change elders to presbyteries, or synods, or the general assembly PJC, it’s still true.

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GA Committee Recommendations

July 4th, 2012 No comments

Several committees at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting in Pittsburgh have issued reports. These will now be voted on by the General Assembly and if they pass, will be sent on to the presbyteries for voting during the year ahead.

While I’m sure the commissioners did their work as well as they could, I’m personally disappointed with several of their recommendations, including these:

There’s another recommendation that I’m still trying to figure out.

  • Changing the ordination standards to include “repentence” and “grace.” Since it involves ordination standards, I assume the underlying issue is human sexuality, but of course we prefer to speak in generalities.

High-Percentage Tithing “Accelerators”

February 9th, 2012 No comments

Here’s an article about some things that are found in Presbyterian churches with a higher-than-average proportion of people who contribute a high percentage of their income to the church.

(Did you get that? These are factors that, when you find them in a church, give you grounds to predict that the church will have a more high-giving contributors than average churches. The article calls these factors “accelerators” but that suggests causation, as if these factors somehow stepped on the tithing gas pedal. From my reading, a better term would be “predictor.”)

Anyway, these “accelerators” are as follows:

  • More conservative worshipers.
  • More people who attend at least weekly.
  • More (i.e., a higher-than-usual proportion of) men.
  • Larger congregations.

It’s interesting to speculate what the connections are (besides statistical anomaly) between these factors and higher giving.

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Various Changes in the NFOG

July 13th, 2011 No comments

I thought I would note some of the changes I’ve run across as we begin operating under the NFOG. I may update this post as I find other items worth mentioning.

  • There’s no longer a requirement for deacons to meet annually with session. (The old G-6.0405.)
  • The category of “inactive member” has been eliminated: G-1.0401. (Amen.)
  • Congregations decide their own rules for the minimum notification time preceding a congregational meeting: G-1.0502.
  • Congregations also set their own quorum to conduct business: G-1.0501.
  • Robert’s Rules is no longer mandated (old G-7.0302c).
  • The composition of the nominating committee is defined by the congregation, except it has to have (in addition to the ex-officio pastor) three active members and at least one currently-serving ruling elder: G-2.0401.
  • After the election of new officers, session examines them, and, if they pass, session decides when they get ordained and/or installed: G-2.0402.
  • Sessions decide their own quorum: G-3.0203.
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Straight Teaching

February 21st, 2011 No comments

Imagine an argument where one parent said, “I love our baby,” and the other parent didn’t reply, “Well, so do I!” Even in an amicable separation, that would raise some eyebrows. For the same reason, there are three words I’d like mainline protestant Christians to reclaim. They each represent something too important to walk away from.

One of those words is “orthodox.” We don’t use the word very much, except when we use a capital “O” to refer to “Orthodox Christians,” the eastern branches of Christianity resulting from the Great Schism of 1054.

That’s too bad, because “orthodoxy” should be important to us. Read more…

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Overheard Chuckle

November 12th, 2010 No comments

I just had a conversation with someone, and laughed when I heard this:

Another factor, perhaps overlooked, in understanding why Presbyterianism thrived in Scotland, is, of course, whiskey.

“And all God’s people said, ‘Amen.'”

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Heroes and mentors

October 15th, 2010 No comments

Only last night, I was bemoaning how the PC(USA) does such a lousy job of developing new pastors. (I.e., me.) You get an education, you get evaluated on your gifts for ministry, and then you get turned loose on some poor, unsuspecting church. In too many ways, you’re on your own as a pastor.

Our system intentionally prevents people from becoming pastors in the context where their gifts for ministry first surfaced. You may be a stellar youth director, but if you go to seminary, you will not return to that same church as a pastor.

We also don’t mentor our newbies. We’re too busy in our churches, we’re too geographically dispersed–this isn’t Scotland, and whatever the meetings of our governing bodies are good for, it sure isn’t mentoring. Unless you had previous experience on a church staff (as an Associate Pastor or a non-ordained position), you don’t have more than a smattering of experience to draw on as you go about your work.

That was last night. This morning, I read this on Seth Godin’s blog:

Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and expensive.

Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look.

Like a custom made suit, a mentor is a fine thing to have if you can find or afford it. But for the rest of us, heroes will have to do.

Good advice. If nobody will mentor you, find some heroes. Stop with the pity party already, and take some responsibility for your ministry. (“You are Elasti-girl! ” —Edna Mode)

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Picking Elders

October 5th, 2010 No comments

It’s time to pick new elders. If someone on the nominating committee calls you and asks you to serve, and you ask what you have to do, they might go to that horrible laundry list in G-10.0102 that enumerates all the specific areas of responsibility held by Session.

But that’s the wrong place to start. It leads to Sessions full of people who want to balance the budget or fix the roof. Those are great people, and every pastor wishes their church had more of them who were willing and able to serve.

But you can’t start there. In this brief video, Gradye Parsons, the PC(USA) Stated Clerk, argues instead that the right place to start is G-6.0304, and specifically the following sentence:

It is the duty of elders, individually and jointly, to strengthen and nurture the faith and life of the congregation committed to their charge.

That’s what we’re here for, after all. It’s what distinguishes the church from every other type of business or civic or fraternal organization. We desperately need people who can balance budgets and fix the roof. But if we aren’t helping people grow in faith, there’s no point in being here.

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