I was in tears watching this TED Talk by Amanda Palmer, because I resonate with it so vividly. The vulnerability of asking, the fear of asking, the trust of asking.
As a pastor, and due to the influence of people like Landon Whitsitt, I’m starting to see myself as an artist. I remember something a friend of mine, and musician, Aisea Taimani, said one time. “As an artist when you perform, you are placing your heart into the hands of the crowd. If they don’t like or accept your art, it feels as if they don’t accept you.”
When I was 22, and thinking about working with youth one of my mentors said to me, “That’s nice and all…I guess, but when are you going to get a real job?” It hurt, it still hurts.
My art is finding the right questions and seeking the answers, when I see my church, the thing that I have devoted my life to, continue to tell pastors who feel called to non-traditional ministries, called to become like 8-Foot Brides, to “GET A JOB!” it makes me crazy, I’m also terrified to ask for help, I’m also too proud to pass a hat, I also wonder what I’m missing.
I’m a pastor in a local church, I feel called here, I also feel called to create spaces for people to seek the questions and to hold on to the answers. Trying to settle into the idea that I am “the pastor” of a church is pretty terrifying, for a lot of reasons. One of the things that terrifies me the most is my congregation is in the midst of a transformation process. A process that they have been in since fall of 2010. It’s from the Center of Parish Development, and I’m honestly having some trouble with it, mostly because it seems as if it is focused on getting new members into the pews on Sunday morning. It has pro-ported to guarantee church growth. That holy grail that all churches seem to be looking for, or at least those in the PC(USA).
My discomfort with the curriculum is growing as the Vision Team and I wrestle with the questions posed. The discomfort come from the fact that the questions are the wrong questions. The questions may have worked 20 years ago, but not today. The idea that we will have the right music, the right preacher (gulp!), the right children’s program, etc., etc. that will magically attract young people and their families to join us on Sunday morning is a myth. The more I experience, the more I believe that. People, young and old, are looking for something, they are looking for meaning and many find that meaning in things that occur outside Sunday morning worship.
My comfort is that the people, young and old, on the Vision Team see that they are the wrong questions and I feel as if we are starting to develop something, something is germinating under the surface, and I pray will blossom into more questions, questions of “Why not?” rather than stumbling blocks of “that’s not the way we do it.”
Right now I am crowd surfing, I am diving into, full force, this community and they are holding me, guiding me, and together we beginning the intimate and holy process of seeing one another.
Together we will take the plunge. Come with us.
In this day and age, where sermons, books, podcasts, music, movies, TV shows, study aids, and the Bible are only a few clicks away streaming live all the time and communities are being formed virtually and growing physically, organically, and outside the bounds of the way it’s always been.
What instead of asking, “How can we make worship more inviting?” we asked, “Is Sunday morning worship the most important thing we do?”
What if instead of the question, “How do we get people to go to church?” we asked, “How do we let people go to church?”
What are the questions we should be asking?
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