Bearings

Navigating Life-as-Ministry

Addicted to Certainty

It was the third and final night of our church’s annual revival and, despite the guest evangelist’s renowned theatrics, the prospect of disappointment loomed over the event like a dark cloud. The previous two nights had produced only a single convert—the seven-year-old son of one of our deacons, who’d walked the aisle, tears staining his… Read More

Our Savior of the Soccer Pitch

Like many young families, our weekends in the fall are busy with soccer. We have four kids on three different teams. That means three practices and three games each week, mostly clustered on Friday night and Saturday morning. While the schedule is hectic, we love to see our kids play, and we track their progress… Read More

Rethinking Church, Communally and Creatively

I spend a curious amount of time discussing, studying, and writing about polity—the structures and procedures of congregational/denominational governance. As other theologians and sociologists of religion speculate about the decline, revival, or re-emergence of Christianity and the church, I focus on how emerging congregations organize themselves and structure their decision-making processes. As a “body”—ecclesial, social,… Read More

The Bible in One Hand, Beer in the Other

How to Make Oktoberfest Holy

Autumn is the best season. I love it all: gorgeous leaves, crisp temperatures, flannel fresh from the closet, and, if you’re into that sort of thing, pumpkin spice lattes. There’s so much to love this time of year, but my absolute favorite marker of the season is Oktoberfest beer. A few weeks ago, when I… Read More

Beyond Reconciliation

Race, Religion, and Reparations in the White Church

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”—Cornel West The #BlackLivesMatter movement (#BLM) has captured the attention of the nation. From the streets of Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore to the stages of Republican primary debates and the political platforms of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the movement has informed and shaped a national… Read More

Here’s to a Second Year

Ushering in a New Season of Navigation for Bearings

As I anticipate the kickoff of the second season of Bearings: Navigating Life-As-Ministry, I want to thank the award-winning blog’s co-editors, Elizabeth Drescher and Alyssa Lodewick, for their work on convening the diverse community of voices that contributed to a successful inaugural year. I am also deeply grateful to all of our bloggers, who offered… Read More

Surf’s Up!

Seven Multimedia Ministry Sites Worth Surfing This Summer

Summertime is often a time for ministry leaders to tackle that long reading list or stack of impulsively bought books from Amazon that has built up over the rush of the ministry program year. It is also a good time to travel off the beaten digital path and discover new resources for both personal nourishment… Read More

What We’re Reading & Who We’re Becoming

Bearings Contributors Bring in a Fresh Catch of End-of-Summer Reads

What we’re reading at any given time in our lives says a lot about what’s going on in our lives, who we are, and maybe a bit about who we’re becoming. After all, the stories we absorb from the pages of books, the ideas we imbibe, and the images that float into our consciousness become… Read More

Crunching the Numbers on Bearings’s First Year

Big Data. Analytics. They’re not just for corporations, health insurance companies, and advertising agencies anymore. In an era obsessed with return on investment and concrete measurements of success, churches, spiritual communities, and religious institutions are evaluating their own relationships to numbers. Take the United Church of Christ, for example. It hosts not only The UCC… Read More

After Charleston

By now we all know the basic details of the story: More than a week ago, Dylann Storm Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and joined a small Bible study. He prayed with the assembled group. After an hour, he started shooting, even though he later admitted that everyone was “so nice” that he… Read More

Sustaining Ministry through Soulful Entrepreneurship: Finding New Tools for a Changing Church

In the past decade, an increasing number of social entrepreneurs—individuals who feel called to make a difference in the world while earning a living doing it—have been establishing themselves. From mindful consultants to healers to savers of elephants and rainforests, these entrepreneurs find ways to live their passion and at the same time make an… Read More

“Toy Story” Redux: Sparking Joy is the Church’s Sequel

There’s been a resurgence of analysis of religious life in the United States appearing in waves of commentary on recent Pew study findings. In the midst of all this, an observation from United Methodist bishop Kenneth Carter, Jr. captured my attention: We should also note that the growth of unaffiliated has been shaped by the relentless… Read More

Re-Imagining the Story: Can the Mainline Church Put Away Childish Things?

Elizabeth Drescher’s recent piece on “Bearings” asks the question: “What if we had the next great awakening . . . and everybody slept in?” As a church pastor, I’m beginning to wonder that, myself. There are times when being a mainline church pastor feels like being Sheriff Woody from the “Toy Story” movies—adventurous in ways… Read More

Ministering in the Middle of It: There’s More Than One Way to Pastor

Is it the pastor’s place to console, or is it the pastor’s place to challenge? Should ministers emphasize comforting the afflicted, or afflicting the comfortable? In the piece that he wrote for Bearings last week, Adam J. Copeland pondered these questions when he asked, “What’s the Point of a Pastor?” It’s a great question—and one… Read More

What’s the Point of a Pastor?

“One of the reasons that people need pastors is precisely because God is always present but usually not apparent.” – M. Craig Barnes In my Presbyterian faith tradition most pastors wear black preaching robes. I promise we don’t do it for comfort. Or looks (obviously). These robes signify, in part, the relationship between the church… Read More