21stCenturyMinistry

Finding Deep Gratitude in Ordinary Time

My Sunday night yoga class is an anchor in my week. It grounds me and prepares me for the week ahead. The teacher is wise and the community that gathers is special. Recently one night a couple I hadn’t met before showed up. A bit older than me, they looked to have shared many, many… Read More

Radical Gratitude as Resistance

I’m going to put a whole lot of honesty on the table: I find the age we live in very disturbing. Perhaps you share my concern or, worse yet, have been the object of concern from the likes of me. The truth is, my peace has been disturbed. As an African-American man, fighting for dignity… Read More

Jesus is the tweet. You are the hashtag.

Reflecting on Life in the Digitally-Integrated Church

Editors Note: Each month, Bearings contributors offer insights on a key theme in the practice of life-as-ministry. As the final installment in the issue, The BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence Pamela Shellberg, PhD reflects on the articles in the issue and poses questions for further reflection by Bearings readers and the communities in which life-as-ministry plays out for… Read More

Re-Mediating the Global, Digital Body of Christ

A Conversation with Media Scholar Heidi Campbell

For more than a decade, new media, religion, and digital culture scholar Heidi Campbell of Texas A&M has been exploring the ways that the internet, social media, and other digital technologies engage with the religious and spiritual practices of ordinary people. Her more than seventy articles, books, and edited volumes have mapped how digital social… Read More

Re-Mediation in the D-I-Y Church

Lately I’ve been thinking about a passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus reminds Peter that our youthful vigor and self-determination will always fade. “Very truly, I tell you” Jesus says, “when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old,… Read More

Growing by Half

How Part-Time Pastoral Leadership Can Revitalize the Church

One year ago, I began studying a rare but important species that many church officials wrongly believe doesn’t exist: the mainline Protestant congregation that finds vitality after doing away with the full-time pastorate. To be sure, it wasn’t always the easiest species to find. Many congregations with shrinking attendance and budgets continue to struggle after… Read More

Crowdfunding Christian Ministry

It’s hardly breaking news that many congregations struggle with financial stewardship. Perhaps there was a time when Christians gave to the church without a second’s thought. In days of yore, giving was considered a duty and solemn obligation, and members reliably filled out pledge cards, doing their part to keep church coffers full. That’s not… Read More

What Do We Mean When We Say, “All Are Welcome”?

I’ve driven by that church—you know, the one with the giant banner that says, “All Are Welcome.” I often ask myself, “If I walked through the doors, would I be embraced?” I’m an educated, queer, Black, Progressive, Transgender Christian. Would I, with all that I bring, be welcomed in that space?” When we claim that… Read More

Collaborative Ministry is How We “Love One Another”

They would soon be facing a life-threatening winter. Overwhelming violence in Syria had forced residents from their homes with minimal belongings. Several thousand Syrian refugees were now relocated in a U.N.-sanctioned camp at Jordan. Without the warm clothing they left behind, they might not survive the harsh conditions coming their way. This was in August… Read More

Into the Mystery of Collective Ministry

My favorite definition of “minister” comes from the verb, not the noun. Emphasis is placed on the action, not the subject: “To minister” means to assist where help is needed. This is completely different from the notion that I was raised with as a child in a Roman Catholic household headed by two parents who… Read More

Holy Curiosity and the Gospel’s True Facts about “Fake News”

I first encountered the calculated promulgation of “fake news”—or “propaganda,” to borrow an older term—as a governing strategy during a year of studying theology in the former East Germany. The Eastern Bloc nation tightly controlled the information available to the public with equal parts censorship and propaganda. Newspapers featured glowing headlines about the superiority of… Read More

Faithful Resistance is Persistence in Love

In a season where the leadership of the United States claims to be constructing “An Entirely New Political Movement,” many have echoed what activist and filmmaker Michael Moore said after November’s election: “We are going to resist … This is going to be a massive resistance.” And in fact it has been. The Women’s March… Read More

Tending Trauma as Transformative Communion

The best sushi I ever tasted was handed to me fresh from the Sea of Galilee. I was the last customer at the restaurant when a fisherman brought it in. A Palestinian Christian waiter, the Jewish fisherman who caught the fish, and his Palestinian Muslim friend invited me—an Irish, Italian-American Catholic—to share this meal at… Read More

Called to Dinner, Together

Growing up, I didn’t realize that my proximity to extended family would, 40 years later, turn out to be an anachronism. With my much older sister and three of my father’s six siblings living within a few hundred yards of our family farm, I came and went as I pleased. My mother, an unenthusiastic cook,… Read More

Giving the Church a New Look with Old Eyes

“Technically, it’s called presbyopia,” said the ophthalmologist. “Starts about age 40, so you’re pretty much on target. Most people just get readers.” “Presbyopia, eh?” “Yeah. It means –” “I know … old eyes.” As a lifelong Presbyterian, this is the only other word I’ve heard with the Greek root presby, which means “old.” Technically, Presbyterian… Read More

The Pain of “Doing No Harm”

As I finish Thanksgiving and head full bore into the Christmas season, John Wesley’s three rules—“Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.”—keep running through my mind. Perhaps this is because we have just come through a contentious election season that has left our communities deeply divided. Or maybe it’s because many of… Read More