21stCenturyMinistry

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

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

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

Bearing Each Other Up

Reflections Upon the 2016 Election

EDITORS’ NOTE: Adam Copeland was our scheduled contributor for this week, but as we moved late into the night of the presidential election, it was clear that the outcome many of us had hoped for, and perhaps even expected, was not to happen. We began to wonder whether it might be too much to ask… Read More

What the Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Other “Invasive Species” Can Teach the Church

Some years ago, while living in San Francisco, I encountered the parrots of Telegraph Hill. I was walking through a park on the Embarcadero, the city’s western waterfront, when I heard a racket overhead. Looking up, I could see bright flashes of color moving in the branches and occasionally taking flight among the eucalyptus trees… Read More

Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric

Jesus and Justice in Practice

It’s not news to say that this has been a crazy, rancorous election season—perhaps the most ugly in modern history, many pundits claim. Maybe. But when I reflect back on earlier election cycles, there seems to have been plenty of media-infused hostility that we tend to mute in our nostalgic remembrance. The 2008 election of… Read More

Re-Seeing Evangelical Support for Donald J. Trump

Not long ago, Wayne Grudem, a prominent evangelical theologian, voiced support for Donald Trump. His main reason was because the next president would appoint the succeeding Supreme Court Justices. After I read his statement, I tweeted this:           As more and more evangelicals have rallied around Donald Trump, I have found… Read More

Growing Up as a Church When Our Young Adults Leave

Toward the end of Coffee Hour on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend—a light day, as they go—I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was our usually unflappable church Music Director, looking, well, flapped. “Got a minute?” he said in the “up tone” that in church staff speak means, “Houston, we have a problem.”… Read More