21stCenturySpirituality

Hope is a Thing with Muscles

Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” included a sketch in which Emma Stone played an exhausted, postpartum Virgin Mary who’s annoyed with Joseph for inviting visitor after visitor—shepherds, magi, a llama (not of the Dalai sort … )—into the stable where she’s just given birth to Jesus. The bit plays up Mary’s fatigue, her frustration with… Read More

Conversation Starter

Moving Into Year Three of Getting Our Bearings by Sharing Our Stories

As we ease into our third year of publication of The BTS Center’s award-winning blog, Bearings, co-editors Elizabeth Drescher and Alyssa Lodewick have been mulling the role of outlets like ours in shaping what the Church is becoming in a dynamic religious landscape. We’re excited to continue what we see as a multi-dimensional dialogue that… Read More

Jesus, The Jerk

Making Sense of the Times Jesus Wasn't Very Christlike

Jesus could be a real jerk sometimes. I’m not referring here to the times he got angry (John 2:13-17), cynical (Matthew 21:18-22), or sarcastic (Mark 12:18-27) with people. I’m talking about the times Jesus was just plain mean to them. Case in point: the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. You remember the story. After months… Read More

Confession Reboot

Why Sharing Our Failure with Others Still Matters

“I failed,” Jon Snow said to Ser Davos in a recent “Game of Thrones” episode. And Jon had. In fact, because of his leadership decisions, Jon was murdered by his friends. But Melisandre, a priestess of the Lord of Light, brought Jon back from the dead. Why? No one knows. Melisandre only has guesses. Ser… Read More

Seeing Through Brokenness

Beauty and Love in the Church's Kaleidoscopic Change

As my father might say, it was déjà vu all over again: Driving to Andover Newton Theological Seminary (ANTS) for the last class of the course I taught this semester, closing out my year as a visiting professor there. Rather than some “school’s out for summer” kind of delirium, the drive carried a good bit… Read More

The Ministry of Stories

Creating Space to Notice and Know

During the four hot, humid months between my junior and senior years of college, I waited tables at Beethoven’s Inn, a hole-in-the-wall deli that served sandwiches named after classical music composers. The realm of the “Handel, Bach, and Scarlatti” was a land of firsts for me. There, I ate gazpacho for the first time. I… Read More

Life As Art

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to introduce you to the work of Troy Bronsink, who will serve as the keynote speaker and moderator at The BTS Center’s annual January convocation. This year, the theme of Convocation 2016 is “Life as Art: Design Thinking and Mindfulness for Integrating Life and Ministry.” In the following piece, Troy offers a preview… Read More

Back to the Future of Religion

Does Demographic Research Create the Religious "Reality" It Describes?

If you somehow managed to Marty McFly yourself back to the High Middle Ages—the epoch of Christendom influence in the pre-Reformation West—you’d likely catch a glimpse of the future of faith even as you regarded the sights, sounds, and (alas) smells of its glorious past. And if you happened to be a researcher from the… Read More

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

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

Affiliating in the Age of Unaffiliation: How Digital Social Networking is Changing How We Gather

“I haven’t really given it much thought, but I’m really not looking for community when I go to church,” a colleague said when we talked at a consultation earlier this year sponsored by the New Media Project. We’d been thinking about the ways in which new digital media practices—not the technologies themselves, but the ways… Read More

Not Quite Home

I decided to return to my old church for a visit. Readers of BEARINGS will recall that it’s been a while since I’ve crossed the threshold of the church that nurtured me through graduate school and the various ups and downs of life at that time. I’d been mulling a holiday return. I wanted to… Read More

Heaven is Here: Reflections From a Snow Globe

Editor’s note: On January 26 – 27, The BTS Center hosted Convocation 2015: “Gifts of the Dark Wood.” Over the course of two days, the event’s participants and keynote speakers—Dr. Eric Elnes and Dr. Marcia McFee—explored how encounters with failure, uncertainty, and temptation possess the power to bring individuals closer to God. In the following… Read More

Exploring the Dark Wood

Editor’s Note: This piece contains an excerpt from the literary work titled Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes (© 2015 Eric Elnes, Publisher: Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. All Rights Reserved. To be published in September 2015.) We are privileged to share this preview and thank Abingdon Press for granting permission to publish.  Years ago, I made… Read More