Can Churches Build when the Walls Seem to Be Falling Down?

Creating New Imagination to Restore the Heart of Today's Church

This past January, the church I pastor, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, had its own “come to Jesus” moment during our Annual Church Meeting.  I had done my due diligence all year — studying the latest data regarding church growth trends and reading articles that examined societal shifts impacting congregations across the country.  Not much... Read more

God was a Refugee

Finding the Beating Heart of Ministry in the Incarnation

Reina had walked for more than 20 days, in the rain and cold and mud. Grief-stricken after the loss of her son, she walked with one destination in mind: a country she hoped would be her safe-harbor, a new beginning, free from the fear and the violence she had known. She walked with thousands of others to find safety in numbers. She wasn’t trying to make a statement... Read more

Out with the Old, In with the New? Not So Fast!

Revitalizing the Work of the People

Our church has three regular worship services a week.   Two of them are in our smaller chapel space, have minimalist bulletins in lower case letters, pastors on barstools using iPads, Communion bread from the pop-up gluten-free bakery down the street, guitars and keyboards. The other service is your father’s Oldsmobile: it features a pastor in a robe with... Read more

Are Young Adults Over Traditional Religious Rituals? Maybe Not as Much as You Think!

For a while I didn’t understand why Hollywood was obsessed with creating horror movies based on Catholic traditions. From “The Exorcist” (1973), to “The Da Vinci Code” (2006), and “The Nun” (2018), Catholic tradition seems to be on the chopping block when it comes to tales of supernatural fear and trauma. I voiced my confusion, and my friend matter-of-factly said,... Read more

Real Sharing in a Season of Real Joy

Commercial advertisers would have us believe that the holiday season is just about cheerful fun. Family dinners are uncomplicated and there’s an abundance of food that everyone around the table likes to eat. Naturally, for people of faith, there’s a spiritual significance to the holy days of late autumn and early winter. Although spiritual meanings differ across... Read more

Love Multiplies

3 Confessions from the Streets

Mary’s forehead is dried blood. “He did this to me,” she says. John Jacob is uneasy. He’s not on his game. It’s getting late and he hasn’t sold a paper for an hour. “I bet that bitch told the police,” he says. He is speaking to me but looking at her. I try not to look at her. I look instead at the ground. In my mind, however, I can’t look away. He pauses. A woman... Read more

Turning Millstones into Milestones

The Prayer-Filled Life of a Church on the Margins

Standing in front of giant doors of a 150 year old Lutheran Church, she waits for the Spirit to move. DeAnne Lilly Parks, a painter and sculptor, spent most of the summer painting a mural on  the outside doors of the church. Paint and brushes and willing heart at the ready, she shows up each morning and waits on God. I show up and say, “Okay, God whatya got... Read more

Lamentation and the New Religious Frontier

On September 28, 2018 at 12:30 in the afternoon, Mike McHargue, a.k.a. “Science Mike,” an evangelical author, podcaster, and member of The Liturgists, tweeted the following: I want you to know that I am a survivor of sexual assault. Not because I need sympathy or attention—quite the contrary. I want you to know because most of us have internalized wrong and harmful... Read more

Navigating the Crux of 21st Century Ministry Wilderness

Aram Mitchell, executive director of Renewal in the Wilderness, and Pam Shellberg, the BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence, have been collaborating on a program* for progressive faith communities facing significant changes in embodying their missions. The Crux* takes its name from hiking terminology for “the most difficult section of a hiking route or where the greatest... Read more
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