If you are new to this blog....

Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Monday, August 25, 2014

change is death

For three days in lovely Kirkcaldy, Scotland, 12 PCUSA pastors and 12 Church of Scotland pastors met with authors and practical theologians, Diana Butler Bass and Douglas Gay, to talk, think, and share about changes in church and culture. Three days is a lot of content, especially with two theologians and 24 pastors, but here is my biggest takeaway...

Change is Death

We talked about whether what we are seeing in Scotland and U.S. culture is "secularization" or "transformation," but I think we agreed it was change. We talked about the process of groups undergoing change and I recognized much of the stages of grief, not unlike what one might experience as one approaches death, not least of which is the realization that "this is the end of _____ as we've known it" (or more short-sighted, just "this is the end of ____.")

The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral, one of the key sites
where John Knox preached to incite the Protestant
Reformation in Scotland. Thanks to a friend for sharing
this unique photo vantage point with me - it is taken
from the 3rd floor men's room of the St. Andrews
Ph.D. building overlooking the cathedral ruins.
We also talked about what was on the other side of institutional/structural death, including whether to call that "new life, revival, awakening, or transformation." And we recognized that, like it or not, we and our churches and our neighbors and communities are facing the change.

We talked about institutional failure and innovation out of community; we talked about letting go, carrying (some things) with, and letting come... all parts of the journey, not TO death, but THROUGH death. We also touched on the extreme resistance to that reality of death (of something).

Today I'd like to highlight one observation I had in response to this thought-provoking content. Tomorrow I will share three examples from life in the Presbyterian Church (USA) that illustrate three different approaches to the reality that change is death.

OBSERVATION(s)

Even as we think in the mist of crisis about institutions failing, new visions being envisioned and lived out in fresh expressions of community, and a transformation on the other side of the change-which-is-death, I believe there are underlying questions we must ask ourselves. And perhaps these are the "bits of tradition we carry with us" that Diana Butler Bass mentioned, though I don't think "bits of tradition" quite gets at the root importance of these questions. 

As those created, loved, redeemed, called, and sent by God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit...
  1. Who are we?
  2. Why are we here?
  3. What are we doing and why?
  4. To whom is our allegiance?
I am drawn to questions like those because institutions are just place-holders, structures that have for a time sustained us in asking and answering questions like those.

New visions, if they are anything more than clever human novelties, are fresh understandings of old, old questions.

And communal innovation and transformation (whether of church or culture) is new life at work answering those kinds of questions, eventually in search of new place-holders and structures to sustain the asking, answering, and living out of questions like those.

Or so it seems to me. Our stimulating discussion of the transformation process and even historic realities like the Great Awakenings leaned toward the WHAT, WHEN and the HOW... good points, important points. But we must also take notice of the WHY (and the One the biblical witness recognizes as the WHO behind the WHY).

Said another way...

Of course change is death. Everything we make and touch is dying, encased in the only structures and shells we humans know to construct to house what is from God. But we should also not be surprised to find God at work, bringing life from death and hope from ashes. That's the good and hopeful Word to which we cling in faith.


See also:

Tag Cloud

2014 2015 accountability acts advent archive art arts ash wednesday aslan assurance audio auditions bands belief bigotry blessing blob bloggers blooper reel bluegrass body of christ book book reviews boomer boundaries breadth of worship builder bus calling Calvin Symposium cd ceilidh change character of god chart christmas church church partnerships civility commandments commentary communication community con ed confession confirmation contemporized hymns crisis culture D.Min. dance darkness death definitions denomination depth of worship discernment discipleship discourse dismissal dissertation drama early church easter ecclesiology ecpc emergent church error evangelism excellence exile exodus experimentation facebook failure faith family of God father fear fellowship fellowshippres following forgiveness friendship frost fruit frustration funerals GA ga219 ga220 GAhelp generations genX gift gifts girl scouts good news Google gospel grace gracious witness gspc youth hands health highlights holy spirit holy week hope hospitality humility humor hymn image of God imago dei improvisation incarnation inclusion index information insider language institutions interns invitation iTunes james jazz Jeremy Begbie john piper jonah joy judgment Keith and Kristyn Getty kids kindness language law lay renewal leadership legalism lent license life light lighthouse linked articles links listening liturgy loneliness love lyrics maddie shuler meme mentoring mercy metanarrative mgb commission millenials ministry networks miscellaneous mission missional missional identity missions moderator montreat mumford music narnia neighborhood neighbors new wineskins new year news newsletter NEXT NEXTchurch nicaragua noticing obedience obstacles organizations outreach palm sunday parenting participation pastor pastoral ministry pcaus pcusa peace performance peter pgf pictures plagues planning podcasting poetry politics ponderings pornography post-modernism prayer preaching presbymergent presbyterian global fellowship presbytery publishing questions racism reader reconciliation recordings recycled goodness redemption reflection refugees relationship relationships retreat righteousness risk roadblocks rss rules sabbatical safety salt samaritan satan satire scotland searchlight searchlight 2.0 sectarianism self-righteousness seminaries sermon snippets sermon-song sermons shalom sheep shepherding sin small church social media song songwriters songwriting spheres of influence spirit spiritual lessons spiritual power stewardship stories story sub-culture summary sunrise talent challenge tears technology teenagers Ten Commandments terrorism testimony theater theft theological education top posts tragedy transformation translation travel trees trinitarian worship trinity trust truth twitter union with christ valentines VBS video virtual reality vision waiting website wednesdays out wee kirk welcome witness word cloud wordle words workshop worship writing year-end YL you tube youth