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On the Move

After 6 years at this same location, and over a decade on Blogger, it is time for a move.

Which is all to say: I have a new blog - check out the first post.

I hope you will cruise over that direction, and join me in my new online home. Some of the more popular posts from this page are being migrated to that location, too. So please update any links.

You can subscribe via email to the posts from that page, or just bookmark the page and check in regularly.

Thanks for being such a great group of friends and readers.

Where ever you follow my writing, posts, or social media, I look forward to seeing you around the internets!

Blog Announcement

Easter is all about the new.

New life.
Renewing our faith.

So Easter seems an appropriate time to start new projects.

Watch this space in the week ahead for news about my writing and this blog.

Healing Spiritual Wounds - Review

TLDR version: A much needed resource for people of faith, and for those in ministry.
Increasingly, those of us in ministry are finding ourselves spending more time with people who are either new to the church or returning to the church. Once upon a time, people were raised in the church and stayed in the church - I mean, maybe they drifted away for a few years in their 20s, but just for a moment.

There is a set of tools for cradle-to-grave church members. Here are the steps of faith formation ("confirmation then graduation then marriage, etc"). Here's how to build on your positive experience and grow deeper in faith. These tools - these steps - are what most people learn when they train for ministry.

Now a growing population has left the community we call "church," or has intentionally chosen to stay away from it. Some were raised in the church and walked away. Others saw the church at a distance and have worked to keep the church at arm’s length. And still others remain in the church with an uneasy peace. 

This new population has awoken important realizations among those of us who provide pastoral care – that many people have been hurt by the church, many people have been taught faith in a way that is counter to the good news of Jesus, many people have deep spiritual wounds. 

The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt's new publication from HarperOne - Healing Spiritual Wounds - is written with just such realizations in mind. It is theology, pastoral care, and a workbook for all those who carry spiritual wounds and all those whose ministry is the healing of those wounds. 

Many a Christian memoirist will write with honesty about the struggles that they once overcame, long ago. Pastor Merritt's memoir is raw and honest about the wounds she carries to this day, and the work she is currently and continuing to doing to heal from them. 

With humor, candor, and deep insight, Pastor Merritt opens up to the reader some of the most painful intersections of faith, Christian community, and human frailty in her life. 

Each chapter deals with a different type of spiritual wound. Pastor Merritt describes the ways many of us have been hurt, points to some of the effects of that pain on our lives, and then – and this is key – offers tools to help the reader unpack that wound and begin the process of healing.

“Our souls are tender places. We hold our ideals, hopes, wishes, and dreams there. That’s why spiritual wounds can feel so devastating … There seem to be so many people who want to heal, but they can’t figure out where they placed the balm.” 

Merritt’s personal stories in Healing Spiritual Wounds held up a mirror to my own stories, and her healing points her readers toward their own peace. For all of us imperfect people, living out our faith in community with other imperfect people, Carol Howard Merritt gives us tools for a healthier, more compassionate spiritual life. 

As a person of faith, I am looking forward to returning to this book again and again as I work through the exercises provided in each chapter. As a pastor, Healing Spiritual Wounds provides me with an extremely helpful set of insights and tools as I care for those I am called to serve. 

With Healing Spiritual Wounds, Carol Howard Merritt provided me with the spiritual direction that I didn't know I needed, and given me some of the tools I've been looking for in my ministry. 

Disclosure: I am fortunate to count Carol as a friend, and was provided with a review copy of this book from HarperOne.

The Sin of Boring Church

Earlier, a conversation happening at UNCO asked the question "Why can't we get as excited about church as we do about the new Star Wars movie?"

As someone who engages with the meeting places of faith and culture, I've thought about this question before.
As someone who leads worship and preaches, leading a congregation in faith formation, I've thought about this question before.
I knew my answer.

While I am prone to hyperbole (aren't all preachers?) I really believe this to be true.

My friend Tripp Hudgins called me out on this, and invited me to a deeper, more nuanced conversation about it.

Now, let me be clear - Tripp is one of the smartest people I know. He has spent years studying worship, and I learn a lot from him. We agree on much more than we disagree on - and in our disagreement I continue to learn from his wisdom.

(Read Tripp's counterpoint to this post - "In Praise of Boredom")

Now, to the point.

The church has been entrusted with one of the most exciting stories ever. A story filled with drama and intrigue, with humor and sadness, with celebration and sorrow.

Yes, the overarching story - the story of creation and redemption, of God and the world.
But also the stories within the story - stories of death and resurrection, of adventure and betrayal, or redemption and romance.

Most people experience our telling of this powerful story like Mr Bean:

The church has been handed this gift - these powerful, world-changing stories - and all too often we tell them as if they are as exciting as watching paint dry.

And that's a sin.

It is a disservice to and misuse of the gift that God has entrusted to us. 

Not all of our proclamation is needs to be "exciting" - it's not about turning the church nonstop into the adrenaline rush of watching Rey pilot the Millennium Falcon (although there are moments like that).
But our proclamation should always be engaging.

Proclaiming the story invites us to be a part of it. 
Their story then becomes my story now.

Some clarifications.

This is not about worship style - contemporary or traditional or postmodern or ancient-modern, they can all be boring, they can all be engaging.

It's not about preaching style - manuscript or not, behind a pulpit or perambulating - they can all be boring, they can all be engaging.

I agree with Tripp: boredom - that place of giving one's mind the unencumbered space to wander free - can be a beneficial part of the life of faith.

But the central act of proclamation, within the central gathering of the worshiping community, should not be boring.

We have gotten lazy with how we tell the story.

We (proclaimers) need to re-learn the power of inviting people into the drama of the story entrusted to us.
We need to let boring church die, and engaging church be reborn.

Our task, our calling, is to invite people into the most exciting and amazing story of all time and give them the tools to make it their own story.

And there is nothing boring about that.