In mid February I noticed a flood of tweets with the hashtag #bellletstalk inviting an honest conversation about mental health. My first thought, knowing that Rob Bell had a new book coming out, was excitement and relief that he had taken the brave step of writing something substantial on mental health issues and depression in the ministry. Read more about Let's talk
So this morning in church we looked at 1 Corinthians 16, and, in what I think is probably a first when teaching on stewardship, everyone there decided to increase their giving. How did I do it? Read more about With regard to the collection for the saints
If you tell me that something is vital and important, but you don’t fund it, that’s not a “paradox” - it just means that you don’t actually think it is vital and important, no matter how much you like to talk about it.
You can measure what a church considers vital and important by its budget. Or, as Jonathan Ingleby put it, “principles are costly, and if they cost us nothing then they are probably not our principles.” Read more about For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also
Here is another chapter from Furuya’s new book and I should really try to sort out translation rights pretty soon. Anyway, this one’s about the Japanese church in the Second World War, something I have written about myself.
Quick commentary: Wait for the punchline at the end. It’s brilliant.
I don’t often go to traditional churches any more; the community we’re part of is essentially a house church although we probably wouldn’t call ourselves that. It meets on a Thusrday evening, so we have Sunday mornings free and for interest we’ve occasionally been visiting other churches around Gloucester. I feel like it’s giving me an interesting outsider perspective on the whole going-to-church experience. Read more about A lecture club, with singing
When he got home his mother (my sister) and father were waiting inside for him. My sister wept as he came into the house and asked him “what did I do wrong?” Her husband told him that “he wasn’t raised to be queer” and that he needed to be cured of his sin. They had already notified their church’s pastor and youth pastor. The church told them to send him there for a conference immediately after he got home.
My nephew got into the car and decided he didn’t need to be cured of anything. Instead, he decided he was headed to my house in Florida. He knew here that he would find love, compassion, and understanding. He knew if he went to the church he’d be ridiculed and told that he was defective and needed to be “cured”. He told me a story of how a boy in his youth group committed suicide a few years ago and in his suicide note he admitted he was gay. He had been convinced that he didn’t deserve to live since he couldn’t be cured of homosexuality. (I know that sounds crazy, but some people actually think like that.) My nephew didn’t want to be like that.
OK, I know it’s America, and they do things differently there. But still: “he knew if he went to the church he’d be ridiculed and told that he was defective.” That’s what we look like to people, and probably for good reason.
Little checklist for your church, taken from Toxic Faith:
- The leader must be in control of every aspect at all times.
- When problems arise, find a guilty party to blame immediately.
- Don’t make mistakes.
- Never point out the reality of the situation.
- Never express your feelings unless they are positive.
- Don’t ask questions, especially if they are tough ones.
- Don’t do anything outside of your role.
- Don’t trust anyone.
I'm (thoroughly enjoying) writing an IT strategy for a large church, and one of the things I want to get across is the benefits of openness with information, whether that means blogging, Twitter, engaging in discussions and forums about church teaching. This is an idea that the leadership are apparently unhappy about, since they want to keep fairly tight hold on authority for teaching and doctrine and what gets said in the name of the church, and if people start questioning what the pastor says in his sermons then where will we be. (In other words, all that unpleasantness in 1517 didn't change a bloody thing.)
I'm still reflecting on my experience working in a Japanese church. I've written before about the sense of expectations I've felt put on by myself, and by my church in the UK (or at least my perception of what they expect) but I didn't really think before about the expectations of my local congregation, the church I was working for. Perhaps at the time I was too close to the action.