The Ascension Never Actually Happened – Ascension is Always Happening

The important question for most biblical scholars is not whether the Ascension actually happened but rather, what did the Ascension mean to the author in his context. And to that question we might add a more pressing question: Given what the Ascension meant in the first century, does it continue to have any relevance for those of us who live in the 21st century?

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Let’s Talk About Scheduling

Let’s talk about scheduling. It’s the bane of any complex organization, and yet handling schedules poorly is guaranteed to hurt and offend constituents.

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The Raising of LOVE: The “More-Than-Literal” Meaning of the Raising of Tabitha

A Sermon on Acts 9:36-41

“Can the ways in which we tell the stories of resurrection transform us into followers of Jesus who embody a way of being in the world that can nourish, ground, and sustain the kind of peace that the world years for?”

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4 Ways to Reach Outside Our Walls

Let’s say you wanted to lead your congregation into being more a faith community and less an institution.

More a people called out of the world (the meaning of ekklesia) by the transformative power of faith, and less a people gathered inside walls, around an altar, where rituals of belonging make them feel safe and loved.

I see four practical ways we can reach outside the walls of our inherited institutional understanding – and thereby become more the community that Jesus called into being.

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What In The World Do People Want?

In the church world, you need to know what is and isn’t working. You need metrics. You can’t just keep doing what you enjoy doing if no one is “buying” it, or continue what worked a decade ago without asking whether it is working today.

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Church Communication

Aim for 3 Blogs, each targeting a different audience

As a child in church, I walked by a large bulletin board hung in a well-traveled hallway. I ignored it. So did everyone else.

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Gretta Vosper: The Atheist Minister

Gretta Vosper is an “atheist minister” in the United Church of Canada. Because of her views, the church might remove her from the pulpit.

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3 Markers of Healthy and Unhealthy Churches

The healthy church sees its role as transformational: helping God to transform the lives of God’s beloved. And then helping them to transform their families, neighborhoods and workplaces, and daring to dream of transforming entire communities. The unhealthy church, by contrast, places ultimate value on sameness, consistency, not challenging people, and not making waves in the community.

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Metrics (measure it, or else)

That is why measurements matter. Not to fill boxes on a spreadsheet or official church report, but to avoid hurting people, to know when a program needs refreshing, to see growth as it is happening so that you can support it, or to see early signs of decline so that you can take action. Without metrics, leaders are flying blind.

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Easter Litany (A progressive Exultet)

The pain of our Good Fridays
still lingers among us.
We still dwell inside the long waiting
of our Holy Saturdays.
Old wounds hold us in calloused hearts.
Ancient histories mold our souls in fear.
New worries drag us toward the abyss of dread.

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Good Friday Sermons

Holy Week marks a sharp uptick in visitors to this blog. From comments, messages, and emails I hear from fellow preachers who, like me, are daunted by the task of preparing the Good Friday sermon. That task is even more daunting for those of us who serve progressive communities. My fellow progressive-christian-preachers tell me of the dearth of progressive-christian Good Friday sermons to be found on the internet and encourage me to re-post my own attempts to rise to the occasion. So, here are the links to some of the Good Friday sermons I have preached over the years of my journey with the progressive community which I serve.

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Maundy Thursday – When you don’t believe that Jesus was a sacrifice for sin!

I was asked by a colleague, “So, if you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, then why bother celebrating the events of Holy Week?” Behind this question lies the assumption that the only way to understand Jesus’ death is to frame it within the context of the theology of “penal sacrificial atonement” ie “we are judged to be sinful creatures, punishment is required, God sends Jesus to pay the price for our sin”. That Anslem’s theory of sacrificial atonement was formulated in the 11th century and continues to hold sway in the minds of so many followers of Christ is a testament to the power of our liturgies and hymns to form our theology. However, Anslem’s theory is not they only faithful way to understand Jesus’ death.

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Book Review: Prayers of Via De Cristo: Calls to Worship for Progressive Christians

by James Armstrong

  For the many churches that have asked us for a book with calls to Worship and other liturgies, we now have an excellent one. It is Prayers of Via De Christo. It is the product of …

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Prayers of Via De Cristo: Calls to Worship for Progressive Christians

‘Prayers of Via de Cristo: Calls to Worship for Progressive Christians’ offers a collection of 125 service prayers created specifically for an informal and introspective Progressive Christian congregation. Comfortable with contemporary situation, conversation, and scholarship, these reflective prayers focus on a wide range of themes and perspectives.

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The Basics: Younger Adult Ministry

When I first developed my best practices guide to Church Wellness, I called this section “Young Adult Ministry.” Now I title it “Younger Adult Ministry.”

It is unrealistic to think that a congregation whose average age is over 60 will be able to appeal effectively to people in their 20s and 30s. Not only are the generations too far apart, but the church expectations of the 60+ set are shaped by congregation, facility, ordained leadership, denomination and Sunday worship, whereas so-called Millennials pursue a hunger for God that takes different forms.

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The Basics: Mission Development

The healthy church has a fundamental orientation: outward.

Leaders don’t ask, “What do our members want?” Instead, they ask, “What does the world around us need?”

Leaders understand that a missional mindset is the heart of all church development. New constituents, for example, are rarely attracted by better and better worship. They want to know what a congregation stands for and what it is doing in the world for others.

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First Impressions Interview with John Shelby Spong On “Biblical Literalism as a Gentile Heresy”

A close reading of Matthew’s gospel reveals that a literal understanding of Jesus’s story obscures its deep Jewish roots. John Shelby Spong joins Art Remillard to discuss his new book, Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy. Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000, and he is the author of several books to include Why Christianity Must Change or Die and his autobiography Here I Stand.

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The Basics: Stewardship Development

  [We continue a look at the basics of church wellness. This week: Stewardship Development.] Stewardship Development is perhaps the most complicated and overlooked ministry of the church. Two reasons for this: it’s easier and safer to …

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