“All are Sought”

sought lighthouseWhat might it mean that all are sought?   We pick up the conversation from last week where we discussed the idea of “all are welcome.”  If the church, and its congregations are going to actively claim that “all are welcome,” I believe it needs to take seriously the conception that “all are sought.”  So what might this mean?

It starts in a missional understanding of scripture.  We confess and profess that we believe in the Triune God.  This has implications.  By believing this, we profess and believe that God is active in the world.  God is present, and to be theologically accurate, omnipresent.  It’s not a question of “where is God,” it’s rather a question of “what is God up to” or “what might God be up to here?”  This might be in regard to external things, what we are noticing happening out in the community or larger world.  This might be in the lives of another person we meet. It could even be within the lives of our family, friends, and even… ourselves.  If we truly believe that God uses us, and calls us as co-creators with God, then we are part of something which God might be up to.

With that question in mind, some people claim that they are seeking for God.  The funny thing is, God is seeking them.  It’s like the gospel lesson from a couple weeks ago (Lectionary 24C), Luke 15:1-10.  In this passage we hear the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.  There is joy that comes from the seeking and the finding, even if its just one lost coin (or one person).   Further, there is no limit to what God will do to search you out.  Likewise, there is no limit of God’s love for you.

If God is seeking all, then what does that mean about us?  Are we to seek too?  If we are God’s co-creators, then that means that we participate in God’s work in the world.  So, I would believe by extension, yes, we are to seek too.  But what does this seeking look like?  Is it like the evangelism ideas of the past- knock on doors and tell people to come to church?  This might work.  But I don’t think its necessarily the best approach.  Rather, let me expand on an idea of accompaniment, something the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seems to be moving towards embracing more and more.

Accompaniment means literally meeting people where they are at, and walking alongside them, being an embodiment of God’s limitless love.  By it’s very nature it implies a multi-directional relationship.  No longer is it the “I know the truth so listen to me,” its rather a “what do you think and feel?  This is what I think and feel…” There is a sense of mutuality, and a willingness to be authentic, honest, humble, and transparent.  I could say much more about accompaniment, but I am going to save that for another upcoming blog post.

Before we close this reflection though, what are some of the barriers and potential barriers for the idea of “all are sought?”  I would say the greatest barrier is fear.  There is the fear of the unknown.  There is the fear of change or the potential changes that might come from meeting new people, engaging others, and welcoming new experiences and perspectives.  There may also be a fear of simply not knowing how to go out, listen, talk and engage.

Other barriers might be economics.  By reaching out beyond the walls of the church, we have to admit that every person has a different economic and social standing, place, and perspective in our earthly society.  Considering all statistics, 1 out 7 people in our country might be considered in poverty.  (The US census lists that the poverty line for a family of four as of 2012 was $23,364.  If you do some basic calculations, you can see how this number is likely far too small when trying to consider the basic costs for food and shelter needed to sustain life in our current economy.) What kind of a barrier might this present?  Look at your congregations and think about how many things you do that involve either a transaction or payment of money, a cost to participate, or a “free will” offering.  Think about how “free will” offerings aren’t always free will, because of the guilt and shame that can be felt by not putting some money in a free will box or basket.

Some congregations have scholarships to get around these sorts of situations, but have you thought that this too can be a barrier.  Because one has to verbalize their need for the scholarship and risk the feeling of inadequacy and shame (whether existing or just self-induced) by making known their situation.  If any of this sounds like it might hit home, I really encourage you to think about why your congregation uses and seeks money and funds in this way?  Might there be better ways?  Does a congregation really need to charge people to participate in confirmation and Sunday School or an adult education opportunity?  How does that really jive with a conception of “All are welcome,” or “come as you are?”

Another barrier can be our cultural and ethnic heritages.  Yes, telling stories and jokes about Ole and Lena can be appropriate and helpful.  But perhaps using those stories, and having a Lutefisk dinner may not be the most accessible way to show welcome and that a church is seeking out, when its larger community has no relation or connection to that ethnic experience.  Might there be ways to bridge this barrier of ethnic and cultural heritages?  Further, in our church practices and worship, we have so much “insider” language and things, if we can’t explain them and actively explain them, how do we expect some one who is new to this sort of expression to understand what we are doing and be able to participate in it?

In terms of participation, a barrier that I believe has resulted from church practice is that there is now a sense by some and idea that ministry is something for the professionals.  It’s such a shame, because it contradicts greatly with any conception of the priesthood of all believers that many Lutherans claim to hold.  What I mean by this is that over time, there has been the assumption by some in the congregation that the professionals on staff know what they are doing, and to just let them do their thing as ministry.  The problem is, as a congregation every person has a role and roles to play and serve.  This is an expression of one’s vocations.  If the professionals simply end up doing the ministry, ministry becomes something passive and its just the role of a few to help and serve and do the seeking.

A final barrier might be really a sense of rigidness.  Some congregations or people in a congregation at least might have an unwillingness at times to adapt and be adapted by the body of Christ.  This might be an extension of fear, or an unwillingness to be changed or further shaped when joined in community by people of other experiences and perspectives.  If all are sought, we certainly cannot assume that all people are like us and will do exactly as we would like them to do.  If that’s the case, that’s not really a healthy or authentic relationship.  It’s certainly not an example of accompaniment.

There is certainly much to chew on here.  I did not mean to make this post sound so harsh, but sometimes we have to admit our shortcomings in order to grow.  Perhaps in this sense this post might be our confession- a confession of the way we have done some things and fallen short.  It might also be our act of coming, reconciling, and admitting that we want to change and grow.  We’ll explore this further within our reflection of accompaniment in the next post of this series.  Until then, what do you think?  What strikes you amid this pondering?  What resonates with you?  What leaves you with more questions?  What might you not agree with at all?  I look forward to the continued conversation.  Until then, blessings and peace!

Neighbor love in light of the past week’s events

I enter into this post, deeply aware of how divisive this might be.  I shake a little at the thought of this, but deep down I know I must write.  A week and a half ago, perhaps more than at any other time in recent years, I felt convicted (and really, I still do given our current potential for a government shut-down)!  I feel convicted as an American.  I feel embarrassed as a citizen.  And, I feel like a “stinking maggot fodder” sinner instead of just a sinner.

The real median household income today remains the same as it was 25 years ago.  Yet, the economy has grown greatly since then.  Where have the gains gone, straight to to the top.  The rich have gotten richer, and the poor have gotten poorer.  This has been an economic reality as long as I have been alive.  And yes, this convicts me.  But what really convicts me is that on September 19th we had one of our legislative bodies vote to cut funding for the poor and the needy.  (Not to mention, take the 42nd vote to repeal the healthcare legislation that was approved a few years ago.)  People may say, well its “my money,” and it should only be going to this or that.  The reality is, its not your money.  God entrusted it to you for a reason.  And to withhold it from the poor in need is effectively murder.  But alas, I feel like I am beating a dead horse here.  So let me take a step back and see if we can make some sense of this.

Christians unite in praying the Lord’s prayer.  One petition of the prayer asks, “Give us this day our daily bread…”  Now with that in mind, consider the events of Thursday September 19th.  That day, the House of Representatives voted 217-210 to cut $40 billion from the Food Stamps Program.  Let me repeat that, the House of Representatives voted 217-210 to cut $40 billion from the Food Stamps Program.

I am the first person to admit that we need to do a better job of budgeting as a country. But, taking away from those who already are the most in need does not seem like the right or just way to do that.  The House of Representatives is supposed to represent the people.  Unfortunately, on Thursday the 19th those who most needed their voices heard were let down.  Thankfully, this legislation had little chance of passing the senate so the legislation is more symbolic than anything else. But, it sends the wrong message.  It says, “you don’t need this.” It may as well say, “we don’t care about you.”

Well, to the 217 representatives who voted like this, let me tell you this, I disagree with you, because I do care about the people whom you would effectively be cutting their financial support. I think it is the role of all sectors of society (and not just one) to work and serve the greater good and the common good.  The government must play a role in this, because if it is an institution that is supposedly “of the people and for the people,” it must support a just and humane society.  Otherwise it is not an institution of the people at all.  It risks becoming merely an institution of special interests and self-justification.

We could always try and swipe this away with some “2 Kingdoms” argument.  We could say that this is just another example of our brokenness, or the depth of the earthly kingdom in contrast to the heavenly kingdom.  We could just point to this example as further proof that the Kingdom of God though it has broken into the world in some ways, there is still much that has yet to be seen or be realized.  The problem is that such theological reasoning does not do justice to the fact that we are called to love our neighbor.  It ignores the implications of Genesis 2, where we are basically given the ability to be co-creators with God.  We are called to be better, to serve our neighbor, and I know we are entrusted with the resources that could easily overcome this.  There has to be a better way.

In terms of biblical thought, I could point to a number of stories.  But, let’s just pick this past week’s lectionary (Lectionary 26C) appointed gospel text, Luke 16:19-31.  The passage is commonly called, “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” and tells of a rich man who ignored and avoided the poor Lazarus who lay at the rich man’s gate.  Jesus tells the parable about how the poor Lazarus would ultimately be lifted up, and the rich man who refused to feed or pay any attention to Lazarus was brought low and was tormented.  St. John Chrysostom wrote a host of sermons on this passage which were combined into his On Wealth and Poverty.  Martin Luther’s explanation to the 5th Commandment in his Large Catechism says that to fail to help a person in need, is to commit murder.  Thus, to fail to provide for the needy and hungry is to be guilty of murder.

In terms of leadership thought, Otto Scharmer begins his Leading from the Emerging Future with the following words:

“Finance.  Food.  Fuel.  Water shortage.  Resource scarcity. Climate chaos.  Mass poverty.  Mass migration.  Fundamentalism.  Terrorism.  Financial oligarchies.  We have entered an Age of Disruption.  Yet the possibility of profound personal, societal, and global renewal has never been more real.  Now is our time.” (Scharmer, 1).

Scharmer provides hope for us to find a solution.  As he says “now is our time.”  There is a need for global renewal.  To see global renewal though, we have to be willing to have renewal in our neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, etc.  These renewals aren’t just located in one place.  They are multi-faceted and transcend boundaries.

So, it with this hope for a new day and a new way that gives me the strength to respond when we get news like of the House of Representatives vote on September 19th.  We can take the advocacy approach and write our representative and senators.  We can also begin to re-imagine as Scharmer calls for.  We can begin a new to pay attention to the poor Lazarus at the gate.

When we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we aren’t just praying for our selves.  We are praying for our communities.  We are praying for all of God’s creation.  It’s what makes the prayer so powerful.  We are entrusted with what we have to serve and to uplift, build, and collaboratively improve and co-create.  This is my hope.  This is my prayer.  Instead of cutting the funding for those in need, we use this as a chance to remember those in need and to take seriously the responsibility to serve and provide the means to build all people up and enable all people to be productive members of society, with hope, meaning, and purpose and the basic things like food, water, and shelter.

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Sources:

1) St. John Chrysostom, On Wealth and Poverty, tr. Catherine P. Roth, (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984).

2) Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, (1529), as found in The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Robert Kolb & Timothy J. Wengert, (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2000), 410-413.

2) Otto Scharmer & Katrin Kaufer, Leading from the Emerging Future:  From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies, (San Francisco, CA:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2013).

The Implications of “All are Welcome”

Recently, I had the privilege of having a Facebook conversation with a pastor friend.  He was openly wondering questions about welcome and what that really means after having read Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Pastrix. I think my pastor friend unwittingly gave me the start of a series of blog posts, so we’ll see where this conversation takes us.

To set the stage, we have all seen it, churches more and more are trying to claim that “all are welcome.”  But that begs the question, are we honestly and really ready for that?  Because to be honestly open and welcoming to anyone and everyone means that we can’t hold barriers of expectations.   What does all-inclusive look like?

The concept of “all are welcome,” as my pastor friend reiterated has challenges because it is well-intentioned, but its passive.  It implies that people are welcome, but it says nothing about there being a multi-directional relationship.  It assumes that people come to church, and that’s a one directional thing.  How does this correlate though with the concept of being a called and sent community?

The idea of claiming to be an “all are welcome” congregation is great.  But it doesn’t demand anything from us. As my pastor friend argued, “It doesn’t ask us to actually get out there, boots on the street, talking with our neighbors or really anyone.”  If you are going to claim this as a value it has to lead to action.  If you just name something and there is no action taken, they are just words.   Leaving something at just naming it is shallow, meaningless, and not reflective of the depth of what I believe it means to be a people of God.

If we truly want to embrace the value of “all are welcome,” we need to equally embrace the idea that “all are sought.”  It’s not so much about the sign outside the church that says services are at 8am and 11am, and Sunday School is at 9:30am.  Rather, the sign should say, “we are out and willing and wanting to talk with anyone, anytime!”  A congregation that is headed for the streets to show, embody, and tell that  “Jesus loves you, just the way you are…” that’s a congregation that really gets, believes, and lives that “all are welcome.”

We have tried the strategy of saying that all are welcome to the feast, we have put the signs out front and in the local paper.  We have even tried social media.  All of these are good and important, but they are only part of what it means to say “all are welcome.” To really mean it, means we need to take seriously the concept that all are sought.

What could it mean that “all are sought?”  I’ll begin to unpack this question in the next post in this series which can be found here.  For now, I am curious, what do you think of when you hear that “all are welcome?” What would that mean for you?  How about the idea that “all are sought?”

This Week’s Links

It’s that time again.  Time to share some stuff I have read over the past week that I think you might enjoy.  This week I offer them under the headers of leadership and collaboration, church, neighbor love, stewardship, community, and vocation.

Leadership and Collaboration

Dan offers a great reminder of some of Peter Drucker’s thoughts on treating employees like volunteers.  It’s great advice and worth the quick read and reflection!

Rosabeth Moss Kanter describes how to be an energizer, and what characterizes being an energizer.  She sees three things:  “a relentless focus on the bright side,” “redefining negatives as positives,” and “fast response time.  Energizers don’t dawdle.  Kanter also argues that, “Some people become leaders no matter what because their positive energy is so uplifting.”

To be an effective leader, you have to be an effective listener.  John Ryan offers thoughts on being a “chief listening officer.” 

Related, David Burkus shares Ken Blanchard’s infographic about leadership and communication, and how our workplaces are “dysfunctionally connected.”

Have you ever thought about how to collaborate with a loved one?  Would you be able to work in the same setting as your significant other?  Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer reflect on this very thing and offer tips that might be helpful if you were in such a situation or considering collaborating with your spouse.  They do so specifically out of their experience from co-authoring The Progress Principle.

In terms of collaboration, have you ever thought about partnering with your competition?  Ivan Misner muses about how this could lead to success.

Edward D. Hess penned a nice article about servant leadership and high performance for the Washington Post.  The article was actually published in April, but if you haven’t seen it, its a good read.

MaryAnn McKibben Dana blogged her thoughts about negotiating, finding a mentor, and her responses to the book Lean In.  What do you think of her reflections?

HBR offers a management tip about creativity.  To be creative you need to focus on the vitals, and get uncomfortable.

Mark Cuban has “12 Rules for Startups.” Given his success, I think these rules are most helpful and spot-on.

If you need a reminder about how happiness matters for effectiveness in the workplace, here is an article from 2 years ago which is still just as relevant.

Church

As a bridge between leadership and the church, Donald Miller reflects on how to spot a manipulative church leader.

Rev. David Hansen wrote an open letter to the new presiding bishop of the ELCA on his blog regarding being the church today and the need for Bishop Eaton to be out front as a voice in the digital conversation.  What do you think?

In the realm of church and society, here is a new organization that I discovered last week, The Reformation Project.  Naturally as a Lutheran, any time “reformation” is used in a title, its gets my interest.  This group is looking to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.  If you care about church and society and inclusion this would be a good read for you.  ABC News, courtesy of the Associated Press, also picked up this story and wrote about it here.

If you haven’t heard by now, Pope Francis gave a pretty awesome interview last week.  Michael J.  O’Loughlin offers his take here.  Michael Kimpan, offers some reflections here.

Last October this blog post first appeared about big churches and age demographics.  It has been making its way around certain missional church conversations again in the past week, and is still just as provocative.  What do you think in light of this?

For the systems theory lovers, here is Peter Steinke with some thoughts on “Where to touch the elephant.”

Neighbor Love

In other news, the United States legislative branch made news this past week.  One such vote regarding SNAP (formerly food stamps) is cause for my response found here.  Others have already chimed in, however.  Jim Wallis offers his thoughts. Kevin Hagan, president and CEO of Feed the Children also has weighed in.  Bread for the World was understandably outraged as well.  The General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church also greatly opposed the house vote and proposed $40 billion cut.

Stewardship

Pope Francis makes another appearance in the links this week.  CBS News reports on his decries about money’s power over people.

Community

The Drucker Institute pondered the question about if there really is becoming an “American Proletariat?”  After reading the article, I am wondering, what do you think?

In a sort of “Melting Pot” story of the week, and an off-the-wall sort of look, David Peterson talks about the fading of Nordic Ties in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

Vocation

A marketing blog last week shared 10 steps for achieving work and life balance, particularly for small business employees and participants.

As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to try and include in the links, please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Hope these were helpful and enjoyable reads for you.

This Week’s Links

It’s that time of the week.  Time to offer some links to articles and things which I have found particularly interesting and thought provoking.  As always, I entrust them to you and hope you find them equally interesting and insightful.

Leadership

First of all, if you have not heard of Otto Scharmer before, allow me to introduce you to him and his fantastic blog!  Scharmer is the author of many current works, and a leader in thought particularly on the relationship of leadership and the future.  Some of his recent works include:  Presence (which he co-authored with Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers); Theory U:  Leading from the Future as It Emerges; and Leading from the Emerging Future:  From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies (co-authored with Katrin Kaufer).

In leadership, as in life, mentoring is imperative.  Curtis Miller offers an expansive look at five keys for mentoring that he sees.

Likewise, leadership is something that needs to be grown.  As Alli Pollin writes, future leaders are often taught and grown through the experience and modeling of other leaders.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) offers a helpful tip about paying attention to details and things which may be “untouchable,” particularly for managers and leaders in new situations or in new jobs.

Anita Elberse from HBR had a unique opportunity to do an in-depth study and interview with Sir Alex Ferguson.  Elberse has developed a case study of Sir Ferguson’s management style and approaches.  Sir Ferguson served most famously as the manager of Manchester United for 26 seasons.  If you like learning from remarkable leaders, this in-depth conversation and article is well worth your time!

Roger L. Martin authored an article in the October edition of HBR entitled, “Rethinking the Decision Factory.”  His article is a helpful reflection on the struggle and challenge of employing and working with knowledge workers.

Intersection of Leadership and Trust

Is there a correlation between an economic recession and people’s ability to trust one another? Andrew O’Connell suggests that there might be.

Vocation

My friend Hannah offers an honest and transparent look at calling, career, and vocation.  A lot of what she has to say in her reflections resonates with me.  How about you?

Congratulations

I would like to offer a hearty congratulations to Dr. Richard Nance.  Dr. Nance is the director of the Choir of the West, and the head of choral activities at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU).  It was a joy to sing under him, and it is an honor to call him my friend.  Dr. Nance was recently awarded the American prize in choral conducting. The Tacoma News Tribune also reported on the story.

I would also like to offer congratulations to now Rev. Dr. Daniel Peterson.  I had the pleasure of learning from Dr. Peterson when he was a professor in the religion department at PLU.  Dr. Peterson was recently ordained and has been called to the Matteo Ricci College (at Seattle University) as minister and teacher.

Church and Congregational Practices

One of the on-going debates within congregations is how to be inter-generational.  To this end, the natural follow-up question is how are children invited and welcomed into worship?  St. John Lutheran has taken an approach that I hope other congregations will wholeheartedly consider and follow.

Religion

Rev. Diane Roth offers a good reflection on the idea of “being religious” as she sees it.

Social Media, Job Seeking, and Other Tips

If you are in the midst of creating, recreating, or revising your social media usage and plan, Kim Lachance Shandrow offers 10 Questions to Ask when creating that plan.

CBS Money Watch offers helpful advice about the most common resume mistakes that job seekers make.

There was plenty more I could share from the past week, but I think these are probably more than enough.  Hope you enjoy them.  As always if you have topics or things of particular interest you would like this blog to cover, please do not hesitate to let me know via a comment here.

Lessons from Choir Directing about Volunteer Management

choir-clipartAs some of you may know, one of my current roles involves me leading and directing a church choir.  As its a church choir, this means that this is a group of people who give up an hour or so every week to rehearse on a weekday evening, and who volunteer to help lead worship a couple times a month.

Since I have served in this way, I have often been asked, how are you able to bring a group of people together and form a choir?  This question could just as easily asked, “how do you bring a group of volunteers together and get ______ done or created?” *

The thought then hit me last week, as I sat at my desk preparing to lead another weekly church choir rehearsal, that what I am really doing is leading a group of volunteers.  So in a sense, unless you are directing a professional choir or a choir that one takes in school where credit and grades may come into play, musical directing is really another example of volunteer leadership and management.

Leading a church choir then is genuine volunteer management.  To serve in this way and participate in this ensemble is a voluntary thing.  There are three things I have found that are essential to make this happen:  Trust; Authenticity and Passion.  A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.

By trust I mean that there has to be an openness by the director to be honest about what he/she is trying to accomplish.  They have to trust that the ensemble will give them the benefit of the doubt, listen, and follow.  The ensemble has to trust that the director’s goal is to help the group prepare for Sunday worship, provide a fun and uplifting community, and that the director knows something about what they are trying to do.  (Some weeks this is probably more true than others.)

In terms of authenticity, there needs to be an acknowledgment that things may never be “perfect.”  That’s okay.  That’s not the goal.  The real goal for a church choir is to sing and lift the collective praise to God.  (Outside of a congregation, this would be like a nonprofit volunteer manager knowing that not everything will work, but everyone is involved because they want to help and do something for their community or people in need.) Thus, if we can transcend the goal of perfection, we get to a place where the journey is just as important as the end outcome.  For example, while preparing a difficult piece, the choir may have doubts about their ability to do it, or they may think the director has lost their mind (this happens a lot).  A funny thing happens as time goes on, the director’s authentic self- one of listening, hope and persistence, pays off, as the ensemble learns, grows, and eventually even feels confident in their ability to do something as a team that they previously thought would be daunting or downright impossible.

As for passion, if one does not have a passion for what they are participating in, it follows that it won’t be done with all their heart, mind, spirit, and soul.  This is true in work and business.  It’s especially true though in what people volunteer with.  If people do not have a heart burning desire to participate, they won’t give fully of themselves.  They won’t grow to their potential.  Therefore they are under-served, and the larger group will be under-served.  In reality, if one does not have a passion for it, they aren’t going to volunteer for it either.  So in order to put together a volunteer choir you have to be able to connect the individual’s desire to be a part of group with the larger story of what a choir can do and mean for the larger community (and/or congregation).

The benefits of a sense of humor are probably obvious.  If you are doing something where perfection is not likely to be achieved, and you are working with a host of volunteers, you might have an idea of where you are going, but in reality, life has a funny way of happening.  The best thing to do is usually to do your best to accomplish what needs to be done, but to do so with grace and an ability to laugh (especially at yourself).  I remember directing the choir, and my wife was in the Alto section.  It came time to rehearse in the months ahead of Christmas for a series of songs which included the image and word of “bosom.” For some reason, my wife (and others) cannot sing certain words without laughing.  I could have let that bother me, but instead it gave the choir something to consistently laugh about and something to grow and support each other with.  This authentic reality also helped the choir to always sing with a smile on their faces, something that I think is essential.  (If it doesn’t look like you are enjoying what you are doing, you probably aren’t.)

What does this say about volunteer management?  Be your authentic self.  Be open and willing to risk to trust.  Connect your passion with other people’s passion, and connect and tell the story about why you are passionate and doing what you are doing.  Finally, be able to laugh and not take yourself so seriously.  If you are able to do this, your chances of connecting others at least seems to me to be greatly improved.  What do you think?  What are some experiences of volunteer management that you have had? What lessons have you learned from your own experiences?

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*I should note that I try to never refer to choir members as “volunteers” when directing them because they are truly “leaders” who are entrusted with great responsibility and are called to serve in some capacity.  I have found that from a recruiting standpoint, most of the time when there’s a call for “volunteers” few sign up because “volunteer” isn’t nearly as empowering as an identity as “leader”.

Image Credit: Choir

“Sent for a Purpose” – What does this mean?

I have spoken about this a little before, but I received a MA in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary.  Integral to this program is a study and immersion in missional theology which has a major focus on the idea of “being sent.”  It is with this in mind, that I am very excited about how Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN is shaping their 2013-2014 worship year around the idea of being “Sent for a Purpose.”  I am looking forward to hearing what they come up with this year.

In thinking briefly about this, I admit I wanted to reflect some on what this may mean.  So, here are my first thoughts on this, and this will very likely lead to more future posts.

I believe that we are all sent for a purpose.  From a Christian theological perspective this may be grounded best in Matthew 28.  The gospel of Matthew ends with the following verses, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV).

In this passage Jesus is commissioning the disciples.  He is affirming their call, and sending them out with a holy calling.  It is this sending which continues the process of sending which we acknowledge today.  In a Lutheran worship service, the last portion of the service is built around the idea of being sent.  This is not a notion of being sent into a Godless world, but rather that what happens in worship is connected with everyday life.  It is a notion that we are sent as God’s children to be about and to join in the work of God’s mission in the world.  It is grounded in the missional belief that we are not sent to “bring God” but rather to acknowledge God’s presence and to speak to it authentically.*  We are sent for a purpose to be about the building up of God’s kingdom, to be participants in God’s work and mission, and to hopefully be bearers of God’s love, peace, and reconciliation.

What this means for each person is as unique as their vocations, identities, families, and experiences.  But, the fact is that there is a belief here that we are all sent for a purpose.  What are you sent for?

I look forward to offering more blogposts on this question and these ideas as the year progresses. I also look forward to seeing what the people of Trinity discover as they explore this.

*Note: This is the case when believing that God is omnipresent (in all places).