Pastors, can you be part of the problem?
At least sometimes.
18 Things I want to say to pastors...behind closed doors.
- Stop labeling yourself as theologically conservative or liberal.
- Listen to the quote and read the articles before you hear who wrote it.
- Begin a practice of reading what those with a different theological position than you has written.
Then turn it around to its polar opposite - your opinion - and see how that feels. Do you still believe it?
- Stretch yourself when you write your sermon. Don’t believe you are the only bearer of truth.
- If you tend to preach about mostly spiritual matters, start preaching sermons that are emotionally based.
- Pick a person in the congregation, feel into their life and what you think their spiritual makeup and experience is, and preach what you think they might preach. If that doesn’t feel right, preach what you think they would want to hear.
- Record yourself. On video.
Watch it every Monday like clockwork. With someone else. (You will experience yourself differently if another person is present)
- Engage the congregation more often. Make it safe for us to contribute. Act like you want to know what we think or feel or know.
- Change the worship service from time to time. Make it less rocks skimming over the surface, and more fish diving deeper for their food.
- Talk more about things we relate to...like our kids, or what’s on television, or what we’re struggling with. Make God touchable.
- Watch more TED Talks. Pay attention to how their talks are organized, and their body.
- Don’t make people with questions wrong. Or yourself too right. Think about how your best teachers responded to your out of the box ideas. Do that.
- Don't talk politics unless it is a clear and non-polarized issue. In other words, don't talk politics. Talk justice. Talk love. Talk forgiveness. Use the news. Use real stories. Pray before you talk...not the showy, your brain is doing all the work kind of prayer. The real one.
- Talk about the scary stuff openly. Like doubt. Don’t assume nobody has it. That’s denial. Then talk about denial.
Daring to talk about the scary stuff makes church interesting.
- Just for fun, take out all the religious words from your service for one week and see how it feels. Talk like a normal person sometimes.
- Don’t make the congregation meet you where you are. Meet people where they are. That means finding out too.
When you walk into a room of people, forget about how you look and ONLY focus on them. FEEL into them. Into their needs, their longing, their hurts, their happiness. Share it with them. That’s how they come to love you. And church.
- Don’t hope parishioners are impressed with how religious or smart you are. They won’t be. They’ll only be impressed with how real and genuine and loving you are.
- Be a leader and decide who you and your church are. Don't be wishy washy trying to please everyone. Be a church that lives and breathes your passion. That will draw people to you. And they will be fed spiritual food. There's a saying in new age circles. Tithe where you get your spiritual food, not your marshmallow fluff. P.S. Food doesn't have to be heavy. It can be light and spicy and complex and inspired. It can even taste bad going in - but good for you, like cod liver oil.
- If you're the serious, formal type - be that all the way. Don't be something you're not. Let your congregation fill in where you leave off.
- Keep your eyes open for the Unruly Christians. Unruly Christians are uncomfortable in church. They seek a spiritual path and identify most with Christianity and the Jesus they met once upon a time, yet they struggle to find their tribe. An unruly Christian wants freedom to be different, not conform to someone else's definition. Unruly Christians want to live in the a-ha's and discoveries of what it means. They want to roll their sleeves up, be ok struggling through the muck with each other, not have all the answers, experience the sacred and holy, allow themselves to be transformed, learn about the high places and touch the sacred, experience reverence, and be part of a community of love. They want permission to live in an unfolding, a discovery of the Christian journey without shame or beliefs forced on them. They sometimes cringe reading creeds or responsive readings because a. they feel like disingenuous lemmings, and b. their faith is in process and creeds feel oppressive and top down. Some of them are still angry for feeling rejected by church for their life choices or their theological confusion. They don't tow the party line. They are working it all out now and want to belong. Unruly Christians usually identify with a Christian spiritual path, but don't fit in a traditional Christian culture. They have been on the journey all along, and want to learn. Some are reconnecting to what God means in today's culture, and remembering what that means to them. Unruly Christians are finding their way and their voice as Christians, while having fun, doing good in the world, and hoping to make Jesus want to fist bump their efforts rather than overturn their money-changer's table. Peace!