According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, July 17, 2017

Brain McLaren - Why Pastors and Priests are Leaving the Church and What To Do About It (Part 2)

Why Pastors and Priests are Leaving the Church
and What To Do About It (Part 2)

by Brian McLaren
June 26, 2017

As I see it, there are four options for clergy who are being worn down by an unsustainable status quo:

1 - Start new faith communities.

2 - Precipitate a crisis/intervention.

3 - Launch a transformation.

4 - Retire early or get into another line of work.

Many are choosing Option 4, as I mentioned earlier. But if too many more generations of our most creative and visionary leaders throw in the towel (or are driven away), the Christian church (in America, at least) creates a downward death spiral of boredom, narrowness, shrinkage, and stagnation … or (as I’m actually more worried about) it renders itself easily manipulable by demagogues and extremists who deal in nostalgia, lies, flattery, and violence. As I wrote in The Great Spiritual Migration, there’s something worse than Christianity dying: namely, Christianity killing. It has done so in the past, and it can do so again in the future, only now, with more horrific weapons at its disposal.

So let me say a brief word about Options 1 – 3.

1. Starting new faith communities is not easy; just ask anyone (including yours truly) who has done it. But it is vital to create living models of innovation at this moment – not simply incremental improvements of the existing model, but creative new models that start from scratch, so to speak, returning to sources (Jesus and the Gospels, for starters), and facing current and emerging realities.

New communities who seize this moment will model a kind of engaged spiritual (or contemplative) activism, and they will be aligned from the start to embody the gospel as it pertains to contemporary crisis, beginning with these four (that I wrote about back in 2007 in Everything Must Change):

1 - the planet, unsustainable economies, and climate change;

2 - poverty and obscenely expanding economic inequality;

3 - making peace between individuals, races, religions, classes, cultures, nations, and civilizations; and,

4 - the dignity of all people, no exceptions.

2. Precipitating a Crisis/Intervention often simply means telling the truth and doing something about it. The truth is that most of our denominations and congregations are shrinking and wrinkling. Evangelicals used to take pride in the certainty that their conservative theology would inoculate them from “liberal” decline, but that myth has been largely exploded. (Just ask any knowledgeable Southern Baptist.) If individual congregations (and, please God, denominations) face these realities, they will discover that a non-denial of reality is a wonderful liberator of creativity, which will allow them to think more like their colleagues in #1 above. In fact, the models created by #1 provide examples for imitation and adaptation for #2 and #3.

3. Launching Transformation makes sense in congregations where there is a good measure of health and strength. Transformative leaders can pilot their congregations through a period of reimagining and reinvention. In other words, they can upgrade the airport or intersection while it continues to function.

Leaders who are engaged in these three options need some distinct skills, but they are working toward the same goal. It’s important for them not to see one another as competitors, but as allies. We’re in this together.


A quick anecdote to close: some years ago, I spoke at a large denominational assembly. At the end of my talk in a Q & R time, a clergywoman went to the mic and said, “I’m going to retire later this year, and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t.”

I cringed, thinking that I had unwittingly unleashed this kind of negativity. She continued, “All I can tell you is that everything I’ve tried has failed. I’ve spent my entire career trying to help churches that are worse off than when I started.”

I was thinking at that moment that the bishop must have been mortified that I had influenced one of his clergy to demoralize her colleagues in this way.

In the middle of my cringe, though, she got a sparkle in her eyes, and continued, “But if there are any younger clergy here who want to try to put into practice what this man [referring to me] has been talking about today, then as soon as I retire, I’m available as a full-time volunteer. Because I’m not giving up. I’m more motivated than ever. I have a whole career behind me of small measures that I know won’t work. I’m ready to get more radical in the years I have left.”

The room broke into applause.

That’s the spirit we need.


I’ve been involved with these three options for decades, now, and if you’d like to join a cohort of leaders who want to learn, grow, and lead together, I hope you’ll check out the Convergence Leadership Project. Registration is open now for an August 1 launch.

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