THEOLOGY & Can the church be both holy and sinful?

by Brian P. Flanagan, America: The Jesuit Review, 10/22/18 and author of Stumbling in Holiness: Sin and Sanctity in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2018).

The Holy and Sinful Church

Catholics in earlier centuries, while maintaining faith in the holiness of the church affirmed in our creeds, were willing to name its failings, including those of its members, its leaders and its communities as a whole. In the midst of the Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, for example, the Council of Carthage in 418 (attended by St. Augustine) taught that when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, all Christians—without exception—had to ask God “to forgive us our trespasses” in their own voice and not on behalf of some other people, as though they were sinless themselves.

… when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, all Christians—without exception—had to ask God “to forgive us our trespasses” in their own voice and not on behalf of some other people, as though they were sinless themselves.

Christians did not hesitate to call out the sinfulness of their leaders, as in the quote attributed variously (though likely erroneously) to St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom and others that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring bishops.” Even cardinals were not exempt; according to one medieval folk tradition, a cardinal’s soul was released from purgatory only when his galero, the wide-brimmed red hat hung from the ceiling of the cardinal’s church after his death, finally rotted enough to fall to the floor.

Why, then, in recent years have Catholics been so hesitant to speak clearly and candidly about the church as sinful? For a few reasons—some praiseworthy, some problematic. The first is our firm belief in the holiness of the church. On the surface, it seems that ecclesial sanctity and sinfulness are mutually exclusive—and, in important ways, that is true. The participation in the life of God that we call “holiness” precludes sin, and in the fullness of life that we can look forward to in the reign of God we will be freed from every stain of sin and every shadow of death.

Yet, as St. Augustine taught so well, in our current time between the ascension of Christ and his return in glory, the church is always a “corpus permixtum,” a mixed body of saints and sinners, including serious sinners who remain part of the church even in a limited way. The struggle for greater transparency to God’s grace and greater freedom from sin also goes on in each one of us who prays the Our Father daily; each of us is aware of our need for forgiveness to live a more holy and free way of life. That experience of the church as a mixed body and of ourselves as sinners who are already holy yet still saints-in-progress is part of the reality of a holy and sinful church.

… the church is always a “corpus permixtum,”  – St. Augustine

Read more at … Can the church be both holy and sinful?

THEOLOGY & 5 Five observations and a summary definition of what Matthew (Jesus) meant by “hypocrisy.” #ScotMcKnight

by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 8/8/18.

…Hypocrisy is:

1. Inconsistency between what one teaches and what one does (23:3-4)

2. Desire for prestige and power and congratulation (23:5-12)

3. Abuse of teaching authority through both false teachings and false practices (23:13, 15, 16-22, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28).

4. Overconcern with minutiae and lack of focus on the major issues (23:23-24, 25-26, 27-28): that is, moral myopia.

5. Inconsistency between appearance and practice (23:27-28).

Put together, Jesus accuses the Pharisees for “hypocrisy” because (1) they had abused their teaching authority by teaching false things, (2) not living according to what they taught, and for (3) their desire for power and control. In addition, (4) their teaching was a focus on minor issues to the neglect of major issues.

They flattened the Torah into a listing of God’s will while Jesus saw love of God and love of others as the center of that Torah. If the Pharisees saw love as one of the commandments, however important, Jesus saw love as central and everything as expressive of that love. This reorients all of the Torah, all of teaching, and therefore all of praxis.

To be “hypocrite” is to be a false teacher who leads both self and others astray from the will of God. The term should not be limited to “contradiction between appearance and reality” (the classic definition of hypocrisy)…

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/05/26/heretic-vs-hypocrite/

 

TRIALS & Reasons bad things might happen to good people by Bob Whitesel, Biblical Leadership Magazine

I am honored that my Austin TX sermon was published by  and titled: “4 biblical ways a leader can respond to difficult circumstances”

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One of the most vexing questions for a Christian leader is how to respond when a godly colleague or employee experiences bad things they didn’t appear to deserve.  The Christian leader’s response should be based upon a solid biblical foundation and be practical.  Let me suggest ways to address each of these areas.

BIBLICAL BASIS: Job 2. We see that the message is summed up in the last sentence uttered by Job: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (v. 10).  This phrase isn’t comfortable because we don’t want to think of calamity being “from God.” But, looking closer we see it is theologically clear from this Job 2 story (v. 4-6) that:

    1. God is not the originator of the idea that his people should suffer, Satan is. (v. 4-5)
    2. And, God does not bring about suffering, but Satan does. NOTE: Satan’s power is limited by God and Satan cannot “kill” job (v. 6).  It is also interesting to note that the Hebrew word for Satan is not a name, but rather a description. The Hebrew word means, “‘the’ adversary who accuses” (Baker’s Dictionary of Bible Theology, 1995).

Job’s story depicts Satan as casting accusations about the reason for Job’s piety. The story seeks to clearly depict that it is not God who wishes for ill to befall his people. Rather Satan is the instigator of such calamity; but God may permit it, within bounds.

So if God permits calamity to befall good people at times, what are the reasons? Let me paint four biblical reasons with responses leaders can use to engage those going through such experiences.

WHY 1: Eternity makes a difference.  If one does not believe in the afterlife then their anger is understandable because it is not fair that a limited time here on earth would be subjected to pain and hurt. But the scriptures remind us that eternity makes a difference, i.e. this lifetime is a miniscule portion of our eternal existence. 

John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (italics added for emphasis).  And 1 John 5:13 says that, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (italics added for emphasis)

Thus, a person who embraces a Biblical theology sees today’s sufferings as paling in comparison to the future bliss in God presence (Romans 8:18).  Historian Michael Corin described how Mary Queen of Scots, minutes before the axe fell upon her neck, said “This is my beginning.” For the Christian with a theology like that of Job and Paul, present sufferings pale in comparison for the eternal life that begins up ahead. 

Leadership Response: The leader should delicately foster a discussion of eternity and the central theme it plays in Scripture. Commentaries, books and personal bible study on the Biblical theme of heaven can give the leader and their colleagues a renewed perspective on heaven as Paul summarized, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

WHY 2: Sufferings can keep us humble. Paul had many blemishes on his life story. He had been an abuser because of his religious zeal. You might today called him a “religion terrorist” carrying off men and even women into prison, simply because they had converted to Christianity (Acts 8:1-2, 22:1-10) But a transformation began when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. A new life emerged with new fruits (Paul would describe such positive attributes that grew out of his conversion in Gal. 5:22-23 as, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Such fruit in Paul’s life demonstrated to most people, but not all, that Jesus was changing him. Still there with those that criticized him and accused him publicly in every town he entered (for example Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9, Bera in Acts 17:10-15, Athens in Acts 17:16-34, Jerusalem in Acts 21:17-40, etc.). Such repetitive and exasperating persecutions and hardships may have been what Paul referred to as “his thorn in the flesh.”   Notice how Paul describes this thorn in 2 Cor. 12:5-10:

I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses…. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Leadership Response: Just like having a thorn in your hand that swells and festers, a leader may encounter a hurt that swells and festers … always painful. But as Paul, the Biblical leader can eventually recognized it as a reminder to be humble. Such experiences can help keep leaders from being proud, self sufficient on in Paul’s words (v. 7): conceited.

WHY 3:  Pain can sometimes give us a deeper sensitivity to those who are suffering. Paul says in 2 Cor. 1:4 (MSG) that “He (the Holy Spirit) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

The great Oxford theologian and writer CS Lewis (who left his mark writing wonderfully powerful children’s books such as the Chronicles of Narnia as well as theological books such as the Power of Pain) said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  

Leadership Response: Sometimes God need get a leader’s attention when success, career, etc. seem to steal her or his time.  Thus, God may allow pain to make us more sensitive to others and their needs.

WHY 4:  Sometimes we just don’t know why.  When I get to heaven one day I’m going to ask God about some of this undeserved hurt people experience. But God’s knowledge and foresight are tremendously beyond our limited human prespective.  Thus, in Isaiah 55:9 (MSG) God states,  “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”  I like to translate the word “sky” in the more magnificent term, “universe.”  So, just as the universe soars high above earth, so the way God works surpasses the way we work, and what we understand.

Leadership Response: Like Job, we often just won’t know the “whys” until later and maybe never intros life.  And thus at many times Christian leaders must rest in the knowledge that there are at least four reasons (above) why bad things can befall good people.  

Yet most importantly the Christian leader recognizes that God wants only the best for His creation. Therefore He has crafted an eternity where His will, will be done.  According to the Bible it is in eternity where our real living will begin.  God has an intention and a future for his children that he describes in Rev. 21:4 as a place where, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-biblical-ways-a-leader-can-respond-to-difficult-circumstances/?utm_source=BLC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EMNA&utm_content=2018-10-11

Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX

TECHNOLOGY & Why the secret is accessibility, not control. #MinistryMattersMagazine @BobWhitesel #ORGANIXbook #GenZ

Whitesel Ministry Matters page full

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Modern Miscue: Seek to control networks.

The modern leader has lived most of life in a realm of “command and control.”  Command and control is necessary in crisis situations, such as warfare or firefighting.  For Baby Boomers born after World War II, the command and control way of leadership became a popular leadership style in business and the church.

Modern leaders of this generation believe the way to succeed is to control through power, rewards, and punishments.  Slow cycles that grew out of an agricultural economy began to affect business principles, where the agricultural approach of “command and control” began to be applied to the business world. Like breaking a horse, “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job,” Frederick Taylor famously intoned. Subsequently, modern leaders bristle at the thought of losing control.  When wrestling with the freedom found in emerging networks, the modern leader tends to try to exert control through ownership. In the ever democratizing world of electronic communication, control through ownership is increasingly difficult.

Modern leaders attempt to take possession of networks that shape them.  In business, this often means controlling access by charging a fee and thus reinforcing a modern notion of ownership. In the church, we may do this by restricting access to those times and places the modern leader deems fitting.  Former Silicon Valley executive Rusty Rueff noted, “Movie theatres have long tried to control mobile phone signal in their movie theatres. They say it is because it disturbs people.  Really, they don’t want teens text-messaging their friends that the movie is dreadful.” From the days of passing notes in church, to text-messaging a friend far removed from the church sanctuary, church leaders have also tried to limit the location and occasion of electronic communication.

Millennial leaders who have grown up in the expanding world of communication networks, view these networks as public property.  And, to restrict access or monopolize them seems tyrannical.  Modern leaders may recall similar unfair restrictions.  At one time, restaurants and businesses charged a fee to use the restrooms. Charging a fee or otherwise restricting network access should seem just as illogical to leaders today.

Millennial Attitude: Networks should be accessible

Rueff, who serves as an advisor to the president at Purdue University, recently showed a picture of a classroom at that university.  Of the almost 100 students assembled, every one was sitting behind a laptop computer.  “Think of when this will happen in your church,” Rusty Rueff, the former Silicon Valley executive, said.  “What do you do in church?  Is there a place for those who want to communicate with laptops?  Or would an usher ask them to put their computer away?”

Immediate, Even Critical Feedback.  In a millennial world where unfettered networking is routine, millennial church leaders are starting to accommodate instant feedback.  Some young churches have an “ask assertive environment” where those who disagree are encouraged to state their differences of opinion, even during the sermon.  Millennial congregations such as Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis regularly invite questions or challenges from the audience during the sermon. Even millennial megachurches such as Mars Hill Church in Granville, Michigan, sometimes welcome a congregant on the stage to ask the preacher questions during the sermon (since the audience is too vast for everyone to shout out a query). Leo Safko, author of the Social Media Bible calls this “a fundamental shift in power … no longer does the consumer trust corporate messages … they want to be educated by, hear their news from, and get their product reviews by people they know and trust.”

At recent conferences I keynoted, participants were given a keypad so they could rate the presentation and/or their understanding of the content in real time. Even now increasingly smaller smartphones allow electronic feedback as presentations unfold.  Though modern leaders might initially resist such quick and honest feedback in the church, the day is not far off when immediate, even critical feedback will be visually displayed in our churches in much the same manner that words are displayed to a song.

Fact checking and further research.  Allowing laptops and smart-phones into churches may at first seem disruptive, but it will enhance understanding as it allows checking of facts and further research on a topic. I remember sitting in college classes, balancing a three-inch (or so it seemed) textbook on one knee, while holding in my left hand a large diagram of the human organs.  Amid this balancing act, I tried desperately to write what the professor was stating. Today, multiple items sit neatly on computer desktops where only a flick of a mouse pad is required to separate sources or conduct further research.

Nurturing Accessibility

The accessible church describes a church that is accessible via as many social networks as possible.

The accessible church creates networks that reach out to those in need.  Meeting the needs of the disenfranchised is a priority among millennial leaders. Expanding network access should not be limited to just Christians who attend a church, but to those outside as well. One congregation in Edmonton, Alberta started a church plant in an Internet café. Unexpectedly, the free Internet access they offered met the needs of a large Asian-American community in the neighborhood that did not have computer access.  As a result this accessible church in an Internet café created an ongoing network with a growing Asian-American community.

The accessible church fosters instantaneous research and feedback at teaching venues, including during the sermon.Because Christianity is an experience- and knowledge-based faith, access to information can foster a better understanding about God. The accessible church can offer Internet access at teaching times such as during sermons, Sunday school, committee meetings, etc.  Many modern leaders bristle at the thought of laptops and Smartphones being used during church, but so did professors several years ago (only to lose the battle).  At one time sound systems, video projectors, guitars and even pipe-organs were banned from many churches. Though uncomfortable at first, new ways of communication and exploration will emerge, first among these cutting-edge millennial congregations, and eventually among everyone else.   When speaker Stan Toler speaks to younger audiences he often uses instant messaging so attendees can ask their questions via a Smartphone while he is still speaking.  He then displays their questions on the screen and answers them during his lecture.

The accessible church provides on-line communities to augment its off-line fellowship. Online communities “felt the connection and affinity they experienced in these groups fully justified their designations as a form of community.”  Online communities often enhance off-line friendships. A church offering a 12-step program can create an online group in which participants can dialogue between meetings. Groups, committees, Sunday School classes and small groups can create, share and edit documents via Web-based word processors, such as Google Docs.  These online documents allow collaborative work (such as designing a Bible study) prior to face-to-face meetings. Online communities can allow those who have special needs or limited time/resources to still feel like full participants in the community.  In the same way that Robert Schuller continued a life-long ministry to drive-in worshippers because a physically-challenged lady’s husband requested it, online communities can engage people who might be challenged in their ability to physically connect with a church.

Leaders having little experience with online communities may wonder about their cohesiveness, value and permanency, but those who have seen them in action know that increasing accessibility to the church community only enhances the faith experience.

This article is excerpted and adapted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, Chapter 6, “Networks.” Used by permission and it can also be found in Ministry Matters magazine.

#GCRN2018

TRENDS & Access link to the #DukeUniversity National Congregations Study #NCS #NCSIII #StrategicChurchPlanning

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I often cite the valuable research in Duke University’s National Congregations Survey.

Here are a few application ideas:

TRENDS & 5 Trends from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study #DukeUniversity #JSSR #UnivChicago

SIZE & The Median Church in the US has 75 Regular Participants on Sunday Mornings #NationalCongregationsStudy #NCS

TRENDS & Church Is More Informal, Like Society, Study Finds #NationalCongregationsSurvey #NYTimes

MULTIPLICATION & Churches are starting more sites, but fewer worship services.

DIVERSITY & Diversity in churches is increasing. #reMIXbook

CHURCH SIZE & Separation between smallest and largest churches widens.

TRENDS & The Most Impt. Observations from The National Congregations Study (NCSIII) #Duke #MarkChaves #NCS

 

To access this study yourself,  below is an introduction to the National Congregations Study and a link to the results.


(the following is from http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/about.html)

About the National Congregations Study

Congregations are the basic social unit of American religious life. They are the local gatherings of people that exist within almost every religion in the United States. They include churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Nearly all collective religious activity in America occurs through them.

Congregations are:

  • the primary site of religious ritual activity;
  • an organizational model followed even by religious groups new to this country;
  • a place of sociability and community for more than half of all Americans;
  • a source of opportunities for community service, civic engagement, and political action;
  • a location for a wide variety of community events and social service activities; and
  • the main context in which religious identities are forged and reinforced through education and practice.

The National Congregations Study (NCS) is an ongoing national survey effort to gather information about the basic characteristics of America’s congregations. The first wave of the NCS took place in 1998, Wave II was fielded in 2006–07, and Wave III was completed in 2012. The study was repeated in order to track both continuity and change among American congregations. Waves II and III also explore subjects that were not explored in Wave I. Over all three waves, a total of 3,815 congregations have participated in the NCS.

There is no doubt that religious congregations are a significant part of American society. We know congregational life is changing, but it is difficult to document exactly what is changing in the 21st century, and how fast. The National Congregations Study contributes to knowledge about American congregations by collecting information about a wide range of their characteristics and programs across time. NCS results have helped us to better understand many aspects of congregational life in the United States.
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In all three waves,
the research was done in conjunction with the General Social Survey (GSS). The 1998, 2006, and 2012 GSS asked respondents who attend religious services to name their religious congregation, thus generating a nationally representative sample of religious congregations. Researchers then located these congregations.

A key informant at each congregation – a minister, priest, rabbi, or other staff person or leader – provided each congregation’s information via a one-hour interview conducted either over the phone or in person. The survey gathered information on many topics, including the congregation’s leadership, social composition, structure, activities, and programming.

Using this web site you can review the survey methodology and the questionnaires themselves (Methodology), work with the survey responses to find out the basic facts for each question (Explore the Data), create your own customized tables that cross-tabulate responses to two different questions (Explore the Data), and learn where you can find more extensive writings about the research results (Study Writings).

You can also download the combined data from the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA). Both waves have been combined into one dataset for ease of use.

Read more at … http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/about.html

TED TALKS & 7 Short Videos That Will Help You Be A Better Leader

by , Forbes Magazine, 6/30/18.

 

1. John Clarkson, “How Should A CEO Lead? A Musical Exploration”

  • In this TED talk, John Clarkson, former CEO of The Boston Consulting Group, creates various musical analogies for strong leadership…

2. Simon Sinek, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”

  • Management theorist Simon Sinek affirms that building and creating trust is the foundation of any good leader, but requires a lot of responsibility… after all, trust and accountability are the cornerstones of strong leadership.

3. Dan Ariely, “What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?”

  • All of us have, at one point, wondered what exactly it is that’s so fulfilling about our work. Luckily, we have Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, to break it down for us. He understands that no one is purely motivated by a paycheck alone, and things such as pride and creativity are as motivating…

4. Shawn Achor, “The Happy Secret To Better Work”

  • In the same vein as Ariely, psychologist Shawn Achor explores what it means to be happy in your job. Surprisingly, he discusses how it isn’t our work that affects our happiness, but the other way around…

5. Charlene Li, “Efficient Leadership in the Digital Era”

  • …Charlene Li uses her knowledge as a CEO and Principal Analyst at the Altimeter Group to explore how we can be better leaders in this new, digital era. She recognizes that innovation and quick decisions have become more crucial to successful businesses than ever before, and in her speech breaks down how empowering employees can help foster better decision making.

6. Ricardo Semler, “How To Run A Company With (Almost) No Rules”

  • Brazilian CEO Ricardo Semler doesn’t believe in rules. At least, he doesn’t believe companies need to impose a host of strict guidelines in order to run efficiently. In fact, he thinks employees will work better if they don’t have to report their vacation days or be told what to wear. He wants to dissolve what he calls the “boarding school aspects” of business, just to see what happens. In his TED talk, Semler dives into what a company with fewer rules would look like, and how it would affect corporate and employee success.

7. Roselinde Torres, “What It Takes to be A Great Leader”

  • Roselinde Torres has spent nearly three decades observing great leaders doing what they do best, and she’s come up with three questions she believes are crucial for CEOs to ask in order to be successful. Torres is focused on what makes a great leader, and though the answer isn’t black and white, she spends her TED talk breaking down what does and doesn’t work for leaders in the 21st century.

Read and watch more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2018/06/30/7-ted-talks-that-will-inspire-you-to-be-a-better-leader/

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & Lead Like A Gardener, Not A Commander

by Steve Denning, Forbes Magazine, 6/17/18. 

In Team of Teams, by General Stanley McChrystal and his colleagues (2015, Penguin Publishing Group), McChrystal explains had to unlearn what it means to be a leader. A great deal of what he thought he knew about how the world worked and his role as a commander had to be discarded.

I began to view effective leadership in the new environment as more akin to gardening than chess,” he writes. “The move-by-move control that seemed natural to military operations proved less effective than nurturing the organization— its structure, processes, and culture— to enable the subordinate components to function with ‘smart autonomy.’ It wasn’t total autonomy, because the efforts of every part of the team were tightly linked to a common concept for the fight, but it allowed those forces to be enabled with a constant flow of ‘shared consciousness’ from across the force, and it freed them to execute actions in pursuit of the overall strategy as best they saw fit. Within our Task Force, as in a garden, the outcome was less dependent on the initial planting than on consistent maintenance. Watering, weeding, and protecting plants from rabbits and disease are essential for success. The gardener cannot actually ‘grow’ tomatoes, squash, or beans— she can only foster an environment in which the plants do so.”

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2018/06/17/ten-agile-axioms-that-make-managers-anxious/#51ae8abc4619

#DMin