November 2013

Three Magic Words that Are Rarely Spoken

Wait a minute. Where are we going?

I once worked for an editor in the LCA offices located right here in East Falls, before East Falls was removed from the ELCA map.

He had a poster on his wall that promoted the use of fewest words to make emotional impact. It went on to list examples of short but powerful phrases.

“I love you” topped the list. The example that remains in my memory is “Mom’s dead.”

My vote for most powerful three words in the English language goes to “Wait a minute.”

These three little words give us pause—a chance to consider where things are going and how we might still have a chance to influence outcomes. These three little words can stay our temptation to engage in “group think.” This rarely goes well even (perhaps especially) in the Church.

These words give us time to rein in power that is going astray. They give us a chance to consider the effects on the weak and give the less fortunate a foothold to a more promising future. A place in the pew.

They give us a chance to consider our personal motives and values when we are tempted to consider only ourselves and the easiest and cheapest alternatives.

Saying “wait a minute” opens the door for nurturing. That always takes time that the Church often doesn’t want to take. Why not? There’s only heaven waiting!

Thursday was chosen for a national day of Thanksgiving before the word “weekend” was part of the English language. It’s a little awkward today when all national holidays are assigned to Mondays. But this gives us a national “wait a minute” moment.

There will always be those who take this treasure and turn the focus on our national hedonism. Their efforts will rule the airwaves. News time will be spent photographing people tenting in big box parking lots waiting for sales that aren’t really sales.

But Thanksgiving still sits there in the middle of the week inviting us to do a good thing, a selfless thing.

Wait a minute.

Perhaps the Church should institute a “Wait A Minute” day.

Churchwide “Wait A Minute Day.”

One day a year to allow for course correction. All the past forgiven. Only the future ahead. Don’t put it on a Sunday which already has tradition and structure. Put it in the middle of the week. Employ the internet to share “wait a minute” thoughts that would never be published by the church and would take months or years.

Put Churchwide Wait A Minute Day well before Synod Assembly season, when the debating of the future is supposed to go on, but when there is no time for careful consideration or weighing of the future and the voices of only the chosen few are amplified.

Wait a minute. Where are we going?

Heaven is waiting. Why can’t we? Wait a minute.

Redeemer’s Thanksgiving 2013

Redeemer will gather this evening to celebrate Thanksgiving.

We often celebrated together as many of our members were immigrants new to the holiday and others lived alone.

We have no church in which to gather to worship and celebrate, but we will gather around the bread and wine—and the turkey.

  • We are thankful for our community and the unique ministry that our circumstances nurtured.
  • We are thankful that none of our members lost their homes as was a very real possibility during the legal battles this year.
  • We are thankful that our neighborhood continues to recognize our community despite every attempt to eliminate our heritage for synodical gain.
  • We are thankful for the support of our friends (none of them ELCA) who stood with us in court and bore some of the financial burden even though they had no horse in the race. There are some incredible stories we will share someday. They are recorded for now in our hearts.
  • We are thankful for the blessings of our spiritual community that our members continue to foster, each in his or her own way. Some members share devotional booklets. Some care for the infirm. Some lead Bible studies. Some maintain a presence within the ELCA, however unwelcome. Some build bridges in the community. Some raise funds. Some facilitate charitable work. Some preach and teach. Each supports the others.
  • We are thankful for the life of one of our most stalwart members whose faithful support and quiet encouragement is sorely missed this Thanksgiving as she has joined the saints in heaven.

We are thankful to a God who has given us these blessings. We pray that the message of love he sent to us through his Son is never neglected and that one day His Church will practice inclusion, diversity, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace—not just preach it.

It’s that swords into plowshares time of year!

8 Lessons Learned by David Fighting Goliath

This is part 2 of yesterday’s post about Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

Yesterday, we pointed to Gladwell’s observation that true innovation comes from the Davids who fight established practices and wisdom. We promised examples from our experience today.

Ironically, the lessons we learned in our feud with the established church correlate with today’s post of the Alban Institute.

The post by Sarai Rice answers a frequently asked question. What are the emerging trends in the church?

Here are her answers with our corroborating experience.

1. A congregation’s identity does not equal its building.

Lutherans teach “the church is not a building.” This is not the only thing we teach that we do not believe!

Buildings are tools for ministry. Their financial demands can also impede ministry.

Our denomination desperately uses property as a weapon. Give to the regional body the way we expect you to give, or we will take your building off your hands.

This is in total violation of Lutheran polity. However, it is hoped that congregations will lack the will to fight.

People don’t go to church to fight, however righteous. Most Davids flee at the sign of trouble.

Our property was modest but had appreciated in an upscale Philadelphia neighborhood. That should be good news for the congregation. We had equity.

We planned a renovation project that would put our educational building to work in mission and which would provide a healthy income to support ministry.

But our equity was coveted by our denomination — not to benefit the neighborhood that provided it but to benefit SEPA Synod and its recurring budget shortfalls — (still a problem by the way).

Without our property, Redeemer was expected to disappear. Easy pickings.

Taking our building was supposed to be the nail in our coffin.

But Redeemer turned to home churches and after a year reached an agreement with a neighborhood ally for rent-free space. This had the benefit of strengthening our neighborhood ties.

We took our ministry online and learned a great deal about a medium that all churches should use, but almost none are. While our own doors are locked to us, doors opened all over the world.

With our experience in this new realm of ministry we would be in very good shape to conduct our own ministry in our own building for the benefit of the whole denomination.

But Goliath knows best.

We would add a Part B to this point.

A congregation’s identity does not equal its pastor.

This is somewhat covered in Rice’s next point.

2. Pastor does not equal a full-time position.

SEPA Synod seemed to be unable to work with our congregation without a pastor of their choosing in control. This too goes against Lutheran polity. The congregation is supposed to be part of the call process, but small churches are often given few or poor choices.

This expectation drains ministry. Valuable resources are spent on professional help who have little invested in the actual work.

Redeemer was told in 2000 that we had to accept the pastor SEPA wanted us to call or there would be no pastor for a very long time. The pastor they were recommending was upfront. He wanted to provide minimal service—just ten hours per week, just enough to keep his ordination status and benefits active. He would be happy. SEPA would be happy. Under the rules of a regularized call, Redeemer would be endlessly obligated with no promise of benefit.

Wisely, Redeemer turned down this ultimatum. But SEPA required THREE divisive votes before they stepped away from their demand. SEPA walked away. We were supposed to wither on the vine. Bishop Almquist even said, “In ten years, you will die a natural death.”

We found qualified pastors on our own and managed to grow.

In 2007, we presented a resolution to call one of them. We had worked well together for seven months. He had overseen the acceptance of 49 new members. Bishop Claire Burkat did not respond to our resolution. She met privately with the pastor and he never set foot in our church again.

3. Resourcing happens via drop-down menus rather than denominational staff.

The internet is a treasure that can be used by anyone.  “Even small congregations in remote communities know how to use search engines for everything from conflict management to curriculum choices,” Rice writes.

In other words, congregations don’t need to allocate great resources for help from the regional body. Regional bodies can and should downsize. This goes against our bigger is better thinking.

4. Group participation does not equal my congregation’s group.

Church members are loyal but not exclusive. Shunned by our own denomination Redeemer formed relations around the world. The amazing thing is that they have become intertwined. Denomination is never discussed.

Pakistan, Kenya, Sweden, Nigeria, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Boston have worked together in amazing ministry because they met us via our website. (None, except perhaps Redeemer, is ELCA!).

5. Worship does not equal Sunday morning.

Redeemer often meets on Sunday morning, but we also find reason to meet during the week.

6. Small groups and faith formation does not equal Sunday School in church buildings.

Redeemer follows the “meetup” concept. We have no place of our own but meet in homes, restaurants, trips, and theaters—even occasional bars.

7. Active membership does not equal weekly attendance.

Redeemer members stay in touch. We don’t have a church in which to take attendance, but we know that we have nearly 1000 people who read our website every week and participate in our various outreach endeavors. Our reach is broader than any other church in SEPA Synod that has a building.

We would add an eighth point to Sarai Rice’s observations.

8. Income does not equal offering plate.

Redeemer found ourselves suddenly with no church in which to worship and no offering plate to pass. Without a building or a pastor, we had little need to take offerings. But there were these pesky lawsuits (funded against us with our own money!). SEPA also threatened our members’ personal property. Money remained an issue. This is leading us down a new road to self-sufficiency. There is great promise in funding Lutheran ministry in East Falls with a combination of our school and a  mission outreach with entrepreneurial potential. We’ve laid good groundwork!

Should SEPA ever rightfully return East Falls property to East Falls Lutherans, they would soon have a viable flagship church where they have created strife.

Ambassadors Watch 60 Minutes

A New Look at David and Goliath

Malcolm Gladwell is pitching a new book, David and Goliath. If it is anything like his earlier books, (The Tipping Point and Outliers) he will change our cultural outlook with a fresh and statistical look at accepted wisdom and practices.

CBS’s 60 Minutes featured his new work today. Gladwell says that when large forces do battle with small forces there is a tendency to exaggerate the power of big and underestimate the capabilities of small.

This tendency is played out in the Church. How well we know!

The big and powerful Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ( SEPA / ELCA ) decided it was wise to flex its muscles in our Philadelphia neighborhood in 2006.

They were struggling. SEPA’s 170 churches just weren’t contributing the way they used to. SEPA’s budget was regularly running a profound deficit. They were strategizing not so much with mission in mind but with their need to maintain staff and pay salaries.

Someone thought up the idea of forcing smaller, debt-free churches into giving up on mission and deeding assets to them. They tried this a few times with little resistance. Then they chose Redeemer as their target.

Problem: It’s against their governing rules. Churches are not required to bequeath assets to the regional body unless they were begun as mission churches.

Solution: Find a way to make small congregations that are not “mission churches” into mission churches and then force their hand. Failing that, find a way to get the church members out of the way.

And so SEPA started using the word Involuntary before the words Synodical Administration in their constitution which had been tweaked from its first reading to be in violation of its incorporating documents. They gave it added validity with its own acronym. ISA must be legal!

Involuntary Synodical Administration is not found in the synod’s constitution. Synodical Adminsistration in the original constitution was permitted only with the consent of a congregation. The intent of allowing Synodical Administration was to help congregations not bully them.

No one was supposed to notice. And almost no one has! The practice of forcing churches to close for the benefit of SEPA became accepted. Everyone could wonder which church was next. Tread carefully.

In East Falls, the resources of 170 churches were pitted against the resources of a small neighborhood congregation and a handful of individual members that Goliath SEPA decided to attack personally.

The strength of SEPA was exaggerated. Eight years later the mission of one small church is still being underestimated.

It hasn’t been easy. Courts didn’t want to be involved in upholding church law. Neither did 170 congregations, the synod assembly, the synod council or the national expression of the ELCA with  law offices paid by congregations but working for the synods. Neither did very many individuals. Just turn the other way. Pretend to know nothing. Redeemer will get tired and disappear. The property can be sold. Rejoice! “Mission” accomplished.

SEPA took possession of Redeemer’s property in 2009 and locked out the members who donated the assets. There was no process, no negotiation, no mutual discernment, no thank you. Just bullying.

This brings us to Gladwell’s next point. When there is confrontation with vastly lopsided odds, the underdog is put in a unique position.

The underdog must innovate. Gladwell gives some examples of innovation coming from the smallest and most unlikely places. Each received so little regard from the establishment that they were free to re-invent. In some cases, they made enemies doing it, but were eventually accepted when egos stopped overshadowing results.

Interestingly, church leaders have been promoting innovation and change for decades. The bishop involved in this dispute even wrote a book about it—Transforming Regional Bodies. In this book Rev. Claire Burkat openly advocates that small churches should be allowed to die to preserve synodical resources.

But this doesn’t lead to transformation—just the shifting of resources and the eroding of mission.

The Goliath nature of the Church is unable to transform. It doesn’t appreciate its Davids.

Larger churches have no need to transform as long as their numbers can continue to support a couple of pastors and support staff. They define success even as they are starting to fail. Most large churches are in decline, too.

Middle-sized churches are preserving resources, hoping to reach the status of large churches or at least maintain church as they know it. Change might threaten their perceived stability.

Smaller churches have no luxuries. Many have minimal or inadequate professional help. Pastors seek calls in the larger congregations where they won’t have to do the evangelical work of building community. Consequently, each member of a small church plays a vital role in church mission. With less clergy oversight, they are free to experiment.

Redeemer was always a bit entrepreneurial in that regard. But without property, with no clergy, and while being entirely unwelcome in the ELCA, we forged ahead.

While SEPA and the ELCA pretend we don’t exist, we’ve accomplished a great deal.

We’ve become the church of the future, the church that can rewrite how small churches will survive.

Our next post will give some details.

9 Ways to Nurture Church Culture

Change Depends on Nurturing Laity

Laity outnumber clergy in everything but attention. Here are some ways that churches dedicated to transformational change can change that.

1. Assess the Career Path of the Laity

Clergy have an established career path. They have to jump a maze of hurdles to verify their call. They spend three or four years under the watchful eye of mentors in seminary. Then they seek that call. Or is it seeking them? That’s the question.

Once a candidate has heard the call and there is agreement that he or she has heard the correct call—the career path is set. Some pastors will grow and mature with their congregations. Some will bide time as their congregations fail. Some will hop from call to call. Some may discover and hone new skills. Many will stick with their seminary initial training forever.

Here’s a  cartoon describing the Methodist tradition. Every denomination has some form of “process.”


But what about the laity—the field of laborers, the financial backbone of the church.

They are a neglected part of church culture. Their career path starts with baptism and membership. Then what?

2. Recognize that laity change—as a group and individually.

Today’s laity are not the same as the laity of 50 years ago. Collective educational background is much higher. Our cultural experience has matured. The zeitgeist of the time changes. Yet, the church scans the pews and sees the past.

I was recently using a seminary library when I overheard an exchange between a seminarian and the clergy librarian. The student was expressing gratitude that a professor had pointed out how their congregation will view a certain theological point. “I’m so glad he pointed out to me how lay people think. Now I’m ready.”

How do we think? Someone should tell us.

The particular point they were discussing and the supposed viewpoint of the laity was so dated that anyone holding it today would be 150 years old.

Sometimes we get what we expect. If we expect laity to have shallow theological understanding, we will find those people.

This notion that laity are always the same is a cause of church closings. If we keep looking for cookie-cutter members to replace those lost to attrition, we will soon have a difficult time.

Many churches today sit in the middle of vibrant neighborhoods and lament that demographics have changed. That’s one thing that is never going to change!

3. The laity are encouraged to change but are not really allowed to implement change around the set structure of the church.

The churches that will survive the next two decades will have members and clergy who think entrepreneurially. Entrepreneurs have a “can do” attitude. The challenge to congregations will be to ensure that laity have the tools to implement new ideas.

Look at Steve Jobs and his product line, Apple and Macintosh computers. When retailers refused to stock his products, he didn’t adopt an attitude of contrition and defeat. He opened his own retail stores and sold through computer vendors. He soon ruled the market.

The Lutheran Church recognizes lay talents with their Associates in Ministry program. It requires 600 seminary hours and field experience before laity can tap into the church compensation programs. The field experience is in predictable areas (education, social services and music).

Perhaps this is a way of keeping order, but it tends to turn laity into little clergy and puts skilled laity directly under the oversight of clergy. Ultimately, that’s crippling.

What about all the laity that spend 600 or more hours in (or teaching) Sunday School and Confirmation Class and spent another 10,000 hours developing skills that seminaries don’t teach—and who are not looking for the Church’s seal of approval?

Their voice and talents are supposed to be equally valued in Lutheran structure.

They are not. And lay people sense that. And so they sit. Sitting does not produce change.

4. The Good News must be presented to God’s people today.

In today’s world, where life-long learning is expected, laity will not want to hear the same Sunday School lesson over and over. They must provide new and challenging avenues for service that begin with the interests and skills of the laity — not what the church thinks it needs at the moment.

The church must bring this kind of life into their faith communities or younger laity will be gone. They are on their way out the door now.

5. Nurture the attitude of leaders.

The culture of the church feeds off the attitudes of leaders.

When they appear to be self-protective, self-focused  and managerial, only laity conditioned to that will respond. The attitude of modern clergy must be welcoming, positive and nurturing.

I was riding in a cab recently and the cab driver was listening to a dispatcher giving basic business coaching. “Remember to thank your passenger. They have choices.” Good advice for building the culture of church. Today’s laity have choices.

6. Find the laity’s strengths.

Too often the church seeks to fit laity into pre-established service roles. Do you want to sing in the choir, teach children or work in the food bank?

Every individual has at least one strength; some have many. What if it’s “none of the above”?

People like to play their strengths. If there is no opportunity to do so in church, they will find somewhere else to serve.

7. Give the laity ownership of their ministry.

Don’t we already do that?

Constitutionally, yes. Practically, no.

The challenges of today’s church have weighted the hand of hierarchy.

How’s this working for us? It’s not—but we keep at it anyway.

When clergy are assigned, not called, when congregational votes are bypassed, and assembly votes are rigged, the church is sapping the laity for managerial gain.

It’s a dead end. Wait and see. (It won’t be long!)

8. Let the call process work.

Calls are supposed to come through the congregations—not managed or dictated. Any church that is accepting a pastoral match without the skills necessary to nurture the congregation is pouring resources down the drain and sapping the spirit of the church. They are taking advantage of their laity. If there are not enough pastors with the necessary skills, the church professional leadership structure should work to remedy that ASAP, before dozens more congregations fail. Saddling congregations (usually, but not always the smaller ones) with pastors who have no intention of working to grow a congregation is dishonest.

9. Remember the past but celebrate your current culture.

If you have an annual homecoming, make sure you also have an equal celebration of your current history. Each year note how your culture has changed and improved. New people aren’t insensitive. They care about the history of the church. But it’s more important that they know that they fit into the culture here and now.

Relief for Pakistan

First, here is a video made by the Episcopal Church about the situation in Pakistan.

Second, know that 2×2 has already sent some monetary relief. 2×2 readers in Michigan have responded to our request for help. Boxes of winter clothing and blankets are shipping.

The bombing of a church filled with 250 worshipers left more than 80 dead and 150 wounded. A second bombing, a week later, killed another 40 and added to the injured list. This has created warlike conditions for the Christian community, leaving many orphans and seriously injured.

2×2 has corresponded with the Pakistani church for nearly two years. Our friendship has provided a conduit for helping.

There has been little mention in the Church of this horrific event. It has the makings of a new Holocaust, especially if the western Church does not respond.

Imagine it happening here.

Failure to respond now, makes it likely . . .  someday.

This is one of the many situations where offering to pray just isn’t enough.

If you’d like to help but don’t know how, please contact us. We can put you in touch with Pakistani church leaders.

2×2 Reader Shares A Fun Link

This video of boys being boys will make you smile at first and laugh at the end. ’Tis the season!

Adult Object Lesson: Luke 22:33-43, Jer. 23:1-6, Psalm 46 and Col. 1:11-20

The power in starting over.

Today’s object is a song that most people in your congregation will know if they grew up or reared children anywhere between 1960 and the 1997. That should cover most of your congregation!

It is a song designed to be annoying and therefore it is great fun for children. It was featured on popular children’s shows. Ask your adults to remember the thrill of annoying their parents.

You can learn the song here.  9 minutes of it. I dare you to listen to the end.

You see, This Is the Song that Never Ends. It just goes on and on my friends. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was. And they’ll continue singing it forever just because. This is the Song that Never Ends . . . .

Which brings us to Christ the King Sunday.

This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year. It brings us as God’s people to a predictable end.
Jesus suffers and dies. Jesus the King of the Jews.

But is this really the end?

Let’s look at each of today’s lessons.

We start with Jeremiah’s admonition to religious leaders who create separation among the people who live under their authority. (Hmm!)

We move on to the poignant cry for help in Psalm 46 that ends with the quiet reassurance. “Be still and know that I am God.”

The letter to the Colossians promises strength at the same time that it warns of suffering.

And then we read the wrenching story of Jesus on the cross. His parting words are words of acceptance and love for those who are dying with him—and for those who are killing them.

Jesus leaves none of them without hope. God will be there for them. Promise.

Each passage is a story of strength found in starting over, trying again, figuring out where we went wrong, returning to the source of all our strength, and the assurance that God will be there to guide us.

It’s the end of the Church Year.

But come back next week. We’ll start all over again.

Assure your congregation that one of God’s promises is redemption. That means there is always a second chance—a chance to make things right with God and with one another.

Have fun with your congregation. Sing The Song that Never Ends. If you can manage, segue into a hymn that reinforces the theme of today’s message: We will find strength in God’s acceptance and redeeming love over and over again.

Just As I Am, Without One Plea would work.

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be thine, yea thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

So would the Hymn of Promise by Natalie Sleeth which is finding its way into hymnals.

Hymn Of Promise Hymn 

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

From Whence Cometh Church Innovation

Why Transformation in the ELCA Is Unlikely

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SEPA / ELCA) recently posted a link on its Facebook page from a Methodist Conference that discussed the role of clergy in church transformation.

It referenced the work of Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations. His work studied innovation in farming.

Rogers found the implementers of new ideas broke into the following categories:

  • 2.5% were Innovators. They were educated, had means and were risk-oriented.
  • Early Adopters followed them. They were young, educated and community leaders.
  • Then came the Early Majority. They were conservative but open to new ideas.
  • The Late Majority were older, less educated, conservative and less socially active.
  • Laggards were very conservative had the smallest farms and little capital.

The article argued that clergy could not be effective innovators within their parish role. They place the clergy somewhere between early adopters and the effective implementation that follows.

innovation-700x386Perhaps this is true within Methodist circles.

The Lutheran Bell Curve would probably find clergy at the other end of the spectrum. It is probably a disproportionate number, eating into the hump of the Bell Curve.


  • Lutheran clergy, at least in our area, are older.
  • Lutheran churches in our area are smaller.
  • Lutheran leaders at every level are desperate for capital. That equity should be a tool for the congregation’s use, but regional bodies covet it.
  • Lutheran clergy, by some measure, are less socially active. (Search Lutheran clergy on LinkedIn and see how many are connected and how many of them post their profiles publicly.)
  • Lutheran clergy are becoming increasingly enamored with and dependent upon hierarchy which makes them less likely to explore risk. Innovation without risk is unlikely.

Given these factors, the Lutheran Church will lag in innovation if we depend on professional leaders. Clergy already turn to laity for implementation of most church work. But the control reins hold them back.

Add a few other factors. Lutheran regional leadership, desperate for capital, hover over member congregations waiting for signs of failure. The incentive to assist with innovation is not there. Innovation takes capital! Most of that capital tends to go toward salaries with inconsequential accountability.

Caretaker and part-time ministries rarely lead to innovation but they abound. Pastors inclined toward innovation must be careful. Would-be innovators do so in an unfair arena where leadership is protected by separation of church and state and lay innovators accept personal risk. They may not know it! Ask the laity of Redeemer in East Falls who were named personally in lawsuits by SEPA Synod, while the actions of clergy were protected under separation of church and state.

Laity step up when caretaker ministries are in place, but their leadership is often unappreciated by clergy, who even with part-time status want full-time oversight and credit for success. Failure? The laity can take the credit for that!

Beware! Laity inclined toward innovation do so at their own risk. They may even risk the mission of the church if their leadership threatens the perceived turf of professional leaders.

Yet transformation is not going to happen without a fully empowered laity.

Dedicated laity bring skills to the table that the church desperately needs. When they go unappreciated or are seen as threatening, innovation is squashed.

Laggards swim in the wake. They see the opportunity to sustain things as they are by seizing property, capital and equity.

Consequently, transformation will not happen any time soon. Talk won’t get you there! Visibly aligning with the few charismatic rising stars among the clergy won’t work either. Feature them at Synod Assemblies and Bishop’s Convocations and hope their energy fuels a local movement. Will it catch on without an infrastructure to support it? Not likely. Looks good, though!

This is 2×2’s (Redeemer’s) experience in the ELCA.
Our ministry was already getting attention for innovation back in 2006.
Enter SEPA Synod with its recurring six-figure annual deficit, legal team and locksmith.

The Lutheran Church desperately needs to empower the laity. They just don’t know how.

Today’s Object Is A Vacuum Cleaner

elephantIn Search of a Better Vacuum Cleaner
In Search of a Better Church

Gotta love those vacuum cleaner commercials.

The spokesmen are usually just that—men. I can’t speak for the whole world, but in my little corner, it’s the woman who mans the vacuum.

This woman has a long, mostly “hate affair” with vacuum cleaners. I wanted one desperately when I was five years old. It seemed to be my calling.

I got a pretty pink one for Christmas. My toy vacuum cleaner actually worked just like those silent ones used in restaurants. But as I came of age, I came to realize that real vacuum cleaners are fraught with design flaws—maybe because they are designed by men. The fancier they got, the more problems.

One brand makes sure you know that their namesake patented the technology. He’ll benefit from every sale for a few decades. His vacuums cost twice what other vacuums cost.

Designer engineers may test the suction technology, but do they use their vacuums every day? Do they know that the power of the suction isn’t everything? Do they lug them up and down stairs? Do they spend most of their vacuuming time knocking into furniture and wrestling with the power cord?

Come to think, what happened to the power cord?

Have you noticed the vacuum cleaners being pushed around by men in those TV commercials don’t have any power cords? Look! They swivel. They roll. What fun! They have no power cords. I want one of those!

Power cords create half the work.

Cords too long get in the way and get sucked into the machine. They wrap themselves around table legs and threaten to topple floor lamps. You try to get the cord off the floor and swing it across your shoulder. Now it is knocking things off tables.

Cords too short and they are a pain. Just when you think you’re nearly done, the power cord reaches its limit. You must stop and search for a new power source.

Canister vacuums are hard to find these days. Never a good idea. Push with one hand. Pull with the other. The original “pushmepullyou.”

I’m waiting for the day when a vacuum cleaner is designed by the people who actually use them. When that day comes, they will be wireless (just like power tools sold to men). They will not require the user to take them apart and clean the filters after each use. Whose idea is that, anyway? They will be low to the ground for reaching the dustiest place in the house. Do you guys know where that is? (Under the beds.) They will have settings that don’t require you to hoist the cleaner to the kitchen counter to read them. The hose will not fall out every three minutes. The attachments will be easy to use and won’t store where they add to the weight of using the cleaner.

And what does this have to do with church?

Church is an attractive concept that has gone awry in the hands of those with “patent” interests. Some day the church will be designed by the people who actually worship and volunteer their services. We’ll stop pretending power cords don’t exist in the perfect world we imagine. And then those power cords will be replaced with internal power sources that actually accomplish something!

Then, I’ll volunteer as spokesperson!

photo credit: duesentrieb via photopin cc