What I'm Writing
Hi there. Rev. Jeremiah here.
So another Pastor Jeremiah fast fact is I’m a sucker for any new sort personality test; the latest being the one offered from Strengthsfinder.com. (You do need to buy the book, get a secret code and log in before taking the 35 minute test.)
I would recommend it to folks and to congregations looking for something positive to build upon. All too often in church land, we tend to focus on what’s missing and not what’s possible. This book would force a governing body, a small group, or a clergy gathering to focus more on the strengths present in the people in the room.
To give you a taste, here are my own top five: futuristic, input, strategic, includer, and learner. I know it sounds like a salad made of the latest business buzzwords, but I found it to be an affirming test and worth your time.
The beauty of this time is it has never been easier to connect the various strengths and needs, or to put it in Paul’s language, for the foot to find the ankle and the leg.
Here’s a link: www.strengthsfinder.com
Let me know what you think? Tried it? Liked it? Hated it?
Let me ask you: “what does the fox say?”
Here’s my guess: it says we are slouching ever closer to that Gomorrah known as the one world culture.
You’ve heard, watched, or been subjected to that internet meme: “What does the Fox Say?”
(Click over; if it’s new. I’ll wait.)
And, now, with that catchy little rhyme and those strange masks in your head. Consider the fact for a certain portion of last week, the first week of June 2014, the Wikipedia page for that song was the top trending story for the entire planet.
Now, here’s the point: what does that mean?
This is where the world needs not just skill, but creative inspiration to help make meaning from that little bit of data. Making meaning means taking a contextually specific stand about something that matters to you. Or, said simpler, it means looking at your life and your world and making a judgment call about how something matches or doesn’t.
So, for many of us, the Fox doesn’t mean all that much or even really matter all that much.
However, and here’s my point, the difference in this new post-post world is we have the opportunity to discover the context we thought mattered – culture, history, religion – matters differently.
These holy three used to define people’s worlds, but no longer. People today need to develop their own skill at making meaning, divining how some new bit of data, connects with the context of their lives, and leads to new understanding.
It could almost be a math equation:
Internet fox + my life (context) = meaning (understanding)
Making religious meaning used to be the sole or largely so, responsibility of those in traditional roles of church leadership, but no longer. As people, learn to navigate the informational tidal wave, they must either learn to swim or be washed away.
The challenge people of faith face is how to make meaning using some of the traditional markers of faith, which can feel very confining in a world so awash in newness.
Teaching people the skills of meaning is one of the great challenges all of the world’s faith traditions face.
The Christian response is that each life has meaning, because of the shared meaning found in Jesus the Christ. Said, another way, each life matters, because God cares enough to love.
Today’s challenge is not getting information into the hands of the faithful, but rather to help people of faith learn to make meaning within the various contexts that they find their lives.
So, what do you think? How do you make meaning in this world today?
There’s a TED talk about the teddy bear, which argues that Teddy Roosevelt’s famous friend changed the way we understand the natural world. (Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/nq5rur8.) Teddy, the prez, changed a scary bear into something cute.
I buy it, because I think it makes sense.
Now, apply that thinking to church.
Local churches need something like the Teddy Bear to survive.
In the background, another bit of marketing , this from the town of Leominster, Mass. Leominster is a central Massachusetts town, which I’ve driven through a couple times. I briefly lived in neighboring Gardner, which has lately fallen on some hard economic times.
Back in 1939, some film makers came to Leominster and shot a short video, which was sort of an early recruitment video for the then thriving industrial town. For our purposes, this little video, showed many “houses of worship” and all the people that were flocking to them.
Tucked into the back of some of those shots: the iconic church sign complete with white letters, worship times, and witty topic. Not obviously this sign, a little risqué for 1939, but still very much recognizable.
Now, I ask you, dear reader, what else has stayed largely the same since that video was shot?
Not the factories. Those have mostly closed.
Not the stores. Big boxes, hyper abundance, and internet shopping still had a ways to go.
Not even the people. Families, neighborhoods, and nations are all changing.
I’d take the TED talk speaker’s argument one step forward and say that the local church as a cultural institution is now heading towards extinction, at least in my little corner of the Northeast United States. Now, the Church, big C, will survive this little cultural moment as it has for the past 2,000 years, by adapting, shifting locations, and finding the Jesus people where they are.
I’m talking about the local church, the neighborhood outpost of the established church in America, those might be fast fading away.
I say: we need a symbol to help save this institution.
Any thoughts on what that might be?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.