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William and Rebecca VanDoodewaard wrote that Young Evangelicals are Getting High on their blog, The Christian Pundit; my friend from the world wide inter-web, Fr. Matt Marino, wrote about the phenomenon on his blog, The Gospel Side, in posts entitled What’s so Uncool about Cool Church and Solving the Millennial Catastrophe; and most famously, Rachel Held Evans, who is fast becoming the voice of young, restless, evangelicalism, wrote about it in a commentary entitled Why Millenials are Leaving the Church for CNN’s Belief Blog, and in her own blog with the post 15 Reasons I Returned to Church.

All of these posts have a common theme: Young adults are leaving contemporary, seeker-friendly church settings for a spiritual setting that they feel has more depth and substance. I wrote about the future of the American Church a while back in a post entitled Return to Liturgical Practices: Here to Stay? and The Evangelical Response to Growth in Orthodox Denominations, making some predictions, particularly stating that I believed that worship was going to have a more sacramental/liturgical/historical flavor over the next twenty years.

I agree with what the VanDoodewaards, Fr. Matt, and Rachel Held Evans are saying, not because I’ve studied the statistics…although the stats do back up the idea that millennials are seeking out deeper spiritual waters, and finding them in liturgical settings. I agree because I’ve seen it in practice. I see it in myself, and in others I know. I read and taught the CEO, John Maxwell model of “doing church” and the Andy Stanley “Seven Checkpoints” method for “doing Christianity” for years, but it was Robert Webber’s “The Younger Evangelicals” that spoke to my heart. He saw this coming 30 years ago, but the church growth consultants and Christian leadership gurus looked the other way, and ignored his voice, in favor of selling a neatly packaged, palatable, systematic, comfortable brand of worship that was designed to entertain us.

Many people have come to know Christ because of the post-modern, seeker friendly brand of Christianity. I won’t argue that. I fear that many have also made an idol of music, building programs, and the “bigger is better”, numbers-driven mindset. The SBC became so concerned with the idea that it’s the packaging that matters most, they even changed their name, now calling their organization “Great Commission Baptists”. In recent years, they’ve developed an idea called “church-replanting”, where they take a failing church, change its name, get a younger pastor who doesn’t tuck his shirt in and wears that microphone thing like Usher that runs from his mouth to his ear, even though we can hear him just fine without amplification, and call it “re-imagining church”. The message is, “We’re not church for old people. We’re young, hip, and we get you. We look like you, talk like you, and we’re not stuck in the red hymnal from 1978. But we’re not doing Beer and Hymns, okay? Don’t push it too much.”

The problem here is, what will the Church do when the fads change? Shift again? As we exit the era of bleached blond spiky haired youth pastors, worship dance, and song leaders prescribing our emotions to us during the slow song portion of their set, and we enter into “the next big thing”, where we throw out our outdated projectors and video screens in favor of a 2D or 3D absentee pastor, church via Tumblr, or worship twerking (I haven’t seen it, but I promise you, there is a youth pastor out there who is thinking about it…), are we going where we should be as the Church, or are we missing the point altogether?

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Church is  sometimes a painful beast of which to be a part, mainly because it’s filled with people.  Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it…”, and it’s most definitely a true statement.  Being a leader in a church, whether you’re a pastor, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, or even the groundskeeper, can be stressful even on the best days.  I sat last night talking with my wife, reflecting on my life in ministry, and frankly, if you measure by the world’s standards, I’ve experienced a great deal of failure in that realm.  Now, when I stated that last night, my wife pointed out that I am very sensitive to criticism, and that when you’re leading a ministry, you have to have a tough skin.  She’s right.  She’s always right.  The other night, I told her that there was no way she could make homemade doughnuts out of canned biscuits, and dang if she didn’t do it.  The girl is never wrong.

Because many leaders in ministry don’t have a spouse who can steer them as well as mine does me, I thought I would take a few moments to steer away from my usual favorite topics…liturgy, sacramental theology, Church history, etc…and give a few points of practical advice to those who are, or are aspiring to be leaders in ministry.  Please note that some of these are areas in which I’ve seen other leaders either excel or lack woefully; some are areas where I’ve personally  struggled; and finally, there are some points at which I think I may have achieved a passing grade.

All that being said, let’s go for a walk down the dirt road, and talk about leading in ministry…

1)  Good leaders are accessible and available leaders.

Good leaders not only return phone calls, but they have multiple means by which they can be contacted.  For all you pastors who are convinced that the world wide inter-web is the debbil, please note most of your parishioners, even the ones in my little rural church, are on Facebook.  Even several folks aged 70-80 years old spend time there.  And they check it daily.  They also send messages on Facebook, Twitter, and through other social media outlets.  They send email, and you should read it.  Don’t blame your wife for not teaching you how to text message, and stop saying you don’t have time to get on the computer. And God almighty, stop living in the myth that “I just don’t think that many people in our church use the internet.”

Don’t have your secretary read your email for you.  People may send you things that they prefer to be kept confidential.  I know that there’s a rumor you’ve heard that “Everything on the internet is public information.”  It might be easily accessible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sensitive.  If an employee sends you an email, they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, under the law.  For personal matters, however, individuals do have a right to confidentiality.  If you’re going to have someone else viewing your emails for you, you must inform the potential senders of this.  Never share any personal information from an email.  Miss Myrtle might have been the church secretary for the past 42 years, but when she puts Deacon Burns on the prayer list for his hemorrhoids that he emailed the pastor about, and she read it first because the pastor can’t remember his passwords, you are gonna get yourself in a heap of trouble.

And don’t preach about the evils of Myspace.  Myspace isn’t cool anymore.  Half of your teenagers don’t even remember it.

Responding to people in their preferred modes of communication says to them that you are paying attention to what they’re saying, that it matters to you, and that they as individuals matter to you.

Do I really need to say what message you’re sending when you don’t respond?

I’m a fan of the clerical shirt and collar, along with albs, stoles, chasubles, maniples, and a lot of other things that are better left for discussion in a future post.  The clergy shirt sets the pastor/priest apart, and sends a message:  “I’m available.”  If I’m wearing my clerical collar out to my favorite Mexican restaurant, then I should not be surprised or offended if I’m approached by someone in regards to a spiritual matter.  As a spiritual leader, the expectation of your followers is that you are both available and accessible.  Your sheep shouldn’t have to fight through layers of secretaries, associates, and personal assistants to get to you.

2) Good leaders don’t let their mouth get ahead of their head.

A good leader should have a solid filter on their mouths.  Blurting out your initial thoughts on a subject can be damaging to relationships.  A while back, a pastor I served under offered some commentary on a class that I was teaching.  I had developed the teaching series, wrote it, and was teaching it to a small group.  He suggested that I should have made the series shorter, saying that “You can teach anybody everything they need to know about that in an hour.  Your group probably isn’t growing because you’re boring people.  You need to remember that this isn’t a seminary class.”  After letting loose of my own tongue a bit, and making some remark along the lines of, “If you want to keep your discipleship group in the shallow end of the Jesus pool, that’s okay with me…”,  I reminded him that he had never actually attended the class, and invited him to visit the class.  After he did, I was more willing to listen to constructive criticism.  Well, maybe not, but it sounds spiritual for me to say I was.

We both spoke without thinking.  Shame on both of us.  Having control of your mouth is a spiritual discipline, backed by Biblical reason…

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.  (Proverbs 21:23)

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. … (James 3:2-10)

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)

(There is ) a time to keep silence, and a time to speak… (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

So, to sum up, learning to keep quiet will keep you out of trouble; draw you toward perfection; make you seem wise and prudent even if you’re not overly bright; and shows you have discernment.

Now here’s the opposite end of the spectrum…

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

Ouch.

If one has the ability to control what comes out of their mouths, they can discipline themselves in any aspect of life.  This I know, for the Bible told me so.

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Continuing my thoughts and opinions on what I believe the evolution of the church is going to look like over the next twenty years, I’ve compared it to hash, the kind of stew my grandfather used to make in a big black pot over a hot fire in the backyard when the mornings got cold enough for hog-killin’ in the fall.  I’ve identified a couple of spices that I believe are going to define the distinct flavor of the church over the aforementioned time span, starting with Ministry as a ‘Career’ vs. ‘Calling’, a look at the idea that because of difficult economic times, we’re going to see more home-grown, bi-vocational pastors in the future.  There’s a less-than-subtle suggestion in there that pastors who are planting churches might do well to stop looking at target audiences, and attempting to style a worship experience to suit them, and instead look at the primary occupation of their target audience, and work in that type of field, in addition to being a pastor.  This would give a pastor more insight into the daily joys and struggles their community faces.

I’ve also considered The Evangelical Response to Growth in Orthodox Denominations, stating my belief that as orthodox movements become more visible and popular, we’re going to see some of our churches be against the movement, living in the same paranoid suspicion that many evangelicals have had for Catholics and other traditionally orthodox groups for generationsSome evangelical churches will adhere to some aspects of orthodox worship,  taking on liturgical practices in their worship services because they see it as the “hot” thing to do during worship, a tool for reaching those who are hipsters, or whatever they will be calling twenty-somethings in ten to twenty years.  Others will adopt orthodox tradition, fully becoming a part of denominational groups like the Anglican Church of North America, or the Orthodox Church in America.

Today, I’ll explore the current revival in liturgical practices, and attempt to answer the key question, “Are liturgical practices here to stay?” 

My illustrious grandfather, Boscoe Fouche (so nick-named because the doctor that delivered him suggested it, as he had just been to the carnival in Athens and witnessed the wonder of “Boscoe the Amazing Snake-Eatin’ Man”), would make a fresh pot of stew every year when the weather got cool enough.  As a young boy anxious to assist my Papa in any way, I had two jobs when it was time to make hash.  One was to stay out of the fire.  I believe that task was actually assigned by my mother, with several threats attached, some involving disfigurement and bruising.

My other job, and the one I loved the most, was to stir the pot.  If my memory serves me proper, and my older siblings will surely correct me if it doesn’t, he had a stick that somewhat resembled a small version of a boat oar, made of hickory, that was used for stirring the pot.  Shoot, I must have really loved the job, because I’ve been stirring the pot ever since.

The word “liturgy” is Greek in origin, and means “work of the people”.  Liturgy is composed of those things we do on Sunday morning, offered up as a cumulative expression of thanksgiving to God.  I, for one, believe that liturgy, or the work we do as an expression of thanksgiving to God, extends beyond the church doors, but this is a subject for another day.  Every church has a liturgy, even the most contemporary ones.  Liturgy is simply the order in which things are done.  The liturgical revival that is happening today, the one I’m such a fan of, is a return to an ancient, “traditional” way of doing Sunday morning worship.  As I’ve said in previous posts, for me, it has nothing to do with music style or genre, but everything to do with having a pattern of worship with depth and substance.

That being said, if the other ideas I’m considering in this series are the spices in this pot of hash we’re watching being made, I would suppose that liturgy is the stirring of the pot…It’s how we actually, actively, “do church”.  And in many circles, the way church is done is looking a lot less like the seeker-friendly movement we evangelicals have embraced for the past couple of decades, and more like it did in the earliest days of Christianity as an institution.

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