01/6/17
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Homiletics Notes #1 “My Problem with Preaching”

I supposed I should qualify that title by acknowledging the existence of a lot of amazing problems with preaching (including my own failures that I enjoy ruminating on), but what follows is the particular problem bothering me at the moment.

My friend Shawn has been struggling with the practice of preaching on his social media platform, critiquing it as a contemporary church practice. He cites articles that note preaching, especially among millennials, is at its “lowest value in history” and makes mention of EGW quotes such as:

As we approach the end, I have seen that . . . there will be less preaching, and more Bible study. There will be little groups all over . . . with their Bibles in their hands, and different ones leading out in a free, conversational study of the Scriptures…This was the method that Christ taught His disciples (GW 408).

This isn’t to say that he is against preaching ; being a biblical and historical tradition it can’t be written off as wrong, evil, or unscriptural. Plus speech communication, whether it’s a critical presentation at work, a simple (albeit terrifying) speech for a high school class, lines in a play, or a YouTube vlog, won’t go out of style for a long time. People talk and will continue to talk publicly. To me the issue isn’t public speaking or it’s homiletical (preaching) form, it’s more questioning a communicative reality.

People just don’t seem to connect with sermons. Honestly, I don’t blame them.

Is it the content?

Kind of?  There are cringe worthy messages reflecting either the presumption that the Spirit blesses a lack of study or unrecognized personal issues the preacher takes to the pulpit to beat his or her people over the head with. Also, every preacher has sermons that are the tragic victims of hasty exegesis or poor hermeneutics (biblical interpretation).

However the problem goes deeper than that…

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12/20/16
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Pastor Journal #1 “Pastoring and Stuff”

Having neglected this poor blog for some time, despite paying renewal fees, I have decided to make use of this space for more pastoral and academic reflection. Pastors always end up with sermonic material/reflections on the cutting room floor that I feel congregants may want to read at their leisure–instead of sitting through a 60 minute sermon. Academically this provides a place for me to process ideas that haven’t quite settled in my brain yet.

I am choosing the word “journal” because “diary” makes me feel like a 12-year-old girl.

These are meant to be short entries, even the academic ones. Sermons and papers require hours of work and meticulous formatting–this is a place to fling stuff out at random with little regard to citations or APA/Turabian/MLA/OCD what have you. I will at least try to keep my spelling accurate, but I can’t rpomise.

As 2016 ends I am challenged by several dynamics in pastoral ministry–it’s a weird time to pastor, for several reasons, not all of which will be mentioned here.

First is the growing generational gap between digital natives and immigrants. A presentation at pastor’s meetings last year from a professor at Fuller Seminary, noted that for every physical generation separating people–it equals four technological generations. Which means in addition to bulletins churches/pastors have to maintain a host of digital platforms, each with their own language to master. You have to be bilingual in analogue and digital.

Second, the continued fascination with Millennials by every church publication exhausts me (and I am a late millennial, depending on who you read). I get worn out reading these articles since they sound so much like the lamentation of lost youth articles that have been in publication for decades. It’s futile trying to make hasty generalizations about generations. Ministry is relationally driven, and we seem to be at a continual impasse with intergenerational ministry with people not taking them time to befriend each other (which includes both older and younger generations making effort). Just make friends, take people to lunch, spend time. It is so weird that this is so hard.

Third, there is an intensifying post-church trend that is difficult to face. People are sporadic with church. This isn’t a millennial thing. People who were involved at church when their kids were little now seem to be on hiatus, as if they “did their time” and can retire from the Body of Christ. Before anyone feels lecturey, I know the “church isn’t a building” and going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, blah blah blah, but relationships and community matter to everyone. Church becomes stressful for a lot of people, it’s not supposed to be, how does this change? The answers to these issues are legion and contextually specific, but many ministers  feel like they expend enormous amounts of energy convincing people of something they aren’t sure they want to do, but has the potential to be so good.  My first sermon series next year is “The Art of Church”…I debated on calling it “Make Church Great Again” 😉

The fourth reality for pastors is the digital parish–we all have them, or should. I know a few colleagues who seem to pride themselves on being digitally illiterate, which is tantamount to a missionary bragging that they refuse to learn the local language. What makes this dynamic weird, is not only the fact that I have “followers” outside of my physical parish, but they span all kinds of beliefs. I have followers who don’t attend church and don’t identify as Christian who “like” and engage on spiritual/Christian posts. Additionally, as followers increase, when a national tragedies happens I now feel pressure to say something pastoral.

When I do the response is overwhelming.

I have stated elsewhere that I often wonder if, should current social media trends continue, “church” will look more like denominationally sponsored digital rabbis with their online followers. It feels like we all have an “independent ministry” now.

There’s more, but that’s enough pondering for now.

Shalom.

Photo credit: Etrusia UK via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

01/4/16
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PhD Pastors: An Interview with David Hamstra

This interview was conducted via email with my colleague and friend whom I’ve known since elementary school. Even during the early years of our education everybody knew David was smarter than than everybody else 😉  David is one of many pastors who hope to pursue advanced education and his conference’s approach to allowing him to do a PhD is rather innovative for Adventists. It’s also valuable for ministers and conferences wanting some idea of how approach the subject. Thanks to David and the Alberta Conference for allowing this interview to happen.

Okay, give me the biographical breakdown: How long have you pastored? Where have you pastored? How long have you been out of seminary?

I’ve been in full-time pastoral ministry for 10 years (if one year of volunteer youth work in Australia counts and seminary doesn’t). I’ve spent my entire professional career with the northernmost Adventist congregations of Alberta, Canada. I graduated from Andrews University with my MDiv in 2010.

2. The Dmin is the usual doctoral route for Adventist pastors, tell me a little about your decision to pursue a PhD instead.

I think of myself as a pastor whose ministry specialty is theology. My first call was to be a shepherd to the flock, and God hasn’t indicated that I should have any other carrier ambition. But in addition to that, during my MDiv, God also called me to work on a specific theological project. So for my advanced training, I knew that an academic doctorate would prepare me to make that theological contribution in a way that a DMin is simply not set up to do.

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03/17/14

80% of Adventists Still Unsure When to Clap

clapWe’ve all been there. On a rare Sabbath morning a competent musician delivers an awe-inspiring rendition of a spiritual song ushering the congregation into the presence of God.

And upon their conclusion the congregation enters into the valley of wide-eyed uncertainty and indecision.

To clap or not to clap? THAT is the question.

Gratitude is not something commonly expressed in Adventist congregations. Taking a dutiful approach to ministry it is expected that you share your gifts on demand because God—or the Nominating Committee—says so.

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03/13/14

The Three Keys for a Successful Independent Adventist Ministry

We’ve all been disgruntled with church leadership from time and time. And despite the nagging desire to hightail it out of God’s remnant people we know that leaving church is not the best way to fix it.

We’ve all been disgruntled with church leadership from time and time. And despite the nagging desire to hightail it out of God’s remnant people we know that leaving church is not the best way to fix it.

Enter the “Independent Ministry”: the only theologically and ecclesiastically acceptable way to separate from the 90% of the Church that refuses to see and do things our way without losing our membership. Not only can we reform the church from the inside out like the Jesuits of old, but having an Independent Ministry offers other benefits such as:

1. Not “knowingly” collecting tithe dollars

2. Avoiding pesky peer reviews that would dare shed the light of scholarship on your unique truths

3. Being part of the remnant within the remnant

But how does a  non-credentialed, non-recognized expert with a personality disorder and a bee in their bonnet accomplish such a tremendous feat? I offer these Three Keys for Success:

Key One: Find a Common Item Everyone Uses and Link it to the Catholic Church

Many Protestants, including Adventists, panic whenever they find out something is linked to Catholicism therefore inadvertently making them members of the “Mother Church” every time they use it.

Just think of the terror that will ensure when people find out that the following items/activities make them pals of the Papacy:

1. Shopping at Walmart

2. Butter

3. Spoons

4. Steering Wheels

5. Reading Email Fwds

People will cry out as they realize their deception and wonder why their church never told them about such dangers, making you the real handler of truth instead of their church with all its fancy schmancy preachers, institutions, and credibility.

They will realize that  their church has been infiltrated and compromised since they use things–and even distribute things–like spoons and butter.

And didn’t the Conference President have a steering wheel in HIS car? And I think my pastor bought something at Walmart, and…congratulations you have now discredited the church without saying a word so you can’t be indicted.

Start “unknowingly” collecting those tithe dollars…but not before Key Two.

Key Number Two: Spend 5 minutes Linking the Catholic Church to Paganism

Protestants worth their salt already know this, so you shouldn’t belabor the point. Just talk about how weird all the “smells, bells, and chants” are in Catholicism and then mention that modern witchcraft uses a chalice in their services, and that the Catholic Eucharist does too which makes them one in the same.

This almost guarantees you support since not only is your audiences’ church Catholic but now pagan–so any time, talent, or money should really be sent to your ministry since its the only Christian one around and maybe, just maybe, they can play a part in bringing their old church in line with your view…I mean…the Gospel.

Now for the trickiest part, Key Three.

Key Three: Use an Old Typewriter to Write “Testimonies” to be Handed Out Covertly in Church Lobbies When the Pastor Isn’t Looking

The internet can be traced and DVDs and CDs are expensive to produce with any kind of quality. They will come later as you build your army of truth bearers, but for now you want to use the information superhighway within church lobbies.

Stealthily hand out typewritten copies of your findings with a nameless address people can write to recieve a booklet you have produced for $1.00. After a few hundred sales then you can start lecturing at small churches and taking up freewill offerings, which will lead to better materials in the form of various media.

It won’t take long for your street cred to build since many small churches don’t see their pastors every week and will gladly take a complete stranger’s word over theirs. In 6 months minimum you should start seeing and being a profit.

Good luck you and all your endeavors!

Photo credit: capn madd matt / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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11/3/13

Reason for New Bible Translations #712: Unicorns

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God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Numbers 23v22, KJV

 

Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Job 39v10, KJV

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. Is 34v7, KJV

See also KJV’s Deuteronomy 33v17, Numbers 24v8, Psalm 22v21, 29v6, 92v10

 

REASON: This isn’t Harry Potter. Scripture is powerful not magical.

Suggested Alternatives:
NIV
ESV
NKJV
ASV
04/21/13
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Interview With My Mormon Student

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One of the best parts about teaching Bible at Northwest Christian, is being able to interact with students with a wide variety of faith backgrounds.

One of my students this year, Brig Richards, is a Mormon. He is a very sincere and conscientious young man.

Brig is also very dedicated to his faith.

Throughout the year we have had several chats in my office about our two faith traditions–Adventism and Mormonism–and I thought it would be fun to interview him for my website.

This is an opportunity to learn a little about another faith tradition from the perspective of a non-Adventist–attending an Adventist institution. 

Q) To begin with, how old are you and what grade are you in?

A) I am 12 (13 in May) and am in 7th grade.

Q) Can you share a little of your faith background with the readers? 

A) I am part of a family that have been Latter-day Saints (LDS; aka Mormons) for many generations on both my mom’s & dad’s side of the family which means that naturally I was raised LDS, as were my parents and grandparents.

But each of us is encouraged to discover truth, individually.

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03/24/13
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What I Learned at the 2013 WTS/SPS Meetings

So I 2013_WTS_Poster_-_Low_Resolutionhaven’t posted in a week due to preparations for this past weekend’s meetings. For those unfamiliar, I attended the joint Wesleyan (think Methodist) Theological Society/Society for Pentecostal Studies meetings at Seattle Pacific University.

These meetings gather together the best of scholarship from these Christian traditions in order to present academic papers, review new books, and engage in panel discussion over theological/practical issues facing Christianity–particularly in the Wesleyan/Pentecostal arenas.

Many of my Adventist brethren (or sistren?) might express bamboozlement over why an SDA pastor would attend such a meetings–after all there is such a  thing as the Adventist Theological Society.

Why not just attend that?

Well, for one, the ATS meetings are in CA this year and these were in Seattle–I’m cheap…or my budget is cheap.

Secondly, Adventism has roots in Methodism and the teachings of John Wesley, so many of the issues discussed pertain to Adventist theology.

Dr. Richard Rice from Loma Linda University was present and participated in a panel discussion on “Creatio ex Nihilo, Love, and  a Holy God.” 

Finally, my future area of study will be on Adventist/Pentecostal history/theology and it was a great chance not only to hear some new things and gain new perspectives, but also network with scholars I will work with in the future.

Okay, so on to what I learned….

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02/19/13
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Searching For God’s Most Elusive Creation

black-and-white-panda-obviouslyIn 1994, Pollyanna Pickering embarked on an incredible expedition by traveling to the remote Tibetan borderlands in a quest to find and paint one of the rarest of all God’s creatures: the giant panda.

A year of research and organization was necessary to open the door into regions of China that had been open to Westerners for only eight months.

Upon arrival, she stopped at several reserves to paint the pandas; but the pinnacle of her trip happened at a tiny place called Fentergxiao, on the borders of the Tibetan plateau.

It was a grueling three-day journey to arrive at this small reserve, which had an animal hospital where she worked for six months with a baby panda.

While she was able to paint and take care of the baby, however, it wasn’t what she had come for. She had begun her quest to find one in the wild–and into the wild she needed to go.

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