Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Do Disciples in Minnesota Suck?-REPOSTED

I posted this back in October.  I'm re-posting this again to get people's reactions, especially those Disciples in Minnesota.  Do you agree with my sentiment?  If so, why? What are the solutions?

I look forward to your thoughts.

I've been trying to rein in my Aspie tendency to be incredibly blunt. So far, I've done a good job.

But I think I need to be blunt for just one moment.

I don't mean to be down on my own denomination, but I do think that here in Minnesota we Disciples just suck. I'm really starting to believe in a few years there will be no Disciple churches in Minnesota.

Why do I saw that Disciples suck? Because over the last few years, I've encountered frustrated pastors, lay people who leave Disciple congregations for other churches, a defeatist attitude, and a lack of willingness to be change agents. I keep wondering if Disciples here in the North Star state really care about the future of Discipledom. If we don't then we should just close up shop.

Take for example the fact that there are a fair number of Disciples that have left Disciple churches. Why is that? Do we ask those questions? What can we do to bring them back?

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I get frustrated in the lack of new ideas, of a willingness to think outside of the box. In many cases, I feel that we Disciples are stuck in doing church as it was in the 1950s. This was a time when the culture was nominally Christian and there was a certain way to do worship. But we don't live in that culture anymore and people under the age of 40 are looking for something different in a church, if they are looking at church at all.

I also get frustrated at the lack of diversity among Minnesota Disciples. We are still amazing white. I don't there is overt racism, but it would be nice if we had more people who looked like me in our churches. I would also love if we tried to find ways to plant more ethnic churches in the Twin Cities. We have a lot to learn from our Lutheran sisters and brothers that are busy planting Hispanic, Chinese, Hmong and countless other immigrant congregations in the area.

I also find myself frustrated at time of those who leave. Did they try to share their on complaints? Maybe they did, but it seems like they just took their toys and left. I wish they could put their anger into developing new ways of being a Disciple in the 21st century.

Now I love the church I am currently serving at, and I love the people there. I also love the many Disciples that are found in the other congregations, many that I know and have worshipped with. But I feel that there is a lack of the Spirit found among us. We seem to be without hope.

I would like to see a Pentecost experience happen among of the Disciples of Minnesota- an outpouring of the Spirit. I want to see the young having visions and the old dreaming dreams. I want to see a revival, a people who are not looking back at the good old days, but faithfully forward into the future. I want to see us dreaming of new ways to share the good news of Jesus.

I love my fellow Minnesota Disciples, but we need to wake up and stop sleeping. I pray that the Holy Spirit will awake our souls. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Next DisciplesWorld

So, I said I was going offer some ideas for how the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) could create a new news source after the demise of DisciplesWorld.  Without further ado, here are my ideas.

  • The Politico Route.  One of the few new media sites that is doing fairly well is the political magazine, Politico.  It's basically a blog with a lot of reporters.  Politico does publish a newspaper a few days a week in the Washington, DC area, but with that exception, they are all online.  From an email in late 2009 from Disciplesworld editor Verity Jones, I tend to think this was where Disciplesworld was headed before they closed.  There was talk of less physical issues and more content on the web.  I think they had the right idea, but it seems like they ran out of money before they could launch Disciplesworld in this new direction.  If there were some money found somewhere, I would say they should try this stillborn plan.
  • Beef up Disciples News Service.  Disciples News Service has done an okay job over the last few years and has started to send out emails on stories taking place in Discipledom. They also should receive kudos for getting on the Twitter train.  I wonder what would happen if we took some of the now unemployed Disciplesworld staff and created a news and opinion organization that would find stories and writers.  As I've said before, Presbyterian News Service has done a good job of reporting and DNS might want to learn from our ecclesiastical cousins.
  • Empower the laity.  Yeah, this is another idea from Presbyterians.  The Synod of the Sun started a venture called Presbyterian Neighbor News.  Started by Shane Whisler, the Communications staff person at the Synod it is meant to use content from Presbyterian News Service as well as content from staff persons in Synods and Presbyteries around the nation.  Most of the 16 Synods that make up the Presbyterian Church (USA) have kicked in some funding for the venture.  I could see a "Disciples Neighbor News" that used content from DNS as well as content from editors around the country.  It could be funded in part by each other regions and the general church.
These are just a few ideas.  I'm sure there are others.  I just hope people are thinking about what should be done after Disciplesworld.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Case for a Denominational News Source

I've been thinking lately about the demise of Disciplesworld, my denomination's news source. For me, this is a big deal, but for others- while it is sad, it is not the end of the world and might just be a sign of the times.

When the predecessor to Disciplesworld shuttered in 2002, the line that I heard over and over was that denomination magazines were a thing of the past and that we could get our news on the web. A recent post by blogger and pastor Dan Mayes repeats this rhetoric:

I think the demise of DisciplesWorld also has something to do with larger issues facing the Church today, also. Being part of a denomination means less and less to people than it used to. People are more concerned with being a part of a particular local church where they fit than they are about that congregation's denominational affiliation. This means our editorial outlets have less of a captive audience than ever before. With a wane in denominational interest the publications are sure to suffer.

I have been a faithful subscriber to DisciplesWorld, so I must confess a bit of sadness. But I have to admit that in recent years my magazine subscription has served as little more than a novelty. I, personally, find sources of theological reflection and information through trusted bloggers more than anywhere else. And I'm venturing to guess that more and more people are doing the same.

Perhaps someone else will pick up where DisciplesWorld left off one day. Or perhaps no one will ever need to. This old world keeps on changing. So changing is what we're going to have to do.

There is a lot to unpack here but I think the nugget of Dan's thoughts is simply that the old ways of religious newsgathering are done and it's time for the new media to pick up the slack if they so desire. The point of the matter: religious journalism isn't important.

Maybe that's not what Dan was trying to say, but to someone trained in the "old media" it surely feels that way. Some argue that we don't need something like Disciplesworld since denominations aren't as powerful and people are more concerned with their local church.

I'd like to make the argument that we do need a denominational news source. Maybe the old magazine style subscription passe, but we still need people telling the story for the following reasons:

  • To stregthen and uphold the bonds of "brotherhood" and be aware of God's mission in the world. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is not like other denominations.  Unlike Lutherans or Presbyterians, we don't have creeds that bind us together.  Being non creedal means we have had to find other means of upholding the ties that bond us together.  A denominational news source that is telling the story of what is going on in the wider church, to talk about what ministries are taking place in California or Kentucky or Florida is keeping us bound together and helps congregations know they are not alone.  Maybe the best example of this is the work the Presbyterian Church (USA) is doing through Presbyterian News Service called "Growing God's Church Deep and Wide."  Over the last year, a number of stories have been written about mission taking place within local Presbyterian churches around the nation (including my hometown of Flint, MI).  Disciplesworld did a good job of telling those stories.  Who will tell them now?
  • To Give Us a Wide Viewpoint.  Yeah, I know, we can read blogs to get a wide range of opinions.  But the thing is, I can decide to read only the sources I want to read and ignore the rest.  What was great about Disciplesworld is that it presented views and opinions that not every would agree with.  While I don't agree at times with folks like Jan Linn or Rita Nakashima Brock, I did appreciate reading a different opinion.  The loss of a news source leaves us without a forum where we can be intellectually and spiritually stretched.  Without a vital gathering place, we won't have a place where we can make reasoned arguments and be able to discern the vital issues of the day like gay ordination or war.
There are other reasons to have something in mind to replace Disciplesworld and I will get to them in later posts.  But I can say we need to have some sort of denominational news source.  I do have some ideas, which I will share in my next post.