My first one was in the sermon - I was preaching on being "ashamed of the Gospel" as in the Timothy reading for the day. Toward the conclusion, I Schnasied the congregation with my current favorite: "At some point, followers of Jesus must decide whether they will listen to the wisdom of the world or to the wisdom of God." I equated being ashamed of the Gospel with listening to the wisdom of the world. I think it worked pretty well. The Gospel makes some doctrinal claims and expects some discipleship responses on our part that seem pretty outlandish, even silly, when evaluated according to the wisdom of the world.
My second Schnase du jour was during the finance team meeting when somebody said that we needed to put together a budget so that people in the congregation would know what their money is supporting. I said something like, "Well, actually I don't think that's exactly right. Bishop Schnase says that people give because they want to make a difference in the world, to support a vibrant mission, or to foster positive transformation, not so much out of loyalty to an annual budget." Our lay leader then astutely noted that the leadership of the congregation might need to see a budget, but the people in the pews probably don't.
People are wondering just how to bring the 5 Practices stuff to life in a real congregation - small group discussions, book studies, websites, and things like that. But there is a risk of "gimmickry" with that approach, isn't there? We run the risk of thinking that, if we have a few book studies and slap a few ideas onto the internet, we've addressed and accomplished our task. But really (and I'm about to Schnase you here), "Answers will not come in easy-to-use new programs, through quick fixes, or by adopting new slogans." (p. 129) In other words, the answers we seek are not to be found in gimmicks.
Rather, the idea is that the "5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations" will be absorbed into the "congregational culture" which will then be characterised by "genuine hospitality, authentic worship, meaningful faith development, life changing outreach, and extraordinarily selfless generosity." (p. 130) This absorption may be one of the most difficult things a congregation takes on, and no amount of programming will make it happen. It must be an emergent, organic process that is spread person to person, team to team, class to class. Only then will there be an abiding, long-reaching change rather than a frantic scramble to find the "easy button" answers.
"Effective congregations change, improve, learn, and adapt to fulfill their mission, and [this book pushes] us to rethink our basic congregational culture, organization, and practice." (p. 9)
Sounds like a little more than a few book studies, huh?
Also posted here.
Preparing to Participate
2 weeks ago