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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Some Personal Thoughts and Reflections on Prairie Table (or: What's a Blog For?)

When people first talked about Prairie Table (it had no name then), I heard stuff like this:

"What kind of church is it going to be?"
"What kind of people are you hoping to get?"
"How far away will it be from my church?" (Usually only asked by other pastors)
"Are you going to go knocking on doors to get people?"

And I got tired...very tired, and had no interest in doing a new mission start in Bismarck.

But some people wanted to see a mission here, the ELCA was willing to give it a nice chunk of change to get started, and people seemed tolerant, if not exactly excited to have a new mission in a place where not much had changed in 20 years for the Lutheran church. So we gave it a go...but we had some rules...and this is where it got interesting.

First Rule: No attractional ministry allowed! We would do nothing on a corporate level to try and attract people to the congregation. The congregation would grow only as people encouraged and invited others into the community. No ads, no publicity, no nothing that said "Come be like us!" We would reach out to people in need, but never try to attract others to us...

Second Rule: Everything is free, and no fundraisers will be allowed. Needless to say, Prairie Table is a month-to-month adventure in trying to stay solvent, but I've been able to be paid for the past couple of years, so, something works as people donate to a way of living with God rather than a place where God does "business." And thanks to all the folks (over 100 different contributors over the years) who have believed in the people of God here at Prairie Table.

Third Rule: Unless people are talking and listening we don't really have church. Everything we do is designed to get people talking about what God may or may not be doing in the world.

As I think about it, these might not be "rules" as much as they are reminders of how God creates, redeems, and sustains us in this life. We are attracted to God, God does not attract us (as St. Augustine said so nicely, "our hearts are restless Lord until they rest in you.")...God is free, Jesus frees us, and the Spirit empowers us to live freely...and talking and listening, well as Terry said once a while ago, "everybody likes to talk," and we could all stand to listen a little more.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.


gail said...

So, I was reading Working Preacher, and found this (written by David Lose):

Second, many of us struggle to imagine that God would just forgive sin, apart from some meaningful repentance. After all, if God just forgave us, what would become of God's justice? (Truth be told, I don't think this passage is about sin and forgiveness – at least Luke doesn't use those terms – but I think it nevertheless seems like a related and fair question.) What if, however, God doesn't care as much about justice as we do? That is, what if justice wasn't the primary category God uses all along? Maybe justice is our way of tracking each other, our way of defining each other, of keeping count, of keeping score, of following who's in and who's out, who's up and who's down. If this is so, if God's love regularly trumps God's justice – and I believe Jesus dies precisely to show us that it is – then we're operating with flawed categories. God, Jesus, the whole biblical story, as it turns out, isn't primarily about justice but about relationship, God's deep, abiding, tenacious desire to be in relationship with each and all of us.

And it made me think that Prairie Table's focus on relationship is what it's all about.


Scott Frederickson said...

If David Lose is right (and I believe he is) one piece of this becomes important to realize: congregations (churches) have to change. 99% of all the stuff I learned about being a minister was based on everything but relationships...God's "justice" being one of the many options. What this means is that almost everybody who goes to a conventional congregation is missing the point of God...I do have hope that current teachers of future leaders (such as David Lose, a truly gifted teacher at Luther Seminary) will be able to bring new leaders (or help veteran leaders like me) see that we have been doing church almost totally wrong for the last 50 years. It is not a mystery to me why congregations led by people trained like me decline after a period of time...we are founded on the the wrong "kingdom" of Lose notes, we mostly neglect the power (kingdom) of love. We replace accountability with trust, we praise efficiency over discernment, and we would rather follow a god of mammon than the God of righteous love. Thanks, Gail, for bringing this quotation to my attention.