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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. 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, November 19, 2016

Here for the Oppressed

This year marks the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the office of Pastor. It seems rather strange to think it’s been that long, and recently the time has seemed to go by even faster. I suppose, as my daughter once noted, “we’ll just move to Florida and die.” Anything’s possible.

Here’s what I’ve seen change in the 25 years since I’ve been ordained, in no particular order of importance; nor, really, without judgement or critique. I am part of all these changes obviously (no matter how slight the impact upon me personally), and some fit me better than others…

…worship has really changed. I started one of the first alternative church bands of the ELCA back in 1990, and every week we got visitors saying they wanted to go back to their congregations and try it. When I started I never saw a drum set in a church, now I can’t find a church without one. Worship has a wide variety of music, prayers, spiritual practices, and venues and times and we’re all over the place. If you’re in an area with a lot of ELCA congregations, you could probably go to worship seven days a week. (I mean, 10 years ago I started a congregation where worship was on Thursday night, and we didn’t have any music at all! The drums stayed silent.)Image result for drum kit

…leadership has changed. My colleagues, for one thing, are a lot younger than me, but as the Call Committee can attest, there aren’t as many of them. The ELCA currently has only 6 pastors for every 10 calls, and many congregations go years waiting for one. This has asked many people to take on the role of leadership, of learning and training to pastor people, and I for one, think this makes us a stronger church. I used to say at one congregation I served that I wanted to be known as they “guy they let preach once in a while,” when asked what I did there.

…competition has increased. What I mean by this is that when I first got ordained there wasn’t a lot you could do on Sundays besides church. Texas still had “Blue laws” when I was in graduate school (1986), and you either went to church or had your neighbors asking why didn’t you? Now, there is a lot to do besides church, and many of the benefits of church are now offered by others. When I was starting out, the only way to help out Haiti in a hurricane was through a religious charity. Now there are non-profits dedicated ONLY to that work. Habitat for Humanity used to be about building homes, not about donating lumber or money for supplies. Everywhere the church once was the “only game in town,” is now an metropolis filled with people who want to help. Image result for elca world hunger


This year has tried the souls of many. Many are still in fear that who they are is a crime. Women, people of color, sexual minorities, workers without a safety net all have reason to fear based on the rhetoric that echoed throughout our land. But we are here for the oppressed. God loves those the world loves the least. As Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.3) That hasn’t changed.


May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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