Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

26 Mar

Book Review-Sacred Journey by Charles Foster

Posted in Uncategorized on 26.03.11 by Merlyn

Book Review

The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster

This book by Charles Foster is part of a series on Ancient Practices put together by Phyllis Tickle. In this book, Foster examines the nature of a pilgrimage and the negative attitude towards pilgrimage in Christendom today. Foster points out that Jesus himself was fond of those who were wanders and that our faith is expressed in a journey. Without specifically defining or laying out the structure of a pilgrimage, Foster examines the Biblical and historical aspects of a pilgrimage while describing the joys and benefits of a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are hard to define and are experienced internally and externally, with the destination having less significance than the journey.

I found this book to be an easy and enjoyable read. I found Foster’s examples, stories and metaphors to be very helpful. I appreciated that Foster points out that we are all wanderers and on a journey and found his use of Scripture to be accurate and helpful. Foster engaged with a deeper yearning and reality in my own life faith journey in this book. Perhaps I have been on a pilgrimage more often that I realized. I have a tendency at times to need to hike or travel, because of some yearning in my soul. I suspect this desire is connected to much of what Foster talks about.  The book probably could have been much shorter and made the same points and conveyed the same information in a stronger way. At times, it was hard to follow the organization of the book, yet I still found the book to be very appealing and would recommend it to others, especially those interested in spiritual disciplines.

Rev. Marcus J Carlson

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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24 Mar


Posted in Uncategorized on 24.03.11 by Merlyn

I am so thankful for all of the colleagues and peers in ministry that I have the honor of knowing. Many of them have had such a powerful impact on shaping who I am today and who I continue to be. I have been blessed with many wonderful relationships and am so thankful to feel so spoiled by God in this way. I love talking with, praying with/for and listening to others who are in ministry. I realized this in a significant way with my DMIN cohort as we spent two weeks together. I am very thankful for them all and for the new relationships that are forming.
The past two days I have met with two other peers/colleagues in ministry and they have been great conversations. We really do need each other and our own life and ministries become more powerful as we are in relationship together. Beyond the relationship and learning from each other, I believe we can support and encourage each other. Taken another step further, we can also work together.
I am finally going to go ahead and get that youth pastor group started here in Colorado Springs, even if it is only a small group, I really look forward to finding a way to gather together as colleagues so that we can care for each other and make a difference in our city together.

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18 Mar

Book Reviews

Posted in Uncategorized on 18.03.11 by Merlyn

Adding to the buffet that is my life (yes it is a buffet, as most might say they have a full plate, I say I have a full buffet) I am now going to be reviewing some books. I get the books free, and of course I love to read and always have an opinion! Watch for reviews in the coming months.

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11 Mar

Published Article-Scripture as Cure

Posted in Uncategorized on 11.03.11 by Merlyn

Scripture as Cure

By Rev. Marcus J Carlson

I find myself thinking about the nature and authority of Scripture constantly. Scripture has taken quite a beating over the past few decades in the world, and in the American church as well. Unfortunately, the Lutheran church has been no exception to this trend, which is unfortunate because the entire nature of our faith tradition is founded on the notion of “Word alone.” The American church seems not only to be softening its view on the Scriptures, but walking away from them altogether.

I have asserted for many years that if you walk away from the source, you will die. Our failure to embrace the authority of the Bible is one of a handful of factors contributing to the decline of the church in the United States today. Yet, ministries to children and youth have not been impacted as much as the larger church by the rejection of the Scriptures. In most church environments, there is still an expectation for the church to teach children and youth the Bible. Admittedly, in many cases this teaching has weakened significantly, but in general not as much as it has in the church at large.

While I am saddened by this shift in the church, I refuse to embrace it. I try to reverse this trend without holding to a literal or fundamentalist approach to the Scriptures. In recent years, Scripture has become even more central to my ministry, teaching and working with children, youth, parents and other adults.

In our attempt to become more relevant and to attract people to the church, we have become fearful of the Scriptures and have done a great disservice to ourselves and to the world. More important, we have done a great disservice to

the Gospel. Here is the secret: the Scriptures are relevant enough on their own. They do not need an apology or an explanation.

Contrary to what we might believe, people do not come to the church to hear the same thing that they can hear outside of the church—they come for something different. People come to the church, looking for the radical life change that comes from something bigger than themselves, not a watered-down version of the Word of God. They are not looking for “Jesus light” or a little bit of spirituality to sprinkle into their lives.

This is most profoundly true with children and youth. In fact, I have observed more passion, interest and curiosity around the Scriptures from children and youth than ever before in my career. They are hungry, and the church has not always done a good job of providing a hearty meal for them.

Parents too are becoming increasingly curious about the Scriptures. They often struggle with feelings of inadequacy about their own Bible knowledge or their ability to teach their children the Bible, let alone be the spiritual leaders of their children.

I have discussed these issues before, and the good news in the midst of this season of challenge for the church is that it is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for the church to stop apologizing for itself, for God and for the Scriptures. We have the tools, the answers and the One in our midst already. The Bible speaks for itself and will always be relevant—and contrary to what we might think and what others might say—the people in our churches and in our communities want to engage with the Scriptures, especially our children and youth.

The Scriptures are the cure. They are the cure for the needs of our people and our ministries. The Scriptures are the cure for a world that is hurting and desperately needs to know the love of God. The Scriptures tell The Story, our story. We need to reclaim the use and the authority of the Scriptures; we need to rethink how we view the Scriptures as well. Without seeing the Scriptures as authoritative, they simplybecome a nice story or an idea, and eventually can lose all meaning and application for our lives.

The Scriptures are authoritative. They are infallible. They are the inspired Word of God. The words of the Scripture have power, meaning and authority. The Scriptures are a relational document that tell the story of God in the world, the story of salvation. The Scriptures point us to our salvation, to the Kingdom. The Scriptures show us the path to abundant life.

The Scriptures are also the cure to all that ails our children, youth, parents and families. Being a family united in Christ is no easy task in today’s world. The challenges are overwhelming, and the resources, dangers and temptations are many. While there are many issues facing children, youth, parents and families as a whole, there are three issues that I would like to address. I see these three issues as the greatest roadblocks to emotionally and spiritually healthy children, youth and adults. The three issues of narcissism, entitlement, and moralistic therapeutic deism are the greatest challenges to the spiritual formation and development of children and youth in the American church today.

Narcissism is simply selfishness to the extreme. Narcissism asserts that “it’s all about me,” and all that really matters are our own needs, wants, desires and feelings. Narcissists overreact to criticism and lack empathy. This selfishness rarely helps the narcissist and almost never helps anyone around them. It is a roadblock to an authentic relationship with God.

Entitlement is a growing mindset amongst teenagers and parents. It is more predominant in some areas of the country than in others, and is often more predominant in areas of higher income. Entitlement is simply the belief that we are entitled to the things we desire—on our terms and without consequence. Entitlement asserts that we deserve almost anything we want, and we should not have to wait to get it. It believes that we deserve to be catered to by individuals, groups and organizations. This can be seen in many educational and sports organizations and institutions.

The National Study of Youth and Religion, funded by the Lilly Endowment, resulted in some interesting findings published in 2005 in a book called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. The study and the book concluded that most Christian American teenagers and their parents are suffering from a view known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). This belief held by the vast majority of churched Christians in America is that God created the world and is no longer involved, active or at work in the world. God just wants people to be nice and

He wants them to be happy, and their main goal and God’s desire is for people to feel good about themselves and be happy. Those who hold to MTD only see a need for God in the midst of a crisis. This is a Biblical and theological problem with dire consequences in the long-term.

These three issues are connected to each other. The cure for each of these three issues is found in the Scriptures. In order to move beyond these challenges and others, we need to return to the Scriptures. We must give the Scriptures authority in our lives.

If we do not choose to submit to God and His Word, we will by default submit to something else—our feelings, our wants, our desires or our agendas. If we do not submit to the Scriptures, then we will continue to miss out on the abundant life promised us in the Gospel of John.

May God grant us the wisdom and the strength to submit to the Scriptures!

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03 Mar

I dream of a church

Posted in Uncategorized on 03.03.11 by Merlyn

One of my closest friends, Tim Founds has been keeping a journal of ideas, dreams etc related to the church and what the church could be. He has started blogging them (you can follow him here) and I find that many of them are things that the church needs to hear. Some are new ideas to me, but beyond the ideas themselves, it is a great concept. What should we be dreaming for the church? What should the church be and become?

Here are some of Tim’s first entries:

1.Everyone is connected (every person is connected with multiple other people).
2.Every person serves in some tangible, consistent way.
3.We have classes (on Sundays, but also at other times) for adults where they not only interact, but actually learn. For example: a school of theology, a school of missions, a school of art and creativity.
4.Children are valued. We learn from them and let them lead us in worship. Children and youth are the church now, not the church of the future.
5.We have frequent cookouts and picnics for the surrounding neighborhoods.
6.We take two weeks off during the summer to road-trip as a church.
7.Art and creativity are stressed.
8.The congregation/community is intentionally intergenerational.

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