New England churches struggle to fill pulpits UPDATED

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Trouble filling pulpits – Leaders stress need to reach out to domestic mission field

MANCHESTER, N.H. – More than a year ago, the West Keene church in southwestern New Hampshire advertised nationwide for a mature minister interested in a mission opportunity.

The 35-member congregation, about 40 miles west of Manchester, offered housing, utilities and a small stipend.

But only one man applied — and he turned down the job.

<ed.note>Note I left on Bobby Ross’s Facebook wall: Empty New England Pulpits Story — someone needs to do some research on how many folks can’t afford to consider the jobs due to crushing bible education debt; then consider studying Project MedSend’s model of providing student loan forgiveness for folks willing to do a specified “tour of duty”.

In addition to the wall note I would add: Further, books like Strapped and Generation Debt need to be considered. UPDATE: See this. CLOSE UPDATE Other stories in the Chronicle emphasized colleges closing in the Pacific NW; its time for Churches of Christ to put distance education in the first place of options rather than on insisting on relocation to a campus to get access to educational materials. These materials can do double duty for students in mission fields (like the NE) as global broadband builds out — especially in the form of wireless to smart phones. I should note also I truly appreciate the excellent reporting the Chronicle crew does! Tangent: Post on Alex Campbell as blogger by Greg Taylor over at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society site. Many other excellent resources available there ONLINE. </ed.note>

Christian unity – it’s the heart of the gospel and the hope of the world

<ed.note>Lyndsay Jacobs edits The Wider Church Newsletter – Number 10 – October 2008 Occasional news and updates prepared for Uniting Congregations in Aotearoa New Zealand with Christian Churches/Churches of Christ participation. Shared with all congregations and interested individuals.</ed.note>

Mention Christian unity these days and you won’t see a flicker of interest in the eyes of many Christians. Older folks, so used to putting their thinking and energy into ‘church union’, struggle to visualise an alternative to denominational cooperation or merger; younger Christians move freely amongst denominations but find it harder to see the ‘big picture’. Unity is seen as a fringe matter – something to tack on to your church life when everything else is attended to. But unity is a dimension of our whole Christian life. It is at the heart of who we are – individually, congregationally and as the people of God. We cannot preach love your neighbour when we practise ignore, compete with or put down your neighbour. Through its very structures the church contradicts the gospel – declares ‘neighbour’hood is impossible.

Christian unity is the will of God, the prayer of Christ, a major theme of the New Testament, a core understanding of the gospel and an essential mark of the community of faith. Divided church is an oxymoron. In this 21st Century we face unique challenges but we are called, as Christians in every century have been, to find appropriate contemporary ways to fulfill Christ’s prayer – or the world won’t believe.

More here.

Alban Institute’s James Wind “Crunching the Numbers”

Based on a sample of more than 30,000 adults and done with a methodological rigor that will make this survey a benchmark for future attempts to map the religious life of Americans, the Landscape Survey offered much to ponder. First, America remains stunningly Christian, at least in terms of religious self-identification. Of those polled, 78.4 percent identified themselves that way. After more than a century of modernity, secularism, higher education, enlightenment, and new religions, the vast majority still see themselves as in some way Christian.

That “in some way” is important. The survey documents the amazing variety of ways that Christians understand and practice their faith. And here is where the survey’s detailed analysis simultaneously confirms, sharpens, and challenges what many of us thought was going on. According to the surveyors, the biggest chunk of American Christianity is Protestantism, which makes up 51.3 percent of the adult population. So Protestants are still the religious majority in our society, but just barely so. The study goes on to note trends that suggest that any Protestant triumphalist celebrations better take place quickly. The Protestant majority has declined in relative size from the 60 to 65 percent level often noted by surveys taken during the 1970s and 1980s. Steady decline has been Protestantism’s overall trajectory from the 1990s on.

More here.

Make It Free

Matt Perman’s take on Open Access: "…anything that hinders the ease with which your users can access and share your content imposes a ‘cost’ on them."

<ed.note>You hear a lot religious folks suggesting you tithe your ten percent — not so much about restricting their "publishing profits" to the same amount. There is a new testament ( pauline ) tension between not muzzling the ozen as it treads out the grain and a workman being worthy of his hire ( leaders, preachers, teachers ) on the one hand and not peddling the gospel on the other. I’ve noticed that a lot of rationale for division is expressed in theological terms — but is easier to track with a financial spreadsheet. Every fuss opportunes that two books get published instead of one, two colleges built, two publishing houses publish, two pulpits filled, etc. Here’s a call to pull the profit motive out of the equation so there be no doubt concerning motivations. Oh, and feel free to download this ;-)</ed.note>

Churches of Christ 2007 Ministers Salary Survey Results

Charles A. Siburt, Vice President for Church Relations, Frazer Professor of Church Enrichment, of Abilene Christian University <ed.note>my alma</ed.note>, writes:

Church Leader Friends, I am pleased to inform you that the 2007 Ministers Salary Survey Results are now available on the ACU Ministry Resources web site. The number of ministers participating in this year’s survey is larger than ever before. The results are available in either Excel or PDF formats. Hopefully, the data is more intelligible and more accessible than previous surveys. You can access the results… Thank you for your interest and participation in this year’s. Peace, Charles

A Good Friday for Post-Congregationalists

<ed.note>I listen to audiobooks when possible ( fwiw – I like,,, some others ). It is interesting to me that the two recurring themes that stand out for me in the business management meme are the importance of servant leadership in the C-Suite ( including the ability to put your ego and vision on the shelf when circumstances dictate that that it is prudent ) and listening to the consumer ( and actually spending money on aligning your business practices and processes { yes this means ACTUAL I.T. capex spending [ over airplanes, race cars and yachts ] and employee education, eg – requiring that every employ be both tech and biz savvy, usually involving the statistical data warehouse and open comments on public facing web properties }).

Bill Kinnon captures this same spirit as applied to the tradition ecclesiastical structural deafness in the land at his ongoing posts found here.

A personal aside and hypothesis: you might think that US denominations exist for theological reasons — in fact, I would offer, it is to keep otherwise uninsurable ministers in affordable health insurance plans. Go ahead — ask your minister/pastor/priest — and then ask if anyone in the congregation can get the same deal. Then ask them why not.

Oh, and if you are wondering what I think the resolution to all this angst is going to be — ( it’s going to be a shocker coming from me ;-) — apply the Pauline edification imperative ( I Cor. 14:3-4 ) — via a globally distributed, open stance model — as the default answer to every discussion ( as opposed to the rote "congregational meeting drivification for 30 minutes to discuss something that should have been wikied" response ). Start there…</ed.note>