Yesterday, I had the honor of spending an hour with the senior preaching and worship class at Luther Seminary. That class is so lucky--David Lose and Dirk Lange co-teaching. It probably doesn't get much better. Anyway, those profs asked me to talk about preaching within the context of Humble Walk. On my way in, I ran into a classmate of mine. I told him that entering NW 100 gave me a bit of post-tramatic stress. And then we recalled how mean and angry that particular senior classroom was when we were seniors. The whole vibe was pissed-off cynicism. Everyone had been through two years of class...then went off on a year of internship where very little of that learning seem to apply. We returned for the final year...tired and angry. With insurmountable student debt. Plus, we knew everything (insert eyeroll). The arrogance was palpable.
Personally, not my finest moment. In any case, after this trip down memory lane, my friend asked, "Given that, how will you endear them to you? You have about 30 seconds to do it before they turn on you." Oh Lord, have mercy.
Thankfully, I found this class great. Aside from the disgruntled backrow (likely writing papers for other classes or updating their status's), they were highly engaged.
One of the final comments/questions was for me to give them a word of hope. "You know, we are scared and have incredible student debt. And we are so tired. And we are trying to be hopeful about the process that seems entirely out of our hands." Whoa. I wanted to defer to the pastor in the room. Gulp. Shoot, I guess that was me. (Just mostly kidding.)
Here is what I said--and I believe to be true.
1. God hasn't abandoned you or the church yet--it's going to be okay. Yes, the institution is shifting/slipping/changing--we are obviously in the middle of a long birthing process. But take heart--it's a multiple generation birth. It's not all going to happen under our watch.
2. If you enter a call and the way you are doing church is a drag...or you are spending all your time in committee meetings...or if you are wasting your money on dumb things...change. Put the protest back into protestant. Seriously.
I KNOW, it's easy for me to say that given my weird little mission church. But there are others who are doing this sort of work within their established congregations. Talk to Kara Root at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian. Kara has faithfully led her church through a multiple-year discernment process. And that church (of mostly seniors) is doing incredibly brave work--reimagining what it means to be church.