Tiger population has declined by 90% over the last 50 years; those involved in creating a brighter future for tigers understand that extinction will be reality if significant changes are not implemented soon. The role of religion in America has changed dramatically and the size of mainline/progressive Protestantism has declined dramatically over the last 50 years; those involved in leading United Church of Christ communities today must be open to innovation and experimentation in order to create healthy congregations capable of continuing to make meaningful contributions in a rapidly changing constantly connected multi-faith world.
I was raised in a Christian family, never doubting the existence of God. I grew up in a Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregation, wrongly assuming that my faith formation experiences exposed me to the right way to be a follower of Jesus and the proper ways to be and do church. As a high school student my perceptions of church and of God were challenged and ultimately changed as a result of my initial experiences in a Baptist church. The process of seeking to reconcile these diverse experiences culminated in discerning a call to ministry.
My formal preparation for ministry started in a Christian college affiliated with the Restoration Movement where I began crafting an understanding of Christian unity as a core component of my Christian identity. After graduating, I married a woman who had positive experiences in Christian communities affiliated with multiple denominations with which I had no experiential familiarity. Susan and I started our life together in an unfamiliar environment: a non-denominational church. In the years since, I have been privileged to earn degrees from schools affiliated with two additional traditions, serve congregations affiliated with four other denominations, and collaborate with and educate leaders representing numerous other Christian groups.
Since completing my doctoral degree, I have served three unusual congregations with significant similarities: (1) more than 1,100 members with average worship attendance exceeding 600 per week, (2) a strong sense of denominational identity with uncommon commitment to welcome those from all traditions, and (3) an intentional balance between being Spirit-guided and having strong accountability to congregational mission and strategic planning. These opportunities alongside dialogue with colleagues in smaller congregations and in declining congregations of all sizes led me to begin asking questions about the future of the American church in general, and the future of mainline/progressive Protestantism more specifically. While it is impossible to know exactly what the future holds, certain changes are likely over the next several years including becoming more about deeds and less about creeds, more egalitarian and less hierarchical, more innovative and less predictable, more connected and less geographically dependent, and having more newcomers begin by belonging rather than believing (learn more about my views of the future of the church at bit.ly/churchfuture).
The next several years will be among the most exciting time to expand the reach of progressive Christian communities. Our understanding of Christianity offers something that resonates deeply with many in a prospective constituency that is increasingly disenchanted with the type of Christianity the mainstream media often portrays as normative. The Still Speaking God has much to say that is of relevance to those who are “spiritual but not religious” and to the members of American’s fastest growing religion (religious non-affiliation). Together, leveraging the best practices established over the years and the latest technological tools, we can offer an extravagant welcome and inclusive and personalized assimilation to all newcomers.
I am excited to partner with you to help create the future of the church at all levels: congregational, network/partnership, and denomination. Together we will shape a church that is open to all people and values the intergenerational wisdom of those who choose to belong, that is shaped by the way of Jesus and led by those who seek to follow such, and that cares about the future of the world and isn’t shy about getting involved to make a difference.
Note: This statement was written as a part of a profile created for United Church of Christ search and call process.Tweet