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On Friday, May 1 Tim and Sara hosted a Facebook Live question and answer period to respond to questions submitted. You can find the list of questions and approximate time stamps below.

You can also find the original Facebook post here.

Approximate Time Stamps, Notes, and Questions Covered 

[00:00:00] Welcome and greeting one another
[00:02:45] Defining the purpose/boundaries of this video
[00:04:39] How do we best love one another in a way that shows a witness to the rest of the world?
[00:06:17] You are loved.
[00:07:07] Timeframe of Phase 1-3: The Virus Doesn’t Know a Calendar
[00:11:30] What will stage one, stage two, stage three, what is going to look like, and what is expected of us come May 24
[00:14:23] How long will Phase 1 -3 last? What does the calendar look like?
[00:18:19] Story of one Freshman in High School – Expectation Setting
[00:19:42] What about VBS, summer activities, and outside groups using the church building?
[00:21:05] Are there recommendations somewhere for proper cleaning?
Here are two documents from the CDC:
[00:22:50] Explain what 10 people in the building means? Per space or total?
[00:24:17] Are the phases set by each individual church or do we follow the guidelines given by government officials?
[00:25:24] What is, what’s the age for, what is the age at which we’re talking about folks being at risk? What about at-risk groups?
[00:29:50] What is the significance of May 24?
[00:33:19] Why can we not use bulletins? What’s the thinking on that? And if we just put the bulletins out for people to pick up on their own, could we do it that way?
[00:36:26] Are there additional guidelines that can be offered? Can we continue to celebrate communion if you already have the authority to do so?
NOTE: As we concluded the live stream it occurred to us that during phases 1 and 2, face masks will be worn. It is impossible to partake of the elements with a facemask on. When you take a face mask off, you should wash your hands. As you can see, the logistics of celebrating Holy Communion in person are challenging, if not impossible.
[00:44:16] What about hallways and aisles?
[00:45:45] What about the length of service?
[00:48:30] Why no responsive readings?
[00:50:35] Why wear masks?
[00:52:30] Wrap-up and reminders
[00:54:24] Closing Prayer

During the moments you find yourself in crisis and you are questioning your faith, in whom do you place your faith? As you explore your faith, see if one of the following scenarios feels familiar:

Scenario 1

You have a strong faith. It has been growing since you were a teenager and has served you well through your young adult years, marriage, and starting a family. Then, the unthinkable happens, you lose a child to sudden infant death, or a family member is killed in a form of violence, or there is a betrayal of a close and trusted relationship. Walking through the reality of the grief and pain of that experience does not allow you the option to pretend you are fine. In fact, you finally admit that you have not been fine for quite some time.

You have kept the questions, good Christians aren’t supposed to ask about their beliefs, below the surface, but now they are bubbling up out of your control. Up to this point, you have avoided facing them head-on. You feel fine until you experience grief on a deeply personal level. The devastation has you facing your doubts and you realize your system of beliefs is no longer adequate. 

Scenario 2

You have been a Christian for over 30 years. Your faith has formed every aspect of your life, your wedding vows, the raising of your children, your relationships at work, your participation in the church, and your leadership in the community. It has formed you as a coach in the youth basketball league, your position on the town council, and as a volunteer in a service club.

You have a conversation with your most trusted friend. You say out loud what has been churning in your mind and heart for years. “I don’t really believe there is a God. Whatever faith is it does not work for me.”

Until now, you have been able to control your thoughts and emotions, but you do not want to wrestle with them any longer. You don’t want to seem irresponsible but going through the motions of your faith has you questioning your integrity. There’s something inside you that says, “I just want to feel normal, to be known for who you really am, and to have some inner peace with myself.” 

Transitions of Faith

If any of what you just read feels familiar, you might be one of the many persons going through a faith transition. Mike McHargue, known as Science Mike, has gone through a faith transition from believer to atheist, and then back to a believer. He has wrestled, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally with his faith.

He writes, “Sociologists tell us that 43 to 44 percent of people will go through a major faith transition at some point in their lives.” He continues, “And that’s any faith transition. So that can be from one Christian denomination to another denomination; that can be from belief to atheism; that can also be from secularism to some form of religiosity.”

“The more rigid your faith structure, the more drastic the leap of faith required to start asking questions surrounding it.” He points out, “To ask one question will lead to a lot more.”

So, why would I want to bring up such a subject? As a pastor or a leader, you are surrounded by people who are wrestling with faith. Whether it is in the pew or in the community, people are looking for authentic experiences of care, compassion, and belonging.

You and I find such authentic experiences in Jesus. 

So, the question is, why would anyone want to transition from Jesus to someone other than Jesus? The answer is, they are not transitioning from Jesus but from the objects that keep them from Jesus. Below are several of those objects. I name the following challenges, recognizing some might elicit controversy. I also recognize until we name the challenges, I cannot lead people in addressing the challenges. 

Objects of Misplaced Faith

1.The Bible

The written word of God points us to the Word of God, Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the center of faith. The Bible points us to Jesus.

Today, many Christians overstate the importance of the Bible. For some, the Bible is the focus or object of their faith. 

But remember, our faith is in Jesus. When your faith is in Jesus, then you are able to have open and safe conversations about the truth of the Bible. There can be questions raised about inconsistencies and contradictions, discrepancies and mistranslations. 

Raising questions about scripture does not make the Bible less important. In fact, the questions lead to the truth the writers of the biblical texts give witness. In the end, the Bible, with all its debatable mistakes and misquotes, still points us to Jesus, God’s love and our hope made flesh. 

But when the Bible becomes the object you worship, when what you worship is the Bible, not Jesus, a conversation about scripture is a threat. Once you start questioning the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, the rest of your faith soon crumbles.

Faith is centered on who you trust, not centered in what you believe. Jesus never asked anyone to have a belief in God, but he did ask people to love God and to love their neighbors. Jesus called people to a way of life. He said, “Follow me, be my disciples.” Living life as a Jesus follower is different than saying I believe in God or I believe in Jesus. 

Belief is important, but what you believe is not the focus of your faith. Jesus is. So, I say again,

people are not transitioning from Jesus but from rigid beliefs that keep them from Jesus. 

2. The Pastor:

A good spiritual leader is essential. Having someone you trust to walk with you through periods of doubt, despair, and discouragement, who can help you keep your eyes upon Jesus, and who models God’s love feels unbelievably good. 

But your pastor is not the center of your faith. Your pastor points you to the person who is the center of your faith, Jesus. 

When your faith is in Jesus, you are able to listen to and follow the persons gifted and called by God to love and lead in and through the church. Regardless of gender, race, age, politics, or status, when a person is gifted and equipped by God to love who God loves, then Jesus is at the center of all relationships. 

But when your faith is centered in the pastor, you focus more upon what the pastor believes than upon Jesus to whom the pastor is pointing. Once the pastor does not believe what you believe or act the way you want him or her to act, then your faith begins to wander. 

When your faith is centered in the pastor, then only a certain kind of pastor will do. Or, even more misdirected, only a certain, handpicked, interviewed, and approved pastor will do. So, your allegiance is centered on the pastor and not in Jesus. 

Pastoral leadership is important, but your pastor is not the focus of your faith. Jesus is. So, I say again, people are not transitioning from Jesus but from our misplaced allegiance that keeps them from Jesus. 

3. The Church

It is the church, as an institution, that gets in the way. When the church as a system of hierarchical control with political entanglements, abuse of authority, lack of integrity, becomes the center of faith, pastors leave their pulpits and people leave the pews as well as the faith altogether. 

Jesus is the reason the church exists. So, when Jesus is not the focus of the church, what is the use of the church? 

When the church is an instrument of pointing people to Jesus, nurturing them in the faith, and sending them out to love and serve, then people are drawn to Jesus and to Jesus’ followers. People need such institutions as instruments or conduits of faith.

But when the church becomes nothing more than a club where membership has its privileges, where an open and safe conversation is discouraged, where people are received based upon their acceptability, and where the building has more value than the people to whom the church is called to love and serve, you have a problem. 

The community of faith, the church, is important, but the church as an institution, as a building, as a special club is not the focus of your faith. 

So, I say again, people are not transitioning from Jesus but from the lack of care, compassion, and belonging in a Christian community. 

Navigating the Objects of Misplaced Faith

So, what are you to do as people attempt to navigate the objects of misplaced faith? How will you respond as people search for authentic expressions of faith? In the midst of crisis, doubt, and transition, your leadership is needed. I challenge you to do the following: 

  • Be clear within yourself in whom you place your faith.

Is your faith in the person of Jesus? If not Jesus, in whom or what do you place your faith?

  • Provide space for persons to question, explore, and discover their faith.

People need non-judgmental space to ask their questions and to explore. Your church is a place where everyone is welcome. It is also a place where people, all people, can wrestle with doubt and find the faith for which they are desperately searching. 

  • Be a person of authentic care, compassion, and acceptance 

You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to be authentic. Both humility and vulnerability are needed in assisting persons in exploring faith. Pay attention to what others are learning from their exploration. It will help you become more who God created you to be. 

  • Continue to point people to Jesus.

People are searching for deep and meaningful relationships. Be aware of appropriate moments when you can point people to Jesus, your deepest and most meaningful relationship. 

The people in our communities and in our churches are looking for authentic experiences of care, compassion, and belonging. I find such authentic experiences in Jesus. The Bible, the pastor, and the church are instruments through which people discover, experience, and follow Jesus. 

In the midst of such uncertain days of exploration and transition, in whom do you place your faith?

Over the past two weeks, my wife and her sister have been preparing for an estate sale.  They are sifting and sorting through 60+ years of financial records, photographs, keepsakes, furniture, clothes, etc.

Since the death of both of her parents, the house is sitting empty, filled with years of memories and stuff. I use the word “stuff” because what was once seen as a keepsake, Kim and I are questioning, “Why do we need to keep that?”

For example, my wife ran across the candles, the table decorations, worship folders for our wedding. They were neatly tucked away in a box, placed in a closet, and forgotten. Kim and I have been married for 43 years.

Do we need the candles, the decorations, and folders of our wedding? We have some very good memories over our 43 years together. Those candles are a part of those memories. But we have long passed the time to keep those candles.

Moments of Nostalgia

For some reason, my dear mother-in-law kept all the little dresses my wife wore before she ever started to school. Over the years she added my daughter’s dresses, and my son’s pants and shirts, along with some boots and shoes. Oh, there have been some moments of nostalgia, but we have long past the need to keep those clothes, just for the memories.

So, Kim has been placing most of the “stuff” in the “for sale” pile. There are tears, as well as laughter at “one person’s trash, is another person’s treasure.”  It was not difficult to decide that we needed an estate sale. Even with all the memories, my wife said, “It just is not the same without Mom and Dad here. They were the ones who made this house a home.”

The 500 Year Rummage Sale

Phyllis Tickle, in her book The Great Emergence, used the analogy of “The 500-Year Rummage Sale” to describe religious change over the years. She wrote that historically, the church “cleans house” roughly every 500 years, holding what she calls a “giant rummage sale,” deciding what to dispose and what to keep, making room for new things.

She wrote that the time of Christ was the first rummage sale.  It was an era she called “The Great Transformation.” It began when Jesus, who was “Emmanuel, God With Us,” created a new understanding of our relationship with God.

Then five hundred years later was the collapse of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages. It was in this period, the church entered an era of preservation as the church went underground with monks and nuns practicing the monastic tradition in abbeys and convents.

At the beginning of the new millennium in 1054, came “The Great Schism,” when the Christian Church split into the Eastern and Western branches that we still see today in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

Then in the 1500s, “The Reformation” resulted in new branches of the Christian tradition, with different understandings of how people relate to God personally through direct prayer and individual interpretation of the bible.

Is the Church Ready for the Next Rummage Sale?

Every 500 years or so, Tickle wrote, there are tectonic shifts in the Christian tradition, resulting in huge changes of both understanding and of practice.  So, it’s been 500 years since the Reformation. Is the church ready for its next giant rummage sale?

Over the years of my ministry, the world has changed tremendously. Our understanding of science has progressed exponentially, forcing us to reconcile scientific and religious thought. We are culturally more diverse. We are living longer. Family units take a variety of forms. We are a global community, no longer confined to the boundaries of our physical neighborhoods. We have access to facts, data, opinions, and information instantly through computers we keep in our pockets. Communication and access to news are immediate and unfiltered.

We change our minds, for better or for worse, with every bit of information we process. How could these things not alter how we understand who we are, why we exist, and where God is in our lives?

500 Year Rummage Sale for the church? Transforming Mission

We’re In a New Era

I remember when the church was the religious and social center of the activities of most families. Everyone went to church on Sunday morning and often Sunday evening as well. Today, church affiliation, not to mention church attendance, is no longer the norm. Yet, people who identify as “spiritual but not religious” are on the rise. God is still important, but identifying with a religious brand is not.

Tickle said we are in a new era of “The Emergent Church.” It is a religious movement that crosses denominational boundaries, seeks common ground, engages diverse cultures, and embraces social causes as ways of living out Christ’s call to serve others. It is interesting that it takes place largely outside of church buildings.

Just for the Memories…

So, have we come to the time for our next great rummage sale?  Reflect upon your faith. What is necessary for you to be a Jesus follower?  Consider what you need to love the people around you as God in Christ has loved you? What do you need to give away, throw away, or move past? Even though it brings good memories or it has helped you become who you are, what is it that you have no need of keeping, just for the memories?

I have given my life to the church.  I admit that change is hard.  Yet, because our world has changed and our culture is different, it is time to give up what is no longer useful and to take up what best shares God’s transforming love.

Weighing What’s Important

Glen Adsit served most of his years of ministry in China.  He was under house arrest in China when the soldiers came and said, “You and your family can return to America.” The family was celebrating when the soldiers said, “You can take two hundred pounds with you.”

The family had been there for years.  They had a lot of stuff. It was when they got the scales out and began to weigh their belongings, that they began to disagree on what to take with them. He, his wife, and two children all had something they wanted to take.  They weighed everything. The vase, the new typewriter, the books.  Finally, they got the weight down to two hundred pounds.  It was painful but it was done.

The soldiers returned the next day and asked, “Ready to go?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you weigh everything?”

“Yes.”

“Did you weigh the kids?”

“No, we didn’t.”

“Then, weigh the kids.”

It was at that moment that the vase, the typewriter, and the books all lost their importance.  Each item became trash.

A New Life is Ahead!

As painful has it might be, it is time for an estate sale. God is calling us to something bigger than ourselves, bigger than the United Methodist Church, even bigger than the church universal.

The message of our Christian faith is one of resurrection and renewal. Paul wrote, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” It is time to give up some of the “stuff” we have been hanging onto. It is time to move boldly and faithfully into the future. Let’s follow God’s lead and stay focused on Jesus. I believe a new life is ahead for you, for me, and for the church.

This past week, I ran across a story I first read over 15 years ago. I remember liking it then, just as I like it now.

There is a story of two brothers, John and Joe, who lived on adjoining farms. They worked side-by-side for over 40 years, sharing machinery, trading labor and goods as needed. Then one day, the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding, but it grew into a major difference. It finally exploded into an exchange of bitter and angry words, followed by weeks of silence.

The rift moved from weeks into months. Then, one morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened the door to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. John asked, “May I help you?”

The man replied, “I’m looking for a few days’ work. Do you have a few small jobs here and there I could do for you?”

John thought for a moment and answered, “Yes, I do have a job for you.” Leading the man out into the yard, John pointed over to his brother’s farm and said, “Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, he’s my younger brother. Two weeks ago there was a meadow between us. One we shared for over 40 years. As you can see, he destroyed the meadow and built a creek to separate us. I can’t bear looking in his direction.”

“So, here is what you can do for me. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence, an 8-foot fence, so I don’t see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to build just what you need.”

So, John, before leaving for the day, helped the carpenter get the materials together. The carpenter worked hard all that day; measuring, sawing, and nailing. He finished his work just as John was returning. John’s eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. The carpenter had not built a fence. He had built a bridge.

The bridge stretched from one side of the creek to the other. It was a fine piece of work, with wide steps, smooth handrails, and a bench to sit upon.

It was at that moment, Joe, came toward them. With hand outstretched and a smile on his face, he said, “John, you are quite a fellow to build this bridge, after all, I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met at the bench in middle. They started by taking each other’s hand, but they ended in an embrace. As they were offering each other words of confession and forgiveness, they noticed the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

John called out, “Please wait! Stay a few days. We have other projects for you.”

“I would love to stay, but my work here is done. I must be going. I have other bridges to build.”

Imagine Your Church Transforming Mission

Take a moment to imagine your church as a bridge. What needs to be in place to “bridge” the creeks, the barriers, and the thoughts and emotions that keep the people in your church from connecting with the people in your community?

Imagine your church as a bridge. What if you extended an invitation to hurting and hungry people offering faith, hope, love, and dignity? What would need to be overcome, set aside, or changed to extend such an invitation?

Imagine your church as a bridge. What if you extended grace to the people on the outside just as God has extended grace to you? What fear or anxiety would you have to overcome?

The reality is, Jesus the Carpenter, has not only built the bridge, but Jesus is also the bridge. God has come over the Jesus bridge to us. Although in our good intentions, we have built a beautiful place along the river, God’s relentless love, will not allow our creeks, our ideologies, our rituals, nor our requirements to get in the way of God’s love for God’s people. When we least expect it, the carpenter shows up to give us what we need.

Imagine Jesus as the bridge. We’re expecting a fence and he builds a bridge. A bridge of grace. His toolbox? A Roman cross. His outstretched hands looked out upon those who hang him there and declared, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” His work? Grace!

So, what if the Jesus bridge is grace? Let me ask you again, what fear or anxiety would you have to overcome? What would you have to set aside to extend grace to hurting and hungry people? How much grace do you need to offer faith, hope, love, and dignity to the people in your neighborhood, community, or city?

Let me offer a suggestion. Give the carpenter the materials, he will build just what you need.

Now, imagine your church…