The Future of Our Connectionalism

First things first: we hope folks have weathered Sandy OK. Be safe.

by Dr. Ed Brenegar

As the chair of the Stewardship Committee of my presbytery, I am concerned by the practice of congregations withholding of funds from the PCUSA as an act of principled protest.  Regardless of the reasons, I’ve come to see it as a political act that weakens our connectionalism. Here’s what I recently spoke during our recent presbytery meeting.

We are the Presbytery of […] . There is no “they.” Regardless of the presbytery you are in, it is essentially a volunteer organization of members from local congregations.   Look at your Nominations Committee list of those to serve on committees, councils and mission teams. They are men and women volunteers from churches.

Our Connectedness as a Presbytery isn’t just Spiritual, but Financial. My presbytery does not “charge” a per capita fee to churches. We, the presbytery, trust in the spiritual commitment of churches to make financial contributions to the support of the presbytery and the other councils of the church. In effect, what is happening is that small churches are funding the per capita payment of those larger churches who withhold funds. How ironic that in our modern day we see Paul’s perspective in 1 Corinthians 12: 22-26 gaining relevance.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Just to be clear, there are small churches who also withhold funds, and the large churches who are extraordinarily generous in their giving to support our presbytery’s work, including its ministry with small churches. Size is not the primary issue, connectionalism is.

Our Connectedness as a Presbytery isn’t just Financial, but also Missional. From my vantage point as Stewardship Chair, it is the shared mission work of our presbytery that is the heart of our connectionalism. It is the only thing that cuts across all the social and institutional boundaries of the church to unite people from large and small churches in the worship and service of Jesus Christ in the world.

Our Financial Future as Congregations and the Presbytery is not our Past.  We can no longer count on the tried-n-true stewardship practices of the past to sustain local congregations and presbyteries in the future. Developing a dynamic missional connectionalism provides a way for more members of churches to participate and contribute in the life and ministry of the church.  From this position, churches and presbyteries can adapt to the economic realities that we all will be facing in the future.


Ed-LIL2-2010-6Dr. Ed Brenegar is a life-long Presbyterian, a Tar Heel born and bred, teaching elder for three decades, a validated minister serving as a leadership consultant, a life / work transition coach, creator of The Stewardship of Gratitude strategy and The Circle of Impact Conversation Guides, occasional interim minister, honored blogger, speaker, and restless inquisitor of the impact of God’s grace in our time. Find Ed online at: Leading Questions blog and At The Table of Thanks: Presbyterian Life & Mission.

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple… Re-writing the Rhyme

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Here is the church smallA little rhyme I learned as a child goes like this, “Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.” There are hand gestures to go along with it to up the dexterity ante: Face hands toward each other. Lock fingers together facing down. Hold both index fingers straight up against each other. Fold thumbs inward against each other. The index fingers make the steeple, thumbs the doors, and other fingers the people inside. When the thumbs separate they represent opening the church doors to look at the people inside.

At the NEXT conferences in Indianapolis and Dallas I heard much talk of wanting what’s next for the church to include hospitality, people of all ages, and sustaining life instead of attempting to prevent death. I’m in favor of all those, and have learned about the impact of all three from sitting in the pews instead of standing the pulpit lately.

One of the realities I’ve come to appreciate about not currently receiving a paycheck from a church is that do not have to arrive early on Sundays. As part of my self-guided continuing education while seeking a call, I intentionally show up 5-10 minutes late to worship services at various churches.  I do this to experience how visitors and/or latecomers are treated. In some churches I’ve been pleasantly surprised and in others I’ve been offended when I did not receive a bulletin and nobody passed me any peace.  As clergy, I happen to know insider language and cues, but if I didn’t, I might feel awkward even in the friendliest congregations.

A few Sundays ago I arrived at my scheduled 11:06 to the church I most frequently attend. I walked up the steps with two women whom I did not know. We entered the narthex and were greeted by closed doors to the sanctuary. The women looked at me and said, “This is our first time here. Do you think it’s alright to open the doors or are we too late?” I jokingly made a comment about how people come to this service up until 11:45 and opened the doors for them. Once inside we were given bulletins, and I walked with them to an open pew so they wouldn’t feel alone walking down the long aisle.

The doors of the sanctuary were likely closed because it was a crisp, breezy, fall day and someone didn’t want the sanctuary to get drafty. For all practical purposes that makes perfect sense, too. But I can’t help but wonder if those two women would have turned away had someone more familiar with that congregation not been there when they arrived. Would they have opened the doors? Would they have tried again another Sunday? Who knows, but I do know that closed doors, even for good reasons, do not send the message that this is a gateway into life, hope, and hospitality.

As I settled in to my seat next to the two women, the childhood rhyme was on repeat in my head. Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people. The problem with that is not that the church is a building with a steeple, doors, and people. It’s that someone on the outside of the potentially intimidating sanctuary has to open the doors to see the people inside.

I’d like to receive a paycheck from a church again, and I live in a city with a serious winter season, so I’m not about to suggest we remove all doors from all church buildings. I say we rotate the hinges, leave the sanctuary doors open, and let the Spirit blow where it will. I realize that practically speaking it may mean leaving our light jackets on while seated in the pews, but I consider that a small price to pay for hospitality. Let’s just make sure we aren’t layered in Members Only jackets, as insider language is not welcoming, nor are we the church of the 1980’s.

While we’re at it, let’s tweak the rhymes we teach our children. “Here is the church. Here is the steeple. The doors are wide open to welcome all people.”


AAM Headshot

Ashley-Anne Masters is a freelance writer and pediatric chaplain in Chicago, IL. She is the author of Holding Hope: Grieving Pregnancy Loss During Advent and co-authored Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergywoman with Stacy Smith. She blogs at revaam.org. 

Officer Training for the NEXT Church

by Tom Are, Jr.

They said “yes,” which is no small thing. They had been asked to serve as Elders in my congregation… a three year commitment. It would mean a lot of meetings, more than a few conversations, a growing “to-do list” and perhaps some debate. They would be asked to provide leadership for the church in a time when it is hard to discern the best direction to move. So, they would need training: Officer Training.

Officer training needn't be like this.

Officer training needn’t be like this.

They had ordination questions to answer about Confessions and doctrine and would make commitments to do nothing less that work for the reconciliation of the world! That’s a pretty big job.

When I began teaching Officer Training over twenty years ago, I was pretty clear regarding the purpose. They needed to know about these Confessions they would promise to be guided by. They needed to be able to articulate a doctrine of scriptural authority and confess scripture as holy revelation. They needed to know about synods and commissions and that serving in “governing bodies” meant they would go to Presbytery.

It is a lot to learn; a lot to know. And to my pleasant surprise, because these were the types that would say “yes” to being an elder, they kept coming to officer training and telling me how “interesting” the classes were.

Mission accomplished, right?

Nope.

I blew it, to tell you the truth.

Where did I get the impression that being a disciple of Jesus was primarily a matter of knowing the right information? Oh, I know, we don’t say it that way. We say it’s important to have good theology. Or believe in essential doctrine. Some might even say it’s a matter of knowing the truth.

I like knowing the truth, when it can be known. My shelves are filled with theology, both the formal and informal kinds. Doctrine matters to me. But, when Jesus was asked what’s the most important thing in our lives, he didn’t say, I have some things I want you to think about. He said, love God with all that you are and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus was essentially relational.

I have changed my mind, my heart and my ministry. The church is not the church because we think the right things. We are not the church because we have found the right language to describe the difference Jesus makes in the world. Jesus does not come simply into our heads. The truth is, he doesn’t come into our hearts either….that’s far too narrow. He comes into our relationships.

So, in Officer Training we still gather around the scriptures and the Confessions but it’s not simply to gain information. It is to discover a new lens through which we learn to see ourselves and one another. After all, our primary offering and witness to a hurting world is not information we have, but love we give. It was Jesus who said, “They” shall know that you belong to me by your love for one another. Now in Officer Training in addition to learning doctrine, they learn to be a friend among their colleagues in ministry.

It’s not rocket science—the truth is, my approach to Officer Training might not seem any different than before if you weren’t paying attention. We just spend more time telling our own stories, praying together for the church and one another. We spend time exploring not only the Confessions of the saints who have gone before, but offering our own “confessions” working to find the language to describe what God is doing among us. It’s pretty simple, but it has made a difference.

We asked newly elected officers to share about their faith journey. They spoke of their grandmothers and youth leaders and Montreat. A few mentioned moments in worship and others mentioned the birth of children or trips in nature. But recently when some of these were asked the same question after they had completed their time of service: “Tell us about an important moment in your faith journey,” they mentioned serving on the Session together. That’s no small thing.


Tom AreTom Are is pastor of Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, KS and is co-chair of NEXT.

The Witness of the NEXT Church in an Election Year… and Every Year

By Chris Chakoian

Exactly fifty years ago, Karl Barth said “Take your Bible, and your newspaper, and read both” (in Time, 4/20/1962). My guess is today he’d tell us to look our screens – including the presidential debates. But it’s gotten so ugly, it’s hard to watch. (Women in a binder, anybody?)  At the vice presidential debate, Martha Raddatz nailed it:

“I recently spoke to a highly decorated soldier who said that this presidential campaign has left him dismayed. He told me, quote, ‘the ads are so negative and they are all tearing down each other rather than building up the country.’ What would you say to that American hero about this campaign? And at the end of the day, are you ever embarrassed by the tone?”

I don’t know about them, but I’m embarrassed. Worse, I know that I’m contributing to the vitriol. Yuck.

I’m not naïve. Conflict is part of life. We have different, sometimes mutually exclusive goals, priorities, values. But how do we handle conflict? For me, the answer is (often), badly. I know we’re hardwired to fight, to flee, or to freeze. But we’re also “made in the image and likeness of God” – and with a frontal cortex, we have the capacity to overrule our first reactions.

What would happen if we took Jesus seriously when he tells us to talk to our opponent directly instead of gossiping or slandering … to bring in a couple of others as referees if we need to … or, at worst, to treat the other person “as a Gentile or a tax collector”? If we think for a nanosecond about how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors, maybe we can aspire to treat our opponents in the same way: not as stupid, unworthy, or lost causes, but as children of God deserving of grace, as ones who don’t yet understand, but who may yet grasp the power of God’s love, who are invited to come into the family of grace.

Last Thursday I heard Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps, speak at Chicago Ideas Week. (Eboo is Muslim, btw.) He talked about what we learn when we listen to each other. How Martin Luther King, Jr. learned his greatest lesson not from a Christian but from Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu. Then Eboo talked about a young woman in the Interfaith Youth Corp – Balpreet Kaur.

balpreetOn September 22, someone unknown to Balpreet took this picture of her in line at the OSU bookstore and posted it on Reddit in the “funny” section.

The caption read, “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.” Soon a torrent of posts flowed in:  –”Beards on women are now in!!! yes!!!” “So is this a transgendered Sikh? Explains why they haven’t shaved and the Turban. One of those things has got to go.” One person said, “It’s Pat,” the SNL mystery man-woman.

This is how Balpreet responded on Reddit:

“Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. …I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being …and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.

“My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognized that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? No one is going to remember what I looked like. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating chance and progress for this world in any way I can.

“To me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello.”

Balpreet Kaur did what Jesus taught, maybe better than most Christians do. It gives me hope for the rest of us … even now.


christineChakoian_fullsizeThe Rev. Christine Chakoian has led the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, Illinois since 2005; on her arrival it became the largest church in the denomination headed by a woman pastor. She serves on the advisory board of the NEXT Church as well as the board of trustees of McCormick Theological Seminary and the Lebanese American University, a Presbyterian-affiliated college in Beirut. A frequent contributor to 30 Good Minutes, a national public television program, Ms. Chakoian is also a columnist for The Presbyterian Outlook and The Christian Century.

Advent Candle Liturgy – Year C

With scripture, responsive prayer and song, the congregation lights the Advent candles.

One Body

by Jessica Tate

We’re in the process of getting NEXT Church up and running as its own legal entity. I’m out of my league when it comes to the the ins-and-outs of incorporation. I’ve had to go to a lot of people for help–business administrators, Board of Pensions reps, Stated Clerk, General Presbyter, COM, lawyers, finance people, other pastors… It’s taken all those connections to help sort out next steps. In all of these conversations, I’ve noticed two things:

1) Everyone has a piece of the puzzle and no one has the whole thing.

There’s the legal piece, the church piece, the pensions piece, the presbytery piece. There were lawyers helping us who reached the end of what they could do because we needed a lawyer barred in Virginia to finish things up. Everyone had a piece of the whole.

2) People want to play their part.

I’ve been issuing a lot of thank you’s. Inevitably people say, “of course,” or “you’re welcome,” or “glad I could help.” This isn’t terribly surprising. Some of it is cultural conditioning. It seems, though, that people are genuinely glad to offer their gifts and contribute to something larger than themselves. They are proud they can offer something truly needed.

I had the privilege of visiting Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Broad Street began when five partner churches decided they didn’t want the vacant Presbyterian building smack in the middle of the arts district in Philly to be vacant, shut down, or sold. Surely there was ministry to be done in that section of the city.

Seven years later they’ve been proven right. One of the glints of wisdom they shared is that the current talk of self-sufficiency in the church is overrated. “You don’t want to be self-sufficient,” Pastor Bill Golderer said. “You want to be interrelated.”

It sounds like a metaphor I’ve heard about everyone having a part to play in a body. Without the eyes, where would you be? Without the ears? The foot?

In her book An Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler gives some basic instructions on adding salt to boiling water. She says that every ingredient needs some salt.

“The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It’s not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on pea or person that either needs help to be most itself.”

The pea and the pasta need the salt. And the salt would like to play it’s part in bringing out the best of the pea and pasta. Self-sufficiency isn’t the secret to being tender and springy. Nor is being tender and springy the secret to being self-sufficient. The secret is that you want to be interrelated.

Source: Adler, Tamar. An Everlasting Meal (Kindle Locations 153-159). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 


Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is the Director of NEXT Church and head water-boiler at her house.

Grants? Genius!

by MaryAnn McKibben Dana

This past week the MacArthur Foundation named 23 new MacArthur Fellows as recipients of their so-called “genius grants.” These fellowships were awarded to a mandolin player, an arts entrepreneur, a neurobiologist, a pediatric neurosurgeon, and a “stringed-instrument bow maker,” among others.

The award is $500,000 over the next five years and comes with no strings attached. According to the MacArthur website, fellows are chosen based on three criteria: “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” The award is not a reward for past accomplishments, but an “investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential… for the benefit of human society.”

Could the church be doing this? Could NEXT be doing this?

Surely we have people of exceptional creativity in our churches… people who, with a bit of seed money and no strings attached, could be free to experiment, dream, and explore. Who knows what kind of creative ideas for ministry could be hatched as a result of a Presbyterian Genius Grant?

Of course we have grant-making entities in our churches that fund deeply important work. My own presbytery (National Capital) funds new church developments and other projects. The assumption, however, is that people are expected to produce something pre-determined and measurable—all the grant applications I’ve been a part of ask the program to provide clear goals, objectives, and a timeline.

But the reign of God is not pre-determined and measurable.

What if we added to the mix a series of grants that were grounded not in a theology of predictable results, but in a theology of God’s abundant and unpredictable grace? One of our seminaries had a tagline years ago: “We are equipping pastors for a church we cannot yet envision.” A Presbyterian Genius Grant would be a powerful affirmation of the need to imagine ministry differently for the 21st century.

But how do we find the time and space to envision such a church? As a previous year’s MacArthur recipient put it, “[The award] means the freedom to explore. It’s a long time since I’ve been allowed to be purely an explorer in my life. I’ve had to do other things in order to be an artist. I have a family, and I have to put food on the table. I have had to take lots of jobs just to eke out a living.” Can I get an Amen from those pastors (or ruling elders, for that matter) who have creative gifts to offer but who feel like the everyday tasks of ministry (while important) don’t provide much space for dreaming?

The closest thing we have to a genius grant is a sabbatical grant, but it’s not quite the same thing. Sabbaticals are short-term, and they center around rest and renewal, not necessarily striking out in new directions with intentional creative work. And they are only granted to pastors. A Presbyterian Genius Grant could go to laypeople in even greater numbers than pastors, and probably should… What if the photographers, astronomers, and “social services innovators” in our pews were empowered to imagine Christian ministry and mission through a program that prizes experimentation and risk? (Teaching elder and blogger Jan Edmiston has some suggestions of folks to tap.)

There are plenty of road blocks to a genius grant. Money is the obvious one. Budgets are tight, and half a million dollars is steep. But what about $5,000? $10,000? The Ecclesia Project is helping spark entire worshiping communities with grants of $5,000. Jud Hendrix shared about Ecclesia at the 2012 NEXT Gathering and it was a stimulating and hopeful presentation, saturated with faithful religious imagination.

Good stewardship is always important, and a trusty Presbyterian virtue. But has hunkering down stemmed the tide of membership decline? Maybe it’s time for something bold.

I for one think it’s genius.


MamdMaryAnn McKibben Dana is on the strategy team of NEXT. She is teacher elder at Idylwood Presbyterian Church and the author of Sabbath in the Suburbs. She blogs at The Blue Room.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Tent-makers, part-timers, and the future of congregational leadership

by Stacy Smith

Ten years ago, when I was in college and first considering seminary, I was blessed to be part of substantial and dynamic ministries that encouraged me to pursue ordination. As an Austin College ACtivator and a leader in various PCUSA events, I was told that I was the future of the church. The PCUSA was only going to survive if people like me looked at that 7% statistic square in the face and said, “I’m young, I’m cool (relatively speaking), and I want to be a pastor.” There are a lot of us who felt the same way and many of my friends and future colleagues signed up for seminary. Some thrived, some dropped out, some realized soon enough that seminary was not perpetual church camp, and some, God bless ’em, landed that job at Mo Ranch or Montreat and figured out a way that it could be.

What struck me at NEXT, and has continued to challenge me in the past few months, is how it seems the narrative has shifted. Now, instead of “Go to seminary and save the church!” the narrative seems to be “Go to seminary – but don’t expect a job when you’re done.” The financial challenges of the church, and the whole country, have created a situation in which older folks aren’t retiring and younger folks have fewer job options – a situation that is certainly not unique to the church. But there are a lot of young seminary graduates who face a significantly different church than when they started school. Without a full-time church job, it can be much more difficult to get ordained, and programs like the Lilly Endowment’s Transition-into-Ministry (of which I was a participant) enable young leaders to pursue ordination but don’t guarantee employment when the program is finished. If we keep going this way, we face the possibility of many dedicated, excited young people who will spend years struggling to serve in the capacity to which they were called and for which they are trained.

The answer is not, I believe, that we need more paid positions. That answer is neither practical nor particularly biblical. Instead, we need to reexamine our expectations for teaching elders, reconsider how and why we ordain people into ministry, and provide opportunities for stronger lay leadership. We (and by we, I am including myself and my colleagues) need to stop thinking that the Holy Grail of PCUSA Ordination is $50K as an associate at a big steeple church, eventually leading to $150K as the senior at said big steeple church. Instead, we should think creatively and expansively about how we can “pastor a church” while earning our income from someplace else. Thousands of ministers do just that, especially in smaller denominations and independent churches. By thinking differently about how and where we serve, we can learn new skills, enjoy greater flexibility in our ministries, and gain better understanding of those dedicated ruling elders who struggle to balance their work commitments and their commitment to congregational leadership.

This is not to say that we need teaching elders to spend more time working, working, and then, in their free time, working at little bit more. In fact, finding new ministry opportunities for lay leaders and tent-makers can positively impact the depressingly bad statistics of clergy health. By shifting our expectations, reimagining our leadership structure, and encouraging young teaching elders to think a little differently about ministry, we can take necessary steps toward a dynamic and financially-sound PCUSA.


stacy_smithStacy Smith is a parish associate at Idlewild Presbyterian Church and the manager of faith community outreach at the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN. With Ashley-Anne Masters, she is the co-author of “Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman” published in 2011 by Chalice Press.

Funding Realities and the Future Church

by Dr. Ed Brenegar

The question crossed my mind, “What if non-profits are no longer fundable? What does this mean for churches and presbyteries? How will we fund the church in the future?”

I have been asking these questions in the places where I serve as a leadership and stewardship consultant and teaching elder. Until recently, I was a fund raiser for campus ministries in North Carolina, now I am an interim pastor of a small church.  Also, I chair my presbytery’s stewardship committee and leadership division of committees, am a member of its Administrative Board and the presbytery’s Transitional Task Force, which is looking, in part, at the future funding structure of our presbytery.

In each context, questions about the future funding of the church and presbyteries are becoming more focused and urgent.

What am I seeing? The funding of the church and presbyteries is in transition. This year, 2012,  has been the worst year for fund raising that I’ve seen in 30+ years of involvement with churches, non-profits and fund raising campaigns.  I see a change in the way people are managing their charitable dollar. Our assumption about the importance of the deductibility of non-profit and church donations as a solid reason for people to give is no longer as certain. In a disruptive global economic climate, cash in hand means more than a tax deduction. Other people may see something different, but this is what I see.

What then distinguishes givers from non-givers? I believe it is fairly simple. Givers have a clear sense of mission and a spirit of generosity.  They are focused in their giving, and give to designated causes in order to meet their own sense of responsibility as a steward of their wealth.  They give generously if the church’s mission matches their commitments.  Being missional is the key to sustaining membership giving.

What else do I see? The most troubling phenomenon that I see in the church is the withholding of funds to coerce change.  This intentional weakening of the structure is a reaction to the politicization of the church in society at large. This practice of protest, in my opinion, has no justification. Yet, it is widely practiced. The practical result is that it exacerbates the historic pattern of church and presbytery budgets being funded by a small number of individuals and churches.  This reality should be openly discussed in churches and presbyteries.

How will the church in the future be funded? There are two answers to this question.

First, churches will be funded as they always have, by people who are committed to the mission of the church. Therefore it is imperative that every local congregation and every presbytery have a very clear mission that creates the conditions for both financial and spiritual sustainability.

Second, churches will be funded as the church adapts to the changes in organizational structures that are taking place in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds. These two worlds, non- and for- profit, are beginning to morph into new types of organizations. An environmental organization where I am an advisor is in the process of converting from a non-profit to a for-profit in order to diversify the way it funds its research work. Creatively linking a for-profit business with a philanthropic foundation with a non-profit organization is a possible way for traditional non-profit organizations to find new resources. Just as a growing number of ministers serve bi-vocationally, so can an association of local churches develop ways of generating revenue to support the mission of the church.

What should your church do now?

First, don’t preach about being generous. It sounds desperate. Instead celebrate God’s call into mission and the impact of your church’s programs and ministries. Celebrating generous giving is a response to God’s grace at work through the church.

Second, integrate your congregation’s mission focus into every aspect of the life of your congregation. Make sure you can demonstrate the tangible difference your mission makes through each of your programs and ministries.

Third, be honest and transparent about your budget and your sources of income.

Start now, while you have the opportunity.


Ed-LIL2-2010-6Dr. Ed Brenegar is a life-long Presbyterian, a Tar Heel born and bred, teaching elder for three decades, a validated minister serving as a leadership consultant, a life / work transition coach, creator of The Stewardship of Gratitude strategy and The Circle of Impact Conversation Guides, occasional interim minister, honored blogger, speaker, and restless inquisitor of the impact of God’s grace in our time. Find Ed online at: Leading Questions blog and At The Table of Thanks: Presbyterian Life & Mission.

The Courage to Die

by Jessica Tate

I’m an Apple (computer) enthusiast. While I’ve resisted temptation of the iPhone 5, I have been paying attention to its press. In an article for the Washington Post, columnist Steven Pearlstein noted a trend in the tech world. Three of the most dominating firms have tanked in recent years.

  • Nokia was once the mobile phone leader with 40% of the global market. It had a smartphone prototype a decade before iPhone came out, but didn’t turn technology into competitive product quickly enough. Now their marketshare is cut in half.
  • Blackberry sales are down 95% and business experts wonder if Research in Motion (its maker) will survive.
  • Best Buy killed Circuit City and Sears once upon a time, but now it is getting creamed by cheaper on-line options.

“One lesson to be drawn from all three stories,” Pearlstein writes, “is the danger faced by dominant firms that refuse to cannibalize themselves–to give up existing sales in order to get the jump on next-generation products and services.”

Apple, he says, ruled the personal music player with the iPod, but realized that if someone developed a phone that could play music as well as the iPod, they’d be toast. Rather than try to shore up the iPod market, Apple cannibalized themselves, introducing the very product they feared most. The results speak for themselves.

Franklin Golden, co-pastor of Durham Church, shared the inspiring story of Durham Church’s revitalization effort at the NEXT gathering in North Carolina this summer. Durham church is a multi-cultural congregation devoted to reconciliation, service and evangelism. They have some grace-infused stories to share about overcoming racial and cultural differences and dealing with issues of power head-on.

“Other pastors say they want the deep ministry Durham Church has,” Golden said. “No, you don’t,” he replies. “You don’t what this. Not until you’re ready to give up all the trappings of church.” The hard-earned wisdom they’ve received is this: “When privilege and power come up against the reign of God you can run away or you can die.”

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  — John 12:24

I wonder what we, as a church, might be holding onto too tightly? What part of ourselves must we let go, let die, so that we might bear much fruit?


Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is Director of NEXT Church.