Alternatives to Dismounting a Dead Horse

By Steve Eason, Pastor, Myers Park Presbyterian Church

Someone once said, “When a horse dies, it’s an excellent time to dismount!”  (Anonymous).  We (the Church) are prone to stay on our dead horses. Here is Steve’s list of alternatives to dismounting. Humor allows a tough conversation to be less dreadful. Useful in evaluation, assessing where the congregation is, or strategic planning.

Essential Reading for the NEXT Church

A theological memoir. A scriptural guide to community organizing. A collection of stories and reflections from young clergy women. A cheeky look at the end times. These are just a few of the books featured at our two Author Luncheons during the 2013 NEXT National Gathering in Charlotte. During the lunch, authors shared a few words about their books, then we opened the floor for suggestions of books, blogs and resources that others have found helpful in engaging the church that is becoming. What is the NEXT Church reading? What is the NEXT Church writing? Here are a few answers. A list like this one is by nature incomplete, even inadequate. What would you add?

Books Featured at NEXT Left Behind and Loving It: A Cheeky Look at the End Times, Mark Davis Reflecting with Scripture on Community Organizing, Jeff Krehbiel Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman, Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time, MaryAnn McKibben Dana Church and Stage: Producing Theatre for Education, Praxis, Outreach and Fundraising, Dean Seal The Benefit of the Doubt, Frank Spencer (coming soon to Amazon) Take My Hand: A Theological Memoir, Andrew Taylor-Troutman Imagining the Small Church: Celebrating a Simpler Path, Steve Willis

Other Books Recommended by NEXT Church Conferees Einstein’s God: Conversations about God and the Human Spirit, Krista Tippett Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey, Michael Lindvall Effective Organizing for Congregational Renewal, Mike Gecan Putting Away Childish Things: A Novel of Modern Faith, Marcus Borg When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough, Lillian Daniel Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers, Gary Neal Hansen

Blogs and Websites (in no particular order) Mustard Seed Journal, Mary Harris Todd 1001 Hints for Youth Ministry, Kent Smith The Pudgy Parson (Still) Going to Graceland RevGalBlogPals Glass Overflowing, Marci Auld Glass Painted Prayerbook, Jan Richardson A Church for Starving Artists, Jan Edmiston In the Meantime, David Lose The Blue Room, MaryAnn McKibben Dana Spirit in the House, Dean Seal and the Forgiveness 360 Project Inside Outed Tribal Church, Carol Howard Merritt

Resources for Writers CreateSpace: Amazon Publishing Wipf and Stock (publisher) Presbyterian Writers Guild Collegeville Institute (writing workshops and programs) Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt

Ideas for Preaching Series

by Tom Are Pastor, Village Presbyterian Church and Co-Chair of NEXT Church

Jesus and Galileo (explores the relationship between Christian faith and science)

Labor Daze: Church on Sunday, Work on Monday (theological conversation about vocation, call, stewardship and Sabbath rest)

Bible Stories from Childhood (sermons responded to submissions from congregation of biblical stories they remember from childhood… Noah and the ark, the Good Samaritan, Daniel and the Lion’s den, David and Goliath, the prodigal)

Joy Even on Your Last Day (a series on the Philippian Letter)

9-11: Things Remembered, Things Forgotten, Lessons Learned (preached the four weeks leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9-11)

Just Can’t Say Enough about That Baby (An Advent Series exploring the unique portraits of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)

Where is God when it Hurts? (a series on theodicy)

Sacred Sound Bites (Words we hear every week in our worship liturgy)

Questions thinking Christians are asking (invited the congregation to submit questions on which they would like a sermon… preached on the most popular requests)

You can read more about Tom’s move from a lectionary preacher to a series preacher here and explore more of the series he’s preached at Village.

Shannon Johnson Kershner — What’s NEXT?

Co-Chair of the NEXT Church Strategy Team, Shannon Johnson Kershner introduces the Montreat Board and community to NEXT Church. She traces the beginnings of the NEXT Church movement and challenges all of us in the church to take responsibility to be the church: to follow God in the world, to be friends among our colleagues, strengthen our connections, learn from one another about how to lead in this time of change. She also shares some of the reactions NEXT is receiving across the denomination.

Shannon is the pastor of Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Black Mountain, NC.

An Advent Prayer

By Jessica TateIMG_1277

Tear open the heavens and come down, O God.

As the light dims in the cooling days

our vision turns inward.

We see the wilderness of our lives, the desert of our spirits–

the crooked priorities

the low valleys of selfishness

the mountains of consumption

the uneven ground of malnourished spirits

the places made rough with wounds we carry.

Reveal again your glory, God of the Most High,

reveal your goodness, your love, your power—

reveal your judgment tinged with grace

so that all people see it together.

Now consider, O Holy One of Israel, we are your people.

You are the potter and we are the clay,

tough but willing to be molded according to your likeness.

Consider, O Lord of Lords, we are your people.

You are the fire that baptizes us in your Holy Spirit

captive by fear but willing to be your servants.

Turn us around to go in your way–

Teach us again not to be afraid.

According to the promise made to our ancestors,

O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

Comfort, O comfort your people and speak tenderly to Jerusalem

for there is great pain.

Bring good news to our brokenness,

hold close those jagged places in our hearts,

speak freedom to the tension we carry,

release us from patterns that hold us captive,

proclaim the time of your good favor

and the day of light of our God!

Tear open the heavens and come down, O God!

Jar us into wakefulness.

Though the hour is uncertain

be it evening or midnight or cockcrow or dawn

We await your glory; we are awake!

We watch, we long, we stand on tip-toes

expectantly, urgently, eager.

Tear open the heavens and come down.

Break into our lives–

we are awake!

(Advent meditations on Isaiah’s prophecy, Mary’s Song and the gospel of Mark)


Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is Director of NEXT Church.

2012 National Gathering Sermon: Stacy Johnson

“We can live as though we are perishing, or live as though we are saved.” — Stacy Johnson

In his keynote address at the 2012 NEXT National Gathering, Stacy notes that the church faces an adaptive challenge in the wake of a cultural tsunami. He encourages us to re-imagine the gospel through a ministry of poetry, prayer and prophetic witness.

Stacy Johnson is Arthur M. Adams Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Indianapolis 2011 — Tuesday Closing Worship

Lewis Galloway preaching

[Worship begins at the start of the video; The sermon begins at 11:33]

In a sermon full of stories and memories, Lewis Galloway, proclaims that despite anxiety, the lightning speed of change, uncertainty of the church’s message, that hope never gives up.

Lewis Galloway is the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis and member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team.

Indianapolis 2011 — Tuesday Morning Worship and Testimony on Connection

Pen Peery preaching

[Worship begins: 18:16; Sermon by Pen Peery begins: 24:35.]

In this post-Constantinian, post-modern, post-denominational, post-Christian world, the structured connection the Presbyterian church has depended upon no longer serves us well. In this sermon Pen Peery suggests these uncertain times are similar to the uncertainty the disciples faced in the book of Acts. Our temptation is to control rather than to trust the guidance of the Spirit. Pen offers a vision of connectionalism based on trust, that does not speak in one voice but celebrates the chorus of witnesses that make up Christ’s body.

Pen Peery is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, NC and member of the NEXT Church Strategy Team.

Testimony from Chris Chakoian on Relational Culture and Connection

[Introduction begins: 52:45; Chris Chakoian testimony begins: 59:32]

We live in a time of rapid change and no one has charted this territory before. However, our ancestors in the early followers of Jesus and in the Protestant Reformation also lived in times of tremendous change. In this astute testimony, Chris Chakoian lifts up three ways in which our forebears responded to change and suggests these three practices are our work today. John Wilkinson introduces her.

Chris Chakoian is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, IL and member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team. John Wilkinson is pastor of Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester, NY and a member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team.

2011 National Gathering Testimony: Christian Vocation

Joe Clifford speaks on Christian Vocation

In this delightful talk, Joe Clifford explains the chemistry concept of the “adjacent possible”– there are numerous chemical reactions possible based on what is next to you. Likewise in the church, Joe notes, there is extraordinary change and opportunity possible, limited only by what we’re adjacent to. He cites as an example the possibility of connecting the Young Adult Volunteer program to campus ministry. The introduction is by Agnes Norfleet.

Joe Clifford is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, TX and member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team. Agnes Norfleet is the pastor of Shandon Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC and member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team.

Indianapolis 2011 — Monday Afternoon Worship

Shannon Johnson Kershner preaching.

[Worship begins at 4:07; Sermon begins at 8:33]

In this honest, funny sermon, Shannon Johnson Kershner reflects on the gift of being given the powerful message of God in the imperfect, cracked pots of ourselves and the church. Rather than forcing us to prove ourselves worthy of God’s message, we are free to live it as best we can.

Shannon Johnson Kershner is pastor of Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Black Mountain, NC and Co-Chair of the NEXT Church Strategy Team.