December 24, 2012

A Pastor's Reflections on Leading His Church Through Their First Advent [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a guest post from my friend, Pastor Lee Cummings. He is the lead pastor of Radiant Church, a thriving non-denominational church in Kalamazoo, MI. Many of you are in non-denominational settings-- or at least non-traditional ones-- where the celebration of a seaons like Advent may be new. My hope is that Pastor Lee's story may be helpful to you as you explore the possibility of leading your church through Advent as a spiritual practice.] Let me begin with a confession. I began, 16 years ago as a church planter, with a bias against anything that smelled of tradition. From the very beginning of Radiant Church, I decided we were going to be “non-traditional” in our approach to Christianity. Even to the point where embarrassingly, it was two years before we actually celebrated Communion as a church family (not intentionally, it just wasn’t a core value and so it didn’t get instituted). And as far as Christmas goes, we thought we were doing good to have a small children’s program complete with Christmas carols and a message from one of the nativity narratives from the gospels. To be honest, I didn’t care for Christmas too much, because I didn’t know what to do with Christmas as a pastor. As a child my family attended a variety of different churches from Pentecostal to United Methodist. The one thing that always stood out to me about church and Christmas as a child was the season of time that we attended a UMC church-- it was also at this time that we celebrated Advent. i didn’t know what it was per se, but I knew there was something different, something beautiful and awe inspiring about it that left a mark upon my soul, beyond getting another piece of candy everyday...
Top Five Posts of 2012 OK...thanks to Google Analytics, I can see what the most read posts from my blog in 2012. But first, a word about why I blog. I blog to process thoughts and ideas, not to assert conclusions. Most of my posts are theses-in-process. I want push-back; I need the critical thinking of a thoughtful community to help refine these ideas. Yes, I want to provoke thinking, especially in ares that we tend to get lazy about. And yes, I'd love it if theses post prove to be conversation-starters. But at the heart of it, I think out loud so that you can help me think more clearly. So, here are my top five posts from my blog, in reverse order: 5. Is God An Imaginary Friend? Written after Easter, this post takes a provocative look at what Christians functionally believe about Jesus and His resurrection. An excerpt from the opening an concluding paragraphs: This is a new billboard in our city. While some may have a strong reaction to a sign like this, I think Christians ought to listen to what our atheist friends are saying to us because it says a lot about us. The billboard is a massive mirror of how our lived faith looks. (This is not unlike Nietzshce's late 19th-century proclamation that "God is dead", which was not a statement about belief in God but an indictment of a culture that claimed to believe in God while they had functionally deconstructed a theistic worldview.) The uncomfortable truth is that for many Christians, God is like an imaginary friend. This is especially highlighted around Easter season by the way we talk about Jesus' resurrection... ...I suspect that if Christians really began to grasp just what Jesus' resurrection means-- that new creation has begun!-- we would begin to live...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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