Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A brief word on the death of Rev. Fred Craddock

On March 6th the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as well as the whole Church (universal) lost a great gift in the passing of Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock.  His inductive (or conversational) style of preaching was not accepted by all (perhaps because of his non-confrontational demeanor or his refusal to tailor himself into a made-for-TBN personality) but few could argue about his ability to retain the attention of a congregation and weave messages that taught you something without you even realizing it.  Fred was one of the most gifted preachers I've ever heard.  And though I haven't completely adopted his style I have learned a great deal from him through the years. The few times I did get to hear him in person I was greatly blessed.  Perhaps, more than anything, Fred taught me about the relationship of the Holy Spirit to preaching and the disassociation of expectations to sermons.  I once heard him say that sometimes the sermon you thought delivered terribly was the one that moved someone the most and sometimes the sermon you were most jazzed about giving and thought was going to move heaven and earth came out of your mouth and fell to the floor "like a wingless dove."

Monday, January 19, 2015

There's Still Time To Register

Ministers’ Institute is an annual ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper MidWest.  Although it is primarily geared as a continuing education event for Disciples of Christ ministers in the Upper MidWest region, it is open to ministers of other regions and partner denominations.  DoC ministers in the Upper Midwest who attend earn a significant portion of their continuing education credits required for annual standing.

This year our featured speaker is Richard H. Lowery, PhD.

We take registrations until the day of the event, so sign up now and join us!

Sunday, January 18, 2015


I am happy to see someone finally develop this.  Dr. Jerry Gladson has developed an online history and polity course for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  It's meant for groups.  It's good quality.  And it's affordable!  You can preview it and learn more about it here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Non-Credal-Church Friendly Discipleship Resource

In some arms of the Christian movement there is a tremendous need for good resources for baptism preparation and/or confirmation.  For example, in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), of which I am a part, there is no formal catechism, no creed, no official doctrinal statement to which individuals are required to subscribe.  Within the sole baseline of belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God there is a certain intentional vagueness.  Our tradition prides itself on both the freedom of believers to arrive at their own theological positions and the responsibility of believers to do so within the context of scripture, prayer, and the Christian community.  Creeds and official doctrinal statements are seen as divisive, but the need for theological training of the community remains.  This delicate balance of freedom and responsibility provides many potential benefits but it also creates some very distinct dilemmas.

One of those dilemmas occurs when the proposition of baptism preparation and/or confirmation comes up in the conversation.  In many traditions there is a catechism, or a process of learning which people must complete in order to join the church, become baptized, or be confirmed in the faith.  In such situations the official denominational catechisms, creeds, or doctrinal statements often serve as an outline for such instruction and preparation.  So what does a pastor do when those outlines do not exist?  Or, to more directly reference my own situation, what does a pastor do when a person who was baptized as an infant is now a part of your congregation that practices believers' baptism and wants to experience confirmation?  If you don't want to reject their prior baptism and want to affirm their commitment to discipleship but don't have a resource for that, where do you get it?

The answer for many of us is that we either borrow from other denominations or write our own.  And there are great benefits to these choices; they can force us to re-examine, each and every time, our own faith and our own commitment to Christ.  They can also help us practice the process of testimony by requiring us to carefully consider our message and our method of instructing new disciples.  But this process is quite labor-intensive.  And, if your church is anything like mine, things come up that distract our focus and take away our time.  If we're not careful, our process of instructing and preparing baptism candidates and confirmands can get less than our best effort.

Christopher W. Wilson has recognized this and composed a resource for congregations in such a situation.  Published in 2009 by Chalice Press, Passage Into Discipleship: Guide to Baptism provides an excellent model for non-credal churches.  While it is written within the context of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and relies on external resources like the Chalice Hymnal, it is flexible enough that other congregations both in and out of the Restoration Movement could easily adapt.  Wilson has structured the curriculum around six central themes: Confession, Contrition, Covenant, Community, Connection, and Church.  Each theme has two components, a classroom session and an experiential element.  The classroom sessions utilize scripture study and discussion while the experiential elements involve immersing (no pun intended) the learners in a situation or environment that will help them learn in a deeper way (and they are quite creative).  The book comes complete with reproducible handouts and leader outlines for each session.  Wilson also incorporates the utilization of adult members within the congregation as guides through the experience, as well as an orientation session with candidates and their parents as well as a closing retreat.  

The reason I am recommending this resource to you is not because Wilson has done all the work for you.  I am recommending it precisely because he has not.  While there are lesson plans, resources, and handouts, what Wilson has provided is a structural outline.  The questions provided in the lesson plans are not aimed at forcing a prescribed doctrinal answer.  Instead the questions provided are aimed at helping candidates and confirmands understand points of scripture and theology while thinking for themselves and simultaneously requiring the instructor to do the same.  While the resource is structured for baptism preparation it could easily be adapted for confirmation in a situation like the one aforementioned.  It is my humble opinion that Passage Into Discipleship: Guide To Baptism is designed well enough to help you guide your baptism candidates and/or confirmands towards deeper understanding of, and a deeper relationship with, Jesus Christ.  And it is flexible enough to be adapted to your particular church, and allow you to experience a deeper understanding of, and relationship with, Jesus Christ as well.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review Published in Call to Worship

My recent review of When Heaven Stands Open: Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship, Year B, was published in Call to Worship magazine.  Call to Worship doesn't make their publications available online, so here's a link the review, posted here earlier.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Interview for The Christian Century

This week I was interviewed by Steve Thorngate of The Christian Century about my experience using Year D in worship this year.  Here's a link:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Catching Up

Sheesh!  I didn't realize how long it has been since I've updated anything here.  It's been a great summer, and that's probably the reason why.

First, I graduated from UDTS with my Doctor of Ministry degree!

During graduation weekend we took the kids to Galena, IL, one of my favorite places, and visited the Ulysses S. Grant home.  We also went to the Mines of Spain and hiked on the Mississippi River bluffs.

Then, I went on sabbatical!  I used some of my sabbatical leave earlier in March to go with my wife on a study trip to Scotland and the Netherlands.  So in July I headed down to Kansas to do some catching up with family.  It had been four years since I had been back to Wichita (It's a little hard to travel 8 hours when you work on weekends and the people you're visiting work on week days.)  While there I took the kids to the Sedgwick County Zoo.

They got to take a ride with Grandpa Cliff in one of his classic Ford Falcons.

And, to our great delight, a new KU store opened in Wichita!

I also spent some restful time at home, enjoying time with friends and family.  There was a little bit of catching up to do on the house work, too.  I built a new deck on the front of the house, painted the foundation and doors, installed trim on the basement windows, and built a swing set for my youngest's birthday.  And I did some gardening, too!

And finally, I capped it all off with a personal retreat at St. John's Abbey Guesthouse in Collegeville, MN.  I did some hiking around their lake and arboretum.

One day, as I was walking, I found myself sharing the space with some friendly deer.

And as I was leaving, I drove by this interesting sculpture just outside the St. John's University campus.  It's called Lean On Me.  Unfortunately, I can't remember the artist's name.

So, that's my summer.  Now it's back to work!