connecting the dots
Connecting the Dots
A few weeks ago while I was driving into the city I was listening to public radio. The report was about a new phenomenon that is sweeping the U-Tube culture—religious videos. The commentator actually said, “U-Tube, how the millennial generation goes to church.” Perhaps we should be looking at this medium to communicate in a new way??? You’ve all heard about this video, I’m sure. Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen wrote about it in the last Lutheran magazine. The video is an intense witness of faith and at the same time a scathing critique of organized religion. While this video has gotten a great deal of attention, it is not the only story.
When I got home that same day and turned on my computer to check in on the daily news a headline caught my eye. “Victoria Secret Angel Quits Because of Her Christian Faith.” The young model explained that she felt “convicted by the Holy Spirit,” that modeling lingerie was inconsistent with her Christian faith, dishonored her husband, and that she was to be an example to young women. I was impressed and since then I’ve seen many such stories that tell me that this generation is interested in a life of faith and a life in community. So, one has to ask, why we are struggling to meet them.
The artist’s criticism is based on a common perception that the Church is focused on its own survival and not so much on caring for the hurting in our society. Granted he is missing some very important facts about the depth of social service provided via faith based initiatives and organizations. His words are laced with an impatient demand for change. He wants to see the message of the Church connecting to action. The young former Victoria Secret Angel is determined to create change by changing her own behavior. These are two very different but equally passionate young people.
Over the years the consistent theme that I have picked up has been, “Pastor, show me why it matters. How does any of this connect to my life? The world is a mess; tell me how the stuff we talk about and hear at church can do anything about that.” Lest we think this is only the complaints of the young, I’ve had listened similar ponderings with folks of every age. Some who have been a part of Lutheran congregations all of their lives seem have little to no idea about the depth and breadth of ministry that happens through beyond their own church door—much less through the ELCA.
In essence these folks young and not so young are looking for us to connect the dots. I wonder how well we are telling our own story. I wonder how well we connect the dot between the gospel and the power of one person’s faithful discipleship to change things within their sphere of influence. I wonder how well we connect the dots from one congregation to another and beyond. If our message is not connecting the dots, then I wonder if we need to speak in a new way. I wonder if we are listening with ears that are open to be changed. Do we know the dots to connect? Connecting the dots between God’s promises, discipleship, and the reality of life seems to me to be important business.
I am interested in hearing how the dots are connecting or not connecting for others. I’m especially interested in how we of the Oregon Synod might form a harmonious/common Oregon specific narrative that connects the dots of the stories of our communities to the larger narrative of the wider ELCA. Who knows, maybe a U-Tube video!! I believe that we have a lot to offer the world and that our challenge is to speak to those dots in a way that articulates both mission and promise.