Ready for the Essentials

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BY REV. DAN MILLER |

This past July, I was privileged to be invited to Camp Hope, the Moravian camp in Hope, NJ, to lead programming for the senior high camp. I know you didn’t come to this blog to read about camp stories from me, but if you stick with me until the end, I promise there will be something there for you.

Camp Hope’s senior high camp has a planning committee made up of a select group of youth, which is similar to other Moravian senior high camps and Regional Youth Councils. As their name suggests, this group is responsible for planning many aspects of camp, part of which includes selecting an initial idea for the camp’s program and selecting someone to carry it out. When the planning committee came to me with the invitation to do the camp’s program, they explained their program idea. They wanted to know more about the “Moravian Motto” – In Essentials, Unity, In Nonessentials, Liberty, In All Things, Love. They said they knew the motto, but they didn’t know about the first part of it. Their question was simple: if we’re supposed to be united in the essentials, shouldn’t we know what those essentials are?

Yes, that would be important.

So, I set to work creating a program centered around the Essentials first laid out by our Moravian ancestor, Luke of Prague, and most recently reaffirmed by the Northern and Southern provinces at their most recent synods – God creates, God redeems, and God blesses, and in response we live with faith, love, and hope. Since camp always has a fun side to it, I wrapped it up in a survival-theme, because when else does anyone think of what is essential to living until they are alone in the wilderness trying to survive with nothing? Before I knew it, the theme morphed into Survivor, like the popular TV show. But using this theme didn’t quite fit with the Essentials because we don’t simply want to survive as a Christians, we want to thrive. Hence, the name of the program was changed to be called Thriver: The Essentials. The logo was the finishing touch before the program was unveiled at camp.

Thriver logo

The logo for Camp Hope’s Senior High camp program, inspired by the popular TV show, Survivor.

It wasn’t until the third day of camp that the six Essentials themselves were unveiled, and once they were, there was no going back. I was amazed at how quickly the camp soaked this up. Within minutes, everyone knew what the Essentials were. I could almost read the campers’ thoughts as I saw their faces light up – “There’s only six of them? Live with faith, love, and hope? I can do that!” Evening vespers were filled with praises directed towards one of the three God Essentials (i.e. Creator, Redeemer, Blesser). Small group discussions began filling up with conversations about people, things, actions, and events and how they point towards or away from faith, love, and hope. Campers were talking about the program outside of program time. (There’s something so wonderful about hearing conversations about the Essentials in line for dinner and in the pool.) The Essentials were quickly embraced, lived out, and manifested with new flesh and blood. Everyone at this camp was so ready for the Essentials.

Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer leads a prayer

A body prayer was led each day before program by Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer to prepare ourselves to receive the Essentials.

So why am I sharing about camp on this blog? I’m sharing this to let you know that the next generation is so ready to know about the Essentials. Children want to know that they are created, redeemed, and blessed by God not because of how much they know or how much they are able to do, but because of God’s love and grace. Youth want to know that there are so many unique ways that they can live with faith, love, and hope. College students want to know what makes them a Christian when they don’t have the chance to see the people and the place that they had associated with being a Christian for so long while growing up.

So teach the Essentials in your Sunday School and confirmation classes. Make them explicitly a part of your worship. Lead some kind of discussion curriculum about them. Be intentional about including them in a name of a group, the title of an event, or even a mission statement. Write them in the bulletin. Put them on Facebook.

A small group at Camp Hope pray together

A small group prays together as they each stand in a valentine from God made to represent one of the Essentials: Love.

Do something to spread the word about the Essentials because the next generation, and for that matter, all people, are ready…

They are ready to be loved and accepted completely as individuals who have unique talents, shortcomings, experiences, interests, insecurities, and dreams.

They are ready to give themselves to a movement, a cause, a purpose, and a Savior that is bigger than themselves.

They are ready to come together and unite with others to show the world faith, love, and hope.

They are ready for the Essentials.

May we be ready to share them.


About the Author

The Rev. Dan Miller

Photo courtesy of Rev. Dan Miller

Dan Miller (revdanmiller@gmail.com) is the pastor of Edgeboro Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He serves on the Interprovincial Board of Communication and the Moravian Theological Seminary Alumni Board. Dan is the co-creator of Moravian Church Without Walls (MCWW), a creative “think tank” for online ministry, which has most recently produced the MCWW Daily Text Podcast Series. Find it at anchor.fm/mcww or wherever you get your podcasts.


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Practicing Resurrection

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BY REV. REBECCA CRAVER | 

In our churches, we have lots of practices. We practice our faith, prayer disciplines, choir anthems, and so much more. Almost 9 years ago a friend introduced to me to the poet Wendell Berry and his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” It woke me up to a practice of faith that I had missed or at the very least not given much time to develop in my Christian discipleship: practicing resurrection.

Resurrection is something we celebrate, proclaim and claim as part of our faith every day, however, it can be the last thing on our list of possible responses to meet the challenges of the day. I have been wondering over the last few years if resurrection is indeed what we, as churches, are being called into. Most of us know of congregations that are struggling with declining numbers in worship, fewer children and families getting connected, and simple discouragement because what once worked doesn’t seem to be working any longer.

We have more experience than we think we do. Think back, how often have you come up against a new and unexpected challenge and figured out how to meet it?

From my perspective, we seem to be living through a historical pivot point where God is doing some major renovations to the Body of Christ. Just like putting a new kitchen in your home shakes up the whole house and your daily routine, God’s renovation is shaking us up as well. I believe the practice of resurrection has some potential to help us through the transformation process. That first Easter morning no one saw it coming, except Jesus.

Image of cross at Easter

A cross in front of Olivet Moravian Church is adorned with a white cloth on Easter, signifying Christ’s resurrection. | Photo by Andrew David Cox

“The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” Luke 24:5-9

I find it challenging to imagine what it was like for the women at Jesus’ tomb. I wonder if questions such as these were going through their minds: “How could something so implausible and impossible as resurrection have happened?”, “What in the world are we supposed to do with this new information?”, and “What does it even look like to practice resurrection?”

Here are a few ideas from the poem “Manifesto” by Wendell Berry: “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.”

We have more experience than we think we do. Think back, how often have you come up against a new and unexpected challenge and figured out how to meet it? With the help and support of family, friends, and faith, we have found ways to thrive even in times of change, upheaval and sorrow. So let’s take the lessons we have learned in our daily lives and use them in our churches.

The Moravian seal or emblem, in all its forms, encourages us to follow Christ no matter the challenge or change we face. | Seals: Moravian emblem on Tanzanian cloth (top left), 2018 Southern Province Synod logo (bottom left), standard seal commonly seen in North America (middle), painted seal at Friedland Moravian Church (top right), stained-glass seal at Clemmons Moravian Church (bottom right). | Photos and graphic by Andrew David Cox

Here in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, our congregations have been setting aside time to talk together about our future(s). We are participating in a series called, “Food, Faith, and Future.” This is one way we are seeking to practice resurrection. We come to these conversations from our various contexts to listen for and imagine together how God’s renovation may be leading us into the future. For some of us, it seems like the writing is on the wall and the future of our congregational ministry may be coming to an end. For other congregations, there are different challenges to their ministries. However, each of our congregations still recognizes that God is working in us and through us for the Kin(g)dom of God. So whatever the future holds in terms of our institutional presence, our call to ministry and service continues.

As a pastor in Edmonton, I have great hope that these conversations on how our ministry might continue will bear fruit for the Kin(g)dom. We are not people of the tomb, it is not the place we stay, but the pivot point that sends us out again in search of a life with Jesus leading us on the way. We are sent to practice resurrection, indeed!

“Food, Faith, and Future” in action in Edmonton, Canada at an April 2018 meeting. | Photos by the Rev. Rebecca Craver


Sources

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” The Country of Marriage, by Wendell Berry, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.

WBP, Julie. “Poem of the Day – Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” BookPeople, BookPeople, 5 Apr. 2011, bookpeopleblog.com/2011/04/05/poem-of-the-day-manifesto-the-mad-farmer-liberation-front/.


About the Author

 

Rebecca Craver is a pastor in the Northern Province, serving Edmonton Moravian Church. She serves on the Healthier Congregations Task Force and is a co-creator of the “Create in Me” worship series in The Moravian Magazine and an upcoming podcast.

Contact Rebecca at RevRebeccaCraver@Gmail.com or call office number (780) 439-1063


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Seeking the Moravian Way (part one)

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BY REV. CHAZ SNIDER |

Embracing Mystery and the Fight Against Certainty


Editor’s note: this is part one in a series of blog posts by the Rev. Chaz SniderSubsequent parts to this series, “Seeking the Moravian Way,” will be published over the next few weeks on the Spotlight Blog and on Chaz’s blog. These additional parts will publish on Mondays, outside of the normal rotation. The normal rotation publishes Saturday and typically does not feature the same writer two weeks in a row.

If you want the rest of this series (and other future posts from Chaz’s blog) emailed to you directly, you can sign up for that here.


If you identify as a Moravian, I am sure you are familiar with the inquisitive look that you often get when you tell people that. It is more than likely going to be followed by the question, “What is a Moravian?” If they happen to be familiar with the denomination, then usually the response you get is “Oh you are the cookie people!” I cannot deny the fact that Moravians hold claim to some delicious treats.

The question “what is a Moravian?” tends to have deeper resonance when you ask it in the context of the spiritual landscape of today’s world. Church participation continues to drop and more people call themselves “spiritual but not religious” than ever before. This shift in American religion can cause us in the church to ask some healthy questions. Perhaps the best question we can ask ourselves is the same one that is most often asked of us: “What is a Moravian?”

There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality.

When I turn back to our history in an attempt to answer that question, I don’t come back with a doctrinal answer. There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality. When I look at our uniqueness it is not the “what” of faith that is different for us, but rather the “how” of our faith. Or to put it another way, how we live our faith is just as important to us as the content of our faith.

One of the key aspects of this Moravian way is an embrace of mystery and being ok with uncertainty. The writings of many early Moravians speak of the mystery of faith. They are not bound to the certainty of dogmatic and religious formulations but are ok with the mystery of God. These early Moravians speak of the Trinity as a family, Father God, Brother Christ, and Mother Spirit. Instead of debating the metaphysics of the incarnation they spoke of entering the wounds of Christ as a way of God inhabiting all of the human experience.

An image of the stained glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church's sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The stained-glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church’s sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

We Moravians, like many Christians, have not always embraced these mystical elements of our heritage and for many years we have downplayed that aspect of our tradition. For much of the 20th century, faith was equated with believing something with a high degree of certainty. In defining faith this way, it became an intellectual exercise as opposed to something that required our being in meaningful community with others. Instead of focusing on how we lived in the world, faith became only believing a certain checklist of things.

When many early Moravians described their experience of faith, they did not seem particularly concerned about checking off a list of beliefs. Instead, they seemed much more concerned with how the mysterious Christ shaped the way they lived in the world.

[Zinzendorf] was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world, and was centered on the person of Christ.

So why is this important? Christians in our country today are facing a crisis of identity. We are living in a more post-Christian society each day. Churches are shrinking at a rapid pace and people seem less interested in religion. And those things scare a lot of people, especially people in churches.

Here is the really interesting thing: even though people may be abandoning religion, they’re not abandoning spirituality. Pew Research tells us that 44% of the spiritual-but-not-religious pray every day and 92% believe God exists. Perhaps there is still a spiritual need to be filled, but many religious communities aren’t meeting that need.

An image of a bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

A bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

The Moravian way of faith might speak to this spiritual hunger. If we look back into our own history we will find that Zinzendorf, one of the most influential Moravian leaders, didn’t have any interest in starting a new denomination or religion. He was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world and was centered on the person of Christ. So maybe we should give thought to how this Moravian way might find expression in a nonreligious way.

Zinzendorf and the early Moravians were less concerned with the certainty of faith and much more interested in the mystery of faith. We live in a world today where we divide ourselves by our certainties and absolutes. It can be certainty on politics, certainty on religion, or certainty on how good or bad the new Star Wars movie was. Whatever it may be, we divide and categorize each other because we have failed to cultivate mystery, uncertainty, and unknowing in our lives.

Maybe if we turn back to our Moravian way of faith, we can focus less on preserving our institutions and our certainties, and instead embrace the mysteries of our faith in Christ.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of the Rev. Chaz Snider

Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church (AMC) in Winston-Salem, NC. Chaz was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. He is a lifelong Moravian. Chaz’s focus is helping people who crave a relationship with God but aren’t sure where to start. He has a passion for spreading the love of Jesus to everyone and is looking forward to seeing how AMC can impact our city. Chaz’s wife Michaleh is a Physical Education teacher and director of children, youth, and family ministry. They have three kids: Chris, Abby, and Sara.

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Seven Reflections on Synod 2018

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Seven Moravians, both clergy and laity, from seven different congregations, reflect on the Southern Province Synod of 2018. Read their reflections below. You can find the official Synod 2018 summary from the Provincial Elders’ Conference on MCSP.org.

Photo of Synod by Andrew David Cox

The Synod 2018 podium | Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

 


 

–1.–

My first Synod. I was excited, nervous, almost burdened by the responsibility of what lie ahead; but I was ready. You see, we had been preparing for Synod for over two years. Our days at Synod were exhausting, beginning with communion at 7 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. or later. Exhausting but wonderful, because God was present in small and in big ways. I was assigned a roommate who had graduated from the same small college as I had, both of us with the same major and many of the same experiences. What are the chances? A small thing, and yet…

Then there were the big things: a sense of community, that we were brothers and sisters in Christ, and we were greeted that way. There was evidence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we reached consensus on hard issues. “And in all things love…” was shown to our brothers and sisters, even those with whom we disagreed.

I’ll conclude with Jeremiah 29:11, a promise God made to his people Israel, but also a promise that the Moravian Church can claim even today: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Thanks be to God.

Judy Albert, Mizpah Moravian Church, Rural Hall, NC 

 


 

Photo of Synod by Andrew David Cox

The Rev. Andrew Heil, Rev. Tony Hayworth, and other Synod delegates worship at Synod 2018 | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–2.–

My attendance and participation at Synod 2018 was the first of this kind since my transition from the Baptist denomination. Being able to have participated was a great opportunity, as I got firsthand experience of the mode of operation of a Moravian church business meeting of this magnitude. I learned so much over the three day period, and I am confident that what I have learned will aid in my development as I seek to serve God and my fellow brothers and sisters.

The high points of Synod for me were the worship sessions and the small group meetings. The worship sessions were thoroughly orchestrated and worship was intentional. The small group meetings allowed for bonding with each other as we shared in one common discussion. Although we may not have all agreed on a particular subject, there was mutual love and respect which was essential to the theme of Synod, “Living the Essentials With Courage for the Future.” The essentials of course are faith, hope and love. Additionally, to see a female being elected bishop was just an amazing thing for me.

My hope is that as the church moves forward, she will seek to hold the banner of Jesus Christ high, be the salt and light of this sinful world, and will not compromise the word of God.

Evette Campbell, Palm Beach Moravian Church, West Palm Beach, FL

 

Photo of Synod 2018 by Mike Riess

The Revs. Carol Foltz and Tom Shelton embrace after Rev. Foltz is elected bishop. Rev. Shelton would also be elected bishop later that afternoon. | Photo by Mike Riess / Moravian IBOC 

 


 

–3.–

Synod 2018 was my first Synod experience as a pastor and member of the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province. I was overwhelmed by the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit I felt and experienced through delegates’ personal testimonies and statements, as they shared on the floor in vulnerable and intense moments.

It also resonated with me watching Moravians of different congregations and backgrounds join around the table at meals and talk as if they had known each other their whole lives. As I traveled home from Synod 2018, I felt a sense of humility and compassion for the young adult delegates who began to find their voice and speak up. As a young person and young clergy, it can be hard at times to find a appropriate way to speak my thoughts, feelings, and desires on topics that could be different from those around me in the church. We often say we want the voices of the young people, but then when their voices do not line up with those in the church, the sense of wanting their voices suddenly becomes a faint memory.

The voices of the young adult delegates and the reception received from older delegates has given me more hope and excitement for the future of the Southern Province. Synod 2018 left me with the reminder that we can accept the differences age and opinion bring. With Christ at the center of our faith, nothing can stand between us as we move forward together with hope for the future of the church. Synod 2018 was a memorable experience in my first year of ministry and I look forward to being part of Synod for many years to come.

The Rev. Victoria Lasley, Associate Pastor, Fairview Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 

The Rev. Victoria Lasley helps lead closing worship for Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

 


 

–4.–

“The Lord is risen!” These familiar words from the Easter Morning Liturgy were the first words spoken at the 2018 Synod. It seemed fitting that we began our time together by praying this Moravian confession of faith. As we stated, in one voice, our shared belief in God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the church, we heard stories of how different Moravians live out their beliefs with faith, love, and hope and were challenged to consider how we do the same.

As the Synod did the work of examining and overseeing the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Province – electing new leadership, calling bishops, and considering proposals – the essentials of faith, love, and hope were very evident. Although we had many differences of opinion, we were able to share those differences while remaining united in our love for our Savior and our love for each other.

“The Lord is risen indeed!” These familiar words from the Easter Liturgy were part of our closing worship for Synod. It was appropriate that we began with the Easter Morning Liturgy and ended with the Easter Liturgy, for these two prayers encompass all of our faith, they share our love, and they proclaim our hope. My prayer since Synod has come from the words of that closing liturgy: “For we are convinced that neither death, nor life, not angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Rev. Joe Moore, Associate Pastor, New Philadelphia Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 


 

IBOC Executive Director, Mike Riess, and Southern Province clergy play music during a free moment at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–5.–

It was a great learning experience for not only the business side of our Synod, but also the spiritual side of my life. We not only got a lot of work done for the Southern Province, we also had a lot of powerful worship services involving some wonderful pastors and leaders from all over the Moravian Church.

Our work actually started last fall when I was assigned to the leadership committee and during some of those meetings, we spent a lot of the mornings and afternoons trying to streamline processes. I also learned how incredibly busy it is as we went from worship services to committee meetings and back to Synod-wide business meetings where proposals are voted on and passed.

It was fun to be a part of several such proposals that made it to the floor of Synod, to get to read one such proposal aloud on Sunday, and watch as it got voted on and passed. This really sends a powerful message to all of us. We are listened to when we are sent as representatives of our respective churches and that we have a strong voice in the PEC and the Southern Province.

John Nelms, Board of Trustees member, Clemmons Moravian Church, Clemmons, NC 

 


 

–6.–

This year’s Synod, my first Synod, was a time of anxiety for me. I knew of the pressing issues and the contentious conversations that would likely take place. I did what I could to prepare myself for committee and plenary session and was certainly witness to some challenging moments.

What I did not expect to see was the Spirit at work throughout the entirety of our time together. It began with the warm sense of welcome I felt upon my arrival, continued through the election of our newest bishops, and was most apparent during the most stressful times.

Despite our differences, moments of disagreement were regularly followed by outpourings of love. This showing gave me solace and stands as an example of how we as Moravians are called to share our message by living out the essentials we proclaim.

Our church is not defined by the differences we sometimes find in one another, but rather it is defined by the unity and the brotherhood we share in Christ.

With most of my anxieties at bay, I returned home with a renewed confidence in our church. As we work to discern our mission in this world, may we continue to listen to the moving of the Spirit.

The Daily Texts for the day following the conclusion of Synod, April 23, summarized my experience appropriately: “Cast out all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Zach Routh, Grace Moravian Church, Mt. Airy, NC

 


 

Newly re-elected PEC President, the Rev. David Guthrie, offers closing remarks at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–7.–

I left Synod 2018 with two overwhelming feelings: exhaustion and hope. I knew the weekend was going to be a long one, and I expected many tough discussions to come before the delegates. Truthfully, I was preparing for the worst. In the end, the final decisions (and especially the process to get there) made the sometimes-endless meetings worth it.

There were a lot of emotions, a lot of tears, and certainly some disagreement along the way. But through it all, the words spoken by our brothers and sisters were spoken with love and respect. We were constantly reminded that, even though we have different views, we have one incredible thing in common: our love of Jesus Christ. It was this essential, the one that Moravians speak of so often, that allowed us to move forward in unity. I certainly don’t take that for granted.

One important observation I had – something that surprised me throughout was the number of young people representing their congregations and agencies. We hear a lot of talk about the average age of our membership (not often in a positive way). This Synod was a reminder that we have great leaders, including a lot of active and committed young people, who are willing to challenge the church and lead us into the future.

This gives me hope.

Eric Vernon, Calvary Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 


See the official Synod 2018 summary from the PEC at MCSP.org [LINK]


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Total Commitment

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BY JUSTIN RABBACH |

The Church as a Community of Service: Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. From this, His Church receives its mission and its power for its service, to which each of its members is called. We believe that the Lord has called us particularly to mission service among the peoples of the world. In this, and in all other forms of service both at home and abroad, to which the Lord commits us, He expects us to confess Him and witness to His love in unselfish service. (The Ground of the Unity)

“If you want things done right, do it yourself.” That is a common phrase, and I admit describes how, at times, I have a hard time completely handing off projects. This is true when I have a particular vision and a particular way I think something should be done. Still, in my experience, this phrase usually is a reflection of not allotting ample time to adequately prepare the people I am asking to help me. And not a reflection of their ability to complete a task to my satisfaction. In these instances then, this phrase becomes an excuse. I have to do it all, if I want it done in time. Or, maybe I just don’t want to invest the time to help prepare someone with less experience, as in the short term that would be more work.

Do you ever experience this feeling? Or, do you ever witness this attitude in the church? Has someone taken on a role in the church, and then held onto it forever? Does that help the next person in line? More importantly, does that fit into the value of discipleship held strongly within the church?

As I begin work in a new role in the church (Executive Director of Board of World Mission), I find myself reflecting on those who have come before me, and how grateful I am for the ways they have helped prepare me. There actions remind me that we aren’t expected to take part in the great co-mission (note the “co” part of that) without God, and without one another!

In college, I led my first international mission team to Nicaragua. I had called up a bunch of camp friends to see if they would join me in doing some hurricane relief work, and when they all said yes, I was on the hook to actually make it happen! Well, we did, and it was a great trip, and I was invited to speak about it in several different Moravian Congregations. One of those congregations was Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Minnesota. As I got ready to give my message, I must admit that it was going to be one of “Look at the new thing that is happening! Look at the example these young adults are setting, and collectively you, as the church, should come get on board with this whole mission work thing!”

Well, it turns out the person introducing me that day was Rev. Lorenz Adam, who had not only served as a missionary in Central America for many years, but had been the Pastor at my church since I was born, and had baptized me. My parents still had some of his old missionary barrels (basically the equivalent of moving boxes for missionaries back in the day) stored in a building on their farm! On top of that, Lorenz chose that day to present, as a gift to the congregation, a somewhat famous painting (in Moravian circles) of David Zeisberger preaching as a missionary to the Native Americans in Ohio during the 1700s.

Image of David Zeisberger

Image of David Zeisberger. Public domain image via Ohio Historical Society/Wikipedia.

Talk about being hit over the head with irony. I was going to speak about the “new thing” I was helping to start, following a presentation clearly demonstrating the long history of the thing I was about to claim to have started.

I had to change my message (and my thinking) on the fly that day, and it stays changed to this day when I speak on missions. Instead of looking for support of the new thing that is about me, I work hard to remember that it is about God’s story, and the deep honor it is to be a part of it.

Come full circle, and at an event organized by the Board of World Mission in 2016 to help engage young adults in mission, I was able to be the one making the introduction of another speaker. At this event where I was trying to live out the call to help disciple to those who come after us, I was able to introduce a very special woman who came before me: Nora Adam.

For all the ways we worked to try and make the event relevant to young adults, to incorporate technology and up-to-the-minute breakthroughs in group facilitation theory, the most powerful moment was a simple speech by the wife of the pastor Lorenz I mentioned earlier. Nora was given free reign to share whatever story was on her heart, and she choose to speak on the theme of “total commitment.”

To speak with authority on this topic, you cannot have anyone guessing if you yourself were totally committed. She spoke with authority by speaking of the way she lived her faith, shared her love, and lived a life filled with hope.

Watch her presentation yourself, and see how powerful her words are, shared from a lifetime of experience.

My prayer for you, and for me, is that as we undertake God’s mission for us, we can take it on with total commitment. That and may our commitment be a witness to others, as we invite them to join in as well!


Questions? Comments? Contact Justin at Justin@MoravianMission.org

Image of Justin Rabbach

Photo via Justin Rabbach

Justin Rabbach is the Executive Director of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church in North America. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife Jessie, and dog Lambeau. Justin has spent the last decade immersed in Moravian Mission work through the BWM, starting as a short -term volunteer, Antioch servant, Director of Mission Engagement, and now Executive Director. He is excited to help carry forward the work of so many who have come before him. 


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Why Does the Church Struggle With Millennials? Young Adult Moravians Respond

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RESPONSES FROM YOUNG ADULT MORAVIANS |

We recently asked young adult Moravians to respond to this article by Sam Eaton. In the piece, Sam lays out the reasons why more than half of Millennials have dropped out of church. We also asked young adults to share with us their perception of church in general.

The New York Times defines Millennials as being between 20 and 35 years old, or born between 1980 and 1995, give or take a couple years. Below are six responses from Moravian Millennials and their thoughts on the church’s struggle to attract young people.

Young people


1

Many bloggers and church thinkers have written articles on why we Millennials aren’t attending church. I won’t presume to be any wiser than them, and my perspective is admittedly that of a Millennial who does attend church. However, I do know what draws me to the churches I’ve attended. Rather than a rock band and a coffee bar, the two biggest things that attracted me to my church homes have been community and challenging theology.

My wife and I attend churches whose members greet us with a warm, welcoming reception. Instead of us shuffling into an empty pew unchecked, our church homes had members who introduced themselves and invited us to sit beside them during the service (differing themselves from the common “my pew” phenomenon that often exists). Other church members not only excitedly welcomed us, but invited us to stay for fellowship after the service and introduced us among the congregation.

Radical, challenging theology is the other draw. Never have I felt more filled with faith than after a sermon that made me question myself. While there is certainly need for sermons that affirm our core beliefs and tenets, there’s no reason those same sermons can’t relate those to how we can be more radically Christ-like. While I’m hesitant to speak for all Millennials, I will venture to say that many of us quickly lose interest in sermons on safe topics. A pastor who lovingly challenges me to be more charitable, forgiving, and selfless will win my attendance quicker than anything else. Love me. Challenge and teach me to live love. That is what I desire in a church.

-Kyle Todd, member of Bethania Movarian Church, currently attending United Methodist Church Anacortes, Anacortes, WA

 


2

As a Millennial and self-professed Christian, I feel like I’m often tasked with answering for the sins of Christianity, both historical and ongoing. I think my generation struggles with reconciling actions and proclamations of people associated with the church with our values. I would really appreciate candor from the church regarding these discrepancies and guidance on how to actively address these differences while upholding truth and peace.

On another note, a part of the article that really resonated with me was the section on cliquey-ness and the call to “stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected.” I’ve seen church communities fall short on this a lot, and I have failed on this front as well, but an atmosphere of authentic (not transparently forced) inclusion and acceptance (a.k.a. love) would be transformative in a way that appeals to Millennials, in my opinion.

-Alex Ford, (long-distance) member of Kernersville Moravian Church, Mokpo, South Korea

 

Young people


3

Valid points in the article, and I have seen many similar articles lately. I have been sad to see examples where we, as a community of faith, have drawn in, rather than reached out, when we have faced declining attendance and giving. Shouldn’t that provide for the great moments of faith we celebrate from our history? The moments where God calls us to go beyond our own ability to trust something larger may be in the works? Surely we can live like the community we read about in Acts 2-4, and that we hear about from the days of Zinzendorf.

Finally, the article ends with a section titled, “The Truth is, Church, it’s Your Move.” Here is where I disagree. As an older Millennial, but still in the club, I think now is the time for our move-ment. If we feel the lack of resources is driving a sense of deep seated fear drawing the church inward, then isn’t it up to us to take the action (“be the change you want to see in the world”) we are desperately waiting to see? If we want to be seen and heard, and valued, then we need to be willing to jump into the fray with words and actions that add value, and not just critiques to the system.

In many congregations, a group of 20 young adults could join, participate, and collectively wield a loud voice to help shape the growth and ministry of that community.

Yes, the things on the list are concerns to be faced… but the church needs us to be a part of the solution, and not just point out the problem.

-Justin Rabbach, Ebenezer Moravian Church, Waukesha, WI

 


4

The author’s number one reason as to why Millennials are not attending church speaks the loudest; no one is listening to Millennials. Most Millennials are adults (18+) now and they are tired of still being treated as if they were still kids. The church must be willing to implement new ideas from newer generations.

-Anonymous

 


5

I think I agree with most of what is said in the article.

My thoughts are that many perceive churches to lack authenticity, whether that is true or not. The idea of “practice what you preach” is disconnected as churches seem to only look inward with their programs and beliefs. Personally, I hate being lumped into these age group classifications. Sure, they exist and are a way to analyze data but generalizing that data is not healthy sometimes.

Finally, I like Justin Rabbach’s group, Moravian Church Without Walls. Constraining the church to four walls, a steeple, and worship on Sunday morning, is where you miss this large demographic. There are other ways to worship and serve our Lord. Think outside of the paradigm and maybe this “missing” demographic will reemerge; maybe not in the pews, but in other ways.

-Anonymous

 


Church Pews

6

I nodded my head in agreement so many times that I had a crick in my neck by the end of this article. I grew up in the church, my husband grew up in the church, but neither of us has been a regular church member for over a decade. Why? My excuse was always that life got in the way: college, moving away from home, jobs that required work on the weekends. But now we’re in our early 30s, we’re settled in a town we love, we bought a house, we’re off on Sundays, and we both admit that we feel like something’s missing and that something might just be a church family. Yet every time we get a “Welcome to the neighborhood!  Come visit our church!” postcard in the mail I find myself tossing the card in the trash. I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is–what’s really keeping us from finding a church home now?

I felt like every point made in this piece was spot on, but what resonated with me most were reasons 2, 3, and 5 (which I think are all connected). My last memories of church were the painful realization that, for many in my church family, the mission statements, the church politics, the cliquey-ness were more important than helping the people in this world who need it most. As I get older, religion has become more and more about showing kindness to strangers, giving to the poor, and reflecting Christ’s love through actions in my day-to-day life–the values I learned in Sunday school as a kid, but didn’t see the church practice once I got older.

I don’t need a church family to live out those values, and I’m not confident that I could find a church home committed to practicing what they preach. But, it would be so nice to find a place that did, and a place for my future children to learn those same Sunday school lessons that helped shape me into the person I am today.

-Anonymous (forever-a-Moravian-at-heart)

 


Questions? Comments? Contact the BCM at BCM@MCSP.org

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How to Grow Our Faith

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BY THE REV. TIM BYERLY |

Like most of us who grew up in the church, during my childhood and adolescence my faith was simple and innocent. Untested, and thus undeveloped, might be a better description. I listened to sermons and Sunday School lessons about God, the Bible, and my faith. I thought a lot about what I heard and liked believing in Christ. I confirmed my faith and was glad when I did that.

When I left home to attend college, almost everything changed. That included my experience of faith. I still attended church when I stayed on campus for the weekend, and I often attended the daily, evening vespers led by the Baptist Student Union (Wingate is a Baptist school). But these didn’t change my experience of the Christian faith. They pretty much just added to what I was already doing on Sundays back home.

Picture of cross

But there was one other thing that I started doing that made a dramatic difference in my experience in faith. It not only changed the way I looked at faith. It invigorated it in a major way. It changed my life.

This other experience which was new to me and which made such a change in how I lived my faith was interactive gatherings of small groups of Christians where we had the opportunity to talk about our spiritual journeys and the Scriptures. We did this frequently, probably two or three times each week. It was like being at Laurel Ridge Senior High Camp, but for an entire academic year. During the summer I found a similar group back home.

In each of these settings, I was engaged in an exploration of what it’s like to live in Christ. I wasn’t just sitting and listening. All of the members of the group found an openness to their questions and to their stories about their spiritual journeys. I found myself growing in my faith. I discovered gifts of service which I used in those small communities. Others in these communities noticed and affirmed these gifts, and I became aware of gifts in others and affirmed these.

Over the ensuing years, my conviction has only grown stronger that interactive groups of four or five who gather to share their spiritual journeys are essential to spiritual vitality and growth. The church can’t thrive without them.

For decades this need was met through Sunday school classes. They thrived and blossomed. Congregations emerged from them, including several in the Southern Province which were organized in the first half of the 20th century. The Sunday school movement has lost this impact over the past few decades. This isn’t because any shortcomings of this model that served so well for a long time. I think it has more to do with societal changes.

cross picture

Somehow we must find a way to offer opportunities for close, heartfelt interaction about our faith in groups of four or five persons. Peter, James and John were a group of three with which Jesus worked. I suspect that he worked with the others in similar settings. Many of the events in Acts seem to have been informal discussions in groups of only a few. Similar  groups were a precursor to the August 13 experience. And similar bands were a foundation stone for John Wesley’s work that became the Methodist Church. This approach to spiritual life and growth is just as necessary now as it was in each of these examples.

Now, a few questions—

  • Have you ever been involved in a group of four or five, or more persons in which you shared your experience of walking with Christ? If so, what impact did–or does–it have on you?
  • If not, did you ever have such an opportunity? and Why didn’t it work out for you to participate?
  • A lot of people agree that we need this but can’t find the time to make it work. Are you one of those persons? What change would be necessary for you to open up time to do this? Do you think you would gain enough through this experience to make the difficult changes in your schedule worth the effort?
  • What happens next?
    • Read this and move on to something else?
    • Read this and think about it?
    • Read this and do something about it?
  • How can BCM help to make this happen for you?

Questions? Comments? Contact the Rev. Tim Byerly at TLByerly1971@gmail.com

Tim Byerly

The Rev. Tim Byerly has worked with the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries as a Project Coordinator for the Living Faith Small Group initiative.