Sinners, Saints, and Skeptics

The vision of Saint Junia UMC is to become a diverse community of sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things. Here are some reflections on the middle part of that statement.

Sinners

Few of us live up to our own ideals and expectations, much less the expectations of an all-powerful, all-good Supreme Being. It’s no wonder that so many people feel negatively about religion when their primary experience of it is disapproval. It’s also no wonder that so many of us claim that identity and wink about being bad boys and girls.

But Jesus reveals a different way of thinking about God. Jesus spent much more time with sinners than with religious leaders, and he was quick to remind religious experts that they were merely sinners, like everyone else. The fastest way to get on Jesus’ wrong side was to pretend to be something other than a sinner.

Saints

It has often been said that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. We are made into saints, holy people, not because of good things we’ve done, but because of what God has done for us in Jesus. Jesus invites us to participate in God’s activity—this is what makes us “saints.”

John Wesley enjoyed talking about how God was at work “perfecting” us in love. Being a saint doesn’t mean being perfect—it means being aware that God is at work in us, making us into something new, “perfecting” us the way a master craftsman would create a beautiful work of art from imperfect material.

Skeptics

Some people have a hard time with the virgin birth, or with miracles and resurrection, or with the idea of life in eternity. Some people have questions about stories in the Bible, or about their own spiritual experience. Doubt is not a sin. What would be a mistake is to be skeptical without having the guts to try it out—to put Jesus’s own words to the test and see what happens when we pray, or give, or live the kind of God-inspired life he invites us to live, putting our trust in grace instead of violence, love instead of contempt, forgiveness instead of revenge.

Jesus’s invitation to us is to join God in what God is already doing: renewing all things. Whether we are sinners, saints, skeptics, or all three, the invitation stands: “Follow me.”

Is This Message For You?

I couldn’t stay another minute at Catalyst. There are great speakers, of course, and some good, original music. In some ways it feels like the best (and worst) contemporary evangelical Christian culture has to offer, a giant pep rally and motivational time for church leaders. But after just a short while I felt God calling me elsewhere.

Part of it was that I could lip-sync to the event. I’ve heard the speakers before, and I’ve recently had training up to my eyeballs. I was very conscious of time slipping through my fingers.

But the other part was being made very aware that what they were selling isn’t for me. While I would very much like to buy into the idea that we’re all Christians and all on the same team, it’s difficult to do so when people’s language continually reinforces the idea that they are the team captains and you are the last picked.

Maybe that’s just my childhood insecurity coming out.

Anyway, Andy Stanley talked about leading as parents, and I enjoyed what he had to say about following our fear, and allowing our vulnerability and hurts to shape us for leadership in ministry. In one story, he even gave a shout out to St. Mark UMC in Atlanta, and I appreciated his recognition of the unconditional inclusiveness of St. Mark and his honesty about the problematic relationship conservative evangelicals have not just to homosexuality, but sexuality in general. It still had a “love the sinner, hate the sin” vibe, but you know, whatever. At least he’s helping conservative evangelicals wake up to their own issues.

During one part of his closing prayer, I actually held my breath. The line was something like, “God, strengthen these people who you are calling to ministry. Lord, I know there are some women here who are afraid…” This is where I nearly gasped. Was he about to say something really powerful and controversial about women in ministry? “…of what God is calling…” Oh my goodness. He’s about to do it! “…their husbands to do…”

I don’t know why I let myself expect otherwise. I guess I just got caught up in his message. He is an excellent speaker.

He was followed by a band who had a retro folk-rock, Mumford & Sons vibe going on. This is the kind of thing I *should* love, because I’m always asking “Why can’t contemporary Christian music sound like this? Or this? Or this?” But in their enthusiastic, foot-stomping lyrics I couldn’t get past one line. As they implored God to set the church on fire, and send us out to do good work, and so on, they also sang “win this nation back.”

Now, this could mean all kinds of things. Bringing a nation back to God is certainly a prophetic theme of the Hebrew Bible. It also happens to be code among the religious right for defeating Obama, repealing Roe v. Wade and putting non-straight persons back in the closet. And instantly I went from thinking, “I’d like this kind of music in my church” to thinking, “I could never have this music in my church.”

Now, it’s entirely possible that they didn’t mean anything by it. But the nature of privilege is that you don’t hear how you sound to other people. It’s also possible that I’m hyper-sensitive to coded messages.

On the break, I wandered around the exhibits and looked at the materials promoting awareness of human trafficking. While I am very glad that there are stronger voices within conservative evangelical culture calling on Christians to be involved in doing justice, I couldn’t help feeling a bit cynical after what I’d just experienced. Church leaders know that many folks are hostile to the church because of a perception that it has been hypocritical and unconcerned with justice. We want to counter this perception, but we are too politically polarized to do anything about climate change, or women’s rights / abortion, or predatory lending, or drone attacks in Pakistan, or gay rights, or militarism, so we need a “safe” cause we can all agree on. Nobody is FOR human trafficking. Like Joseph Kony’s practice of using child soldiers, it’s something we can all agree is bad.

Before anyone begins angrily composing a reply about me being dismissive of human trafficking, please hear me: I am glad we can agree. I am intensely practical about such things, and I don’t particularly care why someone is motivated to do justice. Nobody has to meet an ideological litmus test before they can do good, or be passionate about a certain social issue before it is cool to be so.

But this is yet another way that the experience felt like God telling me, “This message isn’t for you.”

I am aware that there are cool hunters who serve conservative evangelical culture trying to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s hip. They want to be able to reach more people, and so I do not resent their appropriation of what’s cool (like DIY trends). As I said, I’m intensely practical about such things. But for me and, I suspect, the people I’m trying to reach, you can’t just take the same message and wrap it in skinny jeans and hipster glasses and expect it to work. It will come off as fake, even if you self-deprecatingly talk about how uncool you are.

Now, for some people, it isn’t fakeThis is because we’re dealing with social discourses, those ways of talking, dressing, and presenting yourself that mark you as belonging to a certain group of people. We all “pull off” being a certain kind of person. If we succeed, we are “authentic,” and if we do not succeed, we are “fake.” But Christians often seem to have this idea that they can opt out of such discourses. They profess that they follow their faith, that they are neither conservative nor liberal, that their God transcends mere politics, or bandwagons, or economic ideologies, or brand loyalties. It’s charming, in a way, like Holden Caufield complaining about “the phonies” in The Catcher in the Rye,  even while he can’t keep himself from lying.

But it made me aware of the contextual nature of the gospel. I do not think God’s “Good News” is necessarily the same news for all people. It isn’t, as many evangelists argue, a timeless truth that you wrap in a different package to reach a new generation. It’s a living truth that gets embodied, incarnated in a group of people with a particular mission. So their message wasn’t for me.

And if this blog post bothers you, or is incomprehensible, then maybe this message isn’t for you. Those with ears to hear, let them hear.

Surprising Stats Every Pastor Should Know

Even though I read it a few years ago, Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers continues to influence the way I think about ministry and the people with whom I do ministry. Here are some big demographic takeaways I got from his book:

  • In the 1970’s married couples were a majority of the population (59%). Now they are atypical (31%). This shift alone accounts for most of the membership “decline” of churches because the biggest predictor of church membership is marital status. (p. 23)
  • Young adults are more likely to be financially strapped. They have lower wage growth and higher bankruptcy. This is one major variable in later average age of marriage and the general decline of marriage. (p.35)
  • Belief in the afterlife has risen since 1972. Other beliefs have not changed much. Views of the Bible’s inspiration have not changed much since 1976.  Views of Jesus’ divinity have not changed much either. (p. 97 & 98)
  • So-called literalists “hedge their bets” when describing the exclusivity of their faith. While claiming belief in Jesus’ divinity is necessary, they do not claim their own religion is for everyone. Most say “it is best for me.” (p. 105)
  • Young adults with no college education have become less orthodox while college-educated adults have become more so. (p. 108)
  • 1 in 3 young adults has attended a mosque or temple. (p. 116)
  • 4 in 5 young adults say they talk with friends about religion once a year. 2 in 5 say they talk about religion once a week. (p. 119)
  • There’s a huge discrepancy between attitudes toward premarital sex and actual behavior. Evangelical unmarried adults do it about as much as every other demographic even though they disapprove at much higher levels. (p. 139). I have a theory about this that I will share in a later post.
  • Opinions against premarital sex have risen since the 70’s among all denominations except Roman Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated, which remain about the same. (p. 140)
  • Mainline Protestants voted more consistently for Republicans than evangelicals did until 1980. That’s when a major switch began to happen. (p. 169)
  • More young adults than older adults believe it is okay for political candidates to talk about their faith. (p. 171)

Values

Saint Junia UMC has a vision: We are becoming a diverse community of sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things.

We also have a mission, five ways to join God in the renewal of all things: Worship, devotion, compassion, justice, and witness.

Our next task will be to describe our core values. I think it’s great to see the ways some families are also identifying their core values and putting them in their homes.

When we locate a venue in Birmingham for our church, I’d like to see us do something similar. I’d enjoy seeing our core values rendered as art on the walls.

As I’ve said before, I believe in an inclusive gospel. This is not rooted in “political correctness.” It is rooted in the decisive action of God in Jesus Christ, the definitive move God made to step into our human flesh, confront the power of human sin with love instead of violence, and claim victory over death. It is an affirmation that God shows no partiality as both our judge and advocate. The best picture we have of God is Jesus, who in his ministry identified himself and the image of God with anyone in need.

I also value the world that God loves. Our actions should honor the created world, not abuse or exploit it. And I value the people that God loves. Every human being is someone’s baby. Someone invested time and energy in that person, and God invested the totality of God’s own self in them as well. When we treat them as obstacles, or nuisances, or parasites, we demean what God has done. Each one has potential that can only be tapped when they start living the abundant life available to them.

I value the Bible. I love this book. It is not just a map or a set of instructions. It is not free of contradictions, and words like “inerrant” or “infallible” reduce its poetry to a set of bullet points in somebody’s sales pitch. It is a living dialogue between God and humanity, and it invites us into the life of God. I want to read it the way some people read trashy romance novels or kids read comic books under the covers with a flashlight, to dog ear its pages, to run my fingers over the paper and put its poetry in my soul. I want read it until its images are burned into my eyes, so that everything I see I view through a theological lens. One composer said, “People have been taught to respect music, when they should have been taught to love it.” I feel the same way about the Bible.

I value shared meals. Meals have been used to exclude (Genesis 43:32, Galatians 2:11-12, and Chick-fil-A). At the center of the Christian story is a shared meal. That’s where some of the best church happens.

I value singing. In a world where music has become something you consume, and where people compete on American Idol and judges mock people’s voices, we have all been convinced that we cannot sing, I value a community that lets us find our voices. We all make music. We need to learn to hear it.

What do you value?

We, The People

We homeschool, and my son is studying American history. Back in the spring we took a trip to Jamestown and Williamsburg. Now he is studying the Constitution. I love the fact that he’s going around the house singing the songs I learned as a child from Schoolhouse Rock, like this one.

Man, I love that video.

Anyway, it caused me to reflect a bit. The very idea that you “constitute” something new by a bunch of people coming together and writing a statement is interesting. It’s a very Enlightenment-era idea, and it expresses something admirable, I think. They were saying, “We now have an identity, a vision of the future, and a way we’re going to do things.” It was a mission statement.

Angela pointed out that they first had to have a Declaration of Independence. Before the Declaration, they were just English rebels. When they wrote the Declaration of Independence, they ceased to be traitors and became patriots.

I think it’s important for our gestating church to likewise develop its identity. Often before we can say who we are, we have to say who we are not. Differentiating yourself is an important step in the growth of any living thing. In this case, we want to clearly say, “We are not like every other church. We do not believe you are going to hell if you disagree with us. We do not believe that to follow Jesus you have to vote a certain way, speak a certain way, or cling to a certain interpretation of the Bible.” As one of our members said yesterday, when he invited a co-worker to be part of our church, he began with a warning: “I just need to let you know, this is going to be a different sort of church than you are used to.”

But you cannot only say what you are not. You also have to declare what you are. A healthy, mature being has a constitution, an awareness of it’s own identity and mission in the world. Mission, vision, and core values are all part of this group identity. For the Founders, some of those values were representational government, a social contract for the general welfare, and government non-interference with regard to religion.

They didn’t get it all right on the first go-around. Extending rights to African-Americans and women were changes they had to make to keep in line with the original ideals. There was huge resistance to both these movements.

In the same way, I know our new Birmingham church, Saint Junia United Methodist Church, is going to go through a growth process. We are going to meet resistance to our message and our method. But if we are clear about our identity, both who we are not and who we are, then I believe we can grow into a healthy, mature church.

We, the people, together.

The Church Birmingham Needs

I’m going to try to be as honest as I possibly can about my hopes and dreams for this new church, which means saying some things that may make people uncomfortable, and taking a risk on saying something that may be wrong. That’s okay. I’ve been wrong before.

One of my deepest longings for this new church is that we will have a diverse congregation: black, white, Latino, and “other” (a category I always find amusing on demographic questionnaires, considering what “other” means in theology and sociology), straight, gay, lesbian (and “other”), old, young, (and “other”), rich, poor (and “other”), hard-core believers, agnostics (and “other”). Given Birmingham’s history and the continued political and social dysfunction we experience in our city as a result of that history, I believe we need churches that are as diverse as the Kingdom of God, who represent a community that truly believes “that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34, Galatians 2:6).

It is difficult to express this vision to others. I often get the response that “we can’t just have diversity for diversity’s sake.” I agree. We need diversity because it expresses the action of God in Jesus Christ who deliberately preached and acted on reconciliation and justice in his whole ministry. We need diversity because it strengthens our community. I am happy that most churches are at a point where they realize if their leaders are all old, white men that something is wrong. I am glad to have served churches that, as they are choosing leaders, will say, “we need a young person on this committee” or “we need some female representation on this team.” The leadership of these churches have gotten over the idea that this is “diversity for diversity’s sake.” This is about leadership and the mission of the church, about reaching new people for Christ and the realization that our own vision is limited. We need a diverse community to lead well.

Since moving and beginning the process of church planting full-time, I’ve been trying to meet as many people as I can. Yesterday was the first time we encountered old-school Birmingham racism. A man struck up a conversation with us, and we started talking about area schools. (We homeschool because traditional school didn’t work well for our son, but people attribute to us all sorts of reasons for our doing so. It’s interesting what our decision to homeschool reveals about other people’s attitudes.) He approved of our decision to homeschool, because he didn’t approve of the way public schools “indoctrinated” kids about civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wow.

The conversation made me aware of how much I’ve gotten used to being around people like me (white, middle-class, generally open-minded), and how easy it has become for me to be unaware of racism in my own context. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been used to moving in a social environment where the “soft” racism of privilege is still acceptable. People talk about crime or neighborhoods instead of race or class. It’s just that I hadn’t bumped up against privilege’s overt cousin in several years.

I can tell when I start talking about this stuff that people squirm a bit, and I have to be honest that I feel the sting of my own words. I’m living in Crestwood, a neighborhood that is “gentrifying,” that is on the right side of the tracks (literally) for urban renewal. I’ve had people tell me that churches that manage to be diverse don’t talk about such things. They just focus on Jesus, or just focus on relationships. While I believe in the importance of Jesus and developing interpersonal relationships with my whole heart, how can I not speak the truth?

I recognize that the challenge will be not coming off as paternalistic. Nobody wants to be part of a church where they are valued only as token members of a demographic. But I also recognize that churches do spend a huge amount of time figuring out how to attract people between the ages of 18 and 35, and they have done marketing and theological acrobatics to reach the “Nones.” They have celebrated preachers with hipster glasses and tattoos who have the same tired evangelical theology of their great-grandparents but who repackage it as “edgy.”

I am not interested in being edgy. I want to be truthful. I think that’s the church that Birmingham needs. Perhaps it is naive of me, but I do believe that all people need to hear and experience that kind of community.

What I Learned Last Sunday

A week ago Sunday (June 24) I got to visit Innerchange UMC in McCalla, Alabama. Several Trinity members visited Innerchange last year and told me that I should visit. (It is tough to visit other churches when you are a pastor, but I’m beginning to think it is essential. I’ve learned so much from just the last few Sundays of visiting around).

RIght off, I loved the signage. It was so easy to see where to go. Big, brightly-colored signs are right on the buildings pointing the way to different areas. Greeters welcomed us warmly. I was on crutches and someone held the door open for me. We were directed to the coffee bar and to a welcome table. Mike, the pastor, was sitting at the table and he welcomed us, too. He is the founding pastor of Innerchange, and I really appreciated his words to us newbie church planters. I also appreciated during the prayer time that he offered a special prayer for us. One lady sitting beside us put her arm around me as we prayed. It meant a lot to me.

I think the coolest thing was just the genuine sense of community there. I liked the informal, semi-round seating in the warehouse. Mike sat down to preach, and it felt more like shooting the breeze in someone’s living room than a sermon. People felt free to comment and talk back to him.

I also really appreciated the fact that the band clearly wrote a lot of their own music. The last song in particular was good (it had a good meter as well as rockin’ rhythm). Although I can’t quite recall it, if I heard it again I could sing along immediately.

Worshiping in the round in the gym at The *Story

I mentioned to my group on Sunday that for a long, long time I’ve wanted to design worship in the round or semi-round, like an ancient Greek theater or one of the coves along the Sea of Galilee. We found that in our contemporary service at Trinity, when people sit in a circle, they can hear each other sing. They tend to participate more. They can see other faces and it has a much more intimate feel. The main action of worship happens among us instead of in front of us. When we began an alternative worship service called The *Story at Fairview, we worshiped in the round and most people seemed to really dig it.

I didn’t get to visit another church’s worship service this past Sunday, but I hope to go somewhere else that will stretch me a bit.

Lessons from Last Sunday

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to is the time I’ve scheduled this summer to visit other churches and learn from them. I visited a major Birmingham mega-church this past Sunday, and although I did not get to hear the senior pastor preach, I did get to observe what happens in worship.

I’ll go ahead and confess I’m inclined to be annoyed at this large, dynamic, successful church. Part of my annoyance is healthy competitive spirit, but it is part envy as well. I have been in ministry in other cities and other churches dwarfed by a large neighboring church, stymied by attempts to do ministry because “______ Church is already doing that far better than we can.” Rather than being excited by the other church’s positive impact in a community, I’ve been resentful. Members would get siphoned away from our church to the larger one because of bigger youth and children’s programs, and I would mutter about “sheep-stealing.” (To be fair, I’ve also been in ministry in a large, dynamic church that has probably done the same to smaller neighbor churches as well).

So when the preacher began his sermon with a ten-minute sales job for the church, I was initially put off. Over and over again he said that he loved this church, that he loved the pastor and the pastor’s family, that he loved Birmingham and the impact the church was having on Birmingham. I began checking my clock. Was this guy ever going to get around to preaching? But then I began to reflect that if people are exposed to this kind of cheerleading on a regular basis, they probably begin believing it. They might even begin acting on it.

One of the most powerful tools leaders have to change behavior is called “attribution.” It means that you attribute to someone the qualities you want for them to have, and then they try to live up to your expectations.

In one famous psychology experiment, researchers established a target behavior for three classes of fifth graders. The first class was offered a pizza party if they would keep their classroom free of litter. The second class was offered no reward, but the principle would visit the room and say, “Wow, you kids keep your room so tidy. You must like to keep your room clean.” The last class was the control group. Guess which class did the best job at keeping their room tidy? Not the one with the reward incentive, but the one to whom the principle attributed tidiness.

It has become popular to ridicule the self-esteem movement in education of the last decade, but it is mostly because both its critics and advocates misunderstand incentives and behavior change. It is well-established that attribution is a powerful tool for changing behavior for both individuals and communities. This is why good-hearted, well-intentioned pastors who whine about people not participating in missions can’t actually guilt people into serving, while gung-ho pastors who incessantly praise their churches succeed. People live up or down to expectations.

Vision Statement

I’ve been honing this for the last several weeks, but I believe I’ve gotten to a usable version, which I talked about to our group last night. Our vision of the new church is that we will be

a community of sinners, saints, and skeptics who are joining God in the renewal of all things.

For a while I was using the phrase “post-Christian,” but I found I was always having to explain what that meant. I would say that “post-Christian” meant anyone growing up in life after Christendom, people who either had no experience of church, who had burned by or turned off to church, or who were looking for a different expression of Christian community. “Sinners, saints, and skeptics,” I think, captures the diversity of the community we want to create, and acknowledges that we may not agree 100% on all points of Christian doctrine.

I also like the expansiveness of “joining God in the renewal of all things.” I first heard this reference to Matthew 19:28 used as part of a vision statement at Trinity Grace Church in New York. I think it helps convey the idea that “salvation” is more than what happens after we die. What Jesus offers is available to people now, in this world, and it’s exciting that he invites us to be part of it.

Adventures in Misdiagnosis

If you are a church leader, you already know that mainline Protestant churches have been declining in membership over the last several decades. Fear of the approaching “death tsunami” and the financial implications of the die-off of large numbers of baby boomers has been driving a lot of the discussion in the United Methodist Church about restructuring.

Everyone seems to have their own strong opinions about what needs to change, but I have heard precious little talk about the underlying causes. Pundits tend to focus on theological ideas or public-image issues related to sexuality and politics that turn off young people to church, but few of the causes they point to are actually backed up by data. I believe we spend a lot of energy beating ourselves up about the wrong things.

Gallup research on religious affiliation

Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton, determined that the best predictor of whether someone is in church or not is if they are married and have kids. Because the average age of marriage has been moving later and later (it is now around 28 years old), marriage patterns alone accounts for most of church “decline.” Add to this the fact that marriage rates themselves are declining, and that the average maternal age of a first birth keeps moving later, and you can see that we simply have fewer generations present in any given church.

Marriage trends from Pew Research

During the 1980’s, as mainline churches began declining and independent evangelical churches began growing, many people diagnosed the decline as a problem with mainline theology. “Look at the evangelical churches!” people said. “They must be growing because they have correct theology!” But the supposed growth of independent churches and the decline of mainline Protestant churches was nearly all attributable to demographics. People in mainline Protestant churches tended to be wealthier and better-educated than their independent counterparts, so they married later and had fewer children. It only takes a couple of decades for small changes in marriage and birth patterns to have a big impact. Members of independent churches married earlier and had more babies–a trend which now is reversing.

(John Wesley saw some of these same effects in his own groups, and he lamented that Methodists didn’t use their increasing economic power to do more good in the world).

A new marriage trend is that more people who are on the bottom of the socioeconomic scale are cohabiting and not marrying at all. Since employment is unstable and real wages are lower, families are less stable. Marriage is increasingly becoming a privilege of the upper-middle class, a trend reflected, not surprisingly, in church membership. My hypothesis is that both marriage and church membership are related to the decline of social mobility, the rise of economic inequality, and the shrinking of the middle class. Conservative as well as liberal church leaders need to consider how economic policies that have the potential to grow or shrink the middle class affect their churches.

Of course, as I point out this data, I also need to make three disclaimers:

1) All of this analysis ignores one important point: the Great Commission is not about breeding new Christians. It’s about making new disciples.

2) I do believe that the challenge for churches who want to reach a different group of people is to create a cultural shift from thinking about church as a place where you “settle” to being a community in which you “launch.” This may be one reason that church plants tend to have a greater proportion of young adults.

3) The early church was known for radically redefining “family.” People who were not married were even encouraged to remain single! While marriage, gay marriage, and reproduction are at the center of public debates, the early church was remarkably practical and progressive for its time. Their theology on such things seems to have been “Whatever works” (for the Kingdom of God).

I believe that as a denomination, we need to avoid making organizational decisions based solely on strong theological opinions (of which we all have plenty). Both theologically and politically liberal and conservative United Methodists need to examine the demographic data. When we think about discipleship and justice, we need to ask critical questions about the roles of socioeconomic class, marriage, and social expectations in our ministries. It will not do to use discredited comparisons, as one delegate did at our General Conference, arguing that United Methodists should emulate the theology of “successful” conservative mega-churches like WillowCreek.

(He said this while Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest United Methodist church in America, sat not more than forty feet away. Both WillowCreek and Church of the Resurrection are very different from Glide Memorial, which is also successful in its own way.)

Of course, plenty of local churches are thriving in their diverse local contexts. Healthy churches analyze their own local culture and respond accordingly to how God is already moving in their midst. I think one of the ways we can move toward health as a denomination is to realize that patterns of growth and decline may have less to do with how compelling our theology is and more to do with things like money and how it affects people’s lives. Perhaps then we can think clearly about how our theology compels us to move and act in a new social and economic reality.

On a local level, while our mother church, Trinity, has done a great job reaching young adults who are marrying and settling down, part of the focus of the new daughter church is to reach people before they settle and to help them launch. Since we recognize that communities have life cycles, and that some of our young adult pioneers will one day also become family “settlers,” we plan to birth another daughter church at some point in our future. By building reproduction into our DNA, we hope to keep adapting to our changing world. We are focused not on the crisis du jour, but on the opportunities God provides us in this new situation.