I was asked to rewrite my job description after thirteen years. The difference between the hire and what I now do was jaw-dropping. The original job was completely “technical”—choose curriculum, get teachers, take care of the library, attend meetings. Today, everything starts with “research, find, create, re-write” because we live and serve in a different world. Today, there are no easy answers.
When I was a child, we spent weekends at the lake with my grandparents. A couple times a year, the lake “turned over”—warmer water on the surface sank to the bottom and the bottom water rose to the top. That put oxygen into the depths of the lake, revitalized the aquatic systems and kept the lake healthy.
As kids, we just thought it was cool. The lake water changed color. It was a murky, muddy mess. It looked like we lived on a different planet. We didn’t realize many fish died in the process or that the lake was healthier after it cleared. Regardless, it’s a great metaphor for today’s church.
Every part of our culture has gone through, or is going through “inversion.” I constantly hear people lament, “the world’s turned upside down.” Some of us think it is cool. None of us can see through the mud. A few of us will not survive the process.
Addressing all the cultural shifts that muddy our ministry waters is impossible in this space, but here are a three that make “church water" particularly murky:
We are not swimming in the same water, my friends. Several prominent theologians and scholars have suggested that faith practices go through major “inversions” about every 500 years. That’s us.
When I looked at my original job description, I laughed. I could only wish to do that job. I’d be finished and home by noon on Tuesday. But we, in this time and place, are called into a murky inversion. The way through is “research, create, try, learn…begin again.” The foundation is that God is at work well before us, asking us to follow right into the middle of the inversion. That’s where we belong. That’s where our work will be done.
Dir. of Christian Formation, Forest Hills Presbyterian,