Hi. My name is Steve, and I’m a Mainliner.
Through all my years as a Fundamentalist, then an Conservative Evangelical, then some variation of Emergent, I have been a member of The United Methodist Church, a mainline denomination.
I believe this is where God has called me.
Plenty have tried to convince me otherwise. I’ve sat face to face with some of the leaders of the Emergent movement and heard them explain, with rather convincing rhetoric, why getting out (of the mainline) would be a good thing.
Perhaps, then, you can imagine how appreciative I was to find Derek Penwell’s The Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World. Here was a book written from inside a mainline denomination, yet, ostensibly, with the recognition that the glory days of American Denominationalism are clearly gone and not returning.
Let me be clear: I wasn’t hopefully expecting Penwell to make it sound ok. The last thing I wanted was some platitudes encouraging me into hospice care as the denomination and its version of Christianity continue to linger.
Reading Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity for the Rest of Us brought me such great joy when I read it almost a decade ago that I bought a dozen or so copies and offered them free to any clergy friends who would agree to read the book.
I would consider doing the same with this book from Derek Penwell.
The book opens with what I find to be a stellar comparison of our times with post-Revolutionary War American. I found this comparison helpful and Penwell’s historical work insightful to the point of making me wonder why I hadn’t read this elsewhere.
Penwell does an excellent job, I feel, of stirring up the conversations that must happen. Mainline denominational folk know that something is wrong, but this book offers to help us identify and make corrections without simply trying to keep up with whatever the ecclesiology-of-the-month might be.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.
How far is too far?
Walking back from a visit to the Elementary School we have adopted, a discarded plastic drink bottle lay in the sidewalk. I should have picked it up.
I almost did. I usually do, but here’s the deal: after seeing that and thinking I would pick it up, I scanned for other litter. There were several other things nearby, say, within 5 yards of the sidewalk.
I didn’t feel like walking that far out of my way to pick up that trash. I figured that if I did, I would somehow be obligating myself to police the entire area.
To avoid the obligation of picking up ALL TRASH, I picked up no trash.
Litter-wise this is a fail, but not an epic fail. I could very well have picked up any or all of the trash, or some amount in between and have done better than deciding to walk by it all.
Life-analogy-wise, this was, I think, an epic-fail.
Feeling paralyzed by the thought of all the good that could, that should, be done around the world is not, I believe, an acceptable excuse for doing nothing for anyone.
I cannot reach the needs of everyone, but I cannot allow that to keep me from helping meet the needs of some.
Does distance matter? It seems to: mission trips are all the rage, and some of this is energized by the desire to help those who are far away.
Ideally, travelling great distances to serve others ought to motivate, energize, and catalyze us to be more attentive and responsive to needs nearby.
The cynic in me wants to observe here that all these mission trips we’ve gone on have not done a great job of energizing us at home.
My unwillingness to pick up a single piece of trash reminds me not to lay my cynicism on others.
Just found this, and it is too good not to share right now: