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Brian's Blog

  • April 27, 2016

    Please watch this video ...

    When politicians try to make Syrian refugees a wedge issue, remember what you see, hear, and feel from this video.

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  • April 18, 2016

    Q & R: A sequel?

    Here's the Q:

    Dear Brian

    Many of your books have impacted my life for good, especially Everything Must Change. The book was published in 2007. Is there any way to get updates on the chilling statistics on the prosperity, security and equity systems you catalogued? Have wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates made a difference? It would be wonderful if you could write a sequel to Everything Must Change.

    Sincerely, and with thanks for the difference you have made in my life.

    Here's the R:
    Thanks so much for this question, and these encouraging words. Someone recently tweeted that my books seem about 15 years ahead of their time ... I would love the chance to update EMC with current statistics. Alas, this is a decision made by publishers and is (at this point) out of my hand. It's very gratifying to see Bernie Sanders and many others addressing issues that fewer people were willing to listen to back in 2007.

    My book that will be out in September, The Great Spiritual Migration, will in many ways address the positive question of "how do we change?" that flows from EMC.

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  • April 14, 2016

    Legislation rooted in Voter Suppression

    Sometimes, religious and political leaders are unaware of the hidden currents beneath the legislation they support. Sometimes, even worse, they are aware. The rest of us need to develop insight into the unintended (and harmfully intended) consequences of laws.

    From my friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Wm. F. Barber ...

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  • April 12, 2016

    We Make the Road as a Church-Wide Curriculum ... and beyond

    When I wrote WMTRBW, I hoped that churches could use it either for a season or a whole year ... as an "alternative lectionary" to frame sermons and worship, as a curriculum for small groups and youth groups, even as a framework for a kids ministry program. It has been deeply gratifying to see the book work in all these ways and more.

    If you'd like to consider using the book to give your group or congregation a season-long or year-long overview of the whole Biblical narrative and an orientation to the Christian life, you'll find lots of resources here.

    A number of groups have contacted me with questions like this:

    Our congregation is journeying together through We Make the Road by Walking. Many have found it very valuable. We have used the book for both preaching themes and small group discussions each week. We are set to complete the book later this summer and are beginning to ponder where we go from here. Do you have any suggestions on a good follow-up resource that will help us grow forward?

    Someday, I may try to write another 52-chapter resource that could be used as one-year companion to WMTR. But for now, I can recommend my book Naked Spirituality. It could provide a 12-week curriculum that would be a deeper engagement with the spiritual life. Groups around the world have used it in this way with similar results. The book includes discussion questions, and this website includes resources that various churches have shared. I hope that will be helpful!

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  • April 4, 2016

    Sabbatical Update

    I'm about halfway through my first-in-my-life sabbatical. I've been home without a single plane trip for about four months. It has been amazing and wonderful simply a) hanging out with Grace, b) spending many each day hours outdoors (hiking, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, etc.), c) enjoying my home and yard, d) plotting future goodness with some creative friends, and e) being quiet and listening to the silence. Good for my soul.

    I also completed my next book, which will be out in September. The new (and final!) title: The Great Spiritual Migration. More on the book (and a speaking tour) soon.

    I've been working with a wonderful professional coach, seeking help in discerning priorities for the next ten years (60-70). My coach has in turn solicited input from a number of my friends and colleagues. I'm not rushing the process, but so far, it has been fruitful and meaningful ... a great gift.

    My flight-free record is being broken this week. I'm an Auburn Senior Fellow and will be with my colleagues in Colorado for a retreat for a few days. This is a special group of people whom I have grown to love and respect deeply. As always, your prayers are appreciated, and please know how grateful I am for a network of friends and allies like you who share the same soul-hunger and thirst for "justice, peace, and joy in the Spirit."

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  • April 1, 2016

    A Reader Writes: I find God in ...

    I recently read your book: “A New Kind of Christianity” and would like to offer these shared comments for you. Ø I can identify with your searching and yearning for God;

    Ø I can feel the anguish you must feel in dealing with the darkness that accompanies the spiritual journey;

    Ø At times the silence becomes like an enveloping cloud in your walk with God

    Ø Jesus, the face and human gift of God to humanity has given himself to us from ancient times through the Israelites, the prophets, judges, his apostiles and the church of ancient times to our present day.

    Ø To me He is present and found in the sacraments and liturgy of the Catholic Church, particularly the Eucharist.

    Ø We humans find Jesus not as an intellectual quest, but as a quest in Faith connecting with Him in our hearts and in one another.

    Peace and Joy be with you and yours.

    Thanks for your response. Although I'm not Roman Catholic, like you, I find God in the face of Jesus, in the eucharist, in deep inner silence, and in one another. In fact, if someone asks me who or what God is, an honest though ever-incomplete answer would be ... "the beautiful and infinite mystery I find in Jesus, the eucharist, deep inner silence, the wonder of creation, and the loving encounter with others."

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  • March 28, 2016

    A Post-Easter Meditation

    For many people, Holy Week is a time of triumphant faith. But for others, it raises all kinds of questions and doubts. Here is a meditation from Duane Clinker especially for the latter: http://loveandresist.blogspot.com/2016/03/an-apology-for-faith-in-love-by-duane.html

    After his death, instead of being crushed as the empire expected, his followers actually grew and spread his words and actions throughout the empire. They spoke brutally of death, but also of a kind of resurrection powered by Love. In those first years they often seemed to lose every sense of class bondage and they shared what they had. Many followers suffered similar fates as he, but they kept on as if something was burning now that could not be extinguished by swords or crosses or personal affliction. And, as foolish as it sounded, they testified, and acted like they were still experiencing this Jesus as a living presence; as if they knew that history could change and that nothing could separate humankind from this kind of Love.

    It was as if they had seen, in the vulnerability of God, a kind of God who was with us in the pain of creation, ain the contradiction of life, as a kind of answer that involved human action in the direction of the universal Love that creation had loosed.

    More here: http://loveandresist.blogspot.com/2016/03/an-apology-for-faith-in-love-by-duane.html

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  • Readers write: chopping a path through the woods

    I think there is a rumor that you are on sabbatical right now. You have come to our mind and been part of our conversations many times over the last little while. We thought it was high time to send you the note of encouragement we keep wanting to send. It's a simple message.... and that is that we are very grateful for the work you are doing in chopping a path through the woods for folks like ourselves who are in a place of grief when we see the current political climate in the United States, the exclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in fellowship, or the hateful rhetoric spoken against friends of other faiths who are teaching us so much about what it means to trust God. Thank you for your bravery in embracing people who are seen as a threat to the culture of "Christianity." It helps us to feel less alone, knowing that you are quietly standing in the place of love, rather than fear.
    Thanks, friends. We're all in this together! If you're looking for kindred spirits, check out: http://convergenceus.org/ and http://www.theopennetworkus.org/#home

    We're not alone!

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  • March 26, 2016

    A reader writes: a song inspired by WMTR

    A reader writes:

    I told you I would update you on how it is going at First Presbyterian Palo Alto using your book for our Sunday worship, and I am pleased to say it is going really well! People in the congregation have so many positive things to say. They are remarking that we are preaching on passages they have never heard (especially when we were in the OT during the fall). People are also responding positively to getting a larger view of the story arc of scripture. For me personally, it has challenged me to not get lost in the details of these long passages and try to preach about the core truth that is being communicated. So I want to thank you for providing this valuable resource!!

    Also, Rob Martin, my supervisor and the head pastor here, is a hymn writer. He wrote one inspired by your book, and we thought you would like to see it, so I have attached it.

    Thanks for this encouragement. If other churches are interested, you can learn more about using the book for a season-long or year-long curriculum here. For a year-long framework for worship and teaching, you'd begin in September with Chapter 1.

    Rob graciously gave me permission to include his lyrics here:

    We Make the Road by Walking Forth (Sung to the tune KINGSFOLD) Words by W. Robert Martin, III

    We make the road by walking forth
    In faith and not by sight,
    A journey of discovery
    With challenge and delight.
    This path takes us to wider realms
    Where joy and faith can grow—
    As Christ, beside us on the way,
    Guides gently where we go.

    We make the road by walking forth
    In hope and not in fear
    A byway built on trust and love
    That brings the Spirit near.
    This path shall cause the blind to see
    The mute to find their voice
    The last to boldly lead the way
    The hurt to cry, “Rejoice”.

    We make the road by walking forth
    With joy and not regret,
    A path where all are truly loved
    And long-held needs are met.
    This path will lead us to a place
    Where hate will finally cease
    As we, who journey on the Way,
    Proclaim God’s promised peace.

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  • March 25, 2016

    A reader writes: I was warned about the dangers of Brian's work ... and then I read for myself

    A reader writes:

    I am currently doing my first close read of Brian's book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (2010). This act alone was a major step for me, as I have been "warned" repeatedly about the "danger's" of Brian's work for the Christian faith.

    I am so glad that I am reading Brian's work first-hand for myself, bypassing the self-sppointed critics and so-called defenders of the faith. What a breath of fresh air!

    As someone with earned graduate degrees in anthropology and the philosophy of education, I can honestly say that Brian's attempt to integrate the best insights from developmental theory and theology in his work is nothing short of brilliant. As a Christian and college instructor, I find his questions, insights and genuine humility refreshing in this ever-changing and volatile period of church history. My only regret is that it has taken me this long to digest and assimilate Brian's work. Thankfully, I am now a part of a faith community that spends a lot more of its time listening, learning and loving others instead of lecturing and sounding false alarms.

    Keep up the great work, Brian.

    Thanks for this encouragement!

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  • March 23, 2016

    The Most Important Question Pastors Can Ask Before this Easter Sunday

    My old friend Bruce Johnson is a savvy business consultant, and in a recent article, he challenges businesses to learn their NPS - Net Promoter Score.

    The key insight - that some business customers or clients will leave a business so thrilled that they'll tell their friends - applies to churches as well.

    The article (and its predecessor, also worth reading) is important for pastors and other church leaders to consider leading up to Easter Sunday, when most churches experience a surge in attendance.

    Here's Bruce's question, recast for churches:

    On a scale of 0-10 with 10 being highly likely, how likely is it that you would recommend our church to a friend or colleague?

    In other words, will people have an experience at your church this Sunday that is so remarkable and meaningful that they'll be spontaneously talking about it on Monday and Tuesday at work or school or in the neighborhood?

    What will be remarkable for them? Unexpected friendliness? Delightful creativity? Extraordinary insight? Deep emotional connection? Moments of beauty and transcendence?

    Remember: what will be most remarkable for your first-time visitors will probably not match with what your most vocal critics talk about. (Sadly, the critics get too much of our attention most of the time!)

    In these final days leading up to Easter, why not invite your team to brainstorm three to five ways to make this Sunday so extraordinary, so remarkable, so moving and delightful and joyful and meaningful that they can't help but tell friends about it on Monday?

    You never know: seeking to be remarkable could become a habit. (Thanks, Bruce!)

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  • Q & R: our search for a meaningful faith after a great loss

    Here's the Q:

    How does one go about finding a church that would most embody the open Christian theology that Brian McLaren speaks of?

    My wife and I have lived in our same community for many years and been members of two wonderful, but "old-school" Christian churches. We lost our son [to cancer last year]. My wife has almost lost faith, and many beliefs I've held for life have changed too. My other adult children are also facing a very similar struggle with what to believe and who God is. Mr. McLaren seems to speak directly to our search for a meaningful faith.

    We are reading his works, but would love to find a place of worship that more closely resembles the kind of Christian faith he writes about. Thus, my question is how does one narrow the search for such a place of worship? The emotional energy to physically visit church after church in search of the right fit is just too much for us right now.
    Many thanks to any guidance you can offer.

    Here's the R:
    First, my heart goes out to you as will thousands of people who read this blog. I trust many will join me in praying for you and your family. Words fail.

    I'm so grateful my books have been of help to you. You're right: it really matters to find a faith community that is in sync with where you are and where you're going in your faith. I sent you a few specific names of congregations in your area, but your question speaks to a larger need.

    We need a place where forward-leaning Christians can find forward-moving congregations. For years, I've been wishing and hoping that someone would find a way to make that connection.

    FINALLY, I'm glad to say some folks are working on it. It's not available yet, but if enough of us get behind Convergence, it will be available soon. You'll find information here:

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  • March 22, 2016

    Why World Water Day Should Matter to You

    The world's number one killer of children is not war, guns, or terrorism.

    It's dirty water.

    That's why I hope you'll spend a few minutes at this site: http://www.faithsforsafewater.org/

    Whatever issues you care most about ... hunger ... maternal and child health ... kids living past that vulnerable 5th birthday ... HIV/AIDS ... poverty ... food security ... girls' education ... gender equality ... violence against women ...

    The more you learn about any of these issues, the more you realize that the world water crisis is related to each one. For example, did you know ...

    Fifty percent of undernutrition in children is due to inadequate water and sanitation.

    Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading causes of child death and both are frequently caused by unsafe water.

    One-third of school-age children in developing countries are infected with intestinal worms from water.

    272 million school days are lost due to diarrhea.

    Walking down a deserted path to collect water or seeking a bit of privacy to relieve oneself leads to daily violence against women.

    Water is a woman's burden. Bodies break under the heavy buckets, jars and jerry cans filled with water that makes their families sick. They have no choice.

    At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.

    663 million people today lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion (one sixth of the world) doesn't have the dignity and safety of a toilet.

    Fifty different diseases and illnesses are linked to unsafe water.

    Immuno-suppressed HIV/AIDS patients must take anti-retroviral drugs with filthy water that makes them sick and unable to properly absorb the medications.

    17 different Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are caused by poor water and sanitation, but we’re curing NTDs with medication rather than preventing them all together with access to safe water and sanitation.

    So today's a day we encourage each other to think about something many of us can take for granted - but millions of our neighbors can't. I hope you'll spend a few minutes at this site: http://www.faithsforsafewater.org/

    And here's another link that will inform and inspire you: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2016/03/blessed-by-water-a-sermon-for-world-water-day/

    You'll find a number of ways you can get involved and make a difference. You can even start by sharing this link!

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  • March 14, 2016

    An important message to Democrats and Republicans

    I'm disgusted by Trump. I'm disgusted with his violent and hateful rhetoric and authoritarian arrogance. But I think North Carolina lawyer Michael Cooper, Jr. has a message for all of us who feel this way. He invites us to "look behind the fault and see the need" of his neighbors - white, rural, working-class Americans, many of whom are Trump supporters:

    As productivity climbed, working-class Americans wanted their wages to rise also. Instead, Republicans gave them tax cuts for the rich while liberal Democrats called them racists and bigots....

    According to the Republican Party, the biggest threat to rural America was Islamic terrorism. According to the Democratic Party it was gun violence. In reality it was prescription drug abuse and neither party noticed until it was too late.

    Cooper offers this advice:

    To win again in the Deep South and Appalachia, the Democratic Party must recall the days of Roosevelt's New Deal and Kennedy's New Frontier by putting people to work rebuilding America, and making college free after two years of national service.

    Trump's appeal as a strongman reveals the desire in Middle America for public action. His supporters want healthcare, like Social Security and are frustrated by the gridlock on Capitol Hill, so they must return to the days of Eisenhower, standing for conservative principles but also compromising when possible.

    You can read the whole article here.

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  • Here's an Evangelical Voice you can be proud of:

    If Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham define Evangelicals, then it's high time for millions of us to head for the door. Thankfully, there's another kind of evangelical voice out there, embodied powerfully by my colleague Rev. Wm. Barber.

    If you don't know him yet, you should. For starters, check out this article.

    Presidential candidates of all political stripes have long courted what the media calls the “evangelical voters” in the South, using the language of morality. Well, I am an evangelical. I have been born again. I don’t think it is because I have African and Native American and some European blood flowing in my veins that I have a different view of evangelism. Yes, I learned my evangelism from my father, a Disciples of Christ minister... I learned that persons who claim to be evangelicals are anointed to preach good news to the poor.

    Trumpism was created in the crucible of the “Southern strategy.” ...We can’t isolate Donald Trump and his supporters, because that is a simplification. When you unpack the policies of all of his competitors, most of their disagreement is in tone, not substance. It is not as though they are moderate and he is extreme. Trump is not the problem; it’s all of the xenophobia and racist innuendo and othering of immigrants that is the problem. It is all of the coded language ... from the Southern-strategy lexicon of Wallace, Nixon, Reagan, and Atwater that has been spewed for years. That is the problem... Long before Trump, all of this rhetoric created a kind of us-against-them mob mentality, which after it is loosed can manifest in the violence that we now see.

    Too many Evangelicals have become the zealous religious chaplaincy of the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party. Even more Evangelicals aid and abet their colleagues by remaining silent and therefore complicit. But thank God, there are other voices. Let's lift them up as a needed and inspiring alternative!

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