Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The Blog has moved to the following address: methodistjustin.blogspot.com

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rethink Church Advertisement Hilarity

Please see the screenshot below and tell me this is not hilarious. The UMC puts banner advertisement on the LA Times and happens to have the "Rethink Church" banner above a shot of the Sasha Cohen/Eminem encounter from the MTV Movie Awards last night.

I wonder how many hits they might be getting from people checking out that article and intrigued about "Rethinking Church"?

I know my initial thought was this: "If a church is willing to advertise about rethinking church above a picture of a disgusted Eminem with a naked butt in his face, I might just have to check this out."

Have to love technology. Click on the image to see it full screen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

40 Days of Prayer Update

Ben Simpson has let us know that so far through downloads and purchases of hard bound copies of the 40 Days of Prayer Book that we have raised enough funds to purchase 17 Bed Nets for Nothing But Nets.

It is exciting to see the connection between prayer and action demonstrated through the campaign. The Facebook group now has over 400 people who have joined saying they are participating and joining in prayer.

I am heading off to the Minnesota Annual Conference which starts tomorrow so keep the AC session in your prayers too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

40 Days of Prayer: Day 4

The prayer for renewal continues:

Day 4 by Stephanie Gottschalk

Remember, if you would like to download a digital copy of the book containing all 40 prayers (put together by the hard work of Ben Simpson) you can either do that for $10 or you can order a hard bound copy (for those who like to touch and feel things and flip pages) for $16.50. The thing that is most exciting about these options for me is the fact that the proceeds (minus production costs) are going to Nothing but Nets. As Ben updates us on how the campaign is going I will keep everyone who reads this updated on how much money (or how many Nets) have been raised through the campaign.

Purchase by download or ordering a hard copy HERE.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

40 Days of Prayer: Day 3

The prayer for renewal continues:

Day 3 by Chris Henson

Remember, if you would like to download a digital copy of the book containing all 40 prayers (put together by the hard work of Ben Simpson) you can either do that for $10 or you can order a hard bound copy (for those who like to touch and feel things and flip pages) for $16.50. The thing that is most exciting about these options for me is the fact that the proceeds (minus production costs) are going to Nothing but Nets. As Ben updates us on how the campaign is going I will keep everyone who reads this updated on how much money (or how many Nets) have been raised through the campaign.

Purchase by download or ordering a hard copy HERE.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

40 Days of Prayer: Day 2

The prayer for renewal continues:

Day 2 by Audrey Krumbach

Remember, if you would like to download a digital copy of the book containing all 40 prayers (put together by the hard work of Ben Simpson) you can either do that for $10 or you can order a hard bound copy (for those who like to touch and feel things and flip pages) for $16.50. The thing that is most exciting about these options for me is the fact that the proceeds (minus production costs) are going to Nothing but Nets. As Ben updates us on how the campaign is going I will keep everyone who reads this updated on how much money (or how many Nets) have been raised through the campaign.

Purchase by download or ordering a hard copy HERE.

Monday, May 18, 2009

40 Days of Prayer: Day 1 (It Begins!)

One thing that has always been an important part of my faith journey is my prayer life. It is something that my mother instilled in me at a young age. So I was very excited when Ben Simpson had a prompting to pray for renewal within the United Methodist Church. From that initial prompting a 40 day campaign of prayer for the United Methodist Church was birthed within the young clergy that had connected via technology (the internets that Al Gore invented....who knew Al Gore would play such an instrumental part in the hope for renewal within the United Methodist Church?)

Anyway, today marks the beginning of the 40 days and each day I will post a link to the prayer for the day. So here it goes:

Day 1 by Andrew Conard.

If you are someone who would like to have a digital copy of the whole book or would like to order a hard copy (for all you tangible people) they are available here.

You can download a digital copy for $10 or a hard-bound copy for $16.50. The best part about that is that all the proceeds (minus production cost) will go to support the ministry of Nothing But Nets which helps purchase Bed Nets for those areas that battle with malaria via mosquitos.

Please consider joining us as we pray for God's reign within the United Methodist Church.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Preparing to Move

Don't expect to many regular updates on here (not that they have been regular anyway) as Stacy and I prepare to move to Winona. Our lives are going to be filled with transition tasks like packing, moving, cleaning, etc.

In logistical news I will be moving my blog to a different URL as I don't think "chatfieldpastor.blogspot.com" will aptly describe my new ministry situation. There is an outside chance I might just pass along this address to the incoming pastor (whoever that might end up being) and see if he/she would want to continue to post.

Who knows, but rest assured I will keep everyone up-to-date and once we get settled into Winona expect more regular updates as I ponder life and get to know the community of Winona.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

40 Days of Prayer

I am not going to say to much but rather direct you to Ben Simpson's page and post since he was the one who first felt the promptings from God to engage in this campaign. Check it out here.

Suffice it to say that a bunch of younger clergy have banded together and committed to pray over 40 days for the United Methodist Church and that God would work within us for rebirth and renewal to strengthen our witness of Jesus Christ.

I will be an author of one of the prayers and am excited to join this group and encourage anyone here to please check out the campaign and think about joining us in prayer. I am excited to have Jared Morey (a friend from MN and spouse of one of my colleagues Rachel) and David Hollis (a friend from my time at Duke Divinity School) as committed prayer partners during this time.

Anyway it kicks off on May 18th!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SoulWow: Problematic or Genius?

So in my morning travels around the internet newspaper sights of Minnesota I happened upon an article which pointed me to the SoulWow. It appears that the Roman Catholic Church of Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island got creative and created a "spoof" commercial based on the "ShamWow" commercials of infamy.

Here it is in all its glory:

Now, I have to admit I am struggling with this one. Is it a genius communication move to encourage followers to practice the sacrament of Confession? Is it problematic because in essence it leads to the commodification of the sacrament?

On the one hand, I applaud these Roman Catholic Churches for coming together and trying to think of a creative way to reach out to people. However, I have to ask at what cost? I find it problematic that the sacrament is changed into a commodity to be consumed. The message is this: We have product A. Product A can do this for you. Come and get/do/receive product A. Maybe it is my ultra-sensitivity to language and communication, but for me to use this mode of communication is to take something that is sacred ,and something that points to another way of being, and change it into nothing more than a product that needs to be consumed (albeit at a cost of nothing). Shouldn't the focus of the sacrament be on something other than the "benefits" that come from the "product" and if this is granted, then to use this avenue of communication is highly problematic.

For those of us who are protestant and might not struggle as much with it because of our understanding of confession (and not viewing it as a sacrament), how would you feel if this commercial were about the Sacrament of Holy Communion (Eucharist)? To me if this commercial isn't problematic, then why aren't we communicating to the world the "benefits" of consuming the Eucharist? I mean if it gets more people participating in the life of the church then that is a good thing right? (Please note my sarcasm)

Perhaps I am just ultra-sensitive to marketing, etc. I would love to hear what other people think?

***NOTE: Please do not attack the Roman Catholic Church in your responses. This post is not meant to be an attack on a certain part of the Body of Christ, but rather a reflective piece on an issue. For anyone who may be quick to criticize this incident, I would encourage you to think about your own denomination/situation and ways that "commodification" of church/faith occurs. We, Methodist, struggle with the same issue in my opinion when we "market" ourselves....but that is another post for another day. (Due note their is a difference between marketing-appealing to a consumer based mentality- and invitation)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book Review: Being Consumed

Okay here is the issue: I have a huge stack of books sitting throughout various locations in my daily life (my office desk, my night-stand, a dresser drawer, my backpack, the basement floor, etc.) and I have wanted to read each one. However, when I get busy with the everyday life of being a pastor it often means I choose to "vegetate" by watching the DV-R episode of CSI: New York instead of reading. However, the pile has grown to massive (thanks to Christmas gifts, etc.) and now I want to start winnowing it down. So I have decided that I needed an "external" motivation to help me get through the stack and thought that a weekly (okay I will be honest, semi-weekly to monthly) book review would be a good motivating factor to get through the pile. So various readers who happen upon this site, enjoy the first installment.

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William T. Cavanaugh

Quick Summation:
Cavanaugh makes the claim that "desire" is at the root of both economics and Christianity. In essence "to desire" is to be human (which he points out by drawing upon Augustine). Cavanaugh throughout the book details the competing "narratives of desire" held by economics (market, capitalism, "free" market, etc.) and Christianity. It all boils down to this. Economics is a system based upon the "limitless" desire of individuals and seeks to guide those desires in a way that benefits the whole (or at least in theory it promises to). This desire is satisfied and driven by the consumer and consumption. However, Cavanaugh contends that this desire has no "telos" or end upon which it is predicated which makes it fundamentally a different narrative of desire than that of Christianity. Cavanaugh argues throughout the book that "limitless desire" is not met until it finds its eternal resting place which is God. Basically, Cavanaugh gives a theological recap of Christian desire and then frames that in an argument that points to a different economy, "God's economy," and what that could look like.

Readability and Time Requirement:
The book is an easy read. Complicated "theological" terms and "economic" terms are explained so that one does not need an advance degree in either field to understand the subject matter. The book should be engaging to all whether clergy or laity. The book is also a quick read (100 pages), which can be both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it sparks insights and questions that can help a person down a path to discovery of new ways of thinking about economics and the intersection of this field with theology. However, it also can be a curse because those who desire more in depth analysis and explanation will have to turn to others for further detail (of course this can be done by looking at the footnotes and creating an extensive list of readings).

The Added Bonus:
In each of the four chapters, Cavanaugh gives concrete examples of a "God's Economy" being done in practice. From Fair-Trade Coffee to Church Supported Agriculture. These examples are wonderful because they allow the reader to see how "theory" is already in practice. (Most of the examples I had heard about in some form or another, but others I had no idea existed. These examples actually made me long for an extensive narrative account of more of these practices and how they are accomplished, etc.)

Notable Quotes:
"The key question in every transaction is whether or not the transaction contributes to the flourishing of each person involved, and this question can only be judged, from a theological point of view, according to the end of human life, which is participation in the life of God." (page viii)

"Humans need a community of virtue in which to learn to desire rightly." (page 9)

"The key to true freedom is not just following whatever desires we happen to have, but cultivating the right desires." (page 11)

"In 1980 the average CEO made 42 times what the average production worker made; by 1999 that ratio had risen to 475 to 1, and it continues to rise." (pages 20-21)

"As Aquinas says, we should regard property as a gift from God, a gift that is only valid if we use it for the benefit of others." (page 29)

"From a Christian point of view, the churches should take an active role in fostering economic practices that are consonant with the true ends of creation. This requires promoting economic practices that maintain close connections among capital, labor, and communities, so that real communal discernment of the good can take place." (page 32)

"We are, nevertheless, invited to participate in the Trinitarian life through Christ and the work of the Spirit. But in order to do so, we cannot grasp, we can only submit. We cannot stand back from the world and survey it; we must simply take our role in the drama that God is staging and give ourselves to it." (page 81)

"If in consuming the Eucharist we become the body of Christ, then we are called, in turn, to offer ourselves to be consumed by the world." (page 84)

"Economics will always be the science of scarcity as long as individuals continue to want. And we are told that human desires are endless . . . The solution to the restlessness of desire is to cultivate desire for God, the Eternal, in whom our hearts will find rest." (page 90)


Published in March of 2008, this book is a must read in our current economic situation. Cavanaugh gives a compelling case for a counter-narrative to current economic understanding. If anything it will spark questions and a desire to possibly see economics in a new way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Modern Day Theologians: Death Cab For Cutie

Back in 1999 or 2000 (I can't remember the exact time) Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, came to Northwestern College (IA) to speak at chapel. My resident director, Michael Wooten, was the one who went and picked him up from the airport which meant that those interested from our dorm would have the opportunity to have a conversation with Mark in our RD's apartment. While theologically I am rather different from Mark Driscoll, one thing that he said continues to stick out in my mind. Driscoll made the claim that today's theologians are in places we would expect he said they were the directors of movies, the musicians, etc. (specifically he mentioned Quentin Tarantino, etc.) It really made me think about how much the Church can miss when it creates its own sub-culture in order to protect it from the "evils of the secular world."

Now I know as a Methodist this isn't as big of an issue as it was in my world of Evangelicalism growing up, but I thought it might be fun to write from time to time about those songs or movies that make me really realize that God moves freely inside and outside the church.

Today, I give you the first installment: Death Cab For Cutie

One song of theirs in particular touched me deeply and got me reflecting. The following are the lyrics to “I Will Possess Your Heart” from their album Narrow Stairs:

How I wish you could see the potential
The potential of you and me
It’s like a book elegantly bound
But in a language that you can’t read just yet

You gotta spend some time, love
You gotta spend some time with me
And I know that you’ll find love
I will possess your heart

You gotta spend…

There are days when outside your window
I see my reflection as I slowly pass
And I long for this mirrored perspective
When we’ll be lovers, lovers at last

You gotta spend…

You gotta spend…

I will possess your heart
I will possess your heart

You reject my advances and desperate pleas
I won’t let you let me down so easily
So easily

You gotta spend…

You gotta spend…

I will possess your heart
I will possess your heart

As I listened to the song I couldn't help but imagine it as a song written by God and sung out to humanity. Perhaps it is because I can identify as the one who is being sung to, but really it seems so fitting. How many of us fail to see the potential of our lives because we fail to see what our lives could be if they were rooted in relationship with God? I can imagine God watching us and seeing God's own reflection in us as God's creation and just longing for us to fully display that image. How many of us have rejected God's advances towards us and fail to hear God's pleas?

I can imagine God calling out to us and saying "I won't let you let me down so easily" and calling for us to spend more time with God. That is what the song is about for me: Spending time with God. It plays out that meta-narrative of God pursuing humanity. God seeing humanity for its limitless potential and never giving up and the counter story of humanity continually ignoring God or failing to understand what life could be if it were possessed by God because we fail to spend time with God.

Let's think about that....

There are 168 hours in a week. If we factor out time spent sleeping (saying we should get around 8 hours of sleep a night) that brings us down to 112 hours of time awake available. Now if we factor out time spent working (in my case that time is often consumed by time spent with God or in service to God) 40-60 hours (working + traveling time, etc.) That leaves us with at least 52 hours of open time and subtracting time eating (1.5 hrs/day) that leaves us with 41.5 hours free total.

So how much of that 41.5 hours do we spend with God? How many of those hours do we spend in communion with fictional characters on T.V. (as a T.V. addict trying to winnow this down I have to admit I spend 20-30 hours watching T.V.....of course I only sleep about 5 hours a day too)? How much time do we spend doing something other than spending it with God? I can only imagine God singing this song out to us just pleading for us to spend more time with God knowing that if we did God would begin to transform our heart and take possession of it.

I wrote about this song in my pastoral letter for our church newsletter and challenged the people of the church to keep the question: How much time do you spend with God? in their heart over this Lenten season and I challenge anyone who happens upon this post to do the same.

I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts on the song, Death Cab For Cutie, or anything else that may be stirred up by this post.

God Bless.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Economic Crisis: Jesus' Parable Comes to Life

I am often amazed at how the narrative of Holy Scriptures can come to life and play out in our everyday lives. There is the meaning the passage had in its original context, but yet there is something more. Scripture has a "liveliness" to it that opens it up to other contexts conveying a message of truth. I haven't really commented on our current economic crisis. However, even though I haven't commented on it, the wheels in my mind have been turning for months now. How did we get here and how do we go forward? (Those are questions I cannot fully answer and the truth I believe is that all of us were part of the problem and all of us are going to be part of the solution.....)

One thing that has captured my attention in the past week is the continued news of how Credit Card Companies (i.e. the Banks that own them) have been raising their interest rates rather drastically (some people have gone from 9% to 18% others from 11% to 25%, etc.). As I was pondering this reality last night one of Jesus' Parables seemed rather fitting.

Matthew 18:23-35 (NRSV)

(23) "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. (24) When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; (25) and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. (26) So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' (27) And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. (28) But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him by the throat he said, 'Pay what you owe.' (29) The his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' (30) But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. (31) When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. (32) The his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you? (34) And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. (35) So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

As I thought about this parable, I could not help but think of the "government" as the lord and the banking system as the first slave with the individual with credit card debt being the second slave. The government saved the banking industry from its own calamity by offering it a bailout. All this was done to help ward off an economic recession for the benefit of all the people (and really this is worldwide because if the US banking system collapsed the inter-connectedness of the world would lead to a worldwide depression). What have the banks done with this second chance?

Well the good thing is they have at least started to lend a little more to one another and I hope they are getting rid of those "toxic" notes that they thought were wonderful money makers. However, as the economic downturn has started to hit the average household more and more with people losing their jobs, being laid off, or having their hours cut back. Budgets are getting tighter and tighter. Now to be fair many households lived well outside their means and purchased that lifestyle with "credit" thinking they could pay it off later (instant satisfaction!)---of course banks did some of the same style thing when they took on risky and now "toxic" loans thinking they could make some quick money. Many Americans just were not being financially responsible and now they are facing tough situations.

However, the banks (credit card companies) that have just had help from the government to stay afloat are not acting in the same way toward the individual who had debt with them. Rather than asking how can we help you to stay afloat and return to economic viability (i.e. negotiating lower interest rates, etc.), the credit card companies (banks) are trying to get all that they can squeeze out of this cash cow of theirs. The message is clear: "Yeah we got help to stay afloat, but that is because we are important, you though are not important Mr. or Mrs. individual and because of that you need to pay us more to carry your risk. Nevermind that we had help. We don't care."

What would it look like if a credit card company (bank) said this: "We realize that times are tough for everyone now and we want to help you get back on your feet like we were helped. Here is what we are going to do. The current balance you have isn't going to be forgiven, but we can freeze it at a 3.9% APR. All we ask is that you don't use your credit card at all until that balance is paid in full. However, if you do use the card we then reserve the right to raise your interest rate up to prime + 10% (or whatever they choose). We were helped and now we want to help you."

Which one do you think would help stimulate the overall economy more? (Here is where I wish I had an economist reading this blog to theorize and comment) The way the credit card companies are currently operating seems to be the biggest hypocritical stance ever. They were saved and yet there is no mercy on their part towards their "customers." And what can happen from their current stance?
  1. They make more money (granted this is to offset a rising default rate)
  2. The consumer (individual) is now using more of their income to pay credit cards (minimum due rises due to interest rate increase) and less on the purchase of goods/products/services.
  3. The rate of default increases even more (if people are defaulting at the lower rates it stands to reason that those who may be "scraping" by at those rates are going to be pressed into a default stance with the raised interest rates and minimum payments).
Now I know that statistical analysis, etc. was used and I am sure the interest rate increase was determined to maximize their profitability while accounting for a raised rate of defaults. I get that. However, just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done. The individual they are now taking more money from is also the individual whose taxes (current and future taxes) helped bail out the banking system.

I can't help but feel that the more and more the banking system looks out for itself (specifically pointing to those dealing with credit cards, etc.) the more and more it has a negative impact on the overall economic outlook. If it truly is going to take all of us to bounce back from this economic downturn, then banks are going to have to think about how they can help the great mass of individuals help the economy also. It isn't that somebody is "right" and somebody is "wrong," but rather it is we are all culpable for the situation we find ourselves in and we have to work together to get us out and that means sacrifice on all levels.

What would the world look like if the players in the economy actually started to live into the parable Jesus shared? How radical would the world become? Would it be viable?

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Meditative Prayer (Personal)

Dear God,

The problem with being a pastor is that often people think I know all the answers when it comes to faith because of the position I hold.

But I don't have all the answers and am still on a journey of discovery.

The problem with being young is that often people think I do not understand the world around me because of my lack of earthly existence.

But I have witnessed and experienced things that stretch beyond my years.

The problem with being me is that often I find myself existing in the identifications others put upon me and I lose You, My God, the One who lives in and through me.  The One who formed me and molds me.  I lose my true identity in You.

Come Holy Spirit.  Guide me.  Transform me.  Identify me.  Amen.