Friday, March 24, 2006

Get Real

Bob Sitze has a great book out called Not Trying Too Hard: New Basics for Sustainable Congregations. It's a solid book, one of those volumes that's as helpful for what it points you to in the bibliography, and summarizes in brief boxes, as it is for the actual content.

Anyway, in the middle of the book he encourages congregations and pastors to "get real". By this he means they should encounter reality full-faced. Some examples: read the business section of the newspaper first, visit people in their places of work and have them tell you about things they are expert in, analyze your weekly schedule and look for places where you are too comfortable, living in the same small circle, listen to a new radio station for a few weeks, etc.

Basically, the idea seems to a) broaden your horizons, and b) challenge yourself and the reality you might tend to create for yourself by reading the same journal year after year, participating in the same kind of work or hobbies, hanging out with the same people.

He includes a "reality check" exercise that is very clever and that I plan to do, but first, I wanted to itemize some things I think I need to do in my own context in order to "get real." This is a good blog topic, so I encourage it's use more widely.

Things Clint should do to get real:

1. Go hunting during deer season.
2. Watch American Idol.
3. Go to the local NASCAR or auto racing track for a Friday night race.
4. Eat lunch at the high school.
5. Fix something on my car.
6. Read the Purpose-Driven Life.
7. And Your Best Life Now.
8. Go to karaoke somewhere.
9. Get recommendations from people for a journal I should read that I currently don't.
10. Visit the local land fill.
11. Visit the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Ditto for the evangelical free church.
12. Visit more shops in Cambridge.
13. Find out how I would apply for social services (welfare, housing and utility assistance, etc.) if I needed to.
14. Ask 10 people what are other things I could do to "get real."

I purposefully limited myself to five minutes of brainstorming to keep this list manageable. Analysis and comment of the list is welcome.

Thanks, Bob!


  1. There is a pernicious assumption in all of this, Brother: That "real" is worldly, not "churchy." To "get real," I think you do some very important things: read the Bible, read Karl Barth and/or Dietrich Bonhoeffer and/or Stanley Hauerwas, preside at the mass -- the "things of the Spirit" are the ultimate reality; the business pages are not "realty."

    When I was a pastor, I did luncheon with my employed parishioners, and it informed my preaching, sure. But there was no way that that was "realer" than the time I spent in study and prayer!

    What do you think? I have long enjoyed "The Velveteen Rabbit," with it's foundational question, "What is real?" I smile at the Horse's answer relating to having your fur all rubbed off. Let's not too quickly label things as "real" that may very well broaden our horizons, but hardly deserve the label.


  2. Dwight,

    I guess I'm Lutheran enough to assume the distinction between church and world is not as clear cut as you describe. Why is Barth more of the Spirit than the application process for welfare, for example?

    I do agree that there is a pernicious idea, possibly floating in the background of what I wrote, that real things are outside of church. On the other hand, I am a churchman writing this list. I'm at church ALL THE TIME. For me, getting real is often getting out.

    If I were, say, a dentist, then going to Lenten service would be a form of getting real. As the pastor, I'm going to be at Lenten service no matter what. I'm paid to be there. And love to be there.

    Thanks for adding to my list. Now, if we were to speak of the reality of the church, and the places where I need to get more "real" there, they might be:

    1. Read the prophets more often.
    2. Stop reading so much contemporary theology and practical stuff, and become more conversant with the church fathers and mothers.
    3. Create and be creative for worship- write a hymn, paint an icon, rehearse my chant.
    4. Keep my ministry from being constrained by class, race, etc.

    What is your list?

  3. Just out of curiosity when you say Cambridge do you mean a place in America or England... if you mean England you might be a physical neighbor as well as a neighbor in cyberspace.