Methodist to the Core April 29, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Church membership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the General Board of Discipleship championed an effort to get The United Methodist Church to focus on ¶122 of the Book of Discipline — “The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission”or, the core process of our church. (This has also been called “Our Primary Task.”) Known variously as Quest for Quality, Quest, and FaithQuest, these efforts helped the denomination better understand the then mission of the church “making disciples of Jesus Christ.” In the era of the expanded mission statement (…for the transformation of the world) it is well to return to ¶122 and see how well we’re doing. Here’s the passage in its entirety:
¶ 122. The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission—We make disciples as we:
—proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ;
—lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;
—nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;
—send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and
—continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.
Turning One April 29, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Personal Reflection.
Tags: grace, new beginnings
Today is my birthday. One year ago I celebrated the half-century milestone, and at the time, things were looking fantastic. If 50 is the new 40, then life begins at the big five-oh, and for me it certainly started off that way. My book Vital Signs was doing great, and I was receiving very positive feedback from churches and conferences around the United States as well as from England, Australia, Canada, and South Africa. I was launching sixnew research efforts with an incredibly capable team of volunteers nation-wide, and I was being invited by other boards and agencies to share my research with them. My GBOD blog was gaining a follower-ship, and was receiving widespread praise. I was awaiting the release of my first book with Abingdon Press, Bursting the Bubble, and I had upcoming articles in Lectionary Homiletics, Circuit Rider, and Clergy Journal. The General Board of Discipleship was restructuring, and it looked as though my research office would begin serving Path One and the Division on Ministry to Young People as well as Discipleship Ministries. In the spring I received wonderful praise from all levels of the church for my work:
- from a seminary professor — “Vital Signs is the best book on The United Methodist Church in over a decade. I am making it required reading of all my students.”
- from a retired bishop — “It gladdens my heart to see the work you are doing for the denomination. You are doing some of the most important work anywhere in the church.”
- from a current bishop — “What you are writing is more than valuable. You are one of the few truly prophetic voices in our church today.”
What Do You Think ReThink is Thinking? April 28, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church
The prefix “re” usually implies “again,” — return, turn again; review, view again; regain, gain again; reframe, frame again – so in the case of ReThink Church, the implication is that we have thought church through at least once. (It doesn’t work so well with regret, gret again?, rebate, bate again?, rebut, but again???) Upon reflection, some believe it is time to rethink church — to take a careful look at what we’ve got and ask the question, “is this the best we can do?” The deeper question is, “are we really re-thinking or just dressing up the same old thing so it looks different?” As with most things in life, the answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
ReThink Church is a branding package — a promotional ploy to update and/or replace the problematic “open hearts/minds/doors” sound bite of Igniting Ministry — designed to get more people to want to join The United Methodist Church. To this extent, it is simply same-old, same-old — nothing new, just a retread. If it becomes nothing more than a pleasant website and a logo on a bumper sticker or a coffee mug, then we’re no further along than we’ve been with whatever Ministries we’ve Ignited over the past eight years. Each time I visit the website, I come away dismayed that there really isn’t anything new or innovative. It seems to me to be a fresh coat of paint on the old, familiar structure. To me, and I emphasize that this is (as always) just a personal opinion, it smacks of the tired “Venus fly-trap” approach to snagging young people to bolster the sagging attendance stats of the UMC. So much is geared to getting people in our doors — the main foundation of the “institutional preservation paradigm” of our denomination.
Flatline or Learning Curve? April 27, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Critical Thinking, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: anti-intellectualism, The United Methodist Church
In medical jargon, “to flatline” means “to die.” In educational and developmental circles, a “learning curve” indicates the challenge to recognize, adopt, and master new information. If something is simple, the learning curve is gently sloped and short, but if there is a lot of new and/or complex information to learn in a short time frame, the learning curve is vertically steep. Obviously, you learn nothing if you are dead (no, this is not a theological statement, I am speaking purely at the earthly level here…) and you sometimes overload and learn little if the curve is too steep. But what definition do we use if we confront the same information and experiences over and over again across a number of years, and seemingly learn nothing? The United Methodist Church isn’t dead, but it does seem to have a monumental learning disorder. There isn’t a clear term for what we experience, so, might I suggest something a bit Suessian/Wonkaish? How about “fantabulous obliviousity?”
Amendment 1 and the Temple of Doom April 24, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Congregational Life, Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: church, Church membership, Religious Trends
Inclusiveness of the Church — The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth and that we are in ministry to all. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status or economic condition who seek relationship in Jesus Christ shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection. In the United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition .
I am always amazed at how we United Methodists can waste precious time and energy on some issues, while ignoring the truly important issues of our age. Each time we try to cast a truly transformative and global vision, special interest groups — both liberal and conservative, progressive and regressive — rouse the rabble to distraction. In our history, debt, war, racism, and sexism have all had their day, so the misdirection de jour is (whisper it…) homosexuality. Yes, up front, let’s all admit that homosexuality is named in scripture as a sin — right alongside lending or borrowing money at interest, bearing false witness, divorce, etc., etc., ad nauseum. We cannot deny it is there. We also cannot deny that slavery is perfectly acceptable. In case you haven’t noticed, the Bible was written a long time ago to a pre-modern, Middle-Eastern culture. Sociologists and anthropologists have thrown a great deal of light on primitive views of homosexuality, chief among them that in early cultures with a prime agenda of growth, expansion, and conquest (such as, oh say, the Hebrew people), homosexuality served no good communal purpose. Therefore its immorality was not reduced to prudish sexuality, but the much greater “sin” of denying the needs of the larger community. But, apparently, we don’t want to deal with the spiritual issue in context. It isn’t about truth anymore. It is an emotional argument where one side wants to defeat the other side. We frame it as a “sin” issue, but that’s ridiculous. In Maxie Dunnam’s recent video appearance (check it out on Shane Raynor’s, Wesley Report, he reminds us that the grace of God only extends so far, and that it is up to us United Methodists to decide who is worthy and who is not. He doesn’t limit his concerns to just homosexuals, but to wife beaters and pedophiles as well. It is nice to know that if you become Christian first, then a sinner you’re safe, but if you are a sinner before joining, the church wants nothing to do with you…
A Tale of Three Paradigms April 23, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Critical Thinking, Religion in the U.S., Spiritual Trends.
Tags: Mission & Purpose, Religious Trends
Once upon a time, Christians in the United States rushed to build church buildings anywhere and everywhere they could — especially close to other churches who didn’t quite worship God the right way. There was a flurry of competition, with new “independent,” “non-denominational,” “alternative” groups joining the mix each and every year. We Christians were so successful with our building and expansion that building became our focus. Spreading the gospel gave way to spreading a particular “brand” of the gospel which then gave way to spreading as much of our brand of the gospel as possible. Another way to phrase it is that “institutional establishment” evolved into “institutional expansion” which resulted in a commitment to “institutional preservation” — which is where we find ourselves today in our mainline Protestant churches.
Reflections on Earth Day April 22, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Devotional Reflection, Personal Reflection, Stewardship.
Tags: ecology, spiritual practices, Stewardship
1 comment so far
Back when I was a lad, we used to celebrate Arbor Day — a day when we were simply encouraged to plant a tree. My Sunday school teacher — the ancient and slightly scary, Miss Hattie Hack — dutifully took us outside the first Sunday after Arbor Day to plant a sapling. Miss Hack solemnly said a prayer over the spindly stick we planted, invoking God’s protective love to nurture and strengthen our little tree. The fact that our sapling always died by summer’s end in no way diminished the connection Miss Hack made in the hearts and minds of her little charges — growing things were holy and beloved of God.
This doesn’t seem like such a difficult concept to grasp, but I am amazed at how resistant many people are to it. It has been heartening to see the recent advances in the Green movement, but it still is featured as somehow exceptional. Taking care of the earth isn’t something we are all committed to, but is something we have to work at. I have a friend who told me recently that she, “remembered how much fun the ecology movement of the 70s was, but that it didn’t last.” I wonder if our current fervor will become the norm, or if it isn’t one more in a long line of Gaia fads we embrace every decade or so.
Do United Methodists Want to BE Disciples? April 21, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Congregational Life, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Religious Trends, The United Methodist Church
In 1996, The United Methodist Church clarified and refined its mission to be “making disciples of Jesus Christ.” Twelve years later, it amended the mission to include “for the transformation of the world.” In essence and in fact, we have declared that our reason for existing is to form, equip, empower, and encourage Christian believers to live as Christian disciples in the world, so that the world might be changed and come to more closely resemble the realm (kingdom) of God. This is an ambitious declaration. It is not enough to nurture people, to strengthen them, to teach them Good News, to offer them a panoply of services and programs — our primary and defining purpose is transformation — to make disciples out of mere believers. To take this seriously, most of our congregations must make a painful and laborious shift from ‘Christian service provider’ to ‘disciple making system.’
But the prior question is simply this: do United Methodists really want to be Christian disciples?
No Future for Leadership? April 20, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Critical Thinking, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: Church Leadership
A number of interesting studies and articles – from sources as diverse as Harvard Business Review to Wired magazine to The Economist to Rolling Stone – focus on a growing short-sightedness and reactionary quality to organizational leadership. Many companies (…The United Methodist Church aptly fits the category) are focusing the vast majority of their attention and resources on management functions, leaving the visionary and futuring work grossly under developed. The short-term impact is a flurry of activity to rearrange assets, staff, programs and structures that yields very little positive long-term impact. Analysis of this trend reveals three simple explanations. First, managing functions are simpler and easier than visioning and futuring functions. Second, a growing number of people in leadership positions arrived there because of their management skills. And third, the booming consultation field has erroneously led many organizations to “hire” visioning and futuring “experts” to do the work for them. The combination of these three factors is producing disastrous results.
Cynicalamity (Why I Blog) April 18, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Personal Reflection.
I got mine today — here are some excerpts from an email I received:
Why do you have to be so negative about everything? If you hate the Methodist church so much, why don’t you just leave it?
Every article you write accuses the church of failing, of screwing up, of making mistakes, and of blowing it. Do you really think you are so much smarter than everyone else that you know more about the church than the experts? There is no way that we’re all doing as poorly as you think we do.
You are saying things about religion and the church that absolutely no one else is saying. There is a good reason for that. What you’re saying isn’t true. We do know why we worship. We do think communion is important. We do pray and study the Bible. And we do have “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” I don’t know what churches you’re looking at, but the churches in my conference are doing just fine.