Preach Green, Teach Green, Save the World June 30, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Stewardship.
Tags: Environment, Stewardship
We’re obviously in the midst of a “green” movement — but so what? I listen to the ongoing debate about “global warming” and it gives me a headache. The fate of the planet has been turned into a political playground, where “experts” on each side wastes an incredible amount of time and energy trying to disprove the other side’s argument. Waste of time and energy? You bet, because all the rhetoric and game playing completely misses the point. Let me illustrate with a (made up) parable:
A couple decide they want to summer in Europe, so they hire a house-sitter to care for their home in their absence. Generously, they fill the house with fine foods, wine, nice stereo and video equipment, expensive decorations, make sure the swimming pool will be kept clean, that the sportscar is tuned up and ready to go, and tell the house-sitter to make herself at home and enjoy all the fruits of the household. A pair of her friends find out what a sweet deal she has so they invite themselves over, and one suggests it might be a perfect time for a massive party. The other isn’t so sure. The first friend wants to eat all the food, drink all the wine, crank up the stereo, and get as wild as possible while the good times can last. The second friend thinks it might be a little irresponsible to take advantage of the generosity of the householders — especially behind their backs. The house-sitter reminds both of them that nothing has ever been said about a party. Her job is to be a caretaker, and to make sure that everything is in good shape when the householders return. Her two friends ignore her and go on arguing about the party.
Writing a Money Autobiography June 29, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Uncategorized.
I get inquiries on a regular basis to reproduce the instructions I have given to writing a Money Autobiography. I thought it would be easiest to do so here. Hope you find this helpful. This is part of the process of helping people in your congregation develop a healthier relationship with money and material possessions.
Writing a money autobiography is a challenging and illuminating process that can be crucial to our ability to grow as Christian disciples and live faithfully as Christian stewards. While Christian stewardship always involves much more than money, our relationship to money and material possessions helps to define who we are, what we value, what we believe, and how we live. For much of our society, it is impossible to imagine a world without money.
All people of faith live in relationship to money and material wealth. As an issue of faith, Jesus speaks more about money than any other topic, save the Kingdom of God. More than prayer, more than sin, more than salvation, more than forgiveness or love, Jesus teaches and preaches about our relationship with money. This emphasis indicates that a healthy self-understanding about our relationship to money and possessions is essential if we are to realize our full potential as children of God. Trustworthiness in our relationship to money is a first step toward faithfulness in all things.
What is a Money Autobiography?
A money autobiography is a reflection process on the role and influence of money and material possessions in our life. It challenges us to explore the past to see how our attitudes, assumptions, and values were formed concerning money and wealth. The money autobiography provides a lens through which we examine how we manage money, and how money manages us. It allows us the opportunity to wrestle with our needs, wants, and desires and helps us understand the lifestyle choices we make. It can even help us set some priorities and goals for the future. What we pursue says a lot about who we are, and the way we order our priorities says a lot about what we believe.
A money autobiography can be any length – it may grow as the years progress. The questions provided are intended to stimulate your thinking and provoke deep response. Feelings are as important as thoughts. Don’t try to analyze your thinking so much as capture the thoughts as feelings as they emerge. You will have time to reflect on your answers in more depth later. As you encounter the questions, pay attention to your first reactions, and the feelings you encounter. Allow yourself to “re-experience” some of the significant money events of your past and present life.
The money autobiography is a tool for your benefit. No one else needs to see what you have written, however, many people have found that sharing their autobiography with a close friend, counselor, pastor, or teacher is particularly beneficial. An objective set of eyes may see what we do not, and often the next, deeper level of exploration comes through the incisive and insightful questions of another person. Your decision to share this information is left to your discretion.
Pancake Parallels June 27, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Congregational Life, Devotional Reflection.
Tags: spiritual practices
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Fifty-five years ago the United States was deep into The Cold War. Paranoia, patriotism, and poor communication combined to allow such bizarre and embarrassing phenomena as McCarthyism and backyard bomb shelters. Our government, in an effort to protect and defend the American public, launched into a research frenzy — looking to find any and every way to keep John and Jane Q. Public safe. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to insure our competitive advantage over the Commies. Of the thousands of studies, none perhaps was more vital to our way of life than the U.S. Government Study on the Consumption of Pancakes. The final 1954 report — 656 pages, with an additional 71 pages of footnotes and citations — rests in some dusty archive somewhere, but I stumbled across an abstract of the study and share here some highlights, focusing on parallels that I believe may apply to congregational life in The United Methodist Church. Please keep in mind that the report on Pancakes is 55 years old, but, hey, some things never change.
Who eats pancakes? — In 1954, 99% of people in the United States reported having eaten a pancake at least once in their lifetime. 81% claimed that they liked them — 5% saying that pancakes were one of their “favorite foods” — 7% saying they did not eat them/did not enjoy them, and approximately 11% reporting indifference. 22% reported having pancakes at least once a week. Compare this with the church. Approximately 98% of Americans claim they have been in a church at least once in their life; about 80% claiming membership or regular affiliation with church, mosque, or synagogue. About 8% of our population claims “never to attend church services,” and 4% not to believe in God or a divine power. Approximately 11% report indifference, and just under 1-in-4 Christians (23.8%) attend church once a week.
Children of God: Childlike or Childish? June 25, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community
Overheard, two pastors talking:
Well, if this amendment passes, I can tell you one thing. My church isn’t going to pay its apportionments this year!
What? You mean if you disagree with the decision you’d withhold apportionments? That’s kind of childish, isn’t it?
Hey, I’m not childish. I’m childlike.
Um, no, you’re childish. The “if I can’t have my way I will hold my breath till I turn blue” school of thought simply isn’t an option for the 5-and-older crowd. It’s like confusing innocence and ignorance, or simple with simplistic. Bad behavior doesn’t become good behavior just because we mislabel it. There is a lot of childish behavior in the church. Jesus injunction, “Unless you become like one of these little children you cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” is an invitation to an openness, purity, and trust that we are born with, not permission to act like spoiled brats.
The Care and Feeding of Faithful Stewards June 24, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Congregational Life, Stewardship.
Tags: Christian discipleship, spiritual practices, Stewardship
Stewardship is both a worldview and a practice. Stewardship is a way of relating to God’s creation, not simply something we do in and for the church. Stewardship is about how we choose to live our Christian faith in the world.
The concept of Christian stewardship was so corrupted and co-opted during the twentieth century that many faithful churchgoers cringe when they hear it mentioned. For most mainline Christians, stewardship is nothing more than an annual fall campaign to raise money. While the wise and faithful use of money is one element of good stewardship, it is by no means the most important. Since the concept of stewardship suffers such distortion, it helps to reframe the discussion from “what is faithful stewardship?” to “what does it mean to be a faithful steward?”
One foundational image of a steward comes from the gospel story (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-27) of the landholder going on a journey and entrusting his wealth to his servants. The two gospel accounts are very different stories with the same message – God has high expectations for the way we use what we have been given. This, at the core, is what it means to be a faithful steward: God is a generous giver of multiple gifts, we are created in the image of God, therefore God expects us to be generous givers as well.
How Good Is Your Vision? June 23, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Vision.
Tags: Church Leadership
Look at the following images. Which one most resembles your vision for mission and ministry in the church?
There are visions, then there are visions. Let’s take a look at the various types of vision in our church and what impact they have on our overall effectiveness.
Been There, Done That June 22, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Personal Reflection, Seeker spirituality.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Spiritual seekers
I wonder how many United Methodists are simply tired and bored with the same old, same old? There is a growing dual attitude about our churches that is important to note: some feel that we are irrelevant while others feel that we are little more than boring. Not everyone. I wouldn’t be so bold as to say the majority are disillusioned, but a growing minority certainly are. Those leaving our denomination are extremely critical that we don’t make a difference in the world. Those outside our denomination are even more emphatic. For a large portion of those familiar with The United Methodist Church, there is a powerful sense that we don’t matter very much.
This is sad. Our potential is great. Look at Our Theological Task and our Social Principles. Look at our mission. Look at the priorities our bishops have lifted before us. We should matter. How disappointing that so many think we don’t.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? June 21, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Core Values, Mission of the Church, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: church, Mission & Purpose, Religious Trends
This is the reprint of an article that appeared in The Wittenberg Door (September/October 2007), Alive Now! and on the General Board of Discipleship website, and a sequel to yesterday’s, The Church in the Plastic Bubble. Since I wrote the original article, I discovered that this is not an aberration, but an industry. People-proofing churches (from “those” people) has become popular sport in our Christian culture. Additionally, I’ve encountered church ushers trained in martial arts, fire arms, and anti-terrorist protocols. Some churches now hire armed guards. Sales of security systems to churches increase, even in a tough economy. For me, it raises some serious questions about what we have let the church become, but here is the early encounter I entitled, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
(The following is a somewhat surreal conversation I had with a woman who struck up a conversation with me in a Madison, Wisconsin coffee shop. Her quotes were captured on my nifty little digital recorder, and are shared verbatim. This is an op-ed piece – a reaction to what may be a disturbing trend in our church world in the 21st century. It is intended as a think piece, and I am very interested in your views – maybe I am over-reacting…)
Is the world becoming a more or less hostile place? Who ‘belongs’ to a community and who doesn’t? Are the poor and marginalized our brothers and sisters for whom we have responsibility or are they merely a problem to be solved? There are no simple answers to these questions, but for Christians it is assumed that they are easy questions to answer. The world is a broken place with all kinds of problems and the church exists to address problems, but to include all people (especially the poor and marginalized) as part of the solution. We have a responsibility to all God’s people, no matter who they are or where they live or what their life circumstances are… right? And we want nothing more than to create congregational environments that personify the highest ideals of “open hearts, open minds, open doors”… are we on the same page?
The Church in the Plastic Bubble June 20, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Mission of the Church, Personal Reflection, serving those in need.
Tags: church, Mission & Purpose
A week ago I posted a blog entitled, Driven to Abstraction, where I shared a story of a young pastor disillusioned with his congregation after they refused to accept the presence of homeless people in their midst. Today I received an email that I know was meant to be helpful, but it put me in a rage and I have been wrestling with it all day. While I understand and sympathize with some of the points made, in the end I find it to be a perfect example of much of what is wrong with the church today. What I draw from it is that the church is more driven by fear than faith, safety than service, comfort than taking risks, and providing programs than creating community. Perhaps I am too hard on this pastor. You decide.
The Happy, Happy Hornet’s Nest June 19, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Religion in the U.S., Seeker spirituality, Spiritual Trends.
Tags: Religious Trends, Spiritual seekers
Man, what a can of worms! In two days I have received over 30 emails “helping” me to understand:
- the emergent movement
- the emerging church
- Emergent Village
- the emergent church
- The Emerging Church
- the emerging movement
- the Emergent Church
- the emerging and missional church
- The Missional Church
- emerging spirituality
And none of them are talking about the same thing…
This — actually — was my point. It’s what I meant by a label without a referent. I could have said a subject without an object, or perhaps most accurately a signifier without a signified. After the onslaught of emails, I am more convinced than ever that this is a prime example of the worst of post-modernism: whatever you want something to be, it is.
Which is not all bad. I want to emphasize again that whatever we call this mess that has been happening for the past forty-five years, it has offered real positive value to the church of Jesus Christ. Anything that challenges the status quo is worthwhile, as long as it is not dismissive or destructive.
My Australian friends write that the emergent movement of the early 1980s never got out of Australia in tact. I can affirm that. When I first encountered the term, it was 1982, and those Australians that led the movement were fed up with organized religion. By the late 1980s, the emergent movement had already been usurped by organized churches in Aussieland. When I first encountered it in the U.S., it was in Lodi, New Jersey in 1986, where a young man named Seth Perry gathered together a small community of people “not good enough” for organized religion. His group of a handful of social outcasts joined together to form a spiritual community focused on “prayer, mercy, and justice,” and did more to help the poor and marginalized than any ten established churches put together. Seth’s description of the church always stayed with me — “ours is a community of true Christian believers, emergent from the ashes of the failed church.” He was deeply influenced by Mark Pierson, though he grew disillusioned with Pierson before his death from an AIDs compromised immune system in 1989.
Emergent went underground for awhile — with a few faithful people hanging on. It apparently hit the big time in the U.S. with the launch of Emergent Village, but like a shattered glass, shards seem to have spread in many directions — thus the flood of emails.
There is no consensus on what emergent/emerging, or any of the derivations, means. Or, perhaps, more accurately, it means anything you want it to. Different people define it different ways, and an incredible amount of energy is expended in trying to establish the “orthodox” definition of this unorthodox phenomenon.
There is great passion among the competing camps (and to be fair, many people associated with the morass deny that it is a “church,” “movement,” or even a “phenomenon.”) Lots of people seem to be in denial that this is just the newest aspect of the old, old story, but there has never been an era in Christian history that has not provided a parallel.
As has ever been, shall always be — the real value of whatever this is is that it challenges the church that “is” to take a look at what it “should be,” and there is nothing at all wrong with that. I believe this is why it has been readily assimilated and accommodated by so many in the mainline. It touches the deep dissatisfaction that many within the institution feel about the institution. It is nothing new, and it will occur again and again (because we seem incapable of learning from our mistakes…), but it will always remind us that there is more to church than organization, activities, worship services, and committees. God bless the emergent, emerging, house church, ancient-future — and all the other malcontents. Hold our feet to the fire… and don’t worry too much about labels and titles. Therein lies the path to “been there, done that.” Be what you are, and help us be what we should be. Thanks.
Check out United Methodist Emergent-cy for more background on this post.