Devaluation June 29, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church growth, Congregational Life, Core Values, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Church growth, Church Leadership, Church membership
We’ll take anybody. We don’t even require membership classes anymore. Nobody has the time, and most of the people who join our church are coming from other churches, anyway. We ask at the end of every service if there is anyone who wishes to join, they come forward, and we ask if they believe in God and as Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If they say “yes,” they’re in. Our numbers are way up because of it.
The above paraphrase, comes from a recent conversation I had with one pastor, but it is representative of a large (and possibly growing?) segment of our church. It reflects the “low-cost/high-benefit” mentality of most of American consumer culture, but is it appropriate in the church. I say “no,” but there are an awful lot who say “yes.”
It isn’t about rules and regulations and keeping people out. It is about making it as simple as possible for people to enter the family of God.
This pastor speaks for those who believe no one should be denied, and that church membership is of secondary importance to Christian community. Her comment points out the gatekeeper role of the local congregation and reflects a broad sentiment that any person who wants to say “yes” to Jesus Christ should not only be allowed to do so, but should be helped along in whatever way possible.
I don’t disagree that we should be an open gate — but a gate still implies a boundary; something that distinguishes those who say “yes,” from those who have no interest. For me, there is a huge difference between making something simple and making it meaningless. I believe that many of our attempts to make Christianity simple have done little more than devalue the Christian life, resulting in an insipid, passive, and unproductive faith.
Make Us One, Lord June 24, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Core Values, Devotional Reflection, Spiritual Diversity.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication
I used a hymn at this year’s annual conference that I wrote the words to about 20 years ago when I was charged with merging two congregations that didn’t really want to merge. There was loads of competition and strife, so I wrote this song as a call for unity. When our annual conference decided to hold conversations around our church and homosexuality, I pulled it out, dusted it off, and gave it its second public airing. I don’t know what impact it had on unity, but I have received a number of requests asking where people can obtain a copy of the words, so I thought I would post it here. This posting comes with permission to use it and reprint it, but with proper credit. (It is copyrighted.) Even if you don’t care to use it, I offer it as a poetic devotion, calling us as Christian brothers and sisters to a deeper commitment to respect, civility, harmony, compassion and common courtesy in all of our dealings — with each other, and with all God sends our way. Peace.
Make Us One, Lord
(to the tune of Holy Spirit, Truth Divine)
Make us one, Lord, make us one
Guide us by your love and grace
As we seek to do your will
Let your Spirit fill this space
Make us one, Lord, make us one
Let your peace and patience reign
Help us speak our thoughts in love
Without causing others pain
Make us one, Lord, make us one
Gentle, faithful, truthful, kind
By your presence help us guard
Every precious heart and mind
Make us one, Lord, make us one
Shift our focus to your will
Shape our future by your hand
Our true potential to fulfill.
Music: Adapt. from Orlando Gibbons, 1623
Words: Dan R. Dick, 1989
Fruit Smoothie June 21, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Devotional Reflection.
Tags: Biblical interpretation, Christian Community, Christian discipleship
I have been working on a sermon for this coming weekend and I have been doing a lot of thinking about the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Spiritual gifts, graces and fruit have been an interest of mine for some time (check out Equipped for Every Good Work and Beyond Money… if you can still find copies, since they are both now out of print) but each time I come back to lists of gifts or fruit, I start thinking about them in new (or at least different) ways. Paul lists nine signs (evidence) of true spirituality in Galatians. Christians will be known by their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Love is agape – that wondrous, unselfish, all-encompassing, non-judgmental, unconditional love that most of us cannot possibly understand (because we want to withhold it from so many…). Joy is chara – unbounded exuberance and sense of well-being. Peace is eirene – either absolute balance and calm or the total absence of discord. Patience is makrothumia – which means “far-feeling” or tolerance, perseverance, long-suffering, or putting up with discomfort. Kindness is chrestotes – servant-like compassion and care extended to others, especially the stranger (what we often mean by “hospitality” today). Agathosune means doing for others, a form of charity — goodness in outward and tangible gifts and service — true generosity of heart and action. Faithfulness is pistis – hardcore belief and unwavering adherence to the highest values of holy living, those who are completely devoted to God. Gentleness is praotes – the humble acknowledgement that others are as good as, if not better than, we are — and that all those created in the image of God deserve respect and care. Self-control is egkrateia – literally “in-holding,” it means keeping it together and not allowing one’s emotions to run wild. Each of these Greek terms can be translated a number of ways, which makes their study rich and rewarding.
The Day After June 17, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Annual Conference, Christian Community, The United Methodist Church
Well, Wisconsin Annual Conference, Session the 41st, ended yesterday. Tracking all my rookie mistakes — this being my first year organizing the agenda for conference in my role as DCM (Director of Connectional Ministries) — I can proudly say I only made a few, and a couple of them were of ignorance rather than poor performance. Now, others might have a very different opinion. What I feel good about, others may be disappointed by. That’s the nature of things. But having a day of “detox” from the madness of the past four days, I am mulling over three things.
AC/DC June 12, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, The United Methodist Church, Trust, Values
Where is the power and energy at Annual Conference this year? I am not talking about any one Annual Conference — I’m talking about all of them. Is our energy toward building, creating, forming, bridging, healing, mending, bonding, uniting, and becoming? Or is it about conflict, controversy, contention, competition, factions, divisions, agendas, and egos? Oh, I know, it’s both — but I’m talking about our intentions. I am talking about the decisions we make going in. Are we going in as positive forces for transformation or negative forces for getting our own way? Are we going in open to possibilities or are we going in loaded for bear to champion a personal cause? Are we seeking to solve problems or create new ones? Each person has to make up her or his own mind about what kind of attitude and approach she or he will take. Where is our energy?
Let’s Be Clear June 9, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Communication, Faith Sharing
- you’re not the kind of example I would expect from The United Methodist Church.
- I have never heard such nonsense about the church before.
- The kind of change you’re talking about would make us a completely different church.
Are these three sentences (each lifted from an email I just received this morning) positive or negative; praising or condemning? The first two are (apparently) praise, the third angry — though without tone, inflection, facial expression, cadence and other cues, it took me awhile to catch on. The first woman commends me later in her email as being “a breath of fresh air in a stale, musty church,” though she also earlier said, “I’m not sure where you get some of your ideas from,” and “what do you think would happen if we threw away all our time-tested beliefs?”, so I wasn’t really sure whether she was happy with me or not…
The Lost Discipline June 5, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Values
Okay. Blog vacation over. I’m back. I have been unbelievably busy for the past two weeks, but am now going to get back to my two-to-three blog a week schedule. I’m sure you are all relieved…
I have tried in the past couple weeks to keep my thoughts to myself and to simply observe. And here is what I have observed. Of all the Christian disciplines and instructions of Jesus and Paul, one seems to be lost — hopefully not irrevocably. That discipline is: humility.
Could Christians — or more specifically any one Christian — be wrong? Has our “faith” become entrenched, incontestable, unapproachable dogma? I have been privy to various “conversations” between Christians, and the one characteristic painfully absent has been any measure of humility. What happened to not being haughty? What happened to considering others better than ourselves? What happened to the faintest trace of civility and kindness? Oh, many couch their comments in acidic forms of tolerance, but real humility? Not so much.