Make-No-Wave United Methodist Church September 30, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Congregational Life, Core Values, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, church, Church membership, Mission & Purpose
I received an interesting email from a pastor today who “followed my advice” and raised questions about expectations and accountability in the church. He asked the “what is the church?” and “what is the church for?” questions, and zeroed in on what our membership vows really mean. He was shocked when the chair of the church council responded by saying, “well, we don’t have time to talk about this now. We have church business we need to deal with.” Later that evening, the chair of SPRC (Staff-Parish Relations Committee) called to schedule an appointment — “We need to talk. As soon as possible.” The pastor was surprised early the next morning when the SPRC chair, the Lay Leader, the church Council chair, and the head of Trustees all showed up together. The conversation went something like this (church leadership in bold; pastor normal type):
Talk Is Cheap (Not Talking Is Costly) September 17, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian Education, Congregational Life, Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Christian Education, Giving & Generosity, Money and the Church, Stewardship
A pressing concern of many of our congregations is a lack of funds. I know you’re surprised, but money is a concern in many of our local churches. But, I’m going to let you in on a simple, yet very important secret. There is a simple, low-cost solution to most of our financial woes: we need to ask for more money from the people who have given their lives to Christ. The time has come to make sure people know that Christian discipleship impacts our entire life, including our wallet, pocketbook and checkbook. Myths about money and spirituality have been allowed to run wild, taking on the appearance of truth, but these myths are slowly (and not so slowly) killing many of our churches. Leadership requires that we sometimes challenge the conventional wisdom and speak the truth in love. Let’s destroy some myths, shall we?
Teach September 15, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian Education, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship, The Bible.
Tags: Christian Education, Communication, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship
I may get blasted on this. That’s okay. I am sharing almost twenty years of similar responses here, and I think we — especially clergy — need to listen. Laity across the United Methodist Church are sending four messages loud and clear: prayer, stewardship, evangelism and Bible are NOT being taught in our churches. We are assuming that people know these things. Yet, it is clear that our church is in danger of extinction because these four things (at the very least) are not being taught. In our fever to grow, get new people, build more buildings, pay our bills, and keep up with the newest 7 Steps, 12 Keys, 40 Days programs we have drifted from the basics. We have cultivated a Christian culture of biblically illiterate, nominally connected, scarcity-minded, non-evangelicals.
In Wisconsin I have continued to ask the same questions I did across the denomination for the 14+ years I worked for the General Board of Discipleship. Essentially, I ask lay people how well equipped they are to grow in their spirituality and their discipleship. The vast majority do not remember the last time anyone taught about prayer in the church. Most cannot remember the last time anyone encouraged them to pray. Many are aware that there is a “prayer circle” or “prayer chain” in their church, but they don’t know how it works. Four-out-of-five United Methodists can’t tell you the difference between intercessory prayer, confession, petition, and they don’t know what a doxology or benediction are. Small matter? Maybe, but they are indicators of the more fundamental issue. United Methodists don’t pray much at all. Over 50% don’t think prayer is very important to their faith, and as indicated in an earlier post, many simply are “too busy” to pray on a regular basis. Almost 40% admit that they really “don’t know how to pray” or don’t know “if I do it right.”
Too Busy September 13, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Core Values, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: Christian discipleship, Values
Meeting with a group of clergy last Thursday, the conversation turned to prayer and the idea of teaching people to pray. There was general consensus that prayer is a good thing, but it became quickly evident that most in the group view prayer as something we “have” to do rather than something we “get” to do. The concept of spiritual discipline equals burden (instead of privilege or opportunity) in most minds. When it came to talking about helping lay people develop a discipline of prayer, the general opinion was that people are “too busy” to pray. Think about this for a minute. What assumptions are contained in this sentiment? First, prayer must be of lesser importance than other things — like lunch, naps, the Packers game, work, school, sports, etc. Second, there is a cumbersome time commitment involved — are we too busy for a five-minute prayer a few times a day? 30 minutes? an hour? We might be too busy to spend the entire day praying, but too busy even for grace before meals? Third, it would be a waste of time to teach people to do something they won’t do — ignoring the fact that generally people don’t devote a great deal of time to things they have never been taught. A bit of a vicious cycle here.
Two days later, my wife and I taught a Disciple Bible Study training session. When we talked about the challenges of the study, an almost universal complaint was that people will not devote 34 weeks of their lives to studying the Bible — especially when it demands daily Bible reading and reflection. Once again, the “too busy” demon reared its ugly head — Disciple “doesn’t fit” into people’s busy lives. There is no doubt this is true — you cannot add an hour of daily Bible study to an already packed schedule. If you add an hour of Bible study, you have to give up an hour of something else (watching TV, surfing the net, talking on the phone, an extra hours sleep). But the “too busy” claim simply means there are other things we would rather be doing.
Lest We Forget September 10, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S..
Nine years after the tragic attacks on 9/11, what have we learned? Have we learned to folly of fanatical expressions of our religious faith? Have we learned that turning whole cultures of people into an enemy is short-sighted and stupid? Have we developed a deeper awareness of other faith’s, extending hands of friendship and fellowship to create peace- and grace-filled relationships? There is a strong sense that America is actually less tolerant today than nine year’s ago. The current furor over burning the Koran (thank God, literally, that this isn’t happening after all…) is just the latest indication that getting along with others is not really a core Christian value. Nope, we seem to have a need to win, to be right, to be superior, and to punish any and all who disagree with us.
So how does this make us different from those we rush to condemn? Almost a decade ago, a fringe segment of a radical terrorist movement committed atrocities in the name of God. Immediately, voices around the world condemned these acts, including a majority of Islamic leaders and practicing Muslims. The acts of terrorism were not the will of Allah, nor were they the desire of the majority of faithful Muslims. They were the acts of some troubled and twisted minds, led astray and deluded as to what true faith is all about.
Multiple Choice September 8, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Evangelism, Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: anti-intellectualism, Evangelism, hypocrisy
I want to choose #1, but in light of the current news about an evangelical whack-job in Florida who wants to commemorate September 11 with the burning of the Koran, I am leaning toward one of the other three options. Once again, I am flabbergasted at the narrow-minded intolerance of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I get the fact that whole religions are judged solely on the actions of a few fringe elements — that’s the point. Many American Christians think they know all about Islam because of a segment of terrorists who claimed they were acting in the name of Allah. Now, many people will think Christianity is all about religious intolerance because of our own segment of terrorists claiming they are doing some holy thing. It makes me sick. It makes me sad. It makes me ashamed.
Holidanger September 3, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S., U.S. Culture.
Tags: Faith Sharing, Holidays, Values
On the cusp of the Labor Day weekend, a memory came to me of an odd — crazy — man in my neighborhood growing up who vehemently believed holidays were evil and unChristian. Harold McKeever was one of those perennial “old men” — my mother remembered him being old when she was a teenager — who neighborhood kids loved to torment because we could get such a rise out of him. He was a fist-shaker and cursed at the top of his lungs some of the most creative and disgusting threats imaginable. What a treat! Every public holiday, Mr. McKeever would phone the police to report his neighbors for disturbing the peace with cook-outs, picnics, family gatherings, littering (putting pumpkins, corn, reindeer, religious figures, hearts, etc. out as decorations), and explosives (Fourth of July). When I was in college, I once stopped Mr. McKeever and asked him why he hated holidays so much. His answer was short and to the point: they aren’t in the Bible. In the faith that made sense to him, nothing not in the Bible was legitimate and should not be observed by “good Christians.” He noted that you could tell “good Christians” by their actions — many people claimed to be Christian, but if they observed holidays it was irrefutable evidence that they weren’t REALLY Christian.
I asked him about Christmas. He replied that if there was anything other than religious observance associated with it, then the people weren’t Christians. “True” Christians would not have Christmas trees, sing non-religious Christmas songs, watch Christmas shows on television, put up lights and decorations, etc. Such people “worship the world, not God.” This was news to me. I was a Christian and I put up a Christmas tree. I taught youth group and Sunday school and sang Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I went to Christmas Eve services and watched It’s A Wonderful Life. I never knew I wasn’t a real Christian. The fact that I also decorated at Halloween and gave out candy to neighborhood children sealed the deal. Mr. McKeever saw Halloween as proof that not only were Christians not real Christians, but that their real god was the DEVIL.
Who Do I Think I Am? September 1, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication, Values
This is a common question: who do you think you are? I get it all the time — probably more than most because I speak my mind and I speak with conviction. I have gotten three different “who do you think you are” emails this week. Here are excerpts from all three:
People like you make me sick, always twisting the gospel to serve your needs. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. It makes me angry when people like you try to lay a guilt trip on hard-working Americans, telling us to give away what we earn to people too lazy or too stupid to work for themselves. This isn’t what God wants. God wants us to make something of ourselves and not expect to be handed everything we want. There is a big difference between charity and being a chump. Liberals always miss the point. I can be kind and not give to the poor. I can be loving and not visit the sick. I can be good and not tolerate all the garbage of those around me.
You talk about unconditional love like it should be free and easy, that we should just look the other way and let anybody do whatever he wants to. There are people who don’t deserve any love. They are hateful and they are evil and they are beneath us. There are sinners who don’t ever want to stop their sin. There are murderers and rapists and thieves and politicians and bankers and homosexuals who are happy with what they do and they do not want to change and I do not think God wants us to love these people. You say we shouldn’t give up on them, but I say if you say these people are okay you are as bad as they are.
You expect way too much from Christians. Nobody has the time to pray and go to church and read the Bible like they once did. I think our churches have done a good job making faith simpler and easier for most normal people. I go when I can and I always get something out of it, but you talk about church and being disciples like it should be hard and only for professionals. You make it sound like we should be sorry that no one is trying to kill us for what we believe. Instead, I think you should celebrate how easy it is to be a Christian and how safe we are and how anyone can do it. We would be much better evangelists if we made it easier for people instead of harder. I think you make it way too hard. You evangelical religious right people always want to make a person’s religion everything about them.