Paradoxology July 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Core Values, Integrity, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, hypocrisy, Mission & Purpose, Values
Praise God from whom all blessings flow… But who deserves such blessing? The poor? Immigrants (especially those illegal ones!)? The sick (who can’t afford health care)? Anyone who disagrees with me on any of my core beliefs? There is a weird paradox at work when it comes to our views on who should be blessed by God. Those believing blessings are for all get labeled liberal, generally of the bleeding-heart variety. Those believing that blessings are a reward for right belief in behavior are horrified at the idea that from those who have much, much will be expected. We have even aligned our political postures and polemics around such differences of opinion. And should such conversations have financial implications — watch out. Many who have no problem with bread for the poor are fine as long as it isn’t their bread we’re talking about. Yet, when we speak in the broadest, most abstract terms, most people wish everyone in the world could know peace, justice, comfort, and security. Where does it all break down?
Christian Fruit Loops July 21, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Devotional Reflection, Mission of the Church.
Tags: church, Mission & Purpose
While this is fairly easy to find, people are constantly asking me for a “copy,” so I am posting it here again.
People who know me know that I am very big on fruit: the outward and visible manifestations of the faith we profess. James says it all when he reminds us that faith without works is dead. Furthermore, it is not enough just to produce fruit because until it feeds somebody it hasn’t filled its purpose. Fruit must nourish. Fruit must strengthen. Fruit contains that which is essential for health. And the fruit that we produce as the church is not to be hoarded and enjoyed by us. We produce this fruit and bear it to a starving, malnourished world, bringing sweetness and succulence to an all-too-often dry and bitter existence. The fruits — peace, patience, love, joy, kindness, generosity, self-control, faithfulness, and gentleness — should be the very first qualities that come to mind when people hear the word “Christian.”
A Cracked Crystal Ball July 20, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Core Values, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: The United Methodist Church, Vision
I will make a prediction that isn’t much of a prediction. It is a conjecture based on our current state of indecision, cluelessness, and self-defeating choices. Within the next few months some well-intentioned, short-sighted “leader” in our denomination will present a proposal for the consolidation and/or elimination of the general boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church. The reasons given will be efficiency, reduction of redundancy, elimination of waste, and concentration of focus and vision resulting in greater relevancy and value. The real reason will be to save a few dollars, but no one will say that’s WHY we’re doing it. The hope will be that everyone will miss/ignore the fundamental contradiction in a church wanting to “grow” downsizing its national/global infrastructure. What will not be clear is how the proposed change will actually make us better able to serve God and the church. What will be lacking is a clear rationale for why THIS change (whatever it might be) is the RIGHT change to make.
Tough Love/Tough Luck July 16, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Fellowship, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Faith Sharing, Unity
But the lesson which our blessed Lord inculcates here, and which he illustrates by this example, is that God is in all things, and that we are to see the Creator in the face of every creature; that we should use and look upon nothing as separate from God, which indeed is a kind of practical atheism; but with a true magnificence of thought survey heaven and earth and all that is therein as contained by God in the hallow of his hand, who by his intimate presence holds them all in being, who pervades and actuates the whole created frame, and is in a true sense the soul of the universe.”
Sermon 23, “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, III” I.11
I thought I would try to deflect criticism by blaming John Wesley (opening quote). It is obvious to me that many United Methodists refuse to accept such bleeding heart sentimentality. We certainly refuse to see God in people we don’t like or people who are different, but interestingly we seem only willing to recognize God in those who think, believe, and act as we do. Yes, even in the community of believers we choose to draw dividing lines and attack one another with insult, disrespect, indignity, slander and ill-will. Operating from our labels and categories, we seek to convert those who disagree with us, and if we cannot convert them we hope to eliminate them, and short of that, we will attempt to shame, humiliate, degrade, insult and discredit them — all in the name of Christian love. What a fabulous witness to the world!
And this is not a rational and practical condition. We can only live in a perpetual state of indignation if we work at it. We need to twist other people’s words and ascribe to them malicious intention. We go to great lengths to misunderstand and to take comments out of context in order to be outraged. We dig in our heals to defend our own positions with no intention of listening to anyone else’s side. Then we add insult to injury by “taking the high road” and inviting those we disrespect into “dialogue.”
Don’t get me wrong, dialogue is a significant part of our solution, but not dialogue designed to score points, prove superiority, tolerate those we feel are ignorant, or as a pretense for ‘Christian conferencing.” Deep understanding, reconciliation, unity, and a healthy environment for differences and disagreement don’t seem to be values on the table.
When the Means Mystify the Ends July 11, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Congregational Planning, Core Values, Evaluation and Assessment, Strategic Planning.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, Values
Tools are only as helpful as the knowledge available to employ them. Give a child a bandsaw and he is as likely to do great damage as any good. If we don’t understand something, it is very unlikely we will use it well. Case in point, our cultural lack of clarity of four essential tools: data, information, knowledge and wisdom. Simple definitions:
- data – a collection of individual facts, numbers, symbols, or images
- information — patterns culled from input of data that indicate arrangement of facts, statistics, or concepts to yield meaning
- knowledge — interpretation of information to produce understanding of what is useful, meaningful, valuable and/or true
- wisdom — the ability to retain, retrieve and apply knowledge in creative, constructive, and coherent ways
These four aspects of understanding are not identical, and we make some serious mistakes when we confuse them. Let me give two examples — one church development related, one disciple-making.
Finding What We Look For July 6, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Core Values, Evaluation and Assessment, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values, Vision
Scott Kline, a professional driver, managed to wreck a million-dollar prototype hybrid car when it was first being tested. When asked to explain what happened, Kline reported,
I got so engrossed looking at all the dials and gauges and screens on the dashboard that I forgot to look where I was going.
There is an important cautionary word in this for our church — as “dashboards” to count and measure and track become the new toy we get all excited about in the church, we need to remember that collecting data and monitoring statistics has virtually nothing to do with making disciples of Jesus Christ. You cannot evaluate quality by focusing on quantity.
Our new “Vital Congregations” emphasis has all the marks of steering us in the wrong direction. While its leaders talk about “goal setting” and “missional objectives,” the underlying message is that numbers are the ultimate indicator of health and vitality. Having high blood pressure, myself, I can attest to the fact that large numbers are not always to be desired. Having MORE people, small groups, projects, pastors, ministries, and money seems, on the surface, to be a good thing. However, there is an implicit given that must be taken into consideration, and that is a presumed quality. The presumption that our future growth will all be high quality denies our current reality: if we’re not doing very well with what we already have, it is highly unlikely we will do better with more. A few examples:
An Unlucky Parable July 2, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Uncategorized.
…excerpt from the recently discovered Gospel According to Bob (not a real gospel…)
Chapter 6, vss. 1-41
One day, the disciples noted Jesus deep in prayer. On occasion, Jesus would open his eyes, draw figures in the sand, then return to prayer. His reflections lasted many minutes. Finally, Simon (also called Peter) interrupted him, saying, “Master, you seem vexed and deeply concerned. Is there something we might help you with?” Jesus looked at Simon, sighed, and said, “I am indeed vexed. Our band has remained fixed at twelve for some time. I am thinking how we might expand.”
“You mean, add a disciple?” asked Peter (also called Simon)
“Well, no, at least two disciples. Thirteen would be unlucky. But we need to grow. Twelve just doesn’t seem like enough. The Midianites now have sixteen and the Peruzites have almost two dozen. I cannot seem to figure out what to do to get more disciples.” explained Jesus.
“Well, you could lower the expectations a mite,” muttered Judas. “Leave family and home, give everything away, take up your cross and follow me — a bit stiff, and not a big draw…”
“But we do well enough,” said Peter (a fan of Paul Simon) “Why do we need more?”
“More is better,” Jesus patiently explained. “Think how impressive a hoard of disciples would be.”
“But what about the sick and the poor? Preaching and teaching?” exclaimed Simon (a fan of Peter, Paul & Mary)
“Oh, they’ll still be here once we grow. And just think how much better we will serve them when there are more of us!”
“So, a small group is what, chopped liver? We can’t do your ministry because there are too few of us? We don’t have any resources?” asked Peter (Simonized)
“Well, I don’t mean that. You do fine. I just think it’s time to grow a bit. Focus on the numbers. The bigger we get, the better we get!”
“And so how do you propose attracting new disciples?’ asked John.
“Advertising!” shouted Jesus. “Look at all the empty sky around here. It just cries out for billboards. And look at this — I made it last night.”
John held a piece of parchment with a hook on the end. “Uhm, it’s nice, but what is it?”
“It’s a door-hanger,” proclaimed Jesus. “You put them on doorknobs, then run away.”
“What’s a doorknob?” asked Simon (with comprehension Petering out)
“Look. Never mind. Someday these will be big. What matters most is getting more people. I am certain the very next disciple we get will be the best one ever!” said Jesus.
“I doubt that,” chimed in Thomas. “And, by the way, we are already thirteen if you count You. I thought that was unlucky.”
“It probably will be for one of us. Anyway, come on it’s almost Passover and we need to get to Jerusalem,” remarked Jesus.