More-a-torium August 31, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church growth, Church Leadership, church marketing, Mission & Purpose, Values
Often we believe that if we do more of what does not work, it will finally work. This is the dilemma of the consumer economy. It leads us to the place where, when we reach a limit and still are unsatisfied, we think, if we only had more, we would be successful or satisfied. More police, more physicians, more services, more teachers, more stuff. This is not a solution. It is an addiction.
This is a quote from Peter Block and John McKnight’s, The Abundant Community, and it is an incisive analysis of the current state of much thinking in The United Methodist Church. I was talking with a pastor the other day who was beaming in response to an upward trend in his congregation’s worship attendance.
“We’re up over 20% from last year — first growth in over seven years! We even have some of the people coming to other programs, and our giving is up! It’s nice to be pastoring a healthy church for a change!”
“How is it healthier?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” he replied.
“Well, you described how your church is bigger, but then you said it was healthy, too.” I explained.
“But, that is healthier. More is better.” he responded.
“I’m not sure I follow your logic,” I said. “More is more and better is better and they aren’t automatically the same. I’m overweight — in this case more isn’t better or healthier.”
“Oh, it’s not the same thing. Having more people and more money in church are both good things. They measure health.” he patiently explained.
“If size, activity and budget are the reasons for the church to exist, you are correct. However, if maturing in discipleship, service to others, and proclamation to the world (the old, preach, teach, and heal model) then you would want different metrics.” I countered.
“Well, I still maintain that going from 90 to 110 on average each week is a good thing.”
“How did you do it?” I asked.
“We started a second service with praise music and videos, real upbeat and energetic. We don’t do it in the sanctuary, it’s very informal — people bring coffee and kids sit on the floor and color. People enjoy it because it doesn’t feel like church.” he explained.
Accountability Ability August 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church growth, Congregational Life, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Values
- There is no progress without accountability — holding people accountable to the vows they make is the key to development, growth and maturing
- Actions have consequences — where there are no consequences (positive or negative) there is no accountability
- Lack of accountability renders relationships meaningless — if it doesn’t matter whether or not I keep my word, why bother?
Now a story:
Four years ago I was working with a southern church of considerable size (over 2,000 members on the books) that was being systematically undermined and torn apart by two former Baptists who joined the church, then decided that United Methodism was too liberal and “wrongly-structured” for their tastes. These two toxic-influencers started spreading rumors about how apportionment monies were spent to promote abortion, fund Democratic political groups, and drive the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) efforts to destroy the church. They launched a whisper-campaign to attack the pastor’s reputation and undermine his leadership. They conducted an email campaign to spread rumors about misconduct of elected leaders and to encourage people to stay away from worship, withhold their giving, and to resign from leadership positions. They held a “prayer-rally” where they incited people to either leave the church or to mount a crusade to get the church to leave the denomination. Happy times all around.
One Indignation Under God August 27, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Communication, Values
Have you noticed the mammoth chip some United Methodists have on their shoulder? Just mentioning it makes some people mad. I’ve received eight nasty emails since yesterday, when I posted the not-too-profound concept that anger is a choice and that no one else can offend us; we can merely choose to be offended (Loser’s Choice). Obviously, indignation is viewed as a right or a spiritual gift and not something we control. I can’t even reprint some of what has been written because it uses language not appropriate and it is in the form of personal attack. It actually gives me a chance to practice what I preach. My intelligence, parentage, politics, and the integrity of my beliefs are all directly and decisively attacked. Oh, whatever should I do? Should I reply in kind? I could launch some real zingers. That would certainly teach them a thing or two. Or I could twist their words and ascribe malicious intent and try to make them look evil or stupid. That would sure help the situation. I could simply dismiss them as beneath my consideration. What a witness to Christian charity that would be. One of the statements made was, in my opinion, ignorant and bigoted. I must own that I struggle with offense when races, genders, or minorities are referred to with derogatory and hurtful slang. I do not approve of or appreciate mean-spirited labels meant to demean others. But I still control my response. I can express my displeasure without resorting to insult or attack. I am not compelled to scream or shout and I am not impressed by those who do. This is my whole point: how we respond is as important as what we think and feel. I have not ever said we should simply accept whatever anyone else says to us (a common response to my post yesterday), but that the form and force of our response is critically important to our witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Loser’s Choice August 26, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Faith Sharing, Unity, Values
One key to our future is the way we choose to deal with one another, and I emphasize the word choose. Often, we prefer to ignore the fact that we choose to react or respond to others as we do. I’ll use myself as an example. The fact is, no one can make me angry; I must choose to respond in anger. No one truly has the power to insult me, but I have unlimited capacity to choose to be insulted. No one has the ability to offend me whom I have not given the power to do so. I am not prisoner to my emotions or responses. I have been saved from such base behavior by a faith that offers me a better way and the power of the Holy Spirit working within me to make me Christlike. I reject the victim mentality that blames everyone else for making me feel bad. To be a victim is to be a loser, and I refuse to make the loser’s choice.
Spiritual or Spiritualistic August 15, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Core Values, spiritual practices.
Tags: Christian discipleship, spiritual practices, The United Methodist Church, Values
A few year’s ago I noticed an interesting trend. As Christians reported giving less and less time to prayer, the sale of books about prayer increased dramatically. For me, this is a simple illustration of a continuing dilemma — we are more interested in spirituality than we are in being spiritual. We amass great libraries of books, CDs, DVDs and workshop handouts on things spiritual, but we never reorient our lives to put all these wonderful things into practice. Our spiritual pursuits most closely resemble our weight-loss pursuits — we’re good on the concept, just lousy on the performance. Most Christians admit that they think prayer, meditation, study of scripture, worship and Christian fellowship are very important for spiritual growth and maturity, but these same people confess that they simply don’t have the time in a busy life to cram in even a few minutes for prayer or Bible reading. Our development is underdeveloped and our disciplines are undisciplined. We want a piety pill that we can take with the morning multi-vitamin so that we can get on with our lives. Jesus wept.
Stop Diss-ing My Church August 11, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Mission & Purpose, Trust, Unity
We all have a very simple decision to make: will we build or will we destroy. Now, simply making this decision doesn’t guarantee anything — many who choose to build and create don’t actually accomplish much, but at least they try. But those who choose to destroy — or simply allow destruction to happen — are another matter altogether. They disregard basic values of kindness, humility and respect, to breed discontent and dissension, leading to disunity and disharmony. Their energy, it seems, is expended for one purpose — to “dis” the church. Ultimately, such efforts are dis-gusting.
Running Out of Options August 8, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Congregational Life, Core Values, Religion in the U.S., The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, The United Methodist Church, Values
What is the greatest threat to our United Methodist Church? Is it decline? Is it tolerance of sin? Is it judgmentalism? Is it hypocrisy? How about controversy and conflict? Nope. There is one, simple threat to our continued existence and that is US. Our church has been subverted by a self-centered, selfish, consumeristic, privileged entitlement mentality that puts the comfort of the individual ahead of the integrity of the community of faith and the will and vision of God. My-way-or-the-highway, take-my-ball-and-go-home immature coercion is becoming the norm rather than the exception. This, and this alone, has the power to kill us.
See, if we set aside our own selfish agendas and make a commitment to work together in the name of Jesus Christ, none of the other threats has any teeth. Together, we can work through anything. Conflict doesn’t have to be destructive. Sin is a condition to address, not a test to determine who we will love and who we will not. Hypocrisy is something we strive to eliminate rather than a guilty secret we attempt unsuccessfully to hide. Unity in Christ — even across our differences — is the key to our future and to turning around our decline.