We v. They September 21, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Core Values, Integrity, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, church, The United Methodist Church, Unity
Like everyone else, Raleigh Hayes saw the world, and the people with whom he was obliged to share it, through the kaleidoscope of his own colored designs. As the years turned the viewer round and round, the bits of glass fell into new patterns, but the perspective remained limited to Raleigh’s eye. (Handling Sin, Michael Malone, 1983)
Not everyone agrees with this premise, but I am of a mind that everyone sees the world, not as it truly is, but through a set of personal and unique filters that makes an individual worldview. As we encounter others, we bond most closely with those who share key elements of our worldview. This makes for a grand and glorious bell curve of subjective worldviews that we embrace as objective reality. The truth is out there, and each of us brush up against it, but none of us own it. It is through this kaleidoscope effect that we polarize and politicize and project. It creates the frame and forum for “us/them; we/they; right/left; right/wrong” thinking that defines our modern/post-modern U.S. culture in the early 21st century. This comes clear to me as I look at comments made about my reflections on the work of our General Boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church.
Disciple Dissipation August 20, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Church Leadership, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, hypocrisy, The United Methodist Church, Values
“Once we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we are forever after his disciples.”
“Discipleship is a gift, a privilege — it comes at no cost.”
“We (The United Methodist Church) have committed to get more disciples in worship each Sunday.”
“We will have 648,626 new disciples worshiping weekly; 794,074 new disciples professing their faith; disciples growing through 443,952 small groups; 806,770 disciples serving God through mission in their communities, in their regions and all around the world; disciples giving $3.6 billion to missional ministries for God’s mission in this world.”
What definition of “disciple” is being used here? It certainly isn’t a Christian disciple, and it obviously does not come from our gospels. Our church is faced with two basic options:
- to lift up a challenging and rigorous vision of discipleship grounded in our scriptures that requires discipline, sacrifice, commitment, lifestyle change, values-based prioritization, and behaviors that reflect those of the Christ — and invite people to engage their faith at an entirely new level, or;
- reduce discipleship to a sham, debasing the gospels and cheapening the example and teaching of Jesus the Christ so that discipleship is meaningless — something that anyone can claim with no investment or price
So, hmmm, which one are we choosing? Well, just reflect on the unanimous parade of bishops at this year’s General Conference who espoused only #2 to the apparent exclusion of #1. We clearly know where the bishops fall. What about our General Boards and Agencies? Well, it is split — most opt for #2, but a couple like Church and Society and Global Ministries are still promoting #1. Our preachers? Well, at least the larger church pastors are primarily in the #2 camp — though there are a few exceptions. Whenever I write articles promoting a “vital” discipleship many people respond by saying I am expecting too much, that we will lose members if we take discipleship too seriously, that people don’t come to United Methodist churches wanting to be changed in any significant way. That’s too bad. We chose our mission “to make disciples,” but when we realized that discipleship was hard and took work we huddled together and decided it was much easier to make discipleship easy and insipid. What once demanded we take up a cross — an instrument of our own potential destruction — in order to follow Christ has now been downgraded by a couple of our bishops to mean “attending church when it is convenient.” Jesus wept.
Cheapening the Church June 14, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church, U.S. Culture, Uncategorized.
Tags: hypocrisy, Religious Trends, The United Methodist Church, Values
Culture works on church like a cancer. Popularity is the new standard of excellence. Having a slogan or a sound bite or a brand is so much more important than being relevant or having integrity. Our get-’em-in-the-doors-by-any-means mentality has done more to kill the church than almost anything else, but it gives the false impression of success. I saw a man set a record for cramming over three hundred french fries in his mouth at one time, but the caption along the bottom of the television screen read Highlands Assemblies of God Church — and I thought, what a perfect metaphor! Super Size UMC. It’s no wonder that the rest of the world looks at what has become of the church and walks away shaking their collective head. They simply know a sell-out when they see one — reducing the gospel of Jesus Christ to slogans. I got news for you, slapping it on a bumper sticker ain’t evangelism — it’s the path of least resistance. It is what we do when we choose not to do the hard work of actually getting to know people and sharing with them the beliefs and values that give our lives meaning. It’s letting McDonald’s and Wal-Mart teach us how to set up a money-changers franchise in the temple. We have been doing it constantly since the 1960s. How’s that workin’ out for us…?
False Profits February 22, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Christian Community, church, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Vision
from the Gospel According to Bob, Chapter 11, verses 15-31; Original Old Prophetic Scripture In English (Oopsie) Version
– (this is satire and parody; I am fully aware that these things AREN’T really in the Bible… but thanks to those who have expressed concern!)
And Jesus said, ’Beware of false prophets who come advising all sorts of worldly and simple solutions to complex and important problems.
He said this in response to the ancient prophecy, “And there will come a day when Towers Babel, Inc., will be hired by the high priests and Pharisees to tell unto God’s people what they ought to be doing, since God’s people will have forgotten and become verily confused. (which in itself was prophesied, ‘the people who walk in darkness will either turn to prayer and the light of discernment or they will stop and ask directions from strangers,’) And on that day, there shall be downsizing and branding and a hunger and thirst for best practices and dashboards,
But I say unto you, identity is not to be confused with image; meaning shall not be reduced to marketing; and the Spirit shall not be confused with structures. For it is written, ‘Those who cannot discern shall count heads, and those who have no witness shall advertise, and the first shall be lost as false prophets share vision that has little to do with God’s will.
The follower known as Robert, also called Bob, inquired, “Should we then form a task force to survey our target audiences, monitor our results on a dashboard, and dissect all the work that has thus far been done by outsiders to offer alternative proposals and petitions?”
Jesus responded, ‘I am THIS close to smiting you! The time for talk is through; we must be doers of the Word and not reduce the Word to ‘words’ in reports and recommendations to endlessly discuss and debate and destroy. Until we remember who we are and why God needs us here, there is little else to discuss. Before we make decisions about structure and processes, we must first recapture our identity and purpose!”
Then Bob asked, “So, is this then a ‘Calleth to Activity?’ O Lord?”
Don’t just sit there, do something. If I hear one more person defend our current denominational studies with the dismissive, “we gotta do something; something is better than nothing; we don’t have a choice,” argument, I am going to explode. I received an email this week from a pastor explaining to me that “the church IS a business, and we have been running it very poorly. Hiring the best secular consultants has been a brilliant idea, and we are finally going to start being competitive and profitable.”
The Nice Curse December 16, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity.
Tags: Church Leadership, church marketing, hypocrisy
Well, it is official. The United Methodist Church is “popular.” At least this is what a recent survey from the Baptist LifeWay Research indicates. Americans across the United States — well, 3-out-of-5 of them — claim a “very” or “somewhat” favorable view of the UMC. (Does anyone else see “somewhat” as faint praise…?) Isn’t this nice? We’re not seen as “effective.” We’re not viewed as “important.” We aren’t seen as particularly “spiritual.” No, people like us. Isn’t that nice? There is no description of why we are liked, no explanation of what makes us less objectionable than other denominations. Various UM voices are filling in the gap — claiming that the things we have done in marketing our brand are responsible for this happy reputation, though there is no verifiable evidence that this is true. Nope, we are just a likeable church… in decline. People don’t like us enough to join us — they simply find us inoffensive. We’re nice.
Christmas C.S.I. December 13, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Advent, Christian witness, Christmas, Integrity, The Bible.
Tags: Advent, Christmas, Communication
My posts of the past two weeks have generated some fun and interesting discussions around Christmas. While I am not a fan of the “war on Christmas” rhetoric adopted by evangelicals operating from a victim mentality, I do agree that Christmas as a religious observance is in trouble. My contention, however, is that the threat to Christmas does not come from a godless, atheist society, but from within — from Christians who really don’t understand Christianity and plug their faith into their lives where convenient. When Christians don’t get Christmas, we can’t whine about how mean atheists and non-Christian believers are to our holiday. There are three things that Christians have done, engaged in, or allowed to happen that we can blame on no one else. Christmas as we know it today is exactly the Christmas Christians have created.
The three things I “blame” are these:
- commercialization — the process of exploiting something for profit or benefit
- secularization — the removal of spiritual and religious meaning from religious practices and observances
- ignoration (a made up word) — the intentional decision to not know too much about something in order to simply relax and enjoy it
The Mediocre Commission October 31, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision
From the Gospel According to Bob, 28:16-20:
Then Jesus sayeth unto them, “Go, invite people to come sitteth for an hour in church once every six weeks or so, telling them that very little will be expected of them, that they will heareth good music and that there will be coffee and snacks.” But, Peter aggrieved and dyspeptic said, “But, what if there is soccer??” And Jesus replied, “Well, that is a problem.” (KJV)
Jesus said, “Bring people to church.” Peter replied, “They may not come.” Jesus said, “Whatever.” (The Message)
We are creating a church of ridiculously low expectations. I had yet another meeting with congregational leaders who refused to entertain the idea of holding people accountable to their membership vows and the mission of disciple-making because said people will “leave the church and take their money with them.” Is this a practical concern? Certainly. Should it hold us hostage to violating our values, principles and undermining our integrity? No way. Will people leave the church if we raise expectations? You bet they will! And, yes, they will take their money with them. But this is our shame, not theirs. We built the big buildings, and we carry the huge debt load that means we don’t have money for ministry and mission. Having 1,000 mediocre members has been so much more important to us than having a handful of authentic disciples for so long that any move back toward integrity is fraught with peril. We like our stuff and comfort too well. We are so proud of what we own that we could care less about who we are. Too harsh? Sorry, but it is a growing painful truth. We want pain-free, low-cost, no sacrifice church. Problem is, what we are left with isn’t worth much.
United Methodist Preservation Society October 26, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Critical Thinking, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision
The latest wave of announcements about our future are dismaying. Not because they are negative, but because they are pedestrian. We are not “rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic,” as some assert; we are strategically planning and designing a Titanic upon which to rearrange deck-chairs. The short-sighted, defensive, U.S.-centric, survival-mentality, institutional preservation teeny-tiny vision being presented is embarrassing in its narcissism. It is all about us, and not in a good way. Couched in rah-rah language, it is about money and property and power and control — not mission, ministry, God and Spirit. I have been in communication with bishops, district superintendents, conference leaders, pastors and laity from over thirty conferences who are reading my blogs and encouraging me to continue raising the kinds of questions I do — but to what end? The majority commend me for doing something they don’t feel comfortable or safe to do themselves. People working on these study reports tell me about their misgivings, but they don’t raise them with those in power. Hundreds of people are uncomfortable with the direction of the church, but we just keep moving down the path to same-old, same-old.
The Missionally Challenged Church October 24, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Church Leadership, Church membership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church
Okay, so we don’t really mean it when we say our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s too hard — too demanding. We don’t want anything that might make us break a sweat. We want easy church — nothing that will actually change anything. We want church-lite, at best. But what will this look like? A church where people just show up? Oh, no, that’s unrealistic. We’re much too busy for that. Once every six weeks to a worship service should suffice. A church where people pray for one another? No, I was told recently that if you expect people to pray, they will leave the church. A church where a handful of dedicated supporters carry it for the 80% who could care less? Now you’re talking! That’s the kind of church the vast majority of United Methodists are looking for. So, let’s all lower our standards, count butts in the pews, talk denomination and dashboards, and focus on our buildings and budgets, and the world can pretty much go and take care of itself. Tongue in cheek? Folks, I have been talking to those outside our denomination and this is exactly what they think of us…
Di*cip*eshi* October 12, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church
What in God’s name do we think we are doing? If I hear one more prominent church leader define discipleship as going to church I will scream. We aren’t going to count the number of people who attend church anymore. Some genius decided we will count “disciples” in worship. What? We can do that with one hand! And I keep hearing about discipleship “programs” and “systems”. Do we not have any clue what we are talking about? Well, we did form a Board of Discipleship, so it isn’t a new confusion, but really… let’s take the heart and soul of the Christian movement and reduce it to just one more institutional church growth travesty.