Obtuse Is As Obtuse Does September 4, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Missions, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Communication, The United Methodist Church
Okay, let’s face it, we have a lot of differences that are not easily reconcilable. We are split over dozens — maybe hundreds of issues. So, why do we go out of our way to misunderstand one another and to ascribe negative (even malicious) intention where there is none? Obviously, the current political campaigning is an excellent illustration, but let’s not go there. Let’s keep it close to home. I’ll use a personal example. I attended a conference last week, then came home to a long holiday weekend. When I checked my email, I found seven angry messages about “what I said” about Imagine No Malaria. Now, this is news to me, since I can’t remember the last time I said anything about Imagine No Malaria, but I guess someone “quoted” me at a recent regional gathering. Interestingly, the “quotes” are actually quotes, but taken out of context they are being used to convey a very different meaning. Here are three quotes pulled from things I have written:
- “…the United Methodist Church creates a bigger problem by saving all these lives.”
- “It is irresponsible to take such a simplistic approach to such a complex problem. This isn’t just about combatting one disease. The solution just shifts the problem elsewhere, but let’s us feel good about ourselves.”
- “…anything less than a systems approach to global health is indefensible. …we are compounding a tragedy.”
Mission Motivation, Mission Manipulation July 15, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Missions, serving those in need.
Tags: Christian service, church marketing
I witnessed one of the best missions presentations today at the Wisconsin School of Christian Mission. Anita Ayers Henderlight, Executive Director of the Africa Education & Leadership Initiative presented an uplifting, positive, informative, hopeful and highly motivational program on the Sudan. Uplifting? Positive? Hopeful? SUDAN? What gives? The United Methodist Church produces an unending stream of media decrying how awful and terrible things are in the Sudan, especially Darfur. And yes, there are many challenges in the region, but that’s only half the story. The real difference isn’t about who is telling the truth — the real difference is who is using motivation and who is resorting to manipulation.
When It Matters Most January 20, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Missions, serving those in need.
Tags: Christian service, Values
Sometimes it takes a crisis. Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy to remind us what’s important. In a week of unremitting sadness for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, it has been oddly refreshing to turn to United Methodist information sources and not read about our institutional plight, but instead about our missional reach of compassion and concern. We are able to set aside the lesser issues of our declining numbers and lack of funds to actually remember who we are — the body of Christ. There is a deep, heartfelt outpouring of compassion and love that indicates where our “treasure” truly is. When it matters most, we’re able to be the people God needs us to be.
But why does it take a crisis? What is happening in Haiti is horrible… but the conditions in Haiti have been unjust, intolerable, and terrible for a long, long time. Where were we then? My deepest concern is that the same thing will happen here is what always happens — after the earthquake is no longer news, and Brittney Spears or Lindsey Lohan have their next meltdown – Haiti will be forgotten just when she needs us most. We can only cope with crisis so long, then we need relief ourselves. The Tsunami of 2004 and Katrina in 2005 are good evidence. We are still way far away from healing those two catastrophes, but we hardly hear about them anymore. Mission team after mission team return from Louisiana and Mississippi reporting that there are entire communities where rebuilding has yet to begin. But these tragedies are “old news.” In this time of “new” crisis we are ready, willing, and able to respond. But the estimates in Haiti are that between 1 and 2 million are homeless and hungry (due to the quake) and that 250,000 to 450,000 are in at-risk, urgent-need situations. Army Corps of Engineer estimates for rebuilding are 36-to-72 months for major structures; 48-108 months for residential areas. Three to nine years just to get back to substandard, low poverty-level, bare-necessity living! It boggles the mind.
Sins of Nomission January 13, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Congregational Life, Missions, serving those in need.
Tags: Christian service, Evangelism, Mission & Purpose
A large number of United Methodist congregations are struggling — with money, with members, with commitment, with leadership, with a host of problems large and small. Many of these churches aren’t doing anything wrong to cause these problems — in fact, they aren’t doing anything much at all. And that’s the source of the trouble. For years I have been curious to understand the large number of United Methodist congregations that do essentially nothing beyond the walls of their buildings. This is not, I repeat NOT, in any way to ignore the incredible mission work The United Methodist Church does at all levels. Missional outreach and Christian service is in the denomination’s DNA — it helps define us as “United Methodist.” But that’s the point. About one-in-five (20%) of our churches do nothing or next to nothing for those outside the church. Another 20-30% limit their missional focus to whatever good is done through apportionments, and a significant number of our congregations support mission work passively — giving money so that other people might do it. The important correlation here, however, is that our healthiest congregations are those that have active, widespread, committed engagement from a large number of people in a large number of good works.
The Law of Unintended Consequences June 11, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Mission of the Church, Missions, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church
Once upon a time, there was a small village of about 100 people. For as long as anyone could remember, the population had remained essentially the same. Each year, on average, seven babies were born, but due to poor conditions five of them died in infancy or early childhood. Two elderly villagers (those around age 50) also died, so the growth rate was constant — around zero. This actually worked out, since the resources of the village only supported about 90 people comfortably, and any significant growth would cause tensions with surrounding villages.
One day, some outsiders became aware of the tragedy of infant mortality in the village, as well as the fact that the elders were dying prematurely. With clean water, some basic medicines, and some rudimentary education, “unneccesary” death could all but be eliminated. Through the kindness and generosity of these outsiders, the sanitation of the village improved, pain and suffering diminished, and lives were saved. And everyone lived happily ever after…
…for a brief time. With elders living longer and a baby boom occurring, the already inadequate resources were stretched to insupportable limits. Babies survived, but children suffered malnutrition and in extreme cases, starvation. Some children, generally females, were abandoned or sold. Boys were set to work (or sold) at young ages. Tensions between competing villages escalated, often erupting in violence. Tribal violence transformed into warfare. Ten, eleven, and twelve year old boys were trained in militia units — many placed there by parents hoping their children would get adequate food and clothing. It was not unusual to see children walking around with semi-automatic weapons. Within the village, street gangs formed, fighting for precious resources. Teenage mortality hit all time highs. Violence against the elders increased. All of these things unintended consequences of the kindness and generosity of outsiders seeking to eliminate infant mortality.
Choosing the MiDL Way June 5, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Missions, Spiritual Trends.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Mission & Purpose, Spiritual seekers
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Recent articles from Barna, Alban and Gallup highlight a growing trend in young America — a deep desire to be engaged in activities that make a positive contribution to others and that yield immediate results. We are witnessing a shift from passivity to engagement — not a new phenomenon, but the normal upswing of a recurrent cycle that takes about forty years to complete. The same fervor that moved Baby Boomers to protest in the 1960s appears to be fueling a similar unrest in the first decade of the twenty-first century. For the contemporary young adult, actions speak louder than words.
A concurrent trend in mainline U. S. churches may reveal a disconnect between the “us” of church folk and the “them” of twenty- and thirty-somethings: a decline in “missions” and mission-related interest. Post-Katrina giving to special needs and missional priorities is waning and, in the face of recession-depression rumblings and sky-rocketing fears, is likely to decrease further. Couple that with the fact that fewer middle-aged-and-older people are volunteering for mission-type activities (preferring instead to give money and pay others to do it) and the picture for the future looks bleak. What young people crave more and more, the church is offering less and less.