Lego Church April 22, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, church, Church growth, Church Leadership
Forgive the annoying “back when I was a boy…” beginning to this reflection, but, back when I was a boy a Lego kit consisted of a box of white, black, yellow, blue and red bricks that came in eight different sizes. You could make anything your imagination could conceive of, as long as it had sharp, square corners. The directions consisted of three cartoons that showed how the round part on top of one brick stuck to the opening on the bottom of another brick. Simplicity itself. Just the other week, I came across Lego Architecture sets recommended for ages 16+ that are scale replicas of famous structures from around the world. Intricately colored and crafted, these sets allow for no improvisation — each piece is carefully crafted to fit its appropriate mates. This is the Lego equivalent of the old paint-by-number kits — deviate from the directions at your own peril! Creativity be damned — there is ONE RIGHT WAY to do it.
Unoty April 9, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Ecumenical & Interfaith Unity, Seeker spirituality.
Tags: Christian Community, church, Unity
I am attending a National Workshop on Christian Unity this week in Columbus, Ohio. It is an annual ecumenical gathering that focuses on how to build bridges, foster friendly relationships, and improve communication between Christian communions. We talk about finding common ground, celebrating each other, and discovering spiritual synergy where together we are greater than the sum of our parts. It becomes painfully apparent how far apart we are — a small group of religious leaders talking about what if and what could be simply illustrates how NOT united we currently are. And this morning a brief encounter shined the light of brutal honesty on the witness we offer the world.
I stepped out of the meeting to respond to a text message, and I stood near a pair of young Latina members of the housekeeping staff at our hotel. When I finished my message, I noticed the young women, and one asked me, “Who are you?” I froze like a deer in headlights for a moment, unsure how to respond. My confusion was clearly displayed, so the young woman unpacked her meaning by asking, “What group are you with? Who are you?” I explained that we were leaders from a variety of Christian denominations and organizations gathered to talk about “unity” and working together. Both young women looked confused.
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.
Church Or Society September 14, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: church, The United Methodist Church
I am currently attending my first board meeting with the General Board of Church and Society. Up front, let me say that I think this is one of the most important, most valuable of our general church agencies. I understand that this view is not shared by all. In fact, some vehemently oppose Church and Society, and it ALWAYS surprises me. I have written in the past that I feel United Methodism suffers today by a lack of institutional memory and an abdication of our core identity. If your tradition is the Evangelical Association, the Methodist church, or the United Brethren in Jesus Christ, then you are part of a biblically and theologically grounded tradition that elevated missions, evangelistic witness, and a commitment to social justice — in other words, a church that isn’t all about us, but a church that exists for the purpose of serving in the community and world. You may disagree that these things are important, but you can’t change history — this is who we are based on who we have historically been.
Jurisfictional Conference July 18, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: church, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Vision
Okay, this is just weird. Holding a Jurisdictional Conference (JC) with no bishop to elect and only 25 nominations to general church boards and agencies is bizarre. The rhythm, drama, and impact of JC is greatly diminished — and there’s virtually nothing to do (unless you serve on Nominations or the Episcopacy Committee). Yes, we will learn who our new bishop will be in Wisconsin, but exactly how long does that need to take? We are investing a lot of time and resources in a meeting that should only take a day/day-and-a-half tops. Oh, sure, we could have had a bishop retire or ascend, and then an election would have been necessary, but that didn’t happen. We are here (in Akron, in the North Central Jurisdiction) looking a little dazed and confused.
Childish Church July 8, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Church Leadership, Critical Thinking, Evaluation and Assessment, The United Methodist Church, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian discipleship, church, Church growth, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church
This is a rant, so take it with a grain of whatever. I met with a young pastor and asked him how his ministry was going. He replied, “We have eight new members and our attendance is up from 35 to over 50 a week.” I said, “That’s not what I asked. I asked how your ministry is going.” He simply stared back at me with a blank, slighty dazed look on his face. After a moment, he said, “It’s good. We’re growing.” I shook my head. “No,” I said, “I mean, how is the whole “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world-thing” going?” “Great,” he said, “we have eight new members and our worship attendance is up.”
OMG – what is our church producing in lieu of leadership these days? And we have NO ONE to blame but the last generation of dupes who forgot what a church is and assimilated the low values of American culture — making some of them bishops, some General Secretaries, and most of them pastors of big, consumeristic congregations. Now we fixate on size (yes, mostly male pastors — go figure…) and have no language to describe effective ministry besides numbers. This makes sense in a Sesame Street society.
Inadequate March 22, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Core Values, Mission of the Church, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: church, Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision
I guess people actually follow my blog fairly regularly. I’ve received dozens of emails asking, “Where are you?” I have taken a couple of weeks off from writing to do more reading — preparing for General Conference, following the streams of points and counterpoints flying throughout the denomination, and catching up on churchy publications. There is SO MUCH “stuff” out and about concerning our UM church. It boggles the mind, and I plowed through a ton of it, and am ready to start reflecting back. Today’s post is an initial pass at the larger issues; in the days to come I am going to zero in on specific articles and books.
One of the strongest memories I have from childhood was my report card at the end of the first grading period when I was in third grade. On one side of the card were listed the standard subjects: math, English, science, social studies, etc. I was always good in elementary school in math and science, not so good in social studies, and abysmal at English. On the other side of the card was a list of personal characteristics: social skills, comportment, cooperation, attitude, etc. The memory I have is that next to each personal characteristic, written in red ink and all capital letters, was written the word “INADEQUATE.” Now, I considered myself to be a normal eight-year old child, basically happy and friendly, with egg-shell-fragile self-esteem. I was first crushed, then haunted, by the idea that I was “inadequate.” I took my report card home to my mother, hoping for some loving redemption. On the grade side, I had three As, three Bs, and a C-. My mom didn’t even mention the As; like me, she focused on the “inadequate” side of the report card. The only word of comfort I got from my mother was that she was disappointed in me because she knew I could do “so much better.” Once again, inadequate.
Hate Mail Disguised As Love Letters March 6, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Christian Community, church, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values, Vision
I’ve kept a file since my first General Conference in 1988 of the letters, phone calls, conversations and emails detailing the “concerns” individuals and congregations raised in preparation of the quadrennial meeting. This file is a reminder of the diversity of opinion in our denomination, the level of fear and disrespect still rampant in our churches and conferences, the heartfelt passion people bring to various issues, and just how far we still are from the kingdom/kin-dom/realm of the Almighty. I will make this statement at the outset — knowing it will do little good — to frame my comments. I do not think we should frame our disagreements in battle terms: win/lose, right/wrong, us/them. We are human beings and we will have very strong opinions and beliefs which will be in conflict from time to time. This is healthy and good. It is when we resort to hateful rhetoric, angry contempt, petty bigotry and spiteful attack dressed up in self-righteousness and fake Christian piety that I feel we have a serious problem. Is the majority of it lodged in simple ignorance? Certainly, but it goes beyond that.
The Power of Story March 2, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Identity & Purpose, Personal Reflection.
There is such a fine line between fact and fiction/memory and myth/truth and tall tale, yet fiction/myth/tall tale are no less “real” or “meaningful” or “valid” than fact/memory/truth. In reality, they are all aspects of the same thing. When I was younger, I had a friend, Dave, whose mother, Judy, and aunt, Anna, spun a family epic every time they got together. The story went something like this: In 1905, Judy and Anna’s grandmother Emma gave birth to their mother, Elizabeth. Emma was all set to go to the hospital when terrible storms erupted, when her father, Gabriel, and her husband, Edward, had to go corral some livestock that got spooked by the weather and broke free of their pens. The storms worsened and a tornado appeared on the horizon. With the men-folk trapped in a drainage ditch and the shingles flapping off the roof, grandma Emma single-handedly delivered her own daughter. Judy and Anna always told the story in hushed and reverent tones, obviously overwhelmed at the idea of delivering a baby without assistance in such terrifying circumstances.
On one occasion when I visited Dave, we got out some old family albums and started leafing through. I stopped on one page, and before I thought to stop myself I said, “Hey, look, this is a birth certificate for your mom!” A shocked silence followed. Anna finally spoke up and said, “Well, I’m sure it was printed after the fact.” “No!” I chimed in, “Look, there is an attending physician and a release date. Your mom was born in a hospital; not at home in a storm!” Both Judy and Anna got up and left the room. I looked at Dave and said, “What’s the matter?” He simply shook his head, then he left the room, too.
Losers Focus on… Losing February 28, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Identity & Purpose, Personal Reflection.
Tags: church, Church Leadership, Vision
Negative energy is seductive and strangely appealing. In The United Methodist Church we have established a history of focusing on our decline and failures. For the short-sighted and faithless, how many members we have lost is more important than how many members we have. For the fatalist and facile, what we don’t give is more important what we do give. For the fear-filled and flummoxed, apocalypse is more appealing than ascension. What we CAN be is less important than what WE USED TO be. Their remedy is to preach fire and brimstone — to harp on the statistics that prove our imminent demise. They believe focusing on the crisis will be motivational. Regardless of overwhelming proof that this is ineffective, and actually increases the harm, they continue to shriek that the sky is falling. They frame their cries as “being realistic” and “naming what is,” ignoring the fact that they are adopting a defeatist stance. Losers focus on losing; winners on winning. It isn’t rocket science.