T-Shirt Evangelism July 26, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Evangelism, Identity & Purpose, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Evangelism, Faith Sharing, spiritual practices, Values
Back in 2006, I spoke to the Western New York Annual Conference about living the “Gifts, Graces, and Fruit of the Spirit.” (Based on my sensational book, Beyond Money – no longer in print, so contact Discipleship Resources at the General Board of Discipleship and raise a stink…) For the Fruit of the Spirit portion of the presentation, I wore a T-Shirt that simply says, “Got Fruit?” (borrowing/stealing the motif and font of the “Got Milk?” campaign). I still wear the T-shirt, and I absolutely love it because no matter where I wear it, people always comment on it and I have opportunity to discuss with them what it means. I was in Nashville, Tennessee a couple of weeks ago and a younger couple commented on my shirt — “Cool, but what does it mean?” I explained my vision for churches living the fruit of the Spirit — being known for their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The young woman paused for a moment, then said, “If churches were really like that, we might actually go!” I commented that there are some churches like this out there, and she responded, “None I’ve ever found.”
God Bless You, George G. Hunter, III! March 29, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, Evangelism, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church
Our United Methodist Publishing House released five titles in their new Adaptive Leadership Series, and I have had the pleasure of reading each one. I will be weighing in on each in time, but far and away my favorite is George Hunter’s, “The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement.” What a fine little book. Those who know me well will instantly see my bias — he agrees with me, so therefore he must be brilliant! Guilty as charged. I have been saying the things in this book for years, but I haven’t said them nearly as well. Among those items that George Hunter nails with clarity and conviction:
- Our core problem is not one of structure, or even leadership, it is one of identity; we have forgotten who we are.
- The professionalism of the clergy class shifted our center from a laity movement and diminished our impact immensely.
- We have allowed church to become “all about us” instead of God’s gift to those outside the fellowship
- We perpetuate the myth that our existing institution is “normal” and therefore “right”
- That our current obsession with tinkering will bring about any real change.
Wanted: Young People (Some Restrictions Apply) March 11, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Seeker spirituality.
Tags: Christian Community, Evangelism, Spiritual seekers, Young Adults
Going through some files, I came upon a folder of interview notes from the UM Seeker Study I conducted almost a decade ago. There is a wondrous and troubling paradox in the old UMC these days when it comes to young people: we say we want to reach young people and bring them into the church. We say we need to listen to them to find out how to reach them. But when we hear what they say, we argue with them and criticize them for not accepting us just as we are. Which raises the question: do we really want to reach young people or do we only want to reach young people who are exactly like we are? And who, exactly, are these “young people” we are so keen on?
Last question first. When we look at young people, ages 18-34, we’re looking at three distributions: education, economics, and values. About 58% will finish college, about 21% will get some college, and about 21% will have no college. About 55% will make between $30,000 and $70,000, with about 15% making more and 30% making less. About 50% will hold moderate values spiritually and politically, 30% conservative, and 20% liberal/progressive. Young people who are less educated, conservative-to-moderate, and making less income are five times as likely to go to church as their counterparts. This group is most attracted to larger, newer, independent churches with the widest variety of programs and services. Across the board, young people are not joiners, and 18-34 year olds are unlikely to step into leadership positions in traditional structures — they are more interested in doing ministry than talking about doing ministry. Those with a higher education will hold the church to a different set of expectations. Of the 21% who do not go onto college, the basic expectations are: a simple story, clearly told, with very clear instructions on right and wrong, good and evil, salvation and sin. This group will not “over-think” the gospel story, nor will they be attracted to deep theological reflection or the complexity of reconciling belief with behavior. Of the 21% with some college, the expectations shift to include a deeper understanding of the Bible and the Christian story. The hunger for “answers” shifts to a deep desire for “meaning.” The moderately higher-educated will be less interested in knowing “the truth,” than understanding how to live a life pleasing to God. This group will wrestle more with inconsistencies and will seek ways to resolve the inner conflicts that their faith brings to bear on complex social issues. This will be a questioning group, unwilling to take most anything at face value. (In The United Methodist Church, we’re not really sure we want people who will come asking a lot of questions — especially when we don’t know the answers…)
Segregation of Church & State March 6, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Church Leadership, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, Evangelism, The United Methodist Church, Values
It has been an interesting few weeks here in Wisconsin — making the national news almost daily due to our governor, Scott Walker, and his crusade to eliminate collective bargaining rights as a cost-cutting measure to help balance the budget. There is no doubt that it would produce a short-term savings, however, as I have written elsewhere, from a systems perspective this is a short-sighted, dangerous, and costly decision in the long-term. I know too many people in education, health care, law enforcement, fire and emergency services, as well as hundreds of blue-collar service providers (and am widely read in the history of labor negotiations and fair practices) to see this as a positive direction. Many of my clergy colleagues, laity partners in ministry, and personal friends have supported those most impacted by collective bargaining as a simple justice issue. Most of us are not concerned with the political machinations undergirding this debate, yet I am simply amazed by the number of church people who cry out, “the church shouldn’t get involved in politics! Separation of Church & State!!!” Respectfully, the only people who can seriously hold such a view a) don’t understand the concept of separation of church and state, b) haven’t read the Bible, and c) don’t understand what it means to be a United Methodist. Engaging in the political decision-making process of our nation is not merely an option for Christians, it is a fundamental tenet of our faith.
Open Doors 101 – Part 2 February 22, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Evangelism, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church growth, church marketing, Evangelism, The United Methodist Church
Yesterday I began a reflection and critique on my most recent engagement with the ReThink Church campaign. Today I want to continue the reflection on some “meta-issues” that are related to, but not specifically about, ReThink Church. However, before I go any further I do want to say that I really appreciated the enthusiastic and collaborative leadership that Ken Sloane and Jennifer Rodia brought to the event. The powerful witness to shared leadership between male and female, clergy and laity, older and younger offered as much grace as anything they said, and I thought they worked together amazingly well. they are both very good at what they do.
In my opinion, ReThink Church reflects the current cultural confusion between marketing and communication. Marketing is all about message — creating a compelling message/identity/brand and transmitting it effectively. This is the remnant pitfall of late 20th century “3G” communication technology. When communication technology developed that allowed single point broadcasting to a wide multi-point audience (think radio, television, movies), the very definition of communication changed. With the advent of the “4G” — multi-point/multi-platform communication between points and platforms — communication is returning to a healthier place.
In classic communications theory, there are five aspects of effective communication — creation of a message, transmission of a message, reception of a message, interpretation of a message, response to/application of a message. Dialogue depends on a dynamic interaction of these aspects. The newly emerging “polylogue” (I love that term…) depends on the full engagement of all aspects as well. But the 3G culture of the 2oth century displaced communication with marketing — creating and transmitting messages, disregarding reception and interpretation, and evaluating response based on numbers — sales, attendance, customers, clients, etc. Without direct, clear qualitative feedback throughout the process, many decisions are made based on assumptions and probabilities rather than direct interaction.
Teach September 15, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian Education, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship, The Bible.
Tags: Christian Education, Communication, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship
I may get blasted on this. That’s okay. I am sharing almost twenty years of similar responses here, and I think we — especially clergy — need to listen. Laity across the United Methodist Church are sending four messages loud and clear: prayer, stewardship, evangelism and Bible are NOT being taught in our churches. We are assuming that people know these things. Yet, it is clear that our church is in danger of extinction because these four things (at the very least) are not being taught. In our fever to grow, get new people, build more buildings, pay our bills, and keep up with the newest 7 Steps, 12 Keys, 40 Days programs we have drifted from the basics. We have cultivated a Christian culture of biblically illiterate, nominally connected, scarcity-minded, non-evangelicals.
In Wisconsin I have continued to ask the same questions I did across the denomination for the 14+ years I worked for the General Board of Discipleship. Essentially, I ask lay people how well equipped they are to grow in their spirituality and their discipleship. The vast majority do not remember the last time anyone taught about prayer in the church. Most cannot remember the last time anyone encouraged them to pray. Many are aware that there is a “prayer circle” or “prayer chain” in their church, but they don’t know how it works. Four-out-of-five United Methodists can’t tell you the difference between intercessory prayer, confession, petition, and they don’t know what a doxology or benediction are. Small matter? Maybe, but they are indicators of the more fundamental issue. United Methodists don’t pray much at all. Over 50% don’t think prayer is very important to their faith, and as indicated in an earlier post, many simply are “too busy” to pray on a regular basis. Almost 40% admit that they really “don’t know how to pray” or don’t know “if I do it right.”
Multiple Choice September 8, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Evangelism, Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: anti-intellectualism, Evangelism, hypocrisy
I want to choose #1, but in light of the current news about an evangelical whack-job in Florida who wants to commemorate September 11 with the burning of the Koran, I am leaning toward one of the other three options. Once again, I am flabbergasted at the narrow-minded intolerance of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I get the fact that whole religions are judged solely on the actions of a few fringe elements — that’s the point. Many American Christians think they know all about Islam because of a segment of terrorists who claimed they were acting in the name of Allah. Now, many people will think Christianity is all about religious intolerance because of our own segment of terrorists claiming they are doing some holy thing. It makes me sick. It makes me sad. It makes me ashamed.
Witness for the Prosecution May 17, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Evangelism.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Evangelism, Faith Sharing
Here’s something I don’t understand. Why do so many people in the church who teach evangelism despise non-Christians? No, really. It would seem to me that as Christians we would absolutely LOVE everyone who isn’t a Christian, but this isn’t the case. Over and over I meet United Methodist evangelists who are harsh and divisive when it comes to engaging with non-Christians. I tell a story about a mission project that my UM church did with a group of Hindus and a Harley-Davidson biker club. I use the story as an illustration of true unity and harmony, interfaith collaboration, and building bridges with those outside the faith. A few years ago, a prominent pastor in our denomination stormed up to me after I told the story shaking with rage. ”What kind of Christian are you?” he began. ”Telling people they should reach out to heretics and thugs. Your job is to convert such people, not buy into their lies You should have nothing to do with such people, and you shouldn’t encourage others to work with them either!” I was so taken aback at the time, I didn’t know how to reply. But whenever I think about this experience I confront a fundamental illogic. If we want to “convert” others, how is avoiding them a good strategy? If evangelism is not only our words, but our actions as well, how do we witness to our faith in the vacuum of staying only with our own kind? How does someone else’s lack of faith or belief in another faith mitigate my responsibility to witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ? How with others know my faith if I refuse to engage with them in a meaningful way?
Ravings of an Angry Evangelical March 26, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Core Values, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: Evangelism, Values
Our country is being destroyed by ignorant, narrow-minded, arrogant, self-righteous Christians. They call themselves evangelicals, but throughout history they have been known by other names: tyrants, despots, hate mongers, fools…
David Carlsson, Message to America, 2009
Hold on. I confess that there are ignorant, narrow-minded, arrogant, self-righteous Christians out there — but there is a fundamental flaw in the following logic that makes me incredibly angry. And not just angry at the David Carlsson’s, but at all those who try to pidgeon-hole “those” who have ruined the word “evangelical.” The slim segment of ultra-conservative, neo-fundamentalist Christians who have redefined evangelicalism in the United States are not the whole story (and, by the way, it is not ONLY far-right Christians who are ignorant, narrow-minded, arrogant and self-righteous — there are some pretty obnoxious left-leaners as well. Just labeling your meanness “progressive” doesn’t help anything, either.) What also bugs me is that all of this labeling, re-labeling, defending, finger-pointing, and blaming moves us in exactly the WRONG direction. I am amazed how easy it is to get sucked into the “who is wrong/who is right” negative spiral. As I read such statements as Carlsson’s, I feel the stress rise within me, and my immediate reaction is to reply in kind. But anger — and acting out in response — will never move us to a better place. How can we rise above the maelstrom and find a place of peace and stability.
Changing the World February 23, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Mission of the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian service, Church Leadership, Evangelism, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values
The United Methodist Church is issuing a challenge: “Change the World.” Billed as a “worldwide event,” this April 24-25 threshold event will show where the values, heart and soul of the UMC really is. I am not talking about participation in this two-day event. I am talking about whether it will be the launch of a new direction (a transformation process) or simply a single-shot “feel-good” photo-op. The invitation to this event is “to bring the people of the church together to make a tangible difference in their communities and across the globe.” Man, if we can do that, it would be an incredible witness to the world. Of course, this cannot happen in two days. Real change takes time, effort, commitment, and resources. April 24 and 25 can be no more than a symbolic launch of a radical and fundamental long-term commitment on the part of the church. And that’s exciting! What if… we really mean it? What if… we really do it!