Knittin’ Mittens for a Snake September 27, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Integrity, Religion in the U.S., U.S. Culture.
Tags: Evangelism, hypocrisy, Spiritual seekers, Values
When will we begin to listen? Much of what we are offering people, they don’t want, can’t use, and don’t value. A growing population of deeply devout people — of all ages — have determined that organized religion is for the judgmentally insane. I was sitting in a meeting with a group of conservative evangelical independent almost fundamentalist teenagers who are furious with their church for not welcoming minorities — racial, ethnic, gay, poor. One by one the young people lamented that they simply don’t care to be part of any religion that uses hate, exclusion, violence, injustice and abuse as their governing values. Twenty years ago, many young people in conservative churches would have not batted an eye at exclusion — only those liberal bleeding hearts would have wanted “those people” anywhere near the church. The trends are fairly clear: more people are avoiding the church because it is too judgmental and restrictive, not because it is too liberal and unrighteous.
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…?
Emerged February 24, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Core Values, Religion in the U.S., Spiritual Trends.
Tags: Church growth, hypocrisy, Religious Trends, Spiritual seekers
I love young adults. They slap me upside the head every time I meet with them. They are the supreme reality check. They burst my bubble every single time I talk to them. I NEED twenty-somethings to help me see what I am missing. Case in point. I met with a group of about forty clergy and young adults — most of the laity in their early- to mid-twenties, clergy in their late-twenties/early thirties. We were talking about the relevancy and significance of the church. Now, a decade ago, when I met with this age group, the hot topic at the time was “emerging church.” It was the rage. Bell, McLaren, McManus, Tony Jones, Warren books were spread all over everywhere, and just about everyone was signed up for an emerging something somewhere. Today, the emerging church was not even mentioned, so I thought I would ask about it. The response I got surprised me at first, but then simply assaulted my own tiny worldview. One of the group snorted derisively and said, “A bunch of 50-year-old white guys talking about postmodern Christianity and missional churches!” I was stunned. Whenever I talk to those 50+ white guys, we think we are so cutting edge and relevant. I have written before about the usurpation of the emerging vision by mainline and evangelical institutional churches — which indeed undermined the relevancy years ago — but I didn’t realize that it had so completely left the radar screen of younger leaders across the country.
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.
Paradoxology July 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Core Values, Integrity, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, hypocrisy, Mission & Purpose, Values
Praise God from whom all blessings flow… But who deserves such blessing? The poor? Immigrants (especially those illegal ones!)? The sick (who can’t afford health care)? Anyone who disagrees with me on any of my core beliefs? There is a weird paradox at work when it comes to our views on who should be blessed by God. Those believing blessings are for all get labeled liberal, generally of the bleeding-heart variety. Those believing that blessings are a reward for right belief in behavior are horrified at the idea that from those who have much, much will be expected. We have even aligned our political postures and polemics around such differences of opinion. And should such conversations have financial implications — watch out. Many who have no problem with bread for the poor are fine as long as it isn’t their bread we’re talking about. Yet, when we speak in the broadest, most abstract terms, most people wish everyone in the world could know peace, justice, comfort, and security. Where does it all break down?
The Folly of Fear May 23, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Core Values, Critical Thinking.
Tags: Church Leadership, church marketing, hypocrisy, The United Methodist Church
Man, I will never forget where I was May 21 when the world ended… oh, wait, that never happened. Most of the people I know and talk to didn’t give Harold Camping’s latest rapture prediction any credence, but I was amazed at how much airplay and interest is actually got. I mean, who would take such a spurious and irrational forecast (look up Camping’s “science” behind his prophecy) seriously? Apparently, hundreds, if not thousands of people — and even more were moved to wonder. In a local coffee shop I overheard a woman ask, “So, do you think the world will end this week?” Here companion laughed and said, “Not likely!” She paused for a moment, then timidly asked, “Yes, but do think it COULD happen?” It is amazing what a niggling sense of doubt and dread can be cultivated by just one prediction of doom and destruction.
But the underlying issue from this non-event is the power of fear — and its fundamental folly. Fear is not a motivator, merely a manipulator. Fear rarely generates a thoughtful, positive, rational response. People who are afraid are not functioning at the top of their game. Think post-9/11 and how deeply manipulated people were. Bombs, Anthrax, terrorists, etc. were around every corner. Remember the weapons of mass destruction? In the midst of all the fear-mongering and misinformation who could think straight? Fear is a toxic influence, bringing out the worst in people, not the best. For Christians, fear is the antithesis of faith. After centuries of fire-and-brimstone, turn-or-burn, “God will not just punish you if you sin, but will allow you to be tortured and tormented eternally” thinking, you could imagine we would have learned something by now. Unfortunately, what we have learned is how to do it better.
Guerrilla Christianity February 27, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Integrity, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Communication, hypocrisy, Values
“Why were we forced to speak nicely to one another? Why couldn’t we just be honest?” an agitated woman accosted me. “You have no right to censor us. You make rules that we can’t accuse or blame or address people directly. That’s not fair.” This woman was furious that I proposed ground rules for civil conversation before a listening session in a conflicted setting. One man referred to the rules to be respectful, kind, courteous, non-aggressive and non-abusive as “fascist.” When did civility become evil? If the setting had been a political arena or a reality TV show, I guess I could understand it better, but this was in a church. People were actually angry that they could not hurl insults and invectives at one another (in Christian love). Some folks wanted to say truly hateful, hurtful, malicious, and damaging things to each other, and they felt that there should be no boundaries whatsoever. In fact, some people refused to abide by the ground rules — even after they agreed to them. Such is the society in which we find ourselves — one that colors and conditions our Christian behavior rather than the other way around.
Hearing and Listening February 2, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication, hypocrisy, Values
I remember strolling down a church hallway toward the Sunday school rooms, when I heard a sweet, little piping voice singing. At first I couldn’t make out the words. All I knew was it was the voice of a 4 or 5 year-old girl, and the tune was “We Are the Church Together.” I finally arrived outside the door of the room where the little songbird was singing, “I am the jerk, you are the jerk, we are the jerks together — all who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes, we’re the jerks together.” The words are funny enough, but it was the little girls sincerity that put it over the top. It brought to mind a little guy named Scottie in the first church I served who simply substitute words he knew for those he didn’t. He frequently sang such classics as “then sinks by bowl, my Savior got to me,” “amazing grapes, how sweet they sound and saved a wrench like me,” and “to a home of God’s cholesterol” (instead of God’s celestial shore). Ah, how easy it is to mishear and misunderstand (but, oh how difficult it is to admit our mistakes).
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.