Thanks Giving

Ilene Richard's wonderful reminder...

There is often a chasm between what we say is important and the actions we take which reveal what is truly important (like saying “we want to make disciples,” then counting “worship attenders.”) to us.  Something is always driving us, but identifying exactly what it is isn’t always easy.  You would think that “faith” would be a big driver in the church, but talk to many of our leaders today and it is evident that “fear” is our guiding value.  “Spiritual maturity” would make sense as a core value, but “church membership” is apparently much more valuable.  “Lives touched” is a noble value, but “dollars given” occupies a lot more of our time and attention.  Here is a list of core practices and values that we claim are important – coupled with the behaviors that tell a deeper story in today’s church:

There is an excellent concept from the Greek — synderesis — where articulated and lived values align so closely that no one can tell them apart.  Wouldn’t that be a cool goal for The United Methodist Church?  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we stopped working so hard to emulate the secular culture and we modeled a better way to be in the world?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would stop asking ad agencies and corporate hucksters to tell us who we are, and turned to our Biblical and theological roots instead?

We are in our season of Thanksgiving here in the old U.S. of A., so perhaps it is time for a simple shift.  Let’s actually be thankful for who we are, where we are, what we have, what we know, what we can do, the difference we can (and do) make, and the future God is unfolding before us.  Let’s stop crying about all we have lost, what we lack, what we are not doing, who we don’t want in the church, how hard it is to be Christian, how people don’t really want to be disciples, and just get over ourselves.  Let’s pray that God might help us be who God wants us to be, and quit trying to rationalize and justify ourselves through our studies, tables, task forces, and reports.  We have much to give thanks for, but until we quit living in fear and trying to “brand” ourselves as something we are not, all we will do is feel bad about ourselves.  Hard to say thanks for what you don’t really want or appreciate.  It’s too bad our leadership is so ashamed of who we are and what we do.  It is doubly sad that we are paying exorbitant sums of money to glam campaigns to give us an ecclesial make-over that makes us more palatable to those who don’t much care about us.  We need a different set of values driving us — a set of values that thinks God is good enough and that the church is bigger than we are.

11 replies

  1. I have had initimate dealings with Weight Watchers over the past few years and even went to Leader’s Training. Talk about an organization that knows how to deal with broken individuals with compassion and caring! I often find myself comparing the two experiences: church vs Weight Wathchers. Weight Watchers wins hands down. You go in a broken person and they give you specific tools to deal with the brokeness and when you backslide they welcome you with a smile, hug and encouragement that you will get back on track. Plus they know everyone is on their own individual journey–something else the church seems to have lost sight of.

  2. Thank you for the picture. It is often how I visualize my local congregation! I have come to realize that I am the perfect example of how the UMC has not been doing its job. In October I finally hit the wall and was “pushed” into sabbatical until January–not my conscious choice. Early on, I was standing on the front porch of the church, the door was locked against me and there was a big beautiful world where this Christian walk has got to be “easier” than inside this congregation. I spent 5 weeks with the church and Methodism voice literally “walled off”–a novelty for me– and focused 100% on God and most recently have wrestled with him about His church–and have expressed my opinion very plainly in verbage no human would want to hear! Have come to the conclusion I have to go back–have even accepted a ministry challenge–but not until January. Have my own plans for another. Until then, some days I am like Jonah being sent to Ninevah: NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! I feel like I have a clue why people give up “the church”–will be interesting how that kind of voice plays out. Anybody else would have been long gone. But in the mean time God has got to raise me above my disillusionment and hurt and enable me to love these people who individually there are some phenomanally faithful people but as a group, the dynamic……..A mother of a down syndrome child has said the same thing–she trusts the school system he has attended more than she trusts this church. It did not use to be like that!

  3. As usualy, SPOT ON — cool chart of dysfunction BTW…

    AND THE PEOPLE (SHOULD) SAY: A M E N -&- AMEN -&- AMEN
    and not just say it but DO it …….
    I like the synderesis concept … if only, huh ?

    Best Wishes and PRAYER for your recuperation (surgery)………I hope the “Episcopal Office” didn’t order a LOBOTOMY for you. (j/k sorry the “imp” in me is showing).

    WIll also be anxious to read the analysis — how did you get 3 dozen other leaders to “grow a set” and join your critique ?

    Todd Anderson
    The REALLY Disconnected Methodist wandering close to Canterbury……..

  4. I’m sorry for my lack of understanding, but I still don’t get it. What are your concerns with the Ministry Study? How does it “circle the wagons?”

    • Sorry for the delay (surgery got in my way…) but I will be posting my analysis of the Ministry Study (along with some input from slightly over three dozen other leaders in our church) the first week of December. I am not alone in my disappointment and concerns. However, there are some who are fine with it, and many who aren’t concerned at all.

      • Thanks so much, I’ll be patient now. I’m looking forward to your analysis, as I appreciate your perspective and passion for God’s hope for the UMC.

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