I have been pondering this idea of “start with why” for my own ministries then it had me wondering. Does our church even know the ‘why’ of its existence? Sure there are some mission statements, but those are things that the church says it wants to be. Not really why it is there. Maybe I am thinking to hard on this, but companies who live to do their why have captured mass appeal. Maybe the church doesn’t need mass appeal.. The leaders of my faith expression sure seem to want ‘vital’ mass appeal.
So we are up in Seattle for this pest control meeting. I flew up after Youth 2011 & Erin flew in a few days early to check out the town. We are pretty much doing the tourist things in our short time here but one thing I never expected was on the outside of the ‘experiential music project’ and down the hill a bit from the space needle is a huge labyrinth painted onto the cement.
Not sure why it was placed there. They do have a lot of public art in the city. Maybe that is reasoning enough. It had a different vibe than the ones we had in all the Youth 2011 events because this was more like a playground piece with parents and kids racing through the lines.
I suppose everyone encounters a labyrinth with their own experience. It just seemed funny to me.
http://youthworkercircuit.com | http://gavoweb.com
Not sure, but the churches in my neighborhood seem to feel the need to try and out wit each other in the medium of church signs. This one has been up for a few weeks. I am guessing it means that Jesus is some kind of chemical stimulant. Maybe it is an old church and it means that Jesus helps them with a defective body?.. Wonder if they will have a side effect disclaimer in a few weeks. Warning: following Jesus will make you give away all your possessions and family and follow him.
My buddy Sam Davidson at Cool People Care highlighted this 10 courageous actions to building community in your neighborhood community. It had me thinking that, 1. community is what people are looking for 2. people really do not know how to go about it anymore because we’ve spent a few generations segmenting our lives to our own personal bubbles. So when it comes to images of church, do we actually know how to build community? We might not..
So here’s some added thoughts to this list of actions for those who would be called ‘people of the church.’
- Take interest in other people’s passions as much as you want them to be interested in yours. We all have ideas for how life should be. The thing is that, unless we are unsurpassed geniuses, we only see a small part of the picture. Asking others what they see can only enhance understanding. [Tough one, stop concerning yourself first and get on with someone else and the things that are important to them. We probably do this very well for a children, but when it comes to our neighbor?..]
- Become a mentor to others less involved in their community. In every community there is a small, overworked group of leaders who try to figure out everything for everyone. They go to all the meetings and take on huge loads of work while others are silent—until it is time for them to complain. This will not do. If you are such a leader, mentor someone with less experience. If you are not, approach someone and ask them to mentor you. [I have many gifts and skills that could be shared. Beyond my youth work, which I do this often, do I do that in avenues for people in my neighborhood? No, and that is not something I’m proud of. Could do better to share skill sets to others in my community and who knows the impact that could be.]
- Support a cause with no direct personal benefit. We are involved with things we care about the most. That’s natural. My experience tells me, however, that the most interesting and possibly most important discoveries happen in the spaces between interests and disciplines and ideologies. Step outside your natural zone—it’s necessary for uncovering new solutions. [Giving of self with out some “return on investment” is tough cultural impulse to break from. We go to church because we ‘get something’ be it uplifting feeling from worship, friendships, networking, etc. Love doesn’t expect or need a return.]
- Invite “them” to your meeting. It is convenient to show our importance by pitting “us” against “them.” But “they” may have insights that will help us better understand the problem and appreciate the marvelous tensions that form a healthy community. [With the diverse & numerous platforms of niche news and neighborhoods we have made it easier to only focus on & affirm our current viewpoints. If you are conservative church type what would it be to go to the liberal group meetings on/about the church? Is it scary to think you will find out they are real people like you?]
- Reject the tendency to blame. Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution. Practice compassion towards those who, like ourselves, unwittingly contribute to the problem they wish to solve. [We play victim many times. Accountability is hard to come by so much that it is treated in very conflicting manners when it happens. Poverty is an issue and instead of blaming some group or a system, what would happen if we all assumed responsibility for doing our part of the solutions.]
- Confront internal contradictions. Claiming that the problem is someone else’s doing conveniently absolves us from doing our part. If I drive my car to a transportation meeting and complain about traffic jams, it’s necessary that I acknowledge my contribution to that traffic. At the very least, acknowledge the irony of the situation. [Chances are we do not even realize the many depths to which we play a part in the problem]
- Practice industrial-strength listening. Do not react until you’ve received. [Holy Listening or Spiritual Direction should be part of every Christian’s practice]
- Render unto community… Shrink your home to what is necessary and conduct the rest of your life in the community. For example, resist a “theater” room and visit your local theater instead. Anytime you bump into others you make your community a bit stronger. [How big is your church that it becomes so much the focus of your ministry that you have no energy to do anything outside in the community?]
- Clarify your image of the future. I find that most decisions we make are shaped by impulses so deeply ingrained we fail to be aware of them. Unexamined impulse is prejudice. Examined impulse, once confirmed, is guidance that leads to something better. Examine your embedded assumptions, embrace the relevant ones, and discard the rest. What remains is a clear intuition, an image of a possible future. Then engage with others to make it a reality. [Know thy self. As Jesus asks, “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?”]
- Resist the temptation to choose between the ideal and the reality. Hold them both in your awareness. Learn to enjoy the creativity and humor this tension offers. It can be quite funny. [You can’t do everything otherwise you’ll get yourself in trouble, you can’t do nothing otherwise you are not living up to the calling of Jesus Christ.]
I went to listen to some songwriters perform a few weeks ago. In Nashville, events like these are easy to find. What I like most about these events is listening to the stories behind the songs. Usually, you’ll hear something like, “When I wrote this song with Joe and Tom…” or “As Jane and Wanda and I wrote this…” Go to enough of these and listen to enough of these stories and you’ll realize that no one writes songs alone. Look at the liner notes to any CD in your collection and you’ll see.
And, in Bill Gates’ recent piece for the BBC, he wrote:
Communication skills and the ability to work well with different types of people are very important too. A lot of people assume that creating software is purely a solitary activity where you sit in an office with the door closed all day and write lots of code. This isn’t true at all. Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.
In other words, we’re not alone. We can’t be our best alone. We need community like we need air, shoes and wi-fi.
There’s a difference, however, between community and communitas. Community can simply mean some sort of loose grouping, without any kind of real connection. Our neighborhood, our city, or our classmates can be considered our community. But we can still not know anything about another person in this community.
What we need then, is communitas. This is a Latin word that describes a more intense type of community – one that usually undergoes some sort of bonding experience or rite of passage together. Fraternities and sororities are a shallow form of this, sharing a common initiation ritual. Guys who stormed the beach at Normandy and firefighters are a more intense version.
Maybe it is me, but I find myself troubled by the things that Google Image shows me about the faith that I claim. This is significant in my opinion because google will push those things that are referenced or used the most to the top because they have been deemed as having the most worth & credibility for that particular search. I would put the bible in this thought captured in image, but it is boringly predictable. So..
I must say, I liked the motivation theology poster a whole lot. contemplated making that my laptop wallpaper. It is intriguing the images constructed to try to explain theology. Throwing out the 10 commandments makes for a limited theology in ways, might not be a bad thing though.
I suppose another arms up in the air type image is suitable. I did find that infant baptism rising to the top in so majority of images to be interesting. But maybe those are just baby dedications..
I could have chosen Eucharist, but those results were too catholic. Reminds me of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. “You must choose wisely.” Looking at these, we seem to want to choose poorly.
Last but not least
I like my white soft skinned Jesus. Especially the contemplative sensitive type. But when I go out on Friday night I want Buddy Christ!
NOTE: If you are curious, I didn’t do any scrolling for these. This is the first set of results in each case.
So what does this tell you about your faith?
I was again amused by the publicity campaigns of BeautifulPeople.com who has made news recently for kicking out some 30,000 ‘members’ of their social media site. Last time they did that they claimed it was because people “let themselves go” after the Christmas/New Year holidays and the ‘beautiful people’ were complaining that the site had let their standards slip. This time they are claiming some virus/hack that no one has heard of has added these un-savory people (publicity stunt).
Truth is, we all lie.. and we all participate in lying at some level in our social media presence.
Case in point for me. The photo I use for all my profiles is me and it isn’t altered in any fashion (except cropping) but it is a photo that captures me in a not so fat or sloven look that many others can do. Not to mention I’m reading a book in that photo.. I don’t think I ever actually finished that book & most of the time I read off the Kindle or Kindle iPad app these days, which doesn’t look nearly as studious. Truth is, that pic is something I wish I was a little more of.
I am that at times, but most times I am a bit to heavy that if I think about it I feel less than my best. Reading & being all studious smart happens when I actually have enough energy left at the end of the day of work and parenting to do without falling asleep.. which is rare these days.
I wonder what the world of social media would look like if we all spent more time, maybe not lying, but telling a full truth about ourselves. Would social media become more of a therapy than a social setting.. Do we change the name to ‘Therapy Media?’
Maybe, we really do not want to get so involved in each others lives to handle a ‘therapy media’ culture?.. I suppose if we want that we can pick up the phone and actually talk to someone about what’s actually going on their lives..
I was born in the last days of a Nixon administration, remember nothing of a the Ford presidency, have some recollection of Carter administration and was totally into a Regan presidency (though I had no clue why except that my parents liked him). Wasn’t old enough to vote for George H. Bush, but since then I have payed attention and voted in every election since then.
Somewhere along the road of all this religion became important… almost, too important.. the only thing important
History tells me it was a big deal when Kennedy was elected president because he was Catholic. Growing up around catholics in NJ I was confused why that was a big deal. Catholics were generally good folks. They did their mass, drank a lot of beer at the carnival beer garden and their kids played on my soccer team with me. I call them my friends.
We are now seeing the mormon church starting to ‘re-brand’ itself in a light so that they are seen as regular folks with possible, underlying, hopes that Mitt Romney (or now Jon Huntsman). This shouldn’t come as a surprise, the news was out there back last fall with their ‘regular person’ ad campaign.
My thought is, why does a church need to do this?
I don’t really know any folks who are mormons as close friends. Have met many along my years, had some nice chats with the young men doing their missionary work. Even read some of the Book of Mormon. Thinking of buying the musical recordings (though I’m told that isn’t really from the mormon church). Mormon’s seem to be regular people. Just as nice as the catholics I grew up with. They probably wouldn’t be guzzling beer in the beer garden at the carnival but a few might.
They have some odd customs and beliefs.. John Smith found some golden books in his back yard that no one saw in Pennsylvannia which became a new testament. They can retro-actively re/baptize the dead so that they may go to heaven, even the person was Jewish upon dying. I suppose I could go on about this list. My catholic friends always had the same conversations, “So this Pope is like next best thing to God?” “Why do you have to pray to a saint to talk to God?” “You really believe you are drinking Christ’s blood? That’s gross.”
With all this weirdness I could say that these folks were still nice, normal people. Any many times I would call them my friends.
But somewhere along the way this religion stuff got too important…
Being a church worker and involved in church for the greater portion of my conscious life I would never say church isn’t important. But there is a point where the doctrine of our religion has become a mountain of judgment for those seeking to serve our greater good.
My observations come along as such.
- The church gave up its social influence by giving over the mandates of caring for the poor, vulnerable, and needy of our society to the government. Whether it is a medicine program, a social service, a education program, or relief effort. We, as a church, can safely say that we outsourced this mission of our church to the government. To which, we probably do not have the imagination to get it back. Though some are imagining it and implementing it.
- Thus, the government became the place where social issues of taking care of humanity were now hashed out. No longer were our houses of faith, where we would come together in worship & as a family of believers, the place to sort what God wanted for our community and our church to be about. Our brand became less about what we did and more about a history of our titles and names. The politics of our culture were not a place where we extended grace and love (as ideally done in the church) but more a place where we put together way to ‘win’ something.
- Our prevailing economy of consumption feeds into our mindset that IT IS, all about me. My thoughts and needs are primary (more than just Mazlows base of hierarchy of needs) and who gives what is really needed and what is really achievable. We speak and act in an economy of consumption, why else would you have a “marketing campaign” to tell you that a group of people is ‘just like you.’ They want you, they need you, to digest and accept that message. We should just know that mormons, in most cases there are always crazies in every faith expression, are just like you and me.
So, fueled with an economy, and generation, of ‘me first’ and having given over the mission of the church to the government in more ways than we care to admit. We make a wrong assumption that someones religious expression has a huge effect on the running of the government.
Those of us who know the mormon church know that they actual have held onto their mission as a church and not outsourced it to the government (at least not as much as the rest of our faith community). They have their own health care system to take care of its members. They do their own disaster relief programs. They have their own parenting and child education systems within their faith traditions. They expect a certain amount of sacrifice of time and energy towards these entities (their youth ministry programs are intensive and led by parents and other leaders, not outsourced to church staff). Sacrifice, that isn’t convenient isn’t part of our vocabulary in my protestant world. Giving into a greater good, or sharing the resources with a community gets called “socialism” but yet it is a part of the start of the church in Acts 2.
The other week I heard a speaker say that the church needs to be a “go-to people” place versus a “come-to us” place. It has me thinking of 1) our overall ethos as an American church & 2) what can we do about it?
Our overall ethos as a church in America is probably different depending on the people who are in the church versus the people outside the church, so for purposes of this conversation we’ll let you answer that question for yourself. I’m thinking of answering question #2.
To change the “brand” of a church, which I wrap around as the market place identity of an institution or person, and that identity if what others communicate to each other what/who you are. So let’s take ahold of three principles to help drive our churches to change their brands. Note: this is more of a get out and do list, not a bible proof texting list, but if you want that there is plenty of scripture that doesn’t referencing ‘stay in your temple’ (God actually destroyed one because he didn’t like the idea of being contained to a place) or ‘just tend to your own people.’
1) Sharing of Resources: This may seem strange, but sharing and giving of resources is the new goodwill and positive energy generator. People love to lift you up when they feel you are freely giving. Ideas on making this happen: freely giving use of your building to weddings, community events, after school programs, meetings, etc. that do not fall within the ‘ministries’ of the church. People know when you have open, versus locked, doors. Share resources you have from your teaching education set ups, projectors/screens, chairs, etc. Maybe all you have people, that works even better, have your people on an email list that are willing to commit to showing up and helping set up/clean up or just be present to community events. One might say, well how to do recoup an item if it was broken or not returned?.. My retort is, how has a generation of scarcity model treated our church identity?..
2) Participate in Everything: Community events, fundraisers, golf tournaments, high school musicals, whatever it is have your people there and let them be the folks that represent you going out. Make it part of your membership training “We keep a community calendar and we expect you to participate in things that beyond your personal interests. That is a sacrifice and that is serving.” I have gotten used to saying yes to every yearbook and high school sports program that came across my desk. It was/is important to participate and show support to the things that were important to the people of the community I was called to. Being you are reading this digitally, that goes for all the digital mediums. Participate in the community Facebook accounts (not one? create it). Be active in those areas.
3) Recommend Others is Your PR: Be about others and what their interests are. Share what others are doing. This gives them a reason to think of you as someone who cares (which isn’t always an identity churches have, they should, but don’t). Think of this rule of saying/sharing 12 things about someone else before you promote or talk about your own church. That could be digital or in public forum. It is also the new way of networking. In the past the value was to be the hub of a network where everyone had to come through you to get to valuable information. No more, a valuable networker shares their networks freely, connecting folks who compliment other, resources, information, etc.
So there are the talking points and they really do not sound like much, but trust me, they are culture changing and will take intentionality to mobilize if your folks have grown up tending to within the walls of the building.
While at Annual Conference we found ourselves in some deadlocks of General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference delegate voting. Talk was made of suspending the rules in order to implement a more stream lined and exciting approach to choosing delegates for GC & JC. Have an all out Grudge Match!
SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!! LIVE AT THE BIGGEST CHURCH IN YOUR CONFERENCE!! CLERGY & LAITY ALL OUT GRUDGE MATCH FOR THE AGES!
Headline Match! Delegation Grudge Match! Not sure who or how to vote for candidates? Not sure how to get someone from making amendments to the amendments that wasn’t even ratified or was taken out of the order of discussion for or against. Not sure who gets voted as a delegate for the big league conferences?
Undercard Match! Probationary Candidates vs the Board of Ordained Ministry!! Who is good enough to get ordained but then those who are to be passed for another year or two?.. Well, Let’s settle this once and for all with a United Methodist Holy Conferencing Grudge Match (you are welcome to market it as a Death Match if you like).
So in this Wesleyan Battle Royal we came up with some of the fighters on this Holy Conferencing Royal Rumble (feel free to create your own.
- “Pastor of Disaster”
- “The Pastor of Pain”
- “The Vicar of Vexation”
- “The Reverend of Rough”
- “The Clergy Killer”
- “Minister of Mayhem”
- “The Church Terminator”
- “The Fundamentalist”
- “The Libanator”
- “The Protester”
- “Blessed Peacemaker” (special guest referee)
- “Honky Tonk Pastor”
- “Rev Riot”
- “Means of Grapple”
- “The Bishop of Bullying”
- “The Witness”
- “Superintendant of Smashing”
- “Undercover Baptist”
Feel free to create any fighters story lines.. I’m personally looking forward to the battle between “the Minister of Mayhem” v “the Bishop of Bullying.”
In my latest posting of my newfound Neflix documentary watching I choose to watch Freakonomics. I am fascinated with Levitt’s concepts and numbers crunching analysis. This is rather funny to me because I am far from a numbers type person. However, he seems to tap into something that I believe for many of my church and cultural observations and that is that the numbers are never quite what they seem or presented to us. More times than not our conventional look of cause & effect on actions of our world are probably not what they are.
As a documentary Freakonomics was entertaining in this way for me. One of the Feakonomics case studies that had me intrigued most was the reasoning for the drop in crime starting in the 90’s after huge rises in crime through the 70’s to 80’s. Government officials and experts were extolling practices of police practices, tougher sentencing, and a few other items. What was an interesting connection was that those couldn’t tell the whole story and the rest of the story was filled out by the passing of Roe vs Wade and the availability of abortions. This kept a generation of unwanted children from ever being born and the numbers fall into line of the drop of 20 something population who were the crime offenders at that point, but had huge statistical drops. Is it right? I’d like to think there is a lot of credibility to the whole thing.
As I work with my United Methodist church who is trying to label and build “vital” congregations I cannot help but wonder that the numbers are not what they seem. I do not have some great answer, but it feels that our metrics we measure our “vitality” is too conventional and not dynamic enough to represent what is truly going on.
One of the things that is commonly referenced is that the United Methodist Church is dying in America. The UMC’s heyday was the 1950’s and many times the church entity keeps trying to replicate that era.
Was sitting in with Phyllis Tickle a few months back where she was going through her patterned history lessons of the faith and church. She had some interesting connections that in the 20th century at the break of the Great Depression and the start of the World War II for Americans the women took up the tools of the men’s trades and became the iconic “Rosie the Riveter.” The culture of Rosie was that they would go off to work becoming exhausted from a day of work and do what the man would do to unwind, stopping by the bar. When the war ended and the men came home Rosie went back to the daily duty of the home. She was left without something very important for her community. Rosie was left without a “third place.” The bar was the important “third place” for community for the group of men and ladies. However, for a group of ladies community was gone. So what became the new third place? The church?..
Maybe the boom of the United Methodist Church in the 50’s was less about the church’s evangelism and disciple making, but more about a sociological need for the ladies of the home to re-find community.