the beginnings of the Methodist Mission in America?

A number of years ago when the Episcopal church has elected Bishop Gene Robinson and had gone through the turmoil of theological, ethical, and cultural debates of gay clergy and affirming those positions there were many from the Episcopal church. Not just because of that reason, there were a few localized reasons, my friend Thomas left his position within the Episcopal church and started an Anglican church under the direction of a Rwandan Bishop and the Anglican Mission in America. So essentially he started a new church a few miles from his prior church and was ordained as a missionary to America.

Yes, this is a very short history to some really complex decisions and people. But this is a blog posting, not a book.

With that short history in mind, I am curious to see if something similar would be at play within the United Methodist Church as they approach General Conference 2012 and American United Methodist Pastors have become more vocal in their intentions and support of a full inclusion into the church.

Africa is our fastest (and maybe only) growing region of the church and they are extremely influenced by a conservative methodist framework. Again, more sweeping generalizations.

So I was reading this article on a “Splinter Group” of Methodist leaders who have resigned their credentials and started a “Methodist Revival” group.

five former United Methodist Church pastors who recently hogged the limelight when they resigned from their church at the same time, will today launch their church, the Methodist Revival Church (MRF) at Harare Gardens today.

Former UMC pastor and MRF leader Philip Mupindu, will be the main speaker at the event that is expected to run from 8am to 2pm. MRF marketing officer Francis Chitambira said various gospel musicians including Agatha Murudzwa were lined up for the event.

Also expected to perform at the event are various choral groups including Methodist groups Marimba aJehovha Gospel Singers and Nyevero Dzedenga. “Many people from various parts of the country confirmed they will attend,” Chitambira said.

“We also invited members of other churches, including our former church’s bishop (Eben Nhiwatiwa) and pastors. although I am not sure whether the bishop will be able to accommodate our event in his schedule, some pastors confirmed.”

Chitambira said the aim of the launch was to explain the new church, its origins and mission, which will serve as apostles seek to bring more people to God through working with other churches to spread the word. The new church maintains the red colour being used by UMC, but dropped the colour blue for green.

“The red on our church logo symbolises the Holy Ghost fire coming from heaven towards the church and also the blood of Jesus who died for all humankind,” Chitambira said. “Green symbolises life. We also have the Bible, showing that we are bound by the word of God, which is a living word.”

The new church will also use hymns, from both the UMC and the Methodist in Zimbabwe, together with other praise and worship songs. Although UMC and the Mupindu group maintained that the UMC as a church did not split, but that just five people withdrew their services from the church, the fact that some congregants left the UMC to fellowship with them means there was a split.

Call me alarmist if you like. History does repeat itself and I am sure that this idea could be a real possibility at play if/when all things go crazy in the United Methodist Church.

Missional Drive Church?

I was pretty impressed with this pastor who has started a ‘Drive In’ church. Wasn’t so much impressed that he’s doing a drive in church, that seems rather silly to me. I was impressed that he is choosing to do sermons outside in the Texas heat wave this summer. That is just insane.

Vans and trucks drove into the parking lot of Lovejoy High School to be part of “Sanctuary Under the Sky,” Rev. David Ray’s new drive-in church.

“The sound is transmitted over the car radio so they just tune into the frequency that it’s set to. They can hear, they’re encouraged to participate. Everything that the congregation is asked to do is printed in the bulletin,” said Ray.

Ray, pastor of Presbyterian Church of the Master, stands in the parking lot conducting the service as churchgoers watch through their dashboard windows.

What caught me by surprise with this story is that he was a Presbyterian pastor. Not the normal kind the norm of worship for a mainline minister. So as with any bored moment I went and looked up ‘drive in church‘ and come to realize, he doesn’t actually know how to look for others doing the same thing (claimed in article that he’s only one doing this that he’s aware of), because it seems other churches have driveinchurch.net websites. Turns out a Disciples of Christ church has been at this for almost 50 years. In their history this is their reasoning for a drive in church.

The purpose of these services was to reach a large number of people with the good news including tourists, the physically challenged and provide an opportunity for the whole family to worship together. The Drive-In Church is new and different, yet it is deeply spiritual and reverently worshipful. As our Pastor was quoted in The Washington Post in a recent article on our church. “We worship outdoors, by the sea as did Jesus.”

So has me wondering, is this like the first emergent / missional / emerging / post-modern church?

Or maybe, is the car such a comfort buffer that we prevent ourselves from ever actually being community because we never get in proximal distance to one another?

Come on, Take the Money and Run Church!

“Come on, Take the Money and Run. Woo, Woo!” (couldn’t resist a little Steve Miller Band in this posting)

In my methodist church they have stated that a lottery is in congruent with Christian practice.. or more exactly.

Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice.

Where gambling has become addictive, the Church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual’s energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends.

The Church should promote standards and personal lifestyles that would make unnecessary and undesirable the resort to commercial gambling—including public lotteries—as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

When I lived in Alabama the churches were in a uproar over a lottery trying to be pushed through the government. A governor was elected with the implementation of a lottery as a big platform. However, it got shot down pretty quickly (and I don’t think he won a second term). In Tennessee we had the same uprising, but a lottery passed through regardless. In both cases there was always this hypothetical. What if someone in your congregation won the lottery and gave the money to the church, do you take it?

Well, not so much a hypothetical question anymore..

As it turns out this church had an instant win card worth $80,000 dropped off in the offering plate. It was anonymous so the church folks say and they are not to bashful about accepting it.

“The money is going towards the church and we have to supply the food for the neighborhood, the clothing, everything costs and we give this stuff away free,” says Alfonzo Riggins.

Riggins has been attending cathedral of prayer church for the past 15 years, He also handles security for the pastor and first lady of the church.

He says he has already received criticisms from people in the community about the church accepting the money.

“God said a blessing is a blessing you know, no one at the church played the lottery so it had to be an outsider that came in and did this,” Riggins said.

News Leader 9 caught up with church members after Bible study.  They had no idea about the huge donation their church had gotten but agreed that it was in fact a gift from above.

“Everything comes from God, everything is a blessing however we received it, and it’s a blessing I’m not telling anybody to go out and gamble but however God gave it to you then receives it as that,” Riggins said.  “I haven’t found out yet and I’m not going to ask that question unless it’s given to me as a direct order to figure out where it came from.”

So what do you say? Anonymous gift to the church via gambling method a gift from God to be used or a deeper moral question that needs a more creative response?

If you were curious as to the church.

What Google Images Teaches Me about My Faith

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..

WORSHIP

I probably have the most issue with worship.. Seriously, these black silouette hands raised is the predominate image for worship?.. really?..

DOCTRINE

Doctrine doesn’t get a good rap with the image folks. It also gets mixed up with politics and other cultural items.. Is that telling us something?

GOD

I’m glad to know that God is pretty much the same yesterday, today and forever. Except for that muscle character HE is some nice shining lights with a white beard.

THEOLOGY

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.

PREACHER

This one kinda freaked me out…

PASTOR

I like the safe pastor look better.. Except for maybe that guy in the top right.. Or the movie Troy, not a very good movie.

BAPTISM

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..

SERMON

I suppose with two or three Sermon on the Mount images we can call this legit. At least there isn’t a benny hinn pic.

PRAYER

Boy am I glad my mommy taught me to fold my hands together and hid in dark lit rooms because apparently that is the way to go about praying to God.

JUSTICE

The gothic nature of all these images has me shaking my head.. Maybe justice is just for goth people.

CHURCH

I like how there are no people in the churches. That’s nice.. Wait a second….

COMMUNION

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

JESUS

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?

 

ReBranding the Faith.. for a President

Mitt Romney as Mormon trying to convince Voters

Graphic from faithmouse.blogspot.com

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Or…

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.

3 Ways for Churches to Improve their Brand

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.

Delegation Grudge Match! #umc #umclead #tnac2011

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.”

The Book of Discipline The Musical #umc #umclead #tnac2011

With the success of “The Book of Mormon”  & our United Methodist Church Annual Conferences happening around the UMC over the past month and half. Some friends & I had running imaginations that “The Book of Discipline” is just as confusing as the Book of Mormon so why not create a equally compelling broadway play that can debut right before General Conference in 2012.

“The Book of Discipline” a musical based on the doctrinal works of the United Methodist Church. Musical numbers would include:

  • “Prevenient Grace, How Sweet the Realization”
  • “Where As, Hence, Be It”
  • “Christ, from whom All Committees Flow”
  • “Take My Life and Let it SPRC”
  • “I am a Methodist…and Methodists just whatever…”
  • “Depth of Resolutions”
  • “Jesus, Lover of my Social Principles”
  • “Lo He comes with Consensus Descending”
  • “Where As, Hence, Be It Therefore”
  • “Oh Come and Dwell in, this huge book we Created”
  • “Oh for a Thousand ‘Vital Congregations’ To Sing”

Creators & Contributors to “The Book of Discipline” the musical Heather Bennett, Russell Hale, Brad Smith, & you who leave ideas in the comments.

 

Phyllis Tickle, Freakonomics & a ‘vital’ congregation

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.

 

Foursquare your Church

The other week I was sitting down with my Hendersonville Geeks and Bill showed me this Foursquare special for Old Hickory United Methodist Church. I’m really familiar with OHUMC as one of my best buds (Jay Voorhees) has recently become the pastor there & I’ve lived in the neighborhood for a number of years now. For a small church they’ve done a few marketing things that have caught my attention in the “I’m surprised they did that” realm. So I give them props for trying stuff.

Jay is tech savy and so I’m sure this one is all him. I find it a rather creative way to let people in the area know that you are there & the sacred hope of coming into the doors.

Think about the buildings you pass by in a daily commute or driving around. You probably don’t. We go to that destination place and then off again. Rarely noticing what is around that destination spot. Or even in this instance, people don’t go near Old Hickory (basically because of the lake system takes out a direct drive, which would be a mile or two) become aware of a small church that is trying something out.

NOTE: Foursquare, for those that do not know is a GPS/Location based application for mobile phones that has people “check-in” at places & will give points & badges for certain achievements.

What I like out Jay’s approach here:

  1. Offering a free meal is easy for them, they’ve already incurred the cost many times by cooking for the rest of the group. However, for many of the younger families in our area that could be a cool offer.
  2. It isn’t too slick. He isn’t calling it anything he’s not. They are “newbies” to either foursquare or the church. It works.
  3. The big allure of the check-in is that it gets broadcast throughout that persons network, which, is probably very defined and those people would probably enjoy taking advantage of that same experience.

Found this other blog posting on a church’s potential use of a location based service. I like the idea of creating a mayorship competition.. (If you want to get into a theological or doctrinal argument over a “mayor” of the church go somewhere else, it’s a game people!) &:~)

Creating a special for your church is easy. Foursquare wants you to do this as this is a huge plus for them and their application. If you want to create some badges for people to work towards, start the process by sending in this form.