Friday, August 15, 2008

Trying to refocus . . .

I am spending the weekend trying to refocus (and finish a sermon) as way too much has been coming my way . . . a friend use to tell me that I need to learn no . . . and I have learned to say no, but not often enough.

Sunday the CORE Team for transformation and the congregation talked about possible changes to the Narthex . . . my head has been spinning since . . . I still can't make sense of their concerns . . . I understand the fear of change . . . the fear of the unknown . . . but the veiled -- really not that veiled, threats that were made really threw me . . . and the fact is that even if these threats came to fruition it wouldn't have that great of an impact on the church tangibly . . . those who were complaining, for the most part, don't tithe (some don't even give to the church) and their involvement is primarily to attend Worship 2 to 3 Sundays out of a month. But this is what I don't get . . . these are the same people who have said that the church will die if we don't get new members . . . of course, numerical growth is a byproduct of church transformation not the goal . . . yet, they are opposed to losing 20 seats . . . "we need them for weddings (one since I have been here has been SRO), funerals, Christmas and Easter" . . . is this the function of the church? Then this, "what if those who left come back?" . . . they don't realize that they aren't coming back . . . we need to move on . . . I say, "if we need those 20 spaces it means we need a 2nd service" . . . in fact, we are talking about the possibility of a 2nd service . . . something less traditional . . . not contemporary but more of a coaching type Worship service.
Get this . . . they don't want to have fellowship in the Narthex before and after Worship because it isn't reverent . . . I could understand this if these weren't the same people who go to the Fellowship Hall to get a cup of coffee around 10am and stand around the Narthex visiting until Worship begins . . . and Sunday these were the same people that stayed around the Narthex for Fellowship almost for an hour after Worship . . . this never happened in the Fellowship Hall or when we had fellowship outside . . . what's up!

I guess what was most interesting to me is that before our conversation the sermon had asked the question what would happen if a church were to take the Great Commission seriously and 5 members converted one person a year to a personal relationship with Christ and then those converts did the same . . . at the end of a decade there would be 4000 new Christ-followers . . . the point was what might our smaller membership church look like were we to take the Great Commission seriously.

But I wonder will this ever hit home . . . we had two new families join us Sunday and an older couple come back for third time and now have about 1/2 dozen ready for membership. Of course, none of these were unchurched folks . . . this is the story of this church (most churches) . . . people move into the area and are looking for a church or get upset with their church and transfer their membership . . . and yet there are hundreds probably within a 5 mile radius of the building who are yearning for that which will fill their emptiness . . . we know that this is Jesus and yet, we won't share that Good News. I was reading something to day that indicated each congregation should have a goal of growing a net of 10% a year in membership . . . I wonder if this really shouldn't be in terms of Worship attendance and discipleship . . . unfortunately, membership in the church has come to mean very little.
Then there is still the on-going melodrama at the non-profit on whose board I serve. We still have our older members who are wanting to fire the Executive Director although we all see what a great job she is doing. Yesterday we had a CPA come in to report on the result of our Audit. At the end he said that he had been asked to comment on the salary that we were paying the Executive Director . . . by whom I am not sure, but I suspect . . . anyway he indicated that it was too much . . . I asked if he knew what her role was . . . that she was also hired as a case manager . . . that according to the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers her pay was comparable with other salaries? . . . didn't think so!
Things are going well . . . the two women who were having problems are working well together as a management team . . . the image of the agency is changing from an entitlement agency to an agency that wants to help. Then this morning I get a call . . . there is a sick out by all the employees for today and tomorrow except for management and one employee . . . this in response to a decision by the Board to stop a decades long practice that has produced bad PR in the community.
Spent Monday through Wednesday meeting with other ministers and lay leaders in this part of the country talking about the future of our denomination . . . meetings were frustrating but hopeful. As I struggle with how we are to faithfully live out the Great Commission I am reminded of Paul's words . . .
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! I Corinthians 9:19-23 (The Message)

Striving to live out the Great Commission,


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