Monday, March 25, 2013

A Blog is Born

My friend Kristen Melton has a new blog. Everything she does, she does well and I'm looking forward to what she has to say. Check out her first entry:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Focusing on the People

I remember something Scott Peck said in his book, The Different Drum, Community Making and Peace:  When people come together, there comes a point where some are tempted to retreat into organization. I’ve thought about that and I’ve noticed how often inspiring movements become bogged down institutions that demand constant self maintenance. 

Sometimes, in a church meeting I’ll think, “We need to get some focus here.” Others will be feeling it too, and someone will say, “We need a mission statement.” Another will say, “Don’t we have one of those somewhere? Remember that Saturday we spent composing it? What did we do with that?”  Somehow it became just another forgotten project.

We don’t have to form a committee to help us stay focused. I can tell you what we need to focus on in five words: 

People, people, people, people, people. 

I’ll expand on that:

Wounded people, lonely people, angry people, and hungry people. People at war, people in poverty, people mired in forms and financial confusion.  There are divorced and widowed and people who suffering other kinds of grief. People are in jail, going to jail, and getting out of jail. People are addicted to every kind of substance and/or activity.  People are sick and dying. People are young and directionless, old and confused, middle aged and overwhelmed. 

The primary questions we should be ask are not, “How do we get them to Sunday school or worship services? How can we get them to join our church?”

We need to ask, “Where are they? What do they need? What can we do? What can we give them? How can we communicate our concern for them? How can we tell them of a God who cares? How can we help them get in touch with that God?

It’s overwhelming. It is much easier to say: “Let’s have an attendance drive for Sunday School.  Let’s have a basketball goal installed for the kids. Let’s get some cool music that will appeal to the younger families.” They are not wrong, but they do not really address the question. 

Remember, our goal is not to preserve a church but to save people.

PS: My father has been a minister for close to sixty years. He has a plaque on his wall that Mom made for him many years ago. It has one word: “PEOPLE.”  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Going Up

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3).

Sometimes I think we are engaged in prayerful tug-of-war that goes something like this:

We look to the heavens and call aloud to Christ to come down to us, to involve himself with our earthly issues: “Help me with my finances, my family, my sickness, my discomfort, my fears, my loneliness, and my halitosis.” 

Meanwhile, Jesus is calling down to us saying, “Quit worrying about those things and come be with me in the embrace of God.  Come experience all that is holy, lovely, beautiful, musical, peaceful, wonderful, and joyful. 

“But I live in the real world,” we say.

“Reality (truth) is where I am,” Jesus says. “Come to me. You’re weary and burdened. Take a rest with me.  Don’t wallow down there; come up here with me.”

“But I am wallowed down here. This is my body, these are my responsibilities and struggles, and they’re real.” 

“But your true home is in heaven with me. Use your prayer time to visit here with me.”

“How do I do that?”

“Ask me what I’m thinking about. Ask me what I care about.  Listen for the things I want to say rather than what you want or expect to hear.  Ask how you can get involved with my work instead of insisting on my getting involved with yours.  Or maybe you could just be quiet and be with me.

“There’s only one way this relationship is going, my child, and that’s up.”

Stealing Away

I once knew a minister who had an unlisted phone number. No kidding. The guy was in the business of serving people and they couldn’t get hold of him.  

It is my policy to be available to people--they are the business of church.  I move my furniture around so I can see when people enter the building. I speak to everyone who comes in the front door.  I publish my cell number. Lois always knows how to find me.  And people can call me at home.

I do this because I’ve noticed over the years that the best opportunity for ministry comes from the interruptions. In truth, I like the lifestyle but it can get difficult.  These days it’s not uncommon for me to write an article while texting someone, talking on the phone, and greeting a friend who drops in. In fact, I remember a few years ago, doing all this while I was in the hospital for tests. My brother was with me, watching me as I sat up in bed, wrote out my notes, and answered the phone that constantly rang.  He thought it was nuts. Actually, he thought I was nuts, and perhaps I was.   

Sound familiar? I bet a lot of people have the same issues, and it can make anyone feel somewhat scattered.  

As extroverted as I am, I’ve begun to feel the need for a little more solitude and I know I’m not alone (not alone--get it?).  

After talking it over with the SPRC, we decided to set aside Thursdays for me to have private study time. I’ll be making myself scarce so I can read, write, and pray.  It makes me a little nervous to be out of circulation for a few hours, but I remember Jesus would often steal away to be alone and pray.  If he needed it, then certainly I do. We all do.

Don’t worry. I’m still available. Just call the office and we’ll set up a time to visit. If it’s urgent, I’m available at anytime. Most of you know that has always been the case.