Archive for January, 2011

NewChurch LIVE Reorganization: FAQ

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I wanted to take the opportunity to answer some of the questions we are receiving.

Is NewChurch LIVE ending?

No, NCL is not ending.  We are restructuring in order to ensure our financial stability moving forward.  We have met with a great deal of success at our current location.  The original model anticipated however a much wider base of those accessing NCL via the internet for use in “satellite services .”  That did not materialize.  Therefore we need to proactively move to a new model.

Our last full team service in February 6th.  The next week, February 13th, we launch our a series on relationships.  We will do a series on the new model – “Want to Build a Church?” – in March.

Has the mission changed?

No, no, and no.  The mission remains the same.  There is a lot of language around it and whether one says “A Monday morning church”, “A church lived for others without claiming cultural or spiritual superiority”, or “Eye level Christianity” it is all the same.  Our focus is the “other.”  It is service.  It is a caring life informed by faith.   That is what the New Church is all about.

I didn’t know NCL was in financial distress.  Why wasn’t I better informed?

We obviously could have done a better job communicating.  We will attempt to do a better job in the future.  Glenn Bostock, a member of the Pastor’s Council, will be working with us to develop a financial “dashboard” as a way to track and communicate clearly our financial condition.  We will also be forming a team to handle stewardship, the seeds of which were planted in the Pastor’s Council.

Also important to communicate that fund raising in churches is always tricky – many want approached and many do not.  We will be more candid about financial needs. And my hope is that we can all frankly see stewardship as an opportunity to share what God has blessed our lives with and invest in this endeavor.  My hope, specifically, is that people consider tithing or percentage gifting.  We will talk more about this in an upcoming series.

Our decision to downsize was done in reality as a proactive measure.  We chose it.  We wanted to be in front of the curve, developing a financially responsible plan not in 5 years but now.  While a church is never about money, financial health whether in the home or the congregation is important.  It shows what we value.  We value being responsible.   In so doing we create a solid foundation that does not only serve our current partners, but serve others well into the future.  The church could thrive in different ways as more volunteers involve themselves.

What issues are getting tackled and when?

In order, our first priority is getting a service up and running on February 13th.  Second, returning to some sort of online presence.  Third, launching ministries.  And fourth, creating a Board of Directors.

What about the Team?

That is hands down the hardest part of this entire process.  These are amazing people who not only did a job but lived a job.  They were so creative because they cared so much.  Some will stay in part time roles.  Others will move onto new employment. We will honor what they created on Sunday, February 6th

What about the new Team?

The new full time team is Angela Cooper (Executive Assistant) and myself.  We will be joined by Kyla White who will help us for several months with transition.  We will staff part time positions in KidsLIVE, Music, Production, and Content Development. We also have a live band.

What can I do?

  1. Prayers: Keep the team members impacted by the reorganization in your prayers.
  2. Volunteers: Surveys are coming out this Sunday.  This is an opportunity to really step up.
  3. Stewardship:  It is all a gift.  By supporting this church financially you are investing in something that makes a difference in people’s lives.
  4. Invest and Invite: Invest in relationships.  We are all here for each other.  Call a friend.  Send a note.  If God gives you the words and the opportunity to invite someone to a NCL program, do it.  And, if the opportunity does not arise for that invitation, the simple investment in others is so much the Christian message.

What Will The Re-Organized NewChurch LIVE Look Like?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

This question has come up numerous times.  Calling it a “new direction” actually leaves me a bit uncomfortable.  The fact is we are continuing in the same direction – no change.  Under the leadership of David Childs and this incredible team, the direction originally charted remains the same.  The forms will look different.   The heart is a loving community of people focused on creating a Monday morning church – a life for others without claiming cultural or spiritual superiority – a caring life informed by faith – eye level Christianity.   That is our base.  That is our DNA.

What will remain the same?

  1. Sunday Service, 10:30 AM, Mitchell Performing Arts Center
  2. Relevant Messages
  3. Live Music
  4. Video Support (Limited)
  5. Online services (Limited)
  6. KidsLIVE
  7. Small Groups
  8. Volunteer Opportunities (Increasing)

Important to note, we will ask for increased help from the congregation in making the above happen.  With a smaller team, we need a much larger team of volunteers.  The service will not have the finely polished look and feel it did.  And we will do our best to make Sundays great as a way to serve those in need.

So if someone complains about what is missing, hand them a “Partnership Agreement” and an invitation, “Well lets make it better!”


Monday, January 24th, 2011

Over our year and a half in existence, NewChurch LIVE met with many successes, none more important than the growing core of people who found a spiritual home where before we had none.

Our ambitions for success were great.  We met many of those measures and fell short on others.  Over that time, it has become increasingly apparent that the initial model we created is not financially sustainable.  What that means is that we need to take the necessary, prudent steps now to ensure the long-term financial viability of New Church LIVE.

The painful part of the process is right-sizing our budget.  That includes layoffs.  Many involve those who brought the concept of NewChurch LIVE to fruition, work that began long before I arrived as Senior Pastor.   Words of gratitude do not do justice to the heartfelt thanks for the invaluable contributions our professional team made to this endeavor.  They created a living church.  That is no small feat.  It took not only professionalism in a variety of areas but real dogged determination to bring this church to life.

We have come to a point, through their efforts and yours, where we are an established congregation, over 200 strong gathering every week in worship and service.

Many will ask what they can do.  First and foremost, join me in supporting our original team at this difficult time.  Please join us on Sunday, February 6th at special NewChurch LIVE service as we celebrate and honor their contributions.

Secondly, I want to continue that quiet call for us – the “we”- to continue that work of building this spiritual home – NewChurch LIVE.    This is our church – our work to take up in the spirit of service that true Christianity calls us to, a New Church Christianity of life lived for others without claiming cultural or spiritual privilege, a caring life informed by faith.  To that end, we will announce “next steps” over the next couple of months at our Sunday service.  There will be many places to pitch in.

Important to note, we will continue to meet for worship on Sundays.  We will continue our small group programs.  We will continue our engagement in community service.  As we grow and develop stewardship practices that allow us the financial resources to re-enter the online world through professional grade video, we will do that.  In the meantime, we will use lower quality video and Podcasts in the foreseeable future to serve our online audience.

To close, words will fail to ever appropriately convey the gratitude I have and that I know many, many of you share for the very existence of this church – a group of people trying to do church in a living way.  To say goodbye to parts of that endeavor is certainly hard.  So to the team, from the very depth of my soul, and on behalf of this congregation, thank you.

“I think of heaven. I think of earth. I can think of both at the same time?”

Friday, January 14th, 2011

“The correspondence between heaven and a human being is in fact complete.” We are in a miniature heaven at our best, and a miniature hell when at our worse.   And, heaven wins.

The idea written of above comes the from book “Divine Love and Wisdom” by Emanuel Swedenborg.  It speaks to that core correspondence, core co-responding that occurs heaven to earth, earth to heaven.  The two are sown tightly together.  We are part of that fabric as well.

One author phrased it in an interesting way.  We can view hydrogen.  We can view oxygen.  That is the dualistic mind, one that is challenged by the paradoxes core to a spiritual life.  The unitive mind, the unitive consciousness can see the third way to hold both – aka “Water.”  That model helps me to understand correspondence.  Hydrogen and Oxygen can be held separately just as earth and heaven can.  Or we can choose a third way of seeing – “Water” – in which heaven and earth, angels and men are seen as closely connected, even interwoven together.

That third way is no small thing.  Imagine what water can accomplish.  And, it is not to say that hydrogen and oxygen are without value – they clearly are and life depends on their separate existence as well.  But without the three – the two elements and what they become when they combine together, life would not exist.

So pull them together!  Live that co-responding.

A Shooting in Arizona

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

It was deeply saddening to read the news that Representative, Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and 18 others were shot Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket where Ms. Giffords was meeting with constituents.

The sadness extends to many fronts.  While the motive of the gunman at this time remains unclear, the incident will stir what could be a critical debate on how we hold disagreements in this nation.  That conversation will be accentuated if in the end the gunman’s motives were political.

I am not a fan of conspiracy theory. I do believe in open dialog. I believe that at times that dialog can be and maybe needs to be critical.  And there are lines. This type of assault on an elected official cleared crossed a line that is beyond unacceptable.

As a Pastor, I am very uneasy with conspiracy theories from the right or left claiming malignant forces at work in politics, and for that matter in faith circles as well.  As I understand Christianity, we are to always assume that others are working from their best understanding at a given time.  In the New Church, Swedenborg claimed that angels never can even look at others crossly.  I certainly can offer, from my experience, that most individuals are well intentioned.  I may not agree with how they express or seek to realize that intention, but that does not mean I can judge the intention.  That is known as the assumption of good will.

We are lucky to live in a nation, where, for the most part political rancor, in its messiness, takes the place of bald power and weapons.  But that has not always been the case.  What my prayer is is that we step back for  a minute and take the tragedy as a time to reflect that as a nation, we all need each other.  That as a nation, political leaders, like all of us, largely are doing the best they can at any given moment.  And that as a nation, violence is never the answer.

Like vs. Love

Friday, January 7th, 2011

It is easy, in some ways, to realize that God “loves” us.  However, that will leave God distant.  We need to go one step further.  We need to come to see that God actually likes us.

Jesus came to a point where He told the disciples “I call you friends.”  That is of no small import.  He calls us friends.  When we can invite God into that friendship, the relationship changes.  We then hold Him the way He already holds us.

I really believe much of Christianity has gone astray.  We need to be ok with that – we need not recoil but to look at it candidly.  Just as individuals have gone astray so do religious movements with rare exception.

Going astray happens, as New Church theology clearly points out, when loving kindness leaves the center and is replaced by an intellectualized faith.  We can do that as individuals or as churches.   It is not about the theology but about our use of it.

What then is the connection to “friendship” and being “liked” by God?  The connection is that we often press continually on our faith, on our image of God as more and more of a sacred Being – way, way beyond us – which of course God is and which of course He is not.   We cannot push Him so far away that all we speak of is His love as a distant knowledge and not about a very real friendship, a very real being liked.

The New Church centers on a return to true Christianity, a form we do see practiced in the world, and not just by Christians, but infrequently embraced by formal religious bodies.

So there is the celebration!  A return to Christianity – a return to the friendship of God.