Posts Tagged ‘Challenges’

The Fundamental Weakness Of Churches in 2012 America

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

We stand in a place of change.  These eras are not new to Christianity or any other faith for that matter. As one author noted, our job is to pass on this beautiful and transformative  faith with enthusiasm to the next generation.  To do that effectively, we need to get clear on both the problem and the solution, for as one CEO observed “When the rate of change inside an organization is slower than the rate of change outside an organization, the end of that organization is in sight.”

Bill Vlasic wrote of the woes of the US Automotive industry in the book “Once Upon a Car.”  Having lived through the demise of the Steel industry in Pittsburgh many of his points resonated.  There is much to be learned from this type of study and how it connects to institutional struggle with the change.

The basic weakness – whether one is talking of Church or Industry – is that we become increasingly unable to question the validity of our own paradigms.  While everyone was aware that there were significant structural weakness, Detroit as well as many church organizations make it politically incorrect to say anything challenging out loud.  At GM this was exemplified in the “GM Nod” – the management teams ability to acquiesce to anything, with a smile-and-nod, as long as it was not challenging those cherished assumptions.

One example was the “nod” given for decades to the “sales” focus.  With sales held as the ultimate “virtue,”  inventories were allowed to build to dangerously high levels, brands became too diffused,  and innovation stagnated.  No one questioned the legacy costs associated with the old model or ever seriously considered the danger of high inventories if sales went south. And south they went, trapping the companies in unsustainable business models built in post-war America.  GM and Chrysler eventually fell into bankruptcy.

The solution of course is to create organizations that are healthy enough to question their own paradigms – which is actually repentance practiced at the corporate level.  What if we questioned the following assumptions as a way to “unfreeze”?

  1. That the sole and dominant church event is Sunday morning worship
  2. That church membership is constituted by those who unwaveringly hold unbending and homogenized theological belief systems
  3. That the Pastor is the expert-in-residence
  4. That the role of church staff is to provide programs for the members of the congregation
And I think the biggest thing that needs questioned is this – the belief that any movement into new forms of Church constitutes a rejection of God’s Word.
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That is big!  Live in that assumption and all conversation becomes angry vitriol quickly.  Live in that assumption, and innovation gets stifled.   Live in that assumption, and we can only keep doing what we are doing.  And for Christianity right now, that is not very good.
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New Church theology clearly warns of the rigidity that grows from an over reliance on doctrinal truth to the exclusion of all else.  This is a time in need of flexibility and the innovation it allows.  That flexibility will increase as what is good/ loving service becomes the end of in view.  (Heavenly Secrets, 7068)  With that kind of flexibility, I think Christianity will find its soul once again.  If we however insist on living in the old paradigm, the challenges will catch up with us.  Hello GM!
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When you figure out what is important, you will realize you have just time to accomplish it.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

We awaken at different times.  In this denomination, the “Second Coming” we hold to be deeply personal – a “Second Coming” that is not a physical return of Christ but in a rebirth of God into our lives, a rebirth where we open our eyes for a second time.

Our lives desperately need that second opening.  We are so bloody self obsessed!  One friend told a rather pointed joke.  ”So this guy demands of God proof of God’s existence. God responded somewhat perplexed, ‘I thought creation was enough.’”  I certainly have been in that place and find myself in that place still, a place where  all the beauty around me lies unseen as I obsessively stare into the mirror, caught in the narcissistic hell of painting my own self portrait again and again.

Thankfully, that particular approach to life inevitably fails.  I know as a Pastor, that is why I am far more relieved when someone calls in tears than in almost any other emotion.  I know when they “break” and gaze up and beyond the canvas of their thoughts and feelings they will see – and experience – a grace and beauty beyond words.  Then we see what is important and we realize we have just enough time to accomplish it.

Love Wins

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

We closed our series “Love Wins” this past Sunday.  What a blessed topic to speak on.

It was a deeply moving moment last week to be up front with the 6 volunteers from the congregation – 3 reading passages from the Bible, 3 listening.  The power of God’s Word is a miracle.  Looking at the faces, and at the tears, of those who were read to was profound.  I am reminded in witnessing that why the Bible through most of history was an oral tradition.  There is simply something in those words.  Our job is to give and receive the power present there – not just the literal words but the spirit within them.

The power is so profound I find myself in constant need to remain quiet in it’s presence, humble in its sphere.

Thank you God for being a space where we can experience that, and live into it together.

Gettysburg, 1944, and Spiritual Growth

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

On a walk around the cemetary in Gettysburg, it was striking the number of World War II casualties from 1944 and 1945.

World War II was effectively “won” when the allies invade France – D-Day – in June of 1944.  Yet the overwhelming majority of Allied ground casualties in the European theater occurred after that date.

For Lincoln, a full year after the tide had really turned at Gettysburg, he wrote of the election of 1864 that the “bottom was out of the tub” and that he had precious little time to save the Union before he was run out of office in the fall elections.

Spiritual growth is much same way.  As one individual noted, we get asked the same question twice.  The question, “Do you really want this?”  That question comes as the excitement of the beginning ends.  It comes again right before victory, right before real change.

There is a way in which when we really engage – really take on the enemy in enemy territory – that we have “won.”  That does not mean though that life will be without challenges – many of which appear death defying.   It does mean a part of us has “died” or surrendered that will actually allowed for real growth to take place.