Posts Tagged ‘Evangelization’

In baseball, what is the most important pitch?

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Baseball gets sliced countless ways … a statistician’s dream!  What is the most important pitch?  Here it is ….

If a pitcher can split one ball and one strike over the first two pitches, the third pitch becomes the most critical.  A strike on the third pitch, and batters only bat 179 the rest of the at bat.  A ball on the third pitch and they bat 255.  The third pitch, over the course of season and 100′s of batters becomes the most important.

Some wisdom there.  We often focus on the end, the “strike 3″, the final out, the close of the sale, the signing on the dotted line, but that actual critical turning lies further upstream.

So it is with churches and church work.

If we are to engage people in this wild and wonderful work of “church” – and I am talking of “work” that is far more than attendance – the wins come much further upstream.

So this weekend Zana and Ryan are traveling to NewChurch LIVE.  She emailed last night, “Ryan and I talked about it and we would love to meet with you on Sunday after church.  It will be our first time coming to your church.”  What should that third pitch look like?  Will you be the one that offers it?  That is not about a crass manipulation.  It is about us becoming aware of how a welcoming attitude delivered consistently serves.

Batter up!

How Important Is It For Us To Be Close To Others?

Monday, December 20th, 2010

“Invest and Invite” is a catchy little phrase and the basis of our growth strategy at NewChurch LIVE.  Restated, it means we must “invest” in relationships and then “invite” if and when appropriate. These words though carry with them greater gravity then just a prescriptive catch phrase that informs marketing.

Parker Palmer, a Christian Quaker, wrote the following words about his own spiritual development. “I had embraced a form of Christian faith devoted less to the experience of God than to abstractions about God, a fact that now baffles me; how did so many disembodied concepts emerge from a tradition whose central commitment was to the Word become flesh?“  Christianity without the investment in others clearly is a disembodied concept, uncoupled from the incarnational core of  our faith.

As we approach Christmas, I am struck by how much the story of Jesus’ birth is designed to draw us in.  The main characters – Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Wisemen – were inspired by angels, faced fears, were asked to travel.  The only individual who did none of these things was Herod, and, well, he does not come out so well in this story.  The point is that all were asked to “invest” in different ways.  When our goals are clear, when trust is present, when we see the star, we move more easily though the fears that surround us will no doubt accompany us on the trip.

Maybe that is the “risk” of investment.  We need to allow the call of Christmas, of Jesus, to actually unsettle us.  That “unsettling” should call us to candidly look at where we are investing our lives.  Are we close to each other?  Are we reaching out?  Are we willing to travel?  Are we willing to look up and see the star, to see the angels, that will call us home?  Can we come to see God incarnate as more than a disembodied concept but as the Other?

No fear, no movement.  No joy, no movement.  No risk, no growth.  Be mindful of this blessed promise, “The Lord is present with you the moment you start to love the neighbor.” (Heavenly Secrets)

An Interesting Perspective: Sans Baggage

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I was privileged to hear someone’s story several days ago.  This individual shared their journey into faith.  What was interesting was just one small line they said, one that really caused me to pause.  Having never previously possessed any faith of consequence, they shared how they were arriving at faith, in their middle years, without baggage.

Think about it.  Imagine arriving at faith, belief, God – whatever word you choose – without baggage.  I see so many folks who end up in the New Church because of baggage around their former faith.  Likewise I see many who have left the New Church for the same reason.

The image that comes to mind is God painting on a clean canvas.  Of course, none of our lives is without baggage, without, knicks, cuts, smudges.  But wow, to be witness to God’s starting to paint without all the pre-existing garbage – what a blessing that must be.

What was actionable for me in hearing this story was the thought that maybe that is part of our faith journey – traveling to the point where we can arrive “naked” in the sense that we are without the baggage of “religion” in its formal garb.  I know there is a great need for caution with these words because religion arguably gives us the container in which to grow and without which we might miss the necessary structures that give someone some thing to come to.   I know absolutely, in my life, I would have been/ will be completely lost without the formal structures of the Pittsburgh New Church, the Academy of the New Church, and NewChurch LIVE.

And it remains equally true, when thinking about arriving without baggage, maybe God’s painting “takes” faster to the well-prepped, clean surface.  Maybe there is room to push part of the outreach efforts of NewChurch LIVE that direction – in the direction of helping people see religious faith sans baggage.   Maybe that informs Swedenborg’s stress that church best grows among gentiles – good folks, open folks, who are not involved in a formal religion who when they find it, can jump in both feet.