Posts Tagged ‘Ministries’

Do We Know Maybe It Is Time?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Do we know maybe it is time?

Do we know that the greatest of spiritual gifts is freedom?  The ability to choose to love. The ability to do. And yet we think it is the time to debate, to argue, to accuse.  So we fall in love with agenda and position, and not each other and God.  These words of CS Lewis land uncomfortably.

“There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist!  There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man!  Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye ever know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor?  It is the subtlest of all the snares.”

So, what if we took God’s dare and created?  What if we saw God’s Word not as us waiting for Him to act but as Him waiting for us to act?   What if we took Him at His Word?  Take care of the stranger (Old Testament).  Do not be afraid (New Testament).  Hatred and charity cannot exist together. (New Church Theology)

We often make religion so small.  And the Spirit yet is so big.  The implications of incarnated faith immense.  The scope breathtaking.  The words transformational.  And we cram all that grandeur down into small, petty boxes – with labels like women’s ordination, adultery, homosexuality, worship style.  Those mysteriously and tragically morphed into “the work” of church.   And it is hard to see those as Christ’s issues.   He welcomed and embraced women’s voices in a way uncategorically revolutionary for that time and culture.  He saved a woman caught in adultery.  He got people to put the rocks of judgment down.  He never directly addressed homosexuality.  And He preached outdoors, in a robe, from a boat, on a mountain, in a synagogue, using props and people, and jokes and smiles and clear statements of right and wrong.   Believe in Him as God or not, this guy could bring it.

And that is what the New Church celebrates.  We shouldn’t celebrate the “small boxes” and see them as God’s work for this church.

Do we know then, maybe it is time?  Maybe time to raise our hand?  That is the beauty I think of church in the future.   For this amazing group of parishioners at NewChurch LIVE, just look at the Women’s Ministry, Care Ministry, Strength, Breathing Room Foundation, PTSD Support, Retreat to the Catskills, Community Service etc…..  Those are all running because someone, a person, simply said, “Maybe it is time.”  And then they raised their hand.

Moving NewChurch LIVE Out There

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Church growth pulls towards strategies of promotion.  ”If only we had the right sign” or the “right add” or the “right music” or the “right preaching.”  Yet we live in different times.  Church growth no longer centers solely on promotion.  Like 12 Steps Programs, church growth will come more and more to focus on attraction.

The promotion strategy does on occasion work.  But when it works, it can actually lead us to the wrong conclusions.  As one author noted…..

Many of us have a story about someone who stopped, looked, listened and came in. (Attracted by a sign or an add) That person is now chair of the church council. But there’s a danger here: when a story becomes an anecdote to justify a strategy, it soon becomes a deterrent to congregational efforts at becoming truly missional. The few who are attracted by the sign reinforce the church’s behavior. They are like pigeons pecking on a lever that rarely rewards them with a grain—but all it takes is one grain in a thousand pecks for them to keep pecking at that lever.

What then of “attraction”?  The terms “attraction” needs definition. It is not the attraction of a beautiful church filled with smiling faces.  It is the attraction of a church whose members actively engage themselves in the world around them.  The congregation’s members then becomes the attraction – not from a deliberate endeavor to draw people via person magnetism but by the compelling, quiet witness of lives lived for a higher purpose, lives lived for others.  Church is a matrix, an environment supporting that journey.

We will NOT grow by traditional means as the church has over centuries come to understand it.  Doctrinal debates and proofs will attract some but serve few.  Beautiful buildings will attract some but serve few.  Even emotionally moving services will attract some but serve few.  (My two favorite Pastor’s – Andy Stanley and Rob Bell – are masters at being a calm, understated presence in the pulpit.)  What will attract many is the serving of many.

That does not of course mean the Sunday service is done, is over.  We need the magic of Sunday.  It is the critical pivot, the “foyer” as one famous minister characterized it. But sustained growth, growth beyond just the surface, will depend on co-creation that travels far beyond the Sunday experience.  It is the co-creation – deep partnering – that brings the Church to the world, that shares the suffering and joy of others, and supports people in cultivating their dreams as God gives them to see them, and refining those dreams into ministries.

Last night I was asked by a friend how NCL planned to grow.  Well, that is it.  Co-creation/ deep partnership/ ministry is not a complex strategy but it is effective. I find myself constantly pulled by the desire to “do more” to “add more” – to make it more complex.  And yet there is this quiet and sure knowledge that growth does not lie in what the preacher does or in the sheer volume of offerings.  It lies in what the Church does, what the Church creates, how the Church partners with others.

Each of you has a dream my friend, one given you by God.  Live into it.  Christ is there as a loving partner and witness to your bringing it to life.  That was His intention in creating the spark that is you.  Not all dreams are realized.  But so what.  His gift is the journey – through blessings and breakings – the gift and holiness of life.  That is growth.  Even failures in that context are life giving.

Such an orientation forces us as a Church outward.  It forces us to serve by going deep.  That is tough terrain yet it in doing that, I think we begin to speak the language, one to another, that is the heritage of Christianity, a heritage not of exclusion but of inclusion, a heritage of life lived for others, a heritage of care for the spirit, a heritage of love and wisdom realized in service. The soul of the New Church.