Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Church Leadership Blog Digest

Where Christian Leaders Connect, Reflect, and Learn.

Kim Cape: "It isn't about sitting here playing bingo"
...the church’s challenge is to prepare transformational leaders who can tell laity, “It’s not all about sitting here playing bingo. We’ve got to get out in the community and be involved in Christ’s life in the world.”
Read More Here...Faith & Leadership

I am an evangelical. It defines the way I think (my orthodoxy), how I act (my orthopraxy), and how I relate to God, to others and my world (my orthopathy). This is a joyful and hopeful way of being a Christian. An evangelical loves God greatly, and seeks to serve others and bless the world. An evangelical is eager to engage in a community of faith that worships and encourages discipleship, and engages in mission around the world and in a neighborhood. This is that faith that is part of my heritage. This is the brand of Christianity that I have chosen. I am proud to be an evangelical.

But a crime has been committed. I am an evangelical, and I have been robbed.Read More from Doug Paul

NOTE: Even more than usual, this post is highly speculative. It shares a vision for the United Methodist Church’s structure that is likely flawed in many ways and is certainly not likely to be acted upon. It is offered, though, as one idea that might spark wiser and smarter people to come up with better ideas. 


Friday, October 21, 2011

Methodist Blog Digest

"Unnatural Gratitude"

Christians are made, not born," said Tertullian. No Christian virtues are innate. Nothing about following Jesus comes naturally. Therefore, so much that the church does for us is formational, educational, and transformational.
Read more from Bishop Will Wilimon's Bolg, A Peculiar Prophet

"United Methodist Pope and Problems of Consolidation"
There has been much fanfare about the restructuring plan for the UMC that will be presented to the 2012 General Conference. I just had a conversation with someone who recently came back from a meeting with a general agency of the church where the plan was explained. We had a wonderful conversation about the history of the UMC and our polity as it relates to the proposed legislation.
     .....A primary concern for me is that we are allowing a business model to dictate ecclesiology.
Read a brief assessment of key points in the Call to Action by someone who helped write the report. Rev. Tim McClendon, A Potter's View

"Congregations as a Whole Can’t Make Disciples…And That’s Okay"
It seems as thought I need to clarify some thoughts from my previous post where I declared: Congregations can’t make disciples. Apparently this phrase was a little offensive so let me offer some follow up thoughts to clarify my point:...
Rev Ben Gosden continues discussing the role of Congregations and Covenant Groups in forming disciples on his Blog, covered in the Master's dust

"The Quiet Revival"
Christianity Today reported a few years ago that eighty-five percent of the members of Yale University’s Campus Crusade for Christ chapter are Asian, whereas “the university’s Buddhist meditation meetings are almost exclusively attended by whites.”1  There is an important lesson in this. It is often stated that Christianity in the Western world is in decline....
Read more from Asbury Theological Seminary President Timothy C. Tennent

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beware Institutional Prosperity Gospel

Last night I attended the Bowen Lecture Series at Memphis Theological where Dr. Mitzi Minor spoke on Paul’s Anti-Prosperity Gospel for the Corinthians. Dr. Minor is a New Testament scholar and recently published a commentary on Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth. The focus of last night’s discussion was Paul’s rejection of “triumphalism.” Paul reminds us that the purpose of discipleship is not personal gain, but God’s glory. If we count anything as gain in service to God then we have missed the boat.

This means that authentic discipleship can, and usually does, look like failure by worldly standards. We are to focus only on allowing the fragrance of God’s love to flow through us and not to keep score of what we have or accomplish. If we prosper, okay. If we suffer that’s all the better, because God is glorified in our suffering. God is glorified when we focus our efforts on God, regardless of any worldly measure of glory, success, or prosperity that might come from the fruit of our efforts. If our efforts bear fruit, it is God’s fruit, not our glory.

All this made me think about the Call to Action and the movement in United Methodist Conferences to use Church Reporting Dashboards and other analytical tools in an effort to measure church effectiveness. We’re treading a thin line here, getting very close to an Institutional form of Prosperity Gospel where we glory in membership numbers, small group attendance, and number of church ministries. How can we presume to take these numbers and create an analytical tool that quantifies church effectiveness? I say we can’t, chiefly because church effectiveness cannot be quantified, with any tool. When we try to do that, we glory in our efforts and results rather than in God.

I keep thinking of John 6: 25-70. Jesus challenges His disciples Hebrew sensibilities by telling them they must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Many, most, of the disciples abandon Jesus because of this teaching. If Jesus were a United Methodist Elder serving a local church, how would the Bishop and District Superintendent respond to His teaching and the results of that teaching?

I don’t think anything can stop this numbers focused movement. Too much of Western Culture has crept into the Methodist Church’s thinking and understanding of effectiveness. That alone is a dangerous thing. If we’re not very careful and very attentive we can do more harm than good. The problem with that is that when we make bad decisions that harm the Church, we risk pushing people away from Christ.

Our culture tells us to count what we value. We are called to value what our culture doesn’t count.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Methodist Ecclesiology and Pastoral Care

     The United Methodist Church is grounded in the belief that all followers of Jesus Christ are called to continue His ministry of service (diakonia) to the world (BOD ¶305). That service comes, in part, in the various forms and methods of pastoral care. Two key components set the Methodism apart, but not above, other faith traditions, the Wesleyan understanding of grace, and an emphasis on community. The purpose of this paper is to explore the history of pastoral care in Methodism, to highlight the United Methodist Church’s ecclesiology and beliefs on pastoral care, and to compare the Church’s history and beliefs with my understanding and practice of pastoral care.
     Pastoral care has been an important part of Methodist belief and practice since the days of John and Charles Wesley (ca.1725-91). The Wesley’s believed the Church of England was failing to live into its purpose as the body of Christ. They also felt the Church had distanced itself from the poor and marginalized, and had turned a blind eye to the societal sins of greed, human exploitation, and moral depravity (Carder 4). John Wesley and the early Methodist did not intend to break with the Church of England and form a new denomination when they began to organize the Methodist movement. Instead, they sought to reform a nation and to revive the spirit of God within the heart of the Anglican Church (Carder 96). Over time, that reform and revival resulted in several new denominations, one of which was the United Methodist Church.
     Given Wesley’s intent belief that it is the responsibility of the church to help people “experience and live the grace of God and to grow in their knowledge and love of God” (Carder 4), one could argue that pastoral care was at the center of the early Methodist movement. Wesley emphasized studying scripture, regular participation in Holy Communion, small group membership, Christian accountability, and ministry to the poor and to prisoners (Carder 69).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More Than a Parade

Exodus 32: 1-14
Philippians 4: 1-9
Matthew 22: 1-14
More Than a Parade

A lot takes place prior to the events in our reading today from Exodus. God has called Moses, Aaron and the elders up onto the mountain where He begins to instruct them in all things Holy. God understands that these humans He has created need guidance, they seek guidance, they deeply desire guidance. They are just like us, just like you and just like me.

Well, you might say that God calls Moses onto the mountain for the very first Seminary Class. God instructs Moses on what offerings the children of Israel are to bring, how to build the alter, what the priest should wear, when to call the people to worship, how to decorate the tabernacle, how to sacrifice the offerings, on and on. Then God gives Moses the 10 Commandments. All this takes some time.

While Moses is off receiving instruction from God, the people get nervous. The children of Israel were frustrated, impatient, and afraid. So what else is new, right? That’s been their attitude ever since Moses led them out of the land of slavery. Moanin’ and groanin’. Grumblin’ and gripein’.
Anyway, they begin to ask each other, “Where is Moses? Did he say when he’d be back? Is he dead? I bet he ran off and left us here to die!” (they always thought Moses was gonna run off and leave them, but he never did).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Response to Chapter 10 of "Faith Seeking Understanding", by Daniel L. Migliore

In this chapter, Daniel Migliore asserts that our attitude toward understanding the doctrine of the church, ecclesiology, interferes with our ability to honestly and to fully examine the role of the church in modern culture. According to Migliore, many people associate church doctrine solely with administration or organization. He calls the reader to recognize that understanding the nature of the church and its mission in the world today is central to the Christian faith. God is communal in nature and seeks to be in relationship with humankind. This God / human relationship is expressed in the church and through the church, making the nature and doctrine of the church central to our understanding of and relationship with God. Migliore then goes about explaining how western cultural biases have created problems for the church and distorted our understanding of the role of the church.

I agree with Migliore’s entire argument. Western culture is the culture of “I.” At the 2010, United Methodist Church Memphis Conference Len Sweet pointed out that we have “iPhones, iPods, and iPads. We cannot even spell wii without using two i’s.” I would add that we have personal shoppers, personal assistants, personal trainers, and a personal Lord and Savior. American culture celebrates the individual therefore, we tend to place our individual interest above all others, even in church. This attitude is compounded by our compartmentalized lives. We have our business associates, our friends, and our church friends. Luckily, these three groups usually only come together at our funerals or on our Face Book page.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Reaction to Erwin Lutzer’s Book, Pastor to Pastor

In his book, Pastor to Pastor (Kregel Publications, 1998), Erwin Lutzer offers practical advice to pastors and ministers on a range of topics related to pastoral care and shepherding a congregation. Lutzer’s intended audience for this book is professional clergy, those called to ordained ministry. The writer begins the book by establishing his biblical understanding of the call to ministry and his understanding of the qualifications a person should possess before being accepted and ordained as clergy. Lutzer goes on to give advice on practical issues dealing with conflict, pastoral care, church leadership, and worship, along with some other topics important to pastors and church leaders. Lutzer concludes with a chapter outlining his ecclesiological view and his view of Christ’s role in the church and Christ’s relationship to the church (his Christology). The purpose of this paper is to briefly summarize the advice given by Lutzer in Pastor to Pastor and to discuss my reaction to specific passages from the book.

Lutzer begins his book by addressing the call to ministry. He defines call as “God’s call is an inner conviction given by the Holy Spirit and confirmed by the word of God and the body of Christ (the church).” (Lutzer 11) He goes on to describe the “inner conviction” as more than a feeling, but a “God given compulsion” which is “not deterred by obstacles.” (Lutzer 12). Lutzer holds that 1Timmothy 3 provides the Biblical foundation for determining a person’s qualifications for ministry (Lutzer 12). Finally, he emphasizes the authority of the church helping persons discern their call and explore their place in ministry.