Monday, November 27, 2006

Random Sightings

So I have been poor at running my mind through the wringer we call writing for a blog of late. I've been kinda busy with a few other things.

But a few notes on things I have seen.

a post on Money at Endangered Species Church

And some thoughts on Alabama football from Will Heath

Not to mention the latest in the discernment of the new US Soccer Coach.

See you all soon.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Open Doors

Open Doors

For the last few years the United Methodist Church has had an ongoing ad campaign with the motto, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”. Musing upon this month’s Cadence I found myself cycling through the phrase “Open Doors” on a regular basis. God’s gentle nudges are often the source of great inspiration. I won’t claim the great inspiration side, but enough to help develop a coherent thought for the DRUMBEAT.

Christmas is about Open Doors.

If you were anything like me, you had someone who gave you one of the little Advent Calendars that had the mini doors, with some sort of goodie inside. My youth in Santa Barbara gave me one with little chocolates. I had one as a child with little ornaments that went on the Christmas tree. I would wake up each day, excited to open the door and find out what was inside. Once opened I could take it out and look it over, or eat it, and I could put it back, saving it for the day when we decorated the tree.

The doors of the house were in constant motion, as cold as it got in Bishop it probably would have made sense to have a fully enclosed foyer with double doors on both ends, that might have trapped a little more of the heat from the woodstove. The woodstove was countered by the many trips inside to put wood next to the fireplace, the trips to the market for Advent and Christmas baking, for the myriad parties, and the many friends and neighbors who dropped stuff at the house, with gifts, and goodies galore. The door was always opened it seemed, with someone coming or going. We were a people in motion.

Advent reminds us that the doors of our hearts, too, must be opened, that we can receive the baby Jesus again. The doors of a simple home were opened to Joseph and Mary those many years ago, to receive the Christ child. He was laid in a manger, and wrapped in bands of cloth. He was received by humble parents, to a life on the move, from Bethlehem and Egypt, to Nazareth and Jerusalem. Doors had to be opened, and we are asked each year to open the doors of our hearts to accept and receive the greatest gift of all.

The church doors are flung wide many times during the Advent season. We have celebrations on Sunday mornings, Christmas Teas, parties for youth group, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts are in full bloom, and the office staff is moving, moving, moving to type and prepare for all of the glorious events.

Our challenge for the time after Christmas is to keep the doors open, the doors to our hearts, the doors to our homes, the doors to God’s church. May they allow us to come and go with freedom. Are your doors open?


Pastor David

Friday, November 17, 2006


I sit here in my recliner this afternoon, reviewing more than a few readings of late.
There are the regular bloglines that I try to keep track of. I think in my "to-read" list each day I run across nearly half of the bloglines in the methodist blogroll. I have to say that John's recent post that he is going to have to set aside the MWBR is rather sad as it introduced me to a few other reads I might have just forgotten about. I may just have to look for other hat tips to get my read on.
Then there is the reading for curriculum. I have one to write and one to edit. This means reviewing and editing both works, checking out references - in one case my own camp materials in another it means working my way through bits of my favorite commentary - The New Interpreter's Bible.
I also have some reading that has to be done to get me ready for the sermon on Sunday, and even some planning work for the months and year ahead. So commentaries and worship planners are also in the browser bookmarks to help me find the materials to spur my cranial juices.
There are the recent facts and figures from GCFA, the Cal-Pac Conference and the Census Bureau to review for some evals of young clergy, indebtedness, and salary schedules. A few bits and bytes to consume in that mix - to be sure (thanks to Dr Timothy Jackson, professor of Ethics at Candler for adding that phrase to my vocabulary on a more regular basis).
Into the fray of church culture and political ramblings I also inherited the archives from one of the retired clergy in my congregation this week. Among the many files on old conference youth leadership, sex and the whole self curriculum, camp curriculum, and journals I also ran across some materials on evangelism. Which was accompanied by a very enlightening paper that I am working my way through in full with a closer read. The front page made it clear that it was a study in the trends of the local church in the United Methodist Denomination and how to recover the life of the church. The paper was written in 1966 and therefore very enlightened as it pointed to the decline of the church, as it had passed its heyday. This seemed almost improbable to me to read those lines, since the folks that have started to made this cry in this conference just started a few years ago, and 1966 was just 2 years removed from the heyday of 1963 numbers and the height of the local church. The amazing thing to me is that it seemed that those in the current mega-churches read this paper, while the UMC simply seemed to have ignored it, even though it was presented by a Methodist to the California and Southwest Conferences in 1966. And now the very same vitals that it posted in 1966 are being posted today as keys to the future of the church (though somewhat muted in corners of United Methodism, and the larger church).
Quoting from "Rethinking Evangelism" by K. Morgan Edwards, 1966:
"Five essentials for the reformation of the church which were present in the Methodist revival are: (1) the recovery of vital faith among the clergy, (2) standards for membership and an outreach which includes the entire human family, (3) the recovery of "conversion" preaching, (4) a sound "follow-up" in the church for building up the body of Christ, and (5) appropriate fruits from such preaching and follow-up."
He then spends the rest of the paper outlining the ways in which those practices are imagined for the local church and the clergy.
Sometimes, it just feels like I am trying to re-invent the wheel with the work I am doing today, as someone else did it just as well or better so long ago. So maybe I ought to look for the wheel, and find a way to market it to the masses I deal with. The real truth may lie in the old football image of "waking the echoes". (Man, it pains me to use Notre Dame to illustrate a point)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rally 'round the Blog

A few friends of mine in the blogosphere decided it was high time the United Methodists had a clearinghouse for UM bloggers.

Go check the Methoblog out


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A church that doesn't suck

At a recent gathering of under 40 UM clergy in the Cal-Pac Conference we were talking about the kind of church we want. A friend of mine mentioned that he wants a church that "doesn't suck". It reminded me of another friend who during the reading of appointments in his annual conference uses the line from the wily cajun played by Rob Schneider in the movie "The Waterboy" when Adam Sandler's character is booted from the team for NCAA infractions, "Oh no, we suck again!". It is driving the question home about how we create a church that doesn't suck.

I have two responses to that. The first is fairly short. The second owes much of its thought to Brian Stoffregen over at Crossmarks, where I do a good bit of commentary study for sermon preparations.

The first thought is just an observation. For years we have told our pastors that they need to be total pastors. Therefore, when we have found a weakness with them (a place where they "suck" if you will) we send them to get training to "fix" it. In doing so we have shortchanged their gifts, wasted more time and energy and run out passion in individuals to grow the church from their strength. The point of Spiritual Giftedness is that we work best from our strengths and the multiple strengths of the people and congregations are what bring us the greatest fruit. We are in the instance of trying to fix another pastor's suckiness essentially trying to make an olive tree bear peaches. It doesn't work,and causes us to suck even more.

With that said, then, there are some places we can look for strength and build on them. It helps to point out the weaknesses, but mostly as a means of avoidance. To that end, let me offer my latest column for the Del Rosa newsletter, which was driven by some excerpts from a sermon I gave the week before that seems to bear repeating.

In my recent reading of commentaries of Sunday sermons I ran across this helpful piece from Brian Stoffregen. The statements are generalizations, but they can help us find focus. We have been studying our mission recently as well as our vision, and we continue to do so with the Visioning our Future Team. We are doing many of the things in both the mission and the maintenance church. Our challenge is always to be looking toward the future and how we can be in mission for the future. There is a tradition among many of the Native American tribes that a member of the tribal council has a duty and responsibility to speak specifically and only for those who come in the 7th generation from the moment of that council meeting. Let us too look to the future, and consider how we can be a better “mission” church.


Pastor David


1. In measuring the effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, "How many pastoral visits are being made?” The mission congregation asks, "How many disciples are being made?"

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, "If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won't do it." The mission congregation says, "If this will help us reach someone on the outside, we will take the risk and do it."

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, "How will this affect me?" The majority of members in the mission congregation ask, "Will this increase our ability to reach those outside?"

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, "We have to be faithful to our past." The mission congregation says, "We have to be faithful to our future."

5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer, "I'd like to introduce you to some of our members." In the mission congregation the members say, "We'd like to introduce you to our pastor."

6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in the maintenance congregation asks, "How can I meet this need?" The pastor in the mission congregation asks, "How can this need be met?"

7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost (but rarely succeeds). The mission congregation understands that conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.

8. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a mission congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.

9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The mission congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.

10. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, "How many Methodists live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?" The mission congregation asks, "How many unchurched people live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?"

11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, "How can we get these people to support our congregation?" The mission congregation asks, "How can the Church support these people?"

12. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The mission congregation thinks about how to reach the world."


Friday, November 03, 2006

Buried hip deep

So I have taken on some projects of late that are going to bury me this coming week. I have some writing to do for publication...maybe I can make sense of what it is I need to do with that. That means research, planning and since this is the first go round with this kind of activity I am going to really have to check and recheck my material to make sure it is suitable for what I want to have my name attached.

The other is a much bigger project, it is trying to discern equitable compensation figures for the annual conference, and pair them with other national figures, to be able to present a coherent case for salaries in the Annual Conference.

We have been talking about the decline of the church for some time and I am committed to doing something about it. The above is a start, but there will be more.

One of the other pieces that is going to be necessary for the long haul is going to be looking at the exit rates of clergy in the recent past. Natalie posted some great numbers about clergy under 35, which are helpful.

The interesting thing to me is that they seem to argue wholeheartedly with a myth that has been circulating through the United Methodist Church and churches elsewhere that we missed the Baby Boomer generation. The 15% mentioned seems to indicate we did alright at recruiting the boomers when they were coming right out of college and into seminary, not to mention that they are the most common people in the seminaries now, not to mention the annual conferences.

Maybe I can't read data, and if that is the case I am all the more grateful that I have some folks helping me discern the numbers I am going to be looking at. In the meantime I have data to gather and notes to scribble.