Archive for January 2013

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Leonardo da Vinci
from: 
Presentation Zen - book by Garr Reynolds
book clubs & churches - same witness problem

If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.
- Bob Dylan 

Any local church whose leaders and congregational culture is seeking first, to cater to its current members, and second, to preserve its assets, is already digging its own grave. These two priorities are the hall marks of organizations that are preparing to die. It doesn’t matter if the organization is a political party, a social club like the Elks, a trade union, or a local church. Once the governing board reduces their principle interests to membership happy, maintaining physical assets like buildings, and protecting the organization’s savings account, the handwriting is on the wall. From time to time, pastors need to find gentle ways to remind their church council that the same rules that govern other organizations also apply to the church. 

    Consider two book clubs:
In the first, the people who attend the book club, at the end of each meeting, vote as to which book they shall read and discuss at their next gathering. In this club, new members tend to be people who have been personally invited by a friend who is a member. From time to time there may be a straggler who drops in because they have an interest in this month’s book, but when the topic for the next month is discussed they are not likely to feel included and will soon drop out if the next book doesn’t interest them. To make matters worse, no one takes responsibility for contacting infrequent attenders to inform them of the next month’s selection. Many churches are like this. They have exhausted their new member pool, no one is having children and the members canvased all of their unchurched friends. They wait to die by attrition.

In the same town there may be another book club. This club selects its books from the New York Times best seller list and frequently advertises its program choice at the local library. They also choose discussion leaders who are skillful at including the timid newcomers. They email everyone the list of future selections and provide links and reviews for those who miss the program but still want to do the reading. Unlike the dying club above, this book club welcomes those who use e-format book readers. From time to time, this club explores the option of birthing another club, perhaps in a different location or with a different target audience. This club is busy being born, whereas the other one is busy dying.

Which book club is more like your church?

Luke 4:14-21

In his sermon recorded in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus says that his mission involves certain people. He is not targeting, Wall Street lawyers, feral cats, or Baltimore Ravens fans, unless they happen to be one of the following groups:
    •    the poor
    •    the captive
    •    the blind (could be physically, spiritually, or both)
    •    the oppressed (and by implication, those drowning in debt)
Have you made the list? One of the things I struggle with is clarity of mission. By saying these named groups outright, Jesus is drawing a line in the sand. It will eventually get him crucified. His mission did not involve ousting the Romans. His list did not include the religious elite. He didn’t put on his agenda support for the Temple or the existing forms of worship, even though he personally participated in both Temple and Synagogue rituals.

His listing of missional priorities made this part of the sermon sound a bit like Obama’s second inaugural address, and was every bit as political. Jesus backed up his words by going out and living with the poor. He accepted those who were held captive to prostitution by the gender inequality of his world. He healed the blind, those who were mentally ill, and those held captive to physical illnesses. He labored to teach those who had been blinded by the false dichotomies of the Pharisees. He challenged the separation of economics, politics, and religion, that continues to keep many people around our world oppressed. Most importantly, he formed a fellowship called Church, that would continue his ministry to the list.

I find the January statement of a list of targeted people groups, to be as brisk and awakening as the weather. On a personal level, who are the people I am called by God to spend my life serving? On a corporate level, how can I help my local church define its targeted mission group of people? 

Luke 4:14-21
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor...

In his sermon recorded in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus says that his mission involves certain people. He is not targeting, Wall Street lawyers, feral cats, or Baltimore Ravens fans, unless they happen to be one of the following groups:
    •    the poor
    •    the captive
    •    the blind (could be physically, spiritually, or both)
    •    the oppressed (and by implication, those drowning in debt)
Have you made the list? One of the things I struggle with is clarity of mission. By saying these named groups outright, Jesus is drawing a line in the sand. It will eventually get him crucified. His mission did not involve ousting the Romans. His list did not include the religious elite. He didn’t put on his agenda support for the Temple or the existing forms of worship, even though he personally participated in both Temple and Synagogue rituals.

His listing of missional priorities made this part of the sermon sound a bit like Obama’s second inaugural address, and was every bit as political. Jesus backed up his words by going out and living with the poor. He accepted those who were held captive to prostitution by the gender inequality of his world. He healed the blind, those who were mentally ill, and those held captive to physical illnesses. He labored to teach those who had been blinded by the false dichotomies of the Pharisees. He challenged the separation of economics, politics, and religion, that continues to keep many people around our world oppressed. Most importantly, he formed a fellowship called Church, that would continue his ministry to the list.

I find the January statement of a list of targeted people groups, to be as brisk and awakening as the weather. On a personal level, who are the people I am called by God to spend my life serving? On a corporate level, how can I help my local church define its targeted mission group of people? 

Isaiah 61 Text for Jesus' Sermon
Epiphany 3

I pulled a Houdini

Turning left before the table of cheese curls

pepsi, and dip,

and dipping beneath the wattled arm

of someone’s great aunt,

who was telling the story of the gall bladder

they took from her at knife point

because she was too great a risk,

being big boned as she is,

to do the thing through the belly button,

as they normally do today.

 

I made it out the back door,

past the two cousins who stood smoking there,

like sentries before the tower of London.

Nothing that was being said within,

behind them and before my exit,

could make them smile.

I said, “I’m late. Where does...”

They grunted unconvinced,

exhaling hard so I wouldn’t see,

their look of envy.

 

What is it about family holidays,

and the feasts that follow funerals,

that crawls our skin until we have to leave?

Why can’t we at least be civil?

We should smile and listen to the gossip,

and not hear the question that asks,

why we haven’t had grandchildren yet.

Or kiss the cheek of the stepmother twice removed,

who sits pink haired beyond the shrimp.

 

copyright Bill Kemp, 2013
Subjects: 
Family, Uncomfortable gatherings