Church Statistics - Really!

In his book “Leading Change,” John Kotter makes the point that nothing changes in an organization until a sufficient sense of urgency has been established. You can have the right people in leadership and a clearly communicated vision, but if a “plenty of time for us to consider this later” attitude prevails, needed change will never occur. This is the missing step in most church goal setting processes.

Prayer and a Congregation's Spiritual Passion

There’s an old story about a Maine Lobsterman who was caught in a bad storm at sea when the engine on his boat suddenly quit. Anxiously he fiddled trying to restart it. All the while, he heard the waves crash upon the rocky shore. Soon, he’d be dashed to bits. He prayed, “Lord, I have never asked you for anything in the past. If you rescue me this one time, I promise not to be bothering you again in the future.” 

What a difference a day makes...

‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’

Today I picked up a book about how blogs are changing the world. The book began with the story of 9-11-2001, as it unfolded in the blog-o-sphere. It was a day that changed many things in America. The day before 911, web pages that provided news content were valued less than the paper they weren’t printed on. In January of 2000, Time Warner had spent half a gazillion dollars to purchase AOL.  In March of 2000, the dot.com stock market bubble burst, making AOL practically worthless. Everyone associated with posting news on the web slinked off the stage in disgrace. On 911, all that changed. The real-time posting of events and commentary throughout the tragedy rolled away any shame the new fangled media might have felt. Before that day, no one would have expected the internet to become the dominant provider of news content that it is today.

 

Joshua 5:9 tells us how on a particular ‘Today,’ God rolled away the disgrace of the children of Israel. They had been slaves in Egypt. Then they became pilgrims wondering across the Sinai desert and depending upon quails, manna, and magical water bearing rocks to stay alive. But this day, this today, they became inheritors of a promised land. On that day, they celebrated the passover with joy and ate the first fruits of Palestine. What is more important, that day they stopped thinking like slaves. They stopped being homeless people. They start being ‘Israel,’ the people who God fights along side.

Sunday, March 10, 2013
Lent 4

How Old R U

About fifteen years ago, at a church I was serving, a group of forward thinking people came to the church council seeking to start a contemporary worship service on Saturday night. They needed funding for equipment and music. They knew that there was money in the Ford Endowment fund, which was designated for music and worship related expenses. Several in the church council objected, saying, “We knew the Fords. They would be dead set against this kind of thing.” I spoke up and said, “If we are going to resurrect the Fords for the sake of this meeting, couldn’t we at least resurrect them as young people?” The point was taken and the vote went in favor using the funds to support the new worship service.

Moses

Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. He thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight..."
“Earth is crammed with heaven, And every bush is aflame with God But only those who see, take off their shoes The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Lent 3

Reality Check 101

Reality Check 101 is workbook designed to help your congregation understand its unique mission, community context, and divine calling. It can be used as a guidebook for a goal setting (though Bill avoids that word) retreat, or as a group study to discern what the church should focus on in the coming year. Each chapter has study questions and suggestions for implementing what you have learned. The chapters are self contained and can be used in any sequence. Reality Check 101 is designed to be a flexible resource, a tool box for church change. 
Reality Check 1010 topics include:

Reality Check workbook  - ebook
Back cover, print version of Reality Check 101

Gone like Monopoly's Iron

Old technology doesn’t die, it just becomes irrelevant. Think about it, everything from the telegraph to the trebuchet still exists. When humankind moves on and leaves an old way of doing something in the dust, it doesn’t get rid of the old. Things that are irrelevant, are simply parked in a back ally. This is my chief concern as I write a weekly blog for leaders serving mainline denominational congregations.

Change More than Your Website

Churches are in the communication business. We tell people about Jesus, explain the relevancy of the Bible, communicate prayer needs and joys, publish the where and why of our fellowship gathering, and beg people to give. Few things have changed so dramatically in the last thirty years as the ways people communicate and how they prefer to receive information. From the time of Martin Luther down to the time of Martin Luther King, people went to the church and looked at the church door or church bulletin to see if there was anything happening this week. Today, those that faithfully read the bulletin or the church newsletter are few and gray. Even the idea of regularly going to the church building or calling the secretary for information seems quaint. 

The Nature of Our Nation

A wandering Aramean was my father...

The Old Testament scripture that calls us to confess, “A wandering Aramean was my father...” seems a strange place to begin Lent. I always associate Deuteronomy 26 with Thanksgiving and turkey, but it makes a cool contrast to Luke 4 where Jesus is starving in the wilderness. Lent is a good time to wrestle with the big questions of life and to fast for long enough to get a more spiritual perspective on it all.

 This Lent, lets begin by traveling outside the walls that usually separate church and state and pray a hungry prayer for our political circumstances. There are three questions that we need to ask about our community and nation.  Deuteronomy 26 provides an unexpected answer to each:

Q1) What is the nature of our nation and our civic life together?
A1) We are wanderers. We are a people formed from former slaves, immigrants, and dispossessed native Americans. We started as a weak few, storm tossed and fragile. Now in our state of luxury, we dare not become isolationists or build electrified border fences. Lent should whack us out of social self pity and “let them eat cake” attitudes. 

Q2) What external circumstances should we be aware of?  
A2) The world is a place where oppression is common. In the midst of history, God has acted to take us as a people out of slavery and made us to be a nation. In this land that we did not build or win for our selves, God has made us secure. We have found milk and honey. 

Q3) How then should we live? or What is our vocation as a nation? 
A3) We should enjoy our abundance and be thankful.  We should offer up our due tithes and join in worship. We should invest in the world; do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Sunday, February 17, 2013
Lent 1

About Bill

Bill Kemp is the author of nine books including Holy Places, Small Spaces: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church (Discipleship Resources, 2005), The Church Transition Workbook: Getting Your Church in Gear (Discipleship Resources, 2004), and “Going Home: Facing Life’s Final Moments Without Fear,” (with Diane Kerner Arnett, Kregel Publishing: March, 2005).

Bill taking pictures

Busy Dying

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

The Spirit of God is Upon Me

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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

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