Anyone who has more than a passing familiarity with Christian churches knows two things:
* Without change they die.
That's the reality I'm facing as I chair a strategic planning committee at my (ha!) congregation, so the task before us is to find a way that will honor our nearly 150 years of wonderful (mostly) history and yet move us toward an ability to do effective ministry in the 21st Century, when change is happening at warp speed.
One of the excellent resources I've found to help us with that is a 2007 book by the Rev. Gordon MacDonald. It's called Who Stole My Church?: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century. One of our task force members gave it to me and insisted I read it. Good idea.
MacDonald puts himself and his wife squarely in the middle of the story, but for the story itself he creates a fictionalized church in which members in their 50s, 60s and above are grumbling about some of the changes in worship and programming that the church is doing under MacDonald's leadership.
It's really quite an engaging story and worth a read by anyone faced with the prospect of introducing necessary (and even exciting) changes to a congregation.
But I want here to focus on one small but crucial idea from the book. And that idea is found in verse 28 of the 20th chapter of the book of Acts. It's this: "Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."
The idea that the church cost God everything means that this is not our church. Rather, it's God's, and our task is to try to discern how God would have us use this church for ministry.
As MacDonald writes, "God sees the church as precious. . .valuable. . .important." (Emphasis and elliptical dots his.)
Once people understand that, fights over the color of the carpet or the times of worship services or whether the pastors and choir wear robes all seem pretty insignificant. As they should be.
Perhaps you know the hymn that wraps up this idea this way:
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
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CHEERS AND HISSES FOR POPE
Pope Benedict XVI is back in his native Germany on an official visit. And what would such a visit be without fancy welcoming ceremonies plus protests galore? B-16 gets it all. But at least Germany's president has an appropriate first name for this event -- Christian (Wulff).
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P.S.: I've just received approval to teach two weeklong seminars at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico next July. To read about them so you can mark your calendar to attend one or both, click here.