- 9:30am: Prayer for our Church
- 9:45am: Sunday School
- 10:55am: Worship
- 3:00pm: After-School Tutoring
- 5:30pm: Wednesday Night Dinner
- 6:15pm: Wednesday Night Program
- 7:00pm: Choir Practice
One of the books that has made a big splash in recent years in United Methodist circles is Bishop Robert Schnase’s “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” Many local congregations have been studying this book and using Schnase’s five identified practices as a model for their ministry. I believe that Jim was reading the book with some of our church leaders before I came to be with you, and I too have used the book in working with church leader’s in the past.
The book, in my opinion, represents a very base level conversation about congregational life and outreach. The scary part for most of us is that for many congregations these basic practices seem so foreign, and there are many churches who see them as way out and wacky, radical practices beyond their ability and desire. And yet, it seems to me that engaging in radical hospitality, providing passionate worship, being intentional in our faith development, sacrificing our time and resources in risk taking mission and service, and sharing with extravagant generosity is part and parcel of the Christian life. These aren’t extraordinary steps – they should be normal for communities of faith.
All of this is a setup to my sharing of a blog post I read earlier today featuring an e-mail from Bishop Mike Coyner to the members of the Indiana Annual Conference that he serves. Their annual conference is focusing on the five practices in their common life together, and he decided to turn things upside down by sharing his 5 “Not-So-Fruitful-Practices.”
His first one attempts to look at the opposite of radical hospitality:
“Radical Hospitality” is when we extend warm invitations, welcome, and acceptance to all persons in the name of Christ. The “Not-So-Fruitful” practice happens if ….
- your church does not have adequate parking places for all who attend
- the entrance to your church building is not visibly marked
- you don’t have greeters or ushers, or worse, your greeters and ushers are not trained to smile, be helpful, and welcome newcomers
- your church building looks more like a museum to the past than a place of current vitality
- your hallways have more pictures of dead people than current photos of children, youth, and adults participating in faithful ministry today (new people can’t join your past, they can only join your future)
- you don’t provide follow-up within 72 hours to newcomers to thank them through a phone call or drop-by visit which says, “We’re glad you came, please come back” (most studies show that effective response must occur within 72 hours in a way which is personal and listening – not a sales pitch)
And of course the worst kind “Not-So-Fruitful” practice happens if you never invite anyone to come to your church in the first place.
Ouch! It sounds like the Bishop is meddling again, stepping on toes, and yet he is absolutely correct in calling congregation’s to task for “maintaining museum’s” than creating spaces for current vitality. As long time members and attenders of our church, we come and everything feels normal, and we assume the EVERYONE has to feel the same way. But to someone new to church, new to the community, or under the age of fifty, there is a very difference experience, a confusing experience, that doesn’t help to connect them to the love of God that we want to offer.
My challenge to you is to come a few minutes early this coming Sunday and imagine that you have never been to our church before. Then take notes on what seems confusing, where we need to add directional signs, and what we might do to help our church be both welcoming and seem alive. I think you will be surprised at what you find.
Check out the full blog post – it’s worth the time, and you will be interested in thinking about how we practice our faith here at Old Hickory UMC.
See you on Sunday,
There has been quite a bit of buzz in the news this week on the results of a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey on religious knowledge. Over 3,000 persons representing a cross section of America took this quiz on religious issues answering 32 questions. In the end, it turned out that atheists and agnostics seem to know more about religion than most Christians, followed by Jews and Mormons. Of white, mainline protestants, the demographic of our church, the average response was 15, with a lack of knowledge of more than half of the questions.
It doesn't especially surprise me, for surveys conducted by the General Board of Discipleship have shown that many United Methodists are fairly uninformed about the Bible, our traditions and practices, and the overall religious landscape. One of the reasons we are doing the "Adult Confirmation" series on Wednesday nights is my belief that one of the first tasks of any pastor these days is helping folks gain more understanding about what and why they believe what they believe. For far too long, many in the church have been willing to go through the motions with little passion about their beliefs, based in the reality that they really don't know what they believe.
What is most interesting is the finding that persons who claim no belief in God are the most knowledgeable about religion. After all, one would think that those who claim faith in God would be the most invested in learning about the world they are a part of. Logically, they would be the most likely to study about religious life in the pursuit of their own practices. And yet, at least among American Christians, there is a disconnect between the claim of faith and the knowledge of faith.
John Turpin and I have been talking on email about this, and I found his questions and thoughts interesting in thinking about all this. He wrote:
Maybe - when we agree to 'faith' we don't feel the need to do additional research or learning. That's consistent with most of the things in our life. Few people take apart and learn about cars, computers, air conditioners, light bulbs, etc. They just 'work'. When they don't there are the 'experts' to deal with the issues. Cars->Mechanic; Computers->Geeks; Religion->Pastor/Priest/Minister; etc.
John is definitely on to something that we need to consider along the way. Could it be that American Christians have turned their back on becoming disciples of Jesus to simply instead become mindless consumers of religious pablum? Could it be that we are farming out taking up our crosses and following Christ to the religious professionals who do if for us? Why is it that we somehow think that an uniformed faith is somehow superior to knowing something about what and why we believe what we believe.
Of course, some might say that faith, by definition, transcends belief and understanding, thus it isn't important to know about our religion. The problem with that is that faith is belief in that which cannot be proved, or falls outside of human knowledge. Do we truly have faith then if we aren't really sure what we know or believe in the first place?
I encourage you to take a 15 version of the quiz at http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php and see how you compare. For the record, I got 14 out of 15 questions correct (I never CAN remember about Vishnu and Shiva!). Take the test and post a comment on how well you did. And feel free to comment on any of the questions this finding raises for you.
See you on Sunday,
Music City Bronze, Nashville's premier handbell ensemble will be coming to perform in the historic Old Hickory UMC Sanctuary. The concert is scheduled to be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 19. The group, which part of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, draws on a wide variety of music to create a program that will entertain persons of all ages.
Come experience a wonderful evening of handbell wonder.
One of the questions that I have asked in the past couple of sermons is "Are we truly seeking after God?" Of course it sounds like a stupid question on the surface, for we are all coming to church which suggests some desire to know something about God. And yet, it's an important question for there are many reasons for being a part of a church that have nothing to do with God, from maintaining the family traditions to needing a quiet hour each week to meditate and sleep (yes, I see you out there! :) ) It's very easy to attend church regularly and be completely disconnected from seeking after God.
One of the ways that we can begin to answer the question is to examine how we are spending our time and energy. Are we making an effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, or do we simply show up to things that don't require much thought and simply make us feel good? Don't get me wrong -- I like to feel good as much as the next person! But being on the path to finding God takes the discipline to talk about hard things as much as easy ones. It takes effort on our part to read and think and learn. We get what we pay for, and we pay with our time, attention, and energy. When we aren't willing to give those things to God . . . well let's just say our faith generally doesn't go very deep as well.
That is why you will hear me pushing experiences like the Manthano program, which you can still be a part of. Yes, there are expectations with a program like this. Yes, there will be some reading outside of the class sessions. Yes, it requires a couple of hours each week in a group session. But in the long run, that time invested most folks would say is time well spent. It takes us to new places in our understanding of God, places that root us and help us in life. By the way, Manthano is going to meet on Sunday evenings starting Sept. 19.
There is another class coming up that I am going to and I want to invite you to join me. On Saturday, September 25 there will be a training on starting Wesley Covenant Groups held at the Blackman UMC in Murfreesboro. Wesley groups go back to the earliest days of our tradition, when Methodists would meet in small classes or bands to hold one another accountable in love. Basically they were groups that would meet to talk about how they were doing in their faith journey, with each member sharing about their own relationship with God. These groups would have a class leader who would be concerned with the physical and spiritual needs of the members, assisting the pastor in caring for the group members. There has been a revival of these groups in Methodism today, and congregations that are recovering this important part of our heritage are seeing growth spiritually and numerically.
It's a lot to give up a Saturday to come to a training on a new ministry opportunity, but just like it takes time to grow in our faith, it takes time to grow the ministries of our church. I hope that you will consider joining me so that together we can think about where God is leading our church, and if starting Wesley Groups here is something that will help us in our search for God.
Let me know if you would like to come.
See you on Sunday,
This past Sunday we had our first gathering of 7 youth to look at revitalizing our youth ministry. After much conversation, a few pizza rolls, and a few rounds of "Sardines," everyone agreed that we would like to start meeting weekly on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. (thus our name 224) starting on August 29. Jay Voorhees will be leading the group, and is looking for interested adults who would like to hang out with (and love on) a bunch of teens. Be watching in the days ahead, for our Sr. High style mavens are on the lookout for redecorating the youth room, and we are hoping to plan some great special events for the future. For more information on our 224 Youth program, please call Jay at the church or drop him an e-mail at using our contact form.
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