DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

November 16, 2007

                                                           

                                      

Always the Student

I’m not exactly Mr. Businessman. I am a preacher. I minister to local churches and prior to that I was a teacher.  The world of finance and business decisions was a bit foreign to me when I entered the ministry.

But one learns pretty quickly that the world of church ministry is quite business oriented. It deals with finance. We project dollars, pledges, utility bills and plans for paying for, say, Vacation Bible School. I learned that you can make the budget and all of the dollars and cents say a lot of things. You can compare budgets of last year with 5 & 10 years ago. You can see that people will NOT give for this and that, but WILL give for something else. Pretty hard to keep a Jesus-y spin on all things when you look at the bottom line.

I learned long ago that there is never enough money for ministry. I also learned that there is always plenty of money for ministry. Spell out the need. See if people respond. Oh, indeed we have to theologize it. We have to give good reasons for the need, but I have always had faith that people respond when they truly feel the need.

Ah, but this writing is not about money. I know that most of you are waiting for the to-the-point-Stewardship-message. I don’t have one here this week.

Recently Jim Ramey of the Finance Committee here at church, and I went to a UCC sponsored day-long seminar. The title was catchy “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church.” I had several people ask about the seminar before we went. When I told them the title, their responses were always the same, “Well, THAT doesn’t apply to Dublin Community Church!”

I was delighted to hear that from our members. I agree (and so does Jim) the title of “refusing to lead a dying church” does not apply to us. But it does capture our attention and I must say the presenter Paul Nixon knew his stuff and it was well worth the time and money to attend.

Here is another thing I have learned over the years. “Church Revitalization” seminars come and go and there is a cottage industry out there to cater to churches. But, that is good. What these seminars do is…get us out of our church offices to be with other church people to hear someone who has a fairly comprehensive overview of the local church landscape. I’ve heard it all before, sort of and yet I am always fascinated to hear it again and to be reminded that the work of the local church is ongoing. It never ends. We can always learn new things about communicating the work of the church to our members and neighbors.

About 15 years ago I took a series of workshops on building up the local church. I went, I listened, I attended another session a month later and then another session a month after that. I never did know what the leader was talking about. It was so complex and intricate that I could not comprehend it. My mind does not work that way. I deal with larger concepts. I’ve had root canals that brought more clarity to my life and ministry than that particular series of seminars.

But, I enjoyed the recent seminar. Paul Dixon, who has ministered in a wide variety of local church settings, told a story of a church where he was the pastor. They were going to have a meeting about the budget (or something to do with money, I forget the particulars). Most people at the meeting were

 

dreading the 2 hours of financial talk. There was no spark. But, attending the meeting for the first time was a new member. He was 23 years old and had never been involved with church-stuff. As the meeting began…the young man said, “Boy this is gonna be FUN!”

And he was sincere. And the others at the meeting suddenly looked at the coming 2 hours with a different attitude. And the meeting was sort of fun, as they laid some good financial plans for that church.

Fun. A two-hour financial meeting. That guy was thinking “outside the box,” as we like to say.

In our seminar the other day, the leader Paul Nixon laid out the “6 Key Choices” …”a six-part manifesto about ministry in the mainline context in the 21st Century.”

Listen to the key words that Nixon lays out for us…Life, Community, Fun, Bold, Frontier, Now. He also lays out the opposite of these key words…Death, Isolation, Drudgery, Mild, Fortress, Later.

Choose Community over Isolation, choose Bold over Mild, and certainly choose Life over Death, etc.

So simple and yet so profound. We in the institutional church tend to, well… institutionalize everything. We take the serious and make it super-serious rather than make it bold and give it life.

One of the most interesting moments in the day was when we were to choose which of the six key, positive words our church Dublin Community Church, was excelling in. Both Jim and I had trouble in narrowing the list. We both felt quite strongly about DCC and what it is presenting these days. I’m not even sure which one word I chose. You’ll have to ask Jim what his choice was. But we had trouble narrowing the list of “positive” words.

We were left with plenty to think about from the session, but what I liked best about the presentation was that Paul Dixon urged us to re-examine everything that we do. But, unlike some seminars that insist that we do a 180 on all our ministries and everything that we are currently doing in the church, we were urged to look at all things and add or subtract what works or does not. See if through fresh ideas. See what you can learn.

Paul also got quite direct when he says that churches should not just be “helping” people…they should be “saving” people. I’m going to have to ponder that directive.

A few years ago, I was in India at a seminary and one of the seminarians was our tour guide for a couple days. He took us to the incredible Shree Meenakshi Temple in Madurai (he also took us for a late night dinner at an outdoor rooftop restaurant of a local hotel…but that story is for another time). For several days he showed us around. One day he was asking me questions about the ministry, after all, he would soon be in the local Christian pastorate in various southern Indian cities and towns. He decided to get a few pointers from me.

I am not certain just what advice I gave when he asked. I know that what I said was heartfelt and gentle but it didn’t strike me as especially profound. After he heard my simple advice he said, “Oh, sir, you should write a book on ministry!” I guess we all have something new to learn. I had 30 years experience in ministry; he had a couple. He had 30 years experience in India; I had 3 months. We were both teachers to the other. If I had any more advice to give him today, I would echo what was taught to me this past week…”Choose Bold over Mild.”

Life is too short for the latter.

Peace,  Bob