Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Middle Governing Bodies—Straight Talk: Talking to Whom and for Whom?

Today’s edition of Presbyweb linked to a Presbyterian News Service article on an upcoming meeting concerning the future of middle governing bodies in the PCUSA. The meeting will take place on February 14-16 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is a discussion that needs to take place.

Major League Baseball (MLB) has a problem—drug use is compromising the integrity of the game. A famous home run hitter did not get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The reason is that he admitted to using a particular supplement (Andro) and refused to testify before Congress on steroid use in baseball. Last year major league baseball decided that they were going to “crack down” on drug abuse. What did they do? The player’s union agreed to the ban of steroids—except, they refused to have a testing for human growth hormone and amphetamines! Only a player with the IQ of a rock would still be using steroids—today they will be using human growth hormone!

Why am I bringing this up? I am bringing this up because the MLB decision on drug testing has some similarities to the upcoming meeting on middle governing bodies. MLB couldn’t get a tough drug testing policy because the player’s union would not agree to a tough policy! The players union is afraid that some of its members would lose their jobs if a truly tough testing system was put in place. In our case, current middle governing body staff persons are “like” the MLB players union. How objective can they be when their jobs are at stake?

If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is truly interested in looking at the long-term viability of our middle governing bodies then they had better talk to people who are not employed by that “system.” Otherwise, we will get another reshuffling of the ‘chairs on the Titanic.”

Here is a plan I would suggest:

  • Have each presbytery randomly select six churches to be a part of the study (two with a membership of 500+, two with a membership of 200-500 and two with a membership of <200.
  • Pastors and elders from those churches would gather together to talk about what they view as the needs of the denomination between the local session and the General Assembly.
  • From the presbytery gatherings, one pastor and one elder would be selected to have their names put in a “pool” of names at the synod level.
  • Each synod would randomly select one pastor and one elder from the pool of names gathered from the presbyteries. These persons would attend a national gathering to discuss the governing body needs.Current governing body staff persons would not be allowed to give any input to the presbytery or national gatherings unless specifically asked for specific information.
  • The meeting would be moderated by our current moderator. The only other denominational staff person present would be the Executive Director of the General Assembly Council.
  • The recommendation from the national group would go to the General Assembly Council.

I know that I live in fantasy land! This will never happen because we are too vested in the current system. Wouldn’t it be nice though…

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TLC – Accountability Groups

When a wife holds her husband accountable for “taking out the garbage” it is called nagging. When a friend checks in to see if I have been reading my Bible and spending time in prayer it is called accountability.

Making a commitment to Christ and being a growing disciple is easy—following through is the hard part. Recently, the sign out in front of a local church read, “May your life’s troubles be as short as your New Year’s resolutions.” It is easy to make a New Year’s resolution—following through is the hard part. A commitment to follow Christ and being a growing disciple is SIGNIFICANTLY different than a New Year’s resolution. The commitment is to our God! The commitment is to our Savior!

Accountability is something that we need and something that we dislike (fear). No one likes to fail; yet, we all fail at times. I like to keep my failures as quiet as possible (vanity?). I have a sneaking hunch that other people are just like me in this area. Honest accountability means that we open ourselves to examination by other people. They will see our successes (we like that); they will see our failures (we don’t like that). Fear!

We need accountability in our Christian walk! We need a small group of folks who will provide support, encouragement, praise, hugs, tears and a “swift kick in the butt” when we need it. We need an accountability group.

This year at Evergreen we are encouraging people to form accountability groups to assist them in their spiritual growth commitments. Our requirements for the groups are:

  • No more than three of four persons per group;
  • There needs to be at least one person that you do not know well in the group;
  • Everyone in a particular group will be of the same gender;
  • The groups will meet at least once every two weeks;
  • What is said in the groups is confidential.

The members of a group will share their Total Life Commitment (TLC) goals for 2007. The members will pray daily for each other. The members will support and encourage one another. The group members will “be there” for each other 24 hours a day.

At the YMCA there is a staff person/trainer who holds me accountable for my fitness goals. I log each workout in their Fitlinxx system. My trainer regularly checks my workout log and sends me comments. We also have regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings. Most long-time gym members recognize that the gym is crowded in January and February. People join the gym with good intentions. Unfortunately, within a month or two most new members stop going to the gym and working out. They need someone to hold them accountable for striving to reach their goals.

One of the things that I really liked about the New Wineskins “stuff” was their accountably groups for pastors and churches. I have been ordained in the PCUSA for twenty years. In that time I have NEVER had anyone from the Presbytery (Executive/General Presbyter, Committee on Ministry, or any other group) meet with me or the church I was serving. Period! No one has asked me (or the church) what our goals for the coming year are and how we are planning on meeting those goals. Our annual report to denomination has shown large declines in each of the past two years. No one has called to find out what was going on (we have been clearing our rolls and will have one more large drop this year for the same reason). New Wineskins would require small groupings of churches and pastors for accountability purposes. I need it. My church needs it. All of our churches need it.

For 2007 Evergreen Presbyterian Church is encouraging its people to form accountability groups. Will they work? Who knows! But this I do know—the only way to find out is to try.

Monday, January 29, 2007

TLC – The Health Commitment

Total Life Commitment requires a commitment to improved health.

Scripture talks about the fact that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?!? Oh my gosh! One look in the mirror and I see that the “house of God” that is my body needs renovation—an extreme makeover! My guess is that I am not alone. It is time to think about making a health commitment for 2007.

We might be the most out of shape, over weight country in the history of the planet earth. Many Presbyterians are concerned about the health of our plant but ignore the ecosystem that closest to us—our bodies. We pollute that ecosystem every day. We eat what we should not eat. We drink what we should not drink. We sit on our butts when we should be out getting some exercise.

Now is the time for age-appropriate exercise. Three days each week we have a senior’s exercise group that meets at the church. They use our projection system in the sanctuary for their exercise videos—from the National Institute on Aging and Group Health. One man who attends is 96 years old and is brought to the group by his care giver. Several people at the church have joined local gyms—my wife and I have joined the YMCA. We may be out of shape but we are planning on doing something about it!

See your doctor—get a physical. Preventative health care is the best health care. Make a commitment to see your doctor in 2007 for a complete check up.

Make a commitment to better health in 2007.