Friday, March 09, 2007

Reflections on Jury Duty—How it Relates to the Church (Part 3)

I didn’t have to report to jury duty today!! However, I am in a jury pool for first thing Monday morning.

Saturdays are usually very busy for me. Our Saturday night worship is a real blessing (how’s that for church language!?!). Prior to worship is worship team practice. After worship we go out for dinner with people from worship (last week we had our largest group ever!). Following that for the near future is premarital counseling. I leave the church at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday nights. Needless to say, I try to “protect” the rest of the day on Saturday!

Tomorrow (Saturday) our Presbytery is putting on a stewardship seminar. Our Presbytery received a HUGE grant for dealing with stewardship issues and this seminar is one of the requirements of the grant. To date I have not attended any of the stewardship seminars the Presbytery has hosted—they are always on Saturday. Tomorrow I am going to attend. A person from our finance committee is also attending the event. This will be the first time she has attended anything at the Presbytery level.

This seminar had better not be a waste of time!!! The seminar had better not be boring!!

The world has changed. We need new, relevant ideas for stewardship. Those ideas still need to be biblically based. We need to get ideas for how to energize people about giving of their time, talents and financial resources to God’s work when it is something that is new to them. Please remember that I live and serve in western Washington where the vast majority of people don’t go to church and many have never been in a church. Old giving/stewardship paradigms just don’t work.

Take our church for instance. For each of the last three years the number of “pledges” we receive gets smaller and smaller. Yet, each year we received more money in the offering plates! People are very willing to give very generously—they just don’t want to “pledge.”

We need good, relevant stewardship information. Will tomorrow’s seminar be useful or will it be a waste of time? I’ll let you know

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Reflections on Jury Duty—How it Relates to the Church (Part 2)

There I sat—in the jury gathering room with a couple of hundred other potential jurors. The entire room was in a “wait” mode. Three jury pools had been instructed to be in the jury room at 9:15 a.m. Two of those jury pools had to wait for almost an hour and a half for all of their people to arrive! Those few inconsiderate people caused two courtrooms to be on hold. Lawyers would bill their clients for that time. The tax payers would have to foot the bill for the wasted time of the judge, court staff, etc.

The above experience brought about two observations: the inconsiderateness of people today and the wasting of someone’s time.

Inconsiderate People:

My wife and I saw a person run a red light last night as we drove home from working out. That observation brought on a discussion of how inconsiderate drivers have become in the past few years. I see a car run a red light almost every day. Every day I see drivers cut off other cars. Inconsiderate people are only focusing on their needs and wants—they don’t “give a rip” about you and me.

Believe it or not our churches are not immune from this cultural mindset. Recently, a family visited our church. Following the service the “dad” had the whole family talk with me (actually, he did all the talking). He told me that he would probably never be a regular church attender ever again (he didn’t give any reason). Yet, he had also decided that it was time for his two teenage sons to be baptized! I got in a couple of words about the requirements for baptism when he interrupted, telling the boys that they would start attending our youth group and our high school church school class. The entire discussion was by the dad and about what the dad wanted. But wait, I don’t want you to think that this “me” attitude is only in our visitors—it is found in pastors, elders, deacons, members, regular attenders and twice-a-year “Christians.”

It might be time to focus on Jesus’ teaching about counting others as more important than ourselves!

Wasting Someone’s Time:

Time is a valuable commodity. There are only a finite number of hours in a day. Too often churches waste people’s time. Our Presbytery meets next week. If I could be “Pope for a day” I would decree that every scrap of paper that was going to be given to the delegates would be mailed out a week prior to the meeting. Delegates would be able to read everything before going to the meeting. People could give careful thought and consideration to each item. Just don’t waste our time.

Another time waster is the infamous “committee meeting.” A person once defined a committee as the place you send an idea to get that idea killed. Too many committees meet for the sake of meeting. Busy professional will not tolerate these time wasters. Committees can be very useful—if they are done right.

Our church’s annual congregational meeting for receiving the Annual Report is a waste of time. When I came to the church almost eleven years ago the meet consisted of each group reading aloud their written report (every family gets a printed Annual Report). We have moved away from reading aloud the written reports. Still, nothing of substance happens at the meeting. For the most part, the meeting is attended by our LONG TIME members (mostly retired people). Even my wife considers it a waste of time. No young families attend. No visitors attend. I can’t think of a single person under the age of 50 (except my wife) who attended the January meeting. The congregation does vote on my salary and benefits package at that meeting. Too much of that meeting wastes our time.

The church needs to make a commitment to be a better steward of time. We carefully guard our pennies and keep up our facility. Why can’t we be as good at being wise in how we use the time of our people.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reflections on Jury Duty—How it Relates to the Church

It took twenty-five minutes to make it through the metal detectors. No, silly, I wasn’t at the airport—I was at the Court House for my first day of jury duty. Women and men from all walks of life were gathered for a common cause. Our system of justice depends to the “trail by your peers.” Our system of justice isn’t perfect—it is the best that the world has ever seen.

Jury training emphasized two main points. Point number one concerned parking—there just aren’t enough parking spaces reserved for jury parking. Jurors receive a special parking pass to keep them from getting a ticket unless they park in a loading zone, a short term zone or park illegally. Point number two involved our tasks as a juror. Jurors do not decide points of law—that is what the judge does. Jurors are to listen to the testimony with an open mind, follow the judge’s instructions and decide the verdict of the case.

Last week my memory verse was “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) The meaning of this verse was CLEAR to the first century church—Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection. The Romans and the Jews could have stopped this radical group by producing the body of Jesus. Such an action would have destroyed Jesus’ credibility and the credibility of his followers. The passage goes on to say, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

People are faced with a choice: Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection or he didn’t. Those who believe that he rose from the dead (using a biblical definition of “believe”) are called “Christians” and those who don’t ARE NOT Christians—even though they may think that they are!

The out-going moderator of our Presbytery preached at our last Presbytery meeting (Presbytery of Olympia). His message talked about the need for diversity in Christ’s church. He was troubled that some churches are withholding GA per capita. He was troubled that churches across the denomination are leaving the fold. He said that we need to be able to sit down with those in the denomination with whom we disagree theologically to talk and stay together. In his example he said that we needed to be in dialogue with those in the church who do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus—there is room for all of us in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In jury training we were told that there are certain tasks that are reserved for the judge and certain tasks reserved for the jury. If a juror is unable to abide by those guidelines he/she is to say so and be dismissed from the jury. The jury IS NOT to do that which they are not empowered to do.

Why is it in the Presbyterian Church that we tolerate those who try to redefine what it means to be a Christian? Someone who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not a Christian and CANNOT be a member of a Presbyterian Church! They need to be witnessed to. They are welcomed to attend our churches and hear the gospel preached. Their continued failure to believe will be dealt with by God on the Day of Judgment. Since they are not believers, there are positions in the church that they cannot occupy: pastor, elder, deacon, member, GA staff, Presbytery staff, Synod staff, seminary staff, etc. The Bible is clear about what we should do with false teachers, apostles and prophets.

A pastor friend of mine was serving a “united” church—Presbyterian and Methodist. He was “off the charts” on the liberal side. He had served as pastor of a small Methodist church for ten years. During that time a transformation occurred within him. He was reading his Bible and saw that what his Bible taught was very different from what he believed and what he had been taught in seminary. He gave his life to Christ Jesus. From that day forward he referred to himself as a “born-again liberal.” He still believed in the traditional liberal causes of the church—as long as a relationship with Jesus Christ was the beginning point of transformation. His Methodist pastor colleagues thought that he had lost his mind. My friend would say that he had surrendered his mind and will to that of God in Christ Jesus.

We need to let God be God and learn to follow him. If we are unable to do that, like the juror, we should make that known and be excused from the Presbyterian Church.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Full Court Presby Goes on Jury Duty!

To those who follow this blog,
I have jury duty for the next two weeks. I will post on those days when I do not have to report in to jury duty or when they send me home early.

I report first thing Monday morning.