Saturday, July 28, 2007

The church has left the building – Part 2

World Vision, Outreach and Zondervan have joined together for Faith in Action: Be the Church. “Faith in Action is a 4-week, church-wide campaign that creates in your congregation an outward focus and a heart to serve. Faith in Action culminates in a Sunday where regular services are cancelled and the entire congregation engages in service projects in, and with, the community.” (

The perception of Christians and the Church is that we are only concerned about ourselves. Walk into most any church and this become readily apparent: we sing songs from memory (The Doxology), say prayers from memory (The Lord’s Prayer), say litanies/confession from memory (The Apostle’s Creed), use “church lingo” that makes no sense to someone not from the flock (what the heck is a “session?”), pastors wear goofy robes that set them apart from everyone else, etc.

Most Christians do care about the world beyond the walls of the church—I am just convinced that they do not know how to go about a focused ministry beyond the church. Our churches are filled with individuals who have individual concerns and interests (don’t get me wrong—this is ok). The challenge is that our churches do not have a focused outreach to the communities in which we live. What happens is one person volunteers at this place, another volunteers at that place and yet another person volunteers at another place. The local church has no local ministry/mission focus.

Faith in Action provides the springboard for a local church to gain focus in local ministry/mission. Our church has a worship attendance of around 100. For our Faith in Action campaign we will be involved in three or four local projects. One project will be designed for those who do not the physical ability to do physical labor/work. One project will be for our Saturday night worship group. Two projects (I am guessing here) will be for the rest of our Sunday morning worship group.

The thought of having our entire church involved in local ministry/mission on a given weekend sends chills up and down my spine.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Church has Left the Building

A speaker at this year’s Purpose Driven Presbyterians meeting said some words that shook my world—and view of the church. He asked us how we define “success” in a church. He is the pastor of a rapidly growing church and has changed his view of success. For him, a church is “successful” when it gets to the point that if the church closed its doors the community would be worse off. This caused me to think about Evergreen and our denomination.

Evergreen could close its doors tomorrow and it would have no impact on our community—I am sad to say. The people who are a part of our ministries would experience a loss but the community wouldn’t even recognize that our church was gone.

My guess is that the same could be said for most of our Presbyterian churches. But, I am almost positive that most church members would disagree with me—at first. I talked for almost two hours with one of my church’s elders before she began to see my point. Individuals are making a difference in the lives of other individuals—yet, it is not generally recognized that it is a part of Evergreen and its ministries. I believe that every pastor and session should carefully and prayerfully think about the impact closing the church would have on their community.

On a larger scale, the PCUSA could close its doors tomorrow and there would be no impact on the USA or the world. We have GA committees and task forces that write position reports that have ZERO impact on the church, the country and the world. As a denomination we are irrelevant. We are paper and hot air—not much on action. We talk a good fight—but do jack ____!

At Evergreen we are determined to change—beginning now. Check back Monday as we look at the church leaving the building.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Being sick and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

I have been sick most of the past four weeks. Prior to vacation I had a bronchial infection that was horrible. I was preaching on a Saturday night and Sunday morning when I should have been home in bed (I was going to miss the next two weekends due to vacation.). It took half of my vacation for the infection to clear up. Upon returning from vacation, the very first morning I woke up at 5 a.m. finding it very difficult to breath. I thought that my allergies were back and took some allergy medication. Things got worse. The next day when I drove up to the church I was positive that I could feel “something” in the back of my throat. Using the car’s rearview mirror I thought that there was a white spot on my uvula (the thing that hangs down in the back of your throat). That night my wife confirmed that I had a sore on my uvula and that it was quite swollen. The doctor looked at it the next morning and confirmed that I had something like a cancer sore on the uvula and that it was swollen enough to hinder my breathing. The bad news is that the sore is viral and I just have to wait for it to go away. He gave me some cortisone to decrease the swelling. Night before last I woke up at around 1 a.m unable to catch my breath. I stayed away for several hours contemplating calling the ambulance. Yesterday the breathing was still difficult and by evening I was getting scared. I called the ambulance and they were at my house in minutes. After checking me over, and talking with the Dr. who looked at the EKG, they decided not to transport me to the emergency room. This morning my breathing is better but I am going to go see my doctor. By the way, the EMT that looked in my throat thought that the cancer sore on the uvula was are real bummer!!

Through all of the sickness I have not missed a single day of work—my bad. Sermons still have to be preached, mission trips planned, etc. Most people in my church have no idea that I have even been sick.

The PCUSA has been sick ever since I was ordained. On the floor of Presbytery in 1986 when I was being examined for ordination I was asked to identify the two major issues facing the PCUSA and its short term and long term future. The two issues I identified in 1986 were the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians and the 40,000+ loss in membership every year. I am sorry to say that I was “right” on both accounts. For 20+ years we have fought over ordination and ignored our membership losses. On paper our beliefs sound great—they just aren’t actively enforced around the denomination. We are sick, Sick, SICK.

I have been physically sick for a month and am absolutely tired of it. As per the PCUSA, I am absolutely tired of a sick denomination that refuses to do anything about its ailments.

True, there are those in our midst who do not view the ordination fight as a part of “sickness.” I do not want to minimize their feelings about the issue. I still say that it is the single most divisive issue that the PCUSA has had to continually deal with since 1978 and it is killing the denomination—not our local churches.

I want to be physically well. I have an appointment with my doctor for early tomorrow morning. I want my denomination to be healthy and well. The problem is that I don’t see how that can happen in my lifetime.