May 28, 2010

this week's round-up (may 27)

Come to church, win some cash...


Nice thoughts on the Lost finale here, here, here, and here. Overall, I thought the finale was good. While I agree that the idea of the "sideways world" is problematic from the perspective of Christian theology (to me it seemed to be something more than "purgatory" - I saw it as a place they chose to go, rather than "had" to go to work out their redemption - to me it was more of a "mini-heaven"), I did like the idea that in this place (which was beyond time) the connections remained. I was also glad to see that Hurley became the protector of the island, Ben was redeemed, and the conversation the two shared about how Hurley now had the power to change the rules and be a different kind of leader.

Speaking of leadership, in Leading Ideas this week, Lewis Parks writes on A Better Script for Small Churches. There is also a great article from J. Clif Christopher on What Report is First on Your Church Council Agenda, which is something Lovett Weems talked about in the conversation I was a part of last week. How we tell the story influences how we live the story, and something as simple as moving the Finance Committee report to the end of the meeting can send a significant message about our priorities.

There's an article this week from the United Methodist News Service about United Methodist clergy job security. It's a tough topic. As some suggest in the article, I find myself feeling a little nervous about how "ineffectiveness" might be defined, evaluated (and possibly abused) and my own sense of perfectionism keeps telling me in the back of my mind that I won't measure up. At the same time, I know there are clergy out there who are hurting congregations; who consistently make poor choices and haven't received or responded to the personal, professional, or emotional help when it's been made available. Furthermore, when I read quotes like this one:
"After being assigned for the last 30 years to clean up behind broken colleagues, suffer abuse at the hands of clergy-killing congregations with no intervention from the superintendent, questionable appointment practices, and never once complaining or requesting reconsideration, making multiple salary concessions and living in substandard housing that I would spend up to six years renovating, I am now … serving a system that has NO reciprocal obligation to care for or support me.”
I find myself wondering about the bitterness and the level of effectiveness of the person making the comment. I understand occasionally following pastors who have made poor decisions, I understand that occasionally there are congregational systems with unhealthy dynamics, and I even understand the occasional frustration at the lack of denominational support, but if a person's experience is that these things have been a constant for 30 years, surely at some point they need to start questions if they might be part of the problem, too. I can confess that I've had that same mindset of "Ok, I've paid my dues, now where's my reward?" but I know that's not a healthy attitude toward ministry, and I've been working hard at developing an attitude on focusing on today, and letting go of tomorrow.

The reality is we need more accountability AND we need more grace, and both those things need to be extended in both directions. If the Cabinet and Boards of Ordained Ministry are going to get serious about clergy effectiveness, they also need to have programs and systems in place for healthy mentoring, training, and vocational re-direction. Likewise, clergy need to be better at trusting each other, stop expecting the system to automatically reward them, and develop systems that keep them accountable and fit for ministry. I believe some good things can come out of this study, and I'm excited by the possibilities it has to offer.

Jeremy Smith posted an interesting article about "breaking up" the United Methodist Book of Discipline into much more manageable parts. Although I'm not sure about the idea of juggling three different books instead of just one, I think there is some merit to the idea. I especially like the idea of a small volume with core doctrine that people could use without having to get bogged down with all the administrative rules that govern church life.

On a similar note, I've been interested in the idea of bi-vocational ministry and found this article to be a interesting look on the subject. I tend to feel uncomfortable with my salary being such a large part of the church budget. I like the idea that bi-vocational ministry provides some financial freedom for the congregation, as well as gets the pastor into the community in a significant way. At the same time, I've give a lot of thought to the downside as well - that is reduces time and energy that can be devoted to ministry. Bi-vocational ministry limits opportunities to schedule things like mid-week funerals or other emergency pastoral care situations if the person is committed to another job.

Scot McKnight shared some interesting data on mega-churches which suggests that aren't as bad as some of us might think.

Donald Miller wrote on loving your enemies where he included this great video.


No significance to this week's music selection, the White Stripes just sounded good this evening, as I was putting the final touches on this post.

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