Posted tagged ‘deacons’

Muttering and Complaining About Church

July 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 20, 2018

                         

My friend, Ed Stucky, recently preached a sermon on the “First Church Business Meeting.” Coincidentally, the small town small tiny congregation where the two of us speak and worship was scheduled to have a church business meeting that morning after the worship service. 

Ed used the text from Acts 6 that tells of the crisis that the first congregation in Jerusalem had to contend with: the taking care of a group of widows who were “different from the rest of us!” These widows were Jewish, but had come to Jerusalem from other cultures and regions. At some time and place they had become followers of Jesus. One of the repercussions of that was the loss of a care system that the Jewish synagogue provided to its widows. The Jews took care of their own. Now…what about the new Christian church? And these women weren’t even native born! They were transplants…immigrants, if you will!

And there’s a lot of them! 

And the group of immigrants that the widows are a part of are “murmuring and complaining” against the native Hebrews. That is, the newbies are complaining about the people who have always been there! Today we’d describe the native Hebrews in this story as the people who would say something along the lines of “This is OUR church!”

It is the fertile soil for a cultural battle. I can hear the excuses.

“We’ve only got so much food.” 

“We can only do so much.” 

“We’ve got to take care of our own first!”

“Y’all eat different kinds of food than we eat!”

“It’s not our responsibility!”

And so the Grecian Jewish Christians muttered and complained, and the Twelve said let’s figure out a solution to this problem! 

The process was quickly defined. 1) A meeting was called of all the disciples. 2) The problem was identified. 3) It was determined that what was happening went against the core values/beliefs of the church. That is, it needed to be solved, not neglected! 4) The solution was found, put into practice, and the way the church functioned was changed accordingly. 

Huh! How ‘bout that!

The thing is this first century crisis could have torn the church apart. Just imagine a new church plant today that has half of its attenders wanting to meet on Saturday night and half who are firmly anchored to Sunday morning. Or half the people who mutter and complain about having a woman as the lead pastor for the congregation and half who believe she is who God has called to be the leader, that gender has no bearing on God’s calling.

The disciples decided that the widows of the Grecian Jews had a legitimate complaint and took care of the matter. They didn’t let it fester. Shortly before this they had witnessed the “drop dead” experiences of Ananias and Sapphire. That was an awakening moment for the Jesus followers, just as the two deceivers crumpled to the ground. It was a moment when the church got serious about this Kingdom business.

Let’s be honest! There have been numerous churches in recent times that have exploded because of muttering and complaining attenders/members who don’t feel they are being heard; and there’s churches that have people rushing for the exits because of complainers who want it their way or the highway. 

We live in a culture of entitlement, and that has filtered- sometimes like a flash flood- into the church. Some followers of Jesus feel entitled, while others are prone to discount anyone who differs from them. 

We’re like a bunch of dysfunctional Baptists! Oh, wait! Dysfunctional is not a term that has to be used with Baptists these days. It’s now just implied!

And yet the first church was able to figure it out! Huh! How ‘bout that!

Oh, and by the way! Our church business meeting right after Ed’s message that Sunday was productive, punctuated with laughter, and…short!

The Need To Be Served

June 23, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 24, 2016

                                  

As I was driving along yesterday and listening to the radio an interesting statistic was shared by the radio host. He said that a recent study revealed that the typical American family now spends more money in restaurants than it does at the grocery store. In other words, we eat out a lot and spend more of our food budget on a bacon cheeseburger at Applebee’s than packages of ground beef and buns at Safeway.

It also indicates that we are accustomed to being served by others. My driving destination was the car wash to have the layers of Midwest bugs cleaned off my car. It occurred to me that I was served by the man who welcomed me and took the order of what I wanted done; I was then served by the hospitable lady at the register who took my payment and chatted me up for a moment, and then I was served by the man who did the finishing wipe down. In the simple task of getting my car washed three people had directly served me.

After that I went to Sam’s Club to buy some items that I didn’t really need. I almost always use the “self-checkout” lane at Sam’s Club, but even in that lane an employee came up to me and asked if I had found everything I was looking for.

Earlier that morning I had been at Starbucks. No surprise to those who know me! The employees there served and engaged me in conversation. Once in a while I get an email from Starbucks asking me how my recent visit was. There is a short survey that pointedly focuses its questions on how the service was in my visit.

In other words, my morning was punctuated with various people in different locations whose mission was to serve me.

Yes, they were being compensated for their service, but the point is that “being served” is now a major part of the fabric of our lives. When we receive poor service we usually react in negative ways. During our recent cross-country road trip from Colorado to Ohio and back, Carol and I were on the receiving end of great service and really, really…I mean, really bad service. We stopped at several McDonald’s along the way. Most of them had adequate or good service, but one of them stood out with the lack of service. I don’t usually do customer reviews, except when Starbucks offers me a reward for feedback, but I felt compelled to evaluate the experience at this McDonald’s. It was an on-line evaluation, and at the end of it there was a question asking if it was okay if a McDonald’s management person called me on the phone. Surprisingly, a few days later a lady named Nancy called me and asked me about the poor service I had received. She was extremely apologetic and promised me that she would be addressing the issue.

When bad service is given people are concerned. Bad service is an indication that the customer isn’t that important, and customers expect to be served.

I think there’s a lesson for the church in all of that. Our roots are firmly planted in servanthood. Jesus is known as “the servant king.” The early church was about serving. The first restructuring of the first church was because certain people weren’t being served (Acts 6). Deacons came about because of the need for people to be served. The Christians in Rome around AD 250 took charge of people who were infected with smallpox. Families would turn their backs on the sick, but the Christ-followers cared for them in their last days, even to the point of laying down their own lives. Serving was part of their DNA.

We live in a time when many people come to church to be served, which is okay…but they’ve missed part of the message. As followers of Christ we serve and are served. The church is not a gathering of consumers. We’ve been consumed by the love of Christ. That realization changes us!

Carol and I are fixing dinner tonight for two of our children and one son-in-law. It would be easier to go out to a restaurant and be waited upon, but that “food budget stat” has stuck in my gut. I’ll grill, Carol will make a squash casserole and another side dish, and, I guess, we will serve!

I think it will be a good evening!

Church Mascots

March 19, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   March 19, 2014

 

                                      

 

March Madness is one of the best times of the year. I am justifiably biased in that opinion, being born ten miles from Lexington, Kentucky and growing up listening to Cawood Ledford broadcasting UK basketball games on the radio.

One of the lesser highlights of March Madness is discovering some new mascots of some of the lesser known universities that get invited to the NCAA tournament. Such as “The Great Danes of University of Albany”, or “The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina.”

Although not in the tournament, I have a UC- Santa Cruz tee shirt with their mascot on the front, the banana slug. The Banana Slug, also known as Sammy Slug, was voted as the school mascot in 1981 when the institution started offering intercollegiate athletics. The school chancellor supported the sea lion as the mascot, but a student referendum brought the mascot name up for a vote and banana slug won.

Mascots are interesting, but sometimes the history behind the mascot is even more interesting. For instance, the James Madison University “Dukes”, whose mascot is “Duke Dog”, a gray bulldog who wears a cape and crown. The history behind the mascot name, however, is that Samuel Page Duke was the school’s second president…which makes it interesting to be a member of the women’s basketball team…”the Lady Dukes.”

In thinking of mascots, however, it got me pondering the idea of church mascots to mark pivotal points in different congregations’ histories. It might create some March momentum heading towards Easter, the church equivalent of Final Four Weekend.

How about “The 95’s from Grace Lutheran Church?” Or perhaps a more battle-ready name, “The Nailin’ Theses” of GLC!

I like the ring of “The Splittin’ Charismatics of New Wine Fellowship Church!”

Here’s a few others I think would increase attendance:

*The Fighting Deacons from Community of Joy Baptist Church

*The Glutanteers of Faith-Full Gospel Chapel

*Wine and Cheese Fanatics from Unity Tabernacle

*The Truth-Slugs of First Institutional Baptist

*The Three-P’s (not to be confused with “three peat”) of Trinity Presbyterian Church, who are firmly anchored to every Sunday mesage having three points and a poem.

*The Dunkin’ Donuts of Weigh-side Free Methodist

 

Perhaps you can think of others to join the list. Maybe your church should come up with a mascot…”King Jamers” could become “King Jammers”…just think of the possibilities! Churches that now stand lifeless and unnoticed on street corners could suddenly draw attention to themselves as a logo with an intense looking preacher with flames coming out of his backside gets attached to the outside church sign.

New outreach possibilities are now coming to my mind. I’m seeing things now, imagining things.

Some would say I’m too much into March Madness!

 

 

 

The Far Side of Church

June 8, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     June 8, 2013

 

The Far Side of Church”

 

I love laughter, and I love “The Far Side” comic strip. It was a sad day when Gary Larson stopped doing “The Far Side.” Thankfully, my brother had given me “The Far Side Calendar” every year for Christmas for five or six years. When I get depressed or frustrated I take a look at a few of the calendar pages.

I wish I could blame my warped sense of humor on “The Far Side”, but that would be a lie. It was in my genes long before I started looking at funny-faced kids and adults wearing spectacles. And, as a result of that, I think of situations that might occur in church that I think would be funny. Others might not think they are even worth a giggle, but I’m ready to explode.

Like the Sunday several years ago when I asked a dear elderly lady named Pauline Jones to light the advent candle and I gave her a book of matches that had no matches in it. To further the humor I then gave her a second book of matches…that was also matchless!

I think of church pranks, like when I spoke at Ascension Lutheran Church down the street from us on pulpit exchange Sunday and they gave me a bulletin that had the pages mixed up. Page three ended with us singing “Crown Him With Many Crowns”, and then page four…in my bulletin had the second verse of “Spirit of the Living God.”

I can imagine a Far Side entitled “Deacon Pranks” with a picture of a deacon putting Super Glue on the bottom lip of a communion plate, or substituting prune juice for grape juice.

I can picture a wolf dressed up in a suit, wearing a wig and glasses, sitting in church,with the caption underneath “Being a life-long independent Baptist wolf, Peter felt justified in stealing sheep from other flocks.”

I can imagine a baptistry with sharks swimming around a circle within it, and the pastor saying to the fearful-looking teenager “As Paul tells us in Romans …all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.”

In other words, church needs to encourage finding the lighter side of things.

Ricky, the sound booth humorist, was known to turn off the pastor’s mic in the middle of the sermon and start playing a Richard Pryor tape.”

There’s a time to be serious. There’s a time to share hope and peace. And there’s a time to laugh.

Ted didn’t see the humor in it. The one Sunday he fell alseep in church, the congregation had exited quietly and placed empty clothing on the pews with a sign, ‘Raptured! Sorry you couldn’t come.’”

Solomon wrote that there was “…a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4a).

Look for the humor in church. I believe that it is one step along the journey to experiencing joy.

The Functioning Church of Dysfunctional People

January 31, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  January 31, 2013

The church is a very unique people. It is not confined to a building, although most people still usually identify it as a building. It is not defined by its preaching, although proclamation is at the core of who it is. It conveys grace and forgiveness, and yet urges ongoing transformation.

The church also has an unsettling tension about it, for it seeks to minister to people who are dysfunctional in a variety of ways, but it needs functional people to keep it focused, effective, and missional. In other words, the church is about helping people get it together, and yet it requires people who have it together to keep it healthy.

It is true that we are all dysfunctional in some way. “Falling short” is a nice way of saying dysfunctional. My dysfunction might be one easily diagnosed, or it may very well be one that I keep hidden to myself. The dysfunction might be in fractured families or recovering addicts, but it could also be in my tendency to lust after money, sex, and power; or the bitterness in my spirit towards someone who has wronged me. All of us are dysfunctional in some way.

The church, however, is the only group of people besides AA that intentionally invites dysfunctional people to come and find healing, hope, peace, and purpose. And yet, if there are not “healed people” who are functioning well as a part of the church the result can be like a lifeboat whose passengers are all rowing in different directions. There is a lot of splashing going on, but no movement. There is a lot of “wanting” evident, but also increasing frustration.

It reminds me of the early church situation In Jerusalem where a certain group of widows were being excluded in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1-7). The first church adjusted and put seven men in place to make sure the function of providing for the women was taken care of. It presented itself as a possible major fracture in the church, based on a group’s culture, and the church restructured to make sure people in need were included.

People whose lives are in turmoil need a church that has people who have battled through the turmoil. And yet the church can not be so “all that”, as they say, that it conveys a sense of arrogance. It can’t convey messages like diet businesses do where they show the before and after pictures of its clients. Broken people need healing, but they will always be under construction.

Like I said, the church is a very unique people.