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Church for a new era

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Those of you following the life of New Oaks Church may find this story encouraging. Here’s Donnie Miller (pastor of the Trinity Family Church in Gardner, KS) telling of a change of direction:

A New Era begins for TFC

Donnie Miller

There was an energy level among the congregation on Sunday that I haven’t experienced for a long time. People kept telling me, through smiles and hugs, how much they love the changes that have just happened.

These changes have been a long time coming. Last spring, we began a numerical slide that has resulted in our Sunday morning worship attendance being between 2/3 – 1/2 of what it was a year ago at this time. Toward the beginning of that slide, after a very lowly attended Sunday in March, I spent a sleepless night talking with God and wrestling with my fears and hopes. My fear was that if we continued to “do church” as we were at the time, we might not continue to exist. That fear lead to a hope, a hope that TFC could stop focusing on “doing church” and become more intentional about “being the church.” At about 4 AM, I got a pretty clear picture of the changes we could make.

I began sharing those changes with staff, the board and then ministry leaders; everyone was on board with the ideas. Last summer, we polled the congregation to find out approaches were working and to gauge their openness to the potential changes. The surveys revealed an almost unanimous support of the structural changes our leadership was considering.

Discussion groups

In August, we took a big first step in introducing Discussion Groups to Sunday AM worship. To say these groups have been a success would be the understatement of the year. Every Sunday, over 90% of the congregation participates in discussion groups. This past Sunday, only ONE person skipped discussion groups and that was because of a family emergency. It was almost hard to hear the other members of my group over the dull roar of the conversations happening all over the commons. The introduction of Discussion Groups, as well as “Ask Anything” Sundays, have all been a part of our effort to take a more dialogical approach to Sunday morning worship.

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Death by profit

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Long after midnight, some years ago, I found my son in the fetal position on the floor outside our bedroom door, in intense pain.  We rushed him to the hospital.  Pancreatitis, it was.  He received good treatment.  And in some days, he mostly recovered.

The Hurting
Image by Marquette La via Flickr

That night came to mind just now as I read these paragraphs from Sojourners:

Two weeks ago, Sam* died suddenly. He was only 21 years old, strong and healthy, preparing for a life ministering to youth. Cause of death: acute pancreatitis and previously undiagnosed diabetes. Reason for death: no access to health care to treat the incredible pain in his stomach – until it was too late. The bottom line: While angry protesters disrupt town hall meetings and national organizations spread fear-based lies, lives are lost.

The current health-care system leaves you and me just as vulnerable to lack of care as Sam was. Health-care reform is just as much an issue of justice, of preserving and celebrating life, as it is an issue of caring for the vulnerable. […]

[T]he current system “renders the best health care to the wealthiest, depletes the savings of solidly middle-class Americans, and leaves 46 million with no health-care coverage at all.” […]

[A]t Sam’s funeral there were no angry shouts or accusations. There was only shock and grief among the 400 friends and family members who attended.

Had I been born in a different situation, that death would have happened at my house; that shock and grief at my church. I would still know it today.

How long will we tolerate the fact that profits are more important than lives in America?  How did we become so hard-hearted as to turn our backs on the victims of such perversion?  What kind of monsters have we become?

sig1_100w

* Name changed to protect the privacy of his family.


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The anti-whaling ‘spaceship’ ship

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Just for fun:  Ever seen anything like it?
clipped from www.smh.com.au

Looking more like a giant spider ... the activists' new Earthrace, which last year circled the globe in 61 days, fuelled by biodiesel.
JAPAN has asked Australia to prevent the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin leaving port to harass its whalers in the Antarctic next summer, but the plea may have little effect.
The anti-whaling activists plan to upgrade their fleet from an ageing, former North Atlantic fisheries patrol boat to include another ship – something out of the future. The global speedboat Earthrace would head south under Sea Shepherd colours next summer, the group’s leader Paul Watson said.
“It looks like a spaceship. It can do 40 knots and dive under waves completely. We’ll be using it to intercept and block harpoons.”
In 61 days last year Earthrace circled the globe fuelled by biodiesel.
Earthrace’s role was unveiled as the International Whaling Commission heard that Sea Shepherd’s protests endangered the lives of whalers in the Southern Ocean last summer when the Steve Irwin was involved in two collisions.
blog it

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How to help Iran – an Iranian view

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My friend Naj, who writes an excellent blog at iranfacts.blogspot.com, is certain that pro-reform statements or actions taken by American politicians can have only negative impact on Iranians. She urges us to ask our politicians to hold back:


How to Help Iran?

Tell your elected representatives, especially the American ones, Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative to “SHUT THE HELL UP!”

Obama’s handled this PERFECTLY well so far!

Make him know that on behalf of your Iranian friend, Naj.

The slightest American meddling will throw all that spilled blood out of the window! Let us accomplish our own deed. Then, all we ask of your government, is to respect whatever government becomes official in Iran, even if it may be Ahmadinejad.

An American friend of mine just sent this to her congresswoman:

Dear Congresswoman Tsongas,

I am writing to you as a concerned American citizen who is an active member of the international community. With the recent electoral upheaval in Iran, there are many people, many friends of mine, who are caught between a rock and a hard place. They do not necessarily still live in Iran, but love for their family, country, and heritage is a huge part of their identity.

The main fear they have is that anything other than a course of neutrality by individual countries could very easily foment further bloodshed against civilians in an attempt to control protests, display power, and cultivate fear. President Obama has so far done an excellent job of maintaining neutrality, but it is concerning that various members of congress want to take a more hard-line stance, and are haranguing the president for not having done so.

As your constituent, Congresswoman Tsongas, I am asking you to please do what you can to maintain official US neutrality toward the current situation in Iran, and please do not support any bills that would involve US interests directly in this matter.

Sincerely,
[name preserved]

Posted by Naj at Sunday, June 21, 2009


If only we could learn this lesson! For many reform movements, American support is the kiss of death, marking them as a threat by foreign enemy rather than an expression of the people.

You can contact your Senators and Representative by using the contact form in the right sidebar. Go for it!

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Khatami’s statement of June 21, translated by Naj

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DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN07 - captured during t...
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Naj writes: (please forgive typos and grammatical errors, in RUSH before running to work, feel free to edit and cross post)

In the name of God, the kind and the merciful,
People’s participation is one of the grand achievements of the Islamic Revolution, which must be guarded and expanded. This magnificent presence, from all sectors and all ages and all professions, has a clear message that the people are the rightful owners of the country and the revolution. This message must be heard today; their silent protest and civil manners during these protests is an evidence of their maturity, vigilance and responsibility and it also reflects this unequivocal fact that the people are entitled to basic and specific rights that any government is obliged to respect. Provocative and insulting propaganda against a people who have always acted independently, and blaming their rightful movement to foreigners is in itself a sign of implementing wrong politics that cause further alienation of the people from the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

June 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm