The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism

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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“I am the vine:” bearing fruit in a brutal world

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Urban poverty is common in developing countrie...
Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow’s gospel reading is from Jesus’ “I am the vine, you are the branches” lesson.  It’s a beauty, about which we evangelicals can easily be moved to misty-eyed marveling.

But read along as Lawrence Moore begins his analysis at Disclosing New Worlds:

Vines, branches, fruit and pruning – and “abiding”.  This is one of those “purple passages” from John’s gospel that most of us know well.  It’s a time to expound parables of grafting, pruning, getting rid of excess foliage so the grapes are plentiful and fat, about feasting and celebration … and stuff about “abiding” that hovers constantly on the edge of twee and a bit precious.

Any tendency towards twee and precious should cause us to pause.  This world is a brutal, death-dealing place.  Most inhabitants of this planet live below the breadline.  The scale of global poverty is staggering; the magnitude of starvation is terrifyingly obscene.

What makes the statistics significant is not simply the scale.  The scale is tragic.  Yet if it was inevitable and unpreventable, that is all we could call it.  It is the fact that it is preventable that is significant.  The world has never been globally richer, nor has it ever produced more food.

Global poverty is not an accident but a deliberate human creation.  It is deliberate, not in the sense that we set out to cause starvation, but in that we build a global economy that gives those of us in the west a particular standard of living so that two thirds of the planet necessarily live in abject poverty.

Some tools utilized for pruning.

Image via Wikipedia

And “we” – the people with the power and decision-making ability – reckon that is an acceptable cost.  That is what makes the global statistics so obscene.

We in the West hold most of the world’s power.  We in the West hold most of the world’s money.  We could end starvation in a year.  We choose to try to get more power and money instead.

We’re busy fussing over government power or gay marriage or how we’d rather give through our churches.  And year after year, people die in droves.  Who is responsible for this holocaust?

If I were God, I’m afraid I’d begin pruning.  Maybe some other “branch,” if entrusted with the world’s riches and power, would get serious about bearing fruit.

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Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »