Sunday, March 8, 2009

Decisions, Decisions…

Perhaps you heard by now about last Sunday's congregational meeting. If not, here's the gist:

A Proposal

At the recommendation of the Church Board, we called this meeting to discuss an interesting proposal. It began with a phone call to me from Rev. Bob Brite, Senior Minister of First Christian Minneapolis. In short, he invited Plymouth Creek to join his church in a process with six other Twin Cities churches (all United Methodists) that would last about a year. It's a process designed to foster renewed energy in churches for prayer, faith sharing (aka Evangelism) and transformation, focused around a popular and innovative series of books, the Unbinding the Gospel Series.

The Resources

This set of three books began with Unbinding the Gospel, which has received accolades across the American Christian community from a very diverse and accomplished group of church leaders. Martha Grace Reese, the book's author, wrote this book and its two follow-up companions with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, allowing her to study Evangelism in mainline churches (DoC, UCC, Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) as no one had before. Due to its unparalleled success, Lilly gave her another grant.

The Process

This time, she focused on applying the teachings of the Unbinding Series in actual churches. Her goal: over three years, lead 1000 churches through yearlong encounters with prayer and faith sharing (aka Evangelism). So she's hired coaches and organizers, and has subsidized the purchase of the Unbinding resources. We've been invited to participate, along with those seven other churches, as a cohort of learners/adventurers under the guidance of coach Nancy Lee Gauche, currently employed at Luther Seminary, among other pursuits.

The process is both simple and daunting. If we say 'yes,' as soon as possible I will lead a group of 8-10 leaders (or more…) through an eight-week study of Unbinding the Gospel. Included in this group will be three key leaders, who will fill the roles of Prayer Coordinator, Small Group Coordinator and E-vent Coordinator. This group, especially those three leaders, will join me in receiving the fruits of Rev. Gauche's coaching. In May, we'll go to some local meetings with Coach Gauche, all in preparation of the big E-vent. That will happen in the fall, where we'll work to organize six-week, small group studies of the book Unbinding Your Heart (like Gospel, but smaller and more personal, with less statistics) for the entire congregation. Let me say that again, if we say 'yes,' we'll ask The Entire Congregation to study this book together. After we're finished, we'll then go through some 'what next' discussions and processing conversations. A year later, I'll write a report for the benefit of Rev. Grace Reese's research.

Concerns You've Shared with Me

You may have a few doubts. 1) Can we really get everyone together, since we live all over the place and have different schedules and…? Let me assure you that is possible. I would work with two coordinators to arrange the details, so don't let those details distract you from the bigger question. 2) Speaking of the bigger question, isn't Evangelism problematic, dangerous, scary, disrespectful? Well, sure, it can be. And so can prayer. And yet, the claim of this process is that with earnest efforts on our behalf, faithful coaching from wise counselors and the energizing guidance of God's Spirit, all that and more can be overcome. 3) Do we have people willing to put in the time and effort to make this happen? I don't know. You tell me. It will take all of us, as well as some to commit to extra work and leadership.

Our Decision

Today, after church, we're asking you to make a decision. Do this or not? Don't think of the above comments as my endorsement, by the way. I think the process is a good one, but the question for us is whether it is good for us right now. For this to work, I will need, again, 8-10 or more people to step up and say, “I'll help lead,” and for three of those to be willing to go an extra mile. I know of at least two so far, but that leaves more room at the table for others. It will also cost some money- $1000 coaching fee, and we'll have to buy books (at a discounted rate). If we say 'no,' then it's not like we've nowhere else to go, nowhere left to turn. God is still moving in our midst, I deeply believe, and I'm excited to learn where that will lead. If we say 'yes,' then hold on for an intriguing adventure. Evangelism's received a bad name in recent years, sometimes for very good reasons. Facing those mistakes, confronting the fears of making others and ourselves uncomfortable, learning to perceive God's movement more clearly in our own lives, all of this will be challenging. But challenge and discomfort are a part of growth. That's true whether we say 'yes' today or not. It's also just fine, because our companion in any process of growth will be the God of all who loves all, and who moment by moment extends what I wish for you now and always,

Grace and Peace,


No comments:

Post a Comment