Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) Well, during a study-break, I decided to click on my blog-tracker, just to see how many people had surfed by today, when I received a surprise. You see, Sunday hits are usually few and far between. People who normally follow the musing of this blog know that virtually every Monday, you can expect a new "Ten Things I Think I Think", and the other six days of the week... well, there are no guarantees of anything new. So Sunday is generally pretty slow.

But not today.

It seems that a blogger who attends Holy Trinity - Brompton, the congregation we visited during our visit in London, googled my blog, and posted my "part one" segment on my experience at the church. Imagine then, seventy hits, all from England and India within minutes of that particular blogger's post. I'm kind of curious how they'll receive what I had to say, for even though I'm pretty kind to HTB, I viewed (and view) their take on the Holy Spirit and how he (the Holy Spirit is a person... just ask Dr. Steve Seamonds, one of my professors) manifests himself with a degree of... well, if it isn't skepticism, it's some sort of relative.

Who knows where this might end up.

2) I said it in August, and I'll say it again: the national championship for college football is going to be played in Columbus on November 18th. USC's loss only confirms what I thought then, and believe now that the best two teams in the country are in the Big Ten. The downside to this, of course, is that I've a sense that the actual BCS Championship Game, itself, will prove to be anti-climatic, as it looks like a Big East school is going to represent the challenger to the mighty Bucks. OSU/West Virginia might prove interesting, but as for Louisville or (I can't believe I'm even going to type this name out) Rutgers..... yeesh! How good could your conference be if Rutgers is undefeated? It'd be like if Indiana won the Big Ten Championship... that'd be the year that a new strain of the bubonic plague struck every state in the midwest except Indiana, and all of Purdue's starters were ineligible. How tainted will West Virginia's bid be if they had to "get by" Rutgers first? Expect many renewed calls from fans from the SEC, Pac-Ten, Big Twelve, and even a dog-awful ACC for a football championship tourney.

3) In a post a couple of days ago about books, and particularly books I'd read if they were ever written, I listed a book called "Why Jesus Hates Religion" by a pastor named Bruxy Cavey as something I'd read if it was ever written.... and I was being serious (as I was when I called for my boss to write a book on David for Adults). Well, guess what, Bruxy Cavey just released his first book, and guess what it's called.... The End of Religion . Needless to say, I've already ordered my copy, and suspect that it will find a way into my dissertation. Check it out.

4) Had to read "East of Eden" for my preaching class. The assignment was to do (among other things) detail what having read this book would do for me as a preacher. Well, in short, it confirmed for me that a) Steinbeck was one of the greatest authors of his generation b) that the imagery he uses is so vivid that you can practically smell California as he describes it (which is instructional for a preacher), and c) that nobody talks or writes like Steinbeck anymore. Nobody. No one. Not a soul. Most authors would have written that book in a third-less pages, and doubted that the evil character (Kate) was realistic because she was born evil. It just seems to come out of a more naive, and better educated (don't' think the two are mutually exclusive... they aren't) time. They don't make 'em like this one anymore.

5) Percentage of their budget that a church should be spending on staffing costs, as per the suggestion of Aubrey Malphurs, author of Advanced Strategic Planning and a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary: 40-60%, with larger churches spending less percentage wise than smaller churches.... in case you were wondering. I'm sure it kept you up and night. You can thank me later.

6) Heard an excellent sermon this morning at Quest Community Church in Lexington on how the mirror, and a false-perception perpetuated in the culture of how we should look, robs us of our connection with God. Helen Music, the preacher of the morning, nailed it. If you are interested, here it is:
I guess we're going to spend a little time at Quest, as opposed to Southland Christian Church with is the big behemoth we'd been attending during our year of (mostly) self-imposed exile from home for awhile. And that's no knock on Southland... we're just using this year to experience new things.

7) Another excerpt from Malphurs' book:

We have discovered that people fear the future. It frightens them to the extent they prefer to live in the present or, worse, the past. So to succeed, leaders must address that fear. By far the most effective way is vision clarity - to picture the future with such vivid terms that a congregation can see where it is headed.

8) Drafted my NBA fantasy league basketball team for 2006-07. With the top pick, I took LeBron. Also got Vince Carter, Chris Kaman (center for the Clippers), Antwan Jamison (forward for the Wizards), Kurt Thomas (forward/center for the Suns), Andre Miller (guard for the Nuggets), Dwight Howard (a force of nature for the Magic), Mehmet Okur (from my beloved Utah Jazz - really ticked off my brother I got him too, which is a bonus), Richard Hamilton (Pistons), Ben Gordon (Bulls), Bonzi Wells (my one headcase - last year I had Artest), and Mike Miller (Grizzlies). Since only fourteen people follow the NBA in America any more, I need let you know that this a great team. I think after a three-year drought, the title will once again be mine.

9) I took Elijah to the nursery at Quest this morning, which was a landmark. Usually I spend most of the sermon (since normally this Aimee's job, me being a preacher and all) out walking around, trying to catch snippets of the sermon on closed-captioned TV. Today, I thought I'd roll the dice... and he did OK. He cried as I left, and then kinda glommed onto a teenage volunteer who played with him until we picked him up. He gave her a hug and wave as we left, and all to say this....

You don't know how important it is to volunteer in your church's nursery or children's ministry. You just don't know how much parents and kids appreciate it. I don't care if you are a stockbroker, butcher, a cabinet-maker or a candlestick maker.... everyone should do this a few times a year. It is one of the ultimate acts of servanthood, with the greatest potential for impact you can give. No joking. It's that important.

10) Am doing my dissertation on churches that made planned pastoral leadership transitions where a succeeding pastor was selected before the senior pastor left, and they actually serve on staff together before the transition takes place. It's an interesting study, but the problem is that, as per the suggestion of my Bishop (and you gotta take a Bishop's suggestion pretty seriously), I'm looking for churches in Episcopal systems that have made this transition. For those who don't know what "Episcopal system" means, it's systems where pastors are appointed by Bishops to serve churches. "Call systems", where the congregations ask a pastor come and be their pastor are far more prevalent in this country, have been experimenting with this kind of transition now heavily for about 10 to 15 years. Now, some of the biggest "call" churches in the country (Willow Creek Community Church, Saddleback Church, and Southeast Christian Church of Louisville to name a few) are in the middle of massive leadership transitions where the well-known pastor (Bill Hybles, Rick Warren, and Bob Russell, respectively), are retiring to some other aspect of ministry, and another Senior Pastor takes over using the "succession model". Finding 12 to 15 examples of these kinds of transitions in the "call church" world would be easy.

But Bishops are a little wary of giving up their right to make appointments. Wary to the point where I've scoured the country, and at this point I've only found six examples of "Episcopal system churches" that have tried this (all successfully, I might add). They include St. Lukes Community UMC (and African-American congregation in Dallas), Indian River City UMC (Florida), Mt. Pisgah UMC (North Georgia), Prospect Street UMC (North Georgia), St. Luke UMC (Indianapolis), and All Saints Episcopalian Church (Pasadena - and yes, this is the same church that made headlines when it's former Senior Pastor made an anti-Iraq/Republican sermon, advocated that its members should get politically active, and was subsequently investigated by the IRS for having violated it's tax exempt status).

Holy Trinity- Brompton, actually qualifies, as they made the transition from Sandy Millar to Nicky Gumble two years ago... but I don't think a British example will be allowed.

However, the track record of appointments made in churches (particularly larger ones) where a Senior Pastor left, and the new pastor comes in cold the next day to take over, has been abysmal (I'm working on the data for the West Ohio Conference, and the stats are depressing), which is why there are at least a dozen UMC churches nationwide that are "in-process" for a planned succession, which is unprecedented in our denomination's history. I guess Bishops are more afraid of churches falling to pieces in the midst of a conventional appointment (the current norm), than trying something new in an effort to protect a church's future.

But I can't use "in process"... I need "process completed at least two years ago", so it's turning into a challenge.

Anyhow, be in prayer as I seek more examples of "planned succession Episcopal churches" who successfully made this transition (it'd be easier looking for bald, left-handed, world-class violinists, with three sisters, and a wife named Elvina). If you know of a United Methodist, Anglican, Wesleyan, Episcopalian, or Free Methodist church that did this, please let me know.

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