Years ago on the very first day I ever interviewed at Goshen First, I remember asking then senior pastor - the late, great Dick Lyndon - if the church had a clear understanding of what it wanted to accomplish. At the time I had just read Rick Warren's, The Purpose Driven Church (which I didn't understand all that well... which might explain why fifteen years after the book was published why there are so few Purpose Driven churches out there), and I was captivated by the idea that we could voice what we wanted to accomplish, and in turn, enable anyone who decided to become part of the movement to know what we thought being a Goshen First United Methodist Christian was all about. Dick said Goshen First did have possess that clear understanding and that it could be explained using a race track as a metaphor (much like Warren's system uses a baseball diamond).
Well this turned out to be more "theory" than "reality" at GFUMC. Some people thought our purpose was to worship in a particular worship style. Others thought the purpose was to get people involved in a Sunday School class. Still others thought the purpose was to do good things in the community or engage in in-depth Bible study (although Queen Conger makes an excellent point in her latest post that churches should be engaged in "Bible Practice", not "Bible Study".... there's a sermon in there somewhere) or reach people with the message of Jesus. You'd think somehow that all those things would fit together somehow, but in the case of GFUMC that never really happened. The people who wanted to reach Jesus sometimes got into conflicts with those who thought we were supposed to worship in a particular worship style. The Sunday School people couldn't understand people who would rather be engaged in service or a Bible Practice (I'm officially stealing the Queen's idea). It was a real mess because these people, when they'd come together at an Ad Board would all butt heads, particularly when it came to allocation of the pastor's time, and the church's resources.
At a certain point, maybe in my fourth year, realizing what was going on, Dick tried to reel the thing in by casting what he believed was the essence of what we were supposed to be doing, which was "making disciples". We determined what a disciple was and did, and then kind of broke that down into different categories. I was commissioned to write some curriculum that would more fully explain this, and Dick decided that we'd do a sermon series that would break each discipleship category down. The sermons would be taped, and in the future used as kind a visual to go with the written curriculum that could be used in a membership class, Sunday School class, Life Group, or whatever.
So we worked on this stuff for about a month, and Dick found different groups in the churches that could take it all out for a "test drive". Everyone who used it thought it was OK (although the videos were pretty dry). But then Dick got on some other kick, and pretty soon the books and videos ended up in a corner somewhere, gathering dust, never to be seen or heard from again. I even tore apart my office looking for the set I thought I brought with me to Shawnee, but I must have pitched it at some point cause its nowhere to be found.
But the general idea of a church family knowing why it exists, and what its supposed to be doing has continued to intrigue me. I was mulling this over when about 18 months Tim Yunker and I went out to lunch, and then ran over to the new warehouse that P&G had build at their plant (their largest) out on the east side of town. Tim was responsible for the logistics of going from 20-some odd warehouses being used to process and ship P&G products to customers, to one great big honking warehouse, all the while not compromising delivery time or quality. As we walked around the building I kept asking all kinds of questions, and Tim kept giving what was essentially the same answer... in an organization as large and complex as what amounts to the world's largest warehouse, everyone needs to know what they are supposed to be doing, received adequate training so they feel somewhat competent, receive feedback so they can gauge their effectiveness, and as they get up and running be trusted to do what it is they are supposed to do.
I mean, one guy can't process tens of thousands of boxes of soap, or even micromanage others who are doing so. At some point, everyone has to pull their own weight, or the local supermarket or big box store isn't going to get their eight different kinds of Tide.
While we don't make and sell soap, the same could be said for the church. If the church - which I might reiterate is the folks who join together as a part of a mutual body geared to serve, spread the word about, and worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is NOT the building or institution thereof - those who make it up need to know what to do (and what not to do - I've got an interesting story coming out of something I'm dealing with right now that I'm sure will prove interesting blog fodder at a later date), how to do it, and then be loosed to get'r done.
After years of mulling this over, thanks, in part, to the Bishop of the West Ohio Conference, I've a sense of what it is I think we're about (sometimes in practice, and sometimes in theory) and thus, should be doing, here at Shawnee. In turn, this clarifies for me where we should place our effort in order to help people grow more confident in executing this mission and ministry.
At the Shawnee United Methodist, I believe that our people, as disciples of Jesus, believe serving him entails becoming:
- Radically Hospitable to Others
- Passionate Worshipers of the Living God
- Engaged In Relationships That Intentionally Help Us Grow Spiritually Mature
- Involved in Risk-taking Service and Mission to Others
- Extravagantly Generous to one another, and others in need
We have a swim meet, but I will elaborate on this more tomorrow.