Friday, October 27, 2006

Changing The Scorecard: 20 Portals

Yesterday, thanks to Hillcrest Hospital's pastoral care department here in Tulsa, I got to hang out and listen and talk with one of my favorite authors on the church today, Dr. Reggie McNeal, Southern Baptist, soon to be one of the leading members of Leadership Network. He wrote "The Present Future" (see posts below) and that was the title of the conference yesterday. But the main thrust of it was on his repeated assertion that we need to "change the scorecard" for how we talk and think and see this thing called church. Not keeping score on how many sit in the pews and contribute money and go out on mission trips, but how many lives we are in relationship with outside our group, touching with God's love, serving, and where possible transforming into followers of Jesus. A lot of the workshop was to lift up these main points from his book, and to tell great stories that illustrate the points.

Let me just give some of the notes I made from the conference, and then in another post I will talk about a lunch talk I had with him and a few others.

These will be some random observations, a little mix of Reggie's points with mine, but hope you will get something from them and comment.

I call it 20 Portals of Changing the Scorecard.

1. We need a Template Change of Church. Great now that I am doing some blogs to know what this means lol, and it is a good way to frame it. Contemplate your template, the template of those outside your relationship.

2. A church never votes to go missional. It will always vote to "go back to Egypt" [that would be Exodus story and aftermath to those of you getting acquainted with the Bible and visiting here] This point has some obvious correlations to the churches in the congregational way, as well as the Baptists in his own tribe. A lesson for leaders in these churches to lead, to find those among you who "get it" and turn them loose. Let them be "viruses" not only in the community outside, but it will be contagious then, for some anyway, within as well.

3. Great interpretation of John 4:34-35. The reaction of the way the disciples vs. Jesus react in passing the "woman at the well." Disciples (i.e. church folks) are always "missing the party" be it at the well, or as with the elder son in the prodigal sons story. Always looking for a harvest sometime in the future, always after having to plan for it, while Jesus says it is right now, right here. Just do it.

4. In talking about how we need to move our thinking and acting away from building churches to building a Christian movement, I kept thinking of some counseling I am doing with a person about addiction, this time smoking but any kind of addiction, including the kinds of addictions to dysfunction that churches have--one helpful advice is to completely alter his daily routine as a way to get him out of his smoking rut. Whatever he normally does at a certain time, from the time he wakes up, do something different. See template change comment above. Same for churches.

5. Most of the morning, Reggie went through the all important generational cultures differences at work and connecting it to the shift from the manufacturing to service to experience economy and church. I am sure I must have posted on this before, as an overview, but just in case I will make it a separate post. But some national figures, vary according to region of course, that demonstrate the need for shifting to missional way. I think I got these figures down right from his chart for those still mostly active in church life. Seniors (born before 1925) not counting them statistically; Builders (born 25-44) 60 percent church adherence; Boomers (born 45-64) 40 percent; Gen Xers (born 65-83) 20 percent; Millenials (born 84-00) 10 percent. Nothing yet on Gen Next (00--). This is reason number one for the collapse of the church as we have known it. reason number two is the emergence of the "postmodern" world. Generational cultures reveal to us that we have our own missionary work to do right at home. The lessons we have learned, the hard way (see for example I would note Vincent Donovan's Christianity Rediscovered) about overseas mission work we have to apply here among ourselves. Requires post-evangelism, learning new languages, customs, being willing to be transformed.

6. The question is not how can we do church better? We can do it great with all kinds of quality stuff like the boomers like, but they still won't come to 'be like us.' As long as we keep presenting a "monoculture" we will miss the future. Connected with another important observation about how he is trying to get leaders to quit thinking "multi-site" where one version is replicated in many places, with "poly-site" where one church movement has many different incarnations. [Transformational church is all about doing church better; that is needed; something else is needed too].

7. appropos point 6, instead of putting money into new and bigger sanctuaries and r.e. buildings, etc., put it into community buildings use, helping children in your community instead of those who are dropped off for R.E.; pay the rent of missionaries to go live in apartment complexes and make relationships and form church within the apartment complexes. Studies have shown, he says, that apartment complexes have highest rates of no church connection, even if they are right across the street from a huge mega-church. Go into cul-de-sac churches as some are doing and plan to have six couples in an area meeting for the new versions of missional house church. Glad to see he mentioned Neil Cole's book Organic Church (see my other posts on it) about all the ways of being poly-site.

8. Don't have Committment Sundays. Have Compassion Sundays. (see my post about the hopeful sign among us UUs with Generosity groups and missions). Do away with Evangelism Committees and tasks and have Blessing Groups. Go task everyone with simply finding three people to bless each week (waitresses, etc. etc., teachers, etc. etc.) and make one of those three persons someone you or others might consider not "worthy" of a blessing.

9. Great exegesis about the way God moves among those who are "outside" our particular group identity, and the necessity to go there to experience God and be transformed [but now if they could only extend and live that to us in the more progressive and liberal wings of Christ's movement lol but that's another post; there are always those stunned looks when these folks find out who I hang out with, but more on that later]. But great stuff about Abraham learning from Melchizedek, Moses learning from Jethro, Jonah going to Nineveh and God's blessing of Nineveh, and of course the Jesus stories.

10. Church has been like the "live well" for fish caught; people are brought in out of the world and placed in a container called a live well, but of course it is an unnatural place for a fish to be and is a place on the journey toward their death. Church should be like an airport hub; its whole mission is to get people where they need to go. It isn't a destination but a departure place. And so church needs to be about asking people these questions: A. What do you enjoy doing? B. Where do you see God most at work in your life now? C. What would you like to see God do in your life in the next 6-12 months from now? (and make sure they are in a group that will follow up with how it is going) D. How would you like to help other people? and E. How can we pray for you?

11. It's about believing God not about believing in God. (there's a postmodern parable for you). Church isn't a noun but a verb (so is God but that's where the evangelicals can learn from progressives as we have so much to learn from them). Start with a community building agenda and not a church building agenda.

12. We need a return to Spiritual Formation. We are in a world of mass customization. We can meet people where they are, even if it is called a consumer mentality, but by our being and God's being the spiritual formation will transform their mentality into a God giving mentality (these are mostly my words and paraphrasing of several questions rolled into one in his responses). See questions above. Also it is return to ancient practice of Spiritual Direction. If your DNA is Jesus, don't have to worry about becoming consumer-bound.

13. We have to deal with the lay reformation. We are held back by clergy-focus, and others are bypassing us because of clergy-focus. Will affect Seminaries very hard, especially as they are caught between the changing needs of the world and the world's churches, and the requirements of the accrediting body that they feel they must have to attract students.

14. The shifts in focus are from internal to external; program to people-centered; church-based leadership to apostolic-based leadership (sending people who get it, working from the fringe), understanding we are in an A.D. 30 world now deja vu all over again. But shifts are not replacements. they are overlays.

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16. Need to move From Planning to Preparation. [oh god, progressive church, do you hear??]. We can't plan but we can prepare. Great biblical light shed here, re: John the Baptist didn't plan but said prepare; Hebrews prepared for Exodus but didn't plan; God is in the future coming upon us now, we don't create it but prepare and be ready and go to meet it.

17. Here is the DNA: A. Our Vision (why are we here?); B. Our Values (what were Jesus'?); C. Our Results we hope for (shift the scorecard, see above, such as money we give away not that we bring in); D. Our Strengths. So important. Use the talent you have. Build strength from strength, which means realizing what you are not good at, opening up room for others. E. Our Learnings. What don't we know yet that we need to learn. Listen to those in their 20s. Show those in their 70s and above how to move from a situation of "loss" (of church, of culture, of family and friends) to a situation of "legacy", how we can learn from and mentor one another.

18. Know how to tell your story of faith, of why you do what you do, where God and Jesus are in it. Stories are important, not the four spiritual truths, etc.

19. In the collapse of the church culture, you don't try to do church the way it has been done, even doing it better.

20. There will be all kinds of churches to come. The leader of the Christian movement in the coming century (or replace as needed with non-Christian progressive movements) may have been born and be growing up in your very church and web of relationships right now. How are you going to identify, nurture, learn from, and release her? [last question, my addition].

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