Archive for ◊ April, 2011 ◊

• Thursday, April 21st, 2011

…he loved them to the end.” (John 13: 1)  Part of the reading for Maundy Thursday, includes this statement about Jesus and the twelve apostles. Yes, all twelve. Including Judas who was to betray Jesus for money. Including Peter who would lie about his association with Jesus in order to save himself. Including the sometimes scared, often short-sighted, occasionally silly others of the group who continually failed to understand the “big picture,” Yes, and even including you. No matter how devious, how self-serving, how scared, short-sighted and downright silly we can often be, Jesus loves us to the end.
This is true even when our church life is troubled and declining, even when we feel like failures, even when we do actually fail. Jesus loves  us even then and perhaps, especially then. Because he was fully human, Jesus knows how hard life can be, how challenging faith can be, and he knows that we often fall short of the glory God envisions for us. Therefore, in spite of ourselves,  having loved us from the beginning, Jesus loves us to the end.

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• Monday, April 04th, 2011

There’s been an interesting response to the publication of Finishing with Grace, A Guide to Selling, Merging or Closing Your Church. It’s been both exciting, rewarding – and disquieting.
On the upside – whenever Gretchen or I go anywhere and mention the book – people say to us:  “Oh, I know a church that could really use your book.” When Gretchen, who is a  minister, speaks of the book to her colleagues, there is an equally heartening response.  It’s a genuine interest in how this book can help pastors.  We give everyone information about obtaining the book and as a result, sales are pleasantly brisk.
What is frustrating to us is the silence from the top – from denominational leadership.  As Gretchen mentioned in last week’s blog, we recently met with Jim Antal, General Minister and President of the Mass Conference of the UCC.  That was a terrific and productive meeting and we thank Jim for taking the time to meet with us.
However, we have also done a mailing about the book to the heads of every major denomination in the United States.   There has been no response.
In fact, during the writing of the book – when we were confirming some statistics – the head of one denomination took us to task for writing a book that recommends closing a church.  Of course the book does not recommend closing at all. That pastoral leader made a false assumption without ever taking he time to learn what the book was about.
Of course we’re not suggesting the Finishing With Grace is the ultimate book on churches in transition (although wouldn’t that be nice).  But it does seem like denominational leadership … errr … has their heads in the sand. They don’t recognize or want to acknowledge what’s happening with churches in the United States today.   In February  ABC News’ Diane Sawyer did a substantial special report on the decline of American Churches on the Evening News.

Three United Church of Christ churches are closing every week in the United States.  What about you Lutherans and Presbyterians and Methodists -what are your statistics – and what are you doing to help your churches in transition?

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