Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Great Divorce

Reading again, this time as a project with my son Tim, one of my favorite of all C.S. Lewis books. It's also one of the shortest, 128 pp. in my edition. Very entertaining story of a bus trip from Hell to the very outskirts of Heaven. Every passenger has been given the opportunity to stay, on certain very simple conditions. Most elect to go back to Hell, though their heavenly greeters try desperately to convince them otherwise.

We get to hear several conversations including the one from which my favorite lines in the book are excerpted—it's between one particularly self-righteous passenger and his greeter, a man he knew and despised in life who now in heaven begs him to stay:

Bus Passenger: "What do you keep on arguing for? I'm only telling you the sort of chap I am. I only want my rights. I'm not asking for anybody's bleeding charity."

Heavenly Greeter: "Then do. At once. Ask for the Bleeding Charity. Everything is here for the asking and nothing can be bought."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Insinkerator Part II

When you're caught up in the moment and the thrill of an easier-than-expected home repair, you should still read the instructions. Or your wife might have to call the Sears dishwasher guy to come and figure out why the dishwasher no longer drains properly, and why that problem began the night you installed the disposer. It turns out there's this little plug that needs to be tapped out...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Small Blessings

Once in a great while, home repair is easier than you expect. On Friday our garbage disposer died and could not be rescuscitated. A Home Depot trip and too much money later, I was on my back under the sink wondering what this was all going to mean. Then the epiphany. They make these things with a twist-on-and-off bracket! A couple of easy plumbing disconnect/connects, two wires off and on, and I'm done. Almost a spiritual experience.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Less is More

Still thinking quite a lot about the Church, and the church, and the church. Give me your reactions to this idea:

George Barna says it's 20 million strong, anecdotal evidence suggests it's pretty strong, and my own current hunch is that it is very strong—this movement among committed Christians away from church as we've known it and in search of something more—no, strike that—something less.

The old saw I'm hearing locally, and reading in reviews of Barna's Revolution nationally, is that our problem is American Individualism and Consumerism. We're not committed Christians. We're self-serving church shoppers. We want our options open, and we're always looking for more. We want our spiritual needs met, but we also want more convenience, more comfort, more programs tailored to our needs and more attractive venues. And so, we tend not to commit ourselves to any one local church, and we shop around.

My premise, whether it applies to Barna's 20 million, or just to me and a few of you, is the opposite. If we're shopping, we're actually shopping for less. In a nutshell, less corporate-style management and marketing, less emphasis on programs and strategies, less hierarchy and focus on human leadership, and probably less expense. What is essential and must remain after the excesses are pared away is even more important, but we'll hammer that out later.

C.S. Lewis (who else?) nailed our dilemma in the first chapter of Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer where, in commenting on the church's tendency to innovate and wander, he gently goads human leadership: "The shepherds go off, 'every one to his own way,' and vanish over diverse points of the horizon. If the sheep huddle patiently together and go on bleating, might they finally recall the shepherds? (Haven't English victories sometimes been won by the rank and file in spite of the generals?)"

I'll start the list, you correct it, comment on it or add to it—the list of things without which, the church might be more attractive to some of us weary, huddled sheep.

I'll bet we can do without:

1. Banners
2. 5 Year Strategies
3. Acronyms
4. Colorful Brochures (unless contracted with TDDesign)
5. Growth Projections
6. Mission Statements
7. Consultants
8. Emerging Generation Emphasis
9. Really Cool, Expensive Buildings
10. Leadership Retreats and Seminars
11. 10 Year Strategies
12. Corporate Management Models
13. Vision Casting
14. Pastor and Leader Workshops in S. California or Orlando (where else?)
15. The Willow Creek Association
16. Any Other Association
17. Hype
18. Career Paths Within Church Structure
19. Multiple Venues
20. Facility Needs Analysis Task Forces
21. Any Other Task Forces
22. State-Of-The-Art Media Technologies
23. Choreographed Banner Waving
24. Nepotism
25. John Maxwell Book Studies
26. Reminders by Leaders of How Much Leaders Love Each Other
27. 20 Year Growth Strategies
28. Anything Serendipity (maybe that stuff has already disappeared)
29. Carefully Managed Church News
30. Mentoring Programs
31. Symbolic, Token Community Involvement
33. Congregational "Input" When Decisions Have Already Been Made
34. Biblical Focus on Stewardship During Fundraising Efforts
35. Church Management Team Workshops in S. California or Orlando (my guess is that's
where attendees learn how to pull off #33 and others)

Any church even 50% free of these features starts looking attractive, doesn't it? I'm really not quite this cynical and sour, just trying to get the "conversation" going! Have fun...