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The Gay Activists Are Headed For The Churches

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 • 6:20 am

From Townhall
hat tip: Transfigurations

...The gay community is revving up its engines for an all out push to “mainstream” gays in three phases of life - marriage, politics, and religion. In some ways their “civil rights” agenda could make them even more equal than others. Research shows that gays are more highly educated and earn more money than other Americans. Therefore, gays have come out of the closet and are taking leadership in many areas of American culture. For these reasons, it is difficult for me, as an African American, to buy into their continual comparison with the civil rights movement and the struggles of African Americans. Their sense of cultural rejection is becoming less and less of a reality. In fact, the “velvet mafia,” as they are called in the entertainment industry, has won many battles in the so-called “culture wars.”

Let me be a little more specific. The militant gay minority has waged a war for recognition on four fronts:

1. The PR and image front – portraying gays as the boy or girl next door.

2. The legal front – fighting in the courts.

3. The educational/ generational front - introducing kids to their way of life at earlier and earlier ages.

4. The religious front – attempting to change the foundational beliefs of the Christian church and ordaining openly gay ministers.

The most difficult target for them on the religious front has been biblically conservative churches. For example on Thursday May 1, 2008, 300 people protested the United Methodist Church’s General Conference ruling that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible” with Christian teaching. The group demonstrated “peacefully” by stopping the conference proceedings for 15 minutes and singing the hymn “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”

Compared to the demonstration of 200 gay rights supporters in Cleveland at the General Conference eight years ago, the 2008 outburst seemed mild.


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If what they do is normal, natural, and/or just another way for human beings to relate to one another, why are so many of them dead?

[1] Posted by gppp on 06-03-2008 at 06:31 AM • top

There’s roughly 1950 years’ worth of dead Christians out there waiting for the resurrection of the body, gppp - far more dead Christians than dead gays, truth be known. And some who are both.  So what’s your point?  Mortality tends to be somewhere around 100%, you know.

[2] Posted by Lapinbizarre on 06-03-2008 at 07:00 AM • top

From the article - “Their goal is to force us to accept their lifestyle by slowly desensitizing us to their aberrant theology  and practices. This change in tactics is an attempt to play the pity card.”

Wait.  They have a theology?

[3] Posted by Paul B on 06-03-2008 at 07:13 AM • top

They have a theology?

Sigh…the devil knows more about God than I do, and has had more experiences with God than I have.

[4] Posted by Ralph on 06-03-2008 at 07:17 AM • top

Yes, there seems to be a theology. Among the foundational points would be that every person has a God-given right to enjoy everything the earth has to offer followed by a right and blessing to do whatever is required to achieve that enjoyment. I am no longer sure there are many limits to the frontier of where this ends. In our age we combine that which should not be combined, we make life as replacement parts for some other lives, we rid ourselves of lives personally or permanently, whichever is most practically expedient. Unless something major happens to stop a person in his tracks, the god that is worshipped and adored and enjoyed is the self. It will be satisfied.

[5] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 07:38 AM • top

#2 Lapinbizarre

I fear you are wrong.  There are no dead Christians.  They have been promised and granted eternal life.

[6] Posted by R. Scott Purdy on 06-03-2008 at 07:44 AM • top

southernvirginia1, yes, I agree with what you wrote.  However, you forgot that gay theology has to deny original sin and the Fall.  Without the Fall, there is no need for salvation.  Without the need for salvation, there is no need for Jesus.  There is no need for a church, so…..

And then it all breaks down.

[7] Posted by Paul B on 06-03-2008 at 07:52 AM • top

#7, some folks think original sin was “made up” (invented) much later than the Early Church period. They obviously haven’t read even the Psalms.

[8] Posted by ears2hear on 06-03-2008 at 08:08 AM • top

Eventually, homosexuals won’t be coming just to ‘talk.’  They will arrive as agent provocateurs intending to incite conflict between the church and new conceptions of civil rights law.  Lawsuits will replace bad exegesis as the theological weapon of choice.  Ultimately their message will be “Join us or die.” 

There is no avenue of retreat in this conflict. There is no neural place where a Christian might rest and avoid the fight.  We shall all very soon have to choose.  And then we shall see revealed the character of the church in America.  We will see who bows down before the golden idol when the trumpet is blown.  We will see who gets thrown into the furnace.


[9] Posted by carl on 06-03-2008 at 08:12 AM • top

This black evangelical pastor, Harry Jackson, Jr., may be unusual in having a bunch of gay activists pay an official “visit” to his church with their confrontational tactics.  Not many of us may face that obvious and direct a challenge.

But surely, we all face a more subtle and indirect challenge as American culture becomes increasingly confused over this issue and the “gay is OK” ideology continues to gain influential supporters (like a slim majority on the CA Supreme Court).  We will continue to face the challenge of going against the flow, bucking the tides of (elite) cultural opinion.  And for us Anglicans, with our state church heritage and deeply ingrained Christendom habits of thought, it will be difficult indeed to swim upstream against the strong prevailing current.

But our brave brothers and sisters in the Global South show that it can be done.  Anglicans CAN be counter-cultural.  We can survive and even thrive as a conscious minority group that confidently and even aggressively evangelizes the surrounding non-Christian population.

But it won’t be easy.  The pre-Constantinian Church succeeded at it, but paid a very heavy price in so doing.  Lots of martyrs made the ultimate sacrifice in the process. 

I endorse the author’s call at the very end of the article for evangelicals (and other orthodox Christians) to prepare ourselves for a rough fight.  This is a multi-generational conflict (if the Lord tarries).  But the early church of the first few centuries won the fight and triumphed over the mighty Roman Empire.  And our fellow orthodox Anglicans in the Global South are winning too.

So can we, by the grace of God.  IF, and only if, we are willing as they were and are to pay the steep price.

David Handy+
Passionate advocate of high commitment, post-Christendom style Anglicanism of a decidedly sectarian, Christ-against-culture sort.

[10] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 06-03-2008 at 08:30 AM • top

Paul B, #7, thanks. I did think I was encompassing all of that though with the self-referential self-god. No sin, no salvation. Just what-I-want all of the time. I really don’t see where limits can be held for much longer at all. Early 21st c. horror story.

[11] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 08:34 AM • top

Let me try and get this thread back on topic (or at least onto a topic that doesn’t revolve around death):

Let’s say you were a consultant, hired by a mainline denomination, and you were asked to create a bullet point list outlining your strategy to keep what has happened in the Episcopal Church from happening in your client’s church.

Keep the number bullets to 10 or fewer, and keep each bullet to a sentence or two.

[12] Posted by Greg Griffith on 06-03-2008 at 08:41 AM • top

I’m sticking to my first reaction to the headline.

They may be coming to talk, but with God’s help some may stay to listen. That is a good thing, in my book.

The Episcopal Church: all of the ritual, none of the theology

[13] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 06-03-2008 at 08:41 AM • top

#12, Greg Griffith, I loathe bullet point presentations, but here goes:

1. Define core doctrine, stick to it and purge the seminaries so that the seminarians are thoroughly familiar with orthodox belief.

2. Preach the Gospel in the churches. Teach the faith in the churches and Sunday Schools. Emphasize Christian Education for children and youth.

3. Preach the Gospel everywhere else too. Be pragmatic about each minister’s strengths. If he is a good preacher, send him out on the circuit to preach. If he is a good evangelist, support him as such.

4. Be deliberate, intentional and focused about evangelism.

5. Leave everything other than spiritual formation, evangelism and education about the faith to side groups. It is entirely too easy for a Christian group to lose focus and fall into the trap of what C S Lewis called “Christianity and”.

That’s it. The whole point is simply refocus and rededicate the church to Christ.

If you need a slogan, in my opinion all a church should be about is reaching, preaching and teaching. All are important and none should be neglected.

I’d rather my church did not require suits.

[14] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 06-03-2008 at 08:52 AM • top

2. Preach the Gospel in the churches. Teach the faith in the churches and Sunday Schools. Emphasize Christian Education for children and youth.

I would make this points 1-10 inclusive. I think this is TEC’s greatest failing.

[15] Posted by oscewicee on 06-03-2008 at 09:00 AM • top

1) right catechesis for adults and children, and using the articles of faith along with is a good start. a continuously offered course.
2) preaching Christ crucified for sinners and raising to glory for the redeemed and a beautiful life now, abundant at every worship service. somehow that message underlies every Scripture and points to the culmination of the Eucharist and undergirds MOrning prayer
3) giving, not out of excess but out of everyday fund, IOW from the top to want to promote Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
4) fellowship that encourages and exhorts people to realize who they are in Christ Jesus and live in the world we have as His own
5) modeling and ‘doing’ prayer for everything for the purpose of knowing God>focus on first things

[16] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 09:06 AM • top

May I respond with 39 points?
I think if you teach and understand them and exercise discipline to adhere to them, you have a basis for a sustained church.

[17] Posted by R. Scott Purdy on 06-03-2008 at 09:12 AM • top

where did i leave off at that buzzer? ah…
6) setting up a means of gathering and supporting one another in various ‘outside’ activities, say, intramural sports
7) funding a well-rounding library in the parish hall, a base upon which to encourage reading groups for all age levels and providing a means of including older high-schoolers in these groups with adults, and not just college-aged or just-out-of-college aged
8) adding sung evensong services at least quarterly and teaching and encourageing singing in parts for all ages, especially young children so that there is a choir (or two) and a congregation that is not tone-deaf
9) encourage (and yes, rector supervise some) communication to promote the connectedness among joined eccleisial groups that is formal and informal. this would help make priviledged what should be and transparent what should be
10) train at all levels christian mercies such as visiting the sick, supporting the widowed and orphaned, remembering and attending to the dying and the dead

Churches that did these things would attract and would be known and not have to ‘sell’ themselves. it would be a case of people wanting to see what was all the light about as well as a witness to necessary suffering that is life. Promote the church that is recognizably being the Church.

[18] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 09:26 AM • top

Let me add a few bullet points in response to Greg’s challenge:

1.  Plant new churches.  Lots of them.  “It’s easier to have babies than to raise the dead, and a lot more fun.” (Peter Wagner of Fuller Seminary).

2.  Challenge seekers to become believers.  Don’t assume everyone in America is already a Christian of some sort (even if they are baptized).

3.  Promote Alpha, Faith Alive, Cursillo etc.  Continually offer training and support in how to do evangelism effectively.  Make it part of church culture.

4.  Challenge believers to become mature, dedicated followers of Jesus Christ.  Recognize and reward those who do commit themselves to seeking full maturity in Christ.

5.  Create an effective system of small groups that nurture such maturity, provide basic pastoral care, and act as a greenhouse or leadership lab where new leaders can be continually raised up and trained.

6.  Financially reward success instead of failure.  That is, let diocesan/district funds go to churches that are thriving to help them reach even more poeple, instead of propping up weak churches going nowhere.

7.  Mandate growth.  Create a denomination policy that any church not growing over say a five year period MUST replace its pastor.  ALL clergy serve on a probationary, performance-based contract.

8.  Mandate church planting (see #1).  REQUIRE that all churches plant a daughter church at least once every ten years (or less).  Instill a mission mindset.

9.  Require clergy to submit their sermons (preferably by videotape) for review by a qualified panel that holds them accountable for their orthodoxy and fruitfulness.

10.  Lionize the heroes.  Give great honor and rewards to those who succeed in building churches with steady, sustained growth in both the quantity and quality of disciples of Jesus Christ.

That’s my list of top ten suggestions for turning declining “mainline” denominations around.

David Handy+

[19] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 06-03-2008 at 09:30 AM • top

R. Scott Purdy,
Good one! smile We already do have “Bullet points” and not just the 39 you refer to but there are Ten more that I know of to go along with those 39!

[20] Posted by TLDillon on 06-03-2008 at 09:31 AM • top

David H+, I heartily endorse your point 3 - I don’t know how to do evangelism, though I am trying. But I’d argue with your point 7 - the mandate for growth. It is too easy to bring people in in a superficial way. Numbers can stay up while it’s different people every Sunday and no one is getting grounded in the faith. In general, I balk at anything that smacks of the way businesses proceed.

[21] Posted by oscewicee on 06-03-2008 at 09:35 AM • top

I guess I think that when more of the churches with full focus ‘do’ church, activists will not outnumber the faithful in attraction and distraction and all of God’s people will be transformed and conformed into what is supposed to be>Christlike.

Focus on basics!

[22] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 09:35 AM • top

If they come to your church, then you are probably doing something right.

[23] Posted by Tom Dupree, Jr. on 06-03-2008 at 09:36 AM • top

We’ll listen politely…..we’re like that here…..polite folks that we are, y’know…..and then they’ll leave.

[24] Posted by Cennydd on 06-03-2008 at 09:38 AM • top

#19, Fr. Handy, I am not sure one can mandate growth. And as for point 9, who will monitor the monitors if not the whole body taught properly, continually in this distracting world. I like your overall points though.

And now, the outside beckons.

[25] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 09:40 AM • top

“1. The PR and image front – portraying gays as the boy or girl next door.”

Indeed, gay people are the people next door. And down the block. And they’re our doctors, our teachers, our priests (*gasp* if you must!), our politicians, our firemen, our policemen, our athletes, our wealthy and our poor, our white folks and our people of color, our abled and disabled, our elderly and our children. It’s not PR, it’s a fact.

The sky is not falling, Chicken Little. It is opening up with a glorious rainbow. It’s not about self-indulgence, it is about self. Being true to oneself as God has made us.

[26] Posted by PadreWayne on 06-03-2008 at 09:48 AM • top

“Being true to oneself as God has made us.”
Wrong! Once one truly encounters Christ they are not the same and become transformed. He will not leave you the same as He found you and you will not be the same once you find Him! But then that transformation requires surrender! That is a word that revisionists have removed from their vocabulary! Surrender, leave your sin and go sin no more!

[27] Posted by TLDillon on 06-03-2008 at 09:54 AM • top

it is about self.

Isn’t everything in America these days?

[28] Posted by oscewicee on 06-03-2008 at 09:55 AM • top

I’d also say that the UK and Canada are following close behind in self indulgences right behind the USA as well!

[29] Posted by TLDillon on 06-03-2008 at 09:58 AM • top

#26 PadreWayne Gays are children of God. Jesus died for them as well as for everyone else. Gay people very much need to be in church, as does everyone else. I would hate to think of a church that isn’t open to all sinners.

I don’t think anyone is arguing with you, except about your last paragraph. Without repentance, we can not come to Christ. and what you preach, and presumably practice, is contrary to the clear teaching of the Church for the past two millennia. You may well argue that the Spirit is doing a ‘new thing’. But I missed Jesus mentioning it. St Paul had the chance and he came down on the other side of the issue.

As God is both Truth and Eternal, I do not see how modern relativism has much to do with proper Christian ethics.

Further, the gay activism is a distraction from the true focus of the church. We are not about inclusion. We are not about diversity. We are about being in communion with each other, being open to the Holuy Spirit and to being obedient children of God.

At best you practice “Christianity and”. I follow Christ. I may do it badly, but I follow him. I and I hope, we, do not have time for your ‘and’.

There is no space so small that my God can not enter and no expanse so vast that He can not overflow.

[30] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 06-03-2008 at 10:00 AM • top

Being true to oneself as God has made us.

Hey PadreWayne… your 14-year-old niece’s neighbor, who happens to be 36, would like to “date” her. Is it OK with you if he’s “true to himself as God has made him”?

[31] Posted by Greg Griffith on 06-03-2008 at 10:10 AM • top

The problem with being “true to ourselves as God made us” is that we are no longer “as God made us,” but fallen creatures.

[32] Posted by James Manley on 06-03-2008 at 10:30 AM • top

Ultimately their message will be “Join us or die.”

And ultimately the message will be revealed to be “Join us AND die.”

No thanks.  I choose Life Eternal.

[33] Posted by The Pilgrim on 06-03-2008 at 10:46 AM • top

#21 oscewicee,
As someone who has spent years (now decades) on the evangelism front as both missionary and pastor, may I suggest you don’t have to know how to “do” evangelism.

You do have to know how to be yourself.  Too many people are caught up in the idea that evangelism is the selling of a product door-to-door or an activity that is to be engaged in X number of times per week.

It’s not.  90+ percent is simply being awake and willing to talk about what God has done in your life and what he is teaching you in your own words, not someone else’s.

If you want to learn more about it may I suggest visiting these people?  I understand some Ould guy around here helps them out from time to time.

[34] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 06-03-2008 at 10:50 AM • top

“Create a denomination policy that any church not growing over say a five year period MUST replace its pastor”—-#19

Many of the suggestions being made here are good, but watch our for this one: so B-school and so uncharacteristic of its fine author.

God works patiently—-sometimes in the face of seemingly meager results or none at all—-and He may call us to do the same.

This particular suggestion might prove the “HealthSouth Program for Church Growth.” When HealthSouth found its profits persistently stagnating (ca. 1998-2002), it simply made up the numbers needed to meet market expectation.

[35] Posted by Irenaeus on 06-03-2008 at 10:55 AM • top

Rom 1:16, you are exactly right, of course, and as a shy person it is this that I find so difficult. One reason why I believe so strongly in the need for Christian education in TEC is that I see how much have I grown in the year that we have been working on this at my church. It’s not that I’m learning to teach people, but that I am learning to understand better what God *has* done/is doing in my life. If that makes sense. Thank you for this link.

[36] Posted by oscewicee on 06-03-2008 at 10:56 AM • top

PadreWayne How do you determine if a desire you have is one God gave you or temptation to sin?  Sinning seems to be good, that why it is tempting.  In other words how do you know if you are following God’s will or being led into temptation?

[37] Posted by JustOneVoice on 06-03-2008 at 10:57 AM • top

#19 NRA
That’s an incredible list you have produced and I like some of it, but I would humbly suggest it leaves out God and makes the growth and success of a church more of a human-created thing.  Which I would suggest we have had enough of in this country.

To suggest as you have to replace the church leadership after five years of no growth is to fail to understand that while Paul plants, Apollos waters, it is God who gives the growth as 1 Corinthians 3:6 says.  If you are going to use this verse to suggest that means the planter needs to move on you will still miss the point that any healthy church grows because God does it, not because it has the right planter or waterer.

It might be better to suggest to that we look for where the waterfall of God’s grace is falling and move under it.  That might look a lot different in contexts like Western Kansas or South Dakota than it would in the Mid-Atlantic.

I would also suggest that prayer coupled with laity who are not only well-taught, but who themselves own the teaching is the first key to any successful holding of the line against denominational drift.  The clergy can teach truth all year long, but if the congregation doesn’t own it as their own, the clergy will eventually be overrun by whatever the congregation does own.

I know this is way off topic of Matt’s post so if you want to take it up, hit my email on the sidebar.  I’ve been down the road you’re suggesting.  I see both the tourist attractions and the potholes.

[38] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 06-03-2008 at 11:18 AM • top

Wayne seems to be saying that if your neighbor appears ‘ok’ in what little you see of his behavior, then anything he does that you are unaware of is automatically moral as well. I can’t believe that even Wayne believes that… I beg to differ with the article, but that hardly seems like a ‘highly educated’ viewpoint to me.

[39] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 06-03-2008 at 12:13 PM • top

Why is it that our “gay” brethren are more affluent than most?  I don’t see the connection.

[40] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 06-03-2008 at 12:54 PM • top

They tend not to have families. Thus they have more disposable income available to spend on themselves, lobbying, etc.

[41] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 06-03-2008 at 12:59 PM • top

But you have to be careful when you say that, SpongJohn (#41)... there are some of us straight married couples who cannot have children for a myriad of reasons.  And if that is the primary reason for affluence, we’re sure not seeing it in our household!  ::grin::  So I don’t disagree that it might be one reason, but I’m with GoodMissMurphy - I wonder what the statistics/demographics would say?

[42] Posted by zana on 06-03-2008 at 01:12 PM • top

Here’s what my church (Foursqure) is doing to evangelise: It’s kind of a cross between Servant Evangelism and Harvest Crusade. There are almost 60 churches in the Long Beach, CA area involved this coming weekend. We could use a lot of prayer.

[43] Posted by Already left on 06-03-2008 at 01:35 PM • top

Already left,
I participated in a WOW Jam last month right here in Fresno. It is an interesting concept, but I struggle with the baptism at the end of the event. But that is for another thread. Don’t want this to go off topic.

[44] Posted by TLDillon on 06-03-2008 at 01:40 PM • top

#21 oscewicee—I learned a very good lesson from Bp. Dan Herzog a few years ago: “Any farmer can tell you; if it ain’t growing, it’s dead.”  I understand that in some communities growth may be impossible.  But the Biblical mandate, the Great Commission, is for growth.  My state has grown by about 20% in the last 12 years, but my diocesan membership and ASA are flat.  The only explanation for that is we aren’t doing our job.  Of course, my bishop has circled the wagons now, and seems to be happy to get rid of people.  But that is TEC politics, not Biblical mandate.

[45] Posted by David Keller on 06-03-2008 at 02:11 PM • top

Well, David, I would contend, I guess, that there are more ways to grow than in sheer numbers. Ihave seen churches that bloom up and fall back - people don’t stay, or they don’t stay long. I am also troubled by a growth mandate with a time limit on it, because I think we’d best leave the time to God. I also know a church that had dwindled down to two or three people, barely hanging on for a number of years - then suddenly grew greatly. Under a mandate, that growth wouldn’t have had time to occur.

[46] Posted by oscewicee on 06-03-2008 at 02:20 PM • top

There is an article in Newsweek up on MSNBC by Anna Quindlan that takes the position that the whole issue isn’t an issue anymore at all.
She certainly takes an amazing attitude towards it all IMHO, and is so nearsighted she doesn’t see the real threat to these folks:  Islam.  I don’t think they will be quite as cavalier as she is.

[47] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 06-03-2008 at 02:28 PM • top

oscewicee—The corporate mandate thing is troubling.  When TEC was still ECUSA and John Guernsey was the Convener of SCDME we hoped to change the thinking and mind set of ECUSA from the Frozen Chosen to Mission minded evangelists. The plan was that after the people got the idea that the Great Commission was not optional, then we could begin to provide resources to evangelism and growth.  I know way too many statistics, but the bottom line about growth is similiar to what you are saying.  For instance, people who come forward at a rally or revivial are much less likely to stay than those who are brought to church by a friend. I could go on, but the whole idea is to make evangelism not just another program or committee, but an ethos.  I believe when we do that, the people will come, and stay.

[48] Posted by David Keller on 06-03-2008 at 03:03 PM • top

The problem with being “true to ourselves as God made us” is that we are no longer “as God made us,” but fallen creatures.

... and also our “guts” and hearts always lie to us for that very reason. We can’t know the truth even about ourselves unless we rely on revealed Scripture. It matters not one damn whit how good or right something “feels” to us. If we follow our gut, we are not following Christ or obeying His word.

We are all sick and bent from true. The various ways we are bent are too many to number. The alcoholic, the sex addict, the miser are no more no less sinners than the person whose sins are less obvious. 

None of us are good and as we are meant to be in this life so, PadreWayne, stop trusting in yourself and take a real leap of faith by trusting in God and his Word in all things not just in those things that you personally agree with.

[49] Posted by StayinAnglican on 06-03-2008 at 03:26 PM • top

A friend of mine attended a series of lectures at a meeting of Exodus, a group of homosexuals who meet to discuss their issues.  My friend (a straight by the way) said that of the dozens or so men and women he talked to, EVERYONE said they had been subject to some kind of sexual abuse as a child.  In fact, he said the number reported was in the 90% range at that meeting of men and women who were struggling with their sexual identity who claimed to have been abused as children or young adults.  This once again supports the idea that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and not genetic as some would have us believe.

[50] Posted by The Templar on 06-03-2008 at 03:27 PM • top

StayinAnglican:  my personal sinful bag of tracks marks me as every bit as broken as anyone, no matter what “orientation” they claim.  Thanks for the reminder.

[51] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 06-03-2008 at 03:36 PM • top

Irenaeus (#36), Rom 1:16 (#38),

Among others, you have sharply questioned the 9th of my 10 practical suggestions for reversing a declining denomination in my comment #19 above.  And rightly so.  Therefore, on further thought, I withdraw that particular one.  It was rather tongue-in-cheek in any case.  But the point is to create a denominational climate in which growth is expected and failure to grow is downright penalized.

I am well aware of the secular-sounding my ten suggestions are.  And the danger of Enron type fudging of figures.  But the point was to come up with action steps that are specific, attainable, challenging, and not least, measurable.  But none of my ten ideas will work as intended without divine intervention, and thus without concerted, regular prayer and an audacious and adventuresome faith in a miracle-working God.

David Handy+

[52] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 06-03-2008 at 04:03 PM • top

An additional point coming from a church musician, and one that may be the most difficult and may call down the lawsuits, is require those who are in leadership positions avoid any taint of scandal in lifestyle.  That includes organist, choir director, cantors, soloists, lectors, Sunday school and day school teachers, vestry and wardens, and esp. clergy.

[53] Posted by ann r on 06-03-2008 at 04:12 PM • top

ann r, when I was coming up, that was one that wouldn’t have had to be said. :-(

[54] Posted by oscewicee on 06-03-2008 at 04:19 PM • top

Oops.  A typo in my #52.  I meant that it’s that 7th (seventh) point about mandating growth and requiring pastors to be replaced after a certain period of non-growth that is unworkable, and unwise.  There would be difficulties in making the 9th one work too (submitting occasional sermons for review by an accountability panel).  But I agree that the 7th point above is the lweakest link in the chain.

FWIW, I tried to model my suggestions on the kinds of things Lyle Schaller suggests in his immensely practical and stimulating books about the dynamics of church life.  And I think Kevin Martin+ and Canon Neal Mitchell+ make similar suggestions.  Not the same ones, but similar in kind.

So what new suggestion would I make to replace that faulty 7th one above?  Here’s a radical one. 

7.  Encourage churches to build in a performance bonus into clergy contracts.  That is, in years in which the ASA and/or the financial giving exceeds the parish targets, the rector gets a substantial chunk of the increased revenue above and beyond the budgeted income for the year (say 20% of the surplus, i.e., the increased giving above the annual budget). 

I actually got one vestry to make that part of my contract in a parish I was training to EXPECT growth after they’d been stuck in slow decline for years.  Positive incentives are helpful in motivating clergy!

David Handy+

[55] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 06-03-2008 at 04:20 PM • top

ann r, now THAT is going to be a challenge.  I bet between us we all have some interesting tales to tell about church folks we have known!

[56] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 06-03-2008 at 05:09 PM • top

#53 Ann r…good point. And it goes hand in hand with the calling of God’s people to be a holy people unto Him out of love for Him. Not regulative but a God-induced joyful surrender. And it is helped by a community that values that sacrifice away from what we want to do naturally to what we should do to honor the Lord of the universe.

[57] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 06-03-2008 at 05:29 PM • top

#52, 55 NRA,

You wish to create a denominational climate in which growth is expected and failure to grow is downright penalized.  My question is who decides what the failure to grow is?  If it is numbers of bums in pews, TEC has had millions over the years and it didn’t stop their slide over the side. (Sorry for the double-entendre.)

Greg’s question (off-topic as this discussion may be) was about how to prevent this from happening again.  Your suggestions about creating a climate of growth miss the point.  The question is not about growth, it is about health.

Healthy organisms reproduce, but they are organic and not always universally quantifiable.  Your suggestion of a replacement clause for the one that has earned the criticism is still about performance in a quantifiable environment which may or may not have anything to do with health.

I would also suggest that Lyle Schaller is not the bene esse of the Church.  He has taken a very modern, industrial paradigm that actually appears to have its roots in Peter Drucker’s theories of organizational leadership and growth and transmitted it to the church.

Many large churches have found that at the end they have numbers, but they have failed to produce disciples.  The latest example of this being Willow Creek, a large church not too far from Wheaton.  They recently declared that all of their programs and metrics have failed to produce maturity (think, healthy Christians) and are rethinking the growth mentality that produced such a situation.

I’ve been in the world of non-Anglican evangelicals for a long time, most of the pastors I know are burning out from, and beginning to rebel against, the performance models that have been hyped by people like Schaller, John Maxwell, Elmer Towns, Bill Hull, Bill Hybels (early years), even Rick Warren.  They are tired of having to look for the next new thing to keep their church motivated and growing.  They are beginning to look for models that help them grow oaks, not wheat.

Warren, himself, seems to have begun backtracking from the way Purpose Driven Church ideas have been adopted by the wider church in order to focus on the non-quantifiable aspects of spiritual formation in creating healthy Christians.  He still talks numbers, but they have long gone from being the measure of his success or his ministry.  There must be something about reaching the top of the pile with a huge church, lots of acclaim and cash to make one realize that all of it is vanity.

I would suggest that rather than looking to the world of business for our models and standards that we look back to the Church as she has practiced her faith for centuries.  Constant catechism, Scripture reading, Eucharist, prayer and spiritually-directive relationships that reflect the full meaning of the first century word, disciple.  It takes longer and probably will never be reduced to a bulleted, Power-point presentation, but the results will be deeper and longer-lasting.

[58] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 06-04-2008 at 12:22 PM • top

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