George Bullard, President, The Columbia Partnership, 332 Valley Springs Road, Columbia, SC 29223-6934, Voice: 803.622.0923, E-mail: GBullard@TheColumbiaPartnership.org, TCP Web Site: www.TheColumbiaPartnership.org, Blog: www.BullardJournal.org
August: 4-29--Numerous conversations with Mennonite Brethren leaders about the future of their denominational movement. 20--Conversation with Ohio congregation on living into their Future Story of Ministry. 25--Visit to East Texas Baptist University. 26-27--North American Baptist Fellowship Disaster Response Network gathering in Louisiana.
PRAY for the year of preparation for TheCollaborative.info, the fundraising for this effort, and the research and development actions of George Bullard. Pray for the various lunch dialogues being held in various locations.
PRAY for Shelby, NC, First Baptist Church as they craft their future story of ministry. May significant new vitality and vibrancy result from their efforts. They incremental decline has happen over many years, and they must take prophetic action to move forward.
PRAY for the new vision of The Columbia Partnership that seek to empower the transformation of 2100 congregations per year by the end of 2017. Pray that we may be able to connect with an increasing number of congregations who desire to reach their full Kingdom potential.
PRAY for the work of the Baptist World Alliance led by Neville Callam, and its North American Baptist Fellowship that I lead, as we anticipate 2014 as a year that will significantly move forward our work among Baptists worldwide. Pray specifically for our NABF's 50th anniversary as celebrate the future of Baptist missional collaboration from the base of North America. The theme is FutureBaptists: A Collaborative Missional Movement.
When natural or other types of disasters strike, disaster response organizations quickly send the first wave of relief workers to the disaster zone. They carry with them enough supplies to last from a few hours to a few days depending on the situation.
In a short time their response could end if behind them essential supply lines are not set up. These supply lines include—among other things—new rounds of workers staged to arrive every few days, food and water for those impacted by the disaster and those working in the disaster zone, specialized equipment and material, expertise in how to appropriately use these resources, security for the disaster workers, and financial backing for the disaster response.
These supply lines should not include truckloads of used clothing and other commodities people believe ought to be needed in the disaster zone, but are not. Yet these come anyway. Supply lines should also not include disaster tourists unless they are vetted, trained, and come ready to work.
Wise disaster response organizations prepare before a disaster to handle all of these situations so that supply lines with appropriate travel lanes are set up literally overnight. They either have the capacity to do this directly, or they have collaboration partnerships set up that populate their supply lines.
What’s going on when you ask a Christian about a specific practice of discipleship in their life and they say, “That is between me and God”? Perhaps nothing unusual. Or, perhaps a whole bunch of evasive things. What do you think?
Legitimately some people are very private about their practice of Christian discipleship, they are shy about sharing, genuinely humble about boasting, or truly believe it is inappropriate pride to talk about their practices. These people do hold an annual gathering in the telephone booth at the corner of West 47th and K Street in some major city in North America, but I cannot remember which one.
I suspect the vast majority of people who will not share about their practice of Christian discipleship are hiding the fact that their answer will not be an acceptable one, and they do not want to lie. They would rather hide behind God than lie.
A dramatic story—perhaps an urban legend—about John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard Movement, relates to something that happened following his conversion to Christianity around 1963. It is said that he began attending a church nearby. After several weeks he confronted an usher following a worship service and asked, “When do we do the stuff?”
“The stuff? What do you mean the stuff?” inquired the usher. Agitated John replied, “The stuff Jesus did. Heal the sick, Restore sight to the blind. Raise the dead. Feed thousands.”
“Oh,” said the usher, “we don’t do that stuff. We believe in it, but we don’t do it anymore.” Grabbing the usher by the lapels of his coat Wimber said angrily, “You don’t understand. I gave up sex and drugs for this. I’m going to do the stuff?”
A couple of days after the announcement that the deal to sell the property and buildings of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary had been completed, I was in San Francisco. Sunday afternoon I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County, California for one more look at the campus before it is no longer there.
It was not the buildings I wanted to see. They are not that outstanding. I wanted to remember the experiences and the people I encountered in that place beginning more than 30 years ago. I wanted to think about the various presidents, faculty members, and students I have known who walked the halls and pathways.
Plus, as anyone who has ever been there knows, I wanted to get one more look from that vantage point of the majestic city of San Francisco. The view truly is to die for—or some other overstatement. It was a good view of the city that day. It was a little hazy, but we can assume this was of combination of clouds, fog, and marijuana smoke. It all depends on the time of day, weather conditions, and local celebrations.
The view is not as uncluttered as it once was. But that was before the seminary sold the hillside around it several decades ago for what I recall was $10 million. Now there are multi-million dollar residences there that block part of the view.
In the midst of a region of the world where the impact of a churched culture is fading, many congregations in North America are stuck in an overly churched culture perspective. As a result these congregations become insulated, isolated, and inoculated from people who are preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched.
These congregations did not mean for this to happen. It was not intentional. It just crept up on them over a number of years—even decades.
[See other posts/articles on the Overly Churched Culture by Clicking HERE.]
Congregations where 30 percent or more of the active membership is at least 60 years old, and they have been professing Christians for at least 40 years, and they have been connected with this congregation for at least 20 years, are myopic regarding the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. When 50 percent or more of the active membership is 60-40-20 people, they are not only myopic, but now blind to the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons.
For overly churched culture congregations to connect with non-churched culture people, they need an understanding of these people. This post attempts to define the categories of preChristian, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched. I do so knowing there is no consensus that these are even the right terms, words are important, perspectives are diverse, and on any given day anyone else could define these with different words from another perspective.
As a reader, you first thought might be, “Oh, I know those categories of people. You do not have to tell me!” Maybe you do. But the people of overly churched culture congregations evidently do not because they have a really tough time defining those people; much less connecting with them.
The first transitional action an overly churched culture church can take to bring about a change in attitude, aptitude, and alignment toward the non- or post-churched culture is to embrace a new prayer focus. Forward action does indeed begin with prayer. However, perhaps not in the way you initially think.
Pay careful attention to what is being said in this blog post. It is not a simplistic approach to prayer. It is not saying that if we just pray everything is going to be all right. It is not suggesting that if we pray appropriately pre-Christians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched persons will flock into our congregations. [Note: See definitions of these terms in the third article in this series.]
It is saying that prayer is generally a non-threatening initial step in which 100 percent of the people in a congregation can participate.
My wife has an acrylic paperweight which was given to her some years ago. Etched into it is the quote popularized by Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame that says, “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
I have been thinking about that quote a lot lately. I brought it into my office for a few days to ponder it. Here are a few experiences that impacted my thinking.
This summer my wife and I continued a family tradition started by her parents. We took our oldest grandchild—Nolan, age 11—on a special trip just for him. We took him to Washington, DC.
It was a great trip. You could see his excitement about many things we experienced. It was not all about historic things. We actually began the week at a Washington Nationals baseball game. The days did include many significant historic things like the Capitol, the Library of Congress, various presidential memorials, and several Smithsonian buildings.
All my life I have loved attending denominational celebration events and conventions. I love least the formal meetings. I love most the networking. I love seeing my friends in ministry and meeting new friends in ministry. It is part of the cultural DNA of my life as a lifelong denominational person. I am a sucker for these gatherings.
But, these days I wonder if the Church needs more of a call to action than a call to meet. Are we meeting too often, talking with one another only, spending precious time and financial resources non-missionally? I am not sure if the new or renewed actions that result from our meetings justify the investment of scarce Kingdom resources.
I say this knowing that fellowship, networking, collaboration, trust, inspiration, shared experiences, and common vision and values are the currency of great movements. Deep relationships can make the critical difference between an institutionalized organization and a synergistic movement reaching its full potential.