The Dinner Church Handbook (A Book Review)

The Dinner Church HandbookI just finished reading The Dinner Church Handbook: A Step-by-Step Recipe for Reaching Neighborhoods. As an organic, missional approach to creating a neighborhood experience where gospel conversations can take place, the concept of the book rates a 5 star. As a book that fulfills what is promised in its title it rates a 3 star.

The Dinner Church as an evangelizing and congregationalizing strategy takes the concept of house church into the community and refocuses it as a neighborhood church. It is highly relational which fits the generations “Y” and “Z”. Since any movement of Christianity tends to long-term have an upwardly socioeconomic mobility trend, it a good to have a significant focus on lower income households—although the concept is not solely for these households. 

The metaphor of the Lord’s Supper/Last Supper and the early church pattern is powerful and worthy of the dinner church motif. Making dinner churches/neighborhood congregations focus on all of us sinners—some redeemed and some not yet redeemed—is a solid idea of getting beyond the captivity of the intra-church culture. 

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Yes, Virginia, We Need Baptist Associations

300 Years of AssociationsOr, Other Forms of Local Denominational Organizations

My denominational tradition—Baptist—and specifically my denominational tribe of heritage—Southern Baptists—has three dimensions of denominational structure. They are known as associations, state (or regional) conventions, and national agencies and institutions.

Associations are the local entity which I categorize generically as dynamic spiritual and fellowship organisms. State conventions and the national expressions are organizations.

In historic order associations came first. The initial association of Baptists in my tradition was the Philadelphia Baptist Association established in 1707. The first association in the South that was ultimately part of my tribe was the Charleston (SC) Baptist Association established in 1751.

The first state convention in my tribe was the South Carolina Baptist Convention established in 1821. Finally, the Southern Baptist Convention came into existence in 1845. These two entities did not replace local associations, but carried forward the work of Southern Baptists from a different dimension and with somewhat different foci.

With the transformation of denominations in the past 40 years, it is a legitimate question to raise as to whether all three entities of my tribe’s denominational structure are still essential and needed. It is certainly a question discussed in formal and informal settings, and acted on by congregations in an autonomous denominational movement such as Southern Baptists.

With significant transition and changes in how congregations and individuals financially support the three dimensions of denominational life among Southern Baptists, one observation can be made without fear of successful contradiction. Southern Baptists are unwilling to financially support all three dimensions of denominational life unless they see added value expressed by each for the fulfillment of the mission of God.

If three dimensions of denominational life are not sustainable, and one needs to disappear, which one is that?

To read the full article, Download Yes Virginia We Need Baptist Associations


Seven Strategies for a Baptist Association--An Overview

Strategy 02The following conversation could have taken place between any Baptist pastors, staff ministers, or laypersons anywhere in North America any time in the past 50 years. It could have taken place this week in the Midlands of South Carolina. 

A pastor, a church staff person, and a layperson met at a coffee shop, ordered their favorite caffeinated drink, and on this gorgeous day decided to sit outside and enjoy the breeze flowing gently through the trees.

Greg, the pastor, is new to the church having arrived just three months ago. The worship leader, Carlton, has led worship for seven years since the congregation made the transition from traditional to contemporary worship. Stephanie is the chairperson of the Finance Committee, and has attended the congregation all her life.

The reason for gathering was to talk about the missions section of their church budget for the coming year. Questions have arisen as to the value of contributing financially to the three dimensions of their denomination—international, regional, and local. In days of limited funds for the church budget, pressure has arisen to cut contributions to the denomination. This is not a new agenda. It has come up before, and cuts to denominations already have been made.

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Baptist Associations are a Family Heritage

Church Pin Map

For my family, Baptist associations have been part of our DNA since at least the 1940s. I suspect it goes back even farther.

Several weeks ago I was organizing my home office and aggressively throwing out things I no longer need that have piled up over the past 11 years. I came across a couple of boxes of family archives. Much of one box were various papers from my father. As I anticipated beginning as the director of missions for the Columbia Metro Baptist Association, I had a good time reading through some of the papers and remembering my family commitment to Baptist associations.

From stories told by my parents, I suspect it was through associational meetings in Wilmington, NC where my parents met in the 1930s. Beyond these gatherings, Dad would preach at churches who needed someone to fill in, and often he would take Mom to play the piano. Not a bad way to court one another.

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Our One Priority

PriorityDownload Our One Priority

Respond to This Post:  https://goo.gl/forms/swnO5KBgF1fGQ6ut2  (For members of Columbia Metro Baptist Association churches only.)

For your congregation to effectively move forward, how many spiritual and strategic priorities should you have? Three? Five? Seven? How many priorities are too few? How many are too many?

Did you know the word priority only existed in a singular form for the first five hundred years after it came into common use? It was primarily after World War II that it was expressed in a plural form and became priorities? If that is the case then the correct answer to how many spiritual and strategic priorities a congregation should have is one.

If you could only have one priority as a congregation, what should it be?

  • To reach people for a Christ-centered, faith-based spiritual journey?
  • To pay off the debt for your buildings?
  • To connect the unchurched with your church for Christian discipleship?
  • To grow you church bigger?
  • To make disciples of Christ who make disciples of Christ?
  • To make sure your church exists until you die?
  • To call a pastor who will bring vision that your church can follow?
  • To reach young adult families with children?
  • To fill up your sanctuary with worshipers?
  • To care for the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of your members?

If you could choose only one, which one would you choose? Which one is a worthy priority that fits your congregation and honors our God?

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