Saturday, February 28, 2009

Positioning to be Part of a Missional Denomination

George Bullard offers a Typology of Denominations which is worth consideration.

I think he is on to something that is helpful in understanding where a denomination is, and where it is headed. That can be a challenge for honest assessment of a local congregation, and significantly more challenging if you consider numbers of churches composing a judicatory or national or international denomination.

Bullard offers:

Emerging Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which was organized during the last 15 years, or has experienced a radical restart in the past 10 years, and is significantly empowered by its current vision. It is probably focusing on one of several emerging models for denominational organizations.

Institutionalized Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which focuses on the institutions, programs, and management aspects of being a denomination. It seeks to build long-term loyalty to the denominational organizations, and uses this as a test of fellowship for ministers and congregations.

Missional Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which has figured out how to be on a continual transformational mission that takes the denomination and its affiliated congregations into new frontiers of mission and ministry with a mission adjusted to meet the context it serves.

Preparing Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which realizes that it has been in decline and too institutional in its focus, and seeks to rediscover congregations and prepare for a new spiritual strategic journey in the direction of its full kingdom potential.

Para-Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which has determined to become a para-denomination which provides products and services to and beyond its affiliated congregations, and focused on a small, specific set of services that might appeal to various affinity groups of congregations rather than visualizing that it has a non-exit relationship with its affiliated congregations.

Pursuing Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which has prepared itself and it engaging in a new transformational journey. It is clearly on a new spiritual strategic journey where it is experiencing increased vitality in multiple areas. It is making obvious progress that attracts more loyalty to the denominational organization, and interest from congregations outside this organization.

Surviving Denomination: This is a denomination, or a region or judicatory within a denomination, which has diminished vitality in multiple areas of emphasis, and has difficulty sustaining a resource base to support whatever mission it continues to define. It may have been through several rounds of cut back and is in or approaching a permanent cut back syndrome situation.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Lenten Economy and Return to Basics

Sorry to be so absent, but the day job is hyper busy these days.

Of course, the big news item these days is the state of the global economy, and all the ramifications of the pendulum swing which is taking us back to something more sustainable and likely closer to what "normal" should look like. A week ago one report shared that "Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday the current global recession will 'surely be the longest and deepest' since the 1930s and more government rescue funds are needed to stabilize the U.S. financial system."

Hmmm, what to do? Do we keep on living like we always have in our families, businesses, churches, etc?

I keep wondering what meaningful ministry in the church and in a community context must become in the next year/s or so. It seems to me that some things are going to need to change. Key issues will relate to the basics of life- employment, housing, food, and the attendant needs during a time of change for peace of mind, peace, and hope.

I've noticed more discussion from the experts and in general media about "getting back to basics" and a necessary return to those things which are most essential in our lives. It makes sense in Lent to apply such a focus and discipline upon the Christian life and the congregational/denominational life as well. And I suppose that such a movement isn't a retreat into individualism, but will actually result in that Depression era approach my extended family talks about of everyone working hard AND helping ALL the neighbors realizing we're all in this mess together!

So, it's time to take some steps back off the build up of the last 70 years. It's time to refocus our lives, to quite depending so much on our riches and find again our dependence upon God. Perhaps the biggest challenge will come to the denomination and church to find this old way as we practice a Lenten discipline, discover God in a Lenten economy, and return to the basics of life and faith. This won't be easy, it will take sacrifice, but perhaps we'll find our feet on the right path of faith.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Do You Have to be Stupid to be a Christian?"

This is blog is dead on! I repeat the first and last paragraphs of the blog. Be sure to go to the link to catch the whole thought. While I'd like to think I offer some exception to this notion in my work it is a challenge worth consideration.

"Do you have to be stupid to be a Christian? I sometimes wrestle with this very question. It’s reminiscent of the joke poster — 'You don’t have to be crazy to work here… but it helps.' One of the most common reasons Christian spiritual seekers outside the church give for not finding a home with us is that they are not intellectually challenged. Unreasonable, irrational, and simplistic assertions are deeply troubling and off-putting to a growing segment of spiritual seekers in the United States. A huge number of Christians — both inside and outside the institutional church — are irritated by the resistance they encounter when they ask questions about cherished notions and beliefs. People inside our churches confess to feeling threatened by more educated people who they feel question — and sometimes disrespect — their faith, while those outside the church feel unwelcome when they ask what they feel are legitimate questions."

"Insulating ourselves against hard questions, scientific discoveries, critical thinking, and expressions of serious doubt isn’t grounded in faith, but in fear. Our minds are gifts from God, and we don’t honor God by refusing to use the gift. Our congregations need to become safe sanctuaries for people at all levels of faith and intellectual development. We can ill afford to drive intelligent people away simply because we fear they might tred upon our sacred cows. If God is God, no amount of questioning, doubt, or scrutiny can change it. Recent (and not so recent) surveys indicate that 'the church' has a credibility problem in the United States. It is roundly criticized for being anti-intellectual, anti-science, non-rational, irrational, out-of-touch, and — ultimately — irrelevant. Much of this we have brought on ourselves, but the time is ripe to show, once and for all, that Christianity really isn’t for dummies."

Six Ways to Boost Brainpower

Check out a creative, inspiring, and somewhat lengthy article on "6 Ways to Boost Brainpower":

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Golf Tournament to Benefit Augusta State University Wesley Foundation May 14

Golf Tournament
Thursday, May 14
Bartram Trail Golf Course

Lunch @ 11:30, Shotgun Start 1:00 PM
Fundraiser to benefit the Augusta State University Wesley Foundation

Thursday, May 14 at Bartram Golf Club on Columbia Road in Evans near Lewiston Road.
Lunch 11:30, putting competition 11:30-12:30, and a 1:00 PM Shotgun start.

Cost per golfer is $100 which covers green fee, cart, and lunch & remainder to ASU WF.

Bartram Trail GC is located on Columbia Road between Patriot's Park and Lewis Memorial UMC at 470 Bartram Trail Club Drive, Evans, GA 30809. Phone: 706-210-4681. Website:

The Augusta State University Wesley Foundation is a campus ministry sponsored by The United Methodist Church. ASU WF is active on our local campus of over 6000 students offering a $3 lunch each Tuesday at Trinity on the Hill dining room, developing relationships with students each semester to encourage their life and faith, and by offering mission opportunities locally, nationally, and internationally. Your support of this golf fundraiser will help us continue to build on this work as we help students to meet Christ and to grow in that relationship.

Here are some ways you can help us:
1) Sign Up to play & Recruit Team members for the Tournament- $100/ Golfer , $400/ Team

2) Sponsor a Hole- $250/ hole with a sign and company logo placed at the hole.

3) Non-golfing Volunteers-- 15-16 needed to help with registration, play host at a hole, & to visit with & thank the golfers.

4) Prizes needed for putting contest, closest to pin, etc– golf items, restaurant coupons, & various prizes.

David Newton is the overall director for tournament.

Rev. Scott Parrish, ASU WF director and mission pastor at Trinity on the Hill UMC, will serve as the everyday point of contact & may be reached at the church office at 706-738-8822 or if you have questions, desire to sign up early, or desire to make a donation. We'll collect forms and fees the day of the tournament, but my office will be glad to assist you by receiving any funding, forms, or prizes which come in early, receiving volunteer names who will assist, or receiving confirmation of your church or group sign up as we plan for the event. Thank you for your support of these efforts to be in ministry with our students at ASU.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Church in Mission

The challenge of being a church is to take care of our own folk, but not get so self absorbed that we forget about our role as part of a larger work of God in the larger community. It's that part of the Lord's Prayer I often stumble over in speech, yet more so in practice-- "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Then the challenge of a church, even one really serious about trying to express it's faith and belief in sharing in the world, is to not get carried away with activity for the sake of activity. It's a tightrope walk, though typically we may not even try to climb the ladder much less walk the narrow way! I like the following experiment for the honesty and the attempt (after all isn't Christianity supposed to be a personal experiment in the real life setting of a community?). What do you think?

You'll find the following info on page 6 of the February-March 2009 "Visions" newsletter

GOD’S Mission, OUR Community, OUR Calling
Randy Shepley

FBC Tucker is like many other churches. We mean to love the way Jesus loves, to truly befriend and serve persons outside of our buildings, but we get distracted. I get distracted. We lose our focus, and somehow, we begin to think and act like the church is about us. We can think the church is about classes, programs, groups, and ministries that meet our needs. We even start to think the important things are adopting budgets, holding services, hiring staff, and maintaining programs. Churches would never say that caring for the business within the church is more important than loving people outside our walls, but oftentimes, we act like it.

Our church is rediscovering the foundational truth of being the church: we are not here for ourselves. We exist to do God’s mission in the world. We exist to love the people of our community toward Jesus.

Saturday, November 1, at FBC Tucker was a watershed day for us. The purpose of the day was simple: to invest as many members and attenders of our church in loving service to our community as possible. I admit, this idea of a day of service is not a new concept. I even "borrowed" the name of our day: Mission Possible. The hopes for our Mission Possible day were simple: (1) lovingly serve persons in our community with the love of Jesus, (2) have children, youth, adults, and older adults serve alongside one another, and (3) fall in love with our community.

So, what did we accomplish?
1. Two small groups of FBC Tucker volunteers gave out 205 gift cards for five dollars of free gasoline at two different gas stations. When people asked us why we were giving away free gas, we simply said, "We believe God wants us to care about the people in our community when times are tough, and this is a small way we can care."

2. A group of volunteers went to a group home for developmentally disabled adults and built a fire exit for the home, painted rooms, and completely cleaned up the yard.

3. Another group wrote seventy-five cards to persons in a local low-income nursing home. These cards were actually made by members of our adult special education Sunday School class.

4. A group set up in the church parking lot offering free car maintenance checks to passing drivers.

5. A local apartment complex allowed a group of our volunteers to throw an outdoor party for the entire complex. We were able to provide hot dogs, a bounce ride, and multiple games for the children and teens of this complex to enjoy. Furthermore, the children from our church came and played as well. New friendships began and the party was a huge success.

6. During the apartment complex party, which was held at an apartment complex where English is not the predominant language, our mission team leader led a group to each apartment and helped many of the residents change the batteries in their smoke alarms.

7. Persons representing fourteen different nationalities were served as a part of the Mission Possible day.

8. Finally, the varsity football team from Tucker High School (pardon me, the 2008 AAAA State Champion Tucker High School football team) came to our fellowship hall, and we had the privilege of preparing, serving, and cleaning up after their pre-game meal.

These are some of the acts of service that happened on our Mission Possible day. The best news from the day, however, is that the people of our church began to understand that our community is our calling. We exist to love our community with the full embrace and friendship of Jesus. My hope is that we will never again see what goes on inside our church walls as our primary focus.

Randy Shepley is blessed to pastor the people of FBC Tucker, which is three miles from the subdivision where he grew up. He has been married to his wife, Alice, for twelve years and is the father of James, Samuel, and Elizabeth.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Homeless in Augusta

The homeless population are regulars on the streets and in the churches in Augusta. Many are out there due to mental illness. Many have trouble with alcohol and/or drugs. Many have a litany of hardships and challenges, some self inflicted issues though many just can't seem to get their lives together. All have a story. And, as is true in most communities, our homeless neighbors are a mix of those who consistently stay in shelters, some who sleep out on the streets or have a self made home in some location, and many others who will never be found in a shelter but who stay with family or friends and drift from place to place.

A recent article in the Augusta Chronicle said:

"The latest count of Augusta's homeless population shows a slight increase from last year, but those who made the census say the tally could be low because it was taken during a warm night."

"I bet you if we did this last night when it was freezing cold it would have been a different number," said Lynda Suarez, the research chairwoman for the Augusta Continuum of Care, a local data-gathering committee involved in the effort. "

"It was relatively comfortable (the night of the count), and when that happens there are homeless people you can't find," she said Friday.

"This year's count, which took place in late January, focused on a single night at shelters and soup kitchens. It documented 551 homeless, six more than a year ago. Last year's count was conducted in colder weather, Ms. Suarez said."

Mentally ill with one diagnosed illness: 77
Medical disability: 39
Domestic violence victims: 34
Chronically homeless: 142 (134 men, 8 women)
Those not sheltered (in a tent, car or on a sidewalk): 48
Substance abuse: 165
Veterans: 91
Dually diagnosed with two mental illnesses: 64
Source: Lynda Suarez, the research chairwoman for the Augusta Continuum of Care, a local data-gathering committee

full story @

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Word & Action That Follows the Way of Christ

Dan Dick consistently offers thought provoking blogs about where the church is and who we need to become.

2 excerpts- 1 as intro & 1 with suggestions:

" In my six-year study of Christians outside the traditional church, almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents cited the hypocrisy and/or inconsistency of word and action as the primary reason they avoid 'church.'"

"So, unrealistic expectations aside, what are some of the implications for the insitutional church? Six helpful and insightful suggestions consistently pop up in conversation with Christian spiritual seekers outside the traditional church:

1) Tone down the holier-than-thou — outsiders often note that church people don’t act saved so much as superior. Just being a church member doesn’t make a person holy; it makes them fortunate. We are not accepted by God so that we can be better than others, but so that we might offer hope and grace to others. Many outsiders don’t feel this.

2) Listen, don’t talk — spiritual seekers are often put off by what one calls the “bumper-sticker theology: Jesus is the Answer” approach many church folks take. It doesn’t seem to matter what questions one comes with. Jesus is the only answer you need, so discussion is discouraged.

3) Be clear about priorities — interestingly, seekers are not put off by big churches with big buildings. They are put off by big churches with big buildings who claim to exist to serve the needs of others. If being big is what a church cares about, it should say so. At least that’s honest. If putting a statue outside the entry is more important than saving a child or feeding a starving person, then say so. If Matthew 25 really means something, then let the outward and visible signs reflect that inward and spiritual commitment.

4) Quit condemning people as sinners — just because their sin isn’t the same as your sin doesn’t give a person the right to act hatefully and unkindly. A recent independent survey of evangelical church goers indicates that of those most staunchly opposing homosexuality, more than 50% have engaged in adulterous extra-marital affairs. Why is one sexual sin worse than another? Fine, condemn actions as sin, but remember that the church is FOR sinners, so everyone should be welcome.

5) Quit playing loose and fast with scripture — many church leaders and preachers pick and choose the parts of the Bible that help them make points, not that gives people full access to the mind and heart of God. Why focus on certain “evils” while ignoring others? Why make such a big deal about sexual conduct when debt, gossip, and selfishness are every bit as dastardly and destructive?

6) Teach humility, not hubris — admit that all fall short of their God-given potential and that we are stronger together than we are struggling to make it on our own. Help people focus on the positives of being a community in Christ instead of on the negatives of allowing “sinners” to taint the group. Actually embrace such concepts as love, kindness, mercy, and grace as cornerstones of behavior. "

See the whole blog and his other insightful thoughts at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

On the Farm

Another interesting week on the farm... literally.

My mother in law has been in ATL all week undergoing a cataract procedure. While that may sound like a standard one day, outpatient experience in her case it is not.

She lost her right eye to the standard cataract procedure 9 years ago.

Within 24 hours she went from sight to losing her eye.

So, you can imagine she put this 2nd procedure off as long as possible.

Now during the interim don't imagine she's been sitting on a couch whining or regretting what happened. She got on with her life rather quickly. She kept working on their 13 acre farm as she loves the garden, the flowers, the animals, and to be outside. She's continued to run a weekly nursing home ministry which she's led for many years. She even continued deer hunting sitting in a tree stand, and kills deer every year.

Did I mention how exceptional my in laws are?!

My mother in law has an extraordinary faith. She comes from good stock having been raised on "the other side of Walton's Mountain." If you know of that area from books and TV you can imagine the rural Nelson County VA families who were strong, self sufficient, and very practical.
This week while the in-laws have been taking care of business I've been going out at lunch or after work to check on their animals, feed them, pick up eggs, etc. While they don't have as much as they once did they still keep ten goats around, have 8 hens, plus the standard issue dogs and cats. Multiple stories here-- including the hen who prefers not to be in the coop who's a runner and the goat who got stuck in the fence-- all in all merely typical farm happenings.

They will return Thursday night. And I'll be back to my "normal" schedule. But for a few days it was good to take care of those who always try so hard to take care of us. I guess I'll return to my regular city ways though I'll miss picking up the fresh eggs, feeding the goats some cracked corn, and walking out to the barn.

OOPS that reminds me, better go change these shoes!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Millard Fuller

“Millard would not want people to mourn his death,” Linda said. “He would be more interested in having people put on a tool belt and build a house for people in need.”

We hosted Millard Fuller at Trinity on the Hill & ASU a year ago. The co-founder of Habitat for Humanity & the Fuller Center for Housing died Monday. His life was transformed by practical life application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by characters such as Clarence Jordan of Konoinia Farms who in similar ways tried to express a social holiness for the world today.

"Millard was buried humbly on Pine Hill at Koinonia Farm on February 4 at 11 a.m. Millard wished to be buried in the same manner as his spiritual mentor and friend Clarence Jordan, Koinonia’s founder. Like Clarence, Millard was laid to rest in a simple box and has no specific marker for his grave."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Children's Spring Consignment Sale

Calling all Consignors to the
Children's Spring Consignment Sale
Featuring 70,000 items including clothes, toys, furniture, books, electronics, etc.
for ages baby to 18 years.
Trinity on the Hill UMC
1330 Monte Sano Ave.
Augusta, GA 30904
Friday, March 6th 9:00 am - 7:00 pm
Saturday, March 7th 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
(50% off selected items on Saturday)

60% of proceeds to the Seller
40% of the proceeds to the Church

ALL consignors MUST register by Monday, February 23rd!


go to and click on SERVE and then
on the Children’s Consignment Sale link.

If you do not have internet access:
Sellers call 706-738-8822 and talk with Kim to schedule computer time at the church
Volunteers call Tracy Symms at 706-736-6110

The Outreach Ministry of Trinity On The Hill UMC conducts this sale to help
support our Church’s local, national and international missions.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Ministry of a Custodian

I have been fortunate over the years to have known some incredible ministers. Some of the best church workers I've known have been custodians. Seriously, these folk have a ministry of relationship, presence, and work that touches multitudes of lives. I could tell of Pauline or of Leon, though today I'm thinking of my good friend Jerome. Jerome has served at my Augusta church since my first tour here in the mid 90's. He is well beloved for all he does in word and deed, and is a strong example of Christ for everyone he meets.

Just last week we crossed paths Tuesday afternoon as he was cleaning up from one event, and I was setting up a table for an evening meeting. It was late afternoon, around 3:30, and we swapped some stories about what we'd been into and how busy life was. Jerome had worked a number of events, been moving tables & chairs, and cleaning up all day. And that is the forecast for the next few weeks leading up to Easter. Jerome expressed thanks the previous study had left him a sandwich.

A short time later Jerome's cell phone rings, and there's a need in another part of the church campus. The busy day gets busier. But he doesn't grumble, or complain, or even make a face. Jerome, as good natured as anything, gets off the phone and says, "Scott, these are the days I look forward to; these are the days I need."

Lord, help me to have that spirit.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bon Air Quilters

A week ago I spent some time Saturday morning with the Bon Air breakfast ministry team. They are a faithful group who provide breakfast every Saturday morning for 75-100 people who live in the Bon Air Apartments in Augusta. The Bon Air is located on Walton Way, at the big curve as you ascend the hill from downtow, just across from the Partridge Inn. The Bon Air Hotel opened in 1889, and at some point was also known as The Vanderbilt.

Postcard image, circa 1900, showing the unique Victorian Gothic architecture of the Bon Air Hotel in Summerville, Georgia. Originally built with 105 rooms in 1889, the Bon Air Hotel was the first of three resort-style hotels to be built in Summerville around the turn of the century. The Bon Air Hotel featured an electric Otis elevator, electric lighting, steam heat, lavish dining rooms, parlors, billiard rooms, and reading rooms; it also provided guests with amenities such as golfing and horseback riding. Due to the hotel's tremendous popularity, an additional 145 rooms were added in the early 1900s. The Bon Air Hotel was destroyed in a fire on February 3, 1921.

The hotel was quickly rebuilt by 1923, and continued to draw many travelers. This was in the day when Augusta was a destination town on the railroad. Summerville, the "Hill" area, was The Bon Air was rebuilt and functioned for many years as a hotel until 1964 when it became a retirement home.

Years pass, the inner city overtakes the vacation destinations of years gone by. The Bon Air is now a residence for the elderly, special needs adults, and individuals and families on the edge of being able to have housing. So, our faithful team serves breakfast every Saturday morning promptly at 9:30 AM.

Last week I met a young woman who was quilting. I was very curious what she was doing. It turns out she and a few other residents of the Bon Air meet once a month, and continue their work throughout each month, making quilts for a nursing home and for children at the nearby Medical College of Georgia.

That turns everything around doesn't it? Those I would call needy doing what they can to care for others.

I'm collecting fabric pieces, thread, and needles for these women to encourage their good work. I'm also hopeful a few of our quilters from the church might join the effort as this ministry within a ministry develops in a place the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts once enjoyed.