Monday, December 3, 2012

Upcoming Mission Training

Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church is hosting a training event featuring top national and international leadership in mission. 

On Saturday, February 2, from 9:00AM-3:00PM workshops will be facilitated by mission leaders from the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, the Mission Society, the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, Global Praise, and the North Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Register online at or contact the mission office at Trinity on the Hill at 706-738-8822, ext. 57 for assistance. This will be an exceptional training event to assist churches in local and international outreach. Lunch & refreshments will be provided for $10 payable the day of the event at the registration table.  Registration is required as seating may be limited due to interest in the classes. 

Choose one Morning session from 10:15-11:45 and one afternoon session from 1:00-2:30.

“Children’s Ministry & Mission,” Mrs. Kim Torres, GBGM Church & Community Worker

“Christ and Culture in Africa,” Rev. Mande Muyombo, GBGM

“Congregational Mission Bridges to the World,” Rev. Mike Selleck, NGUMC

“Developing Strong Mission Partnerships,” Rev. Patrick Friday, GBGM

“Evangelism & Mission,” Dr. Winston Worrell, World Methodist Evangelism Institute

“Mission as Bridge of Church and Community,” & “Building Bridges to Youth & Young Adults in Your Community,” Rev. Jasmine Smothers, NGUMC

“Mission Leader Training: 5 Ps of Missions Done Well in the Local Church,” Mr. Stan Self, The Mission Society

“Missionaries for the 21st Century,” Dr. Thomas Kemper, GBGM

“Multicultural Ministry,” Rev. Nora Martinez, GBGM

“Muslims, Christians, and Jesus,” Rev. Dick McClain, The Mission Society

“Singing God’s Song: From Everywhere to Everywhere,” Rev. Debra Tyree, GBGM Global Praise


8:30-9:00AM -Check In at Gathering Area (directly behind sanctuary) for name badge, to sign in, visit displays, & for hand-outs and refreshments.

9:00-10:00 AM –Opening Assembly and Worship in the Sanctuary featuring Rev. Dick McClain & Dr. Thomas Kemper

10:00-10:15 AM- Break & Find Your Class

10:15– 11:45 AM- Morning Workshops in Building A

12:00-12:45 PM- Lunch at Wesley Hall

1:00- 2:30 PM Afternoon Workshops in Building A

2:30-3:00 PM Enjoy conversations with experts, networking with others, or visiting the displays

Register online at or contact the mission office at Trinity on the Hill at 706-738-8822. Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church is located at 1330 Monte Sano Avenue, Augusta GA 30904 (beside Augusta State University).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TOTH Hosting Interfaith Hospitality Network Next Week

Next week will be our week to host Interfaith Hospitality Network of Augusta & we still have several servant spots that have not been filled. We usually work around 50 church members when we host & do this 3-4 times a year.  We anticipate a full house with 14 guests as we extend this ministry to homeless families with children. If you are able to commit to any of the slots shown below, please e-mail Lauren Williams at or give her a call at 706 726-9159. Many thanks for your help in this ministry!

Monday, Aug. 27 Need activity Hosts for any of these nights from 6:30-8:30. Your role would be to play games with the children/adults if they’d like or read to the children, etc…..maybe even go outside to the playground

Wednesday, August 29 Overnight host. Need one female who would stay overnight coming in at 8:15 PM and leaving at 7 AM

Saturday, Sept. 1 Evening Host from 5-8:30 PM Just be here with the families through dinner and the evening until the overnight hosts arrive

Saturday, September 1 Do laundry as needed. Pick it up that morning and return it anytime that day before 7 pm

Sunday, September 2 Afternoon Host from 12-4 to be with families at the day center

Sunday, September 2 Be the second person for laundry as families depart the church that day and there are several loads to do. Pick it up that morning and return it within a couple of days to the Interfaith closet in the church basement.

Thank you Augusta saints as we seek to create the community which God desires here!  Catch me or Lauren if you have questions or wish to be part of this great mission.

Blessings, Scott

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Messy, Noisy Children in the Church

It's VBS week at my church.  

It's loud stuff- much louder than I remember.  The noise starts around 8:30AM & ends around 12:30.  The children start the day off with over-the-top music.  That "normal" church quiet doesn't seem to return until 3 or 4PM.

Of course, they've also made a mess.  Streamers in the sanctuary, paper and stuff all over the walls, and even on the ceilings.  I'm not even going to tell you what the bathrooms or church dining room look like after 300 children have spent the day at the church.  

The children are wall-to-wall & you can't move easily without a hassle.    

And this is a good thing.  

In fact, it is a VERY good thing.  I like the photo as I look beyond the baptismal font at the wild crowd.  It reminds me of the way a pastor in The United Methodist Church encourages a congregation, after an infant or child has been baptized, to teach and nurture the child.

It's messy business, but well worth it for them and for us.

Oh, and I didn't tell you about those silver circles just to the right of the baptismal font.  Those are food bins to receive cans in a boys vs. girls contest to see who can collect the most items to help the local food bank.

Watch out!  There are LOTS of children in the church!!   

Monday, July 16, 2012

VBS Monday

Exciting Times in the Church

This is one of those very exciting weeks at Trinity on the Hill UMC with VBS each morning, basketball camp each afternoon, and a couple of mission events Saturday.  Plus our senior pastor will be at Lake Junaluska with SEJAC as a delegate voting for those 5 new bishops for the SEJ.  Dr. Mike Cash offered a sermon that warmed my heart Sunday in worship.  I'll post some photos during the week so you get a flavor our exciting church.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Garden

My backyard garden has produced a lot of food and much joy this season. We have transformed the yard from the generic, typical suburban view into a mini-farm. Our edible landscape has created a new ecology that feeds the soul.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catching Up with Augusta

Forgive my absence, as I've been "out of the room" for awhile as the other duties of work and life have taken priority.  Busy days of ministry, some vacation time, UMC conference season, my 8 year old's baseball season, and the added time my backyard garden requires have served to fill the days.

My United Methodist Church has survived General Conference & I didn't see any need to add to all the voices reviewing and critiquing that event.  In fact, I resolved to dig into my ministry at the local and state level as I have blogging & Twitter (is that "voice but no vote?") at the General Church level.  I grew tired of the opinions and many voices about GC and yearned for more of the Voice.

My Annual Conference has been through a quiet, maybe even subdued annual meeting in June, with focus on normal denominational happenings and little extra fanfare.  In some ways, it was good just to experience the annual "family reunion" of North Georgia UMC's.  The big difference for me this time was that my daughter attended NGAC12 as a youth delegate from the Augusta District.  I found it hard to be as cynical and jaded when I was helping to interpret "holy conferencing" for my child.  Doesn't it make a big difference in our attitude and actions when we are trying to help someone we love fall in love with the church/Church?

My local UMC congregation has been it's usually hyperactive self with the added drama of the transition of our previous senior pastor who'd served with the church 5 years.  We always have a lot going on even if there is a staff transition.  As often happens in a larger church context, some were ready for the former pastor to go and portray him as one of the worst to ever serve us.  Some were sad to see him go, and value him as one of the best who've ever served us.  The vast majority had "no dog in the fight" and merely look for continuity of proclamation and consistency of the Gospel in the church.  As is the Methodist way, we "pass the baton" from one pastor to another and seek to continue the growth and movement as we follow the Risen Christ today and tomorrow.  My hope, and earnest prayer, is that these are the best days that we are living right now!    

In the weeks ahead, my blog posts and reflections will take something of a different turn as I focus on my local community.  I've been teaching through the biblical prophets in Sunday School through the summer and God has used that to get my attention.  I want to find the reality of our community, the truth about who we are, and the challenge of what we need to do to become a stronger community.  There are some huge issues confronting us that have only intensified in the last decade.  What is the role of the Church and the Christian as we are confronted with these realities?  What will we do to help create a stronger community?  What will we do in order to give a strong city to our children and grandchildren?   

Augusta, Georgia has always been an interesting place to serve in mission and ministry.  We have 2 or 3 "worlds" here which give a mission pastor many opportunities.  We have the rich and the poor and the middle class here, if you think of city tribes or groups in economic ways.  If you think of people groupings in the US in religious ways... well, there is still some influence by Protestants and Catholics here, but it's not like the Bible Belt of a decade or so ago.  The religious identity is much more diverse, and not as quickly embraced as a characteristic of the younger generations.  Sadly, the religion we do tend to exhibit has an emphasis on the spiritual and the next world with little expression of a "present salvation" or the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  In one of my upcoming blogs I'll discuss the state of the segregated church in Augusta and how both the white churches and the black churches have failed and how the City is poorer for that failure.  

I'm thinking a lot about community, or the lack of it, as a diseased part of our City.  In general, I don't see the community standards and expectations that once would have been generally agreed upon due to shared value systems and life goals.  Everyone does their own thing, religion is personal, and there isn't much expectation that anything is going to change.  A lot of us are barely getting by and struggling paycheck to paycheck.  Some of us are caught in addictions that focus our cravings and our habits and actions.  There is an anger, a hostility, an aggressiveness that is anti-social and destroys community.  And while we might talk about such things in the church, there isn't much of a bridge between the Church and the Community.  Church people run with their crowd, and folk from the Community run with their gang, their tribe, their group.

This isn't generic Sunday School ramblings, but practical theology.  It's a matter of life and death.

Just last night a man is alleged to have strangled his girlfriend.  At a downtown event, First Friday, 6 people were shot. 

How do people get to this point?  What groups are they part of & what is their value system?  How might we create new, dynamic alliances of people in Augusta/Richmond County and "re-Community" in ways that helps everyone experience Life?  How might the Church be more active in helping create Community rather than just being another small gang comfortable with our group?

I'm looking for more than politics and tired rhetoric.  I'm looking for more than simple religious answers that lack action.  I'm looking for some Augusta folk who are tired of what has been and eager to create a new community.    

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The next generation being apprenticed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

UMC General Conference Detox

I admit that I'm at least a little bit of a UMC polity nerd.  I can't always quote paragraph and verbatim from the Book of Discipline, but most days I appreciate our organization, structure, and rules.  I've served in 3 different Annual Conferences and I've grown in the way of Christ due to the clergy and churches I've served.    I've also served at conference level on a board and know the wisdom of having a structure.  So, I love the UMC for the ways it has transformed me and feel responsible for helping that same sort of redemptive living occur for others.  For these reasons I value the polity and take interest and responsibility, where I can, for continuing a healthy, vibrant organization.

Like many, I watched far too many hours of the live feed, the Twitter quips/rants/raves, and the blogs during GC 2012.  I LOVED the addition of technology to GC & was one of the 200 watching the @Gatordukie videocast as the GA committee did not end up with a majority for any reorganizational plan.  I was one of the 1500-2000 that watched/participated from a distance in both plenary and worship sessions each day.  Add in some direct cell texts to delegates or alternates, and even a phone call with one delegate friend who explained what I'd missed during a few hours away, and I don't even want to confess the hours I spent #Methodistdistracted.  While I've followed other General Conferences before there is a vast difference between getting a few news stories at the end of the day and that sense of almost being there due to the technology.  I appreciated some of the debate on social principles as that revealed variety of biblical and theological perspectives within the UMC.  It is intriguing, and somewhat disconcerting, to me that we vote on theological matters!  How do we maintain as a norm some of the Wesleyan Methodist theological tensions?  I wondered what the vote would be if we voted about prevenient grace.  Would it have a passing percentage of vote at GC?  With our international and regional distinctions I suspect that GC might benefit from a "theologian in residence" who might share throughout the plenaries.  Got a John Wesley "stand in" for our attempts at conferencing?  This would be different than a bishop interpreting the rules of GC, but more like John Wesley's style of running a conference meeting.  All in all, incredible, sometimes exciting, sometimes boring, and in all respects a most unusual GC!  Though I didn't get the whole "show" I experienced the roller coaster of emotions with the debates, the various reorganizational plans, and the challenges of the hours, the tedium, and the hopes and fears of the delegates and a denomination.

The good of being at home or work and watching GC from the distance was that I could attend to my ministry, I could go to my son's baseball games, I could look after my garden, and enjoy good breaks from the legislation.  That helped to nurture my soul, and reminded me to be in prayer for all of you caught in denominational politics.  I can't tell you how often I watered my tomatoes and other vegetable plants thinking about you and hoping for your peace and calm.

GC was also a good reminder that legislation and polity are part of an international denomination.  As a missions pastor I'd always thought that the international aspects of our denomination would be a great gift to the work here in the U.S., and might calm our political tendencies, but as I watched GC play out it seemed to be just another element of the challenge.  Add to that the agencies lobbying their perspectives, the LGBT, regional factions, etc.... well, even by video and at a distance this stuff was rather clear.  Perhaps at the GC level it too often looks like DC politics, and that is some of the heartache for all of us as there will be winners and losers in legislation as you petition, amend, and amend the amendments.  Our challenge is that we don't just have a 2 party system in gridlock.  Are we more like an 6 or 8 party system in gridlock?!  I sometimes wondered if some of you standing at a GC mike shouldn't pull out a soapbox, show the viewing audience what group/caucus/position you are for, and then have your 3 minute speech.  But, then again, your positions and true cause became rather obvious after a short time of viewing.  I'm somewhat certain that true holy conferencing wouldn't be by Robert's Rules of Order, nor would it be so pre-determined in outcome by the percentages for, and against, agendas and caucuses.  I often wondered where God was in the legislative, which I found to be an ironic question to ask during Easter season.  I'm reinforced again in the belief that the transformational work of ministry really does happen locally, in contexts outsiders likely won't understand, and that there are huge challenges to creating a church structure that is denominationally appropriate and flexible to vital ministry in a congregation, campus ministry, or chaplaincy in a specific setting.  Maybe that's why Jesus never bothered with much organization or structure for the Kingdom.  The biblical dangers are that we can tend toward Babel, or king making/ king ruling that distracts from the King and the Kingdom, or follower arguments about who's going to sit in the 2 select seats on either side of the King.          

Challenging stuff to have some form of order and structure that is true to Wesleyan Christianity and that maintains the General Rules.  As the Judicial Council reminded us we may be bound by our many rules now in ways that will be a challenge to untangle.  Yet, I'm hopeful there is still opportunity that our best days are before us.  And this will not likely come from GC or legislative action, but through Holy Spirit at work in the Body of Christ.

I hope for any of us who banked everything on our particular opinions or positions being endorsed by GC that we'll realize that the Church, and our local church, will go on.  I'd been mulling this over for a few days as I detoxed from GC.  I was especially grappling with the trust issues and challenges that seemed to be present at GC2012.  Committee work could allow a group to process more information and votes, but you'd need to trust the committees.  When votes are affirmed through the consent calendar, and there is no debate or discussion, you vote away guaranteed appointments.  I can certainly see the financial and accountability issues of this, though as a deacon I also know the challenge of retaining denominational identity and a place in a system.  While most of this blog sat in draft for a few days a few bloggers have added greatly to my thinking about recent events.  I hadn't thought of the impact upon chaplains and you'll find a good analysis regarding loss of guaranteed appointment.  Howell's "13 Propositions"  also serves as a good reflection after GC.  Taylor Burton-Edwards offered a welcomed view of UMC optimism based on his experience and observations at GC.

During the GC I became more eager to be mission active in UMC opportunities around the globe, yet to also make special effort to build bridges within the US.  While many of us talk of the challenge of knowing other clergy and trusting them, or their committee decisions, in a large annual conference like North Georgia, it was obvious that this is magnified between the jurisdictions.  How might we better build bridges of mission and ministry, collegial relationship, and shared denominationalism between the US jurisdictions and the Central Conferences?  Asked another way, how can we get beyond each of our soapboxes and provincialism in ways which would create a stronger UMC and stronger local expressions of vital Wesleyan ministry and mission?

As I continue to think about the UMC, our polity, and our conferencing, I'm optimistic while I also better realizing the limits and the opportunities of it all.  Maybe if we are as passionate and energetic in our local ministry for making disciples for Jesus Christ we'll experience a Wesleyan Christian renewal that can never be legislated.

Friday, May 4, 2012

UMC General Conference Delegate Re-Entry Program

Congratulations #GC2012 delegate!  If you are reading this, and still able to read and comprehend after 2 weeks of General Conference, then you have successfully completed your program of United Methodist rehabilitation and are now ready to re-enter the normal world.  You should prepare for this as regular life is VERY different than your recent experience in Tampa.  Here are a few reminders in case you have forgotten, or in case you are so immersed in GC ways, that you may have difficulty with re-entry.

1.  You have been through an incredible, stressful, difficult, exhilarating experience.  Your attempts to explain these things will be difficult at best.  The more you regain normal standing in society the more this will become clear.  Do not, I repeat do not, try to "unload" everything on your loved ones in one conversation.  Get some rest, process what you have been through, and understand that most on the outside won't understand.  

2.  The average person will not care about the Code, the paragraph number you are talking about, or other workings of the House.  Most people on the outside have not had the experience you have had and will not understand your time served.  You will not need to wear identification.  In most of life you will not be prevented from access to some areas due to your identification or security level.

3. You do not need to ask for permission to talk.  You do not need to wave a certain colored paper so that the warden will allow you to talk.  You do not need to ask permission to ask a question.  You do not need to follow the agenda or directives of the warden or your cell block leader.  Now that you have been rehabilitated you can function as a normal person with freedom to interact with others.

4.  You have been in a tough setting where you have felt compelled to defend yourself, to group up with others of like mind as you have attempted to survive, but the world is somewhat different.  While people do group with others it is different on the outside.  Most people (excluding politicians and some religious types) do not operate this way.  There is no need to run with gangs.  There is no need to feel as if gangs are against you.  Follow Christ and trust Holy Spirit as you live as a child of God.

I have kept this short as I know your attention span is now short!  Do not worry, as that too will come back with time.  We trust that you have learned much about consequences, communication, order, & the Code.
Our hope is that you will be stronger for your time served at GC2012.  We hope you have learned your lesson and are changed in all the best ways.  This may take some time to live into, but that is our greatest hope.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Has God Outsourced the UMC?

I'm enjoying a day off, and with it a slower start to the day.  So, I've got my laptop open and catching up on news and bloggers perspectives.  In the background I've got the TV morning news on.  There's a story on about outsourcing jobs from the United States to other parts of the world.

That's when the question hit me.

Has God outsourced The United Methodist Church beyond the US to more productive parts of the world?

I won't review the numbers for you, but if you've followed recent news leading up to GC2012 then you know the UMC is growing elsewhere.  Nor will I review the good work of Philip Jenkins on the explosive growth of global Christianity ("Next Christendom" is now a decade old!).  Christianity, and even United Methodism, will continue to see impressive movement in the southern hemisphere, and not be as dominated by English speakers & western worldviews where it may continue a decline into a minority viewpoint.  What will the impact of other languages, customs, and contexts have upon United Methodism?  It's a great question for any denomination to consider as we look for the work of the Kingdom of God and seek to join in with those efforts.

I join the voices of others who share concern that GC2012 is too dominated with the issues, fears, and sense of decline/change needed for United Methodism in the United States.  I'll be hoping, praying, and looking for GC2012 to embrace more of a global view, international leadership, and a Book of Discipline and organizational plan that best reflects the global nature and growth of The United Methodist Church.

As my mind wanders with these thoughts & thinks of my UM brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, South America and elsewhere I wonder:
When will the General Conference be held outside the United States?
Will the BOD be changed to reflect the essentials of United Methodism that can be expressed in every annual conference and congregation?
Will we establish a consistency of clergy patterns and episcopacy in all annual conferences?
Could agencies (or whatever those mission and ministry arms become after GC2012) be established in other continents to share best resources and practices & better develop strategic, vital leadership across the globe?
Will the UMC take the necessary steps to become a vital movement in every continent and country or will we stifle the work of the Spirit by imposing US values and approaches upon the movement in other lands?  

It is an exhilarating time to be a Christian and to be United Methodist.  I continue to hope and pray we make the most of these days as we follow the Risen Christ throughout the world.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday

I've found myself drawn to some of John Wesley's sermons during Holy Week 2012.  The wording is somewhat dated, but check out his message based on Mark 1:15 from the sermon title "The Way to the Kingdom."  I'm especially struck by, "Awake, then, thou that sleepest. Know thyself to be a sinner, and what manner of sinner thou art."  What manner of sinner are you?  I'm working through that myself!  On this Maundy Thursday read through this passage and consider your sin and repentance. 
13. And this "kingdom of God," or of heaven, "is at hand." As these words were originally spoken, they implied that "the time" was then fulfilled, God being "made manifest in the flesh," when he would set up his kingdom among men, and reign in the hearts of his people. And is not the time now fulfilled? For, "Lo! (saith he,) I am with you always," you who preach remission of sins in my name, "even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:20.) Wheresoever, therefore, the gospel of Christ is preached, this his "kingdom is nigh at hand." It is not far from every one of you. Ye may this hour enter thereinto, if so be ye hearken to his voice, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel."


1. This is the way: walk ye in it. And, First, "repent;" that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith; even conviction, or self-knowledge. Awake, then, thou that sleepest. Know thyself to be a sinner, and what manner of sinner thou art. Know that corruption of thy inmost nature, whereby thou art very far gone from original righteousness, whereby "the flesh lusteth" always "contrary to the Spirit," through that "carnal mind" which "is enmity against God," which "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Know that thou art corrupted in every power, in every faculty of thy soul; that thou art totally corrupted in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course. The eyes of thine understanding are darkened, so that they cannot discern God, or the things of God. The clouds of ignorance and error rest upon thee, and cover thee with the shadow of death. Thou knowest nothing yet as thou oughtest to know, neither God, nor the world, nor thyself. Thy will is no longer the will of God, but is utterly perverse and distorted, averse from all good, from all which God loves, and prone to all evil, to every abomination which God hateth. Thy affections are alienated from God, and scattered abroad over all the earth. All thy passions, both thy desires and aversions, thy joys and sorrows, thy hopes and fears, are out of frame, are either undue in their degree, or placed on undue objects. So that there is no soundness in thy soul; but "from the crown of the head, to the sole of the foot," (to use the strong expression of the Prophet,) there are only "wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores."

Later in the sermon Wesley says,
5. And what wilt thou do to appease the wrath of God, to atone for all thy sins, and to escape the punishment thou hast so justly deserved? Alas, thou canst do nothing; nothing that will in anywise make amends to God for one evil work, or word, or thought. If thou couldst now do all things well, if from this very hour, till thy soul should return to God thou couldst perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, even this would not atone for what is past. The not increasing thy debt would not discharge it. It would still remain as great as ever. Yea, the present and future obedience of all the men upon earth, and all the angels in heaven, would never make satisfaction to the justice of God for one single sin. How vain, then, was the thought of atoning for thy own sins, by anything thou couldest do! It costeth far more to redeem one soul, than all mankind is able to pay. So that were there no other help for a guilty sinner, without doubt he must have perished everlastingly.
Find the Full Sermon here. 
The "Confession and Pardon" in The United Methodist Book of Worship for a Holy Thursday evening service offers a good word:
My sisters and brothers, Christ shows us his love by becoming a humble servant.  Let us draw near to God and confess our sin in the truth of God's Spirit.
Most merciful God, we your Church confess that often our spirit has not been that of Christ.  Where we have failed to love one another as he loves us, where we have pledged loyalty to him with our lips and then betrayed, deserted, or denied him, forgive us we pray; and by your Spirit make us faithful in every time of trial; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Who is in a position to condemn?  Only Christ.
But Christ suffered and died for us,
was raised form the dead and ascended on high for us,
and continues to intercede for us.
Believe the good news:
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Garden Story

It's spring time in Augusta GA and that means there is much yard work and gardening to be done.  The warm weather hit 3 or 4 weeks earlier than normal, and I wasn't prepared for the earlier season. 

As I started into the work, I realized my 10 year old wheelbarrow was even less ready that I was!  After so many years of faithful service and shared memories, I finally admitted it couldn't be repaired.  It's not easy giving up an old friend, an old habit, a part of your life. 

We'd accomplished much together at 3 different houses over the decade or more.  We'd transformed neglected houses and boring yards into homes for me and my family, and gardens that connected us to creation, produced food, and attracted all sorts of beneficial insects and animals.  Oh, the stories we could tell! 

Now my old wheelbarrow couldn't hold much material, but we managed.  It just required more work from me.

For years I had a tire that had a slow leak, which meant I'd need to air it up every time I used it.  But I kept working with the same tool and got accustomed to the inconvenience.  It was a little tipsy, and didn't steer well, requiring constant attention.  Sometimes it was hard to tell which required more work- the wheelbarrow or the task at hand!

As you might expect, the old metal bucket had holes in it.  In the last year, I'd mixed some cement in it and left it in there a little too long, so that it dried and filled up the holes.  It gave my old friend, that I knew so well and was so comfortable with, lots of character.

When I recently tried to move "old faithful" one of the wooden handles broke off.  The somewhat inefficient tool became rather useless at this point.  If you can't visualize my friend, or don't have one in your own yard, here's a picture to show what will now eventually get stripped down and become an herb garden.   

This forced me to recently purchase a new wheelbarrow.  I resisted this for some time, thinking I could patch, or buy used, or do something to postpone the inevitable.  Once I took a test drive of a new wheelbarrow there was no turning back! 

My new wheelbarrow is a thing of beauty.  I hadn't realized there have been a few improvements in recent years that build on the knowledge of everyday work and of better design.  I honestly didn't realize how bad my old workhorse was until I pushed my first load of dirt in the new friend.

I expect my new tool will last me 15 years, or so, just like the last one did. I'm reminded that even well constructed tools don't last a generation.  There are a number of noticeable differences between my old wheelbarrow and this new and improved workhorse.

My new wheelbarrow is all metal- no wood at all.  The wheel is one of those airless tires that are tall and strong.  So far, there are no scratches and holes in this bucket, though I know we'll create new stories together in our shared work.  Check out my upgrade:

Great tire- check.
Sturdy metal frame- check.
Big bucket- check.

I admired the new wheelbarrow for a few minutes and then promptly put it to work.  I got more done in one day than I would have in 2 days with my old wheelbarrow!  I was reminded that the important thing isn't to keep repeating the same habits with the same familiar tool, but that the goal is for work to be accomplished and the task completed as efficiently as possible. 
The only problem I've noticed is that the wheelbarrow is using the same power source!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Masters & GC2012

I live in Augusta, Georgia, USA.  In case you didn't know, it is Masters week & the entire golf world is in our town.  It is a game changer for our city.  We build spring break and new traffic patterns around the event.  We put on our best southern hospitality.  We continue a great tradition and add a new chapter.  Even if you don't follow golf it is all rather spectacular.  With hosting the tournament we put up with changes every year-- to traffic patterns, to the course and surrounding neighborhoods, to everyday business and life in Augusta-- because we are part of something much larger than any one of us.

So, with my current viewpoint I'm thinking about game changers, great tradition, and new chapters that build upon the excitement, the momentum, and the expectations of the past to create a dynamic new present and future.  Is it possible that General Conference could accomplish such lofty goals for The United Methodist Church?  Is it possible, when it is all said and done, that individuals and subgroups will put away differences and  unify for something greater than anyone of us?  I think it is both necessary and possible! 

GC 2012 nears and with it my prayer is a new, vibrant spirit of mission will reclaim us as United Methodism recaptures the calling and the warm heart that ignited renewal in previous generations of Methodist Christians.

Of course, there will be a lot of heat around certain topics including reorganization and guaranteed appointments.  Beyond the purely practical and budgetary decisions I hope we'll be rooted in solid theological motivations and conversations.  I confess that I'm missing some of that holy talk and consensus building that I'd like to see regarding General Conference.  Perhaps that is part of the problem.  Do we United Methodists from across the US and the world even speak a similar theological language these days?  Beyond the words do we have a shared experience and expectation in the ongoing Way of Salvation and the present work of the Kingdom of God?

While I appreciate the conversation is driven by practical considerations I do hope that we United Methodists will also find our decisions pushed by missional considerations as we develop the denomination and congregation around the work of the Kingdom.  That will make the changes somewhat easier to accept as the old wineskins are discarded for something new that God requires of us.  It will still hurt & it will still be tough to let go of old habits, but as we follow Spirit and sacrifice together- and reach a unity together- perhaps our best days in following Christ and sharing Good News are today!

Compare the Alan Hirsch missional church matrix with all the prescriptions proposed for United Methodist reorganization at APEPT Missional Leadership Matrix . On the 3rd page you'll find a key chart where you can consider the biblical balance that might be found for church or Church when Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelists, Pastoral, and Teaching ministries are all in sync.

As you work through the matrix you can quickly come up with many thoughts about the UMC today & what our various leadership positions have become.  Dare we get into serious conversation on such matters?  While it is worth getting into holy conferencing on each area of missional leadership space precludes that in this quick blog.  Let's just take one example and consider how apostolic leadership compares to current United Methodist episcopacy.

As I consider this I wonder:
Are we doing enough with episcopal reform as we reorganize?  I'm especially drawn to the missional emphasis of the episcopacy in Hirsch's work and hunger for that sort of leadership from bishops.  Hirsch writes, "Apostolic ministry is basically a function and not an office" p. 153 The Forgotten Ways

How can we reclaim a functional episcopacy from what can become a merely institutional bishop?  Does the UMC reorganization adequately deal with this as a driving issue and necessary theological component of reorganization?  As we realign and refocus committees and agencies will we also renew the local congregation and service in the annual conference as the priority for the episcopacy?  Bishops must spend the vast majority of their time "in conference" to be effective and more limited time serving the General Church.  Otherwise it's the same pinch those of us who serve at the congregational level realize when we've been away too much from our appointment and serving district and annual conference.  We just aren't available, connected, and with the necessary focus, even though we are doing our best in all those varied locations.

Further, why not create a consistency across United Methodism, so that similar to central conferences and other branches of Methodism, bishops are elected for terms and aren't bishops for life?  This retains consistency with the ways District Superintendents return to an Annual Conference to serve as elders & would allow for great financial savings.

This is just one example that might lead to solid conversation and a creation of a reorganization plan that has theological and practical considerations in mind. We can easily go through each of the APEPT ministries and consider the individual contributions in ministry and marvel at the genius and power of them in sync as a shared ministry.   I haven't seen a quadrilateral approach taken with the any of the reorganization plans, but it could still be a useful practice.  

Here in Augusta GA I'm praying for, and looking for, great things to come out of GC2012.  As followers of Jesus Christ, and servants of the Kingdom of God, may we yield to the Holy Spirit and do what the next generation may call a miracle!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GC 2012-- Arkansas Delegation

Yes Arkansas Delegation! May it be so.

The Mission Has a Church

Hirsch has some great insight into the impact of missional thinking for church and denomination. What does this mean for denomaintions doing reogranization/restructing? Where is our theology impacting, and in fact guiding, our reorganizaiton? What

Here are a few quotes for your consideration:

Regarding a missions/missionary approach-- "What is going to sound like Good News for this people group?" "What is church for this people group?" At this point, I'm curious what the varied contexts mean for the UMC. How much room do we give for these missional questions, especially for church starting, and how do we oversee that in an international denomination. KISS comes to mind regarding the Book of Discipline and the mandates at the highest levels allowing for context specific expressions of United Methodist Christianity.

My ongoing curiousity-- What is our shared theology of Chruch that is informing the UMC reorganization? Missional language and thinking is helfpul to me in the process of the renewal of a local congregation and an international denomination.

Hirsch quotes from the video:

Church "evicted missiology out of the equation."

"God is a missionary God."

"Mission isn't a subset of ecclesiology, but a subset of theology."

"It is part of the doctrine of God, not the doctrine of Church."

The key it to let "missiology determine ecclesiology."

"The mission has a church!"

"It is a fundamental paradigm shift."

Necessity of "unlearning" how to do church.

The "biggest hindrance is unlinking our imaginagations from the Constantinian mold of church."

"To borrow from Einstein: the problems of the church can not be resolved by the same type of thinking that created them in the first place."

The conversation returned to the immediate context of sharing the Gospel or starting a church. Numerous biblical stories come to my mind from the New Testament when I think about this.

As I continue to think and pray toward General Conference 2012 I hope that these sorts of primary theolgoical and biblical conversations will also be part of our reorganizaiton and renewal!

Check out the full video for yourself at Hirsch video interview .

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Key Characteristics of the Chrysler Reorganization

I just caught some of a 60 Minutes story on Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat-Chrysler, and was intrigued with his approach and early success with their reorganization. I'm a little envious of the business world, so different than the church in terms of the bottom line & how quickly they can move in leadership, yet there may be some elements similar in any reorganization.

I found a good article about the Marchionne Strategy.I'm lifting out a number of quotes as it's also a nice look at some major issues in a strategy for reorganization. Much of the material is based on Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Clark intriguing book "Mondo Agnelli: Fiat, Chrysler, and the Power of a Dynasty." With many denominations and churches considering how to be efficient in this generation and with the new world economy it is interesting to consider how other large institutions have reorganized.

"With his lightning-quick mind, boundless energy, and utter self-confidence, he took over the company, selected a management team, created a product plan, and established a set of performance targets." Now I'm thinking about a church and denomination. Wouldn't it be nice sometimes to have that sort of authority and ability as a CEO?! So, it doesn't all transfer, but some of these characteristics sound good for a clergy profile. Do we know what we are looking for in a management team? What is our "product plan?" What are the performance targets? I think that some of the UMC discussions at General Conference and in Annual Conferences are addressing some of these matters.

"He selected his own management team after months of walking around at the company, looking for energetic risk-takers and evaluating them on the spot. After picking his team, he sent 2,000 of his rejects off to early retirement." Are energetic risk takers valued in a congregation or denomination? What do we do with such folk? Do we know our clergy in a denomination well enough to be able to evaluate them?

"...Marchionne's next step was to put all of his executives together in one room to come up with a business plan. Having wiped out several layers of management, he now eliminated time-killing committees..." Got bureaucracy in your church or denomination?! Got any time killing committees? What would happen if we eliminated those meetings?

He also consolidated leadership, rather than running separate business units, as "The idea was to make Fiat quicker and more efficient by getting all parts of the company to talk to one another." Note speed/responsiveness, efficiency, and communication as a key organizational value.

"Just as deadly was Fiat's practice of putting car development entirely in the hands of engineers. When the engineers were done, they would throw the car "over the wall" to sales and marketing teams with instructions on how many to sell and at what price, Clark notes. It was a process that was guaranteed to be inefficient and to create disputes between different parts of the company." Is the work in the right hands?! What practices are inefficient, or by design create misunderstanding/controversy/friction?

"After one manager patted himself on the back for turning a big loss into a smaller one, Marchionne went after him. 'I don't need people in here who are happy to lose money,' Clark quotes him as saying. 'I want people who culturally are all about making money. You are free to go.'" Hmmm, what should the church be "all about?"

Of Marchionne it is said, "Perhaps his most defining characteristic is his unwillingness to sugarcoat reality." Who does this in a church or denomination? How do we best do supervision and accountability that tells the truth?

Now compare the various UMC reorganization plans. The IOT/CT plan, if adopted, would need to be wisely implemented and the very best personnel would need to be in those few crucial positions. It is a bold move, but then isn't that what we need?

Monday, January 9, 2012