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Happy Labor Day and a Joyful September


Happy Labor Day and a Joyful September

September Is the Perfect Time To Increase Your Joy! 

September begins with our national Labor Day celebration, a movement in the United States that started in Oregon and later spread to New Jersey and three others states in 1887. Designated by the federal government to be the first Monday in September, it is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

Remember to express gratitude for your staff, and the myriad of current and retired workers both in the worshipping community and our community at large. Workers have contributed to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our congregation, and our country. The holiday is well-deserved. We should take joy in our work, and enjoy rest from our labor, too.

“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the people in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the church to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

In the passage above from Acts, the ministry team that included Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and John Mark decided to re-calibrate the good things they did by paying attention to what was bringing joy, and what wasn’t. They knew that God not only cared about what we accomplish, but how we are feeling. Our wellness of mind, body, and spirit applies to faith communities, too.

More individuals have volunteered to take on new responsibilities and many others have increased their participation in worship, activities, events, and ministries. But there is a flip-side to positive engagement; it is called fatigue. As we continue to grow and learn, we need to monitor ourselves so that we do not become fatigued in doing good (see Galatians 6:9). How are you feeling? Do you feel energized or fatigued? Do you feel over- or under- utilized? Are you ready for something new? Or, maybe you need a well-deserved break, or to do something different?

While we can feel energized, from time to time we may feel a bit overwhelmed. If you do, that’s O.K., and please let me and others know. We care about how you are feeling! We don’t want to sacrifice our own sense of joy in serving. One of the early mottos of the Labor Day movement was “8 Hours Work, 8 Hours Recreation, 8 Hours Rest.” There is a natural rhythm to the cycles of life in our work, in our volunteer service, and in our retirement, too!

For example, the rhythms of engaging a new vision, preparing, and maintaining high engagement, and then enjoying accomplishments should naturally be followed by rest, learning, reflection, and the option for re-engagement. These cycles vary for each person and can span days, weeks, or months, depending on our circumstances. It’s all good. We might have been energized by serving for years as a liturgist or on a church team, for example, but we now may want to try something different. That’s great! Try something different

Do you volunteer with a community organization, not for profit, or service group? Thank you for your service! But remember to pay attention to your own wellness to be sure you are getting the resources you need to offer your best.

We tend to overlook our own needs. But to experience more satisfaction and joy in your service to others, the first week of September is the perfect time to recalibrate, and be open for what God may invite you to do next. The Apostle Paul’s mission team decided to uniquely invest their resources to visit all the towns where they had served to see how they were doing (Acts 15.36), which resulted in strengthening the churches (Acts 15:41). We need to be strengthened, too.

No matter what availability or particular gifts you have to offer, remember to express them! You can make a difference. Enjoy your Labor Day. Let’s make time to pause, rest, and then consider how to creatively re-engage to experience joy in the ministry opportunities ahead!



(Part 2) Bricks and Mortar Have I None

Bricks and Mortar Have I None (Part 2).

If bricks and mortar are out, what’s in? What is the church to do ?

If there’s no longer any bricks and mortar, how can people go to church (which in North America we understand to mean, how can we go to the building where the community gathers). Here are some other questions worth exploring:

After all, how will people ever meet Jesus like I did if they don’t have a building to go to and hear God’s word preached?

How will children hear Bible stories like I did in my youth if we don’t have Sunday School.

And what about observing the sacraments? Singing hymns? I can’t imagine sitting anywhere Sunday morning if it weren’t in my pew.

It’s crazy to think the days of bricks and mortar churches are numbered.

Bricks and mortar have I none Kevin Yoho 2012b.jpg

Yes, it is crazy talk, so let’s talk about it!

The church is a spiritual organism, and is also an organization as it interacts with the world. Though you may be a bit resistant to this idea, don’t abandon the idea that church is a business, too. We will be unable to deal with the economic structures and discovering new sustainable models if we ignore the challenges.

The church is a spiritual organism, and is also an organization as it interacts with the world. Though you may be a bit resistant to this idea, don’t abandon the idea that church is a business, too. We will be unable to deal with the economic structures and discovering new sustainable models if we ignore the challenges.

Our oldest understanding of organized worship and church always had financial implications. There are numerous examples in Scripture and in history suggesting that ministry can be understood and even critiqued as monetary models.

Do you really think the great expansion of the Church out of Jerusalem was merely an obedient response to a missional challenge? It was more likely about persecution that was experienced as financial stressors. This is why the Apostle Paul asked for contributions to be collected and sent to Jerusalem.

The church as a gathered group of individuals typically offers its services so that average people could have accomplished what they tasked the church with. Churches put in place good enough protocols which led to average performance delivery. Church was good enough for most.

The church and other volunteer organizations and teams are familiar with gathering regularly in a certain place. Frequently, these places are delivery venues for ministry, products, or services of value. Those of us in the institutional church understand there are spiritual components to what we do as we practice our faith, and over time, we have complicated, if not confused, the relationship between the highly valued product (preaching, education, worship, fellowship, mission) and the means the product is conveyed or used (during worship service, at the church, in a class, at a special event like a wedding, baptism, or funeral).

Singing a hymn in church is a wonderful experience, but have we confused where the value is located? Is the primary benefit the singing itself, or the place the hymn is sung? Is the benefit of preaching God’s word found in the listening, or in the venue where it is preached? Considering questions like these help us gain insight to better discern where the primary value is located.

Of course, perceived benefits are complex and hard to deconstruct.

For example, there are spiritually beneficial components to hymn singing. There is also an emotional component. As human beings, we can derive feelings of security and belonging from familiar places and faces. Hundreds of years ago, one could assume that churches and their various forms of ministry and bricks and mortar venues fit the needs of most people. At least that was the assumption. As the Reformation’s radical transformation of liturgy kept developing, the economies of scale and politics literally took shape in our church buildings. Though some got more than they wanted, and others not quite enough, the church was good enough for most people.

As populations rose, it was inevitable that other forms of church organization or business models for ministry would emerge that began to address the particular needs of different segments of the population, and those who were either over-served (church provides more than I need) or underserved (church provides less than I need) by the predominant churches.

In North America, common brick and mortar churches were built on tradition and depended on the persistence of the model in form and function to make economic sense. The church model was built on the assumption that people needed to go to church, and the church’s job was to provide bricks and mortar venues as destinations for the spirit. Those in the church self-differentiated around liturgy, theology, or governance with very little innovation.

The existing models of the incumbent bricks-and-mortar church typically includes one pastor, 100 people, and a sanctuary used a few hours a week. These models resist change and innovation because of the enormous financial implications for those in the system.

We need models for addressing the spiritual aspirations and needs of people. These groups of diverse people today have many more choices yet have jobs to be done that relate to spiritual and deeply emotional aspects of their lives.

The bricks-and-mortar church model considers its best customers to be those who are financially able to support the incumbent system. We must begin to look at the comprehensive institutionalized religion in america system and the components that perpetuate it. Seminaries, pension plans, vocation and call services, publishing and education producers, all persistently resist intervention that could bring change, growth, health, and renewed effectiveness. It’s tough to decide where to start.

Recently at a church leadership team meeting I attended, an elder remarked, “We do get some new people, but unfortunately we need ten new people to make up for one old-timer moving away, retiring, or dying.” This elder was essentially admitting they could not afford to grow, maintaining the same unsustainable economic model.

As we continue to clutch and cling to existing financial income methods, we find that it is not only diminishing, but it objectifies the existing member as an income stream. It similarly objectifies the potential new attendee as an income source. As another elder said referring to new people, “They just don’t give as much as we need.”

bricks and mortar churches must begin to aggressively address their already stressed and crumbling economic models. New models can emerge within our existing structures that are more sustainable. Perhaps the church has the courage to convert unsustainable bricks and mortar systems into more useful assets for mission and ministry.

What would an alternative to the bricks and mortar church on the corner look like that gets the spirit and worship jobs done neighbors across the street actually want done?

Bricks and mortar have I none, but what I have, I give you.

What gifts do you have for your community in the name of Jesus Christ?