Let Me Tell You About My Church

I’ve been serving in pastoral ministry for 25 years. I can tell you that the title of this article is the epitome of anyone who feels like their church is doing something special. I always tune in. I always want to hear about special things going on in the life of the church.

Working with the Vital Congregations Committee

For the past couple of years, I have served on the Vital Congregations Committee. For those of you who may not be aware of this, every charge conference report (pastor’s report, congregational report) is read by the VCC. And I mean EVERY . . . . SINGLE . . . ONE! I remember Bishop Swanson making this claim a few years back. I took it as a threat—BIG BROTHER READS EVERY REPORT! But dawg-gone . . . he wasn’t kidding!

The task of the VCC is to read all these reports and search for trends in the data. What are things that congregations seem to be doing well? How frequently are these things occurring from congregation to congregation? What commonalities in ministry and missions can we find among churches in districts, and from district to district? What did the churches report this year, and how does it stack up against last year? Did they say the same thing—again? BTW . . . many of them do. Is what they report feasible? True? Logical? Smoke and mirrors?

But most important of all? When you filter through the data, what effective ministries can be discovered that other churches could deploy? What can we learn from each other to make the total body as effective as it can be? After all, the Great Commission overshadows us all.

If you are looking for a vision statement, you need not look any further than Matthew 28:19–20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

What do you know that will help others fulfill that purpose in more effective ways? Or what do I know that will help you.? This is the task of the VCC.

Making More of Our Ministries

Here is something I have learned through my years of ministry and validated by the VCC. There is manure in the minutiae

Here are some vital ministries I’ve read about:

• We have Sunday school.
• We have Wednesday night youth.
• We feed the hungry.
• If someone dies, we care for the family.
• We serve breakfast every first Sunday of the month.
• Our youth visits the nursing homes.
• Etc . . .
• Etc . . .

I’m not trying to be critical or harsh. These are all worthwhile endeavors. But what passes for vital ministries in a lot of churches are small details centered on inward retreat or self-maintenance. You know . . . minutiae.

Now someone might say, “To be fair, for many smaller churches, the small things are about all they can do!” But I’d say that is the manure in the minutiae. Any church hobbling along on its last leg, or a large church plowing through controversy after controversy, can change its course at any time. The people in the church simply must want to.

I’ve seen it happen. I have been part of transitioning churches where, once upon a time, only two people showed up for worship … and then lo and behold, with a little excitement and some elbow grease, their missional portfolio began reshaping the world around and within that church!

Let Me Tell You About My Church!

Proud moments during my pastoral career have been borne on the words: “Let me tell you about my church!” So: what do you say? Let me tell you about my church!

If you walk inside of my church right now you will smell paint fumes. You may see a few empty paint brushes. You will see a few classrooms in disarray because they are being redecorated.

You will see that we have a multipurpose fellowship hall. On one end is a receptionist area. In the middle, you will see tables joined together where people sit and have Sunday School. On the other end, you will see a big leather couch and some bean bags where our kids hang out. All the rooms in the church are set up like classrooms.

There are corked bulletin boards that hang in the hallways, adorned with bright colors and epitaphs that scream: LEARNING IS FUN! Or—BACK TO SCHOOL! There’s a fully functional, yet somewhat dated, kitchen area as well. There are chipped and marked tiles that cover the floor and miles of Formica tabletops and counter tops.

The first thing I want you to know about my church is that it is a new church, growing from the seeds of an older church. We are called New Albany United Methodist Church. We are a merged and blended congregation. We have merged with the historical Glenfield church and blended with LaMission, a vibrant ministry that serves the Latino community throughout our area. There is lots of energy in the air. Lots of anticipation about what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst. From the ashes of disaffiliation, God has raised up something new and different. That’s my church.

Let me also tell you this about my church. Drop by at any time of day through the week, and it’s a safe bet that there will be lots of people there. There’s me, the Senior Pastor, there’s Sister Marta, our LaMission pastor, there’s Mrs. Mary, our secretary . . . There’s lots of parents and children in and out all day long.

During the school months, we have a vibrant tutoring program, children out front playing soccer, the sound of feet running down the hall, the sound of laughter, and the enticing aroma of authentic Spanish cooking. There is a planning calendar loaded with things: taking Jesus to the streets, back to school store, Christmas in July at the local nursing home, and so much more.

New Times, New Churches, New Hope

Here is something very special I want to tell you about my church. If you look out across the crowd on Sunday morning you will see people who are anticipating the Holy Spirit to do something big. They are not there to just attend church.

They have figured out something that everyone else ought to be figuring out. In the pre-disaffiliation world, it was church-as-usual, but in the post-disaffiliation world, all bets are off. You see, we finally figured out what church isn’t supposed to be: divisive, vicious, phobic, and ignorant.

When some people talk about their church they say: all are welcome! …but it begs the question if they really mean it or not. Test the waters if you don’t believe me. Walk into some churches at the segregated hour of 11:00 Sunday morning, and everyone looks like a clone of everyone else, listening to the same old, tired out sermon that we’ve all heard before.

Not in our church! We aren’t just going to say all are welcome. There is too much manure in that minutiae. For us, it is more of a case that we want you because you are different. We celebrate our un-same-ness! That’s what makes us unique.

The “all” in “all are welcome” means we don’t care what you look like, what your politics are, how you are dressed, the color of your skin, the way you speak, or your gender. I’ll even be as bold as to say we don’t even care what you believe. GOD believes in YOU . . . and that’s good enough for us.

Let me tell you about my church. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t the gold standard of churches. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of learning in front of us, but we’ve all been part of church as normal. Disaffiliation has taught us what not to do. This time around? We are very intentional to get it right. In our church, we won’t settle for anything less.