Living Stones

Yesterday I heard something that disturbed me - in fact it made me see red. I discovered that one of our members has made some racist comments. In the past two years Mt. Bethel has become more diverse in its membership and we even recieved a 7-member African-American family into the congregation just a few weeks ago. Somehow, one of my members still thinks it's 1964. I didn't hear the comment directly and I'm partly glad about that. If I had been present, the situation wouldn't have been pretty.

This morning, I'm preaching from 1 Peter 2: 2-10. This is the text usually reserved for arguments about predestination, but I'm focusing more on other parts of the text today. Peter speaks of Christ being the living stone, rejected by the builders, but held precious by God and used as the capstone or cornerstone. Peter also suggests that we are living stones like Christ, constructed into a spiritual house.

Across history, stones have been assembled for different purposes. Some structures have been more permanent than others and each has had it's own purpose. I was captured this week by stories of structures that were designed for one purpose and eventually came to serve another - for instance, there are old Soviet bunkers and barracks in Eastern Europe that were once used to persecute Christians that are now being used for church houses.

I'm tired of hearing bigoted comments. This year's election of a new president has brought out more of those remarks than I believe I've heard in my previous 28 years of living. I've heard people that profess faith in Christ make some of the most damaging, hurtful comments in these last months and I've about had enough. Are we the church, or just another bunker? Are we the wall that keeps people out or are we the doorway to Christ?

Outside of praying and doing my best to preach and teach hope, peace, love, and harmony, I'm trying to figure out what to do about confonting certain narrowsightedness. If one of these living stones becomes a detriment, how long do you try to reshape it before you simply remove it? When that point comes, how do you remove it?


We Are Blind, but Soon We'll See

I'm working on a project and I have to tell you just how excited I am. This year I've spent considerable time working with Mt. Bethel's new Church Council Chairman. We've been talking about next steps for the church and how we can reorganize within to meet our current needs while also regearing for the ever expanding community around us. All of this is a particular challenge for our church - pastor after pastor and leadership team after leadership team has sought to make necessary changes and, unfortunately more often than not, the changes were fleeting. In the end, the congregation preferred the comfort of the way things were and new ideas, however well intentioned, were abandoned.

I guess you could say it's my turn. Bill, who is the greatest Council Chair in the history of Methodism, and I are assembling a core leadership team that will lead the entire congregation in visioning, refine that vision, and help the congregation to master that vision. I've been praying over the names for this team and I've begun thinking of them as my visioning ninjas. They're going to be our blackbelts who master the vision first and then help the congregation master it for themselves.

I'm really excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. It's my belief that for years Mt. Bethel, like so many other churches, has been wandering in the wilderness without any solid gameplan other than doing what our predecessors did. If we can generate a collective vision that is memorable and can be used in every instance of planning and evaluation in the church, we will begin to see the road God has laid out for us, stop wandering in the woods, and truly become the transformational agent to the world that Christ has ordained us to be.

Sunday, June 14th is our next Church Council meeting - there we will announce our plans for a two-day, church-wide "retreat" to develop our core values and our vision that we'll hold in August. Be in prayer for us, for me, for Bill, for the visioning ninjas. We need some of that amazing grace that helps even blind churches to see.

Has your church done something specific to determine vision that has actually worked? I'm not talking about a committee of rich, crusty people that put something on paper that really has no meaning to the congregation. What has your church done that has been more than a statement, but truly a sense of vision - of seeing what God has in store for you and gives the church a hunger to get it? Talk amongst yourselves and leave comments!
For more on my pastoral vision for Mt. Bethel read these posts (here), (here), (here), (here), (here), and (here).