From the Pastor

From the Pastor

Then Peter began to speak to them: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35)

I have used this text for sermons at interfaith services. Sometimes, even among different Christian denominations, people will make some pretense to being especially favored by God.

According to Luke, the words belong to Peter. Peter was a devout Jew called by Jesus to discipleship. Peter was committed to the Law of Moses. He kept dietary, Sabbath and other laws. That meant he could not eat certain foods so he could not dine with gentiles. For Peter, gentile meant anyone outside his group. Through a God-given vision, Peter was convinced that God does not favor any group over another. He understood that reverence for God and a desire to God’s will renders anyone acceptable to God. Tribe, nation, language, skin color, even religion are not relevant. God shows no partiality. God doesn’t play favorites. That’s Biblical.

God doesn’t play favorites with anyone. So it is nonsense for humans to claim superiority over each another. There is really only one race: human. Every person bears some resemblance to the divine. Every person also falls short of divine perfection. But each is acceptable by the grace of God. The notion of supremacy is a human construct, evidence of our imperfection. If God is completely impartial how can anyone claim higher status than another?

To claim supremacy, racially or otherwise is, Biblically speaking, sin. Claims of white supremacy are wrong. Knowing that doesn’t mean God is partial to me only. Knowing that someone is really wrong doesn’t mean I can dehumanize or abuse them, no matter how angry or offended I might be. Christians are called to seek justice. Christians are called to confront evil. Christians are not permitted to repay evil with evil. Conversion only comes when we overcome evil with good. Racism is evil. God’s justice demands that it be confronted and resisted. But Christians do not repay evil with evil. There is evil in our society. But there is more good in God. God’s people witness to that goodness. Sometimes that will mean peacefully enduring suffering for the sake of truth.

From the Pastor

The Vital Church Initiative is not a magic bullet. But it (and things like it) are being undertaken in churches all over the country. There was a post WW II church building boom in this country. Now church attendance numbers are at all-time lows. Many congregations are simply aging out. The children of older members don’t attend church at the rates their parents and grand-parents did. Older people don’t attend as much as they used to. Because decline in churches is slow, it often goes unnoticed. If nothing is done to engage new generations, more and more churches will close over the coming decades.

I haven’t heard any dramatic success stories from VCI. In many churches it has slowed or stopped declining membership and attendance. But VCI hasn’t caused many congregations to experience rapid growth. The one proven method of growing congregations is simply to start new ones. But new churches tend to settle into habits and traditions around the 25 to 30 year mark. Then most begin a slow path of decline. 

The waning influence of the Christian Church in America has made this even more pronounced. Some churches are growing dramatically. Those churches tend to be newer. They are not afraid to innovate. Churches that have been in existence longer resist innovation. But staying the same isn’t really an option for churches in this country any more.   The majority of congregations over the age of forty face two choices: innovate and develop a plan for the future or accept a slow and steady decline. Slow and steady decline usually happens over decades in churches.

David A. Roozen of the Harford Institute for Religious Research published a study entitled “American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving”. According to the study, churches that thrive today are the ones that are willing to innovate. In the study, “innovation” is just the willingness to try new things. According to Roozen, churches that try new things fare better than churches that don’t. While the Vital Church Initiative is not a magic bullet it does afford congregations an opportunity to consider where they want to be in ten or twenty years. Obviously some of us won’t be here in ten or twenty years. But that is not the point. The larger question is where will our church to be in ten or twenty years?

From the Pastor

"Intentional" Means Having a Plan

Bishop Robert Schnase notes that “The inner world is a source of power and strength but it needs to be cultivated.” (The Five Practices of Fruitful Living, p. 84) Caring for our spirits equips us to handle life’s difficulties. It also helps us serve God and our neighbors. Having a plan for faith development insures that one never stops growing in faith.

Faith doesn’t grow only by attending services, listening to sermons, reciting prayers and singing songs. These are essential to the corporate life of the church but faith development needs to be practiced with depth and consistency outside of worship. Busy schedules make this a challenge. Disciples have to make time to grow spiritually. Disciples also benefit from the intimacy, accountability and support of friends. Intentional faith development is practiced with depth and consistency with the help of others.

In Galatians 5.22-23 we are told that the fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Growth in faith increases the fruits of the spirit in us over time. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, taught that Christians could become more Christ-like over time if they availed themselves of the power of the Holy Spirit and lived intentionally as Christians. While it is unlikely that we will ever become altogether Christ-like, having a plan for faith development will help us become more like Christ over time.

Our church recently formed a task force for intentional faith development. Please pray for that task force. They are working to develop a plan for the entire congregation. In the coming weeks and months consider and pray about your own spiritual growth. Do you have a plan for spiritual growth or does it happen in fits and starts? Can you make time to devote to nurturing your own spirit or the spirits of other people? Please consider how and why intentional faith development can become a high priority in our church and in your lives. I hope you will commit to undertake a plan intentional faith development.

From the Pastor

From Pastor Bill ~
VCI task forces have authority to implement

Our congregation read Bob Farr’s book, Ten Prescriptions for a Healthy Church, prior to the most recent pastoral change. I am not sure if Rev. Jennie Browne covered the chapter on Intentional Faith Development in her sermon series on that book. At the risk of being redundant, I would like to remind us of the importance of Intentional Faith Development for every congregation. The mission of any church will rise and fall with the strength of faith and Christian character of the congregation.

In Cultivating Fruitfulness, Bishop Robert Schnase tells us that intentional faith development refers to all other ministries and practices outside of weekly worship that help us to grow in faith. Sunday school classes, Bible studies, small groups, prayer time, and other spiritual practices help us to deepen our faith. Intentional refers to deliberate effort, purposeful action, and high priority. Those who practice intentional faith development should be able to look back over their lives of discipleship and see some kind of progress, some evidence of growth (Cultivating Fruitfulness, p. 43). Christians who fail to grow in faith often find themselves going through the motions, creatures of habit driven by the church calendar or tradition with little appreciation for mission and vision.

Lacking a plan for intentional faith development, many churches experience declining participation, leadership, and financial support. Disciples who don’t mature in faith have a hard time sharing their faith. Believing in God isn’t a guarantee that one will grow in faith. According to Bob Farr, “All this has resulted in a church full of consumers. When you have an outward form of faith but lack the inner substance of faith, you become easily upset when the leadership of the church begins to change the outward forms of that faith” (Ten Prescriptions for a Healthy Church, p. 58). If we fail to continually grow in faith, we may become attached to the outward forms of religion. We may become attached to preference and tradition. Lack of growth often equates to lack of vision.

Every church should offer a plan for intentional faith development. We currently have a task force developing one for ours. We each have to work at deepening our faith. This is something we do together. Depth of faith and commitment to discipleship are essential for churches that earnestly desire to follow Jesus and serve others. Growing disciples understand that we follow Jesus and participate in church not only for our own sake but also for the sake of those God calls us to reach and serve.

Rev. William C. Bills

From the Pastor

“Daring each other to love God and our neighbor.” That’s a pretty provocative statement, isn’t it?

After the 2-year education, exploration, and research effort known as the Vital Church Initiative and three visioning workshops open to the entire congregation, a small team of talented vision writers (members of our own UUMC family) crafted this new statement to capture the hopes and dreams for UUMC’s future. They needed just nine words to express all that we hope to be as a Christian community.

But what does it mean to dare each other to love God and neighbor? What does it really mean?

As Pastor Bill discussed in his Easter message, Jesus certainly dared to cross many religious and social boundaries. He dared to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed. Jesus challenged everyone, including the religious, the wealthy, and the powerful, to live differently. Jesus’ life epitomized love for God and neighbor.

Are our lives defined and shaped by love for God and neighbor? What would be different if they were?

Join us this Sunday at worship for a conversation about how we can “dare each other to love God and our neighbor.”

Pastor Leslee Fritz

From the Pastor

As part of our Vital Church Initiative a task force was convened to write a new vision statement for our church. The task force participated in three visioning workshops with our coach, Naomi Garcia, and the congregation. The workshops were open to everyone. At the conclusion of the third workshop a number of possible vision statements were suggested. The vision writing team considered all of those as well as some of their own. Ultimately they came up with this vision statement for our church: “Daring each other to love God and our neighbor.”

According to Webster’s some possible definitions for “dare” are: To have enough courage or confidence to do something; not to be afraid to do something; to do something that people are often afraid to do; to tell someone to do something, especially as a way of showing courage. The word “dare” is derived from the same Greek root as the word for courage. An alternate use of “dare” offered by Webster’s is a challenge to prove one’s courage. Some people were perplexed by the word “dare.” Alternatives such as “challenge” or “encourage” have been offered. I am inclined to think, though, that daring each other to love God and our neighbor calls for us to live out of a place of imaginative boldness.

In Hear Now the Parable, Dr. Bernard Brandon Scott, commenting on the story of the Good Samaritan says, “All cultures, modern and ancient, draw boundaries between themselves and others, whether it is a matter of defending their turf or building iron curtains. Greeks called everyone who did not speak Greek a barbarian, and Jews divided the world between themselves and the Gentiles. The temptation to draw the line, to dare someone to step across it, seems to be a universal human phenomenon.” (Scott, 1989, p. 189)

Jesus dared to dine with tax collectors, prostitutes and other “sinners.” Jesus dared to quote the Law of Moses and then take it to another level on his own authority. Jesus dared to heal on the Sabbath. He dared to place people before law and doctrine. Jesus dared to call experts in religion hypocrites. He dared to offer healing and acceptance to the outcast and unclean. Jesus dared people to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. He dared people to turn the other cheek rather than retaliate.

Jesus dared to cross many religious and social boundaries. We sometimes fail to notice how many boundaries he obliterated. If Jesus were only preaching good news to the poor, telling people to pay taxes and encouraging sinners to be good, nobody would have ever crucified him. In the Roman Empire, and sometimes still today, people are threatened when they dare to cross boundaries. Daring to really love God and our neighbor is not for the faint of heart.

From the Pastor

Evangelism is sometimes a struggle for mainline Christians. Evangelism may invoke images of street corner preachers shouting judgment, condemnation and the fast approaching end. The word may bring to mind unwanted visitors in white shirts, black ties and backpacks filled with tracts bicycling up our drive. Evangelism may conjure up images of bejeweled, silver-haired TV preachers promising blessings for donations. The “E word” has gathered a lot of baggage lately.

On page 93 of the A Disciples Path workbook James Harnish writes, “As United Methodists, we share the gospel without cramming it down people’s throats, hitting people over the heads with contrived clichés, or shouting condemnation from the street corners. We share the gospel in the spirit of love and grace… there are many ways in which we bear witness to our faith…”

Religious faith is personal. Ours is personal to us and the faith of another is personal to them. Sometimes it is hard to put into words what our faith means to us. Sharing our deepest beliefs and commitments can be misunderstood as an attempt to convert someone. Sharing faith might also be misunderstood as attempting to invalidate the beliefs of someone else. Sharing our faith should always be done with sensitivity and respect toward others. It is best done after we have established a meaningful relationship with someone. Hit and run faith sharing with strangers is rarely effective.

When we formally become a part of a United Methodist congregation we pledge to support our church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Our witness, though, is not very effective if we are only sharing our faith with one another. We don’t want to cram anything down anyone’s throats. Nor do we condemn other or shout contrived clichés. We can, though, when the time is right, share our personal stories, and the role that our faith plays in our stories, with other people. Simply sharing our own personal stories honestly and authentically is the best witness we can offer. Our faith story may be a means of grace for someone we know who needs to hear a word of good news.

From the Pastor

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2.14-17)

I sometimes say that one can believe all manner of wonderful things without ever leaving their pew. Those wonderful beliefs may never amount to much without action. Prayer does help. Sometimes that is all we can do. But most of the time there is more we can do. Because we believe, we act. We act to make the world a better place. We act to make our communities better places. We act to make our church a better church. We act to make the lives of other people a little bit less hard. Our actions make the world look a little more like heaven. Faith by itself is dead. Faith without action rarely means anything to anyone beyond the believer.

Members of United Methodist congregations pledge to support one another with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. While all five of these are important, service is the visible sign of what we say we believe. Service is our faith in action. We pledge to support our church with our time, talents and spiritual gifts so that our church is effective in carrying out ministry. We do this for one another, for other people and as our faith response to God. We promise not just to believe, but to act. Faith on its own is rarely enough when it comes to doing God’s will.

Prescription four of our Vital Church Initiative report calls for us to conduct an all-church study on our five membership vows. It further directs the formation of a task force on faith development. Faith development requires learning and practicing spiritual disciplines. It also requires service to others. We should never underestimate the importance of Christian service as it relates to our faith. Christian service is faith in action. According to James, faith without action is really no faith at all.

Five Ways to Support One Another

From Pastor Bill Bills

Upon joining a United Methodist congregation, members vow to support the congregation with prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Each time someone joins the church current members renew their commitment to those same vows. A few times each year we have occasion to renew our commitment to support one another with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.

We may think of our gifts in a few ways. A gift may be any skill or talent we have that we can share with the congregation. This could be anything from plumbing and electrical skills to accounting or musical talents. Such gifts are valuable to our congregation. Time is a valuable commodity. Many of us wish we had more discretionary time. Our time can be a great gift. 

Another obvious and important gift is money. Every church needs money for basics such as facility maintenance, salaries and benefits, missions and programs. Financial gifts are needed for the annual operating budget, the endowment, the building fund and other special needs.

For the past week I have been listening to the spring fund drive on Michigan Radio. Thinking about our membership vows causes me to listen to the spring fund drive differently. One announcer said that only six percent of the audience actually pledges. Ninety-four percent use the service without supporting it. During the pledge drive they highlight the services they provide. They also set an hourly goal for how many pledges they need that hour. They also say that donors should decide for themselves how much to give. Then they mention that most people give ten or twenty dollars per month. They are pretty specific about their programs and their needs. They share a lot of information. They aren’t shy about asking for pledges.

Church members vow to support our congregation with their gifts. This includes time, talents and financial resources. University UM Church usually does a fall campaign, but not a spring and a fall campaign. UUMC's fall campaign is pretty low-key, especially compared to other non-profits like Michigan Radio. Our church doesn’t suggest dollar amounts and we don’t set pledge goals. We do hope people give thought and prayer to their vow to support one another with their gifts. Our time, our talents and our financial resources are all necessary for effective ministry.

 

From the Pastor

I spent four years between high school and college in the Navy. I then served four more years as a reservist during college. After college, I enrolled in seminary and applied for a reserve officer’s commission. I was given a pair of shiny ensign bars for my collar and sent to the Navy Chaplain Basic Course through a program for seminarians.

Service members and families have the right to free exercise of religion. Chaplains help make that possible. But congress never appropriates a lot of money for chaplains. Navy chaplains also serve the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. That is a huge congregation for relatively few clergy. I rarely saw a chaplain at sea. They typically flew to the ship on the “holy helo”, held a service, gave the benediction and then flew away. Their appearances were rare in port.

My chaplain school instructors stressed ministry of presence. They taught us to go where the sailors and marines were. There weren’t enough chaplains so we were told to get out of the office, get out of the chapel, and be present with sailors and marines. It meant something to just show up and be present where they lived and worked.  Showing up demonstrated that we were there for them.

In our church, members vow to support each other with prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Each time someone joins the congregation, we renew our vow to be there for each other. Worship is the primary regular gathering for Christians. Now though, 22 Sundays per year counts as “regular attendance”. Worship is a ministry of presence. We are present with one another and with God in worship. Today we can listen to a broadcast or a podcast or watch a live stream service on our phone. We can practice religion without being physically present. But Christian community is a ministry of presence. We make a covenant to “be there” for each other. Our personal ministry of presence demonstrates that we are here for each other, especially in times of need. Being present is our gift to one another.

From the Pastor

I was at a men’s prayer breakfast with some Christians. The guy sitting next to me related an incident from the previous day. He came out of a store to find a small dent in his driver’s side door. A spot of paint on his car seemed to match the car next to his. He was angry so he used his steel toed boot to kick a dent into the door of the car next to his. He said that made him feel better.

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we react first and then think later. This is normal, even for Christians. When we do, most of us realize our mistakes and apologize. Christian character means that we experience regret, learn something about ourselves and apologize for our mistakes. Acknowledging mistakes and accepting responsibility for oneself is virtuous.

Some people call themselves Christian but when we observe their behavior over time we may wonder at their definition of Christian. It is hard to know what another person really thinks or believes. It is good to give people the benefit of the doubt, up to a point. But a consistent pattern of questionable behavior over time can lead to questions about a person’s character. What is true for others is true for ourselves.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit… Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7.15-20) That sounds a little scary. But the point is, what we do matters. A person’s character isn’t revealed by what they say is true. The true nature of any person is known by observing their behavior over time.

From the Pastor

FROM THE PASTOR

Lent is the seven-week season of preparation prior to Easter. It is a time for reflection and self-examination. It is a time for repentance. It is a time for returning to God, to what has been lost or forgotten. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; this year it begins March 1. (Editor's note: you are invited to come participate in our 45-minute 7:00 p.m. service.)

We begin the season by marking ourselves with ashes, in the sign of the cross, on our foreheads. This is an act of repentance. It is also a sign of mortality. Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and it is to the earth we will all return. At our graveside funeral service we recite the words, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust; blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” Lent reminds us of our mortality.

Typically during Lent people will give something up. This recalls the deprivation that Jesus experienced during forty days in the wilderness following his baptism. This can be a helpful reminder of what Jesus gave up for others. People give up many things for Lent. I am going to give up social media and cable news. I won’t watch cable news, news on the internet or social media. This may actually be easy as I am weary of these things. I am hoping that the break will renew my spirit. It will help me to remember that the principalities and powers of this world are not sovereign over my life. They exercise some power in my life but they are not God.

Some people will take something new on during Lent. Sometimes people undertake to a new spiritual discipline during these seven weeks. This might be additional time for prayer, extra devotional or Bible reading, or making time for Christian service. Consider taking on our all-church study, “A Disciples Path.” You may want to join a group at church. You may do the study on your own. It is one part informational, one part Biblical and one part spiritual. “A Disciples Path” is based on the five vows of membership undertaken when one unites with a United Methodist Congregation. These membership vows call one to support the congregation with prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Taking on this study can help remind us what it means to be in Christian community.

For Lent I will do both things. I will give up something that has been draining to my spirit; electronic media, especially cable news and social media. I will replace that with a study reminding me of what it means to be committed to other Christians. What might you give up, or take on, for seven weeks to renew your spirit and strengthen your commitment?

From the Pastor

Rev. William Bills
February 21, 2017

Breaking News.jpg

With the passage of time I have become less and less a fan of the media. I remember the advent of cable TV.  Back in the eighties, I thought that pay TV meant no more commercials. But television exists for advertisers. Public TV and public radio now sell time to advertisers. Ratings drive advertising. Anybody who uses the internet knows that information comes with a price. The first Iraq war demonstrated the profitability of CNN. Two men reported from Baghdad over the telephone while CNN ran the same footage non-stop over and over. The era of twenty-four hour breaking news was born.

Today everything is breaking news. Breaking news and anxiety go hand in hand. High levels of anxiety in society translate to advertising revenue for media outlets. No matter what the story, everybody has to take commercial breaks. Playing off our anxiety helps media outlets pay their bills. That doesn’t mean the media is bad. It just means media consumers have to be smart the same way any other consumer has to be smart. A free press is profitable when it keeps people engaged. High anxiety keeps people engaged. That doesn’t mean the media is the enemy. It does mean people have to use their heads. It takes work to discern truth.

I studied M. K. Gandhi in college. I watched documentaries and read about non-violent resistance. He wrote that Truth is god. (Not, God is truth.) His autobiography is entitled: “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.” For Gandhi, all of life was about discerning truth.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” Later, as he stood before Pilate, Jesus was asked by the man with the power, “What is truth?” It isn’t clear if Pilate didn’t know what was true or if he just didn’t care. Maybe he thought he had the power to create his own truth. When an individual claims to possess all truth, something is amiss. Real leaders don’t blame others for their problems. The media isn’t perfect as an institution. Within the media there are people working for the truth. That makes some free and some afraid.

 

From the Pastor

 “… I truly believe that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable…” These are the words of Peter, offered after he realized that his people were not the only people valued by God.

Peter had been reluctant to associate with people he called unclean. He had refused to associate with people whose religion and nationality were different. He called such people unclean. God called Peter to a new vision with the words, “Don’t call anything that I have created unclean.” Peter’s story of new understanding is related three times in Acts. The repetition is intentional. The author wants readers to understand: God shows no partiality. What we might find objectionable, God does not. Don’t call anyone created by God unclean.

People who say that people from other countries are unacceptable are being partial. God shows no partiality. People who claim that non-Christians are unacceptable are being partial. God shows no partiality. People who deport the mother of two US born children to make an example of her are being partial. God shows no partiality. People who have health care but deny it to others are being partial. God shows no partiality.  People who discriminate based on race are being partial. God shows no partiality.

Anyone who says, “America first” is being partial. God shows no partiality. Favoring one nation over others is partiality. Favoring one race over others is partiality. Favoring the wealthy over the poor is partiality.  “… I truly believe that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable…” Jesus said that the first shall be last. Those who have ears, let them hear.

From the Pastor

Our recent worship consultation with Cathy Townley gave me pause for thought about my call to ministry. I realize now how far afield I have gotten from that call. My home church was very engaged in justice issues. They were politically involved. New to Christianity thirty-five years ago, I assumed that was normal. That influenced my call to ministry.

When I arrived at seminary in 1985, my first assignment was to exegete Isaiah 1.10-17. “Exegesis” is research performed on text, history, culture and language to arrive at understanding which is then applied to one’s present context.

The message of Isaiah 1.10-17 is that God’s people were doing all manner of things in worship and thinking they were good. God, according to Isaiah, wasn’t happy about their worship, though. People were worshiping while neglecting to do good in society. So they received a stern rebuke from Isaiah for failing to “… seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Worship in the sanctuary was lost on God when people were not engaged in ministry with the marginalized. Worship in the sanctuary has to carry over to witness in the community. That was very clear to me in 1985. Since then I have gotten caught up in all kinds of other things, mostly of lesser importance.

Many churches are in decline and tweak mission and vision statements. Others add a screen, hire a band, or redecorate the sanctuary. I am sure that it is important to update things at least once or twice each century. Especially if we want to reach newer and younger people. On the other hand, the things that Isaiah said God wants never go out of style. It’s possible to revitalize and grow a church just by doing what God wants for the marginalized in society. I used to be pretty clear about that, but for some reason, I have spent years on worship styles, budgets and buildings, and not enough time on ministry at the margins of society. Being better engaged outside the sanctuary could have positive influence on what happens inside the sanctuary. Faithfulness outside the sanctuary might be more important to God than what we do inside the sanctuary.

 

From the Pastor

I understand most of our members and friends attend our church precisely because they like what happens here. These people support our church with time, talents, monetary and other gifts because they like what happens here. The longer we are a part of a congregation, the more affinity we develop for traditions, special events, worship services, music, programs and people. We wouldn’t keep coming back if we didn’t like what happens here. But when our priority becomes only what prefer we may lose contact with our mission field.

This is my fifth year working with the Vital Church Initiative (VCI). About two and a half years ago, I began asking people if they thought VCI was fun for me. People were coming with concerns and questions (even complaints!) about VCI and the prospect of change. It occurred to me that perhaps they thought I was enjoying causing them some discomfort. So I decided to start reminding people that change isn’t easy for those who lead, either. My goal in VCI isn’t to make anybody’s life difficult. My goal is to be faithful. My goal is to do the best thing for the church for the long-term. My goal is to be faithful to my call even if that makes some people uncomfortable. Sometimes being faithful means doing new things with new people in new ways. Being faithful requires saying yes when it would be more comfortable to say no.

I hope you will say yes to “Just Say, Yes!” “Just Say, Yes!” is a six-week study beginning the week of January 22. It covers the ways that churches may say no to their mission field by resisting new things, focusing on rules, policies, buildings, worship styles and tradition. “Just Say, Yes!” demonstrates that churches have other options. Churches can give people permission to try new things. Churches can encourage leaders to be bold in giving permission for new ministries and programs. “Just Say, Yes!” challenges faithful people to change their attitudes, behaviors and assumptions in order to better serve their mission field. Such changes are not easy. Nor are they fun. But they help congregations connect with their changing mission fields in new ways.

I hope you will say yes to “Just Say, Yes!” This study and discussion might open our congregation up to new possibilities. It might help us become more effective in reaching people around us. It might make us even more faithful in our ministry to our community. It could end up being more fun than you imagine.