Wtmcclendon

Author's details

Name: wtmcclendon
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. A Potter's View: “Ice Bucket Challenge and Charitable Giving” — August 21, 2014
  2. A Potter's View: Coca-Cola Christianity — August 14, 2014
  3. A Potter's View: The UMC and The Ice Cream Maker: Innovation & Excellence — August 7, 2014
  4. A Potter's View: To Judge or Not to Judge? — July 23, 2014
  5. A Potter's View: Summer Road/Boat Trips and Avoiding Snake Bites — July 17, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. A Potter's View: Church Conflict and United Methodist Zeitgeist — 1 comment
  2. A Potter's View: Trinity Sunday as United Methodist Hope — 1 comment
  3. A Potter's View: A Cord of Three Strands — 1 comment

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Aug 21 2014

A Potter's View: “Ice Bucket Challenge and Charitable Giving”

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/ice-bucket-challenge-and-charitable-giving/


The “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” combatting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis has been the craze on social media the past few days with people being doused all over the country. I have done my part and made a donation and so have many of you. The Challenge has worked so well that ALS research has received over $40 million dollars! Last year their total for the year was around $2 million. Wow! What if we did the same for every dread disease? As a matter of fact, I hope that’s exactly what we do. I also hope that we will remember that we must fund faith-based ministries, because without faith and hope, we’re completely sunk!

Most faith-based ministries and churches have a “Summer Slump” in terms of people’s giving habits. The ministries are year round operations and have just as many or more expenses in the summer. Most churches stay in full swing during the summer with Bible School, Youth activities, music programs, Sunday School and worship services, but a lot of people are “up and down” in their church attendance – Up in the mountains or down at the beach! Unfortunately their money goes with them and sometimes it doesn’t make it back to the church.

With the heat that we’ve been having, helping agencies and churches need our support now more than ever. I guess what I’m trying to say, as nicely as I can, is don’t forget to catch up on your giving when you return from vacation and settle back into end-of-summer routines. Every church and similar organization needs systematic givers so they can do ministry year-round without missing a beat.

I read about a woman who called up the Butterball Turkey Company’s consumer hot line and asked about the advisability of cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The customer service representative told her that it might be okay to eat it if the freezer had maintained a below-zero temperature the entire time. However, the flavor would have deteriorated so much that it wouldn’t be very tasty. Said the caller, “Oh, that’s what we thought. We’ll just donate it to the church.” The church has received more than her share of “old turkeys.”

No, we don’t need to give the Lord our leftovers. God has been good to us and calls us to be faithful stewards. I personally knew a man whose family discovered after his death that he had a life insurance policy just for the church. He wanted his church to have a legacy to do future ministry. The Great Recession hasn’t ended for most of us, but there are some of us who have been blessed enough to be able to share, in life and death.

As I ponder the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and all of our charitable giving it makes me assess just how we as Americans determine our self-worth. Do we count our value to society in what we have or what we give? Do we count it in salary or sharing our “widow’s mite?” Sure, I know that there are lots of ways that people give back and pay it forward, but do we come close to following what Paul said in I Corinthians 16:1-2? Paul wanted people to plan their giving and follow through on it so that he could stick to preaching and not money mongering: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his or her income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

There was a guy who thought more about his salary and fringe benefits than helping others: Reaching the end of a job interview, the human resources person asked a young engineer fresh out of MIT, ‘And what starting salary were you looking for?’ The engineer said, ‘In the neighborhood of $135,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.’ The interviewer said, ‘Well, what would you say to a package of five-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50 percent of salary, and a company car leased every two years — say, a red Corvette?’ The engineer sat straight up and said, ‘Wow! Are you kidding?’ And the interviewer replied, ‘Yeah, but you started it.’

All joking aside, will you be missed by the church or not? I have no clue what people give and never will! I do know, however, that we need to have our own “Ice Bucket Challenge” for churches and helping agencies! Who wants to go first?

 

 

 


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/ice-bucket-challenge-and-charitable-giving/

Aug 14 2014

A Potter's View: Coca-Cola Christianity

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/coca-cola-christianity/


I have gone over to the dark side! The vending machine at St. John’s has Pepsi and Coke products and my usual preference is Diet Pepsi. However, since Coca-Cola has come out with the customized cans with the names on the side it’s been a no-brainer for me to switch. I’ve been popping coin into the machine just to find out “who” I get. This morning, to my great chagrin, I got nothing, nada, zip – a plain old can. This cool marketing ploy worked. I immediately got more money out to get another can. The soda vending machine has become my very large “fortune cookie” of sorts, inviting me to buy with more than a bit of anticipation. What if the church did something innovative like this in the ways that we share Christ?

Of course, at first we would have the nay-sayers who repeat the mantra of every dying church, “We’ve never done it that way before.” We’ve got the muddling middling skeptics that are almost in favor of a new idea, but want to know how much it’s going to cost, whether the benefits outweigh the risks, and every other what-if imaginable. These folks can usually be brought along and buy into a new idea if you overwhelm them with positive data. First they have to trust the data and if you’ve ever heard a preacher name a statistic or percentage they probably made it up on the spot. Just saying! In other words, if you’re trying to convince the middlers, make sure to have the right info and the right spokesperson!

Praise the Lord for the risk-takers whose first response is, “Let’s give it a try!” Yes, indeed, I am grateful for the people who DO NOT take the lowest bid on everything and say – “You have to spend money to make money!” And that is exactly what Coke has done with their cans. Certainly, it costs more money to produce this plethora of named cans, but it’s worked, at least on me!

So, now that we know it works, in order to know if this is something applicable to the church, we have to ask, “Why does it work?” We don’t need to ask how much it costs, how they physically do it, or anything else for that matter if we know the “why.” If we can answer the “why” question we can determine our ability or inability to extrapolate the Coke can phenomena into something that I’ll call “Coca-Cola Christianity.”

So why does it work? Part of the answer is what I’ve already hinted at in the fortune cookie analogy. Fortune cookies are pretty innocuous things and almost tasteless, yet we compulsively have to crack them open to read what’s inside. Have we made our faith and our churches that irresistible? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had such a vibrancy, sense of expectancy, and excellence about us that people couldn’t stay away on Sunday mornings! Better yet, wouldn’t it be great if people found us personally so engaging and magnetic that they just HAD to ask us, “What is it about you?” We could and should answer, “Jesus!”

Other things about the Coke can thing that has made me switch brands have to do with the personalization. I have been to www.shareacoke.com and found out that I can do everything from get cans with my own name on them, the names of other people in my life, and much more. Wow, the site even allows me to share a “virtual” can with someone. I like the “What-About-Me” and “What’s-In-For-Me” aspect of the marketing. I know that our faith and church worship are supposed to be about worshipping God, but get real – if we don’t get something out of it, we’re not going to put anything into it. I don’t want to be so crass as to repeat that oft-said statement, “I want to be fed,” but isn’t there some truth in it, however self-centered it sounds?

Making personalization a part of our church mission statement might be a little overboard, but it sure works for the neighborhood bar “where everybody knows my name.” Therefore, we ought to wear our name tags, and preachers (especially new ones like me) should pray through pictorial directories and learn names and faces. I want to be able to call everyone by name whether it is in the communion line or the grocery store one. Man, if people call me by name I get the feeling that I matter. Churches that take Jesus to the streets need to call people by name and make everyone feel important. That’s the Gospel, isn’t it?

Didn’t Jesus say in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…?” The Gospel is personalized! God so loved you, and God so loved me. The Gospel isn’t stuck in past tense, either. God currently and forever loves you so much that he gave Jesus for you. That’s my hope with a Coke Can Christianity – to let people know individually and in inviting ways that our faith works miracles and can change attitudes, lives, even our world. Coca-Cola Christianity is sitting right in front of me as I type this. My Diet Coke can says, “Share a Diet Coke with your BFF,” and I know that my Best Friend Forever is Jesus! The whole world needs to hear the same message, and you and I are the Coke can to do it.

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/coca-cola-christianity/

Aug 07 2014

A Potter's View: The UMC and The Ice Cream Maker: Innovation & Excellence

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/the-umc-and-the-ice-cream-maker-innovation-excellence/


We’re working on a new website at St. John’s UMC, Aiken and getting feedback from a variety of people. What has stirred my thinking this morning is that most of these people are church members. This strikes me as a little odd because it confirms that our target audience is ourselves although we have been trying to ask “What if I were a new person to town…?” But, even the best intentions of trying to innovate our “branding” is a little iffy if we don’t ask the opinions of people without a “brand” – the “nones” who have no religious affiliation, the people who are struggling day-to-day to get by and have no clue that Jesus loves, forgives, heals, and reconciles.

I just finished reading a business genre book titled The Ice Cream Maker by Subir Chowdhury, a famous corporate consultant known for his expertise in helping companies achieve excellence. He suggests in his allegorical story of an ice cream manufacturer that quality is America’s missing ingredient for success.  He has great ideas to help us all reach higher degrees of national, corporate, and personal excellence. Summed up, they are: Listening, Enriching, and Optimizing. The book jacket says, “Chowdhury illustrates what businesses must do to instill quality into our culture and into products and services we design, build, and market.”

So as we design a website, a new ministry building, and sanctuary renovations, too – plus the fall kick-off of small groups, Bible Studies, outreach ministries and the like, we must ask as much or more about QUALITY as we do about INNOVATION. If we’re answering questions that the culture isn’t asking we’re wasting time, effort, and breath. If we believe in the mantra, “If we build it, they will come,” it probably isn’t going to happen! Innovative ministries are a must but we have to be excellent, too!

As United Methodists I have often thought that our most excellent theological hallmark is sanctification: that God doesn’t save us through Jesus to leave us the way that God found us, but to transform us for the transformation of the world. This doctrine of holiness and excellence has inspired the Methodist Movement to seek changes individually and in society so that everything might reflect the Kingdom of God. Like the author of The Ice Cream Maker, we are a denomination that promotes quality, yet I’m afraid that our primary excellence has diminished into taking care of those who already know Jesus and not the ones who don’t. I probably wouldn’t be a Christian if my parents and home church had not discipled me, but if I hadn’t listened and responded to a Billy Graham Crusade on TV when I was an early teenager I know that I would have have ended up as a casualty of misplaced priorities, a nominal Christian at best or not at all.

What are we going to do to be more excellent? I think we need to start by asking the right questions. Who are the customers we need to listen to? What are our strengths that need enriching? How can we optimize and build on our successes? These are tough questions. Many of our churches act as if their customers are the folks already caught in the fish bowl. As a matter of fact, it’s what I do! I want to spend more time reaching those outside our congregation’s walls, but if I had to put percentages on my ministry I would have to admit that I am about 85% focused on sheep tending and 15% on outreach. I believe John Wesley’s percentages would have been the opposite. Sure, he spent a lot of time building small groups and infrastructure, but those groups were comprised of people new to the faith. You clean fish after they’re caught, not before. Most of our programs are directed at people who have already been caught instead of catching fish!

We’re not alone in this either. Look around at America in general, not just religious institutions. Innovation has been part of our country’s DNA but do we insure the slogan “Made in America” means best quality? Think about GM and all of its recent recalls. As a big fan of the show “Shark Tank,” I enjoy seeing how entrepreneurial the average American is. We think up ideas and create new products left and right, but as quickly as we have a new idea some person or company overseas either pilfers the idea through computer hacking or simply makes a copy and produces a better quality product so that the only way the US can stay ahead is by creating something new and the whole scenario gets repeated. Our only advantage is innovation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we not only were tops in new ideas but also in excellence?

Do you remember when cars made in Korea were almost a joke, and now Hyundai and Kia are both top of the line? Some are old enough to remember that a “Made in Japan” label on something meant it was inferior, yet most of us demand Japanese products today because of their exceptional quality. I wonder which countries that are lagging today will be tomorrow’s premier manufacturers. Doesn’t this sound familiar as we think about the mainline church and the UMC?

Mainline Protestantism cornered the market for 150 years in the US and has been losing “market share” to non-denominational churches and others for quite a while. They have copied Wesley’s small groups and discipling methods (Methodism), and can articulate our theology better than we can ourselves, but they do it all better than we do. They combine innovation and excellence, and I am convicted by it because this was our forte. That is who Methodists are by theology and definition, or at least who we used to be! I personally repent for my lopsided focus, and pledge to start asking and answering questions that are pertinent to everyone. We must offer Christ to the world in the most creative and excellent ways, or die a dead sect.

The Ice Cream Maker

 


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/the-umc-and-the-ice-cream-maker-innovation-excellence/

Jul 23 2014

A Potter's View: To Judge or Not to Judge?

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/to-judge-or-not-to-judge/


Weeds are a pain! It’s hard to distinguish them from good plants sometimes, and by the time you can tell the difference it’s too late to do much about them. I guess you can just use an herbicide to kill everything, but that throws out the good with the bad. Somebody said that the way to tell a weed from a valuable plant was to just pull on the plant and if it’s hard to pull up, it’s a weed. If it comes up easily it’s probably a good plant. From my experience, that’s pretty accurate!

Someone else said, “To distinguish flowers from weeds, simply pull up everything. What grows back is weeds.” Jesus had a different take in Matthew 13:24-30. He said that we should be hesitant to do any pulling up of weeds until the harvest when the Divine Harvester knows what’s what. He doesn’t say there won’t be a Judgment or that there aren’t any standards. I think what Jesus is suggesting is for us to be very careful in our assessments on this side of eternity.

Therefore, pulling up everything is usually counterproductive. So how do we distinguish the good from the bad? Haven’t you found yourself wondering sometimes what or who the “weeds” are? We have to ask questions daily that are judgment calls: “Is this opportunity legit?” “Should I vote this way or that way?” “Is this guy/gal the real deal?” Sometimes the answers are iffy, either pro or con, and we hedge our bets and try to abstain. Most often I try to stack up the plusses and minuses and go with my mental winner leaving a lot of room for intuition and God’s gentle nudges.

I know Jesus said to let the weeds and good plants grow together until the harvest and let God do the judging. But aren’t you challenged just a little, if not a lot, to try to go ahead and distinguish between the well intentioned dragons and the good guys, God’s best plans and the train wrecks? Doesn’t judging have as its goal the best interest of God and humanity? So, no matter what, aren’t we supposed to be careful fruit inspectors and discern a tree, a person, or an idea’s legitimacy? Jesus did say that we would know a person’s character by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).

Gosh, that last thought sounds a lot like unchristian judging to me, but aren’t we supposed to discern right from wrong? Paul was pretty plain about it in I Corinthians 5:9-13. He was addressing a situation in the Corinthian church where a step-son married his step-mom and Paul asked the church to show him the door: “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy, and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. Now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a person do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’”

However, before we start expelling all the sinners from the church we must leave room for grace and forgiveness. Paul, writing about the same guy and situation, says in his next letter (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) that the man learned his lesson and says that the church should welcome him back, “I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” Both of these texts are helpful in how to be church! We do have standards and should not turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of fellow Believers, and, if we do our judging with an eye to reconciliation and wholeness, the offending party will find renewal with God and in the fellowship. It’s like parental love. You have to have rules, time-outs, and consequences or you’re raising a barbarian!

To take this a step further, I’m reminded of Revelation 2:1-7 about the church in Ephesus. They are accused of forsaking their “first love.” I have often thought that it meant their love of God, but if you go back and look at what’s written about the church at Ephesus in Acts or Paul’s letter to the Ephesians you might agree that their first love is about their care for each other.

A big clue as to the identity of this lost first love is found in Revelation 2:6 where it says about the Ephesians: “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Note that God didn’t say, “… the Nicolaitans, who I also hate.” We don’t know who the Nicolaitans were but we know that the Ephesians weren’t commended for hating the actual people, just their practices. My problem sometimes and perhaps yours is in hating not just somebody’s actions but the very person, too.

I guess all this is to say that we need to be very careful to separate how we critique things, so that in our judging we never cross the boundary between who someone is and what they do. If we get this right we might just be able to sustain civility and community even when we passionately disagree. The Bible isn’t against judging as much as we think. We must be careful, however, to do it with what’s best for the person and community in mind. That’s a major thrust of holiness anyway.

We have made holiness an anachronistic tired mean pharisaical word when actually it is the promotion of God’s own character in each other, plus it endorses lifestyles and actions that make our lives better. Holiness is not about who’s in and who’s out of our community as much as it is about how God wants us to best live and thrive. It’s like my grandmother who often corrected me by saying about the punishment: “This is GOOD for you.” I hate to admit it, but she was right! Indeed, judging is supposed to help our fellow strugglers know what’s best for them and how they can more clearly reflect God’s image and character.

Therefore, judge we must if we care about people and want them to have the best lives imaginable. The end game is to glorify God and love people. If we don’t stand for something we will most surely fall for anything. So what is right and wrong? I think for the most part we already know the answer to that question about any given topic, but we are either too guilty ourselves or too afraid to have the chutzpah to back it up. We aren’t brave enough to actually try to help somebody by pointing out their shortcomings, and we aren’t that interested in hearing it about ourselves. Well, whoever said being a Christian was for the faint of heart? We have work to do in our garden! Do we want weeds or fruit?

Weeding

 

 


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/to-judge-or-not-to-judge/

Jul 17 2014

A Potter's View: Summer Road/Boat Trips and Avoiding Snake Bites

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/summer-roadboat-trips-and-avoiding-snake-bites/


My mother was an adventurer and my father liked safety. Today is going to be an adventure. My brother, Ralph, his grandsons and I, plus a couple of others, are going to canoe down the Little Saluda River and beware any snakes that might drop off a tree limb into the boat. Why are we doing this: adventure! There is something about taking risks and reaping rewards.

As I said, Mother was adventuresome. She went camping with us. We had impromptu road trips. She led us on odysseys beyond the beaten path. I miss her, but today my brother and I are going to get to remember her and use her as a compass. I wish we did that more often. Our lives would be richer for it, and immeasurably more fun!

Mother was someone who loved well and we were the primary recipients. She proved her great capacity for love time and time again from legally adopting a mentally handicapped man whose family had deserted him to being more than patient with my Dad and the rest of our crew. One of my biggest tests of her love came from an adventure that occurred about this same time of year nearly 45 years ago. At the mere age of 13 a friend of mine and I decided to take our own little road trip.

I didn’t have a driver’s license but Mother had been teaching me how to drive by letting me drive with her at my side on dirt roads near our house. So I guess I could say my running away was all her fault, but I know the limits of rationalization. It was my fault! You know it, and I know it!

Mother was at work and Daddy was busy, too, so “Red” Rainsford and I decided to take off. We went outside and got into the 1967 Chevrolet that I had been given as a hand-me-down to fix up and with no license between us we decided to travel the eighteen miles from Edgefield to Saluda, SC.

Thinking that wasn’t adventure enough, we decided to go a little further and ended up in Newberry, SC. There we made a fateful turn. As I recall, when we passed over Interstate 26 we sort of looked at each other time and said at the same, “Let’s find out where the interstate ends!” We got on the interstate and off we went!

In about an hour we were near Spartanburg, SC and I was starting to feel a twinge of guilt. I tried to call home and let Mother know what I was doing. No one answered. In a last ditch effort to assuage my guilt I called my Aunt Florence and asked her to tell Mother that “Red” and I were fine and would be back in a couple of days. “We’re going camping,” I said. I hung up too quickly to get any sage advice.

We kept traveling up the interstate and it got dark. By this time we were somewhere between a plan to keep driving or take a slight detour and spend the night at Chimney Rock State Park above Lake Lure, NC. Our minds were actually made up by the interstate itself. You may not remember the days when I-26 ended just below “Saluda Grade” between Tryon and Rutherfordton, NC, but it did. Our hopes for finding the end of the interstate were set back, but I had fond memories of a camping trip with the same said brother that I’m heading off with today. We had stayed at a roadside campground near Chimney Rock for a week when I was around 8. I even hoped I might be able to recognize the same campground.

We barreled through Rutherfordton, no license at all and not much sense to obey the speed limit. Thankfully we weren’t pulled over. We made it to Chimney Rock on Highway 64 with its dizzying curves. Despite the dark of night I indeed recognized the campground and though no one was awake to charge us any money or run us off, we pulled in and parked the car.

In my false bravado I told “Red” that he could sleep on the back seat of the car while I took the ground outside. It got cold! The mountain air was so chilly even in the dead of summer that I actually started the car so the exhaust would warm up the ground and the muffler. Avoiding the carbon monoxide fumes and turning off the car I drifted off into a fitful sleep wedged under the car as closely as I could. Pretty soon I was completely awake and I am sure that you know what woke me: my conscience!

I kept thinking about my poor mother. She would be worried sick and I could hear Daddy’s ire about her teaching me how to drive and telling her that I shouldn’t have had her old car in the first place. I went through all the conversations including calls to the Highway Patrol in my mind.

We were there maybe two hours when I woke “Red” and said, “We’re going home.” “Red” hardly openly his eyes as I gunned our way down the road retracing our trip. We did end up outside Modoc near Edgefield at Lick Fork Lake where we spent a few hours of sleep. Later in the morning I sheepishly took “Red” home and headed to my house.

With her intuition Mother knew we did more than do underage driving to Lick Fork, but instead of reaming me out – she hugged me tighter than I could remember. She hadn’t told Daddy anything except that I was spending the night somewhere. In her grace I learned a lot about unconditional love and also not to do anything like it again. Her hug and tears made that very clear.

When she finally told Daddy years later what I had done, he still got upset! That made me even more grateful for Mother’s grace years before. She proved over and over again the truth of I Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I hope that works today in a canoe on the Little Saluda, between Israel and Hamas, border patrols and children, and any other situation that calls for more grace than guilt. Indeed, love covers over a multitude of sins! May it ever!

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/summer-roadboat-trips-and-avoiding-snake-bites/

Jul 10 2014

A Potter's View: New Clergy as Detectives

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/new-clergy-as-detectives/


Well, one to two weeks are under the belts of newbie clergy who just moved to new parishes and, if they are like me, they’re pondering potential changes. Of course, someone wisely suggested to new clergy that, “You shouldn’t change anything for the first six months except your underwear!” Some may be wondering if they can wait that long. You’re probably wondering if you don’t make some strategic changes now, your “Honeymoon Advantage” may run out and be for naught. What are we to do as we make these first critical and highly analyzed/criticized decisions?

For me I have to first remember that every church is its own unique organism, family system, and culture. Therefore, what works in one place may or may not work in another. I also know that I need to find people that I can trust to tell me the unvarnished emotional history of the church. The factual history is easy enough to find in available documents, but find someone who can give you the “skinny” on the emotional processes that have occurred at nodal points in the church’s life.

How does the church handle decision making and crisis? What gets stirred up when there’s tension? Do people fight fair? Is passive-aggressive behavior the norm? Bottom line, become a church psychological detective and connect the dots of the family system.

Family systems theory, as in Edwin Friedman’s Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, is fascinating. There’s no way that I can summarize such an important tome, but here’s one quote that is illustrative: “One’s life course is largely determined by the amount of unresolved emotional attachment to family of origin, the amount of anxiety that comes from it, and what to do with it.” The question for newbie clergy is to discover the hidden wounds, the unresolved emotional attachments embedded in the psyche of church members and even their larger community.

You have heard the story of the young bride who marries a guy and cooks her first pot roast. She does everything just right, but her new husband is visibly disappointed. After a heated discussion he admits that his problem is that it’s just not the way his mother made pot roast, so she dares to go talk to his mother. The mother-in-law is clueless and assures her new daughter-in-law that she didn’t do anything special. But she does admit that she learned how to make pot roast from her husband’s mother. So she suggests that she go see her mother-in-law explaining that maybe she would have some insight.

The bride goes to see the grandmother and tells her everything that she did. The grandmother nodded approvingly and with a quizzical smile and asks the bride to step into the kitchen because she had made a pot roast that very day. The bride immediately sees what the difference is. The grandmother’s pot roast is square! When asked why she had a square pot roast the grandmother said that she and her husband were so poor when they got married that the only pot that they had to cook a roast in was square so they cut off the edges of the roast to square it up to fit the pot.

Wow! This was an unresolved emotional attachment that finally made sense when the bride connected the dots and did some research. Upon explaining this to her new husband, he was okay with the change. The discovery is that a family’s, and, I daresay, a church’s emotional processes are much more important than the facts or content of the issue(s), but once the emotional processes are uncovered you can more easily accept the content of the facts or the way things are.

Some new clergy have inherited churches with “square pots” and emotional operational systems that are begging for illumination and exposure. The risk is in when to do it. Two analogies come to mind in this whole endeavor that separates emotional process from content: one about doctors and medicine and one about “river babies.”

The doctor and medicine one is pretty straightforward. Tests and procedures provide facts about a person’s condition, but we don’t rely on facts alone when we are in the throes of illness. Whether or not we trust the doctor is of huge importance. A doctor can have all the facts (content) straight but have the bedside manner of a frog run over in the road (emotional process) and we are not happy, and say that we want a second opinion when what we really want is a second doctor who really cares and takes it personally that we survive!

The story about “river babies” is also helpful to ponder in a who-done-it assessment of our new churches. In this story many of townspeople are down at the nearby river and they notice a toddler floating by about to drown. Many rush in and rescue the child, then another child starts floundering by, and then another, and another and on and on. They call to get more townspeople to come help pull all these babies from the river when two men desert them. As the deserters are heading up the riverbank someone calls out and says, “Why are you leaving us? Where are you going? We need you here to help us save these babies!” The guys reply, “We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!”

In our decision to let things slide for 6 months or not, do we keep pulling babies out of the water reacting to the tyranny of the urgent, or do we try to figure out what the systemic cause is of our under-functioning? Every situation, family, church, and community can be better. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. God bless us as we determine whether or not to tread water or go upstream against the flow and do something about the real issues. Happy detective hunting as we separate the facts from the emotional processes at work in our new places of ministry.

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