September 13, 2012

Seasons

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:28 am by billgepford

Its been a while since I’ve blogged – and a lot has changed.  Suffice to say that Seminary and a full time job as a youth pastor can keep you busy.  

But thats not what this post is about.  

I’ve been thinking about work and life and balance a lot lately.  Someday I’d like to do a series on the great mentors I’ve had – partly as a thank you, and partly just because having mentors is so dang important.  

But for now, I want to talk about pacing.  At the most recent Willow Creek leadership conference, Bill Hybels talked about writing down 6 goals to accomplish over the next few months – things that are on top of the typical meetings and reports and everything else, but 6 things that you can finish.  6 things that you can measure the next few months by.  

6 things gives you a goal.  If you dont have a goal, then work just goes on until we die/retire…and thats hard to get excited about.  

Sports figured this out a long time ago.  You play a finite number of games in a season, have some ending tournament, and then its over, and you rest until the next year.  That means that every day matters.  That means that every day is exciting.  

I doubt anyone would go to a football game if the season never ended – if teams just merely kept accumulating wins and losses and it went on forever.  However, because it ends, then each time matters.  

 

So what if we adopted this in work?  What if we set finite goals and defined a season?  

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May 27, 2011

Body Waxing and Church Mailers

Posted in Digital Culture and the Church at 11:10 am by billgepford

Church mass mailers kill me.  At least as a way to reach young adults.

I check my apartment’s mailbox once a week and its usually nothing but junkmail I toss (or the occasional letter from Momma).

Compare that with the fact that I check my inbox at least 8 times  a day.  Seriously – I check first thing upon arrival to the office in the morning, again right before I leave work, and then my phone automatically downloads new mail every 4 hours.

Past that, I’m always on facebook.  Not in a creepy stalkerish obsessed way, just in the ‘I’m a young adult and thats what we do’ way.

So I’m curious – why do we have budgets for mass mailers, but not facebook adds?

I keep hearing people lamenting the fact that its hard to get young adults to go to church.  But then I get their flyer or postcard or coupon for a free coffee in my mailbox, and it makes a whole lot of sense to me.  Their message, no matter how pure or important, is completely lost in the mass of junk that it arrives with.

There is a trash can right next to the door in my apartment complex’s mail room; anything that isnt a bill or from Momma goes there.  Seriously – if I dont know you, then that flyer that you lovingly spent hours, and prayed over, and brought in consultants and graphic artists and demographic gurus to create…it doesn’t even make it 3 feet.  Sorry.  Unlike my inbox, my mailbox doesnt have a spam filter, so I just toss everything.  I don’t need a new credit card.  I don’t want to try out your new tanning salon.  I don’t need $5 off my next pedicure if I opt for the full brazillian waxing next time I visit your salon.

And if your loving church flyer was tucked in there somewhere?  Sorry, but it just became a casualty of body wax and bad visuals.

So please – spend your money wisely.  The message of the Church is far too important not to.  Put some of your ad budget towards online material (starting with a mobile optimized website I might actually read).  I know I’m not the only person in the world and that there are probably quite a few who DO read mailers.  But the tide of the youth seems more interested in the internet than the mailbox.  Maybe we could put just a little bit towards that instead.

October 13, 2010

Thoughts on Chilean Miners

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:20 am by billgepford

I’d stopped updating this due to seminary eating my soul (and my schedule), but I couldn’t resist this – I was watching the twitter feed updates on the Chilean Miner Rescue operation, and I was struck by the images of the rescuers descending the shaft from the top so that they could lead the miners out.  Manuel Gonzalez and Roberto Rios were willing to leave the safety of the open air, cram themselves into a cage, and travel down a shaft to people that are trapped in the darkness.  They risked the unknown to reach those who had little hope.  It might have been safer to send down the cage unoccupied and let the miners test it out, but the rescuers braved the danger and brought hope and light to a trapped people.

Yup.  That’ll preach.

 

September 3, 2010

Online Evangelism (Digital Culture and the Church – Pt. 4)

Posted in Digital Culture and the Church at 5:08 pm by billgepford

Digital Evangelism exists.  People are discovering God through the internet.  That doesn’t mean it could exist.  It doesn’t mean there is the possibility that it could be part of the future.  It’s happening online, and it’s happening now.

Imagine something with me (but don’t close your eyes – that makes it tough to read) – imagine that there are people all over the world who have access to the internet but don’t live within reasonable distance of a Church.  Not that hard, right?    Now imagine what would happen if the Church leveraged one of the greatest tools of communication (even bigger than Gutenberg’s printing press) to transform the lives of all those people.

I spent this last summer working with the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Online.  During that time, I had the opportunity to play around with different ways of doing ministry online.  Let me clear one thing up first – I’m not a tech guy.  4 months ago, I didn’t blog, Tweet, or use Facebook more than the average person.  I don’t seek to use technology for ministry simply because I love technology; I use technology for ministry because I love ministry, and I see the potential that technology holds for life-changing ministry.

There are millions, perhaps billions, of people all over the world who regularly log on to Google or Facebook, but don’t have access to a Church.  Furthermore, there are sites, such as Chat Roulette or Omegle, which act as virtual meeting places – places where one can go to interact with complete strangers.  Relationships are being formed that have absolutely no respect for the limitations imposed by geography.  The Church needs to get involved in this in an intelligent and theologically orthodox fashion.  Online evangelism will never truly supplant in person evangelism.  It will, however, come alongside and work in a symbiotic relationship.

August 21, 2010

The Google Generation and Christian Mysticism (Digital Culture and the Church – Pt 3)

Posted in Digital Culture and the Church at 2:01 am by billgepford

John Meunier raised some good questions on the last post, so I thought I would postpone my next post (on the use of the Internet in Evangelism) and take a second to respond to those questions.

Some of the aspects of the new digital culture could adversely affect the way the church operates, if they are not handled prayerfully and intelligently.  A short attention span, for instance, can relegate Christianity to a mere aspect of our character, instead of its underpinnings.  Faith should never be one of the many competing thoughts fighting for a persons’ attention; it should be the foundation upon which our lives are based.

However, I would argue that some aspects of the new digital culture are neutral –they are simply the context from which people come.  I don’t believe that we can expect people to come to Christianity only after they have sanitized their lives of all the busyness.  If they truly are part of the makeup of the population, like I believe they are, then there is no question that they will have to be factored into any evangelistic, outward-focused church.

All that said, I think we might see a resurgence of Christian Mysticism in the future, as all this ADD generation (of which I am a part) begins to long for something big enough to truly capture their focus.  Nothing is bigger than God, so if we are ever to center in on anything, it will have to be that.  I can see people reacting to this obsession with multitasking by swinging far towards the other end of the spectrum and searching for something that will so envelop their consciousness that they lose track of all other distractions.  As is, we are already seeing the fringes of a reaction to multitasking – what would happen if over-caffeinated, ADD kids of the Google generation (I’m one of them) discovered the works of Teresa of Avila or Ludolph of Saxony?  This semester I’m taking a class that has a heavy emphasis on both Evangelism and Mysticism, so perhaps there will be more posts spawned by that.

Eventually, it would be great if people could get to the point where they empty themselves of anything but God (following the traditions of the Ancient Mystics), but I don’t see that as something that will connect with those outside the Church.  Jesus was very careful when he crafted his parables to appeal to those outside the Church; we must do the same in appealing to non-Christians as well, and therefore we must take the norms of the new generation into account in order to maintain rhetorical sensitivity and relevance in our evangelism.  Christians are called to stand in the gap between the divine and the profane – we have to be able to speak the language of the Google generation, but we must also point them to the eternal God.  Agree/Disagree?

August 9, 2010

Digital Culture and the Church – Pt. 2

Posted in Digital Culture and the Church at 1:30 pm by billgepford

Professor Lenord Sweet defines this generation as the Google generation, and includes anyone born after 1973 (the emergence of the Cell Phone).  While Dr. Sweet is tons smarter than I am and I hate to disagree with him, I think we might need to look at more of a sliding scale for the emergence of Digital Natives.  There a lots of people born after 1973 who are still caught in the previous paradigm, and that’s fine.  The point is simply this – the world has already begun changing towards a new normal, and if the church doesn’t learn to adapt, it will slide into irrelevance.

So what does the new normal look like?  Lots of things.  Some aspects are still undetermined thanks to its still-evolving nature.  However, some facets of the new paradigm are beginning to solidify.  It is already becoming apparent that the Google generation processes information radically differently:

  • We don’t disconnect
  • We multitask
  • We expect information to come in multiple forms of media
  • We prefer graphics to text, and video to graphics
  • Finally, we are used to having everything at our fingertips whenever we want it
So how can the church adapt to the new normal?

August 5, 2010

Digital Culture and the Church – Pt. 1

Posted in Digital Culture and the Church at 4:43 pm by billgepford

I recently helped Rev. Andrew Conard (www.andrewconard.com) give a report on digital natives and digital ethnography for social workers at a local hospital.  We talked about how the current young generation is fundamentally different from the one before it – how as young people we don’t disconnect, we don’t focus on one thing at a time, and we don’t power down.  Digital culture is going to transform the way we do almost everything – including preaching and teaching in the Church.

Here’s a few resources we used for research:

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Marc Prensky (http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf)

Every Video by Dr. Michael Wesch of Kansas State University (Go Wildcats!) –

In addition, we drew from our own experience with Social Media – the primary means of communication we have with most of the people who worship with Resurrection Online.

July 26, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – Pt. 4

Posted in Ordination at 5:13 pm by billgepford

I haven’t been posting these simply to complain;
I really do want change.  However, naming a problem isn’t enough so here is my proposal…

We keep the current ordination classifications as they are.

(I know, not what could be expected after the earlier posts).

But we also need to add to the two ordained classes that currently exist.  Some people are called to itinerancy.  Some aren’t.  Paul was obviously itinerant; James the brother of Jesus was not.  Did the early Church value both itinerant and non-itinerant ministry?  Absolutely.

Why don’t we?

Really, I do understand some of the reasons for keeping elements of the current system, and they truly are compelling.  There is obvious value in a pastor being appointed wherever they can best serve the church – provided they are called to such service.  However, itinerant preachers are not the only servants of God present in the scriptures, nor are they they only ones called today.  James, the brother of Jesus, lived out his ministry in Jerusalem. Therefore, I propose that we add a third class of ordination.  Those who love the itinerant system can still maintain their itinerancy.  However, we should also ordain those who are called to full time pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church, but not itinerancy.  This would be different from the Deacons, who do not itinerant (they find their own jobs), but are also limited in what they do.  Deacons, for example, cannot administer the sacrament in the United Methodist Church.

I am advocating that we create a third class of ordination alongside the Deacon and the Elder – a non-itinerant, non-guaranteed position that is fully empowered to do all the work of the elder, yet with the responsibility of finding their own job.  This will appeal to those pastors who feel called to specific types of ministry (and thus need to seek their own position), yet also feel that the sacraments are part of the ministry that God has called them to.

July 23, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – pt. 3

Posted in Ordination at 7:02 am by billgepford

The itinerant system is most often defended with the excuse that it facilitates prophetic preaching.  The assumption seems to be that itinerancy permits pastors to speak freely, as they no longer worry that their congregation will fire them for calling out sin.  However, itinerant pastors are rarely in one place long enough to build deep relationships, which are also essential for effective prophetic preaching; congregations can easily ignore transitory pastors who have no foundation in the community. While non-itinerant pastors can be fired for preaching over inflammatory subjects, itinerant pastors can be completely ignored during the same sermons, simply because they don’t have longstanding relationships with the congregation, and will probably be leaving soon anyways.

So what is the point of preaching?  Is the point merely to say something from the pulpit, or to draw the congregation closer to God?  Itinerant preachers may feel empowered to say whatever they wish, but do they have the deep bonds to truly make it stick?

I would rather get fired for preaching one effective sermon than live a life full of Sundays that have no impact.

July 20, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – Pt. 2

Posted in Ordination at 5:22 am by billgepford

I’m not arguing against the UMC, but rather against the peculiar institution of itinerancy.  Why?  Because I’ve heard way too many Godly, high potential leaders refuse ordination in the UMC because they refuse to be itinerant.  It seems to be the number one reason that young future pastors are abandoning their Methodist roots in favor of greener pastures.

For those outside the Methodist system, itinerancy is the system by which pastors are appointed by their bishop to serve different churches.  Theoretically, pastors can be ordered to move to a new church every single year if the bishop so chooses, which would effectively prevent the forming of deep relationships.

At its theoretical best, the bishop will be perfectly led by the Holy Spirit and will appoint each pastor in the right place, and for the right amount of time.  However, I don’t know if this generation of future pastors are really so ready to trust their entire futures to bishops they have never met.  Why couldn’t the pastors themselves be the ones listening for God’s call and following that to the correct church?  While some bishops may be fantastic (and I believe I’m blessed to be in the state of just such a bishop), some people have had too many reasons to distrust the system.

If Wesley were around today, would he institute the itinerant system?  I highly doubt it.  Wesley was considered a genius organizer in his day – the itinerant system directly stems from that, and it really did make the most sense 250 years ago.  However, times have changed drastically since then, and that Wesley himself might arrange things differently today – “John Wesley’s great success as an organizer was due at least as much to his readiness to accept, and his adroitness in adapting, the suggestion of others, as to the fertility of his own resources” (John Wesley by John Henry Overton, page 120).  Does itinerancy make sense now?  Not in the slightest.  The UMC recognizes a correlation between long tenures and effective ministry (http://www.umc.org/atf/cf/{db6a45e4-c446-4248-82c8-e131b6424741}/CV_PRESENTATION.PDF – specifically page 48), and yet long tenures are destroyed by the inerant system.  Furthermore, the best leadership thinkers of the day espouse the importance of the support team around you (Harvard Professor Ashish Nanda in his address to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Jim Collins tackles it here – http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/first-who.html); itinerant pastors do not get to choose the staff around them.

Thoughts?  I love my church and want to do everything I can to see it fulfill the calling that God has for it, even if that means asking the uncomfortable questions.  Are there any real reasons left for an itinerant system?

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