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For Your Reflection....

A BRIDGE FOR COMMUNITY

Let’s be honest...explaining to others who we are as a church is not always an easy task.  With a name like “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”, you’ve said a mouthful, but you might find people looking at you like you haven’t clarified anything; or worse they may get the wrong impression.  I remember speaking with a woman about my church – upon hearing that we were part of the Christian Church (D.O.C.) she exclaimed, “that sounds like one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches!  Are you one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches?”  I explained that yes, we do believe in the Bible, but no, we probably are not the stereotypical ‘bible-thumping’ church that she is thinking of...read more

 

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Tuesday
Jun302015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - June 30, 2015

OBERGEFELL v. HODGES

This past week the Supreme Court gave its opinion on the legal status of same-sex marriage in the United States.  That opinion has been greeted with cries of happiness and opprobrium and a certain amount of confusion as well.  As much as this opinion has already changed the laws and practices in our nation, state and parish, you may be wondering what this also means for our denomination and this congregation.

Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president, along with other representatives from our general ministries, released a statement regarding the significance of the ruling from the denomination’s standpoint.  That statement reads:

 

Much has been and will continue to be said among faithful Disciples regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality on Friday, June 26.  For some, it is a cause for joy and relief.  Others consider it a blow to their understanding of biblical faith.  Given the church we are, both opinions are going to continue to live side by side for a while. 

Regardless of one’s reaction, there seems to be some confusion on what the ruling means for clergy.  The Supreme Court’s decision relates to the legal contract of marriage, which differs from a religious understanding of marriage, and should be read alongside the First Amendment.  The ruling did not change the religious freedom guaranteed under that Amendment.  Clergy will continue to have the right – as they always have – to perform marriages according to their own good consciences.  Counties will issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender; ministers will decide which ceremonies to perform.

Through it all, we continue to lift prayers of gratitude to God, who calls us to love each other and to be a community of faith that seeks to welcome all to the Table of God’s Grace.

Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President

Ronald Degges, DHM President

Paxton Jones, GCOM Chair

 

This past Sunday during worship I also shared a brief statement of my thoughts on what this means for this congregation in particular.  “We recognize that there are differences of opinion in the nation, and differences of opinion in this congregation.  However, it is good to remind ourselves that even in our differences, we are united by one thing that we share—that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that we have accepted him as our Lord and Savior.  On that good confession that we all share, let us continue to live and work in the unity that only God can create.”

Our movement, born in the early 1800’s, followed a history, and was birthed in an era, of bitter religious rancor and infighting over who is “in” and who is “out” of Christ’s church.  Religious tests of faith were stringent and unyielding.  In an attempt to rise above the division and rancor that was tearing Christ’s body apart, the tradition that our founders passed on to us is that we place no test of faith on anyone other than the belief that Jesus is the Christ.  In our diversity, our unity is in Christ alone.

On a personal note, I have heartfelt friendships with Christian brothers and sisters across the spectrum.  I have the deepest love and respect for all of you, no matter what your opinion or conviction or status of marriage is.  The Supreme Court’s decision does not change that, and I will continue to support you in your personal conviction.  And by God’s grace I will continue to be the best pastor I can be to all of you.

That we may be one in Jesus,

David 

 

Wednesday
Jun172015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - June 16, 2015

EXPLORING A DIFFERENT KIND OF PRAYER

 

Dear friends in Christ,

I’d like to share a version of a prayer exercise that our mission group in Slidell used two weeks ago at the end of most of our workdays.  Given the busyness and frustrations and successes of each work day, in which God’s presence easily gets lost in the rush or disorganization, this exercise gave us some reflection time to consider the meaning of the day and a look forward to the next with a sense of hopefulness and God’s presence.  This reflection grows out of the “Ignatian Examen”, a spiritual exercise developed by Ignatius of Loyola about 400 years ago; St. Ignatius is also remembered as the founder of the Jesuits.  This is an exercise that can be done anywhere—it doesn’t require any special resources or special words—it can be done at any time of the day, though evening is probably the best time.  It is five simple steps, but it can play an important role in helping us recognize the sacred in what seems like an otherwise mundane or even god-less day.  I hope you will try this in your prayer life.

1  Become aware of the presence of God. 

Spend a few minutes in silence, receiving the sense that God is there with you.

 

2  Review the day with gratitude.

Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights.  Let God’s spirit help you see your day as God might have seen the events of your day. 

 

3  Pay attention to your emotions.

Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Ask what God is saying through these feelings.  Were there disappointments?

 

4  Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may be a vivid moment or something that seems insignificant.

 

5  Look toward tomorrow.

Ask God to give you light for tomorrow's challenges.

 

Blessings and peace,

David

Wednesday
Jun172015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - June 16, 2015

EXPLORING A DIFFERENT KIND OF PRAYER

 

Dear friends in Christ,

 

I’d like to share a version of a prayer exercise that our mission group in Slidell used two weeks ago at the end of most of our workdays.  Given the busyness and frustrations and successes of each work day, in which God’s presence easily gets lost in the rush or disorganization, this exercise gave us some reflection time to consider the meaning of the day and a look forward to the next with a sense of hopefulness and God’s presence.  This reflection grows out of the “Ignatian Examen”, a spiritual exercise developed by Ignatius of Loyola about 400 years ago; St. Ignatius is also remembered as the founder of the Jesuits.  This is an exercise that can be done anywhere—it doesn’t require any special resources or special words—it can be done at any time of the day, though evening is probably the best time.  It is five simple steps, but it can play an important role in helping us recognize the sacred in what seems like an otherwise mundane or even god-less day.  I hope you will try this in your prayer life.

 

1  Become aware of the presence of God. 

Spend a few minutes in silence, receiving the sense that God is there with you.

2  Review the day with gratitude.

Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights.  Let God’s spirit help you see your day as God might have seen the events of your day. 

3  Pay attention to your emotions.

Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Ask what God is saying through these feelings.  Were there disappointments?

4  Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may be a vivid moment or something that seems insignificant.

5  Look toward tomorrow.

Ask God to give you light for tomorrow's challenges.

 

Blessings and peace,

David

Tuesday
May262015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - May 24, 2015

Things Church Members Should NOT Say, and SHOULD Say to Guests in a Worship Service— by Thom Rainer

As we strive to be a more inviting congregation, here is an article with some excellent ideas for that next time you are face to face with a visitor to our congregation and you’re not sure what to say. Blessings and peace!  -- David

 

If you want to make certain guests never return to your church, say one of these sentences to them when they visit.  Indeed, these unfortunate and ill-timed comments almost always guarantee that you will offend guests and make them very uncomfortable. Most of the time guests are already ill at ease since they are in a new place and a new environment. By the way, each of these quotes was actually communicated to a guest in a worship service. My guess is that all ten of them have been said many times . . . too many times.

       1.   “You are sitting in my pew/seat.”  This sentence was actually said to me when I was a visiting preacher in a church.  The entitled church member did not realize I was preaching that day.  I had the carnal joy of watching her turn red when I was introduced.  And, yes, I did move.  She scared me.

      2.   “Is your husband/wife with you?”  This question is rightly perceived as, “We really don’t want single adults in our church.”  Members see their church as family friendly as long as “family” meets their definition.

      3.  “Are those your children?”  This question is becoming more common with the growth in the adoption of children who are not the same race or ethnicity as their parents.  One parent with an adopted child was asked if he got to choose how dark his child would be.  I’m serious.

      4.   “The service has already begun.”  This sentence is rightly understood to mean, “You are late, and you will be disrupting the service.”  I saw that happen recently.  The family left.  I was late too, but I stayed since I was preaching.

      5.   “You will need to step over these people to get to your seat.”  No!  Please request those seated to move to the center.  It’s a church worship service, not a movie theater.

      6.   “That’s not the way we do it here.”  Of course, you can’t have a worship service where any behavior is acceptable.  Most of the time, however, the varieties of worship expressions are absolutely fine.  I heard from a lay leader recently who witnessed that sentence spoken to a guest who raised her hand during the worship music.  She never returned.  What a surprise.

      7.   “You don’t look like you are a member here.”  Perhaps when this sentence was spoken, the church member meant to convey, “Are you visiting us?”  But to the guest it sounded like, “You don’t belong at this place.”

      8.   “Have you considered attending the church down the street?”  I’m not kidding.  Someone shared that comment with me on social media.  She was new in town and was visiting churches.  She had no idea why the man in the church said that to her, but she never returned to the church.

One of the more common questions I’m asked relates to growth barriers.  For example, church leaders may want to know how to move past the 150-attendance level of the past five years.  Or other leaders desire to know how to break though financial giving barriers.  Those questions are tough because they often presume a brief response to be adequate.  In reality, there are many theological and methodological issues at work in growth barriers.  Today, I am looking at a very basic barrier: lack of friendliness to church guests.

       1.   “Thank you for being here.”  It’s just that basic.  I have heard from numerous church guests who returned because they were simply told “thank you.”

      2.   “Let me help you with that.”  If you see someone struggling with umbrellas, young children, diaper bags, purses, and other items, a gesture to hold something for them is a huge positive.  Of course, this comment is appropriate for member to member as well.

      3.   “Please take my seat.”  I actually heard that comment twice in a church where I was speaking in the Nashville area.  The first comment came from a member to a young family of five who were trying to find a place to sit together.

      4.   “Here is my email address.  Please let me know if I can help in any way.”  Of course, this comment must be used with discretion, but it can be a hugely positive message to a guest.

      5.   “Can I show you where you need to go?”  Even in smaller churches, guests will not know where to find the nursery, restrooms, and small group meeting areas.  You can usually tell when a guest does not know where he or she is to go.

      6.   “Let me introduce you to ___________.”  The return rate of guests is always higher if they meet other people.  A church member may have the opportunity to introduce the guest to the pastor, other church staff, and other members of the church.

      7.   “Would you join us for lunch?”  I saved this question for last for two reasons.  First, the situation must obviously be appropriate before you offer the invitation.  Second, I have seen this approach have the highest guest return rate of any one factor.  What if your church members sought to invite different guests 6 to 12 times a year?  The burden would not be great; but the impact would be huge.

 

Let’s look at one example of breaking attendance barriers by saying the right things to guests.   Presume your church has two first-time guests a week.  Over the course of a year, the church would have 100 first-time guests.  With most of the members being genuinely guest friendly, you could see half of those guests become active members.  Attendance could thus increase by as much as 50 persons every year.

 

Wednesday
May202015

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - May 19, 2015

THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS GOING TO WORK

I looked over my handiwork—even I was skeptical.  For years the church I served in Arlington, VA had a flooding problem through a doorway that was set well below ground level.  The ancient drain line that was supposed to conduct water safely away had long since collapsed, so every time a heavy rain rolled through water pooled up outside of the door, then seeped into the building soaking everything.

I looked for a turnkey solution, but there was nothing that suited our particular problem.  So, being an amateur DIY, I put my brain and hands to work, and designed a pump system that would push the water safely away from the building.  The thing was, nothing that I used was actually designed to be used that way.  The pump was supposed to be submerged in about a foot of water, not a few inches.  For the switch mechanism was activated by a sad looking hunk of styrofoam.  It sat a little cockeyed inside of a big steel box that had been designed for something else.  And the PVC pipe coming out from it looked comical to most people.  And when it was finished, I was the biggest skeptic of them all.  I wasn’t sure this was going to work.  But, when the rains came, it always worked like a charm—no more floods!

When you look at the roots of the Christian faith, the very earliest days and years of its existence, common sense would have told you that there is no way this oddest of odd groups was going to make a go of it.  To begin with, the Romans controlled the political power, and everyone else kowtowed to their definition of power. In the ancient world the Jews were viewed as oddities—a people with a bunch of odd habits and beliefs with an even odder god that only they worshipped.  And Jesus, who was from no city or family of great significance, was viewed as the oddest Jew of all—and he had been crucified as a common criminal to boot.  Put that on your resume the next time you apply for the job of changing the world and see how much laughter you get.

Yet change did happen.  How did a movement that should have died out in the first few years turn into a movement that today spans the globe?  We have to agree that it is the Holy Spirit that helped make the difference.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost, the feast that celebrates the coming of the Spirit upon the first Christians.  By the inspiration of the Spirit, the message of Jesus was first preached, and people came to believe.  By the inspiration of the Spirit, the message of Jesus got outside of Jerusalem and into surrounding lands.  By the inspiration of the Spirit, the Gentiles became part of what had been an exclusively Jewish movement.  By the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul and Barnabas and Silas set forth to share the Good News in cities far away.  And by the inspiration of the Spirit lives are still changed, the word is still preached, and people come to make the confession that Jesus is Lord!

I hope to see you on Sunday when we not only remember, but also renew our commitment to the work that God’s Spirit began almost 2000 years ago.  No one expected it to work…but there is no stopping it now!

Peace and wholeness,

David