Thursday, October 19, 2017

The GODLESSNESS of the ERC new New Strategic Plan

Back on 09 when Ed Rosenberry created the CGGC Mission Statement, Ed had the wisdom to couch the talk in reference to Jesus Christ as Lord.

"As witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to make more and better disciples by establishing churches on the New Testament plan and proclaiming the gospel around the world."

While, in my opinion, in the last 8 years, the Mission Statement has only been talk...or, Talk-ism, it's good well-intentioned talk that actually begins with Jesus Christ as Lord.

As you know, I've received reports on the goings on at the ERC Town Hall Meetings. And, based on what I'm hearing, this is the sentence that the ERC hierarchs have created to describe the new New Strategic Plan:

"Healthy life-giving churches led by healthy life-giving pastors guided by..."

What?

The Holy Spirit?

John Winebrenner's, "the Bible as our only rule of faith and practice?"

No.

No, no, no, no...NO!

"...guided by healthy life-giving leadership."

People reporting to me have made it clear that the leadership mentioned here is CONFERENCE leadership, though I never doubted it.

I've looked up the definition of the word, godless. Two definitions apply.

"Not recognizing or obeying god," and

"Without a god."

The essence of the ERC's new New Strategic Plan is entirely godless.

It is about churches and parish priests and Conference leadership.

It does not mention God. It does not "recognize" God. It is, in its very own words,  without God, godless.

----------------

I've noted in the past that you can know the truth about people by what they do when they are left to their own devices.

One truth about the ERC leaders who produced the new New Strategic Plan and have been promoting it and are calling for its implementation as soon as January is revealed in that godless sentence that captures the essence of their plan.

Their minds focus on churches, pastors and the institutional hierarchy...

...but not on the Lord.

----------------

I've not written this until now, in part, because, other than to point out the godlessness of the plan, I'm far beyond words, I'm aghast. I'm speechless.

But, all of you understand.

No one I know of besides me is talking about this.

There certainly is chatter about shortcomings in the plan and some of that chatter is rather profound theologically.

But, gang!

An entire plan for a Conference of churches that can be completely described without reference to God!?!?!!!!!

You should all be beside yourselves. Furious.

Ready to overthrow the hierarchy.

But, the most I can say is there is, behind the scenes, spirited conversation about the plan.

The, unmentioned in the ERC's new New Strategic Plan, Lord of all authority and power and grace and mercy and blessing will not bless a plan that doesn't include Him...or, even MENTION Him.

We must repent!

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Factions in the ERC

It would seem to be inevitable that, as the decline and putrefication of the ERC reaches the point that it can no longer be pretended away, divisions among its people would become more pronounced.

I came into the ministry young and idealistic...

...many, many...many years ago.

And, I was chagrined to see what clearly were well-established factions in the East Pennsylvania Conference of the Churches of God that appeared to me to have existed for some time.

Those groups continue to exist. But, as decline advances, I see some evolution in the makeup of the groupings within the Conference.

I see a fourth distinct group forming in response to recent events.

The four groups are:

1. What I have thought of, for a long time as, "The good old boy network."

This group consists of the hierarchs or the mountaintoppers, the people who hold the formal power in the Conference who may or may not be members of Conference staff...and their willing minions. The minions are the people who always say yes to and who unquestioningly embrace every fad and consume every Conference program and stand on the stage every year at Conference to give testimony as to how amazingly the most recent program has transformed them and their church.

This group has oodles of power. These people run the most powerful Commissions year upon year and they pastor many of the churches with the juiciest salary packages. A few are members of the laity.

While this group holds most of the formal power in the Conference, it is, by number, rather small.

2. The cynics. 

This group existed when I came on the Conference more than 40 years ago. It is deeply entrenched.

It consists of people who distrust the Conference hierarchy. Many, but certainly not all cynics, are the populists I've mentioned in a previous post. Some are not driven by worldview to that degree.

This group has never organized well but it consists of people who distrust the Conference hierarchy.

For most of them, the distrust is directed toward the existence of the hierarchy itself, not to the people who are hierarchs at any given moment. Therefore, for almost all of these people, the Administrative Council's decision to search for a new Executive Director will effect no change in attitude. They opposed the hierarchy itself, not Kevin.

This group has always possessed the power to say, "Uh uh," to the fads and programs of the hierarchs. And, they do exactly that.

Why did the old new 2015 Strategic Plan end up being only words on a page? Answer? In large part, the cynics hold the power to ignore what goes on on the mountaintop. And, in 2015, as they do, by principle, they didn't play along.

One thing I've heard from the Town Hall meetings, repeatedly, is that people were asking if the new plan will have teeth. Will the plan require pastors to attend seminars and obtain CECs, etc..

Here's what that question really is: Can this plan make the cynics play along and work with the good old boy network?

I've said, over and over, that the hierarchs are making the mistake of not courting the cynics.

I'm convinced that the cynics will not be moved by the supposed brilliance of the new New Strategic Plan. And, as things stand now, they'll do what they did with the old New Strategic Plan.

Now, what do you suppose will happen when the powers that be go to the congregation of one of these cynics who is popular with his/her congregation and tell the church that the Conference is going to remove their pastor from the pulpit because s/he didn't earn a CEC?

The cynics have little formal power in the Conference but they've been exercising real power for a long time.

(By the way, again, I'm not saying that cynicism is ever a good thing. But, it is a defining reality in the ERC.)

3. The apathetic.

Apathetic toward conference things.

Since my entry into the Conference some people have not cared.

People are apathetic toward the ERC for a wide variety of reasons.

But, bottom line, they are not inclined to get involved beyond their own ministry and congregation.

These people are not a problem for the hierarchs in that they don't stand in their way. On the other hand, they are not inclined to be on board and enthusiastic about new plans and dreams coming down from the eagles who reside on the peaks of the ERC mountain.

4. The skeptics.

This group has emerged as a function of recent events. The decline of the Conference is now so serious that the hierarchs felt the need to address it and to go on record with a plan they tell us they think will reverse the trend of generations.

There is a boatload of people across the Conference who are hesitant, at the very least, to embrace the new plan.

Some of them are in conversation with me and, based on what I'm hearing, many more of them are in conversation with each other.

At the very least, these people are not enthusiastic about the plan. Some of them are respectfully criticizing it among the ERC eagles. Many of these people are convinced that the plan will fail.

One problem I sense, among the skeptics, is that they are not unified in their objections to the plan. From what I'm seeing and hearing, there are, at the moment, nearly as many critiques of the new New Strategic Plan as there are skeptics.

A sad possibility is that the plan may become reality when many of the people of the Conference oppose it yet can find no serious alternative to it that has substantial support.

----------------

So, what's the best thing for the Kingdom of God as far as the ERC is concerned.

First, I think that the Good Old Boys need to humble themselves and face the reality that the Town Hall meetings have been moderately attended at best and that far more people are either cynical, apathetic or skeptical about their plan than support it.

ERC decline has been taking place for about eighty years.

The hierarchs are in panic mode when they suggest that they can develop a plan that will, 

1. Be effective, and
2. Be supported,

in this time frame by this method. 

The cynics need to engage...before the plan is in place. Their thing has always been to let the hierarchs do their thing and not participate.

Honestly, for this to happen, it will be the Good Old Boys who need to reach out.

The apathetic need to engage and understand that the church is a body that exists beyond themselves and their own ministries.

The skeptics hold all the best cards in this hand.

This is a new faction made up of people who used to be Good Old Boys who are disillusioned or cynics who are giving engagement in the Conference a, if only brief, chance to work.

------------------

Skeptics,

Eternity is a long time.

Generations of decline and decay cannot be reversed through a mere Strategic Plan, particularly one composed with this haste in this panic and through this process.

Don't vote no on this thing, simply say, "Not this. Not now."

You, my skeptical friends, hold the key to the future of the ERC.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two Jesus Essentials Absent from the ERC Strategic Plan

I am wondering, again, if ERC hierarchs even read the New Testament.

I was reading over a recounting of one of the Town Hall meetings I received and, I'm stunned by how, well, anti-Jesus and theologically corrupt the plan is.

Here are two principles that were foundational to Jesus missing, or even opposed, by the new New Strategic Plan:

1. The Kingdom of God.

According to the Gospels, the central message of Jesus was that the time had come the KINGDOM OF GOD was near and that the appropriate response to those realities was for people to repent and believe the Good News.

I've read a lot of and about the new New Strategic Plan and I've not heard a word about the Kingdom.

I hear about healthy life giving churches but nothing about the thing that stood as the center of the focus of Jesus, the Kingdom of God.

One of the deadly sins of the CGGC in recent decades has been "Ecclesiolatry," the sin of worshiping the church, not the Lord of the church.

The new New Strategic Plan embraces that sin.

2. Servanthood.

Jesus said that to be great in the Kingdom is to be a servant and to be the greatest is to be the slave of all. For, as Jesus said it, even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Yet, the new New Strategic Plan is about churches being LED by healthy, life giving pastors guided by healthy life giving (Conference) leadership.

Jesus must be weeping buckets of tears as He sits at the right hand of God.

In a kingdom there is only one leader: the King!

-------------------

There is no way the Holy Spirit will empower and bless this plan.

It disregards, even opposes what was the core of the ministry and teaching of Jesus.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Being the Body of Christ

Last week Frank Viola sent out another in a series of articles on the Kingdom of God.

Viola addressed the reality that Christian leaders today don't work together.

He suggested two reasons. The second he mentioned struck me powerfully.

Viola cited Watchman Nee's book, What Shall This Man Do? as capturing a key principle that explains the failings of Christians today to advance the Kingdom.

Nee's book notes the distinctiveness of the ministries of Peter, Paul and John. Nee points out that each of these men were crucial in the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the early days...

...but each served a different function.

Peter was an evangelist, Paul was a builder of the community of believers and John was a restorer of the body when it began to move toward ruin...he was a prophet.

A compelling strength of the early Christian movement is that it was a able to maintain connection with the power of the Spirit by embracing each of these three very diverse ministries.

----------------

Perhaps the most compelling weakness in Western Christianity today is that it refuses to allow the Spirit to empower servants of Christ with each of these diverse passions and abilities.

In my group, as is the case of many in which there is numerical decline, only the Paul...community building...sort of giftedness is embraced.

As a result, the group fails to reach new people and to live in the attitude of repentance John calls for over and over again in Revelation 2 and 3...

...and it may, very well, be on the verge of extinction.

We must allow the Spirit to empower ministry as He wills.

We must repent.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hire an Intentional Interim Executive Director

As a member of the Enola First Church of God and as a person vitally concerned about the future ministry of that congregation and about the Eastern Regional Conference as a whole, I've read, many times over, Kevin Richardson's announcement that the ERC has decided to search for a new Executive Director.

One of the details included in that announcement is the detail that Kevin will remain in the position of Executive Director until the search for his successor has concluded.

In my opinion, the decision of the Administrative Council to keep Kevin in place is unwise and foolish.

Because of my concern for the future of the Conference, I have read through the ERC Constitution and By-Laws several times recently.

One article that is relevant to the current state of affairs is one that empowers the Administrative Council to appoint an interim Executive Director "for a period not to exceed 18 months."

Based on conversations I've had with people Lew now calls "snipers," the sense among mountaintoppers in the ERC is that the Conference has benefited from the practice of appointing Intentional Interim pastors when a congregation experiences a change in pastors.

It seems to me that this is the time for the Ad Council to exercise its authority to appoint an interim Executive Director.

How will keeping Kevin in the corner office help the Conference reverse its failing fortunes?

It's time to focus solely on the future.

I've received positive off-line feedback from the sniper universe on my suggestion that the ERC amend the qualifications for the position of Executive Director. Currently the universe of possible candidates is extremely small.

That universe is made up primarily of people who are indebted to the old, failed ways that have driven our decline for generations.

To most people, I think, changing the qualifications for the position makes sense as we move forward.

Appoint an interim and use the time s/he is in the position to prayerfully look to the future.

What good reason is there not to appoint an interim Executive Director?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Don't Make Kevin the Scapegoat

Last week Kevin Richardson announced that the ERC Administrative Council has decided to begin a search for a new Executive Director and that he would not be the person in executive leadership to lead the Conference into the next strategic plan.

Kevin made that announcement with grace and with class.

I've said repeatedly that, despite the attacks against my credentials and the ministry I participated in here at Faith during Kevin's tenure, I still love Kevin and I still like him.

I'm not surprised that Kevin was able to announce what amounts to his own firing as graciously as he has.

Clearly, Kevin loves the ERC and continues to wish the best for it.

Shortly after I read his note, I began to assess, in big picture terms, where it all went wrong for Kevin.

Here's what I think was his greatest error: Kevin bought into the old ERC ways. 

By that I mean that Kevin embraced everything that his predecessors in the previous regime were doing...

...ways that were miserably failing...

...shepherd ways...

...institutional ways.

Kevin chose to champion church, not Kingdom, and to focus on parish priest leadership, not apostolic servanthood.

He was a good ERCer.

The Lord of all authority and power and grace and mercy and blessing has never blessed those ways.  ERC decline continued under Kevin because the Lord never will bless those ways.

 But, understand.

It was the ERC ways and its theologically corrupt values, not Kevin himself, that drove the ERC decline during the last decade.

So, don't scapegoat Kevin.

His biggest sin was that he bought into ways already in place long before he ascended the mountain.

If there is any hope at all for the ERC, it is to acknowledge that even a man of Kevin's grace and class could not incline the Lord to bless the ERC shepherd oriented, parish priest dominated mess.

It's time now to thank Kevin for trying and to repent of the beliefs that have transformed a once thriving spiritual movement into a cold and dying institution.

We must repent.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Suspend the Strategic Plan; Amend the Constitution

Now that the ERC Administrative Council has made the big move and decided to seek a new Executive Director, new possibilities and new crises are in play for our ministry.

According to Kevin's own word, the path the ERC Administrative Council chooses to determine how it will search for the next E. D. will be settled after it meets in November.

What I write next feels prophet-ish.

Normally when I get that feeling I let the impression simmer before I seek words for it but I don't feel like I should do that with this one.

As a body of believers, we have defied the initial wisdom of John Winebrenner and created a Constitution and By-Laws and we are bound to them (in spite of the apparent inclination of our current leaders who want to implement the new New Strategic Plan without the Eldership's authority).

The By-Laws make demands on the Conference as far as who may and may not assume the position of Executive Director.

I was actually on the Task Force that created those requirements. At the time, I was fully on board. But, at the time, I also thought that the Shepherd Mafia was a good thing for the Conference.

Now, I'm certain that the qualifications the By-Laws require create potential for future disaster.

----------------

To be qualified to be Executive Director, a person must have been ordained in ministry in the CGGC for at least ten years and have been a local church pastor for at least five of them.

The purpose of those requirements, as I recall, was to insure that the Executive Director be fully vested in ways of the Shepherd Mafia, that has been running things...

...and, as we must certainly know by now,...

...has run Winebrenner's movement into the ground.

It seems to me that if the ERC has any future at all, we're going to need to be able to consider a wider range of candidates.

Also...

...the impression of the people who are keeping me filled in...just the impression now...is that the new New Strategic Plan is very largely Kevin's brain child.

If that's so, bringing in any new Executive Director to execute this plan would be foolish...

...at the very best.

I really think that it's time to change who is qualified to be E. D. and to give the new person the chance to give input on the ERC's future path.

Amend the Constitution. Suspend the Strategic Plan.