Sunday, August 20, 2017

What I will Do during My First 100 Days as ERC E. D.

This blog generates much more conversation than you'd imagine from reading the blog itself.

My posts here do, from time to time, get commented upon in a public way that anyone who looks at the blog can see, so that others can note who is reading and thinking about what I'm writing.

Yet, no one who comments here, even fairly regularly, has anything to lose if the eagles who soar above CGGC mountaintops note that they read and think about...and even agree with...what I write.

The truth is that I am blessed by the reality that there are some sincere and thoughtful people who respond to my blog posts privately, mostly in emails, and that meaningful conversation, based on what I write, takes place. 

---------------- 

The fact that most comments about what I write here are private fascinates me.

No one who comments privately should have anything to lose by commenting on the content of this blog publicly. These are all people who, as I do, fully and enthusiastically embrace CGGC doctrine and Mission and Vision...

...but, then, maybe that's precisely the reason.

I am living proof of what can happen in the CGGC these days to someone who, fully and enthusiastically, embraces CGGC doctrine and Mission and Vision. 

No doubt, all of these people respond privately for their own reasons...

...but I have to wonder if all this private participation is evidence that there is the perception that ERC, at least, leadership is, to use a term bandied about in recent days...

FASCIST 

...in the sense that fascism involves strong, centralized, autocratic, dictatorial leadership.

I dunno. It would be self-serving for me to say that.

What I do know is that people whom I know to be good, devoted people in the CGGC/ERC, people who are serious in support of CGGC talk...

...talk to me, but do it secretly. 

---------------- 

Anyway, one of those people asked me, after my first, The ERC should Hire Me post, to declare what I would do if the ERC did hire me.

I'm not certain that I even responded to that comment. 

Then, yesterday, after my second, The ERC should Hire Me post, that reader of the blog wrote again wanting to hear what I'd do "during my first 100 days," then adding a 

:-)

...but, then, saying "...seriously,...I would like to know what you'd actually do - nitty gritty - if you were hired as Executive Director."

---------------- 

And, there is something I have in mind to do but, I'll, for the moment, say two things about why the question is not the perfect question. 

1. No matter what I have in mind now, I would walk, moment by moment, in the Spirit. 

One of the atrocities of the idea of a strategic plan is the notion that leaders believe they know, far in advance and in detail, how the Spirit will direct. 

And, we do have a boatload of history to prove that ERC leaders haven't known that to this point. 

2. My guess is that, for Dr. Richardson, the hope is that the new New Strategic Plan will work and that he'll be able to pull down that hefty Executive Director salary and benefits package until he retires in comfort.

So, let me be clear, when the ERC hires me as its E. D., my tenure will not last much longer than 100 days.

I know enough about how things work, and about my own geezerly energy level to understand that my program will probably take longer to accomplish than I think.

But, I'd go into my tenure thinking I'd do it all in six months but expect that what I do will be accomplished in a year. 

I'd ask my current employer for a leave of absence for six months to perhaps a year and promise to return to my job as soon as the Conference work is completed.

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

And, I'll add this, as far as ERC people are concerned: If I succeed, when I complete my task, there will be no need to pay an Executive Director or a staff of Directors. 

There will certainly be people serving the ministry of the Conference, but not leading it--we will trust the Spirit to lead. 

The people of the Conference may wish to support the labors of those who serve the Conference by taking offerings to cover the expenses of their servants. 

But, there will be, as a matter of principled obedience to the "New Testament plan," no professional and salaried people making a career off of the tithes and offerings of the people of ERC congregations. 

The Conference may, though, decide to retain paid clerical staff at least for a time. That is a decision others, a part from me, will make. 

The ERC should hire me. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Buggy Whips, 8 Track Players or Embracing the Future

Of all the ERC eNews videos, I'm, by far, most impressed with the 8/17/17 edition featuring Dave Williams.

The video provides an intellectual foundation to justify a changing of ERC ways.

Dave explains, clearly and simply, that leadership by pastors functioning in the role of parish priests is no longer respected in our culture.

Then, bafflingly, he gives a preview of the new New Strategic Plan, explaining that it centers on the leadership that healthy pastors provide to healthy churches.

I've received some feedback on the sort of Safe Space group Dave has in mind from someone who is aware of how these groups will work. And, the person writing to me gives a mostly positive assessment and, certainly, favors these safe space pastors' groups.

However, a compelling truth of the decline of the ERC is that the plans, dreams and schemes of its leaders have, since I entered the Conference 42 years ago, ALWAYS failed.

Two truths about where we are in 2017:

1. Pastoral leadership is not biblical.

Jesus trained the twelve apostles, not the twelve pastors.

Jesus taught rather extensively about people having the gift of prophecy and how to tell true prophets from false prophets. Clearly, Jesus did that with the understanding that He would always been empowering prophets and that the devil would always be creating counterfeits.

The Book of Acts highlights the ministry of apostles and prophets. There's not a pastor/parish priest to be found anywhere in the whole book.

Paul actually says that it is Jesus who gave APESTS and that He will continue to do so "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God..."

Yet, nowhere is the a hint of leadership by pastors functioning in the role of the parish priest.

Parish priest leadership, the core of the new New Strategic Plan, is not in the Bible.

2. While there was a time when the culture accepted parish priest leadership, Dave makes a clear and convincing case, that, in the culture today, the pastor/parish priest is no longer respected.

And, certainly, the millennials whom we've lost and hope to win back, do not groove on parish priest led ministry.

Truly, some of them love Jesus. But, a pastor led ministry? No.

The millennials with whom I'm in conversation want to bypass the middle man.

Peter says that all disciples are a royal priesthood. That is what millennials want.

The very idea of the clergy/laity separation of the priestly class from the rest of Body makes the millennials I know want to hurl.

And, they will never, EVER accept it!

It repulses them more than anything else about the traditional, organized, institutional church.

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

What the new New ERC Strategic Plan wants to do just, very simply, can not work among people in their 20s and 30s. It certainly can't work among their children as they mature.

ERC hierarchs are attempting to produce the perfect buggy whip, the ideal boom box.

Their plan will, no doubt, do nice things for people older than Dave and Kevin and Chuck...

...but for millennials and the people who will come after them, it can't work.

The people who have written the plan are people who have thrived in ministry among Boomers and Builders...

...they are also the people have lost us the Xers and their kids and grandkids.

There's a way in which what the hierarchs have come up with could have worked. But, that day has passed and it is gone for good.

We must begin again to walk in the power of the Spirit.

We must repent and turn from our failed ways that the Lord of all authority and power and grace and mercy and blessing is not blessing.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dave Williams's eNews 8/17/17 Video

If you didn't catch it, the latest ERC eNews video features Dave Williams, ERC Director of Congregational Care.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. It's not a YAY GOD video, as Dr. Richardson's recently have been. That's a good thing.

2. It does take a stab at making the case for change. That is also highly commendable.

3. It acknowledges a core problem facing traditional seeker-sensitive churches in 2017: The role of what Dave calls the "pastor"--really the parish priest--is not respected in the real world as it was when Leave it to Beaver was cutting edge TV entertainment.

4. The video makes it clear that the new New Strategic Plan doubles down, with greater emphasis than ever, on parish priest leadership. Dave is superb in defining the problems facing parish priest oriented ministry and then explains that the new New Strategic Plan will focus on the parish priest more than ever, in spite of the fact that the culture has moved on from the parish priest.

5. Dave describes the plan to enhance the effectiveness of our parish priests as if the concept is new and revolutionary, and, perhaps, he thinks it is. However, as I watched, I saw him describing the old ERC LEAD Teams, which I participated in, in which only a small percentage of ERC pastors participated in and which came to nothing.

6. Dave describes the new New Strategic Plan as already being adopted, attempting to foist that myth on the people of the ERC. As I've demonstrated, the plan has yet to be approved.

7. I was fascinated to hear Dave speak, in almost these exact terms, of creating "safe spaces" for pastors, very similar to the safe spaces colleges and universities created for its snowflakes who couldn't deal with the real-world result of last year's election.

8. I've known for years that Dave is the thinker among members of the ERC staff. He demonstrates that again in this video. It's what he believes in that has been failing for all these years and, it seems to me will continue to fail.

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

I've predicted that it is the cynicism of the body of the ERC/CGGC that will be the cause of its ruin, unless the hierarchs break down that cynicism.

Dave demonstrates a crucial weakness of the new New Strategic Plan in that it will depend on the parish priests of the ERC entering the safe spaces the hierarchs will be creating for its hurting, snowflake parish priests.

I suspect that only the hierarchs and the parish priests already in their good old boy network will enter into those safe spaces.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The ERC should Hire Me: The Practical Reason

One word: Millennials.

In the accounts I've received about what was said and done at ERC Conference in 2017, I picked up this sense of the tone or general message:

A key leadership reasoning for why the Conference needs another New Strategic Plan came from a (sudden?) awareness that the Conference has failed to reach people of the generation who are now young adults. And, now, we need to change.

Practically--PRAGMATICALLY--those things are true. Those reasons are far from the best reasons for change and would not come to the minds of Kingdom people who actually love the LORD with all their hearts.

(The first and only legitimate reason to make radical change, from the perspective of people who love God is that the Lord of all authority and power and grace and mercy and blessing is not blessing the ERC. We are out of relationship with Him.)

Yet, from the perspective of people who practice Ecclesiolatry, i.e., love of the church not of the Lord of the church, awareness that we have not reached a generation is powerful motivation for change.

So, from the ERC hierarchs' perspective, even, the ERC should hire me.

What I say next, will sound self-righteous, though I don't mean it that way: I don't care about having followers. I want to follow.

By that I mean that, from a theological perspective, I reject the idea of leadership. In a kingdom there is only one leader: the King. I don't want to lead. I'm happy to be a follower of the King.

But, the ERC hierarchs do want to be leaders. They want to be followed. Under the current new New Strategic Plan, they even have a Leadership Commission.

And, the generation who are now young adults, by the admission of the ERC hierarchs, have rejected our hierarchs' leadership.

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

What amazes me about what I think is how relevant it seems to be. People of my generation, in the CGGC anyway, hate it. They attack me for it.

But, the people of the generation who are now young adults...

...MILLENNIALS...

...listen to what I say and read what I write...

...and seem to think it makes sense in their lives.

The things I love and value align with the desires and values of many people who follow Jesus and are 30 or 40 years younger than I am...

...and, we also despise many of the same things.

I've said before that the ERC should hire me because I've been right about...and the mountaintoppers have been wrong about...all the fiascoed plans and schemes of recent years that have been presented, by current staff and leaders, to the Conference as a sure-fire hope for a bright future.

A second reason that the ERC should hire me is that I, as I already am, already connect with the same millennials the mountaintoppers have lost and now hope to win back.

Dr. Richardson wants to be the guy who leads the new New Strategic Plan but to do that...and succeed by reaching millennials...he will have to completely, totally and in every way, reinvent himself.

I can't see how you can make a Dr. Richardson who can reach millennials out of the Dr. Richardson who's been leading the ERC in the losing of millennials for the last decade. Millennials despise what Dr. Richardson has given the last ten years of his life to create.

Millennials groove on authenticity...

...And, that's precisely where Dr. Richardson is cooked.

No matter how polished a Dr. Richardson 2.0 may be, millennials will see that for what it is at a glance.

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

Now, the 90Something ladies who live in the home where my parents reside would eat Dr. Richardson up. If he'd show up wearing that cross on the chain around his neck and smile his gentle, grandson smile, they'd follow him to heaven.

But, their granddaughters?...grandsons?...great-grandchildren...and their families?

Nah.

No. No. No. No. No.

It will, it CAN, never happen.

If the ERC is going to reach millennials, it will be through someone who reaches millennials...

...and does it with authenticity.

I don't have to reinvent anything to reach millennials.

For reasons of practicality,
The ERC should hire me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

35,000 X 2000: History Repeats Itself

As the details of the ERC new New Strategic Plan of 2017 trickle my way, I get the feeling that I've seen this all before.

Mark Twain reputedly said that history doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme.

There are two ways that what ERC hierarchs are doing with the new New Strategic Plan rhymes with events that were taking place 25ish years ago.

There will be a third. Take it to the bank...unless we repent.

The two ways the new New Strategic Plan already channel 35,000 X 2000:

1. Both were born from moments of despair.

I was not around for the very beginning of 35,000 X but I've talked to several people who were on ground floor of that fiasco.

They've told me that the plan came about from a moment of realization, that borders on panic, that the trend in the Churches of God was disastrous and that, if leaders didn't change course, ultimately the institution would crumble.

That, from what I'm hearing, is the also the story of the new ERC New Strategic Plan.

Can you who are ERCers remember 2015? Remember the fanfare, that accompanied the unveiling of that Strategic Plan? Remember the confidence and conviction of the people who developed it? Am I not correct in remembering that you of the ERC approved it UNANIMOUSLY?

And, we know that, only a few months ago, at 2017 Conference, ERC hierarchs stood before their minions casting vision for a new New Strategic Plan, confessing that the recent plan, vaunted only two years ago, had become mere words on a page, yet claiming excitement about the new plan that matched their confidence in the 2015 plan hatched only two years earlier.

They were in panic mode, praising a new plan which they, apparently, didn't have time to polish up enough to present it in finished form.

Both 35,000 X and the new New Strategic Plan of 2017 have been born of despair and panic.

2. Both, while they're presented as being radical, are attempts merely to tweak the institution.

Key to 35,000 X was the shepherd-oriented, and theologically corrupt, belief that a disciple is a person who sets their fanny in a pew for a church's Sunday morning show and is counted in the annual average attendance figure of a church.

In the same way, the 2017 ERC new New Strategic Plan relies even more passionately than the ERC ever has on the clergy/laity, pastor-as-parish-priest model of church which is, of course, absent from the New Testament and is, essentially, an invention of the Roman Catholic church in the Middle Ages.

As I hear it from multiple and trusted sources, key to the new New Strategic Plan, is the conviction that healthy pastors lead healthy churches.

I've pointed out in the past that CGGC hierarchs draw a line in the sand as far as the institution, hierarchy and parish priest leadership are concerned.

They say:

"Lord, we are yours. We ask you to bless us. Just to let you know, though, our love for the church as an institution is powerful. All we ask of you is that you let us keep our organizational structure, our belief that ministry revolves around the role of the pastor and the laity's attendance of the Sunday morning show and our positions in the hierarchy. Other than that, Lord, we are yours."

Even in moments of despair, both 35,000 and the 2017 ERC new New Strategic Plan begin and end with the institution and, in effect, tell the Holy Spirit, "Get over it."

The third rhyme? The one that will take place in the future?

3. Failure.

The Lord of all authority and power and grace and mercy and blessing did not bless 35,000 X 2000. In fact, the rate of the decline of the CGGC has increased as a result of that fiasco.

If delegates of the ERC empower the hierarchs to put this plan into action, the Lord of all authority and power and grace and mercy and blessing will stand aloof as He has done with our body for all the time shepherds have been in control.

The ERC 2017 new New Strategic Plan is more of the same and it will end as the plans and dreams of the hierarchs have always ended. In failure.

But, it's not too late.

We can repent. We MUST repent.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wearing Herself out for One of the Least of These

Our gathering is different than any other I personally know of...and in many ways.

It is different, perhaps most of all, in what our people actually do in real life as far as difficult, dirty, smelly, uncouth, socially misfit people are concerned.

In even the most open traditional seeker-sensitive church I've been involved with, the seeker had to be pleasant and clean to be genuinely welcomed and encouraged to participate in the church in a meaningful way.

Certainly, the unwashed, literally and metaphorically, were tolerated. They were welcomed to be a number in our attendance stats and they were smiled at and handshook and encouraged to come again. But, to become one of us?...

...they'd have to stop being difficult, smelly and/or uncouth, even if they truly believed the the message of and about Jesus.

And, that was in the, by far, most open traditional seeker-sensitive church I've been involved with.

In most traditional churches I've been a part of, the clear, but unwritten, rule was that the least of these could expect, at best, a begrudging handshake and a grimace in the place of a smile.

One of the essential principles of our gathering is that Jesus meant what He said about righteousness and, because of that, we must obey Him...literally.

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

In the case of the topic of this post, our view of the difficult, dirty, smelly, uncouth and socially misfit is absolutely dictated by the teaching of Jesus in the Sheep and Goats description of the Day.

Speaking for myself, I don't like difficult people or the dirty or smelly or uncouth or socially misfit.

But,...

...Jesus is my Lord. I let Him tell me what to do and not do...

...and, honestly, compared to Him, I myself am difficult, dirty, smelly, uncouth and socially misfit.

And, Jesus said when you feed the hungry, house the stranger, care for the sick, etc., the issue of who is difficult and dirty and smelly and all of those things becomes crucial.

We Believe that when you feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, etc. and do it for someone not among the people Jesus calls the least of these, your kind act is not an act of righteousness...

...and, that it won't be counted on the Day.

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

Evie's worn out these days, physically, emotionally and, probably, to a degree, even spiritually.

One of the people we have been driving here from the home is declining physically. She's in her mid 70s and has not been well for years. Her name is Marian.

Marian is totally impoverished. She is supported by government benefits. She literally has no family and is so shy and reserved that she will never speak unless spoken to and then only in a nearly indistinct mumble.

And, when her most recent physical ailments surfaced, she was also diagnosed as suffering from dementia.

She ended up in a local hospital and Evelyn, because the poor woman was sick, visited her. That is, after all, right out of our playbook.

Two days ago, Marian was moved to a nursing home and both the hospital and the home, believe it or not, had Evie sign some of the paperwork!?!?

And, Evie is just absolutely worn out.

I believe that what we are doing for my parents counts for little, if anything, for eternity.

Jesus pointed out that even sinners love those who can return your love.

It's what Evie is doing now that reflects the love and mercy of Jesus Who gave Himself for people who had no right to ask and didn't deserve mercy from Him.

I'm blessed.

Our talk is radical.

Evie walks our talk.

She's wearing herself out for one of the least of these.

But, she needs, as even Jesus did, to go off to a quiet place and get some rest.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Jesus and the Twelve...uh...Healthy Pastors

My mind boggles when I read what ERC hierarchs are writing these days.

I'm scratching my head when I inspect the fruit of the ERC mountaintoppers' interpretation of the Bible. 

Based on what I'm reading from the eagles who nest on the highest ERC mountaintop, their understanding of the New Testament Gospels is this:

Jesus discipled...

Twelve people...

To be leaders...

Of healthy churches. 

As prominent clergymen of the CGGC who accept the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice, ERC hierarchs have developed a new Strategic Plan which reworks the focus of ERC ministry around the conviction that:

Healthy pastors...

Lead...

Healthy churches. 

Scary.

Does anyone else see any of that in the Word?

When I read the Gospels, I find Jesus calling and equipping people to be apostles, not pastors. 

I see Jesus teaching His apostles that the greatest of them will be the slave of all, not leaders of churches. 

And, I see Jesus announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God, not the creation of congregations. In fact, on one of the two occasions Jesus taught what the church is, He said any time two or three gather in His Name, He is with them.

The first principle of the belief of the CGGC is that the Bible is our only rule of faith and practice. 

From what the ERC hierarchs have already made clear, one of two things are true. Either:

1. They are terrible Bible students, or...

2. They are foisting their opinions on the Conference over the authority of the Bible. 

----------------- 

Any kid with a Junior High Sunday School understanding of the the Bible knows that Jesus trained apostles to go into all the world making disciples. 

Sadly, when the mountaintoppers of the ERC produce fruit, they make the essence of the Gospel Jesus training healthy pastors to lead healthy churches. 

Give me any 14 year old Sunday Schooler as our chief mountaintopper!

At least, we'd get the Bible story right.

We must repent!