State of the Church: “Jesus is Knocking”
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Today is my annual state of the church sermon.
I want to say a particular word of thanks and gratitude to our church councils. Led by our congregational council, our six councils working together as a connectional table have developed 5-year goals to take us through our 200th anniversary in the year 2014.
This is the culmination of 4 years of study and work. Last year we developed our statement of call and our key scripture which is on our bulletin cover.
This year we have 5-year goals which we will now work to develop into action plans.
I didn’t want to encourage you to read during my sermon, so members of the congregational council will hand out copies of the 5-year goals after the service and they will be available upstairs to chat with you.
There are four goals:
I hope you pick up a copy of the goals and study them.
I care about all of our mission and ministry, but we are very fortunate to have a talented and committed staff. We have a very strong staff.
I care about transcendent
worship, but Dee and Stanley now plan, prepare and coordinate our worship and
music. They are gifted and talented in worship and music. I trust them to
prayerfully organize our worship. And
I care about challenging
study for all ages. I care a lot about our children and our youth. But
Theresa Thames-Lynch is on it. She is a self-starter. She started as our
minister to children and family and is now coordinating all of our education
and discipleship programs.
I care about us being a caring community. But Dee and Bob McDonald are on top of this. They are working hard to build more and more caring ministries and working at making sure everybody is invited to be included and engaged in our congregation.
I care deeply about
mission, but Jana Meyer is a mission dynamo. She is everywhere at the same
time doing everything to make mission happen. Katy Wheat worked with Jana for
the past two years as our US-2 missionary, she did amazing work. Now Amihan
Jones is here and plunging in. I don’t know if you know that someone who
Mission is in good hands at Foundry.
Ed Koch is our controller
and getting our financial systems working well,
I hope you treat the staff
list on the back of your bulletin as a prayer list. We have the best nursery
attendants anybody will find anywhere. We have Richard doing our signing (he
is always dependable). We have Ken at our sound board. Ken loves
We have a talented and committed staff. So here’s the question ….the question is what is there left for me to do?
So I’ve been asking where I am led and called to focus my energy during the next five years, and I’d like to share my thinking about this with you this morning.
I have four big holy audacious goals for the next five years. I have come to these within the context of what our councils have done to develop congregational goals and all the work that has been done on our statement of call and key scripture over the past four years.
As I’ve talked with Jane about these at home, she has told me that one of the four is not like the others and that she thought it really didn’t fit, so I am going to mention that goal first and then move on.
We need to fix up our building. Three years ago we did some work on the building but we have lots more to do. We have two generations of deferred maintenance to deal with. We have wires inside our walls that absolutely need to be replaced, we need a new elevator, we have space we are not using well, bathrooms that will never look clean, floors that need replacing, stained glass that needs to be preserved. We have lots of work we need to do on this building.
Someone told us not long ago that when he came into our building during the week, he assumed we were a dying church based on the condition the building is in. When he comes here on Sunday he sees a vital congregation. But that is not the impression our building gives.
The councils’ 5-year goals include holding a capital campaign in 2012. If we have a successful capital campaign in 2012 we can start some of the work by 2014, our 200th anniversary.
I’ve started to pray that Foundry congregation members will make lots of money between now and 2012. Lord, we pray that this congregation will experience salary increases and new sources of income and resources, that they will have lots of money by 2012 and we also pray that you lay it upon everybody’s heart to want to give all that money away… or at least lots of it. Amen.
This is our house. People are not going to trust us when we talk about taking care of the earth and taking care of the community if we do not take care of our own house. We’ve got housekeeping to do. That is the one focus Jane says doesn’t fit with the others, but we’ve got to do it.
So here are the other three:
First, we can end chronic
We need 2,500 units of
permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness in
I think it is cheaper than what happens to our souls when we walk past people sleeping on benches and church steps at night. I think something bad happens to our souls when we stop noticing or caring that people in our city are living on the streets.
I remember when this first began. When I first started out in ministry you didn’t see people living on the street. There were flop houses and there were missions and SROs on skid row where people rented a bed for a few dollars, but you did not see people sleeping on the streets and in doorways the way we do now.
I remember being aghast when this started. And the majority of the people who were chronically homeless were people who are either mentally ill or who suffer the illness of addiction or both. They were ill. And they still are.
This started on my watch. When I started out in ministry it wasn’t this way. I was a minister of Jesus Christ and I let this happen. I served Christian churches that let this happen.
I intend to do everything in my power to stop it before I hang up my alb and stole.
There are people we know because they have come to our Walk-In Mission for help who are already living radically changed lives as a result of permanent supportive housing… people whom we thought would never find stability and they have.
I intend to talk about ending homelessness again and again, to work with you and other congregations and other pastors, and Jack Evans and Laura Zeilinger at the city Permanent Supportive Housing Work Group.
When I began in ministry if
you saw a person living in the street people would say: “We’ve got to do
something. We can’t let somebody live on the street.” The very idea was
inconceivable. Anybody else remember? What has happened to us that now we
pass somebody in the street and hardly notice? We can end chronic
Number 2. I feel led to focus time and energy on opening the church’s doors wider to people who have given up on church because of un-Christlike ways the church has acted. There are people who reject church not because they reject Jesus but because the church has not represented Jesus well.
A few Sundays ago a team of Foundry volunteers did a two-minute survey of people in our neighborhood during our worship services. They got 88 people to respond to the survey. It is not a scientific study but I found the results fascinating.
One of the questions the survey asked was “What is the most important thing that churches need to remember?” Let me read you some of the responses.
What are the assumptions behind those statements, do you think? What do those folk assume about us? Why do you think people told us over and over again that they thought the most important thing churches needed to hear was not to judge?
The church has not always done a very good job of representing Jesus. People have felt judged, they’ve been told not to ask questions, not to disagree, not to think, not to be creative, not to be sexual, not to be alive, not to be themselves.
There are people who, no matter what you or I say or do, when they come into a room with pews and an organ, they will hear negative messages from their past.
They carry so much negative experience with them that anything that feels like traditional church to them won’t work.
This is part of the reason that we will be doing our new Sunday night gathering upstairs with no pews, no organ, and no pulpit. We’ll sit around café tables. Instead of a sermon the way I do it down here, there will be dialogue and discussion. It will be pretty much the same basic content but it will be more of a conversation. I’ll wear running shoes, jeans and my India Pale Ale T-Shirt.
The image we usually think of from Revelation of Jesus knocking on the door is an image of Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts but what Revelation is really talking about is Jesus knocking on the door of our churches.
I think there are people who belong to Christ that the church has lost because of its message of judgment, narrow-mindedness and conformity. We will try to connect with some of those folk in our Sunday night gathering up in the Fellowship Hall. If that doesn’t work we’ll start a service in Madam’s Organ or somewhere else.
I feel led these next five years to do whatever we need to do to reconnect with people who are drawn to Jesus but who have been turned off from church. They are Christ knocking at our door.
Number 3. The
This one is tough because
it is so hard to see the way ahead. We have worked so hard for so long to
I’ll be honest. I can’t see the way anymore. I can’t see how we will get to where we need to go.
I can’t see it but I do believe this: if we continue to work, if we continue to educate, to legislate, to agitate, to protest, to dialogue, to love… a breakthrough will come. I think it is going to be a breakthrough that will surprise us and I am believing it will happen during the next five years.
I don’t know what it will be but I believe it will happen.
Did you know that Rosa
Parks was not the first African-American to get arrested for refusing to give
up her seat on a bus in the South to a white person? Irene Morgan was arrested in 1946. Sarah
Louise Keys was arrested in 1955. Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to
give up her seat on a
Rosa Parks was not the first, but for some reason nobody knows when she did it there was a breakthrough. No one could have known it in advance.
In 1964 African-American
Methodists had been working for 24 years to end the central jurisdiction—the
structure of segregation in the
There is a story in the book of Judges. In the story God send the Israelites into battle against the Benjaminites. The Israelites lost the battle. Twenty-two thousand Israelites died in that battle. In a battle God sent the Israelites to fight. The Israelites mourned and wept that night.
The next day God sent the Israelites to fight against the Benjaminites again. The Israelites wept before the Lord and they inquired of the Lord, “Must we go up against the Benjaminites again?” The Lord told them to go into battle again. And they lost again. 18,000 Israelites died.
The Israelites wept and mourned and asked the Lord not to send them into battle again. The Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands (Judges 20: 19-48).”
Sometimes God sends us into battles we will lose. Sometimes we lose the battle again and again. There are casualties. We weep and mourn and ask God to not send us into battle anymore. I don’t know why God sends us into battles we will lose.
But then God says, “Go up one more time, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”
There will be a breakthrough. I know we are tired. We are grieved, but tomorrow God will give them into our hands.
Please read our goals.
Please think about fixing up our building. Think about ending homelessness. Think about opening our doors to people who
belong to Christ but don’t know it because the church has not represented
Christ well. Think about a breakthrough in the
We will need your help. Your time, your talent, your resources. To do what we have set out to do we will need a 10 percent increase in our 2010 budget. Times are tough for some of you; some of you will not be able to increase your pledge.
So some of us will need to increase our pledges more than 10 percent. Some of us who have never pledged before, will need to pledge for the first time and to pledge generously.
Our stewardship ministry team has prepared a yellow sheet with information for you to look at. Please take this home with you and read it this week.
Pray and think about it, and come back next week when we will talk about the spirituality of giving. Thank you for your kind attention.