Friday, April 27, 2012

General Conference 2012- Clergy Effectiveness and Vital Churches- A Parable

I Love Golf
I love to play golf.  Wait, I loved playing golf a few years ago.  Today, it's a struggle. I was a pretty good golfer, regularly posting scores in the top 5% of all golfers.  I wasn't the best by any means, but compared to everyone else, I was up there.
Then five years ago something happened.  My life began to change.  I was in a car accident that sidelined me for a while.  I married, and we soon had a beautiful son together.  Other commitments came into my life and golf was pushed way to the back.  I have not played golf much in the past few years.

Back On the Course
I finally was able to play golf this past week.  The day was perfect.  The temperature was in the low 80's for the round, and I was playing with a guy I played in tournaments with before, and we push each other to shoot better.

We started the day off, no one really in front of us, no one pushing from behind.  Played the first three holes and the day looked great.

Then we noticed the course start to change.  The course was under repair, to put it lightly.  For some reason, the owner decided to strip all the fairways and change the grass.  This left grooves in between the old grass and the new grass.  The fairway was no longer the place to be, it was easier to play out of the rough or sand.

Things Were Not the Same
The course management that I had learned over the years was completely thrown out.  I had to scramble to make pars and bogeys.  The day was promising and the more we played, the changes became a huge impediment to enjoying a round of golf.

The course in a few years will supposedly be better, so the guys in the clubhouse late told us.  If we just waited 2-3 years and were patient, it would all be worth it.  They had done this to the greens a few years ago as well, but honestly, we could not tell much difference.

Out of Practice
I will admit that I was not as practiced as I could have been.  My drives were good.  My second or third shots were solid as well.  I really struggled was putting.  I three putted a bunch.  Putting is not like hitting a driver.  Putting is very technical and if you are really good at it, it's about feel.   I had lost my touch and fine motor skills to put the ball in the hole.  It took me two to three putts, instead of one or two.  That adds up.  Mistake after mistake began to erode my confidence, and it started to show.
If I had just kept up practicing my putting these last few years, not even paying a whole round, it would have been a whole different story.

My Favorite Courses
Things in golf have really changed.  The equipment is drastically different since I purchased my last set of clubs just eight years ago.  My clubs still work ok for me, but there have been changes.
I addition to the equipment changing, courses all over the country are closing.  They are opening a few new courses in growing areas, but in general, we have less golf courses in the US today than we did just ten years ago.
Two of my favorite golf courses closed recently.  I had my best games on both of those courses.
I was sad at first, but it's just the way it is.  Sure, I could have played more, joined the club, but I guess I was not that committed.

End of our Day
We both finished our rounds with a higher than usual score.  Why?  I know I was out of practice, but the course sure made it very difficult to enjoy the experience or even play better.  Courses are usually set up to challenge you, but this one was in terrible shape.  It wasn't a challenge, it was a golfers worst nightmare.
As we left, my friend, a life long golfer remarked, "You know, I think we can be done playing here.  There are other courses we should play."  I agree.

My Lesson
What I learned the other day is something I already know, and have known for a long time.

If I want to play better golf, I need to practice.  I also need to find courses that are in reasonably good shape that will challenge me.  I enjoy being challenged and working hard to achieve things.  Those courses are out there, I just have to find them and support them.  

For the UMC
Times have changed.  The world is different.  Many of our churches and pastors are unwilling to change and do not regularly practice healthy spiritual disciplines.  If we are not faithfully practicing, then our churches suffer and our communities suffer.

What churches and pastors need are a set of tools, practices and priorities that will yield fruitfulness and effectiveness in ministry and mission.

What the General Conference needs to do is give Annual Conferences, Bishops, Churches, Laity and Pastors the freedom to experiment.  That might mean changing structures, rules, procedures and eliminating some things that we hold dear.

If our true goal is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, then why do we focus on so many other things at General Conference?

I applaud the Missouri Conference for the effort our Directors, Bishop, Cabinet, Laity and Pastors.  We have implemented a strategy to "turn around" our decline.

That strategy has included: a big change in Annual Conference structure, the Healthy Church Initiative, Pastoral Leadership Development classes, Laity Leadership Development Classes and a willingness to embrace new forms of local church models.

People love God.  People want to love God.  People want to know God.  Let us put away tired arguments and tired fights and focus on something very simple.

Love God
Love Your Neighbor

Let us stop blaming, calling names and speaking poorly of each other.  It's only out of love in Jesus Christ that we can work together.  That will allow us to call each other into accountability and make a difference by transforming lives in Jesus Christ.

My hope and prayer for this General Conference is that the healthy changes that need to be made will be without negativity and some feeling hurt.

Also, that once the decisions have been made, that we will leave united as one body, even though we may disagree about the changes, made or not made.

Go in peace and go with God.


Mark Harvey said...
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Morgan Guyton said...
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