1. Bonnie – Picture on the book is upside down because it is a weird church. 🙂

    There were seven of us who met on Sunday night.. As we said, come when you can.

    We started out with introductions and then began talking about the Spiral Dynamic Memes. We discussed Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life; No one comes to the Father except through me.” and named how folks in the various color memes might interpret or understand those words. We had this discussion partly to get more comfortable with Spiral Dynamics and partly to talk about our faith in this culture.

    Dave had a couple of handouts that were helpful also in getting more of a grasp on the colors.
    until we figure out if we can add attachments to the blog, I add these notes that I picked up from
    david’s material and my learning. Spiral Dynamics reflects a world view; a value system; a belief structure; a way of thinking.
    Each meme can manifest itself in a healthy or unhealthy form. We move back and forth between the memes (colors)
    We move between the colors -millennials in our culture as a group are in the green to yellow colors.

    For some additional fun and discussion, we talked about my sermon from the morning and what colors I was addressing and the color of the sermon itself.

    With two former Methodists in our group and noticing our own declining worship attendance, we named our fear about the future of the church. We don’t want UCC to close as several Methodist churches have. We named the hope promised and the continuing need to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ alive. How do we do that?

    This morning (Tuesday, June 27) I add – we connect with the Holy Spirit, we pray, seek the Spirit’s guidance. And we remember that UCC has a particular ministry. We have a ministry of inclusion; we have a mission to reach out into the community to those who are in need in any number of ways. We talked in our group about the strength and history of UCC Neillsville’s mission emphasis.

    One of the focuses from the 2nd chapter of the book was on moving from inside the church to into the community. So we
    talked about how to reach out to folks – what is our church called to do? Several members had already been thinking about having block parties in their neighborhoods to get to know their neighbors. And then we wondered what is a next step…- how does one welcome folks in a way that shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ without pushing folks away.

    Barb P told about Health Assessments that take place in each county and how those assessments can give us valuable information about the needs of our community. We talked about more folk being hungry than we are likely aware of in Neillsville. We wondered about having a soup kitchen in our community. or an end of month Saturday night community meal. We talked about our Back Pack Ministry and our partnership with Cummins and the School to make that ministry possible. We wondered how we could make known to the community our involvement in this ministry I suggested probably with a newspaper article.

    We talked about the value of our Milwaukee Urban Immersion Trip for adults. Is it time to organize one? Anyone interested?
    We also talked about the number of youth who have been confirmed recently – how do we reach them. I know I need to go to ball games. We wondered about a Wednesday night brief worship service after Confirmation/ CDs for parents as well as youth.

    It was again a good discussion that led in many directions.

    Lots of ideas tossed into the mix of how do we do church in this culture. How do we share our faith in Jesus Christ in a way that is meaningful for people in our church and community. what does God call us to do.
    I invite others to add to my comments, to add their own questions and ideas – to make suggestions. Where does the book, where does our discussion lead you?

  2. A few items caught my attention from chapters 1 and 2
    Pg. 2: “we could soon be looking at a Christian future as grim as what we currently see in Scandinavia.” I did some quick searches on Google and from what I gathered is more people consider themselves spiritual but not necessarily Christian.

    Pg 11: “There could be a rediscovery of scripture my mid century that will rival the Great Awakenings. That rediscovery almost certainly will embrace more than simply the Old and New Testaments. It will likely include the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran.” That wold be an interesting service.

    Pg 17: it states that when a movement becomes an institution, it gets bogged down in the 80/20 rule.

  3. Ken, I agree with your first comment. I was disappointed on my recent trip to Holland when I realized family members who had been going to church regularly a few years ago, did not even attend worship on Easter Sunday. I also see the decline of involvement in the church here. While faith in God, trusting in Jesus, and prayers may continue to be important in the lives of the spiritual but not religious; they also find themselves without a community that supports, encourages and challenges them to keep the faith and be true to the Gospel. The church needs to figure out how to support them on their journey when they are ready to receive the help.
    I also think folks are more into a variety of faiths… and sometimes folks think that what they believe is Christian; but it is not – as in reincarnation which Hindu. At the same time, some also get more out of meditation or centering prayer than worship, unaware that mindfulness can be shaped into a Christian discipline.
    Concerning various faith traditions in worship services…I have used Native American Prayers in a wedding as requested. At our National meeting of the UCC a variety of prayers from different faiths are often used… sometimes reinterpreting them into a Christian understanding. Native American Prayers may be used, as may Pacific Islander prayers or Native Hawaiian Prayers. The General Synod meets this week and much of it is streamed on line… at ucc.org I particularly encourage watching the Sunday afternoon worship service- at 1:30 CST.
    I do think more of the Old and New Testament will be read and interpreted with new eyes in the years to come.
    The church has become more an institution than a movement. We do need to get out of the building which is one way the institution is symbolized. The 80/20 rule is true. Our paid staff (me in particular) is likely more than 20% of the budget. I would not say our paid staff do 80% of the ministry. More often the 80/20 rule describes the 20% of the membership who do and pay for 80% of the ministry. That 20% gets tired and frustrated that others do not join them in doing more to support the ministry.

  4. July 16
    Chapter 3
    p. 28 “Citizenship no longer means Christian.” Agree –Disagree? What do you think?
    p. 30 “ A growing number of people, both laity and clergy, are embracing the end of Christendom as a gift to the Jesus movement.” What do you see as the difference between the two? And, yes, I tend to agree… the change from Christianity as an expected way of life to following Jesus as a particular way of life can revive the faith and faithful.

    p. 32 Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it.” This is worth praying about and reflecting on. What makes you come alive? If you don’t know, maybe someone close to you has noticed what causes you to come to life with joy and passion.

    • reviewing this blog and looking at some of these questions.
      “Citizenship no longer means Christian.” I have to agree it does not and should not. Being a citizen means different things to different people but I think in the past it was assumed by the majority of citizens of this county that we were all Christians, as the majority changes, so would this assumption.

      “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it.” This seems to always be said in some form from discussions about what kind of career should a person pursue. Nothing to do with Christianity or religion in general, just what will make you happy and fulfilled at the end of the day. I have read a few books or articles by successful business people that all seem to say at some point they did not really feel fulfilled until they started giving back to society. Those pursuits were a large factor in them being able to give back but that realization seems to be a process that has to be gone through in its own time.

  5. July 16
    Chapter 4
    With who and what partners does UCC currently do our ministry? How can we partner with them and others in the future to improve life and maybe even bring about the Kingdom of God in Neillsville/Clark County?

    Some of us have talked about church finances and the decline of worship attendance. We are aware of the high costs of insurance and of raising youth with not only clothing and food costs but also the extra-curricular costs that are part of the lifestyle of 2017. It is also likely more so than in the past benevolent giving is spread over more organizations than just the church. Multi-generational families are stretched in time and finances – pulled in many directions. The church will have to change its ways. What ways do you see as possibilities that might encourage us and future generations to learn and follow in the teachings of Jesus Christ?

    Curious – in what ways can we partner with the athletic programs church members everywhere see as taking many families away from worship? Sure we can sponsor teams – but I am wondering are there ways we can further God’s love and our love for children and neighbor through our ministry? Maybe there are ways we can support parents. What do you think? Parents and grandparents – are there ways you want to be supported as you strive to be followers of Jesus?

  6. August 11, 2017
    We have had many conversations – some have fostered ideas such as block parties; end-of-month meals; gatherings in homes; Bible Study in homes; working at finding out the needs of Clark County; changing the style of worship; using a screen in worship to allow hands free worship. We have talked about our partners in ministry. (Our Backpack ministry would not happen without our community partners – the schools, Cummins, Listeman Foundation, and the support of many individuals and organizations inside and outside of UCC.) We have talked about theology. What do we believe? Do we believe the Bible literally? How about other faiths – how can we interact with them? Can we worship with them? We have talked about supporting people in their Christian faith journey outside of Sunday worship. We have wondered about worshipping at other times and in other places.
    On page 78 of the book Weird Church Nixon and Estock ask us to imagine a very different church than how we organize church and how we worship today.
    On page 72 the question is raised, “What does it mean to relearn how we do church so that it aligns more with Jesus and the New Testament? How can we multiply our impact on the world for good and blessing, while minimizing our cultural (and carbon) footprints?”

    My question for our discussion here and in our group on Sunday is “What are the non-negotiables?”
    Theologically – what must one believe to be a Christian or follower of Jesus?
    What are non-negotiable expectations if one is to claim to be a Christian?
    What is the role of the church and what must the church be to be faithful?
    What makes a church a church? What is non-negotiable?
    What needs to be taught to the children and youth and to new members?
    What kind of leadership does the church need?
    Of course, underlying some of these questions is, is church necessary for believers? For the community?
    What do you believe?

  7. I think that if a person is on a spiritual journey, then more things are negotiable. When a person starts to solidify his or her beliefs, more things become non negotiable.

    • Hi Dave, I just had a chance to read this now. As we talked briefly Sunday about what are required to be a Christian personally and as a church, a line from the article grabbed my attention. As an individual the only requirement or non negotiable for me is to believe in Jesus and love others and for a church the only requirement or non negotiable, again, for me, seems to be to “…gather then, in his name” Even at that, I don’t think I have ever been challenged or moved to take a stand for or against someone else’s beliefs or actions so that could be why my list is short?

      • Hi everybody,
        After letting last nights discussion percolate I think I can modify my non negotiable s, or core beliefs

        A christian should love one another through actions, words and deeds as Jesus does.
        A christian church should gather in Jesus name.

        I am not even sure you need the 2nd statement, it seems just a natural extension of the first but probably necessary because people want to commune, recharge and discuss questions they have or issues of the times.

        • Yes. I agree, Ken on what makes for an individual who claims to be a follower of Jesus. I like your additions.
          I might add that for me, I will also claim God as Creator and Holy Spirit as the one who continues to guide so we might follow Jesus’ actions, words and deeds. Maybe it s not necessary to add God and Holy Spirit because following Jesus would naturally include a relationship with God and Holy Spirit.

          I still want a bit more than for a church to gather Jesus’ name. i want the church at least to support in some way those who are loving as Jesus loves. Maybe the church is there to support individuals as they follow Jesus on their own journey and mission; or the church could be an entity that fosters particular ways and creates ways for groups to work together to enact the love of Jesus. So that the ministry of the church becomes greater than the sum of the individuals doing their part. (The whole is greater than the sum of its parts)

          Then as secondary pieces for both, I would think we would need to read/ know the ways of the Jesus through the study of God’s Word. For me that study would include freedom of interpretation.
          Going back to the Bible and my seminary studies – I would think also that in some way the church needs to acknowledge and worship our Creator. and I think it would be important for the church to foster relationships among individuals so they can support one another on the journey. I, myself – need help staying on the path of faithfulness – or to use your language I need others and the Holy Spirit to help me to love others through actions, words and deeds as Jesus does.

          Thanks for the conversation!

  8. I also found Rob Phillip’s article in which he uses Albert Mohler’s method of prioritizing church/Christian issues interesting as well. The examples that Mohler uses in each of the categories (i.e. primary, secondary, and tertiary issues) certainly may not meet approval by other church leaders or spokespeople as far as his particular prioritization of issues. For example, he places “types of worship” and “hours of worship” in the tertiary scale of importance while others may place a higher priority on such issues, possibly placing them in a secondary or primary tier. Regardless, it is an interesting prioritization of issues that I am sure would vary amongst all Christians and church leaders who prioritize their Christian beliefs and institutional goals and discussions. Depending upon the feedback given by the full church membership, an issue may be installed in one category one year and then with a change of cultural influences or membership the issue will move to another tier of importance.
    I share your thoughts emphasizing a non-negotiable as a belief in “Jesus and love…” for others. That has been my mainstay during my rather lengthy absence from organized religion. I know that I shared phrases from the following song with you, but now finding the full hymn I will share it below. Again, having heard this sung a few years ago by an ecumenical choir, it did bring tears to my eyes:

    Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
    Calling for you and for me;
    See, on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
    Watching for you and for me.

    Come home, come home,
    Ye who are weary, come home;
    Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home.

    Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
    Pleading for you and for me?
    Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
    Mercies for you and for me?

    Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
    Passing from you and from me;
    Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
    Coming for you and for me.

    Oh! for the wonderful love he has promised
    Promised for you and for me;
    Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,
    Pardon for you and for me.

    • I am glad you found the Mohler article Dave. I appreciate thinking about primary, secondary and tertiary. It has given me food for thought.
      I am grateful you have found a home among us. I will try to remember to contact you when I choose it for a hymn for congregational singing.

  9. I paste here words from our author Paul NIxon which he had posted on Facebook. He has some powerful words. I think the agenda of our weird Church Camp may have just changed. I will comment on your comments, Dave and Ken a little later…

    Seems we may all want to clear our calendars and focus on this (from Paul Nixon):


    Ten years ago, my friend Amy Butler was the pastor of the Baptist church down the street from my home. In DC, the Baptist brand has been dinked pretty badly by its association with right wing American politics, so Amy’s church adopted a tagline: A Different Kind of Baptist. A decade later, a lot of United Methodists are sensing a need for such a tagline to distance their congregations from an unending food-right over human sexuality as our denominational nightmare unfolds in slow-mo. Then, last week, two and one half pages (not column inches, but full pages) of USA Today were devoted to the total breakdown of the Roman Catholic Church in Guam in protecting pedophile priests, reminding us of the similar sagas that have been unearthed in all corners of America in the Catholic Church. And now, post Charlottesville, we are left with two bastions of support within President Trump’s political base, who will not budge even after unending moral failures of the current administration: the two groups being neo-Nazis and evangelical Christian pastors. One of the latter (a not-so-different kind of Baptist?) let us all know last week that it is perfectly and divinely justified to rain down nuclear bombs on North Korea.
    Does anybody out there wonder why the category of Spiritual but not Religious is growing by probably a million or two persons per month this summer? Talk about the fastest growing church in America! People are fleeing organized religion like bats flying out hell. The younger they are and the whiter they are, the faster it would seem they are flying away. Back-to-school Sunday will be a little leaner this year in many places.

    Our family vacation this summer was a road trip into eastern Canada. I posted Facebook photos each day of the journey. This was not something I’d planned to do, but there were so many people following this by the time we got to Maine, that I just kept going. Canada, with lower crime rates, better race relations, more functional systems of healthcare, less polarization in civic life, and fewer religious-practitioners today that in any year in its history – a small fraction of the 1960s. The church collapsed in Canada over the last half century. In the USA, we are now fast catching up with the Canadians. Stepping into Canada (in terms of its religious practices – or lack thereof) is a bit like a trip to America twenty years hence – with the possible exception of the deep South. And, honestly, Canadian families and communities are not falling apart for their lack of church affiliation.

    Please do not mistake my point here. I know first-hand that faith in Christ is a revolutionary force in human lives, healing all manner of pain, all manner of wickedness (a good word from our baptismal liturgies that we ought reclaim) and relational brokenness. I know that Thing which happened to Saul of Tarsus: Trump-like in his alliance with those who would terrorize religious minorities: an encounter with Christ turned him upside down, to become the first-century poster child of human moral rehabilitation by the power of God. I believe in that Thing: the experience of conversation. I have seen it many times, and in many flavors, with all manner of people. I know the best of Christianity’s possibilities or I would not have given my life to helping create hundreds of new communities formed in the Way of Jesus.

    And yet the church as we know it, or more importantly as North Americans know it these days, is failing in its witness, failing in catastrophic ways. It is not just a different kind of Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or Evangelical that we desperately need to show the world – it is a different kind of Christian – or perhaps an old kind that is simply not prominently displayed on the airwaves, on the web or in many of the most visible expressions of church.

    Something has to shift, and fast. Those of you who seek to lead faith communities with Jesus-like compassion and integrity – it is a tough season: a bunch of your brothers and sisters have trashed your credit rating in the culture. In times like these, I really don’t care whether you sing old hymns or Christian radio top 40. I don’t care how much water you baptize with, or whether you do small groups or Sunday school classes. I don’t care how savvy you are applying Mission insite wisdom to your ministry strategies. What I really care about more than ever is that you show your community clearly that you have integrity, that you stand for holy things, that you have compassion for the people who mess up and righteous alliance with the people who get beat up and pushed to the margins.

    Please show up in your community as spiritual leaders! Please be willing to do some Saturday evening sermon rewrites when we have crazy weeks (all too common this year!). We can work on church growth strategies next year. Just show up as spiritual leaders this year, and lead your churches to show up.. to a public longing for something better than that which religion or politics as usual is delivering.

    Paul Nixon
    The Epicenter Group

    Washington DC
    703 980 6150
    202 506 5472

  10. I hope you have a safe, enjoyable, and educational trip for your ‘continuing education.’
    Thank you for all you do, and we look forward to your safe return.
    Dave Harnisch

  11. Chapter 12 was refreshing because it shows that some churches are fine with a small congregation and aren’t worried about how to change into a weird church. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” I would hope a congregation that chooses this path is still reaching outside its walls into the community and beyond.

    Chapter 13 got me excited with ways the Neillsville UCC could help fill a need in the community with a “Fresh food pantry” run out of the building a few days a week and selling what’s left at the farmers market on Saturday.

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