Monday, January 31, 2011

Finding Ways to Network

The denominational world is changing. I continue to read articles about the post-denominational era and the changes taking place in both national denominations and state-wide religious judicatories. I do not know (and I really do not think anyone else does either) how our changing world will change our denominational relationships in the coming years. I do believe real change has already started. In many respects the churches already know this (at least the healthiest congregations). Churches are exploring and finding new ways to collaborate for ministry. It is not just individuals who are looking at denominational issues in new ways. It is also local churches.

As the globalization of our communities, societies, and nations continues to take place, churches have new opportunities. The world is getting smaller. Communication and collaboration is getting easier. Churches are no longer as dependent upon the denomination as they once felt they were. They are also no longer in the closed denominational systems they once comfortably operated within. Every church is now being exposed to new resources, new ideas, new strategies and new potential relationships. In some ways congregations are becoming a part of a larger Christian community which is often much more engaged and helpful than denominational organizations have historically been.

Now remember, I am the Executive Director for a state-wide Baptist organization. Churchnet is a Baptist network serving churches. Churchnet is a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. “Churchnet” is much more than a new name. It is an acknowledgment that the world has and continues to change. These changes mean we need to adapt how we serve local congregations. Churchnet is really an expression of our desire to create a new paradigm denominational entity which is not focused on the denomination, but on the churches we serve. Our goal is create an environment that allows congregations to collaborate at a level and in ways they have not been able to before.

Most of the dynamic congregations today look for help from other churches. They are not looking to the denomination for the next great resource or innovation. They are watching and sharing with other churches. We believe our mission is to facilitate this process. Our new initiatives (an online Resource Center, an online Training Events, a Relationship Network to facilitate online discussion groups, a Consultant Source which allows local church experts to help each other, etc.) are all designed to allow churches to serve churches. We believe churches can be more effective as we learn from each other, help each other, and collaborate with each other.

I want to encourage you to become a member of Churchnet by registering on our site (www.thechurchnet.org). It is free and open to everyone. Encourage your church member and friends to register. Let’s build a collaborative community as we serve Christ today. Maybe we can help shape the next generation of denominational organizations. Maybe we can build a network that allows churches to serve each other.

This article was written for Churchnet's e-newsletter.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Caring for a Hungry World

The tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel tells us the story of a man who asked Jesus an important question—Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? People throughout Christian history have continued to ask this question. What does my faith require of me? How can I live out my faith each day? Jesus points the man to the commandments, specifically the commandments which focus on our relationships with each other. The man’s response indicated that he was a “rule keeper.” He knew how to play the religion game, but his legalistic approach to his faith had never brought him peace.

Jesus would not allow him settle for an attempted short-cut to the Kingdom of God. Jesus lovingly pointed him to heart of the Christian faith. You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. We have to get our focus off ourselves and off our possessions. Jesus pointed the man to the needs of the poor.

Many churches promote a World Hunger Offering to provide an opportunity for church members to learn about hunger needs and an opportunity give to meet these needs. “Bread for the World” reports the world is facing a hunger crisis unlike anything it has seen in more than 50 years. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. That's one child every five seconds. There were 1.4 billion people in extreme poverty in 2005. The World Bank estimates that the spike in global food prices in 2008, followed by the global economic recession in 2009 and 2010 has pushed between 100-150 million people into poverty.

Churchnet is collaborating with Texas Baptists through our partnership to promote our World Hunger Offering. Some churches promote their Hunger Offering in the fall, but many churches are beginning to promote gifts to World Hunger throughout the year. We are beginning to develop World Hunger resources for churches on our new website (www.thechurchnet.org). We are also providing an opportunity for churches to apply for hunger funds for local hunger ministries here in our own state. You can visit our site to download the application form for hunger funds for 2012 or contact our Churchnet office. Applications for 2012 funding must be received in the Churchnet office no later than February 14, 2011.

The World Hunger Offering helps to meet hunger needs here in Missouri, across our nation, and around the world through Baptist World Aid. We would love to hear how you are meeting the needs of the hungry in your community. Check out our website for information about ways your church can promote a World Hunger Offering. Our Savior continues to point us to the needs of the poor and the hungry in our world.

This article was written for the Churchnet page in the next issue of the Word&Way.