Roger Gateson Sept. 19, 2010
“You cannot serve both God and Mammon” says the writer of today’s Gospel reading. I like that. I like things to be clear cut! However, living it is more complex. And what if Mammon, god of wealth, is only representative of many false gods?...I‘ll leave that with you...Let’s hear now from some of our friends. The comments they make are real, but not necessarily their own.
1. You don’t need a church to worship God.
2. You don’t need a community to have a church!
3. Grain of Wheat is too big. You can’t get to know everyone in a group this large.
4. I know some people well; others I hardly know at all.
5. I want to be a Supporting Member; you really get to know people in Seed Groups.
6. I don’t like some people in my seed group, but I try to love them all.
7. I don’t feel very comfortable here yet, but I admit I don’t attend often.
8. I cant be a Member because I want my Wednesdays free for my family.
9. WTB isn’t about labeling members; it’s about intentions for commitment.
10. I really dislike participating in decisions. There’s too much tension for me.
11. Somebody has to make decisions and I’m good at it.
12. “Ways to Belong” is legalistic and unwelcoming.
13. Membership is not just about attendance at meetings!
14. With “Ways To Belong” at least we choose how much we want to participate.
15. This all irrelevant; it’s following Jesus that counts.
16. If you truly value something you have to be willing to help make it work.
17. ALL: STAND and READ your COMMENT 3 TIMES SIMULTANEOUSLY CREATING CHAOS!
Not so clear cut! … Last week I made what I thought was a fairly restrained appeal for reflection on your life and G.o.W.’s place in it, in preparation for recommitment this coming Wednesday… Today you get an unabashed Servant-leader’s pitch to increase your participation! Let me rephrase that: Today I’m personally inviting you to participate more actively in G.o.W… Rather than requirements and expectations, I hope you hear invitation and opportunity.
Now, about some of those comments we just heard:
Do we need a church to worship God? Does God need G.o.W? Most of us do feel a need to gather with a worshipping community. The others, I suppose are at Stella’s. Perhaps they’ll worship later in the day… Beyond the act of joining in the music, hearing Scripture, praying together, celebrating Communion, there’s a quality of worshiping together, and a sense of the Spirit moving that most of us don’t get, worshipping alone. God’s presence is felt in the body of worshippers and seen in each other…As we say, “we are the Body of Christ”…God doesn’t need us; but we need God and we need the body…We don’t claim to be better; it’s just our way...Have you ever considered that in addition to making possible a worship service, your offerings of music, leadership, reading, setting up, caring for children, teaching, looking after the library, planning, managing finances are all gifts to the community and are, at heart, acts of worship?
Do we need a community? All churches have some sense of community, but we have made it an integral part of ours…Remember there’s that celebrated hyphen in G.o.W .C.-C… We enjoy strong relationships and friendships, and together we have opportunities to serve others…It’s challenging but rewarding...Building and maintaining community is just one way of being disciples of Jesus…This community supports and challenges us as we continue on the faith journey...and it gives a meaningful focus to our lives… However, a community is made up of it’s members. You might recall a song, “We are the world.” Well, we are the community! A few days ago a member asked me why I cared if he came to members’ meetings. I replied: because you are a part of my community! I like to see you there! I need you there! He responded, “No one’s ever said that before” If that’s true, we have been neglecting each other.
Size is a legitimate concern, but I think the issue really is how we establish relationships. It’s true that after worship, the time is short and the group is large, and it is impossible to connect meaningfully…So, for more intimate connection most of us look to seed groups which have only 8 or 9 members…Those who have been in G.o.W. for a while will attest to the close bonds and lasting friendships often formed amongst Supporting Members in seed groups…If you are attending worship as a Friend of G.o.W., as you’re welcome to do, but want to experience more of community, talk to me about how you can become part of a seed group…You will be supported and you will be a gift of support to others…If you are ready to commit to the expectations of Covenant Membership, there is an opportunity in the larger Members’ circle, as current members know, to get to know more folks and to share more deeply in the wider life of the community…Life is busy;… life can be very hard. But sharing our lives and learning together, teaching each other, supporting easch other can be life-giving specially in the midst of busyness and hardship…Covenant Members are the glue of the community, committed to it’s health, preservation, transformation. I invite you to be a part of the circle. If you haven’t been a Covenant Member before, become a Novice Member and try it for a year. You’ll also be assigned a Companion with whom you can share the experience. If you’re already a Covenant Member, I hope you we’ll continue to see you in the circle.
How we spend our time is a reflection of what we value. In days gone by, Members set aside Wednesdays for either seed groups or members’ meetings. Some of us today, find that rather too much…Times have changed, but looking at it objectively: seed groups meet twice a month and Covenant Members have one additional meeting… That’s an average of 1 1/2 hours a week. The question is: Is G.o.W. worth 1 ½ hours a week? You certainly are worth 1 ½ hours a week!
If, as a Covenant Member, you find setting the course for the community rewarding, then I invite you to join the DMC It meets on the 4 th Wednesday of the month bringing the total package to 2 hours a week – as it has always been…
Membership is about giving and receiving; not about attendance at Wednesday meetings; nor is it about labels and categories…Laura, Stu, and I support the WTB because this is a way to invite people to levels of participation with which they feel comfortable. Annually we have the opportunity to invite folks to more, because we believe that being part of worship and community is enriching. As Ruth Barton says ( P128 ) in her book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, “ we (as leaders) are not primarily inviting people into our plans and schemes. We are inviting them into a life-giving way of life in God.”
As I invite you to fuller participation in G.o.W. I do so because G.o.W. is worth preserving…and improving…and because together we can continue to grow in faith and discipleship. I also believe that you will receive as much or more than will be asked of you. Membership and the multitude of teams and committees that will welcome your presence are just the framework for our life together. To provide support and encouragement, and a setting in which to worship God and serve each other and the wider community, we need the active participation of members and friends, you and you and you and me…. God is calling us… Blessings.