Category Archives: Church

A Facebook Challenge

You know how it goes… you are bored and so you sit there and cruise through your Facebook account… wasting a lot of time, watching stupid videos, and then you come across someone’s posting that you either really like or really hate.  It’s probably a share of some graphic.  If you like it you might click the like button, leave a comment, or maybe even share it to your post.   If you hate it, maybe it is so politically charged that you are saying quietly to yourself “how can so and so be that stupid.”  You then see some comments, that fans the flames and so you do it, you click and comment on how dumb and idea, stupid a comment, how it is all fake stuff… you know the drill… because a little while later you see that someone has replied to your comment with some new tidbit which further infuriates you and off you go again…

I confess, I have fallen down this rabbit hole myself.  Chasing a wild hare around each corner, knowing that I am changing the world with every comment I make!  OK, not really changing the world but I sure am convincing a lot of people about whatever it is I am so ‘correct’ about, that’s certain.  OK, so maybe I haven’t changed anybody’s idea of how the world should work but I feel better because I stood my ground, even if it was just electrons showing up on a screen, sent there by a company that is mining everything I say…

I began to suspect that maybe, there was something wrong with me when I read an article in “The Christian Century” about how partisan politics has become a new form of idolatry.   What?  Idolatry.  It made me stop and think about how much time I waste on social media, thinking I am changing things.  It made me stop and wonder, “am I worshiping something while I am on Facebook?”  Whoa.  It made me think about what I am really doing to “Make Disciples of Christ for the Transformation of the World” by being on Facebook, or Instagram or whatever and getting all wound up by these really inane posts.

It’s time to ‘step away from the keyboard’ as they say, because someone is getting hurt, and it’s me and the rest of the world.  I think I had made an idol out of Facebook.  Yes, and idol as in the biblical reference to “making an idol” like in Exodus 32 and I felt really crappy about it.  I felt like I had let down God and myself.  It really stunk.  I was wasting the very few hours we have in a day, in our lives, posting, commenting, really doing nothing of value and that’s when I decided to challenge myself.

Here’s the challenge:

For every minute on Facebook or whatever your favorite social media site, you have to spend two minutes reading the bible, working on a church project, studying scripture, praying, or some other spiritual effort (volunteering, etc.).  Since most of the time when I am ‘doing Facebook’ is when I am alone, I opted for the studying scripture, praying, and reading the bible.

That started the ball rolling but it wasn’t enough.  So, today (that’s July 16th, 2018) I decided to no longer respond to any political posting.  So if someone shared something awful about the world, no comment, no like, nothing.   I found myself blocking a lot of people at that point and based on my first rule, I also have increased my prayer time and scripture study.

How about you?  Want to really change your life?  Want to actually impact the world?  Take the Facebook 2X challenge above.


Pastor Rick

How Long?

Whew… it’s past the middle of January and so it has been almost five months!  What?  Yep, five months since I said “yes” to our District Superintendent and became a ‘Lay Supply Pastor’ for West Springfield United Methodist Church (WSUMC).   My wife asked me just before Christmas, “Well, what do you think?  Are you enjoying it?”  My reply, “I come home happy each day I am there.”  What more can anyone ask?

So the specifics might be important.  First, for me this is a voluntary, uncompensated position.  It’s also technically a ‘quarter-time’ posting.  That is supposed to mean I am involved with my church only 12 – 14 hours per week, on average.   To try to make this work, and to keep my sanity and spiritual center, I lead Sunday service (i.e. preach, etc.)  3 out of every 5 Sundays, more or less.  I will tell you my first, early discovery, it takes 5 to 8 hours of preparation for each time I lead a Sunday service.  So, if I were to lead every Sunday, well that’s all I could do.

WSUMC, any church really, needs more than just Sunday service.  Someone is in hospital and needs a pastoral visit, someone cannot come to church and would like to receive communion, are the books OK, is it time to review the other staff… and that’s just a sprinkling of activities that only keep the church in stasis.  I am reading a wonderful book “Can You Just Get Them Through Until Christmas?” by Pastor Margie Briggs.  ( find out more about her book here ) and when I read her inspiring words I wonder “How on earth can she do this as 1/4 time for each church?”

It does lead me to thinking about our Methodist organization and about startups.  Yes, startups.  You see before I came to ministry I had been in Information Technology (IT) and had my own company, had worked to turn around several companies, had worked inside several companies to turn around groups, and in every case there was a requirement not to reduce the level of effort but in many cases to apply a multiplier of effort, double, maybe ten times, to get the organization back on course.  I was mostly successful or rather I was most successful when there was a good reason to invest in the organization and there was a clear goal.

Within our New England Conference there seems to be a retreat mentality, a level of defeat-in-place sometimes.  Before coming to WSUMC I had heard about the troubles the church was having, how awful it was.  When I got there, imagine my surprise when I found a burning passion for the church, a deep love of God, a caring community of faith.  Yes, they are small but Christ built a church with just 12 people and no money.

Right now WSUMC and I are trying to find a mission, a goal if you well that is tangible, that people can see, feel, touch, and build towards.  In reading Margie’s book I saw two tiny churches, churches with no money and only a few people set forth an ambitious goal for themselves and then go.  Notice I did not say ‘grow’ but ‘go’ because ‘growth’ is not a goal.

We’ll see what happens next.

Something new

“So Rick, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about.  How would you like to get your feet wet by becoming a pastor at a church?”

I have to admit, I was a bit shocked with the call.  I had started “answering the call” about exploring becoming a pastor, in Methodist terms a “local pastor,” a process that starts with a slow progression of studies, an appearance in front of a committee and then, a bunch of studying resulting eventually in being appointed.  No, this was going to skip all that, it was in Monopoly parlance the same as drawing a ‘go directly to a church, do not pass go, do not collect $200’ card.

Maybe what was even more shocking was that I said “yes” which explains why I am sitting here in the pastor’s office, correction, my office, waiting for a church council meeting.  Yes, it’s me, Pastor Rick, the pastor at West Springfield United Methodist Church, Massachusetts.

I’ve served for four Sundays so far, including two with communion.  I am still getting used to the whole idea but have come to accept that if this is what God wants, well who am I to argue?  It’s funny, last night I went to a district meeting with my pastor, Rev. Joy from Hope UMC.  As we were walking in we were joking and at one point she said “hey, you were the one that chose to leave.”  I thought about that comment later in the evening and if I had been a little fast, a little more quick on the response I suppose I should have said, “it wasn’t me, I was sent.”  You see, that’s how this kind of works in Methodism.  In fact our bishop talked about the ‘DNA’ of the Methodists includes being sent by your church.  When I decided to ‘answer my call’ I presented myself to the congregation at my church and they ‘sent’ me on my way (of course they, me, and Julie all thought that would take a bit longer than it did!).

SO, the clock is ticking, I need to get things ready, here at my church.