January 2007


House Churches Are More Satisfying to Attenders Than Are Conventional Churches

January 8, 2007 (Ventura, CA) – With the growth of house churches across the country, a new study by The Barna Group sheds light on how these independent, non-denominational churches operate.

Levels of SatisfactionPerhaps the most compelling insight from the national study was an evaluation of the levels of satisfaction of those who attend a house church compared with the views of adults who attend a conventional local church. Four aspects of people’s church experience were gauged. Overall, people attending a house church were significantly more likely to be “completely satisfied” with their experience in each of the four dimensions examined.Two-thirds of house church attenders (68%) were “completely satisfied” with the leadership of their church, compared to only half of those attending a conventional church (49%).Two-thirds of the house church adherents (66%) were “completely satisfied” with the faith commitment of the people involved in their gathering. In contrast, only four out of ten people attending a conventional church (40%) were similarly satisfied with the faith commitment of the people in their congregation.Three out of five house church adults (61%) were “completely satisfied” with the level of community and personal connectedness they experience, compared to only two out of five adults who are involved in a conventional church (41%). A majority of those in a house (59%) said they were “completely satisfied” with the spiritual depth they experience in their house church setting. In contrast, a minority of the adults involved in a conventional church were “completely satisfied” (46%).

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The house church movement is growing at an astonishing rate.  Any organization with these type of satisfaction numbers will grow.  What are we doing in the mainline churches to fulfill spiritual satisfaction? As a pastor I often find myself asking the question “Am I meeting God’s expectations for spiritual fulfillment or am I enabling a spiritually dysfunctional person to feel good about being in our fellowship.”  Does the order of service really matter or that someone reads in a  monotone voice or full of expression.  Do the colors on the altar or the robe impact a person’s satisfaction in worship.  What I fear will happen is that some mainline denominational bureaucrat develop the church satisfaction quotient and 101 ways to fill your church through congregant satisfaction surveys.  (you know someone is thinking about it now)

Mainline traditional churches are challenged to have meaningful worship services where lots of people are involved in planning and implementing the ministry. The emphasis should be on how people will live lives of significance based on the scriptures as a result of worship.  The worship event itself must not be so exaulted that people worship the event instead of God. Contexulization of worship must not be to indivuals persoal whims but to help the congregation based on their everyday realities connect their very exsistance to God’s work in their work, family and community.

Many people are functioning members of the church social club and dysfunctional as The Body of Christ.  They want little or no responsibility, they don’t attend Bible Study unless required and their service in outreach is only if they have any extra time.

Which Way to Clergy Health?

Prompted by rising health care costs and looming clergy shortages, the church is recognizing health as an important issue.

Reprinted from the Fall 2002 issue of Divinity, the alumni magazine of Duke Divinity School

By Bob Wells

Dr. Gwen Halaas, a family physician in Kenosha, Wis., is concerned about a patient, a middle-aged professional whose case has drawn all her time and attention. She describes the case in the same concise format she learned years ago at Harvard medical school:

A 51-year-old male with symptoms of depression, the patient has high blood pressure and is overweight, presenting a heightened risk of heart disease and other illnesses. He works 60-70 hours a week in a sedentary job, does not currently engage in any physical exercise, and reports considerable work-related stress. Patient is married, with three children, one of whom expresses interest in following patient’s career path. Patient expresses little enthusiasm for encouraging child to do so.

While the case history may sound routine, Dr. Halaas and her patient are, in fact, remarkable – perhaps even historic. That’s because the patient is not a specific individual, but a statistically based overview of the typical Lutheran pastor. And Halaas is the project director of the Ministerial Health and Wellness Program, a major new initiative by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to improve the health of Lutheran pastors and other church leaders.

What makes her work especially significant, however, is that her patient’s condition does not differ substantially from that of clergy in just about every Christian denomination today. Doctrinal and theological differences aside, North American churches have in common not only the Cross and a love of Christ, but also a pastorate whose health is fast becoming cause for concern.

Prompted by rising health care costs and looming clergy shortages, some denominations are recognizing health as an important issue. A few – most notably the ELCA, the American Baptists, and the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada – have launched efforts within the past year to improve clergy health. Others, including the United Methodist Church, are following the issue with great interest.

“Certainly this is a big-time problem,” says Steve Weston, assistant plan manager for HealthFlex, a managed-care health plan offered by the UMC’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits. “I see the utilization data every month, and definitely, we’re overweight, we have high blood pressure, and we have stress levels and depression levels that are higher than the general population. The General Board and HealthFlex are aggressively looking at the issue, and I would imagine there will be discussion about it at General Conference within the next couple of years.”

If you’re imagining thousands of jogging-suit-clad pastors pounding the pavement, relax and take a deep breath. At its heart, this new movement to improve clergy health is about much more than just strapping on the Nikes. It is about creating and cultivating within the church a wholistic approach to health that addresses wellness in all its physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual dimensions. At its best, observers say, this emphasis on clergy health raises important theological issues with the potential for reclaiming Christian practices about care of the self and one another. At the same time, it’s challenging both clergy and laity to rethink and re-envision the entire nature of ministry.
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God has called us as pastors to lead people into spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is wholistic and not just about how many bible verses a person can quote.  Spiritual maturity includes the quality of an individuals relationships, the care and nurture that they provide for their family, their emotional well being, their finances and their physical well being.  The reality is many pastors are so caught up into the passion of ministry that they loose their passion for balance and wholeness. 

I am a confessed workaholic.  I thought that I reformed in seminary but once I began working in the church I found myself replacing the morning networking breakfast, noon prospecting lunch and evening client cultivation dinner with Seeker coffee sessions, lunch discipleship sessions and dinner fellowship with other disciples on the journey.  The morning exercise time became prayer and study time and instead of running from office to office I find myself allowing everyone to come to the church to meet me. Emailing has become my most effective style of networking instead of the nice long walks that I enjoyed in seminary talking about the impact of God in our lives.

I now deal with being overweight, high blood pressure and other physical challenges that have significantly slowed me down. A pastor friend who is younger than I am is dealing with prostate cancer. Another pastor is dealing with depression and counseling is not one of my strongest gifts. As I try to refer him he then goes into his cave of denial. This does not bring honor to God.

My prayer is that every pastor operates in their God given purpose.  You can not do this when you are not exercising, not eating correctly and not paying attention to your health. The message that we send when health is not a priority is that our bodies are not important to God.  Actually our bodies were created by God as a vessel to carry out the purpose that God has gifted us with.  When we neglect our bodies we are being good stewards of what God has trusted to us.

Faith and Health do go hand in hand.  It begins with us. Stay tuned and join me as I gear up for some major life changes.  During the 40 days of lent I will be engaging 40 days of exercises.  It should be as much fun as the coffee that I am giving up.

Working on my Health to Fulfill my God Given Purpose

Pastor William T Chaney Jr

RENO, Nev. – Thirty years after it began as just another quirky movement in
Berkeley, Calif., the push to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places has reached a national milestone.

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than half of Americans live in a city or state with laws mandating that workplaces, restaurants or bars be smoke-free, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
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This article is inspiring for me.  I believe that Maryland can also be a smoke free state!! As a faith and health public theologian I am convinced that clergy have a direct responsibility to engage this issue within their church and through the public policy.  Second hand smoke is not a great side dish to my meal nor is it aromatheraphy as I am moving in and out of public places.

Exit Interviews

Why blacks are leaving evangelical ministries.

I used to take a certain amount of pride in being the first African American on staff at Christianity Today. But I was routinely humbled when I realized that being first isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When you’re the only one, there’s always a sense that you’re in an extremely unstable position, as if one healthy gust of wind could topple you—and with you, the hopes of other people with your skin color.

The full article can be read at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/february/4.104.html

I find many of the comments to be extremely transparent and insightful.  Can these same insights be applied to why Blacks are leaving the mainline denominational churches? Is there a deeper systemic problem with the structure and function of the churches in general? Is the growing house church movement (which is largly ignored by the popular media) actually growing with African Americans who are leaving the church?

Can we actually have a cross cultural worshipping community that focuses on Jesus Christ and not our differences.  Can we embrace the different cultural worship expressions without being so conected to our own that tolerate rather than embrace different worship styles?  Is racisim still the major cause of our segregation in worship? Is the Beloved Community a myth, a dream or a distant reality?

Struggling to Understand

Pastor William T Chaney Jr

ourfaith_beliefs_main_467.jpg

Photo: Ella Doyle lifts her head in prayer and tells fellow parishioners to “hold your head up. God’s got a better day coming,” during an outdoor worship service at Hartzell Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Slidell, La. The church’s sanctuary was ruined by storm surge from Hurricane Katrina. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

John Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today. We invite you to learn more about our rich theological heritage.

The full article can be found at umc.org

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalms 139:14

As we live in the 21st Century we are often identified in ways that eliminates our uniqueness.  Because of the masses of people that inhabit the earth it is easier for institutions and organizations to identify us by a digital imprint that does not value or embrace our God given gifts, graces and abilities. 

Digital security cameras snap images, identify us and track our movements in public places. Special EZ passes, store memberships and our credit cards identify us with a bar code that tracks our spending habits, plots our eating establishments and speeds up buying experiences.  Our email addresses identify us to the millions of people who communicate through the Internet.  Our cell phones identify us through a series of 10 numbers that pulls up our name and represents us to the person on the other end of the phone.  These popular ways of being identified seem to negate how God views us.  We are special to God. We were made with the full attention of the all knowing, all powerful and all present God who loves us from the top of our head to the soles of our feet.  

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26    

God who created the universe took time and designed you to be unique.  You were not made in a factory from a template.  God took time to create you with a unique personality, special gifts, a complex blend of emotions and most of all you were created to be in relationship to God.  

We are all important to God. God did not create any mistakes. Some people have been told that they were a mistake and that they were not really supposed to be here. Other people have been hurt so much by the events of life they feel that God does not love them and that their existence on earth is futile.   The vicissitudes of this life can create havoc in our lives like a tsunami or hurricane but we should be encouraged as we embrace the words of Jesus. 

 33 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 

We are more than just a digital imprint, a series of numbers or an email address.  We are God’s creation created to praise and worship God. God made us a little lower than the angels and crowned us as royalty to be stewards of the earth.  Our praise is our response to God for God creating us.   

Take 6 LIVE – Come On (TBN Interview)

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