February 2007


Why It’s Time for Faith-Based Health Plans
DR. RICHARD SWENSON

Why is the cost of health care going up? Let me summarize it this way: There are more and more people living longer and longer with more and more chronic diseases, taking more and more medications that are more and more expensive, using more and more technology with higher and higher expectations, in the context of more and more attorneys. All the convergences are simultaneous and the math is exponential. If you do the math, you will see that nothing is self-correcting.  Much of the rising cost that you see is attributed to the success of our health care delivery system. Let’s look at the components of this: 

There are more and more people. That is not necessarily bad; that is good. Some of my best friends are people.  

People are living longer and longer. That is good, too. Two thousand years ago, the average life expectancy was 21 years. In 1900, it was 47 years. Now it is 77 years. That is an exponential curve. It also represents a success of our health care system.   There are more and more chronic diseases. One hundred million Americans have some kind of chronic disease. People used to die of these diseases. They do not die of these conditions anymore, largely because of our health care system.

  People are taking more and more medications. New medicines are very expensive, but they do keep people alive. They get them out of the hospital sooner and they keep them from needing to go into the hospital. 

 People have higher and higher expectations. Our higher and higher expectations are something that we probably need to do something about. Yet we have them.  

We have more and more attorneys. In terms of attorneys, litigation, and medical malpractice, the American Medical Association says that its largest legislative priority is the 19 states that are right now in crisis of existing medical malpractice laws: 25 additional states are poised on the brink of crisis.  

A New Consumer-Choice Model We will hit a tipping point, probably sooner rather than later. When that happens, we are either going to go to a single-payer health care system or do “something else.” Single payer is politically difficult for many reasons. It is a possibility, but I would say it is politically difficult. It is not optimal. “Something else” is optimal, and not as politically difficult. The “something else” is what I would like to see. I believe that the “something else” model is the faith-friendly model–a private-sector, consumer-choice, defined-contribution model. I believe that our health care future will be, and can be, faith friendly. The opposite is not as faith friendly.  What are the rationales and predicted beneficial effects of this consumer-based model? First of all, we have history. We have a long history of churches and religious organizations that date back millennia in terms of health care–starting hospitals, medical schools, clinics, and missions across the world helping the needy, the infirm, the elderly, and the sick. This model also promises superior performance. Peter Drucker, the nationally renowned management expert, makes the case that the volunteer sector–there are 2 million volunteer agencies in the United States today, including faith-based organizations–has a track record that works. It exceeds the track record of the public sector (government) or the private sector (business). 

Pre-existent Natural Synergies  Let me spend some time on the pre-existent natural synergies between the mission of faith and the needs of a health care system.

 First, churches are a center of community. Maybe they are the last remaining centers of community in America. You need a tradition that stretches into the past with durable, stable relationships in the present and a shared vision for the future. Churches have that.  

Second, churches are already helping the ill. Already you have parish nurses. Many churches have been experimenting with this concept. You also have church assistance with hospital visits or post-surgical care. Sadie, who is 85 years old, needs cataract surgery, and her extended family is 1,000 miles away. She just comes and stays at our house for two days. Churches do it all the time. Third, faith-based organizations can provide meals during sickness, respite care, retirement homes, assisted living, nursing homes, hospice for the dying, prescription plans, prayer, and credibility. They also provide care for the poor and even help for the uninsured. It goes on and on and on.  

Finally, they also offer dependable and secure bioethical standards. We will be talking about that today.

 VIEW THE FULL ARTICLE

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A few weeks ago I asked the question, “How do we know when we are making disciples?”  I have been pondering and searching the scriptures for the process that Jesus used to transform the hearts and minds of the ordinary men into disciples. Here are a few conclusions.   Discipleship is spiritual formation.  There is no one set plan that will work for everyone.  We all have experienced different things in our lives and at the point of confessing with our mouth and believing in our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord the path to spiritual maturity places everyone in the wilderness.  Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness after his baptism and being anointed by the Holy Spirit to commence his earthly ministry.  This is the place new believers find themselves. No longer having the support of the past life but not really sure about how to take hold of this new life in Christ.  The salvation process can be localized to an event but discipleship is an undetermined length of time.  For some it is shorter than others but to grow in the Word and in the knowledge of God the new believer must choose to grow. When people intentionally engage a process of learning to live more like Christ they grow in their faith, their ability to totally trust God increases and in their commitment to the Kingdom of God.  This is true discipleship. Too many churches have new member classes that indoctrinate you to their denomination and their church rather into Christ.   

Romans 10: 16-1716But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Discipleship must be more than reading scriptures and Bible study for the sake of knowledge. Discipleship must teach people to embrace and to live the scriptures.  The Israelites knew the scripture but not all accepted Christ.  The desire to actually live the scriptures pushes people beyond worshipping rituals. The rituals of our religion require no faith just attendance. Yes the rituals have meaning and yes the meaning within the ritual can have significance to an individual but no ritual that I can think of demands an act of faith in the participants.  Some people have argued that tithing is a ritual that requires faith. I will grant that concession but 80% of those who attend church do not tithe. The measure of a disciple is that they give generously with 10% being the beginning bench mark. “What does the Gospel of Jesus Christ have to do with my everyday business?” As discipleship leaders we must help people to discover the answer to this question. This is challenging people to exercise their faith and trust in God.  This process is dynamic in nature because we can tell the Christian story, dialogue about the impact of the story in our lives and then have a vision of God’s new reality for our lives and those who we are discipling. Growing toward Christian maturity is actually a life long process but the goal must be clear and in front of people.  Otherwise they follow the leader and never become leaders in the Body of Christ. Spiritually immature men and women can not lead unchurched, pre-Christians into a deep committed faith filled life. 

 Committed to Making Disciples by being a servant leader!

Tony Dungy Super Bowl Breakfast 2006 Part 2

Powerful Testimony. Coach Dungy shares the gospel and invites others to Christ right of his life experiences. The power of the Gospel often is found in the life stories of our congregation.  By focusing on the preaching moment as “the preachers time” do we miss opportunities to have a greater impact on the unchurched  and unsaved by not inviting the members of our congregations to give their testimony.

Many people in mainline denominations will not share their experience with Christ.  Is this  because as pastors we have not placed a high value on hearing their stories? Or are people taught to embrace “the church” and not taught how to fully embrace a personal relationship with Christ?  How does the Biblical story become their story?

There are men and women in our congregations who can lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can never reach. They must be nurtured, encouraged and given safe places to share. Lets get busy!

devotional-cover.JPGRarely do we find a collection of devotional readings that combine the gifts and writings from lay and clergy of several different congregations and denominations.  These insightful and powerful devotionals will prepare you to encounter the Empty Tomb with a fresh new awareness of God’s profound love for you. This valuable resource will help you to reflect on our responsibilities to the kingdom of God and challenge you to recommit your life as child of God

You can Purchase or download your copy today

2007 National Theme: From Slavery to Freedom, The Story of Africans in the
Americas
 

Come Celebrate Black History Month with the NEJ Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry and join in the discussion  

“A Cross-Cultural Conversation on the Impact of Race/Racism on the Personal Faith Journey” 

7pm – 9pm, Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Baltimore Washington Conference Center,
7178 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046-2132

 Among the invited panelists are:  

  • Bishop Roy I. Sano, Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops
  • The Reverend Chester R. Jones, General Secretary, General Commission on Religion & Race
  • Mrs. Kathleen Sano, Associate General Secretary, General Commission on Religion & Race
  • Mrs. Barbara R. Thompson, Former General Secretary, General Commission on Religion & Race
  • The Reverend Yolanda Pupo-Ortiz, Former Associate General Secretary, General Commission on Religion & Race
  • Dr. Olivia Schwartz, Commissioner, General Commission on Communications & Member of the Multiti-Ethnic Center for Ministry Board
  • The Reverend Howard O. Nash, Pastor, Gatch Memorial/St. John’s of Hamilton Charge
  • Mr. Carl Snowden, Community Activist, Director, Civil Rights Division, Maryland State Attorney General’s Office
  • Bishop John R. Schol, Episcopal Leader, Baltimore Washington Conference, Host Bishop                           
  • Dr. W. Astor Kirk, Author, Professor

The Rev. Mamie A. Williams, Executive Director of the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry of the Northeastern Jurisdiction will moderate this thought-provoking discussion on Race and Racism, how it impacts the personal faith journey in a diverse global community.  Directions to the Baltimore Washington Conference
Center can be downloaded at http://www.bwcumc.org/page.asp?PKValue=113                                
For additional information, contact:
The Reverend Mamie Alethia Williams
Executive Director of the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry of the Northeastern Jurisdiction The United
Methodist Church           
7178 Columbia Gateway Drive
C
olumbia, MD 21046–2132
1-800-492-2525, ext. 454, 309
mwilliams@bwcumc.org
www.mec-nec.org 

Albert Mosley, Feb 15, 2007 albertmosley.gif

 

You have often heard it said that there are at least two sides to every story. This is certainly true when it comes to history. The problem, however, is that very often only one side of history’s story is ever told.

This is particularly the case in the American educational system. There is a fairly high probability that the history lessons most of us received in primary and secondary schools was history that told only one side of this country’s story. This was definitely the case for me.

I vividly recall my childhood days in the Mississippi Delta, and the many stories involving this nation’s development. I also vividly recall wondering where people who look like me fit into this grand scheme of America’s history.

Were there no characters in this story whose hue was like mine? Were there no heroes or she-roes in this story whose hair was the same texture as mine?

VIEW THE ENTIRE STORY

We have just experienced a major snow and ice storm.  I waited all day yesterday some youth looking for the opportunity to make some money.  Finally today I had to venture out into the icy and cold weather to clean my own walk ways. Times have changed.  While growing up in
Cincinnati I used to anticipate two events each year that were sure to put some dollars in my pocket.  The shedding of leaves in the fall and the falling of snow in the winter.  There was an entire season of leaves falling and several weekends that I could line up neighbors who were willing to pay rather than find the time in their schedule to rake their leaves. The snow shoveling season was much different. 

We would watch the news and then carefully and attempt to time our departure from the house when the snow had finished falling.  Then my sister and brother would run from house to house attempting to persuade neighbors as I provided a needed service in a timely manner.  As I got older the competition increased.  I would get some people to commit to using my services and I would prepare by purchasing a couple of shovels, ice and lining up a couple of guys who also wanted to make money but were not interested in building a business.  I remember getting out of bed on some very cold mornings complaining about my ambitious approach.  If I had not gained an early commitment I could have slept a little bit longer. The joy and appreciation of my customers expressed about their clean walk ways really made me smile after I was warm and inside. 

As a pastor I look around and many times ask myself, “Is there such a thing as an entrepreneurial pastor?”  There really should be. I know that we have a responsibility to nurture the members of our congregation but what about the people who are non believers, pre Christians and unchurched.  One of our responsibilities is to meet people who are outside of our congregations with the Good News of Jesus Christ especially at the point of their greatest need.  I believe that every life transition is a place for spiritual guidance and wisdom. The birth of a new baby, the death of a loved one, graduation, marriage and even divorce are a few of the life transitions that every pastor can be available for in the lives of non members. Providing people with the hope and assurance that God loves them,  has a wonderful plan for their life and leading them in the confession of their faith is a privilege and a responsibility.   

The privilege is in helping someone understand the Good News and to disciple them into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The concept that God will use us as messengers of His plan of salvation is a humbling concept.  The Creator of the Universe really could use anyone but by making myself available in my weakness, feebleness and issues God takes men and women where they are and allows me to share the mystery of our faith.  

The responsibility is where the entrepreneurial challenge comes into play.  We can not meet non believers, pre Christians and unchurched people in worship, in our office, in our church activities nor in our isolated clergy groups. We have to learn to get out and mingle with those who are not in our “church club”.  One of the reasons that many mainline churches are experiencing declining membership is because the pastors are not modeling the basics in lifestyle, invitational or servant evangelism. 

A truly entrepreneurial pastor is not attempting to make money but to meet people so that they are available for them in their times of deepest need.

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