Do We Need Another Worship Service?

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Hillside Christian Church does not have a contemporary worship service. Many successful congregations have multiple worship services which always include a contemporary service. Contemporary worship services take a special mix to succeed. A contemporary service requires music that is led by a band, and an informal setting is vital, and preaching that connects to the audience is primary. Contemporary worship services are what appeals to the millennium generation. The millennium generation are those people who are under 35 years of age. It is a vastly different generation in what they expect from our generation. They are a generation filled with technology and rapidly moving events. These multi screen, high definition, surround sound events move this generation spiritually.

Since we do not have a contemporary worship service we have tried blending traditional and contemporary. The best of both worlds. The millennials don’t like formality (pulpit robes) or hymns. They don’t like the organ and want guitar and drums. So, we try to meet in the middle – that is why you still see young people in our service. It may even surprise you to know that we even have some millennials that are more traditional than some of our senior citizens. Demographics tell us that in ten to fifteen years the demand will be for a more blended service in the United States.

I’m not asking everyone in the congregation to like the film clips, praise singing or the move away from a bulletin. I don’t even like some of the stuff the younger generation needs. But I try to take the Bible at its word, (1 Cor 9:22)

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. It is about following the Bible and remaining flexible. Our goal is to win people to Jesus Christ. As the founders of our Church wrote, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Love.”

 

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We are sadden by the death of long time member Ruth Lance.  Ruth died Tuesday morning, August 26th.  Her services are pending.

We are sadden by the death of long time member Ruth Lance. Ruth died Tuesday morning, August 26th.

The family of Ruth Lance will receive guest at Lakeview Mortuary on Monday, September 1st from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. There will be a private family entombment at Lakeview on Tuesday, September 2nd at 10:00 am.

Finding Hope In Uncertainty

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Let’s take a fresh look at Judges 4:8-10. The period of the Judges is an interesting time in the life of Israel. It was the time between the death of Joshua, who brought Israel in from the wilderness and Saul, the first king. It was a time when the older wise people of the village ruled at the city gates. They were called “the judges.” These judges were called “shofet.” And were restricted to a legal function. This lasted for 300 years.

When there is a special need for the people, God calls someone forward to be a leader, these special leaders took a wider role: Gideon, Samson and Samuel One thing we know is that the book is not in chronological order. It is a collection of the stories and events that took place during this time. But today we talk about Deborah.

When the battle is over and the victory is theirs, they sing the song of Deborah, the whole 5th chapter. In that day, songs were a way of remembering the history. At a time when a lot of the masses couldn’t read or write, to sing a song to a popular tune was the way of communicating the story. In the Moses account we have the Song of Miriam. The Song of Deborah begins and ends with praise to God.

Look close at what takes place in this short story of Deborah. “Deborah” is the Hebrew word for “honeybee.” A name that stands out, since women normally were quiet and in non assuming roles. She has a family and still finds time to be a leader. But she was known for her fearless courage. She was also called a “prophetess.” She won this title by her faith in God and the inspiring insights that God granted to her. She held court under a palm tree, known as the “Palm of Deborah.”

Deborah has a vision and goes to Barak: JDG 4:6 “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: `Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.'” Sisera’s army is powerful and Barak is not only afraid of Sisera’s army but is Deborah really telling what God has said? But now it is an issue of faith!

Barak does a very human thing, he says, prove it. JDG 4:8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend who had lost many loved ones in her lifetime. Several key deaths in a short period of time. Most of those deaths tragic and horrible. AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s and some unknown. This Christian woman, wondered if God still brought healing? Hundreds of prayers prayed, some travailing and from the gut. None healed or made well. Look around at the violence and war, she said. Wars in Africa, Middle East, eastern Europe. Why doesn’t God answer these prayers? I still believe in God. But God must be impotent!

This sounds a lot like Barak, doesn’t it? Where has God been for the last 20 years? Where was God when the children were dying? Where was God when people became homeless?

Why haven’t our prayers been answered? Christians struggle to live good lives and to make a difference in the world and yet God allows Christians to die. Missionaries are put in prison for their faith. Persecuted for the lives Christians live. Why doesn’t God intervene?

I fully understand were Job was coming from. Where are you God when I need you?

When my family and friends say it is better to die than go through this. It is easy in this hard life to become skeptical or critical. It is easy to put ourselves down and say “God loves them better than me.” It is easy to convince ourselves that our faith is poor and that God isn’t answering our prayers because of our lack of faith.

Faith, hope and trust, they don’t come easy to Barak, or for many of us. So he does something very important. He decides to have faith! He doesn’t have what it takes, but he knows Deborah does. He decides to have hope! He doesn’t see the rainbow at the end of the cloud, but Deborah does. He decides to trust God! I don’t know where You have been for the past 20 years, but I make this choice. He is saying, “God I don’t have the faith that will move mountains.” “God I don’t have a hope that can withstand everything.” “God I don’t have a trust that is limitless.” But I can break the cycle by choosing to start!

 

Changes In Giving

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Giving and the way we give has changed over the years.  I grew up in a time when “unified budget” was encouraged.  All gifts were undesignated and church leadership made the decision how to use the money.  I like that concept and still give my gift to the church undesignated to the General Fund.  I think a real gift does mean giving control outside ourselves.

Today, more and more gifts to and through the church are designated.  This is especially true of younger generations.  People have causes, passions or their way of getting involved.  There is nothing unbiblical about that, it just makes it more challenging for church leaders.  Even on the General and Regional levels of the Church this change has been felt.

The problem is that money in local congregations is shrinking.  Gifts are going down, cost of operating a local congregation are going up and money that is available to go to other causes (while worthy) are going down.  How do we address that issue?  I used to address it by guilt, but soon learned that to be counter productive.  Education is the best way.  The story has to be told and it has to be told in a way that invites the giver to want to give to the cause.  This is especially true in a world that is filled with designated giving mentality.

Hillside does mission giving in two ways.  Money that is budgeted goes to local non-disciple organizations or causes.  Special giving goes directly to Disciple groups or causes.  
1. Week of Compassion goes to disaster assistance around the world
2. Easter Offering goes to the General Church (National & Overseas Missions)
3. Pentecost goes to starting new churches
4. Blanket Sunday goes to disaster assistance around the world
5. Reconciliation goes to combating poverty in our Food Bank
6. Thanksgiving goes to higher education (colleges & seminaries)
7. Christmas Offering goes to the Regional Church

I got a letter one time from the General Church that talked about how much we give through our budget.  While the letter reflected very well on our Disciples Women’s giving, it said nothing about the designated gifts listed above.  I returned the letter with a note, that half a truth is no truth at all.  If we are going to use guilt, let’s tell the whole story.

Do we as a congregation need to give more to missions?  Absolutely!  Do we need to do more and better ministry in our local community?  Absolutely!  Do we need to expand our budget and offer more to our members?  Absolutely!  Do each of us need to be better and more faithful givers to the church?  ABSOLUTELY!

Where Is The Church?

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It is very interesting where you find Christians! Where does one find Christians, even on Sunday morning? We like to think that we find them in church. They are either in church school or in worship. Where do we find them mid week? We like to think they are in a bible study class at church.

We had a debate among staff. Is or is not church school outdated? Should we close it out and move on to something else? On any given Sunday only about one-third of the congregation’s members are in worship. Where are the other two-thirds?

No, we did not find church school obsolete. In fact, we found church school to be very vital and needed. People have a need for small groups for fellowship and for study. We generally gravitate to groups that are like ourselves (age, single or married, interest, personalities, etc.) But sometimes it is difficult to break into a group that has been established for a long time. Some groups welcome new people and others do not.

We soon discovered that we have structured groups and unstructured groups within the life of the congregation. We found that about half of the church choir meet at Starbucks during church school time. Some are not members of the congregation but only sing for the love of singing. Others, while members of the congregation, are not a member of a church school class. However, here they are gathering at Starbucks with their friends in the choir, talking church.

We found a young women’s group meeting in the church, but not a recognized group. None were a part of another small group. Most were members of the congregation. But they just didn’t fit in the typical Disciples Women’s Groups. They were young, not interested in “mission” and all worked during the day. Yet, here they are being church, learning about God, themselves and being supportive as young Christian women.

Perhaps that helps us to better understand Christ’s words, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20)

A Change In Our General Assembly

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In April the Elders of the First Christian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma invited the Elders of Hillside Christian Church to enter a conversation about changing the way the Disciples of Christ “vote” on resolutions. The primus for this dialog was that every time the church deals with a controversial topic in ends with a vote and several congregations leave the denomination. The quest was to find a better way.

I have to compliment our Elders on their insightfulness and logic at addressing an important topic. Here is our Elders’ response:

July 25, 2014

Resolutions Task Force
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
201 East Second Street
Edmond, Oklahoma 73034

Dear Elders of First Christian:

After receiving your “Sense of the Assembly” letter and the accompanying information, Hillside Christian Church distributed the information to our eighteen Elders for thought, prayer and discussion. As a body, we recently met to discuss the issue and formulate a response. As a result of our discussion, we feel it’s apparent that the General Assembly Resolutions process can be divisive and that other solutions should be considered.

Many of these divisive issues have been around for the life of the Disciples of Christ. To think that we can solve them in the blink of an eye with an up or down vote is more than presumptuous. While denominational judicatories do not like using the word “autonomous,” because we all have to be accountable to each other, we are still sovereign self-governing bodies with our own individual identities. It is good to come together in covenant as a manifestation on regional and national levels to have conversations about our faith journey. However, since it is difficult to adequately represent the full character of each local congregation on a national level, it behooves us to find an avenue that helps each local congregation find its comfort level of faith and not be isolated from the greater body we call the Church. In the end, every congregation needs to resolve these issues in their own time and way with all the information available.

As a result, we feel that issues leading to a faith based response (a denominational stance), ethics, morals, theology, etc. are best left up to the individual congregation for resolution or action. Each individual,
not in a vacuum but as a member of a local congregation, should prayerfully address and work out their response to issues as they arise. Further, each congregation should build upon these individual decisions coming to a congregational position, if the local congregation so chooses.

It is our consensus that the General/Regional Assembly would be better served by not taking a formal position or vote on issues of this nature. Rather, they should develop procedures for addressing individual, faith based, divisive issues at assemblies. All relevant information concerning a given subject might then be disseminated to local congregations for their consideration.
Actions along these lines would serve to disarm unwarranted media hype and would allow each congregation to formulate their own opinions, responses and conclusions without perceived external mandates.

Thank you for including us in this discussion. Hillside Christian Church would support a resolution at the General Assembly that would change this voting process.

With sincere warmest regards in Christ name and for Christ’s Church,

Dr. William H. McConnell Mr. Bryce Miskell
Senior Minister Chair of the Elders