Tag Archives: Scott Simon

Dots and Other Questions

It is one of those annoyingly addictive games that I have downloaded on my iPad. 

Dots

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Simple enough.  All you have to do is connect the dots of the same color together and make them go away.  Connect a group in a square and all the dots of that color go away.

Easy enough!   Even for me!  Maybe that is why I find myself sitting at night while watching TV trying to get a higher score.

See that is the goal—to get a higher score.  It isn’t to make sure they all line up, that the yellow dots are all gone.  The goal is to get the highest score possible. 

It is important to remember that. 

But it raises an important question.  What is the goal of what you are doing?

The other morning I listened to Scott Simon on Weekend Edition.  He was talking with Joe Nocera about an incident that happened recently at American Airlines.  It seemed that the pilots and flight attendants were given a small raise, because after all, the airline is making a profit.  But Wall Street rebelled!  The price of the stock fell because the goal is to “maximize shareholder value.”  And you thought it was to get you from point A to point B safely and efficiently! 

The conversation was enlightening.  All of us who have a particular stock, or even a mutual fund that has invested in the company, want to stock to rise.  I do want to retire someday!  But is that the ultimate goal?  What about the workers?  What about the passengers?  (I think about this every time I try and wedge myself into the shrinking seats and get my small cup of coke to go with my peanuts.)  What about the communities that once relied on contributions from the company to support the symphony, the hospital, the Boy Scouts?

What is the bottom line?  What is the goal?

What is the goal for church?

I thought about that because I was heading to church listening to the show.  We were going out in the community for a day of service.  The next morning we would have worship.  We would pass the offering plates.  We would hope that people left with a deeper spirituality, a closer relationship with God.  We hoped someone would join.

But what is the goal? 

How do our “shareholders” want, expect? 

More people in the seats?

More offering in the plates?

More people doing good stuff?

More people “dedicating their lives to full-time Christian service?

More people walking the aisles?

What is the goal?  For the congregation?  For the minister?

It is a hard question to answer, but perhaps one with which we all need to wrestle.  It really is more than a night-time diversion.  It may be the most important thing we do!

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Dave Barry and the Future of Church

DaveBarry1I have always been a Dave Barry fan!  Even though I have never lived in Miami, I looked forward to seeing his columns in various newspapers.  He is no longer writing a regular column, but from time to time he still treats us to something special.  What would we ever remember a year without his annual year in review?  His column on his colonoscopy is not only one of the funniest things I have ever read, it is also the most accurate!  (If you have not read it, check it out here.  But word of warning—get some tissue because you will cry from laughing!)

So I was delighted to hear him interviewed last week on NPR Weekend Saturday.  He was talking with Scott Simon about his new book Insane City, which is now on my to-read-list.

I do think Scott Simon is one of the best interviewers around and he proved it again as he escorted Barry from his description of Miami, “I moved here in 1986 from the United States, and I have come to really love it here. And it’s a great place to be a humor writer. Carl Hiaasen … his quote is, ‘You really don’t need an imagination to write fiction about South Florida, you just need a subscription to The Miami Herald.’ ” to a look at the current state of journalism.  “The time that people used to spend crafting one thoughtful 800-word piece, they’re more likely to spend now dashing off 53 one-liners, because that’s going to get them a much broader audience.”

It was here that Barry got me to thinking about church.  In talking about local newspapers he noted:

The business model they operated under for decades and decades, where Sears bought a gigantic ad for a whole lot of money, because we were the only vehicle for that, and so we made tons and tons of money. And we thought, in journalism, that we got all that money because we had a bureau in London and a bureau in Rome, and we had bureaus all over the place, because we were The Miami Herald, and we had bureaus everywhere, and we were making all this money, and it must be because we were doing great journalism.” And then the Internet arrived, he continues, “and all of a sudden, we aren’t necessary for any advertiser the way we used to be … and it turns out that the public wasn’t demanding that we provide them with this level of journalism that we thought was so important to them.”

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the “business model” we use in church.  For so long church was the place where people came to be married and buried.  But is that still true?  Charleston is now the top planned destination wedding spot in the country.  (We ignore Las Vegas! But when we get our Elvis Chapel…)  I did 8 weddings last year (a slow year) and 2 already this year.  None of them were in a church.  Reading through the obituaries today, unless the individual was Catholic or African American, the vast majority had their service in the funeral home chapel.

It goes beyond to the very nature of missions.  This past Christmas our local newspaper gave away over $400,000 to assist families.  Have you given a donation to help feed or clothe or house anyone?  It was not that long ago that those were the purview of churches.  But now…

This is occurring at a time when more and more are saying they are SNRB—Spiritual But Not Religious.  The Nones are the fastest growing religious group in the land.

So what is our business model?  Are our assumptions all wrong?

Many times to even raise the questions puts you in the camp of religious doomsayers!  That is not my intent!  Quite the contrary!  I do believe that the church has a vital role to play in our world.  The voice of faith is an important one in the conversation taking place.  But to believe that we can, or must, do it just like we have before…then that is just like believing that the local newspaper will always be around.  (Ask the people in New Orleans about their paper!)

It is one thing to lose a paper.  But to lose the church???  I just don’t think God will let that happen.  There will be a church, just like there will be journalism.  What it looks like…well that is the question!

Those of us in the church must ask the tough tough questions about what we are about, how we are going to meet the mission ahead of us, and what we are willing to change in order to reach that mission.

I pray we are up to the task!

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