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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dodge

About six years ago while working at the Temple, I drove across the state of Kansas to visit a lady in Garden City, which is over by the Kansas/Colorado border. That was before GPSs, or at least before I had one, so I had to look at a map to find my way. Reading the map, I noticed I was not far from Dodge City; the legendary home of Marshall Matt Dillon of the TV program Gunsmoke. (For all of you of a certain age who grew up watching TV Westerns, this area really is in the heart of the old west!) Since there is not a lot to see in Kansas, I decided it was worth a slight detour, just so I could say that I had been there.

Dodge City looks very much like any other small mid-west town. It has a grain elevator, railroad track, probably stock yards, stores, restaurants and car dealerships. It has one distinction, however, and that is a park in the middle of town that includes a museum replica of the old Dodge City Main Street, probably copied from the Gunsmoke movie set. Here behind a wooden sidewalk stands the general store, a saloon or two, an apothecary, and a few other buildings, each showing goods that one might have expected to find in such a store in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The stores were all small, and didn’t have much in the way of good to offer. From a practical point of view, that was okay because unless you were looking for a souvenir, there was nothing from that era you would want to buy anyway. I soon went on my way.

The lady I was going to visit in Garden City was a young/middle-aged Doctor and a church member. We had no congregation in Garden City, but there was one about an hour’s drive away. During our visit, she mentioned that she had been to church there once, but the congregation was small and old, and she really had no interest in going back. From her description, it is fairly safe to say they were not following the Healthy Congregation Model. Apparently there were no Witnessing/Inviting Ministries to the Community, and no Sending/Serving Ministries either, except by the faithful pastor who diligently served the members. Gathering ministries consisted of the usual hour of adult Sunday School, and an hour of Church.

Nothing about the congregation’s programming appealed to the Doctor. A few people gathered for worship, but the style was old fashioned and there were not enough people to produce a feeling of something worthwhile really happening. It seemed like ‘going through the motions’ to the her. On the other hand, despite being small, the formality and routine of the worship meant that there was no sense of intimacy or sharing of people’s lives either.

Since she was not open to returning to church, I encouraged her to consider starting a small group such as a Bible study in her home. She seemed open to that idea, and actually had already thought of it. She also talked of finding a larger church near her home. I don't know if she ever did.

As I look back on that trip, it occurs to me that there is a lot of similarity between the stores of the museum Dodge City and the congregation the Doctor described. In both cases, the goods and service offered were few, old fashioned, and based on a nineteenth century experience. It reminds me how important it is that our congregations be healthy and in touch with our time. If the congregation had offered ministries to the community, whether of the witnessing/inviting variety or sending/serving, the Doctor would have been interested and the one hour drive would not have been an obstacle. Without those efforts, however, it wouldn’t have mattered if the church had been right next door; there was simply nothing being offered there that she wanted.

Witnessing/Inviting, Gathering, and Sending/Serving; a healthy congregation needs to offer all three. What about your congregation? What ministries and services are you offering to your community?

Posted by Carman

2 comments:

  1. Carmen: Well said, we must spread our foot print of influence to all of the communities of our lives, be it only by example, but preferably by inclusion. On the past Sunday we brought 20 residents from the Bill McMurray building to our church to worship with us. It was inspiring to hear them eagerly offering their testimonies of God in their lives and expressing thankfulness for us for inviting them and for the staff of Bill McMurray for bringing them. I'm sure everyone of our congregation was inspired by these guests, who live a life that is meagre and troubled at best. Yet there they were offering thanks and testifying to God's goodness. This is a program we intend to continue and we will be bringing a bus load at least once a month to worship with us.Without reaching out to these less fortunate, we would have missed the inspiration they brought with them

    Mel - GTA West

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  2. Mel, Thank you for a lovely testimony of a congregation actually doing Witnessing/Inviting and Sending/Serving ministry. Keep on doing that kind of work and we will soon be pointing to GTA-West as an example of a 'Healthy Congregation!" :)

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