Monday, June 30, 2014

A Whole New Ballgame -- The New Beginnings/Unglued Church Process

Isaiah 40:21-31         

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
 Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 
23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 
‘My way is hidden from the Lord, 
 and my right is disregarded by my God’? 
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, 
 the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; 
 his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

To begin understanding the challenge facing most mainline congregations in the United States, the following scene from the movie, "Moneyball" is a great introduction (warning: there is a one-word expletive in the scene)

If you are reading this on a mobile device or email, you may need to click this link to see the video:

What is the problem in the mainline church?  Low attendance?  Dwindling finances?  Buildings too big and congregations too small? As GM Billy Beane would say, "Wrong!" These are the just the symptoms that many congregations are feeling as a result of a much deeper shift in religious attitudes and practices in the United States.  Some scholars believe that Christianity is undergoing a seismic shift not felt since the Reformation. And Emsworth U.P. Church is not alone in feeling the symptoms.

On Sunday, June 29 during worship, the Emsworth congregation heard the results of the New Beginnings assessment, and will soon begin a series of house meetings to discuss the report and its implications for its ministry.  To begin the conversation, we watched this broadcast from CBS' Sunday Morning which discusses the Pew Report on American Religion.

If you are reading this on a mobile device or email, you may need to click this link to see the video:

Then we looked at the difference between technical solutions and adaptive change, as well as the specific results from the New Beginnings study for the church:

Our next step is a series of small group "house meetings" which will begin the week of July 13th.  The final schedule will be available soon, but will include weeknight, weekday and Sunday times so as many folks can participate as possible.  

Keep watching for more information as the summer unfolds.  Have questions?  Please call Pastor Susan at 412-585-1219 or email her at