Friday, February 8, 2008

What This Past Sunday's Congregational Vote Means (Dialogue Column 2.5.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Oftentimes, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.


After church this past Sunday, the congregation met and unanimously approved the proposal of the Marketing Committee to withdraw up to $48,000 from the church’s permanent funds to promote marketing in 2008 and 2009. The vote was unanimous, just as the votes to approve this plan by the Permanent Funds Committee and the Administrative Board were unanimous. I believe this was a momentous day in the life of First Christian Church and one that will bear fruit far into the future.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised that there was not more discussion about the vote during the meeting itself. Since this is the first time I have attended such a meeting at First Christian, I have been pondering what the lack of discussion and the unanimous vote means. There are a few possibilities that I hope are not the case. It could be that due to the weather some of those who might have had reservations could not be present, but the meeting was well-attended in spite of the weather, so I’m guessing that real opposition to the plan would have been represented in any respect. It also could be that those with reservations may have not felt comfortable speaking, however this seems to rarely be the case on any other occasion. People at First Christian seem to have few hang-ups when it comes to sharing what they like and don’t like.

On the other hand, the lack of discussion and the unanimous vote could be what it appears to be: we are in agreement as a church that this plan is not only a good plan but a necessary one. My hope is that the hard work of the Marketing Committee was evident in the presentation of the plan, and that it was plain to see that many long hours had been spent considering the costs and benefits of a large variety of ideas. I sense that many were pleased to hear from our Finance Committee that we are in better financial shape now that we had thought we would be just a few months ago due to interest earned from our permanent funds in the fourth quarter of 2007. This means that it may well be possible to pay “out of pocket” for all or part of the marketing plan rather than paying for it out of permanent funds. I also heard from a number of folks that they have been wanting just such an effort by this church for some time.

What I hope for most of all, as your minister, is that the unanimous vote this past Sunday means that we are committed to doing what we can to share the unique identity and mission of First Christian Church with our city. As I said in my sermon on Sunday, I believe that First Christian has a unique understanding of God’s grace to present to St. Joseph. For so many in our community, Christianity offers nothing besides hostile condemnation, ignorance and exclusion. The marketing plan is our church’s attempt to let the community know that First Christian is working to offer an alternative to such views of Christ’s Gospel.

In the early meetings of the Marketing Committee, the group came up with the following purpose statement to guide its work:

"The Marketing Committee at FCC is designed to attract people who are seeking an open-minded community of faith that believes in a gracious God and finds common ground in justice, intellectual honesty and authentic spirituality."

I believe that this would also be a good purpose statement for each of the members of First Christian Church. We must remember that as good and necessary as this marketing plan may be, the best marketing a church can ever have is a membership that is excited about what its church is doing and how God is working through them to shine light in a dark and lonely world.

Grace and Peace,


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