Monday, October 31, 2011

Charge to the Mechanicsburg Church

Give Permission for a Jesus Movement

My charge to the beloved saints of the Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church is a simple, direct, two words, “Give permission.” Give permission to your newly ordained and newly installed Associate Pastor. Give him permission to dream dreams, see visions and do ministry.

I have been in our Presbyterian Church for a long time, all my life as a believer, and for more than 25 years of professional service. I know this will be hard for you to believe in Mechanicsburg, but I have learned that there are people in our church today who are discouraged. There are people in our church who are kind of weary, whose hands are hanging down, whose heads are kind of drooped, and, believe it or not, there are people in the church today – some of the them are elders and some of them are ministers- who do not feel good about our Presbyterian Church.

Then we come to a day like this. Here we are celebrating that God continues to call, God continues to work in the lives of young people, God continues to call people into service and ministry in our Presbyterian Church. How sweet is that! How can we possibly be discouraged? When these newly called people come into our midst we must stand back in awe and wonder and simply give them permission. Let him go to live into this powerful call from God. Let him go to dream about the ministry which God alone has placed on his heart. Give him permission. Do not hold him back. Do not surround him with constraints and limitations and expectations and demands. Give him permission. Let him go.

I am doing a lot of reading, pondering and discussing these days on the relationship between institutions and movements. What is the difference between an institution and a movement? This fascinates me, and I believe I am on to something important with this question. An institution is structured and organized, it knows how to make transitions and perpetuate itself. A good institution knows how to make decisions as groups, and knows how to share power, manage risk, and implement plans and strategies. A good institution always has a plan for the future. I am an institution guy. The Presbyterian Church is a great institution. I love the institutional church. The institutional church has formed me and nurtured me. I trust the institution. I believe the institution is beautiful. Many of you are just like me. Yes, session members, I know who you are.

But today, for lots of complex, social reasons institutions, including the church, have lost their ability to transform hearts. Transformation happens in movements. Movements are free, fast and flexible. Movements are relational, not structured. Movements are about transformation, not planning for the future, but creating a new future.

This is my thought experiment. I believe institutions and movements need each other. Institutions bring structure and longevity. Movements bring passion, enthusiasm, flexibility and freedom. Without each other, movements and institutions, both will die. We are in a situation today in the church, it is an exciting time, when the institution needs to encourage, needs to give permission for a movement quality in our midst. But an institution can only encourage a movement quality if, and only if, the institution itself is strong, vital, self-confident, proud and trusting. If the institution is discouraged or paranoid then the institution will constantly snuff out any movements that emerge near it.

Give permission for Mark to inspire a movement quality for Jesus in the midst of your church. Give him permission to be free, flexible, spontaneous, creative and imaginative. Give permission.

Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church, you are on my short list of our top-tier churches who are helping us live into God’s new future. Go for it!

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3: 20-21).

Mark Englund-Krieger
October 30, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Report to the Synod of the Trinity Oct. 10, 2011

Lend a Hand

Lend a Hand is the disaster response ministry of the Presbytery of Carlisle. Lend a Hand became associated with the Presbytery of Carlisle in response to Hurricane Katrina. We expected Lend a Hand to last about six months, and then we would be finished. Thus Lend a Hand since its first days in cooperation with our Presbytery has this sort of temporary, free form, flexible, close to the ground feeling about it. We do not have to worry about sustaining and continuing the work of Lend a Hand because we have no expectation that it will be sustained and continued. Lend a Hand operates day to day, disaster by disaster. Through these years, Lend a Hand has sent teams to Mississippi, Iowa, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia. Now our own Presbytery is a disaster response site.

The purpose of Lend a Hand is simple. There are victims of disasters. There are many people in the church who immediately want to reach out to, care for, respond to those victims. Lend a Hand has been successful because it has been focused like a laser beam on this one task: connecting disaster response volunteers with victims of disasters.

There is huge benefit in having such a singular, focused task. This focus allows a very fast response. The rain stopped and the rivers and creeks crested on Friday; Lend a Hand had teams in homes on Saturday.

Lend a Hand only works with homeowners. The ministry of Lend a Hand is comprehensive. We will work with homeowners from beginning to end. We will rebuild homes, in addition to simply cleaning them out. We have a database of skilled construction people, and we keep detailed skills inventory of our volunteers. For our response within our Presbytery now we have already a database of almost 200 homes that we are serving. We will track each home individually. We trust that volunteers will keep coming. We expect to continue this response within our Presbytery until next June.

What can we learn from Lend a Hand? I ponder this question often.

Lend a Hand has not been highly organized. We refuse to institutionalize Lend a Hand. So legally there is no such thing as Lend a Hand. It is not its own non-profit corporation; it does not own anything; it is fully owned and operated by the Presbytery of Carlisle. The Presbytery donates the time from our office support staff, office space and I am responsible for all financial management. But our Presbytery does not give Lend a Hand any money. There is no Lend a Hand board of directors; there are no by-laws or operating manuals; people are not elected; there are no long term plans, goals and objectives. Lend a Hand is a movement.

It is this movement quality that I want to highlight. It is this movement quality that may be something we can learn. We should ponder together the difference between a movement and an institution. Now there is no doubt that I am an institution guy. I was called, formed, blessed, and nurtured by the institutional Church. Many of us who would bother to attend a Synod meeting or a Presbytery meeting are the same way. The institution has formed us. A good friend of mine likes to say that I am so loyal to the Presbyterian Church that he is convinced that I have the Presbyterian symbol tattooed on my but. I also now believe that people like me – institution people – are obsolete and increasingly extinct. People today do not come to Jesus through the institutional church. People come to Jesus through much more free form, loose, flexible, relational, spiritual movements. We need much more of this movement quality in our common life.

This leads me to a difficult question, “Can institutions create movements?” How can we institution people create more of a movement quality in our common life? How do we do that? My conclusion is very clear for me. We cannot. Institutions cannot create movements. All we can do is get out of the way. This is very difficult for us. This is difficult for me. I am an institution guy. Institutions cannot create movements.

We may use Lend a Hand as a case study of this. Here is a tiny example where we have allowed a movement to flourish in harmony with the institution. My role in many ways is to serve as the offensive line for Lend a Hand. Lend a Hand is the quarterback. Too often, most of the time, we allow the institution to blitz and bury all the movements that rise up in our midst. My job has been not to allow our obsession with institutionalization to take control of Lend a Hand. Lend a Hand is a movement. This is very difficult for Presbyterians today. We want to institutionalize everything. A pastor walked into my office, closed the door, and said, “Suzie spends a lot of time doing Lend a Hand work. Don’t you think we should keep track of her Lend a Hand hours, and then Lend a Hand can reimburse the Presbytery for her time?” The institution is blitzing again. My response, “NO, we are not doing that.” Of course, afterwards I asked Suzie that question. Her response, “That’s dumb.”

Obviously, Lend a Hand is small and rather peripheral. It has been easy to allow its movement quality, its freeform, close to the ground way of running to blossom. But what if we begin asking the big questions? In the life of the Synod, in the life of our presbyteries, for the future of the church can we get out of the way and allow this kind of movement quality to emerge? And when such movements do emerge with energy, innovation and leadership in our midst are we going to blitz and bury them over and over again? Institutions cannot create movements. But we can give permission and encouragement. We can get out of the way. All over the world and throughout our society today there is a profound Jesus movement emerging. Can we institutional people get out of the way and allow that movement to bless and transform us.