Category: Church of the Beloved


The New Medical tower at Providence Hospital in Everett

Providence Medical Center in Everett (north of Seattle) recently opened an impressive new medical tower, and has been running radio spots touting its impressive emergency room and other services on my favorite news-radio station, KOMO. While I can’t locate the spots online to play for you, the gist is that they spend the first 30 seconds raving about how wonderfully accessible/high-tech/etc the tower is and then… “But without our award-winning staff it’s just a really expensive nifty fancy amazing building” or something to that effect.

While I laud both the effort to offer the highest quality of medical care and the effort to give credit to the caregivers themselves, the ad struck as less than completely true from a sociological perspective. Top specialists and surgeons provide certain skills that are invaluable in the most challenging cases, when diagnosis and treatment can be more challenging than keeping track of the policy violations or wrong decisions in an episode of House. But for the vast majority of patients, it is the culture and sociology of the organization that distinguishes a hospital more than who specifically is doing the treating.

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Union Gospel Mission Seattle

First, listen to the song On a Corner in Memphis by Todd Agnew and let yourself take the words in a couple of times. I’m working on about time 83.

Now think back to the last time you saw a panhandler on the off-ramp, and consider how you reacted. Did you give her money? I’m guessing most of you did not. And one key reason is that you don’t want to be an enabler of drugs, alcohol, or whatever else that person’s pet sin might be, right?

Besides, somewhere along the way, someone probably said something like “You know, if you gave someone a fish, they’ll eat for a day, but if you teach them how to fish they can eat forever.” Maybe you even listened to the Arrested Development song and are willing to admit it.

In this case, both approaches might be wrong. I want to propose a third way, one that eschews condescension toward our neighbor in favor of love, real understanding, and empowerment. Continue reading

I am amazed at the depth and breadth of ministry discussion that happens among Christian leaders online. A recent discussion was initiated by a friend with the status “How does your church define active membership?”* If you’re in a hurry to see what I mean, click this link to the see the entire transcript of the 64 responses on Google Docs. A little discussion of my thoughts on the opening question and some of the other conundrums follows in the rest of this post.

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Here is a fascinating article (thanks to the Duke Call & Response Blog) on how one organization is changing the way nonprofits think about money. It’s purpose is to provide capital and support to move nonprofits to sustainable growth, and the results are impressive. For example, VolunteerMatch increased the value of volunteer hours they enabled, increased their budget by over 50%, and relied around 70% less on outside funding.

Churches have the same sickness as nonprofits at times: we assume that because we do good things, people should give us money to accomplish them and keep giving us that money. The more we are willing to thoughtfully approach the idea of growing our ministries and our incomes at the same time, the more effective congregations can be at ministry and the more our money can be multiplied in God’s service.

This already happens sometimes. Lutheran World Relief has offered fair trade coffee, tea, food, and crafts for congregations to sell for a number of years. Our congregation started doing this and was able to fund coffee for our fellowship hour entirely, not a small feat for Lutherans, and Seattle area Lutherans no less. At the same time, we enabled the livelihood of people in a variety of countries that produced the crafts and food, and began to better live out our rhetoric by using fair trade ourselves.

The trick is applying this kind of philosophy on a larger scale without prostituting the Church, because the Church’s mission is not able to be so concisely defined in a way that is coexistent with making money. Instead, the church exists to proclaim and love. But, organically self-supporting ministries are, I believe, a serious growth opportunity for our reach. Redeemer in Minneapolis, Minnesota offers apartments for rent specifically to high-risk tenants that other places turn down. They have gotten burned before, but because they have high (yet realistic) expectations of their tenants, they have had a positive impact both on the stability of family situations and on the long-term personal development of their tenants without taking up an undue portion of the budget.

In the same way, Church of the Beloved in Edmonds, WA is a 3-year-old church with 40-60 average attendance but is in the process of purchasing the 200-year-old mansion where we worship. The rest of the mansion houses an intentional Christian community of young adults seeking truth, each of whom pays only $300 a month in rent. But together, that rent will basically pay our mortgage, leaving the rest of the offerings for other ministry, while still offering the powerful ministry of community to those young people.

What are your stories of financially sustainable ministry? And do you have a broader vision of how a congregation might be able to comprehensively integrate their ministry to become more self-sustaining without becoming focused on money or prosperity? Please share in the comments.

The Nonprofit Financial Model Never Worked; Here’s a New Model That Does | Fast Company.

I was a little surprised yesterday when I received a Facebook message titled “Thank You!!!” from a “shirt-string friend”, someone I knew only through her membership in a local Bible literacy initiative I had been webmaster for.

I was more than a little humbled when I opened it and read that because of a paper I posted online, her life had changed and she was now training to become a pastor.

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I have a confession to make.

For some time, whenever I’ve really seriously prayed the Lord’s Prayer and sat down with it, it’s rubbed a little wrong.

Not because I think it’s corrupted, or difficult to understand, or male-centric, or anything else I have heard people level complaints at.

No, it’s because of this one line: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Really, the mental conversation goes, I have to forgive everyone who sins against me in order to get forgiveness myself? Even the counselor who encouraged me to destroy my marriage? Even the manager who completely disregarded how her actions affect other people?

Is that really grace? Did Jesus die for that? Because, not to say it wouldn’t still be really amazing or anything, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make that cut. And I thought God had a little more grand style than that anyway… Continue reading

Random ministry insight of the day: If God blogged, we would be the entries. Period.

Not static pages (like the “About” page), not the theme: we would be the blog and the blog would be us. We are not only God’s hands and feet, but God’s very image and self in creation, and his mission through that self is to bless all of creation.

Wow! The only question is, how do you read?


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I’m working on a new project with my home congregation in Edmonds- designing and implementing a barter system.

At its most basic, a barter system just means that people swap goods or services with one another. For example: I need eggs and you need someone to fix your skirt. You have chickens that lay eggs and I am handy with a needle.  We trade the one for the other and both come away happy.

The one I’m proposing will follow a modified currency model instead, using a systems of credits that each participant can use to “buy” the services of others. The cool thing this means is that people don’t have to pay someone outside and everyone, regardless of their income level or employment status, is on equal footing. It also might give people a chance to get to know someone they hadn’t met more than in passing before.

Amazingly enough, I hadn’t even finished drafting the proposal when my pastor called and said he’d shared a little bit about it with another local pastor who might be interested. So, not only might this be an opportunity to connect within our church, it might help build bridges within the local Christian community (and maybe even outside eventually).

So without further ado, below is my first draft proposal, which you are of course welcome to comment on and offer suggestions of ways to improve: Continue reading