Monday, October 24, 2011

Investing with the SGF Savings and Loan

George: "We don't need Potter over here!"

Townspeople: "I'll take mine now!"

George: "No, but you're thinking of this place all wrong. As if I had the money back in a safe. The, the money's not here. Well, your money's in Joe's house... that's right next to yours. And in the Kennedy House, and Mrs. Macklin's house, and, and a hundred others."

Recognize those lines?  That's George Bailey calming down the hysterical townsfolk who fear that the banks have lost their money.  George is explaining that their money in the Savings and Loan is invested in the homes of their community--that it's not liquid assets ready to be withdrawn at a moment's notice.

I got to thinking tonight about the church as a Savings and Loan, and particularly in light of what it means to be a "member" of the church.  Why is this "church membership" such a solemn event to us--why not just have it be something where a person can come and participate (or not) as they choose?  Why make "joining" such a big deal?

And the answer is . . . membership is not about the one(s) doing the joining.

Picture a set of 9 sticks all set upright (teepee fashion) leaning in on each other.  Each member needs the others because they're all leaning in to the center.  And as long as they keep leaning in, their structure is so much more stable than a bunch of sticks standing upright near each other.  The term interdependence comes to mind, (and also its unhealthy cousin, independence, but that's material for another blog post).

I know that the others in my home church won't pick up and leave the church just because of a difference of theology or preference of when to take communion.  I trust that when they become hurt/offended (and everyone does, given enough time and opportunity), they are "leaning in" enough to solve the problem some other way than by withdrawing their hearts.

It's that "ability to withdraw your heart" that we hope you'll give up to gain something greater.  At a bank, you are anonymous and independent.  You can come in any time and withdraw everything and close the account.  At the Church Savings and Loan, your heart is not so easily liquidated, because it's invested in the other lives of your home church.

Back to membership, then.  We need you to "join" us for a period of months without commitment so you can see--really see--who we are and how we live.  Please-oh-please don't make a hasty commitment to us, because we want you to be sure you know what/who you're getting into.  On the other hand, don't be a visitor forever, because the longer you stay in "visitor mode" the harder it will be for us to mutually invest in each other.  I don't know of any way to prove this to you--it's just an observation I've made from years of watching people come, stay for months and years, and go again without ever having invested their hearts.  

More thoughts on the process of becoming a member at the <SGF Website>.

The transcript from the movie (below) can be translated to any crisis where an invested community steps in to lovingly support.  In the last three weeks, our home church has had two small crises where we stepped in like this.  It's the reason we run a "Savings-and-Loan-style" Church:

Clarence: Go on home. They're waiting for you.

- George: Mary!  Mary!

- Well, hello, Mr. Bank Examiner.
- How are you?

Mr. Bailey, there's a deficit.

- I know. Eight thousand dollars.

George, I've got a little paper here.

- I'll bet it's a warrant for my arrest.
- Isn't it wonderful?

- I'm going to jail.

Merry Christmas!
- Reporters?

- Wh-Where's Mary?

- Mary!
- Oh, look at this wonderful old drafty house.

- Mary! Mary!
- Mary!

- Have you...
- Have you seen my wife?

Merry Christmas, Daddy!
Merry Christmas, Daddy!

- Kids!
- Pete!
- Oh!

- Kids!
- Janie! Janie! Tommy!

- Oh, let me look at you.

- Oh, I could eat you up.

- Where is your mother?
She went looking for you with Uncle Billy.

- Zuzu! Zuzu!

- My little gingersnap!
- How do you feel?

Fine! Not a smitch of temperature.
- Not a smitch of tempe...

- Hallelujah!

George! George!
- Mary! Mary!

George, darling!
Where have you been?

Oh, George, George, George.
- Mary! Let me touch you.

- Let me touch you.
- Oh, you're real!

Oh, George...

- You have no idea what happened to me.

You have no idea what happened.

Well, well, come on, George, come on
downstairs, quick. They're on their way.
- All right.
Come on!
Come on in here now.

Now, you stand right over here, by the tree.
Right there, and don't move, don't move.

- What's happening?
- Who's gonna come?

I hear 'em coming now, George,
it's a miracle!

It's a miracle!
- Who's coming?

Who's gonna come, Daddy?

Who, Daddy?
- I don't know.

Come in, Uncle Billy.
Everybody! In here!

Isn't it wonderful?
- So many faces!

Mary did it, George!
Mary did it!

She told some people
you were in trouble and then,
they scattered all over town
collecting money.

They didn't ask any questions - just said:
"If George is in trouble, count me in...

What is this, George?
Another run on the bank?

Here you are, George,
Merry Christmas.

The line forms on the right.

Merry Christmas!
- God bless you.

- Oh, Mr. Martini!

Merry Christmas!

Step right up here.

I busted the jukebox, too!

- Mr. Gower!

I made the rounds of all my charge accounts.

- Violet Bick!
I'm not going to go, George. I changed my mind.
I've been saving this money for a divorce,
if ever I get a husband.

There you are, George.
I got the faculty all up out of bed.

And here's something for you to play with.

I wouldn't have a roof over my head
if it wasn't for you, George.

Just a minute.
Just a minute.

Quiet, everybody.
Quiet, quiet.

I just got this. It's from London.
- Oh.

Mr. Gower cabled you need cash. Stop.

My office instructed to advance you
up to twenty-five thousand dollars. Stop.

Hee-haw and Merry Christmas.
Sam Wainwright.

- Mr. Martini. How about some wine?

"Hark, the Herald angels sing

Glory to the new-born king.

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.

Joyful all ye nations rise,

Join the triumph of the skies,

With angelic hosts proclaim

Christ is born in Bethlehem."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our "Target" Popuation

My interest in a person is not limited to "will they join my church?" --what a stomach-turning thought!-- but think with me metaphorically for a bit.  What if we've set up a small soup kitchen to feed a needy community . . . I don't want my rich neighbors driving up to eat up our limited bowls of soup!

Soup? Rich neighbors? What? Let me expand on the metaphor and apply it to being/doing church.

I'm not sorry when believers from other local churches benefit from SGF's efforts (such as our Parenting or Marriage Courses), but with a limited amount of energy/time/money I would want to primarily serve and relate to people who are not connected to a life-giving body. 

In everything we plan, I want us to be either increasing vertical relationships between humans and their Creator or increasing our peer-to-peer relationships with others.  If you see a trip to the Pumpkin Patch on our church calendar, it's not there on accident.  We intentionally create opportunities to expand our lives to touch others around us, to invite the uninvited, to help others come into a positive contact with God and his church.  If there's a Go-Deep or a trip to Bethel planned, it's all flowing out of a desire to increase relationship . . . in that case both vertically and among those who make the trip down to Redding.

So how does that relate to a Marriage Course or retreat/campout or other high-investment activities?  I want to make sure that the energy that a home church is expending is going to the best possible recipients.  How would we know who are the "best recipients"?  Here are some target audiences that I would perk up and work hard to make a good course or event for:

  • people who used to know God but are adrift without fellowship or mission
  • people who have never known God (and are suspicious of the Church?)
  • people who want to try a course because they think they might lead it in their own church
  • people who specifically need that course (Marriage/Parenting) or event

Those people would make me excited to figure out how to run the course again!  I'm counting the cost of running a course, which is not a negligible expenditure of $ and energy, and I'm ready to start up the soup kitchen again.  But to expend our energy to feed people already eating at other tables?  Not exciting to me. 

I'd welcome your thoughts on this.  I don't feel that I've provided the definitive word on the matter or set down any laws.  I do know that I want my time and effort to be intentional and wisely distributed.*


*It's about relationships, but more specifically it's about intentional relationships.  I once added up the number of waking-non-working hours I have in a week to designate to building my family, resting/working/playing, and investing in people.  Not all that many!  I'm specific about which relationships I pour my life into, because I've counted my hours and I want to make my life count.