I've subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine for several years now. The subscription, I believe, was a gift from a well-meaning but unimaginative family member who evidently had no idea what else to get me for Christmas. After all, nothing heralds the birth of the Prince of Peace quite like a publication which has as its cover a cartoon drawing of Donald Trump wielding a pitchfork in his big hands, Ted Cruz carrying a torch, and little Marco Rubio swinging a nail-impaled 2 x 4!
I don't recall if it was in that particular issue, but not too long ago, a Rolling Stone writer asked some music biz big-wig how, in this day and age of Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes, the record company can possibly survive.
The executive's response came in the form of 3 simple words which will likely guide my ministry for the rest of my career - whether I'm a DS, a pastor, or whatever. The music mogul said that in order to save the record business, his company will have to… "MAKE BETTER RECORDS"!
Someone recently asked me how, in this day and age of Joel Osteen, kids' Sunday soccer, and our culture's insatiable appetite for short attention span theatre (140 characters or less), the United Methodist Church can possibly survive. My response? "We will all have to… MAKE BETTER RECORDS"!
For starters, we are going to have to offer better worship services - with better music, and better preaching, in better facilities.
a) The music will have to be made up of tunes which are lively and upbeat, with lyrics which show some measure of spiritual depth and thought.
b) The preaching will have to be Christ-centered, culturally relevant, and well-crafted. Ya know, something with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
c) The sanctuary will have to be comfortable and inviting, the bathrooms will have to be clean and tidy, and the parking lot will have to be ample and maintained. (Don't even get me started on the nursery. Wooden toys? Ewww!)
In other words, we’ll have to... MAKE BETTER RECORDS.
Our church meetings will have to be purposeful and grace-filled. Our mission endeavors will have to be meaningful and life-changing (for missionaries and clients alike). Our budgets will have to advance the Gospel, promote spiritual health and well-being, and ultimately fuel the disciple-making machine that is the Church, for Christ's sake! In other words, we’ll have to... MAKE BETTER RECORDS.
Our Conferences (Charge, District, Annual, Jurisdictional, General, etc) will have to promote inclusivity among the least, the last, and the lost, advocate and facilitate peace and justice here and everywhere, and invite and encourage ALL people (clergy & laity) to live out their Christian call. In other words, we’ll have to... MAKE BETTER RECORDS.
Our Boards of Ordained Ministry will have to hold their members AND their candidates to the highest standards, expecting excellence (not mere competence) in ministry. Crucified Christ deserves nothing less. In other words, we’ll have to... MAKE BETTER RECORDS.
And our Bishops and District Superintendents will have to make creative and courageous appointments which are based not on salary and seniority but on the gifts and graces of the pastor, the needs of the congregation, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we’ll have to... MAKE BETTER RECORDS.
If we don’t, then I believe our Church will be making disciples about as fast as Kodak will be making film.