It’s 2018, Not 1978

When I was a kid, there were two ways in which my family knew what was happening at church.

One, we attended church every Sunday. By being in church, my mother talked with people and heard about everything the church council and the pastor were doing. She wasn’t on the church council, but by being in church every Sunday, she was able to gauge what the important issues they were tackling.

The second was through the mailbox.

St. John’s mailed a lot of stuff. The pastor’s regular monthly news article. The church schedule. They even mailed home those cardboard Lent change calendar folders where you put a quarter in the folder for each day of season and then brought it to the church on Palm Sunday (or at least that is when my mother brought them back).

They didn’t make a lot of phone calls unless someone died. But when someone died most people knew about it because every family seemed to take out an obituary in the local Herald Statesman newspaper.

Through the years, the “how” we communicate in the church has changed. Physical newspapers are dying. Obituaries are found on websites instead of on page 13 of the daily newspaper. With the advent of smartphones and tablets and the entire range of mobile computing, it is easier to send a text or an email than to pick up the phone and call someone. Social networking through iMessage, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., can get information out very quickly. Even church websites – those that are kept up to date, that is – are ways in which quick messages can be posted and information can get out.

The struggle of the small church today is how to make that transition.

We’ve been struggling here at St. Matthew’s with how we communicate church business with everyone. When you’re in the process of relaunching the church, selling church property, and trying to schedule meetings to discuss the future, our communication has failed.

Our emails are not going out regularly from the church.

Our news page on our website is terrible.

And we don’t spend money on sending monthly meeting notices through the mail anymore.

So what to do?

Part of the future of the new church, I believe we must commit to establishing a new way of communicating that is regular and clear.

  • A church app is needed. We can get information out about meetings and what we’re doing and all a member or a friend of the church has to do is tap the app and read it on their mobile device.
  • Additionally, a church app will provide a clearinghouse of worship video and audio that will promote Jesus and our weekend messages. Our bible studies can be available at any time someone is moved by the Spirit to study.
  • Oh, and an app is expensive.
  • Consistency with weekly emails. We need to ensure that church information is sent out every Thursday to help people prepare for weekend worship. There needs to be a clear message that is delivered to email inboxes, messages that can be easily be shared with others not on our list.
  • We need to establish texting program in church. Yeah, this is going to cost money, but sending out immediate texts regarding any emergency, important happenings, and worship events is important in 2018.
  • We need to improve our social media presence. This is a given.
  • With an improved social media presence, we also need people to take pictures in church and share them. Showing people what is going on is a more powerful message than just writing about it.

No church is perfect. No congregation is perfect.

The only thing we can do is pray and move forward to accomplish the goals of better communication. The living hope we have in Jesus should be our great motivator to be touch the lives of our members more vibrantly.

Election Day

Going out to vote is an important civic duty.

All of us should take the time to exercise this duty today.

However …

Yours or my voting has nothing to do with the church.

You can be a conservative, libertarian, progressive, or socialist.

None of it matters in church.

The church only cares that you know Jesus.

And not only that you know Him, but that you also understand His love for everyone.

Jesus doesn’t give us lists of people to vote for or against.

He just wants you to know Him.

To love Him.

To believe in Him.

As we build our new church, one principle that everyone will know is this:

We don’t care who you voted for.

We only care about your soul.

Focusing on Life

From the time I was sick back in 2011, I’ve been a relatively good follower of a whole foods, plant-based diet. “Relatively good” is a qualifier term meaning there were times when I fell off the wagon and ate fatty, non-animal things that were not healthy. For example, those amazing burgers made by Beyond Meat called “The Beyond Burger.” They look just like a real hamburger and taste terrific, though they are not meat.

Some of the nutritional makeup of these non-burger burgers:

  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 22 gram
  • Saturated Fat: 5 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams

I’m glad that there is no cholesterol in these things (compared to a regular hamburger that contains at least 80 grams), and a reduced amount of saturated fat (5 grams as compared to a regular hamburger of 0 grams). It is great that these are plant-based burgers (no cows were slaughtered to make them). However, when reading the ingredients, there are three forms of oil contained in them: Canola, Coconut, and Sunflower. As a doctor once told me, oil is evil. It packs on the pounds, the fat, and makes your health poor. Stay away from it.

Hence, in the times when I’ve fell off the plant-based diet that was strictly low fat, all plants and grains and beans and legumes, I’ve purchased items like the Beyond Burger and all those mock meats found in the frozen section of the grocery store. In my mind, since they were still plant-derived, I didn’t feel bad. I was following a plant-based diet; it just wasn’t with a lot of real plants like green leafy vegetables and fruit.

Late last year, I fell off the wagon. I bought the Beyond Burger at Shop-Rite here in town simply because I was surprised they were selling it. The first bite made me circle the drain. I started buying fried eggplant sandwiches at the local deli on a white roll. For some reason, non-dairy almond milk creamer for coffee found its way into my basket. I started drinking vegan protein powders that replaced meals. And the cheese – the Daiya cheese – and all kinds of vegan yogurts and spreads became staples of morning breakfast. I ate tofu crafted into “scrambles” topped with non-dairy cheese. Dinner became those mock meats with grains.

Last month, I wanted to kick myself when my doctor told me that my blood work was fine, but some of the markers to bad health were up. Cholesterol – total, LDL, and HDL – were up over my last test. Though lower when compared to someone eating a standard American diet, the numbers alarmed my doctor to check on my diet. After telling her, she exploded and told me that I was dumb to fall back to these “vegan comfort foods.”

Ordering me to “straighten up” my diet, I started really focusing on what I’ve eaten. Sticking to a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet since July 22nd, I’ve noticed some good things. I’m sleeping a bit better. My daily blood pressure is down, as is my resting heart rate. I’ve started to exercise again, though I will not win an award for intensity or length, as of this morning. My weight is down some 13 pounds since the morning of July 23rd, which is surprising because after battling anemia due to my previous chemotherapy treatments in 2011 and 2012, I’ve struggled with weight gain due to the medicine that helped fight the anemia and the virtual impossibility to drop the weight after treatment.

Finally, I am more focused on all aspects of life. I want to accomplish tasks, though my issue of wanting to do everything without help when it comes to my professional and social life is still very much a problem.

I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of coffee I drink. When in the very recent past, I would make a pot of coffee and drink three-quarters of it, now I am down to a cup in the morning. One cup. There are times when I will drink one or two additional cups throughout the day, but I’ve found that this is limited to my church’s Bible Study Time on Thursday. In coffee’s place – green tea.

Years back, my doctors who were treating me told me the most important part of life for me is to do everything that I can to prevent getting sick again. Encouraging me to forego the standard western diet based on animal products and strictly focus on plants for nourishment, they explained that eating in a healthful way would promote good health. One of the doctors explained that she hadn’t had a cold since she moved over to a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet. Describing her immune system as running at maximum goodness, she was able to fight off the cold viruses and flus that roam around the hospital where she worked. Oh, it was more than a decade since she had a cold or the flu.

For a tiny bit less than a month I’ve been more strict to what I’ve eaten. Good things are happening.

As my congregation contemplates what it means to be a church focused on missions’ work, one of the areas I believe we can serve our community is through the promotion of health. Our bodies are called temples of the Holy Spirit. Should we not want these temples to be the best that they can? Should our goal of offering a healthier spiritual life be combined with a healthier physical life? I think it should.