Joseph Nieman: A great failure to live into a strategy for the mission of Christ in Western Michigan

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The failure leading to the sale of the cathedral lies with the lack of a serious commitment to evangelism. There is no growth strategy into which the cathedral would fit. Such a strategy has little to do with the current inflammatory issues of homosexuality or church polity. Rather the inability of the people in the pews to speak convincingly about three key questions resulted in a great silence about the mission of The Episcopal Church.

The first question about which people should speak with friends and neighbors is simple: Why Jesus? Why do people need and benefit from a personal relationship with the risen Lord? Can we share with them how that leads to “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7)? Can we demonstrate both in word and deed how that relationship has changed our lives?

The second question also is simple: Why the Church? Why do Christians need to assemble together? Why is it not possible to be a faithful Christian alone? Can we speak convincingly about how our participating in congregational life strengthens and expands our faith? It is in the assembly of disciples that we learn to love one another as Christ has loved us, that we learn to forgive one another 70 times seven, that we learn to pray and worship as our Lord taught us to do, and that we learn to serve one another and persons in need like good Samaritans.

Third: Why this church? Why The Episcopal Church and this particular congregation? The diversity of the congregations, the search for meaning in relationship to crucial questions of life and culture, the significant exposure to scripture in the lectionary, community and world service in Christ’s name, the awesome nature of good worship with joyful hymns of praise – these are but a few of the reasons why this church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes

Posted August 28, 2007 at 6:17 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. robroy wrote:

How sad it must be for the retired Father Niemann, author of the essay, to see the Episcopal church dismantled and sold off block by block in a single generation.

It is with true purpose and excitement that Episcopalians are working together to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs of the United Nations). But it would be more fruitful if we had congregations enthused about the mission and ministry of Christ in the world because they have a personal relationship with the risen Lord, are engaged with others in their congregational life, and believe The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can make a difference in changing the future of humanity and of the earth.

True purpose and excitement? I don’t of anyone who is willing to give their lives to the cause setting aside 0.7% of income to the MDG’s for the UN, a very much secular organization, to squander. It is sad that the Episcopal church is justifying its existence through its “commitment” to the MDG’s.

Father Niemann rightly asserts that mission must follow faith. The MDG’s are the epitome mission without faith.  He states that the sale of the church is a failure of evangelization. Why would anyone ask a friend to church where the bond that holds the church together is no longer the love of Christ but threat of lawsuit? Paul rightly describes those that bring other Christians to court as “utter lost.” Ask a formative Christian to a church that is “utter lost”? I certainly won’t.

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

August 28, 9:15 am | [comment link]
2. Summersnow wrote:

Two out of three (questions) “ain’t” bad.
That third one, though…

August 28, 10:03 am | [comment link]
3. Phil wrote:

Yeah, Summersnow - Rev. Nieman says a growth strategy “has little to do with the current inflammatory issues of homosexuality or church polity.”  He’s done a great job encapsulating the core thinking behind successful evangelism in his three questions, but when you get to the third one, sorry, sir, it becomes about inflammatory issues of homosexuality or church polity (and a lot more flotsam, sadly).

August 28, 11:19 am | [comment link]
4. wamark wrote:

In point #3 I would say, after 30+ years of ministry, that if ones only exposure to scripture is the lectionary it is not “significant” but, rather, superficial.  Tom Wright ,in his series on the three year lectionary, often refers to the prissyness and timidity of the lectionary as it regularly skips through a passages of scripture leaving out that which might offend modern ears.

August 28, 1:13 pm | [comment link]
5. Abu Daoud wrote:

Questions of human sexuality strike at the core of what it means to be a human being. SO his assertion that the pro-gay agenda of TEC and the diocese are not to be blamed are absurd. Certainly, the problem is much larger than the pro-gay agenda alone, but that agenda is a large part of the problem and indicates a community (TEC) that is fundamentally sick and diseased and unable to foster human relationships, specifically within families.

August 28, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
6. Jim the Puritan wrote:

When you replace Jesus with the United Nations, you are bound to have a problem.

August 28, 2:51 pm | [comment link]
7. scaevola wrote:

Amen to all of the above.  But in addition, the Cathedral of Christ the King was an ugly, impractical building in the wrong place.  Like asking people to worship in the Guggenheim Museum.

August 28, 3:46 pm | [comment link]
8. scaevola wrote:

(continuing my last thought).  Nevertheless, I do have confidence the Kalamazoo Family Church will use their new home in the service of the Gospel.

August 28, 3:48 pm | [comment link]
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