Sunday, February 01, 2015

Buffalo's Time

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Good afternoon,

I found Sunday’s speaker to be mostly dull and uninspired until his closing remarks. He redeemed himself when he called the elders to the front and prayed with us for the future of Buffalo.

I am sending all Session members this message. I realize that I am the resident contrarian on the Session. It doesn’t bother me at all. At Buffalo, we value consensus more than we value honesty. We are talkers, we are not doers. We accept involvement, when we need commitment. Rather than taking the action needed to succeed, we take action to keep from failing. In my opinion the “go along to get along” mentality has brought us to where we are in this church and in this nation.

At Growth Committee meetings I regularly referenced a book by John Ortberg, senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California. The book is “If you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat”. I suggest it to all of you for reading. Ortberg knows about faith and  commitment. Last year, his church agreed to pay $9 million to leave the PC/USA. Ortberg announced that he would put his house up for sale to help pay that money.

I have spent the last four years listening to everyone talk about the old days at Buffalo. Those days will never return because of changes in the community and the world. But the potential for growth is still there. We just don’t take action to grow. I’m not a big sports fan, but what we are doing is playing a “prevent defense”. Rather than trying to win, we are trying not to lose.

Over the last forty years, I have worked with thousands of employees. When I counsel people about performance issues at work or in some life situations, I usually tell them the same thing. “The road that you are on is not going to take you to where you tell me you want to go.” And so it is at Buffalo. We want growth, but we don’t want to  take that road.

The Lord has placed us at a crossroads in the life of our church. One direction leads to failure and death of the church, the other direction leads to growth and the spreading of The Gospel to the community.  Which road will we take?

I posted the passage from Ecclesiastes above because we need to all recognize that it is Buffalo’s time. This is an opportunity to energize our congregation. We need to start with leaving the PC/USA as soon as possible. We have wasted enough time with Salem Presbytery. It’s time to go on the attack. We need to get our story out.  We need to start NOW!! There is no need to wait for them to deny us freedom again at the next meeting. We need to tell our story on the Internet with a web site, on social media such as Facebook and in press releases to the media. We need to pass out flyers at the Presbytery meeting in February. We need to be giving those out in the parking lot as people arrive for the meeting. We need to get as many of our members as possible to the meeting to tell our story to the other delegates. The Presbytery’s position is indefensible.  They have contradicted themselves time and time again. They have broken their own rules in an effort to force us to stay. Let’s fight back!!! “Thou shalt not steal” applies to church property.

It’s not enough for us to get free from the PC/USA, it’s time for us to help other churches leave the PC/USA. When the vote comes on gay marriage in the Presbytery, you will see the flood gates open.  Buffalo needs to take the lead!  If you want to see a return to the glory days, it is time for us to lead again. We have been given an opportunity to lead. Let’s take it.

Once free from the PC/USA, we need to keep moving. We need a committed pastor for this church. If Alex is interested in doing this, I think he would be a good candidate. BUT if he wants to pastor Buffalo, he needs to give up his other activities and commit to the success at Buffalo. This part-time thing is not working, has not worked and will not work. We need a pastor committed to growth at Buffalo.  If Alex can’t do it, we don’t need to waste anymore time with him, not another single day. There’s a Presbyterian minister somewhere who is up to this challenge and wants it. Let’s get busy and find them!! Don’t waste your time telling me about the Presbytery rules on looking for a pastor. If you are in the ocean drowning, you don’t worry about the rules on correct swimming. Let’s go. 

At Buffalo, we confuse the issue by asking the wrong questions. When it comes to personnel, the question is always “Is this the right person for the job?” We confuse the issue by asking, “Where we will get someone else?”. That’s not the issue, that’s the road to bad decisions.

Same story with the music director. I communicated with a high school classmate who pastors a small church in Lakeland, Florida a few months ago when we first discussed the changes in the music director position. He responded to me and I agree with his response.  Should have let her resign and looked for someone with a heart on fire for Jesus! “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”

We need to raise the passion and commitment levels at Buffalo. We can’t expect the congregation to get on board if the leadership and the paid staff are not on board. There are things in our lives that limit what we can do at church, but we need to make wise choices. If leaders are never in Sunday School or at Wednesday night Fellowship dinners, how can we expect others to be??

If we want to walk on water, it is time to have the faith to get out of the boat.

Thank you,
Gilbert Jones


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