Reaching Out Through Radio
My church has recently experimented reaching out to our community through one minute radio spots. Each spot begins with me saying, “This is Martin Thielen, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church.” That greeting is followed by a brief message that communicates our mainline culture, and ends with an invitation to visit our church “where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.” We are not sure yet how effective this approach is in encouraging people to visit our congregation. But we do believe it is one more way to get our name out in the community. Nine one minute radio spot examples follow.
Several years ago a young couple visited my congregation. Up until that time they had never attended church. Like many young adults, they thought Christianity was judgmental and closed minded.
Months later, they scheduled an appointment with me to discuss baptism and church membership. During our visit I asked them, “What first attracted you to our congregation?”
They said, “The sign in front of your church that says, ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.’ We thought all churches were narrow-minded and judgmental. So when we saw your sign, we decided to visit. When we discovered the church inside lived up to the sign outside, we wanted to become members.”
Like this young couple, a growing number of Americans are searching for a grace-filled and open-minded faith. If you are among this group, we invite you to visit Cookeville First United Methodist Church, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
Can I Be a Scientist and a Christian?
Years ago, when I pastored a church in Hawaii, I met a young woman named Mary, who was working on her Ph.D. in biology. On the one hand, Mary felt drawn to Christianity. But on the other hand, she struggled with the issue of science and faith. She told me, “I want to believe in God, but I cannot forfeit my mind in the process.” She then asked me a question I will never forget. She said, “Dr. Thielen, can I be a scientist and a Christian?”
Sadly, some people say that science and faith don’t mix, that a person must choose between the two. However, those of us in the United Methodist Church reject that idea. We believe in an open-minded religion that affirms both science and faith. If you are looking for that kind of open-minded faith community, we invite you to visit Cookeville First United Methodist Church, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
All Prayed Out
During the great depression, a family had no money, the kids were sick, the electricity had been cut off in their apartment, and they had little food. At dinner, the husband and wife joined hands and bowed their heads to say a blessing over a tiny meal. The wife began the prayer; “Lord, we are grateful….” but her husband did not join her. After a moment of uncomfortable silence the husband said, “I’m all prayed out.”
Have you ever felt all prayed out? Do you ever have doubts about God? If so, you are in good company. People have felt all prayed out for centuries, including many biblical heroes. If you are looking for a church that realizes that doubts are not the enemy of faith but a part of authentic faith, then come and visit us at Cookeville First United Methodist Church, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
Getting the Ballast Right
Many years ago a ship sank during a winter storm. The crew gathered seventy of the passengers and put them into a huge rowboat. However, the weather got rough, and the crew thought the boat was overcrowded. So throughout the night, in an effort to get the ballast right, they picked up people and tossed them into the sea. The next morning the crew arrived on shore with only nine people on board.
Tragically, churches often act like that. They want to get the ballast just right so they throw out the sinners. Here’s a divorced person, an alcoholic, an unwed mother, a homosexual, let’s throw them out.
Cookeville First United Methodist Church realizes that all of us are imperfect people in need of grace, not judgment. So if you are looking for a faith community that emphasizes God’s love, mercy and grace, come and visit us at First Church, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
A Church of Open Minds
I saw a poster once that said, “Jesus died to take away your sins. Not your mind.” People of faith need to be willing to ask hard questions, to grapple with our faith, to debate, to think. In short, the church of Jesus Christ should always be a church of open minds.
That’s certainly the spirit of Jesus. In the Great Commandment Jesus told us to love God “with all our mind.” In the book of Isaiah, the prophet says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD.” John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church once said, “But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” So, if you are looking for a centrist, open-minded church, come and visit us at First UMC, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
When Janice learned that she had cancer she felt devastated. A week before her surgery, she almost decided to cancel the surgery, give up, and die. However, that same day, she received a post card in the mail from a dear friend. On the postcard was just one word, written in big bold letters. The one word was: LIVE! Janice pasted that postcard on her mirror and left it there through her surgery, the chemo, and the radiation.
She later said, “Whenever I was tempted to give up I would look at that word and repeat it again and again and again: Live! Live! Live!” And you know what? She did. If you are looking for Christian friends to help you through life’s journey, please visit us at First United Methodist Church, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
What’s a Grit?
A businessman from up north came down south for a conference. His first morning in town, he went to eat breakfast at a local diner close to his hotel. The waitress came to take his order of eggs, sausage, and toast. When the waitress, a southerner, brought this northerner his order, he noticed a pile of white stuff on his plate. “What’s that?” he asked. “Grits,” she said. “What is a grit?” he asked. “Honey,” she drawled in her southern accent, “they don’t come by themselves.”
Grits don’t come by themselves, and neither do Christians. The Christian faith is not an individualistic faith but a community faith. So if you are looking for a loving and grace filled community of people to walk with you on the journey, come visit us at FUMC, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
“I Believe with All My Doubts”
A lot of Christians think that religious questions, struggles, and doubts are a sin. But that’s incorrect. Doubt is not the enemy of faith but part of faith. For example, many major characters in the Bible struggled with occasional doubts.
I once heard about a woman who was asked, “Do you believe in God without any doubts?” She replied, “I believe in God with all my doubts.” Her response reminds me of the man in the Bible who said, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Most of us can relate. We do believe, but we also have times of unbelief, and that’s perfectly normal. So if you’re looking for a church where it’s safe to ask hard questions and acknowledge some doubts, come visit us at FUMC where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.
Years ago, author Ann Lamott found herself broke, drunk, bulimic, depressed, and addicted to drugs. She said, “I could no longer imagine how God could love me.” Desperate, Ann set an appointment with a minister. She told him she was so messed up she didn’t think God could love her. The minister replied, “God has to love you. That’s God’s job.”
Ann’s minister was absolutely right. God works full-time offering unconditional love to all human beings. God’s affirming and forgiving love, what theologians call grace, is God’s best gift to humanity. So, if you are looking for a church that emphasizes God’s love and grace rather than judgment, come visit us at FUMC, where our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.