Alternative Ministry: Reaching Beyond Four Walls

Published on: November 14, 2016

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I have been asked about mission statements in alternative ministry. I don’t really like the term alternative ministry. Ministry is ministry—serving people and loving them. Service is much more important than the name on the sign, even though I believe “Unity” to be one of the finest names to be placed on any sign.

I work harder now in ministry than in any of my previous brick-and-mortar churches, because it requires so much time morning till night.

A mission statement defines you, and reminds you what you’re about in an ever-changing world, with ever-changing pressures. It is not something that you revisit from time to-time, but rather what you strive to live daily.

Charles Fillmore, in a small private gathering of ministers one evening in the late 1930s, was asked a question by one of the ministers: “If you hadn’t named Unity, “‘Unity’ what would you have named it?”

Charles got very excited and animated in his answer. “What I should’ve named it, what I would name it today if I could is, ‘The School of Change.’ ” He went on to say it is change that brings real spiritual growth. Louis Meyer, the minister that followed Charles Fillmore in ministerial leadership, was in attendance at that meeting, and told me about that special night.

How we hate change. Even people on the spiritual path hate change, but change happens—especially in ministry.

 

How Hot Is Your Wire?

My first Unity ministry was in 1983, way up north, in Rockford, Illinois. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, that’s what the ministry was copied after. The building was 100 years old, with little or no insulation. Winter utility bills were $5,000 a month back then. Repair costs occupied most of my time. The people were so wonderful, but I was exhausted by the time I left.

No one knew when I took over the Unity Village Chapel in Unity Village, Mo., in October 1987, how burned out I was. In typical minister fashion, I held it as a deep secret, even to those closest to me. But, I knew.

Jack Boland, former Unity minister of the Church of Today, in Warren, Michigan, told me that if you had a line of number 10 wire that was rated 10V, you could run 100 volts on that line. It would get hot, but it would carry all the voltage. But … the minute you put a resistor in that line, it would catch fire from one end to the other.

It took a long time to come out of my personal burnout. My mission statement today reflects my desire to help people serving spiritual communities avoid this long, drawn-out fatiguing experience.

Learning to restore my personal energy required doing things far in advance instead of just meeting weekly deadlines.

 

A Shoe Box per Talk

I found out that I could work with great energy and enthusiasm on a Christmas talk in May. People used to laugh at me for playing Christmas music to get in the mood in early May.

People also used to kid me for having 52 shoe boxes, one for each week and talk needed the following year. At the beginning of the year, I named talks, and identified the shoe boxes with the name in the subject. That’s it.

Then when a story came, or an illustration that worked for a particular talk, I wrote it down immediately and put it in the shoe box that could use the illustration or story. I would move the shoe boxes around like a chess player moves chess pieces to organize the whole year. When the time came closer for a particular talk, I would assemble—more than write—from the many articles found in a shoe box. I was often five months ahead.

This was easy, and what was delivered on Sunday looked like I had been working on it for a year. In one way, I had worked on it for a year.

I would find that I discarded 90% of what was put into a box of a particular talk, but not into a trashcan, I would move that material to other boxes. I still do the same today.

 

Re-Visioned Ministry

The unexpected happens in ministry. I complained one time to Rev Glenn Mosley about the constant interruptions in my time as minister at Unity Village. He said, “Maybe your job is the interruptions.” That still makes me laugh today, and it was true.

I often joke that the “Rev” in front of my name no longer stands for Reverend, it now stands for “revised.”

The biggest change in my life was moving from traditional four-wall ministry to something without walls. This was not my idea. It was God’s. When I started this ministry, I didn’t even own a computer, let alone know how to use one. I also can’t type. What a human can’t do, or is too stupid to do, God can work through to bring real genius.

The mission statement shared below was written in late 1998, when God gave me the idea to do an Internet ministry. It’s very Fillmorian. The Internet was in its infancy and we only had 70 (seventy) email addresses when we started. This has been quite a ride, like being duct taped to the Space Shuttle. It took off much faster than anyone predicted, or that I could have believed. I don’t take any credit for what has happened. How could I? It’s all God.

PositiveChristianity.org Mission Statement
With Jesus Christ as the sole head and chief cornerstone of this ministry, we are dedicated to being the world’s best in serving people of all faiths with a positive, uplifting awareness of God; using advanced technology with high human touch, we give people instant, equal access to prayer, inspiration, ministerial services, teaching, counseling, and renewal through spiritual retreats.

Our building projects are people’s lives. We do not strive to build buildings, we strive to build people.

Christopher Ian Chenoweth

Rev Christopher Ian Chenoweth is minister of PosititveChristianity.org. He served ministries in Rockford, Illinois, and Unity Village, Mo.


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  • Grace Merrick

    I really found this valuable, Chris . Thanks from Grace in Australia