May 3, 2012
Who was your favorite character on Gunsmoke, the old TV western? For most folks, it was probably Matt Dillon, or Kitty, or even Doc; but for me it was Festus. My main reason for liking Festus so much when I was a kid was the way he talked and walked—and the way that his right ear folded up underneath his hat! He truly was a TV original, and me and my friends thought he was the epitome of the true western cowboy. Whenever we pretended to be cowpokes, we would try and walk bowlegged, squint with one eye, and talk with a nasally western twang. And if we ever got to Dodge City, the first person we wanted to meet would be ol’ Festus!
Well, I finally made it to Dodge City, for the first time in my life, this past week! Of course, Festus & Mat Dillon, and even Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, are all long gone, but their legacies—and memorabilia—still remain, most notably at the Boot Hill Museum. In fact, the museum actually contains a replica of the way the town really looked in the rollickin’ days of the Old West, including the Long Branch Saloon, replete with real barkeeps and dancin’ girls!
Okay, I didn’t really see any dancin’ girls, but there was a real stage where they could have performed, a player piano, lots of poker tables, and a buffalo head over the bar. With all that cool stuff, why would anyone ever have wanted to “get outta Dodge”? Of course, most of the people who were given that famous ultimatum didn’t want to leave town at all; rather they were persuaded to do so by the barrel of a gun thrust in their gut or the threat of a noose around their neck!
Well, nobody asked me to “get outta Dodge” last week. On the contrary, I was invited “into Dodge.” In fact, that’s the unofficial slogan of the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce—“get into Dodge.” They want people—especially those who will spend time and money in their fair city—to come to Dodge as often and as long as possible! Of course, my invitation didn’t come from the mayor or the Chamber, it came from the Kansas District of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. My mission there was to start a new Learning Community for pastors who want to “get outta their churches” and into their community. (To find out more about how Learning Communities are being utilized in the Kansas District, click on the following link: http://vimeo.com/37318007.)
The Pastors’ Learning Community is a collegial, regionally based small group of pastors, led by a trained TCN facilitator, which meets monthly with the purpose of helping pastors develop and hone leadership and outreach skills related to church transformation. For the most part, pastors are well prepared as theologians, worship leaders and care givers, but are less well equipped in the area of leadership development. Research drawn from a recent survey of 1000 congregational members by TCN shows that the pastor’s ability “to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12) is the most crucial factor in transforming a congregation’s mission to reach out to lost and unchurched people with the Gospel of Jesus.
If you are interested in forming a TCN Learning Community in your area, you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can be sure that the response won’t be “get outta Dodge”! Instead, it will be conversation about how we can equip God’s people to get out into the world and be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
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