The Rev. David J. Butler, minister of the new Jordan United Methodist Church, is a shepherd without a flock or a shelter to put them in. But he's bent on finding a lot of lost sheep and bringing them into his fold.
The new church, without a building of its own or a defined congregation, is coming together through the Rev. Butler's concern for those he says have been long ignored - shut-ins, those who have not been in church for 10 to 20 years and those in their early 20s who are suddenly realizing they want to belong to a church."We want to bring these different groups of people into one body and say `we are the same.' "
The minister said people have three basic needs: a safe place where they can go and nothing can hurt them, unconditional love and the right to have someone with them.
"No one deserves to live or die alone," he said. "And I don't think anyone should have a death in the family and have no one to turn to."
To help meet such needs, the Rev. Butler is planning a diversified program with a "tremendous amount of latitude."
"We are not saddled with some of the traditions that more established congregations are faced with," he said. "If we want to have guitar music, we'll have it. People want more upbeat, more exciting, more flexible worship services.
"If they want more lay participation, we'll have it.
"I'd like to see children's activities outside of worship, a strong sense of community for young individuals, and a small group structure."
But will this flexible approach go beyond the guidelines of the church?
"No," says the Rev. Butler. "I am sure there are banks to the river where I am swimming. But in our church, there will be a tremendous amount of diversity. Individuality is seen as a God-given blessing."
Without an organized congregation to begin with, the Rev. Butler has sought out new members. With the help of 20 members of the Christ United Methodist Church, where he recently served as associate minister, he has completed an extensive three-week telephone-calling survey.
Half of the homes from West Jordan south to Herriman have been contacted, and he says approximately 800 families have agreed to hear about what his church has to offer.
The first meeting for the new congregation will be an opening reception at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 11 at the White House Reception Center, 10575 S. Redwood Road.
The Rev. Butler said the approach for this outreach program has definitely not been "hard-sell." He said he is only interested in finding people who don't already have a church to attend.
The Rev. Butler became interested in the ministry when he attended a religious retreat while in high school. Later, he received his degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.
His wife, Katherine, is now in her third year in law school at the University of Utah. They have two children - Nathan, 9, and Sarah, 7.
He believes his many life experiences - working in road construction, as a janitor, as well as serving as a minister of an elderly congregation, where he performed many funerals - have broadened his perspective and put him in touch with human need and suffering. Now he believes those experiences will help in gathering a new congregation.
"I hear the human cry so strongly, I don't have time to play the game. I am not opposed to the game; but there is not time to get caught up in all the politics. The world is spinning too fast, and people are falling off. Every minute, someone is dying or running away from home. There is a strong sense of urgency."
When asked where he intends to put his flock once he has identified its members, he said, "We have money for property; it was provided by an anonymous donor who has a vision. But, as yet, we haven't purchased the property. I'm in no hurry. I don't suffer from an `edifice' complex."
On one hand, he would like to see a beautiful facility where he could do his ministry. On the other, he says that "every dollar we spend for brick could be a dollar for food."
And how will sufficient funds be raised to build a new church and for other operational expenses? Does he intend to tithe or assess his members?
"No," he says. "I believe that as the church responds to the need of people, money is its least concern."
Until the new church is built, the Rev. Butler will rent a facility.
"We might even set up a tent in a parking lot," he said.
He said his main concern is meeting the needs of people through programs including outreach, youth, education, singles, youth, music, as well as Scouting and Sunday School.
One thing that can't hurt the Rev. Butler in achieving his goals is his stated concern for people.
"We must take time to see the lines in other people's faces and the tears in their eyes. People have to become human to us if we are ever to become a ministry."
The Rev. Butler was appointed minister of the new church by the bishop of the United Methodist Conference, headquartered in Denver. The United Methodist Church has 9.5 million members, but according to the Rev. Butler, each individual church has its own flavor. Some draw from the community around them for their membership. Others, like his, draw together people with special needs.
There are five United Methodist churches in Salt Lake County, plus others in Tooele, Eureka, Copperton, and Park City. And they're "bursting at the seams," so he believes his new church will be well-received, though he doesn't discount the challenges that lie ahead.
But his philosophy for building a new congregation is simple."I'm not going to throw big rocks in the water to make a gigantic, flamboyant ministerial empire. I'm going to cast a lot of little pebbles."