Archive for October, 2008

Change!?!, Decline/Growth, Leadership

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead

Hello hello hello… Last week for the first time in a year and a half, I was sick on Sunday. Not being with Missio Dei that night was one of the most uncomfortable experiences that I’ve had in recent memory. I was sure it would have been foolish for me to try to lead that night; but unsure whether I had the right not to be there. One of the members wrote after the meeting saying that things went well, I was really happy to hear it. 

Building a church is, or better said should be, more about the people than the pastor. Now I know that there are those that prefer to have everything under their control. The truth be told, I have a hard time letting go of some stuff myself; for example, I will probably will always want to teach, and think I lead meetings better than most. But I think a better way to run things, is to let people find what they do best, and run with it.

That said my dual employment is proving more difficult than I had hoped. I am in Hollywood 55+ hours a week, and can’t effectively cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s; study, rehearse, teach, and connect with the community like I could when I was in Pomona all day. This experience has however really helped me understand how much a church asks of people when we ask full-time workers to volunteer. It’s why I think that many large churches use mostly paid staff. In the postmodern economy, people just don’t have much time to help out volunteering. The American expression of finance and labor, combined with Californian commuting demands, produces a social toll on the individual that severely limits what we can expect out of our members. Worship shouldn’t be a chore, it should be a respite.

And yet “a respite” can also be thought of as a vacation. Vacations can be relaxing, or exciting; it really depends on what you prefer. Now my wife and I enjoy vacationing in the city. Cities are the center of the human experience. They are full of life and culture, new births, and expanding boundaries. In fact, even though God’s creation begins as a garden, in the Book of Revelation, we see it’s completed as a city. I work in a city now, and everyday I see hard working people; in the office, on the streets, on telephones and in taxis. Black people and brown people, shades of Asian beige, and European pinks,   everyone up, out, and on the move. A million stories overlapping and interconnected by a common humanity. It’s exciting to be honest. Just the kind of place I imagine Jesus would be living.  

That certainly has put an exclamation point onto my frustration with folks with no passion for growth or vision for the future. The Christian life can be a sleepy experience if you’re not careful; short slow days that accomplish little except conversation. I’m convinced that, that can’t be the best way to be to live for God. The Christian life should be vital, dynamic, exciting and intense. If that’s not the way you’re living, let me kindly suggest, you’re missing a big part of the resurrection story. What have you done with what God has given you? Are you asleep or are you alive… either way, the truth is, things like this aren’t secrets. God knows, the World knows, and your heart knows. Therefore the Apostle says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine, make day dawn upon you, and give you light. ” And likely, a lot of smiles, and a little excitement.


Still going well….

A while back, I wrote about a bible study process that I was using in a mid-week bible study time… as a way of testing if it could be used as the “message” part of a new worship gathering for young adults.  Well, it is still going strong on Wednesday nights.  Last week, I used it with 18 Sr. and Jr. High youth and that went well and was positively received and affirmed by the youth.  So, today, I decided to use it in both Sunday a.m. worship gatherings.  It was the conclusion of our series on James… 5:13-20.  The process is to read the scripture passage aloud three or four times.   Today I read it once, a volunteer from the congregation read it and then we all read it in unison… I provided a printed version in the program and on the screen.  Then I asked the 5 questions and moderated the comments and concluded with a special musical ensemble singing “Anoint Us, Lord” while folks came forward to experience anointing.  It was a phenominal experience in both gatherings!   I think this process can be used effectively with all ages, all levels of spiritual maturity from longtimers to seekers.

 The five questions are…. 1. What do you like about what we just read?  2. What don’t you like about what we just read? (this one opens the window the widest for the Spirit to enter our midst!)  3.  What don’t you understand?  4.  What did you learn about God from this passage?  and 5. Regardless of where you are on your faith journey, if you applied what you learned about God from this passage to your life this week, what would it look like?

 I highly recommend this process for any setting! It is very spiritually enriching!

Books / Readings

More Comments on Books

I wanted to add to the comments on books.

I recently finished Tribal Church by Carol Howard Merritt. I really enjoyed her explanations for why young adults have different needs in these years than in previous years. She urges inter-generational relationships and caring for one another as family.  One can adopt a young adult as easily as one can adopt an elder. She shared a great vision for small churches as those who train the new pastors, and thus help the quality of pastors for all churches, big and small. She has a radical idea for the Brethren, that all salaries should come from one source. This enables the in-debt new pastor to be at a small church without filing bankruptcy.

I can’t say enough good about Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne. He reminded me why I am Anabaptist, pacifist, and what the Kingdom of God is truly about.  I love it when people who are discovering the teachings of the Kingdom of God and are not Anabaptist come to new understandings. They are often better at explaining than we birthright Brethren are. The book is unusual, more like peeking into a journal than reading a book.

I also recommend The Search to Belong by Joseph R. Myers.  (Rethinking Intimacy, community and small groups).This is a book on how people connect and come into community.  It offers insight on the type of connecting spaces people need..from the intimate space, to the wide open community space to just a sharing lightly space.  It really helped me see why some small group ministries fail, and why some worship services fail, as well.  The back page says “What kinds of community do people want?  What does it take for churhes to cultivate environments where all levels of community spontaneously emerge and thrive?  What kind of language should you use and avoid when discussing community in your church?  How can you evaluate community health in your church or organization and in yourself?  I was surprised to learn that what I “knew” wasn’t really accurate or even helpful.

Books / Readings, Worship

Gleaning from Readings…

In another post (a comment from my Forgiveness post), Jeff asks how much I read.  I read LOTS for many reasons, but primarily to glean illustrations, stories, quotes that will be helpful in preaching.  But you might ask… what do you do with those stories, etc.

 Years ago, both Dean Miller, then pastor at Christ Church of the Brethren in Carol Stream, IL, and John Maxwell, Leadership guru… taught me a great system that I have used for nearly 20 years.  When I read, I do so with pen in hand … I mark up all my books… underlining stories, quotes, etc and then in the margin I write a topic or theme.  Then I also record the page number in the back of the book.  When I get a stack of books that I have read, I go to a copier and make copies of the pages listed in the back.  Then I file those stories in a folder that is labeled with the theme.  I keep the file drawer alphabetical by theme.  Then when it comes time to preach on forgiveness, I go to the file drawer and pull out the file folder that says “Forgiveness” and I have lots of possible quotes, stories, etc to choose from.  I also mark the date on the story once I use it so that I know when it was last used.   This has been a real life-saver for me.

 Do you have a system you use?  Share it with us.