Archive for the 'Decline/Growth' Category

Books / Readings, Community, Decline/Growth, Leadership, Missional, Spiritual Formation, Worship

A Neat Experience….

Last night, I hosted a prayer/worship experience that I called “Passages: Conversations with God.”  My thought was to offer somethinga that would help us connect with God in a variety of ways, using prayer, worship, and some spiritual disciplines.  Last night we used the Jesus Prayer and a passage from Luke 10.  The other thing I wanted to try was the 5 questions that I found in “Tangible Kingdom”… because I am thinking about using them as the framework for “the sermon time” in a new worship experience that I would like to launch this fall.  I was not sure how the questions would go… but it was the best part!   I didn’t want to delve deep into historical analysis of the scripture, etc.   I wanted to engage the Scripture as the Living Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our conversation.  It was totally awesome how rich and deep that time was.   Here are the questions that we used to guide our conversation.  1. What did you like about what you just read? 2. What didn’t you like? 3. Was there anything you didn’t understand? 4. What did you learn about God? 5. Regardless fo where your faith is at right now, if you were to apply what we learned about God to something in your life this week, what would that look like?

I can’t wait to see how using them goes several weeks running.

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 Sunday; 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’m certain that 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; and 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 human evolution. 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 End we see the creation perfected 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… everywhere and all the time. A million different stories overlapping, and all of us connected by our common humanity. It’s exciting to be honest. Just the kind of place that 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 ministry can be a sleepy experience if you’re not careful; short slow days that accomplish little except for self indulgent conversation. I’m convinced that, that can’t be the best way 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.

Annual Conference, Decline/Growth, Missional

Reminder About Annual Conference Activities

Here are two events that may be of interest to you, in addition to many, many others at this year’s conference. Please pass this information on to all your friends! Word-of-mouth is good publicity!!

The first event is called, Emergent Brethren Conversations, to be held at 9:30pm to 10:30pm, Monday (7/14) at the Marriott Hotel, Dominion Room. The purpose is for people who are either exploring or attempting to do Emergent ministry in or beyond their congregations. Like last year, this will be another time where you can meet other people from around the country to increase your perspectives of what’s happening and what other’s are doing in ministry. There have been some great posts recently that could drive our conversation for a good, long time!

The second event is an insight session on Monday evening called, Engaging Our Communities with Jesus. The purpose of this session will be to have three congregations tell their stories of how they are engaging their communities in a way that builds God’s kingdom and the are growing as a result. One of the congregations to be featured is Community of Joy in Salisbury, Maryland. Last Summer, this congregation finally got their own building, have promoted themselves well in the community, building solid relationships and are growing in worship attendance as a result. The other featured congregations will be Grandview, Garden City, and Mohican. This Insight Session will start at 6:45pm, Monday (7/14) at the Convention Center, B-15-C.

Perhaps a third event might be our networking with each other and finding a common time when a majority could meet for a meal and just hang-out. This may be tough with so many things happening. But if anyone desires it, please let me know.

Also, if anyone has any other suggestions of activities to participate in, please post them here!

Blessings to you,

Emergent Brethren Conversations

Marriott, Dominion
Monday, July 14th

Books / Readings, Change!?!, Decline/Growth, Leadership, Missional

Church Unique….

I beleive that each local church is unique and is given a specific mission from God that falls into the overall larger mission that every church has to glorify God and make disciples (apprentices) of Jesus. One of the things that happens to many of us is that without a motivating vision that is unique to us… we jump from one idea to the next in the hopes that something will get us where we want to go. I confess that I am part of a movement of pastors in America that have hopped on the Conference bandwagon that we spend time at ministry conferences hearing what is happening in certain churches and then try to imitate that hoping that it will help us too! Doing this ignores the fact that God has made each church unique and called us to a unique purpose. God doesn’t mass produce his church… each church is unique. “If we copy someone else’s vision, who will accomplish ours?”

In his book Church Unique, Will Mancini shares a process that will help us identify our unique vision and then a framework to guide the living out of that vision.

We all know that vision is key to kingdom growth. I came to Community of Joy in 1999 and in the first 10 months we changed the name, cast a new vision, established core values, and empowered leaders to lead… and as a result saw phenomenal growth, but then about 10 months into our journey, we started to platuea and then decline until a year ago, when God provided a new ministry center for us in the form of a building we purchased and renovated. That process brought us together in a profound way and as a result, we experienced another growth spurt… now we are back to the level we were at in late 2000 when we began our first plateau. Interesting enough, we are now experiencing another plateau. Having been down that road before, I don’t want to go there again… that’s why I am calling our congregation to embark on a journey of clarifying vision and even considering partnering with one of Will Mancini’s Vision Navigators to help us do that.

One of the realities that we still face inspite of casting a new vision and having buy in… is that for most of our long term core folks… the motivating vision for them is still to become a self-supporting autonomous congregation that has it’s own building and meets it’s budget, pays it’s mortgage on time and experiences modest growth. But that really isn’t much of a vision and certainly not one that we need God’s help to accomplish!

Besides, the church is a by-product of a motivating vision not the focus of vision. Being the incarnational/ missional people of God who are sent into the world to share God’s love with the world and invite people to join in the journey is the overarching vision we have and if we can live out that in specific and unique ways, people will be drawn to the journey and the church will grow.

Change!?!, Decline/Growth, Leadership, Ministry Formation, Young Adults

My money, my mouth

In the year that I’ve ministered with the Pomona Fellowship, I have gone through quite a bit of evolution in my beliefs, although mostly with regard to ecclesiology. As a result, I have recaptured a passion for ministry that I haven’t had since my first years in seminary. But that passion has also transformed me into a bit of a throwback to the earliest Brethren. That first group of believers was economically communal, intentionally peaceful, and socially, egalitarian. They had no paid ministers, no cathedrals, no choirs or complicated liturgy. By these distinctions, they created ‘another way’ of Christian community, modeled not on the institutional church of their day, but instead on the church of New Testament.

What I have written below is part of what I have come to believe. It is not intended as a slight against my friends and colleagues in full-time ministry. Rather, please read what follows as a primer on what I think the future holds for the generations emerging in the larger church of Jesus Christ. Of course, as always, this is only one man’s opinion. Search your hearts, search the scriptures, and decide for yourselves if the ideas below comport with the teachings of New Testament.

A trend has been sweeping through The Church of the Brethren for over 100 years. It’s as if someone abducted nearly every church leader and reprogrammed their minds with the logic that argues, “If you have a deep serious relationship to Jesus Christ, you should become a full time pastor or missionary.” It’s so automatic that it’s scary. Against the backdrop of our declining churches and the fewer and fewer folk who file in every Sunday, anyone whose spiritual health rises above the level of comatose is instantly encouraged to pursue vocational ministry.

It doesn’t seem to matter that God may have strategically placed them within their own unique culture and community, with a career (potential or progressing) that could amply provide for their family, and put them in touch with people who don’t know Christ. No one tells them about Paul’s clear instruction that the new birth should not affect a person’s current vocation.

He says it three times, so how do we miss this?

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments. Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24, NLT)

But we know our recent traditions better than the ancient Scripture; so the world is drained of our brightest most energetic leaders, and the secular workplace ends up missing those truly gifted to be examples of The Faith.

I’m convinced that we have such an artificial system of “church” that most of us can’t even process Paul’s logic. We have created a mythical category of Christian service known as “full-time ministry” supported by an un-biblical clergy/laity division within the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians Paul catalogs the leadership roles of the church. There he lists apostle, prophet, evangelist, and teacher as essential for a healthy Christian community. But because they’re paid a full-time salary, most parishioners expect a full-time pastor to have all these gifts. Unfortunately, none of them do, and so our churches are robbed of the spiritual leadership they need and deserve.

I’m not suggesting that we ‘muzzle the ox’, people don’t value what they don’t pay for, and theological education is expensive. But a prophet is not a prophet if he is beholden to those that pay him. Courageous honesty is just too easily corrupted when you’re worried about your mortgage or whether or not you can afford to retire. Leaders like that neither make waves nor disciples.

Freedom to tell the truth is the key to leader-like, leadership. Absent that, everything that matters will be absent; no apostles, no prophets, no evangelists, no teachers; just sad, scared, scrambling ministers all too aware of their own limitations. What we need is a revolution of thought. A new paradigm that opens the pulpit to a multiplicity of voices, and frees our ministers to live as a citizen missionaries.

« Prev - Next »