Archive for the 'Change!?!' Category

Change!?!, Community, Spiritual Formation

A Belonging to Believing Story

I love stories of people coming to faith in Christ and entering the community of a church! This week, the Modesto Church of the Brethren published this story in their newsletter, The Chimes. With permission, I share it here.

“During a recent Sunday service we welcomed two new members into the Modesto congregation! Chelsea Fenney, by letter of transfer and Dana Roy, by baptism. As usual, we invited our newest members, if they wished, to share thoughts on why they chose to join the church or what they appreciate about this church.

Here are some thoughts from Dana Roy:

I had never attended one church regularly, much less “belonged” to any faith community. After attending a memorial service for a dear friend’s parents at Modesto Church of the Brethren, my family and I decided to attend a Sunday worship service. This led to another Sunday worship, a Christmas musical, meeting church members, more Sunday services, cooking for 9th and D, National Junior High Conference, building relationships…. Before long I was waking up every Sunday wanting to go to church. It wasn’t just the activities; it appeared I had found a place that spoke my spiritual language. So many times I felt like Erin and Russ’ sermons spoke straight to my heart, allowing me to truly feel the Holy Spirit. Beyond this, I had found a faith community that was filled with so many welcoming and genuine people. My journey to Modesto Church of the Brethren has been more meaningful than I can possibly explain in one or two paragraphs. I am grateful beyond words for being a part of the MODCOB family.”

I love stories like this which illustrate a postmodern concept that belonging to a group leads to believing. Getting people involved in your church, a small group, a potluck, or even attending a memorial service can be the first step of evangelism. How many of you think that someone coming to a memorial service at your church might eventually come to faith because of this event? Yes, it is possible! Dana illustrates how the moving of the Spirit created a hunger in her life to want more of the good things of God. So, I encourage you to pray for those visitors that come to your activities and events. Maybe someone like Dana is attending, someone in who’s life the Spirit is moving.

Blessings to you,

Change!?!, Spiritual Formation

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

That’s Happy New Year, in Hawaiian. As 2011 rapidly winds down, I do pray that each of you can look back and see numerous times where God’s hand has guided you. I’m about to preach tomorrow another sermon about Mary and Joseph, focusing on the time just before they flee to Egypt. They had their plans to marry, live near family in Nazareth, and lead a “normal” life. But their plans were turned upside down by an angel announcing the birth of Jesus, a forced trip to Bethlehem to register, and another forced trip to Egypt to save Jesus’ life.

Our plans may never be messed-up that much, but still it can be frustrating to see our plans or dreams get blocked. My prayer for the New Year is to have eyes to see God’s hand in everything that happens in 2012. That’s a simple request that will require a lot of faith to see it happen.

What’s your prayer or desire for the New Year?

Blessings to you,

P.S. I heard a sermon this past Sunday that used 1 Kings 3:5-14 as its scripture. I thought this is a very appropriate one for my thoughts above.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

Change!?!, Ministry Formation, Missional, Third Places

Thesis on Evangelism

I recently took my last Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) class on thesis writing. The past three years have been challenging, but most stimulating and inspirational! The program has been through Gallup University (Omaha, at Gallup Headquarters) and Bethel University. I’ve shared class with 7 other outstanding individuals, including one from South Africa.

My thesis research topic is, “How Clifton StrengthsFinder can empower Christians who feel inadequate in faith sharing with non-believers?”. Part of my research will be to interview Christians who have been instrumental in bringing others to Christ. I would like to do this from an emergent perspective.

I chose this topic from all my experience as a pastor and Congregational Life Team member. During all these years, it was hard for a congregation to engage in evangelism. Many feel inadequate for personal faith sharing. For some, evangelism is a dirty word. But, God calls us all to share our faith, or give a reason for why we believe. It’s not enough to just do good works of service. But rather than learning a new program or things to memorize, what if Christians could experience empowerment by simply understanding better how God has created them? From the understanding that Clifton StrengthsFinder gives us, what if we could learn to share our faith out of this natural, God-given, and unique gifting?

If any of you are familiar with Clifton StrengthsFinder or interested in this research topic, please get in touch with me. I’d love to engage with you.

Blessings to you,

Change!?!, Ministry Formation, Spiritual Formation

Does Failing Equal Failure?

I was at a pastor’s retreat earlier this week. During one of the group conversations, I remembered a quote from when I used to work with and learn from emergent churches and pastors. One of them once told me, “Failing is not failure, unless you fail to learn from the experience.” I also remembered how some churches encourage their leaders to take risks. They believe that in taking risks for Christ, you are more likely to experience his power at work.

Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 (Mt. 14:15-21)? The disciples wanted Jesus to send the people home, so they could find food. Instead, Jesus tells them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” If I had been one of the disciples, I probably would have disagreed and started encouraging people to leave to find food. There were no supermarkets or Micky D’s nearby. Instead, the disciples took a risk, finding 5 loaves and two fish. They brought the food to Jesus, he blessed it, and everyone get a bellyful of food. They took a risk to obey Jesus, not seeing how it could be done, and a miracle took place.

I also remember conversations with emergent pastors where they ask their prospective ministry leaders during an interview, “Tell me about a recent failure. What did you learn from the experience? What are you doing differently since your experience?” These churches desire to be risk-taking and learning organizations in order to be faithful to their calling to ministry.

I wish I was more obedient in risk-taking, like the disciples were. I wish I was not fearful of failing, but fearful of playing it safe, of only doing what my mind can figure-out. I hope I can remember more often that “Failing is not failure, unless you fail to learn from it.”

Change!?!, Leadership

A Witness for the World

After President Mubarak left Egypt, President Obama said it was “a historic event,” that “the Egyptian people had spoken and Egypt would never be the same”. Although the historic event worth noting for many was the revolution in general and the reality that President Mubarak was made to step down, the real historic event worth noting is how it happened. Let us pray that not only Egypt, but the world will never be the same.

That the protestors, even in their desperation for great change, chose a peaceful means by which to work for change was unbelievable in the midst of the great violence they had experienced for decades and in the midst of a world that too quickly resorts to violence. Often deprived of sleep and certainly with many experiencing growing anxiety in the midst of the uncertain situation at hand, millions of Egyptians exercised tremendous self-control, including the army caught in the middle. The sheer continued act of civil disobedience from growing numbers refusing to be violent changed their country and inspired the world. President Obama said that “the people of Egypt put to rest the lie that justice is best gained through violence. That it was nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history once more. We saw protesters chant, ‘Selmiyya, selmiyya’, (We are peaceful), again and again. We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. We saw people of faith praying together and chanting, ‘Muslims. Christians. We are one.’ And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.”

A reporter said “the Egyptians bring out the idealism in you, in a world of cynicism”. For many of us, they bring out the faith in us; faith in the God who is always calling us to the best of ourselves, the things of peace, and who dances with us in streets everywhere, when we get it right. Long ago Jesus wept on a hillside wishing people knew the things that would make for peace. Perhaps last week Christ wept again, for there was powerful evidence in the world that people somewhere did know what made for peace, and found the courage to see it through.

May God continue to be with the Egyptian people in days ahead, as they continue their walk away from the Pharaoh, and toward the promise land. May their witness inspire and empower us all.
-With you on the journey, Pastor Erin

Taken from the Chimes newsletter, February 15, 2011.

« Prev - Next »