Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Leading Turnaround Churches - Book Review

This is a 167 page book written by Gene Wood in 2001. It is an easy read filled with practical insights. It should be read by any installed pastor or interim pastor who desires to lead the church off the plateau or out of decline. This book is one that I will review periodically to help me keep my focus as a turnaround leader.

Some of the best “stuff” I highlighted from this book:
“Turnaround always demands change.” (Everybody should already know this but everybody has to be reminded of this again and again!)
“It is virtually impossible to perform surgery without blood being spilled. Turnaround leaders view themselves as surgeons, not butchers.” (Intentional Interims should handle people with care even when those people have to be shaken up.)
Wood makes a strong claim when he says, “95% of all serious problems in the church stem from a power struggle.” He goes on to say that power struggles are “fundamentally irresolvable. The question in a power struggle is, who will lead and who will leave?”
Still talking about power struggles Wood says, “Going east is not inherently superior to moving west. The point is: No wagon can move simultaneously in both directions.” A few paragraphs later he says, “Why are churches so inclined to allow the minority to establish the order of the day? Why do they give cantankerous members more than one vote? When a church acquiesces to the minority, that is what it does.”

The core of this book is the ten characteristics of turnaround leaders:
1) They consider leadership an act of service.
2) They accept responsibility for the turnaround.
3) They avoid a church which does not desire to become healthy.
4) They establish the critical rules of engagement before they arrive.
5) They never backtrack.
6) They keep close reign on their temper.
7) They are discreet about what they share with others.
8) They are willing to confront the sin of divisiveness.
9) They possess “growth vision”.
10) They are action oriented and bold.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Change Your Church For Good - Book Review

The complete title of this book is: Change Your Church for Good – the Art of Sacred Cow Tipping. Brad Powell writes this book in a very direct and hard hitting manner. He defines the art of sacred cow tipping as the skill of successfully moving churches from the MILK of traditions to the MEAT of Truth, awakening them to be “the hope of the world.” The author’s directness is birthed out of his passion for the church. “I believe that the church is the hope of the world, with this one caveat … when it’s working right. And therein lies the problem. Most aren’t!”

Brad Powell is the pastor of NorthRidge Church. This book is birthed out of the journey that Powell led his congregation through to transition from a dying church locked in a pattern of cultural irrelevance to an exciting, contemporary church communicating God’s Word to people of every generation. Today more than 12,000 attend worship services each week at the campus located in Plymouth, Michigan.

The book is about church transition. Powell says that transitioning a church is like turning around a huge ship. It requires leadership, communication and patience. Courage is also needed because change goes against the prevailing current. Powell entitles one chapter: There Will Be Casualties (Accepting Short-term Losses for Long-term Gains). He writes, “How does a church transition without losing people? It doesn’t. … For many churches, the fear of losing people is a greater fear than failing God.” He then states three realities: If the church doesn’t change, it will lose people. If the church doesn’t change, it will lose the opportunity to reach new people. If the church does change, it will lose the right people.

My Recommendation: Don’t read this 316 page book unless you are ready to be challenged time and time again to change your church for the sake of the community around your church. DO READ IT if you want to be motivated to be a catalyst to empower your church to become what God wants it to be – the hope of the world.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Transition Team Breaks for Christmas

Our Transition Team has been working for six months now. We started the first week-end of June with an overnight retreat. We have had 20 meetings besides the retreat, conducted two congregational surveys and led four congregational events focusing on three of the five developmental tasks of the intentional interim process. This hard working team deserves some "down time" during the Christmas holiday season.

The team will have to jump back into action in January to complete the final two tasks during the first six months of 2008. They will need to complete the Church and Pastoral Profiles by March 1st so that our Local Board of Administration can begin the pastoral search in a timely manner. Our denominational pastor/parish relationships are established in such a way that the spring months are the "prime time" for pastoral transitions. If the L.B.A. is unable to conduct the pastoral search during these months it will put the church at a great disadvantage.

The two profiles mentioned above are two primary tools used in the pastoral search. The Transition Team has the church profile near completion. It contains the following information: church history, current structure and format of services, property description, financial data, staff arrangements. community demographics, and findings from the recent congregational identity survey. Once completed it will be submitted to the L.B.A. and be available for public review. If anyone would like to see it, just ask. The pastoral profile will be completed after another congregational survey is done in January related to pastoral needs and expectations.

This is the last post regarding the Transition Team work until the new year. I do plan to post updates on church / personal activities and some book reviews during December . If you follow this blog only to read about the Intentional Interim process come back in January. For the rest of you, keep checking back to see what I have added and God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Harmony in God's House

(This is the sermon I preached on November 25th. Our congregational identity survey had revealed a variety of opinions and ideas about the direction of the church. The message was given in hopes of helping people see how we should react and respond to each other when we have differences of opinion in the church.)

Romans 12:16 - Live in harmony with one another.

Pastors are reporting an outbreak of a disorder in their churches: RHD
RHD = Relational Harmony Disorder
And researchers are already at work to develop a little yellow pill to cure it, the proposed name for the new pill - Harmonex.

Harmony is the pleasing combination of elements into a whole.
It requires both diversity and unity. If you have only diversity, you will experience discord.
If you have only unity, you will experience unison. Harmony is the result of developing unity in the midst of diversity. Harmony, therefore, is hard work. That is why choirs and bands have to spend so much time practicing together.

Seven Steps to Harmony (from Romans chapters 14 & 15):

Hold back judgment on matters of opinion - 14:1
Avoid looking down on those who aren't up with you - 14:3
Realize that you live to please the Lord first - 14:12
Make sure you don't cause others to stumble - 14:13
Only do that which leads to peace and accord - 14:19
Never make a big deal about your personal opinions - 14:22
Yield personal preferences for the common good - 15:1

God doesn't expect nor want "unison" in the church. But because we haven't learned how to have "harmony" together when we don't have "unison" we often resort to quarrels and fights.

Good Church Motto: Everyone has their say; the majority gets their way;
and after the vote, the minority gets on the boat.

Two Questions: Are you doing everything you can to bring harmony in God's house?
If not, what do you need to change about your attitudes, your actions, and your words?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Church Thanksgiving Meal

Our local congregation had an annual Thanksgiving meal together on Sunday night, November 18th. Ernie Glenn and the men of the church fixed some fine turkey and ham along with some of the best dressing I have ever eaten. I sure hope that the church I serve next year has a similar tradition.

We actually had two church Thanksgiving meals on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The one mentioned above and the Eucharist on Sunday morning. The sacrament that we now commonly call by the names of The Lord's Supper or Holy Communion was first called The Eucharist by the early church. The term - Eucharist - literally means "giving of thanks". So our congregation gathered around the table of our Lord to give thanks for the blessings of salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My sermon was entitled: The Thanksgiving Catalog and was taken from Psalm 103.
Two quotes from the message:
"There are two kinds of people; those who receive everything with gratitude and those who take everything for granted."
"A.W. Tozer once said, 'We can not be too grateful, for it would be like loving too much or being too kind.'"

I will post a summary of the November 25th sermon soon as well as one final pre-Christmas Transition Team update before the team takes a six week break for the holiday season.

Pam and I spent three days in Kentucky with Elizabeth and Trey (daughter and son-in-law) for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful visit. I pray that you had a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Servant Evangelism

Sunday afternoon, November 11th, almost 50 people gathered at the church to go out for "Sunday Serve". There were four ways for the folk to serve.
1) Go door to door and offer a free 9 volt battery for the home's smoke detector. We told the people that God cared about their lives and so did we; therefore, we wanted to give them a battery as a gift. We gave away 100 batteries.
2) Go to a local nursing home to visit those who seldom have visitors. We got the room numbers of 7-8 people and sent the folk out to "love up on them". We just wanted them to know that God had not forgotten about them.
3) Go the Crisis Center and sort bunches and bunches of clothes so that the staff would be free to better serve those who come in needing assistance. This is a dirty job but somebody needs to do it!
4) Those who could not go out got on their knees and prayed for those who went out and for those who were being served. Without the Spirit of God going before us and behind us our efforts are in vain!
As we gathered together after our service projects there were so many smiles as we experienced the joy of serving in Jesus' name.

November 11th was also the day that everyone returned the Operation Christmas Child boxes filled with goodies, toys and necessities for children around the world. We had 64 boxes collected and delivered to Samaritan's Purse. Many of us got to experience the joy of sharing in the name of Jesus!

Upcoming Service Projects: 1) Community Thanksgiving Meal - Several area churches combine their efforts on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to provide a nice meal for shut-ins, the elderly and anyone else who would like a hot meal. Several in our congregation are very involved in this project.
2) Rally Point for the Christian Bikers "Toys for Tots" Ride - Several hundred bikers tour the county and distribute free toys to underprivileged children. Our church serves free coffee and cookies to all the bikers and the families of the children while they are on our parking lot.
3) GIFT Shop - "God Inspired Free Toys". Several of our young adults and others have been prompted to start this new ministry. The week before Christmas they will be giving new and gently used toys to underprivileged children in the community.

It is exciting to see so many people putting on their "service aprons" and discovering the joy of sacrifice for Jesus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CSI Pizza Party Follow-Up

First, an update for those who may not know and to explain the gap in my postings on this blog. About an hour after I posted the previous blog we received news that my father-in-law had passed away. He had been in failing health for years so it was not a total shock. The nursing home staff where he resided found him in his bed and he had just died so we did not realize that his passing was imminent. He was a godly man who had faithfully served in a jail ministry for almost 30 years so he was ready to go home to be with his Lord and previously deceased spouse.
Because of the death in our family I was unable to present for the CSI Pizza Party. The Transition Team led the event very, very well without me. I knew they would! The following is the report that I received from the team about the evening.
Everyone enjoyed as much pizza as they wanted. The team then sent the teens and youth sponsors out with about 10 leftover pizzas to give them away in the neighborhood around the church. This was just one more component in our efforts to improve our "servant evangelism". More will be shared in the next post about servant evangelism at First Wesleyan.
Lisa Herman shared the conclusions from the congregational survey. These conclusions were given in the previous post on this blog. The congregation had gathered around the tables in small groups for discussion. People had been assigned to tables by a random draw of names from a bowl. The groups were given the opportunity to reflect and discuss the findings from the survey.
Once this discussion was concluded the groups were instructed to brainstorm on ways that we as a congregation could do a better job of reaching out into the community around us. All of the ideas were written down by the team member at each table so that the team could compile a master list to present to our church board.
As the team is concluding our work on the current task of "determining our congregational identity" and preparing to move to our next task of "embracing the new pastor and our future" the team is working on a preliminary church profile before we take a much deserved Christmas break. The team will do enough of this next task so that we can present a church and pastor profile to the church board by March 1st so that they can begin the search process. But the team must also work on the last task of "examining leadership and decision-making concerns" before the church elections in the spring and the team's intentional interim assignment is completed.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

C.S.I. Pizza Party

The Transition Team is hosting a pizza party to do some C.S.I. work on Sunday night, November 4th. The response to the recent congregational survey has been great (87 surveys were returned) and now the team wants to share what “the survey says”. We will have an ample supply of regular and dessert pizza for everyone.
After the pizza, the team will share what “the survey says” and the congregation will have small group discussions at our tables. First we will discuss our thoughts about the survey results and then we will brainstorm ideas for ways that the church can move forward into the future. Copies of the survey results will be available for those who would like to receive one.
This is the third of the congregational meetings led by the Transition Team. These meetings are opportunities for every member of the congregation to participate in the intentional interim process. Completing surveys is important and valuable data is received. But congregational involvement in the meetings actively engages everyone in the work of refocusing our church onto the true mission and work that God is calling us to do. Come, spend the evening with your church family, enjoy the fellowship and engage in the work of the church.
The following is a summary of the team’s conclusions from the surveys:
Affirmation #1 – Most people are experiencing meaningful worship services at our church.
Affirmation #2 – Most members appreciate their church and that it positively impacts them spiritually.
Observation #1 – The vast majority of the members of the congregation lives in close proximity to the church building.
Observation #2 – Generally speaking, the 9 am service involves people who are longer term church attenders while the 11 am service involves people who have started attending the church more recently.
Observation #3 – The church still deals with some residual effect of earlier conflicts and the congregation needs to deal with conflict in Christian and constructive ways in the future.
Observation #4 – The music and worship style is very important to those who attend the 11 am service but some in the 9 am service don’t yet understand the need for a contemporary type service.
Opinion #1 – Our Church has become an inwardly focused congregation that does a very good job of caring for and ministering to our own members and their needs. But the members still realize that the church should be just as concerned with others outside of the church.
Opinion #2 – The first place that our congregation needs to reach out to if it is serious about “sharing the good news of the Gospel with the unchurched” is the area immediately around the church building.
Opinion #3 – There needs to be some congregational thought and decisions made about the intentions and use of the Building Fund with special attention given to the church’s transportation concerns.
The following items had data that reflected wide differences of opinions on the subject:
Inconclusive Data #1 – Training members for ministry and service.
Inconclusive Data #2 – Open discussion of important church decisions.
Inconclusive Data #3 – Attitude about the church’s future.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The People That God Can Use - III

(This is the third of a four sermon series.)

For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. – Acts 13:36
In every generation we find people whom God uses to accomplish His purposes. They all have certain common characteristics.

The last two Sundays we have learned that the people that God can use will:
Learn to depend on God rather than depending on themselves.
Live to serve others rather than to be served.

Today we will see that:
Love the praises of God more than the praises of men.

John 12:42-43 - Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

1) Don’t fret over what others think about you.

* Most people you meet don’t think twice about you.
They are wondering what you are thinking about them.

* The praise of people is passing.
Main question: What have you done for me lately?

* Living to please others is a trap. Why?
You can’t make everybody happy. Can kill yourself trying.
Saul fell into this trap and lost his kingdom. 1 Sam 15
“I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

John Calvin called this the “golden shackles of earthly honors.”
Jesus never worried about what people thought. His concern was what His Father in heaven would want Him to do.He said, “I always do what pleases Him.”

2) Figure out the nature of God’s praise.

* God’s praise is a matter of the heart.
Rom. 2:28-29 - A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

EX: Prophet Samuel looking for new king at Jesse’s home.

1 Peter 3:3-4 - Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

* God’s praise is delayed until the end.
How long can you wait to be rewarded? Delayed until heaven?

1 Cor. 4:5 - Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

* God’s praise will come when you live so that He will be praised.
Matt 5:16 - let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Do you reflect honors toward God or absorb them for yourself?
Andre Crouch Song – “and should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary”

Questions to Ponder:

1) Who am I doing “this” for?

Me? Reward myself. Most people work for this person. Jesus said these people will get their reward in full in the here and now.

Others? May or may not reward you on earth.
Step up the motivational ladder. But still living for this world only.
“Acceptance Addiction” – both love and need people.

God? Reward is waiting in heaven. Is it true when we sing: "Living for Jesus thro’ earth’s little while, my dearest treasure, the light of His smile."?

2) How will I react if nobody notices that I am doing “this”?

“THIS” is the thing that you hate doing the most. For me it is:
scrubbing toilets / washing dishes / changing diapers.

What does the Bible say about “THIS”?
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The People That God Can Use - II

(This is the second of a four sermon series.)

For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. – Acts 13:36

In every generation we find people whom God uses to accomplish His purposes. They all have certain common characteristics.
The people that God can use will:
Learn to depend on God rather than depending on themselves. (from last week)

Live to serve others rather than to be served.

Biblical Servants are:
* Available – Luke 17:7-10

Illustration: Complaints about London Transit Authorities buses not stopping to pick up passengers. Released the following statement - “It is impossible for us to maintain our schedules if we are always having to stop and pick up passengers.”

* Reliable – Luke 16:10

Serving doesn’t make you a servant, but if you are a servant you will serve. People know they can count on you.
Not just a “volunteer” (one who performs at his pleasure).
But a “bond servant” (one who willingly obligates himself).

* Humble – John 13:3-5, 12-17

Illustration: Dave Thomas – cover of Wendy’s annual report had pic of him dressed in work apron holding a mop with bucket. He said of the pic: “I got my MBA long before my GED at Wendy’s. MBA doesn’t mean Master of Business Administration. It means Mop Bucket Attitude.”

Illustration: St. Benedictine’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, NM
Hand lettered sign over only door in/out of sanctuary: “Servant’s Entrance”

Biblical Servants will serve:
* Wherever
The place you serve is chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait to be in the spotlight to serve others.

The moment of service is chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait until you are ready to serve others.

The people to serve are chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait until the “right” person comes along to serve others.

The means of your service is chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait until you have it all together to serve others.

Someone said: If you want to be happy for an hour – take a nap; for a day – go to the park; for a week – take a vacation; for a month – get married; for a lifetime – serve other people.

God uses people with a servant’s heart. Everything in our culture tells us that we should expect to be served. We often let this mindset creep into the church. Jesus’ model shows us that as Christians we are to think only of how we can serve others.

You can tell the difference between those who want to be served and those who serve by their clothing: People who want to be served wear a bib.
People who want to serve put on an apron.

When you walk out the church doors today are you going through the “Servants Entrance”? Will you be wearing a bib or an apron?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Person That God Can Use

While the Transition Team is leading the congregation through the task: determining our congregational identity I have decided to preach a 4 part series of messages entitled: The People That God Can Use. The foundational verse for the series is Acts 13:36. "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep."

I am challenging each member to be a person that God can use so that together we can be a congregation that God uses in the 21st century. This challenge is being connected to our congregational identity as we seek to answer the "bottom line" question: What does God want us to be and do at this moment in time?

Each week we are looking at a different characteristic of people that God can use. Last Sunday we highlighted the first quality. The people that God can use learn to depend on God rather than depending on themselves. There are three things that need to happen in order for us to develop this God dependency.

1) We review the Biblical models of people like Moses and Joseph to realize that it is not our dreams or talents but God's power that brings success.
2) We seek God in prayer. The closer we get to God, the bigger we realize He is and smaller we understand ourselves to be.
3) We experience humbling situations. God allows humbling and humiliating experiences to refine our character and release His power in our lives.

Read Paul's autobiography in 2 Corinthians 12 where God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." To which Paul responded, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

God can only use us only we learn to depend upon Him and not ourselves for success and achievement. Next Sunday we will discover the second characteristic of the person that God can use to accomplish His purposes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some Wesleyans Observed World Communion Sunday

First, an explanation as to why it has taken a week to post this blog. Last week I attended the annual meeting of the Association of Intentional Interim Ministers. This is a continuing education event and worth every penny of the cost. As a rookie Intentional Interim it was a great learning experience for me.
Now, for some background. The Wesleyan Church Discipline only says that we are to offer communion at least once per quarter. Most Wesleyan Churches probably don’t observe the sacrament any more often than that. The last time that our church observed the sacrament was at our Unified Service on July 29th, ten weeks ago (you can read about this service in an earlier blog).
But we decided to join with the larger community of faith for World Communion Sunday. This provided us with another opportunity to emphasis the need for community as our congregation is still rebuilding from the pain of earlier church conflict. The Scripture was 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 and the message was entitled, “Receiving Communion Within Community”.
I noted that the biblical model for communion was always in the context of a community of believers and that Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthians were focused on their lack of community during their communion service.
I asked the people to reflect on the larger community of faith around the world who were receiving communion on this same Sunday and to appreciate and affirm each other as they came forward to receive the sacrament as a local congregation.
To visually highlight that we were gathering around the table as a community I had the pulpit removed from the platform and moved the communion table to the place where the pulpit normally would sit.
Many people have stated that it was a powerful communion experience for them. Some even saying that it was the most meaningful communion of their life. To God be the glory!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Transition Team Update

Our congregation has now completed the first two transformational tasks (Coming to Terms with History and Looking at Denominational Relationships) during our year of Intentional Interim ministry. The Transition Team will begin leading us through our next task (Clarifying the Congregation’s Identity).

Some of our objectives in clarifying our congregation’s identity will be:
* determine whether or not our image of ourselves is realistic.
* refocus the vision for our congregation’s future.
* utilize the interim time as an opportunity for church renewal and maturity.
* learn the identity of the community and area in which our church serves.
The “bottom line” question that we will seek to answer is: What does God want us (as a congregation) to be and do at this moment in time?

A major tool that will be employed for this task will be a congregational survey in which everyone will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about our current ministries and facilities. The survey will be available for people to complete between October 14th and 24th. All surveys will need to be completed during this 10 day period so that the Transition Team can compile the results and share them at a congregational meeting in early November.

Surveys will be available in the Sanctuary foyer and Family Life Center entrance. Everyone is being asked to complete one and return it to the church office or to a Transition Team member no later than October 24th. Everyone in attendance in an adult Sunday School class on October 14th will be given the opportunity to complete a survey during Sunday School and a Transition Team member will be in each class to clarify any questions or statements on the survey.

Please continue to pray for the Transition Team as they lead our church through this year of self study. The team continues to meet three to four times per month. In addition to the congregational survey being conducted this month, the team is doing a demographic analysis of our community and surrounding area. The intent of this analysis is for us to learn how we can better serve others.
If anyone who reads this blog would like to see a copy of the congregational survey, please email me and I will reply with a Word file attachment of the survey. Also, as the Transition Team does more work on the demographic analysis I will give a later post about how we conducted the analysis and some of the highlights that we learn.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In the Return of Christ

Sermon Notes from Sept. 30th
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

Wesleyans believe that Christ will return to this world at some future, but unknown, date to finally and completely triumph over evil, administer judgment on all sin, and to receive all believers into their eternal heavenly home.

Wesleyans don’t play around with dates.
Paul: about times and dates we do not need to write to you.
Jesus: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Wesleyans don’t get hung up on debating a pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture. The Bible is not definitive. There seems to be Scripture to support all of them.

Wesleyans don’t fret over the mark of the beast and identifying the Antichrist. We just don’t have enough Scripture references to figure it out. The Bible only says that the number is 666 (man’s number).

So where does all this leave us? What can we know for certain?

The Return of Christ will be:
1) Secret – “like a thief in the night” 5:2

No advance notice. No Two Minute Warning.
The robber does not send a warning note: I will be at your house tomorrow night at 2 a.m. Love, Peter the Pick Pocket
Example Ten Virgins Parable – Matthew 25

2) Sudden – “while people are saying peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly” 5:3

Everything will appear to be normal when all will change in an instant. People will be eating, drinking, and getting married until the second before the end. No more time will be given to get ready. We will not know what is happening until it has already happened. Paul: “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”.

3) Sure – “as labor pains on a pregnant woman” 5:3

There will be no escaping the Lord’s return. You can’t avoid it or hide from it. It will be a blessing for some and a curse for others.

Rev. 1:1 – The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.

When Peter spoke of the Lord’s return he asked the question:
What kind of people ought you be?

Our Preparation for His Return:
When you hear about the possibility of an approaching storm you take certain preparations. Christ’s return is not just a possibility, but a sure thing. So what do we need to do?

1) Wake Up – “alert” 5:6

Keep watch. Be vigilant. Satan wants to use darkness and dullness to catch us off guard.
Darkness – not being aware of Satan’s schemes. Like the men of Issachar, we need to understand the times and know what needs to be done.

Dullness – going through the motions and settled into a rut of routine. Keep a sharp edge and keen spirit rather than being lulled to sleep.

2) Clean Up – “self-controlled” 5:6

Self control = moral integrity (mark of a man who believes he will have to settle accounts soon.)
“We know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

Peter: “you ought to live holy and godly lives”.

3) Dress Up – “putting on (faith, hope and love)” 5:8

Need to put our battle uniform. We are not in a frolic, but a fight. We live in enemy territory and we are to occupy until Jesus comes. Can’t let your guard down until Jesus comes.

Winston Churchill to House of Commons: “We must always be ready to meet at our average moment anything that any possible enemy could hurl against us at his selected moment.”

We need to Wake Up, Clean Up and be Dressed Up because the Lord could return at any moment. Are you ready?

The unbeliever should be convicted by the fact of the Lord’s return. The believer should be comforted by it.

Not on the Program Committee that is privy to all the details.
But we can be on the Welcome Committee that plans the party.

Ill: Arrival of plane at the airport. Air traffic controller knows all the details but doesn’t get excited about the plane. The fiancee in the terminal doesn’t know any of the details but is very excited about the plane because the love of her life is aboard.

Are you ready?
The return of Christ will be like a pop quiz, not an announced test.

Ill: In school – which class would you learn the most from?
The class where all the tests are announced ahead of time or the one where all the tests are unannounced pop quizzes? How would your approach differ in the two classes?

If the Lord’s pop quiz (return) were today would you be ready?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In the Sanctification of Christians

Sermon Notes from Sept. 23rd:
Text: Romans 6:13-19

I will do anything to make church theology interesting. I will sing Amazing Grace to the Gilligan’s Island tune. I will ride a bicycle into the church. What will I do today?
I will play with play dough. Watch me make a pencil, plate, corn, ball, & fish.
Why? Because I can’t make pottery, even if I could it would be too messy.

See Jeremiah 18:1-6
Isaiah 64:8 > O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Romans 9:21 > Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Clay on the potter’s wheel is our image to better understand the work of sanctification in a believer’s life.

Wesleyans: We believe that sanctification is a work of God’s grace in a Christian’s life enabling him to wholeheartedly love and obey God by separating him from sin as the Christian surrenders completely to God.

* Sanctification is God’s work, not ours.
1 Cor. 1:2 > To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.
“Sanctification is the work of God in which believers cooperate.”

* We must be saved before we can be sanctified.
John 17:16-17 > They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
Sanctification literally means: set apart for sacred use, to purify, to make holy and pure. God can’t set us apart until we are His disciples.

* Sanctification involves our entire being (all of us).
1 Thes. 5:23 > May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Like the clay on the potter’s wheel we must allow God to take complete control in order to shape us and then to use us as He wills. Unlike the clay – we have free will and must decide to cooperate with the Potter.

God’s Part – Sanctify My Part – Surrender
Romans 6:13 > … offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Offer = yield / to put at one’s disposal

Three Things You Must Say to Experience Sanctification:

1) Say “NO” to Your Self.
God can do a better job with me than I can do with me.
I need to give up control.
Gal. 2:20 > I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Dead people don’t control anything. They have no power.
Have you given Christ the steering wheel of your life?

2) Say “NO” to Your Sin.
God can not stand sin in my life and will help me destroy it.
1 Peter 1:15-16 > But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Common Attitudes:
I will sin all I want, God’s grace is free.
Romans 6:1-2 > What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

I can overcome sin if I am strong enough.
Romans 7:24-25 > What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Sin and Satan are stronger than I am but not God.
But when I repent (turn from my sin) and trust in God’s power, He will enable me to overcome temptation.

Gal. 3:2-3 > I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

3) Say “YES” to Your Savior.
God can empower me to victory if I will always obey Him.
This is the true measure of our love for Jesus.

John 14:23-24 > Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.

Shirley Caesar song: I'll say yes, Lord, yes
To your will and to your way
I'll say yes, Lord, yes
I will trust you and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes.

Romans 6:19 > Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Have you offered yourself to God today? It is a daily decision.
The first time is the hardest. But it is never easy.

Will you be like clay in the potter’s hands today and let God sanctify you so that He can shape you as He wants and use you as He wants?

God can’t shape us unless we are yielded to His will. Our hearts can be hard like clay can be become hard.

Eze. 36:26 > I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Invitation: Come and take a piece of clay (play dough).
Let it be your reminder of this act of surrender and your need to yield every day for the rest of your life so that God can sanctify you through and through.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In the Security of Believers

Sermon Highlights from Sept. 16th:
Text: 2 Peter 1:3-11

I rode a bicycle into church when it was time to preach and parked it on the platform. I told the congregation that I would later let them know why.

The question of the security of believers tends to divide the family of God (church) into two camps or opinions.
Calvinist – unconditional security
Arminian – conditional security

John Wesley: “Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union; yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?”

Calvinist and Arminians agree on the core truth of the gospel – Jesus Christ is the only means of our salvation and faith must be placed in Him and His death on the cross for eternal life.

Calvinist – focus on the sovereignty of God and election of the saints > predestination > perseverance of the saints

Arminians – focus on the free will of man and the choices people have > conditional salvation upon both saving and continued faith

Wesleyans are in the Arminian camp. Therefore, as Wesleyans:

We believe that God allows all people, including believers; freedom to accept or to reject His grace, believers can have security in Christ as they continue to grow in the knowledge and love of God.

Some Calvinists accuse Wesleyans of being eternally insecure; that we are never sure of our salvation. Perhaps this is because of a difference in defining sin.

SIN – missing of the mark of God’s perfect standard or willfully and deliberately violating a known law? BOTH!
Can we ever meet God’s mark of perfection? NO
Can we break free from willful violations? YES by God’s grace

1 John 3:9-10 > No one who is born of God will continue to sin, … he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.

Wesleyans who stay focused on sin will be insecure. You gravitate toward what you focus on. So how do we have security?

This is why I rode the bike today. When I ride a bike I don’t worry all the time about falling off. I have learned the two things I need to do in order to successfully ride a bike.
1) Stay focused on where I am going.
2) Keep pedaling. (Balancing will take care of itself.)

These two things are very much like the two things I must do to be secure as a believer.

1) Keep my eyes on Jesus.
The attractions of the world will try to entice me to look aside; like billboards on the road – they want me to take mt eyes off where I am going.

Hebrews 12:2 > Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Colossians 2:6 > Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.

2) Keep growing through spiritual disciplines.

Colossians 2:7 > Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.

Personal Disciplines – Prayer, Fasting, Bible Reading, Meditation, Service, Self Denial, Solitude
Corporate Disciplines – Worship, Study, Fellowship, Sacraments, Preaching, Teaching, Intercession

Read 2 Peter 1:3-11

Every day I have a choice to exercise or not to exercise personal disciplines. Every week I have the choice to exercise or not to exercise corporate disciplines with other believers.

2 Peter 3:17-18 – Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Three Questions:
Have you gotten on the bike?
Have you put your trust in Jesus?

Are you keeping focused on your destination?
Are you keeping your eyes on Jesus?

Are you pedaling the bike?
Are you maintaining your spiritual disciplines?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In The Family of God

Sermon Highlights from Sept. 9th:
Text: Galatians 3:26-29

We believe that the earthly manifestation of the family of God is the church and includes all believers in Jesus Christ of all ages. This family has one father, the God of the Bible, who intends for His family to live in community with one another.

Members of the family of God share the same:

1) Portal (same entry point)
v.26 – You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

As sinners, we all need a Savior – there is only one, Christ Jesus.
“I am the way, the truth and the life.”

2) Parity (everyone shares a commonality)
v.28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Henri Nouwen: “We are unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments and our common inconsistencies.”

No distinctions made based on: Race or Class or Gender
The church is built on level ground.
The family of God understands the common of community.
We need each other to survive. We are interdependent and interconnected. We rely on each other.

3) Promise (same hope, purpose and desire)
v.29 – If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

We gather week after week to encourage, edify and exhort one another.

Hebrews 10:24-25 > And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.

We rally with other local churches to support and strengthen each other in our mutual endeavor.

1 Cor. 1:2 > “with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.”

John Wesley: “Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union; yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?”

We look forward to the grand family reunion in heaven with all the family from all the ages.

Hebrews 11:39-40 > These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

As family members let us pledge our loyalty to the universal church and to one another by saying together:
Pledge to the Church: I pledge allegiance to the church of Jesus Christ. As part of God’s family I will live in harmony with my brothers and sisters, seek to exalt Christ and serve others in His name.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In The Inspiration of Scripture

Sermon highlights from September 2nd:

Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (primarily v.16 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.)

As Wesleyans We believe in the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine. We believe that they contain all things necessary to salvation.

Trust in the Bible is built on 4 T’s:

Transmission – We have to trust that God spoke through the original human authors.

Transference – We have to trust in the early church fathers’ selection of books for transference into the canon.

Transcription – We have to trust that the copyists were collectively accurate in their transcribing of the original manuscripts.

Translation – We have to trust the translators of Scripture to communicate the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew texts.

As Wesleyans we make this Pledge to the Bible: I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Wide World of Wesleyans

The Transition Team took a week off after our Unified Service and then jumped into the next task: Looking at Denominational and External Relationships. We will introducing or reintroducing the denominational heritage and beliefs to congregation members. We will also explore other external relationships (other churches in Bessemer City area) that have been nurtured in recent years. The goal is that the congregation come to a better understanding of what it means to be a Wesleyan Church in the Bessemer City community.

This goal will be accomplished through a two-fold approach.

1) Sept. 16th - The Wide World of Wesleyans

10 am - An all adult Sunday School class will be offered in the Family Life Center. All eight of our adult classes will combine for a presentation by the Transition Team on how The Wesleyan Church has been and should continue to be an agent for social change in our world.

6 pm - An Event of Denomination Information. Our special guest will be Rev. Jerry Lumston, Assistant District Superintendent. Jerry will inform us about how our District Assessment funds are distributed and how the pastoral search/call process works. We will also be given opportunity to ask any district or denominational questions.

Our seating for the evening will be around our round tables. Each table group will be led by a Transition Team member in an activity that will help you to reflect on what it means to be a Wesleyan. This should be both a fun and informative exercise. Child care will be provided for infants through fifth grade for the entire evening.

This is an event is being planned so that no one will want to be late nor leave early. Several door prizes will be given away from a drawing of names from those who are present by 6 pm and everyone is asked to bring pickup items, desserts and beverages for us to share as we fellowship around the tables after the service.

2) I will preach a series of messages - Wesleyans Believe In ...
Sept. 2nd - The Inspiration of Scripture
9th - The Family of God
16th - The Security of Believers
23rd - The Sanctification of Christians
30th - The Return of Christ

For those who are interested and are unable to attend our services I will post each week the highlights of my sermon notes. (I haven't figured out how to do a podcast yet. Plus, with sermon notes you can read in 2-3 minutes the essence of the sermon instead of listening for 25-30 minutes.

Until the next post - may God bless you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Living in Peace

For those who take the time to visit my blog - let me apologize for not getting more posts up this month. I will try to do better in the future - NO, I will have to do better in the future because I am promising to post notes from my weekly sermons during the month of September for those who miss a service on Sunday.

Now, let me catch you up on the follow-up of the Unified Service. During the month of August I preached a series of sermons focused on the concept of "living at peace". Our two foundational verses were Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14. The idea was that many of us had made peace at the Unified Service and that we needed to be reminded of how to now live at peace.

The weekly themes included:
1) Community requires Communication. Christian communication has a balance of truth and love. Ephesians 4:15
2) We need to be a Church of Peacemakers in a World of Troublemakers. The congregation was challenged to renew the Peacemaker's Pledge taken from Ken Sande's book: The Peacemaker.
3) How to Publicly Admit you are an Idiot. This sermon encouraged the congregation to be a confessional community. James 5:16
4) How to Handle your Hurts. This message reminded the people that people will often offend us. When we are offended as Christians we must either overlook the offense or confront it. Either way, we must also always have an attitude of forgiveness.

Even as the Transition Team continues to lead the congregation on to the next of the four transformational tasks I desire to provide teaching that will help our church to always be a community were forgiven and forgiving saints live out the gospel. To that end, our mid-week teaching will focus on the "one another" verses of the New Testament starting on Sept. 5th.

Later this week I will have another post about the Transition Team work and what is coming next for the congregation as we continue our journey through the year of intentional interim ministry.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Book Review: Transforming Church

The question needs to be asked: How can church leaders go about transforming church so that it can be a transforming church? Ask another way: What needs to be changed about the church within so that it can become a change agent without?

Kevin Ford gives his answer to these questions in Transforming Church. Ford, based on his work as a church consultant, has developed a Transforming Church Index that measures five key indicators of church health. The premise is that church health, not church growth, is the primary indicator of a church’s ability to transform its members, fulfill its mission, and reinvent itself. Ford’s book guides leaders in how to measure their church health and how to become more healthy in each area.

The five key indicators of church health are given as:
1) Consumerism vs. Community – How church members relate to each other. Unhealthy churches are a collection of individuals acting individually, while healthy churches relate as a community.
2) Incongruous vs. Code – The church’s “genetic code”. Unhealthy churches lack a clear identity, while healthy churches have a clear sense of their DNA and take steps to align their ministries and culture with their code.
3) Autocracy vs. Shared Leadership – How the church leadership functions. Unhealthy churches tend to be overly autocratic or bureaucratic, while healthy churches view leadership as a shared function and as a ministry.
4) Cloister vs. Missional – How the church relates to the local community. Unhealthy churches disengage from the world around them, while healthy churches are focused on their mission and have an outward orientation.
5) Inertia vs. Reinvention – How church members think about the future. Unhealthy churches resist change and fear the future, while healthy churches embrace change, even when it is painful.

The next to last paragraph reads, “Is your church ready for change? Are there problems that need to be addressed? If you have the courage to face the adaptive issues, the tenacity to deal with inevitable resistance, and the humility to ask for God’s help, then be assured: Your church can and will be transformed into the image of Christ – one step at a time.”

Monday, July 30, 2007

God Showed Up at Our Unified Service

Thanks for any and all prayers that were offered on behalf of our Unified Service yesterday.

God showed up and made the day a great success. The Transition Team and many others are already saying that they believe that 15 years from now that people will look back on yesterday as a "watershed" event in the life of the church.

I know that we still have much work to do for complete reconciliation and healing. But there were many, many people who were talking to each other and hugging each other that I have not seen even speak to each other in the last three years. The 15-20 minutes of time when people were coming to the cross and to the communion table as a "place of forgiveness" were some of the most heart warming of my life. All across our gym you could groups of 2 or 3 huddled together making peace with each other.

Today is a day that I thank God for the opportunity of serving in the ministry. I am thankful for:
- A church where the leadership was willing to say, "our church is not healthy and we want to get back to spiritual health". This leadership team put their money where their mouth was and spent the needed funds for my intentional interim training and the costs of operating a Transition Team and several congregational events this year.
- Transition Team members that are humble servants of the church, intent learners of a new style of ministry, willing workers and have a spirit of cooperation. They are serving a model of what Christian group life should look like.
- A group of prayer warriors that will intercede before God on behalf of me and the church. Many hours of planning and preparation had been invested in the Unified Service. But only God could produce the harvest of reconciliation that our congregation needed.
- A wife who supports me in ministry. Being an intentional interim has increased my work. I am physically and emotionally away from her more now than ever before. Yet she gives me her support and the freedom needed to serve our church.

Our Transition Team is taking a much deserved two week break from their work. The team had nine meetings and an overnight retreat during June and July. When next we meet we will pick up the task of "Looking at Denominational and External Relationships". What does that mean? My one sentence answer is: We will try to figure out what it means to be a Wesleyan Church in Bessemer City.

I will be blogging about something during the next two weeks. So check back in and see what I may have posted. God bless you all!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Church: Where Forgiven Saints Live Out the Gospel

Last Sunday I preached a message about how the church should be a "safe place" to confess and correct our sins. I gave a definition of the church that I had found in the book "Making Peace" by Jim Van Yperen. Here is a summary of my remarks:

The Church is the Realm where Forgiven Saints Live out the Gospel.

Realm – not a building or a place but a spiritual space where Jesus Christ is Lord or King. Often this space is also referred to as the “kingdom of God”.

Forgiven – the basis of our unity or coming together is that we are all sinners. The one and only thing that we all have in common is that we understand that we have all done wrong and believe that Christ’s death, not our good works, is that which will justify us before God.

Saints – we are not only sinners who are being saved by Jesus Christ but we are also being sanctified, made holy, by the Holy Spirit. As we submit to King Jesus, His Holy Spirit transforms us, changes us, and makes us to be like our King. We may each be at different points in the process but we are all surrendered to God’s work in our lives.

Live Out – Faith in Christ not only changes how we think and what we believe; it changes how we behave. Being a part of the church means that we share life together. We experience life in community (with one another) as we share this new life with our community.

Gospel – Showing and sharing the good news that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord to all who will believe.

I also identified four congregational sins that our church needs to address. They are:

1) Self-Centeredness – We live in a culture where we are taught that everything is about “me”. Society has a consumer mentality and we have brought that mentality into the church. If I come to church thinking that all the services and ministries are suppose to cater to me and meet my needs it becomes impossible for me to obey the Scriptures that tell me to submit to one another and to serve one another.

2) Uncontrolled Tongues – James says that “no one can tame the tongue” and we have proven him to be right. There is gossip, grumbling, complaining, backbiting, slander, and reckless talk in our congregation. Just because the same is true in other churches does not excuse us of this sinful behavior. We need to think better of one another and speak better of and to one another.

3) Spiritual Pride – Having the status as the largest church in Bessemer City and one of the largest in the district has caused us to yield to the temptation of thinking that we “have arrived” and are “big stuff”. Pride is the root of all others sins so it is especially dangerous to us. We need to humble ourselves before the One who has enabled us to have all that we have.

4) Bitterness – For most members, the church is an integral part of their lives. So when we or someone close to us is hurt or offended in the church it is easy to become bitter. We so quickly carry an offense when we perceive that we are wronged and pick up offenses when we see our loved ones hurt or harmed. But the Bible repeatedly tells us that when we experience God’s forgiveness for our offenses that we will be forgiving of others who have offended us. It is not easy, but God can help us to forgive those who have trespassed against us.

Our Unified Service is fast approaching. We are praying that God will help us to release and repent of our past so that we can move forward into the future He has planned for us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Book Review: Antagonists in the Church

Subtitle: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict. Written by: Kenneth C. Haugk (you may know the name from Stephen Ministries). This book was written in 1988 but I just discovered it a few weeks ago. I found it to be very practical and filled with suggestions that should be helpful to pastors and church leaders.

Who are antagonists? "Individuals who on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those in a leadership capacity."

Haugk gives personality characteristics and warning signs for identifying antagonists in the church. He also devotes about 35 pages to presenting ways to prevent antagonism in the church.

The last 70 pages of the book are focused on dealing with antagonism. I found the chapter discussing how to meet and confront an antagonist one on one to be affirming.

Bottom line: Once you have clearly identified an antagonist in the church you relate to him/her in an entirely different manner than how you would normally relate to other people. An antagonist must be confronted from a position of power and strength.

The book is an easy read but filled with good ideas that pastors and church leaders need to know before an antagonist rises up to cause conflict in the body of Christ.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Prayer Vigil

The Transition Team is calling for a 24 hour prayer vigil during the weekend of our Unified Service. The vigil will start at 10 pm on Friday, July 27th and continue until 10 pm on Saturday, July 28th. People will pray in their homes on Friday night and may pray at the church or at home during the day on Saturday. The sanctuary will be opened at 8 am on Saturday and remain open until 10 pm for prayer.

Sign up sheets will be available throughout the church buildings and in the Sunday School classrooms the next two Sundays. People may also indicate their chosen time to pray on their Friendship Cards that are placed in the offering plates at the Sunday services.

But please don't wait until the vigil to start to pray. Our congregation needs for God to do a mighty work in and through us. May it begin during the Unified Service as we confess our offenses to others and forgive those who have committed offenses against us.

On a lighter note, the men of the Transition Team will be providing home-made ice cream on for the Sunday night service of July 29th. This will give an opportunity for the congregation to fellowship and to reflect on the impact of the Unified Service that morning.

Also, I will be leaving on Saturday morning, July 14th, for a week of vacation with the family (my wife - Pam, daughter - Elizabeth, and son in law - Trey) at the Outer Banks. So any posting next week will be reflections of our time in the sun and sand.

Recent reading: If you want people to come to church - have a fight, feast or funeral.
(There is almost too much truth in that statement to handle.)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Unified Service Plans

This week the Transition Team sent a letter of invitation to all our church attenders inviting them to the July 29th Unified Service. Normally our church has two worship services (at 9 & 11 am with Sunday School in between at 10 am). On July 29th we will have a continental breakfast starting at 9 am. The Unified Service will begin at 9:30 with an opening assembly. Adults will then break into small groups for discussion around the following two questions:
1. If you met someone expressing interest in our church, what good things would you tell them about First Wesleyan Church?
2. What disappointing moments in our church’s history do you wish could be changed?

After the small group discussions all the adults will reconvene for a closing assembly. The focus of this closing assembly will be to acknowledge our past failures and to grant forgiveness to those who have failed us. The assembly will end with The Lord's Supper as we celebrate this forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Transition Team sent a five question survey to the congregation with the invitation letter. This survey will help our church attenders focus on the purpose of the Unified Service. Everyone has been asked to return these surveys by July 22nd. These surveys may also provide the team will guidance as they make final preparations for the service. The five questions are:
1. How have you experienced Christ’s love from other members of the church?
2. Briefly describe when you have been most disappointed with the church?
3. What do you think have been the biggest hindrances in the church’s numerical and spiritual growth in recent years?
4. What issues do you hope the transition team will address this year?
5. What are the most important things the church has contributed to your life?

Please continue to pray for our July 29th Unified Service.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Laying the Groundwork

Our Transition Team has selected Psalm 40 as our foundational scripture. Verses 2 and 3 are our key focus: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD."

As the team reviewed the last five years of our church history we reached the conclusion that we have been stuck but that we want to move forward. But we don't want to get better just so we will feel better but so that we can get back to the mission of the church. So this slogan has been adopted for our intentional interim ministry: Out of the mud and onto the Rock. Singing a new song, bringing others to Jesus.

The Transition Team reviewed the last fifteen years of the church looking for both positive and negative moments/events. The following positive moments/events were identified:
building the Family Life Center, starting the Preschool, times of prayer emphasis, committing to give 10% of our income to missions, starting the 11 am contemporary worship service, and offering the Upward basketball program to the community. The common denominator of these positive moments was: others. In our best moments the congregation has been focused on ministry to other people. As the negative impact moments/events were reviewed it appeared that they centered on times of pastoral leadership transition.

After this analysis the team has determined to help the congregation to celebrate the positive moments in our history while also closing the chapters of our history which hold painful memories so that we can move forward into the future God has planned for us. To this end the team is planning a Unified Service for July 29th. Your prayers are appreciated for God to guide the team as they plan for this service, for God's presence to be evident in the service and for God's people to respond to His promptings.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Transition Team

The Transition Team is one of the critical components of Intentional Interim ministry. In fact, it may be the single most important element.

The Transition Team is:
* A group of trusted and respected individuals selected by the congregation to guide the process of becoming a more healthy church.
* A group of maturing (spiritually, emotionally and mentally) leaders who are respected for their both their skills and temperament for group work.
* Representative of the entire congregation with all of its diversity.
* A critical strategy as it communicates the message: this is the work of the congregation.
* A model to the congregation – looking for God’s movement, will and purpose for the future of the congregation.
* The group who determines when the church is ready for the L.B.A. to begin the search for the next Senior Pastor.
* A new group with a new group life leading the church toward a new day of congregational health and wholeness.

Our Transition Team is made up of ten members. There are five men and five women. There are five representatives from the 9 am worship service and five from the 11 am worship service. There are older adults, middle aged and younger adults. Some of the team members have been in the church 40+ years and others have attended for less than 5 years.

The team began meeting the first of June with an overnight retreat. We have been meeting weekly as we plan our first congregational event for July 29th. This event will focus on our first task of "Coming to Terms with History".

Team members have made the following covenant agreement with each other.
We will…..
Pray and seek God’s guidance,
Abandon selfish motivations,
Listen to each other and congregation members with sensitivity,
Seek to engage the congregation to spiritual health,
Respect our pastor and church leadership,
Respect each other’s dignity and privacy,
Share a common message to the congregation,
Strive to model healthy group life in Christianity community,
Make decisions by consensus.

I am so pleased with the start that our Transition Team has made and am enjoying working with them so very, very much. They are developing into one of the best working groups that I have ever been a part of.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Five Developmental Tasks of Intentional Interim Ministry

The Transition Team is leading our congregation through these five developmental or transformational tasks:

1) Come to Terms with History – We will attempt to put our past into perspective. We will celebrate our victories and mourn our defeats. We will take time to heal from our hurts and determine how best to discard old expectations and patterns of the past.

2) Exam Leadership & Decision-Making Concerns – Every congregation needs to develop new leadership for the tasks of ministry. We will focus on this development and our organizational processes for making decisions.

3) Look at Our Denominational & External Relationships – We will see how we can make better connections to The Wesleyan Church and to other churches around us so that we can understand our place in the larger body of Christ.

4) Clarify Our Congregational Identity – We will seek to discover both our church and our community distinctives at this time. In so doing we will redefine our sense of purpose and direction for the future.

5) Commit to the New Pastor & Future – Having worked together to find our true identity and God’s design for us we will affirm our intentions to team with our new pastor as together we work for the building of God’s kingdom.

Some are more important than others, but all of them are needed. These five tasks are in many ways interconnected and overlapping.

My next post will provide more details about the Transition Team that I am working with during the intentional interim ministry.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beginning A New Era of Ministry

After serving for 30 years of pastoral appointments with The Wesleyan Church I am now beginning the adventure of Intentional Interim Ministry. What makes this adventure somewhat unique is that I will be serving as the Intentional Interim Pastor for the next year in the same church where I have served as pastor for the last three years. In future posts I will explain in greater detail what Intentional Interim Ministry is all about and how this ministry process is going in Bessemer City.

In this first post I will give background of who Intentional Interim Pastors are and what they do. An I.I.P. is an experienced and specifically trained minister who feels a unique call from God to serve in transitional churches for a 12-24 month period. It is understood by both minister and congregation that the I.I.P. will serve only for an interim time (the time between installed pastors) and will not be a candidate to be the next installed pastor of the church. The I.I.P. performs the same tasks that an installed pastor would do: preaching, teaching, pastoral care, administration, counseling, weddings, funerals, etc. But the I.I.P. also works with a Transition Team selected from the congregation. This Transition Team leads the congregation to work on five developmental tasks that enables them to become a more healthy community of faith. These five developmental tasks will be explained in the next post. After the Transition Team has completed these five tasks the congregation begins the search for their next installed pastor.

The biblical model for an I.I.P. is John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the coming of Christ. An I.I.P. helps a congregation get ready to embrace their new pastor and the future that God has planned for them.