Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Prayers of Chuck Colson

Some times you read something that says what you have been thinking but much better than you can express it yourself. Today's Breakpoint Commentary by Chuck Colson is an example. Here is that commentary, I have only deleted one paragraph in which Colson speaks of praying for his family. May it stir your heart as it has mine.

In my devotions over the last two or three months, I have started my prayer time by concentrating on the Church. I pray—actually, I plead, the Lord would wake us up, cause us to repent, turn from our own false idols. I pray God’s Spirit would fill us with a burning desire to love Him and advance His kingdom.

It was on my knees a few months ago that God hit me like a 10-ton truck about the priority praying for the Church first. We can’t pray for our nation to be revived, to be saved, to receive God’s mercy; we can’t pray for our leaders to make wise decisions unless we first pray for the Church.

When it comes to the economy, our nation has dug a hole for itself. And sure enough, we are continuing to dig. At a recent meeting with President-elect Obama, the nation’s governors had their hands out, asking for federal dollars. The President-elect was all too happy to oblige. But South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford knows better. In a statement in front of Mr. Obama and his fellow governors, he said “We don’t believe economic problems that were in large measure created by too much debt will be solved by more debt.” Amen, and hallelujah! Finally somebody spoke the truth.

Our nation is in this crisis precisely because we’ve traded in a Christian worldview of work, thrift, savings, and prudence, and instead have embraced the false worldview of consumerism—of leisure, debt, and instant gratification.

That’s a false worldview, and it leads to the worst kind of idolatries. And it will also lead to our self-destruction. And insofar as we Christians have abandoned our heritage and have bought into the idolatry of consumerism, we have betrayed not only our God, but the nation we love. I want to put it in the plainest terms I know how: This nation cannot be saved unless the Church is first revived. Renewing the Church is the key to saving America.

I no longer know for sure that America has a special place in God’s sovereign plan for the world. I could argue that we have in the past. No other nation has played such a positive role—from helping the poor to defeating tyranny to stopping the spread of disease (just like we’re doing in Africa today in the fight against AIDS).

But we will be unable to continue to be a force for good in the world if we are bankrupt. The fact is, we are bankrupt today, neck-deep in debt, and our people have become self-indulgent. And it starts with us: the Church.

I truly believe my prayer priorities are correct. Pray that God will inspire us, His people, to reorganize our priorities. That we will reject the idolatry of consumerism, that we will reject the therapeutic gospel, and seek holiness. And that we will serve our neighbors in charity, that we will use this economic calamity as an opportunity to teach the culture what matters most—a relationship with God.

For if the Church continues to embrace the ways of the world, I don’t see how America can maintain it place in the world—much less survive in it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good for a Laugh or Two

Even during down economic times church offerings tend to go up during the last two weeks of December. Tithe checks can have some interesting memo notes on them. Enjoy this Top Ten list of Tithe Check Memo Notes from holyobserver.com.


10. Gross, not net—as usual!
9. Hush Money
8. Casino winnings!
7. For voice lessons for worship team!
6. Thanks for last night…
5. This equals 12%
4. Don’t cash before Wednesday
3. $1 less for every minute past noon
2. Please don’t spend on crack, again.
1. NOT for children’s ministry!


Also, from the same website, I saw this picture of a church sign.


We church people usually mean well, we just don't always think well! But we get some good laughs at each other's expense!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peace On Earth and In the Home!

It’s that special time of year again. I always try warn couples going through pre-martial counseling about this special time of the year – the holidays. This is the time when we get to “connect” and spend HOURS, or even DAYS with families. This is the time when we hear a lot about peace on earth but can’t find it in our hearts or our homes. So what is the answer? Here is a video that offers one possibility.




But I have a better suggestion. Read these thoughts from Tara Barthel: “As we walk through the clamor of the holidays, our relationships may reflect a ‘peace’ as weak and flimsy as a sheet of thin gift-wrapping paper from the dollar store. How can we get past the fa├žade of fake holiday happiness and truly wrap this season in a blanket of grace, joy, and love?”

Bartel offers three focus points:
1) Remember the Prince of Peace
2) Embrace defeat! Your holidays will not be perfect
3) Unpleasant people? Destroy ’Em-with Love

I would suggest that you read her entire article, “Walking in Peace amid Holiday Strife” by copying and pasting this link: www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.1247127/

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lessons for Churches from the Airlines

Todd Rhoades recently noted all the up-charges that the airlines have been passing on to customers. From paying for the first checked bag, to fuel surcharges, to purchasing soft drinks, they have really socked it to the consumer with all the new charges. This got him to thinking about how churches could learn from the airlines during these tough economic times. He developed a list of ways that churches could increase revenue. In that spirit of crisis management I now offer my own list.

--First cup of coffee free; each additional cup is 75 cents.
--Back three rows of pews are designated as premium seating with a $20 per week up-charge.
--Usher provided parking: $20 plus tip
--Use of Pew Bible charge: $10
--Cell phone ringing during service: $25 for each offense
--Late to service fee: $10/per person
--"Please sing my favorite song” request: $20
--Baby Sitting Service in Church Nursery: $10 per child
--Sunday School Book Fee (Quarterlies): $5
--KJV upgrade to NIV: $15
--NIV upgrade to NLT: $10
--Hit job on the drummer or organist (rates vary per city/church)
--First Sunday of the month tithing discount rate: 8%
--Turn the Heat Up fee: $20
--Turn the Heat Down fee: $20
--Get out of church in one hour or less charge: $10

What would you add?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Playing with Palindromes

I love to play with words. Why? I had no friends to play when I was growing up. Seriously, finding the right word or words is important for successful communication and motivation. To better use words it is OK to have fun with words. When was the last time you spent some time playing with palindromes?

A palindrome is a word or sentence that is the same spelled forward or backward.

Examples and Occupational Applications:
Restaurant Staff > stressed no tips (spit on desserts)
First Couple > Madam, I’m Adam
Math Teacher > Never odd or even
Honeymooners > Niagara, O roar again
Zookeepers > Panda had nap
Philosopher > I saw I was I
Animal Lovers > Step on no pets
Cowboy > Too bad, I hid a boot
Theologians > Do geese see God?
Pastors > Dennis sinned
Church Attenders > We panic in a pew

Now, let’s return to some important thoughts about the words we use. In his recent book, Axiom, Bill Hybels writes, “The very best leaders I know wrestle with words until they are able to communicate their big ideas in a way that captures the imagination, catalyzes action, and lifts spirits. They coin creeds and fashion slogans and create rallying cries, all because they understand that language matters. … I often take long walks around our campus in search of one key word for a leadership talk I am working on. One word.”

Take some time to play with words. The more you play with them the better you will learn to use them as a powerful tool to communicate your ideas and motivate others to action.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ever Felt Abandoned?

I am a member of the WITH (Wolfpack In The House) club. Club members really enjoyed the recent NC State and UNC football game when our Wolfpack put a whipping on the Tar Heels. One of my friends in the club sent me this photo of the Carolina stadium near the end of the game.




After this past Sunday’s church service I know how the UNC football players feel. About 1/3 of the people who were present when the service started left before I even got up to preach. I’ll let you in on a secret – that kind of thing really works on the preacher. Here is how we lost 1/3 of the people about half way through the service.

NGWC has an annual tradition of having the 4 year olds from the Child Development Center do a little program during a church service on Sunday morning. When we started the service the place was packed but I had been told that some of the crowd would leave after the program so that they could attend their own church services (our service starts at 10 am). The children did their thing at the beginning of our service and went to the exit door to “high five” them as the left for doing a good job. Almost all their family members followed them out and I shook their hands as they were leaving. One man even suggested that I should preach on the exodus. I then had to go back into the sanctuary to preach.

Needless to say – we will be discussing in staff meeting this week how to better handle this situation next year. I know that some of the folk did go on to their own church after they left us but I wonder how many? It is good for our regular church folks to see the child care kids and their families but does it discourage them to see them all leave instead of staying for the rest of the service? I have some ideas but perhaps you can help us as well. What would you do differently next year if you were in our place?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Church Is ... (Part 3)

The Church is the Bride of Christ. Seldom is the groom as interested in the wedding as the bride, but Christ is one groom who is vitally interested in both the wedding and His bride.

Both the Old and New Testaments speak of the relationship that God has with His followers like that of a bride and groom. Note especially Ephesians chapter five and the prophet Isaiah. The book of Revelation speaks of the marriage supper of the Lamb as being like the reception after the wedding ceremony. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 22:1-14 that depicts what this wedding in heaven will be like.

Here are some points to ponder about Heaven’s wedding:

1) Heaven is preparing the wedding banquet for the bride.
“A King who prepared a wedding banquet”

2) The bride needs to be preparing for the wedding banquet.
“His bride has made herself ready” – Rev. 19:7

3) There is an open invitation to the wedding banquet.
“Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find”

4) Many who are invited will have excuses not to attend.
“They paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business”

5) Anyone who rejects the invitation will reap the consequences.
“Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside into the darkness”

There is one last thing to remember about Christ and His bride. Like most grooms, Jesus doesn’t appreciate people criticizing and complaining about His bride. So, we need to be very careful what we say and how we say it when we are talking about His church.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Christmas Gift List

Warning: This is a transparency post! You have been warned and apparently decided to keep reading. By doing so you are becoming part of my accountability group on the following conviction. If you stop now you can still opt out. If you read any further you are in the group.

“The final principle for responding to a stubborn opponent is described in Romans 12:20-21: "On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Here is the ultimate weapon: deliberate, focused love (cf. Luke 6:27-28; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Instead of reacting spitefully to those who mistreat you, Jesus wants you to discern their deepest needs and do all you can to meet those needs. Sometimes this will require going to them to show them their faults. At other times there may be a need for mercy and compassion, patience, and words of encouragement. You may even have opportunities to provide material and financial assistance to those who least deserve it or expect it from you.” – The Peacemaker by Ken Sande

Since I try to be an organized person I always make a Christmas spending budget with a list of those for whom I plan to purchase gifts. As I look over that list I see that every name is either a family member or friend. I don’t have a single enemy or stubborn opponent’s name on the list. Is that because I don’t have any enemies or opponents in my life or because I have reached this level of living as a peacemaker?

Jesus said, “"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

I am going to take some time this week to rethink my Christmas gift list. I will ask God to show me any enemies or opponents to whom I should show kindness or favor. Do you need to review your Christmas gift list as well?

Our Bodies Are Weak (Thank God, we will get new ones)

Last Wednesday I promised the final installment of my "The Church Is ..." series. Let me explain why it has not been posted yet. My sermon notes are at the office and I have not been back to the office since Sunday morning.

The reason for my failure to return to Asheboro so far this week is that I have lost my voice and Pam has been found to be with kidney stone. Late last week Pam began to have symptoms that indicated something was wrong with her kidneys or bladder. The real pain did not hit until Monday night. After spending Tuesday at the doctor's office and hospital, she had the kidney stone surgically removed Tuesday night. I am now waiting to get her back home from the hospital.

While Pam was getting this stone I was losing my voice. I developed a head cold and sore throat late last week as well. I am a preacher so I preached Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon I had no voice left. It is three days later and I am still trying to get it all back. The cycle will probably run like this - voice back by Sunday, preach on Sunday, lose voice on Sunday, voice returns during the next week. About every 3 or 4 years this happens to me.

Bottom line: say a prayer for Doug and Pam if the Lord calls us to your minds during the next few days.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Things Pastors Say

Oxford University researchers have compiled a list of the ten most irritating phrases. Here they are:
1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It’s a nightmare
8 - Shouldn’t of
9 - 24/7
10 - It’s not rocket science

This list got me to thinking about overused or annoying words and phrases that pastors use. Here is my starter list:
1 – In conclusion
2 – Finally
3 – The Greek word here is
4 – Briefly let me explain
5 – This won’t take long
6 – And now for my last point
7 – In my last church
8 – The other day my spouse

Can you help me finish the list? What words or phrases do pastors say that are overused or annoying?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Church Is ... (Part 2)

The Church is the Body of Christ. Referring to Christ, Paul told the Ephesians that “God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body.”

The church is more than an organization; it is an organism, with life and vitality. Maintaining a healthy body does not happen by accident or without great effort.

The church as the body of Christ on earth needs to accept differences without allowing them to become divisions. It needs to defend unity without demanding unanimity. The church can learn something from the great Peanuts psychiatrist, Lucy, who held up her five fingers to Charlie Brown and said, “You see these five fingers. Individually they are nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”

Satan is afraid of this weapon and that is why he desires to tear us apart and sift us as wheat. He knows that if he can drive a wedge in the body and divide us into warring factions we are powerless to go to war against him.

This sermon outline uses 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 as a text.

As the Body of Christ the people of the church need to:
Acknowledge our differences as a part of God’s plan – “now the body is not made up of one part but of many” – v.14

Appreciate our differences as gifts of God’s grace – “in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” – v.18

Affirm unity as the aim of God’s assembly – “so that there should be no divisions in the body” – v.25

Achieve unity as the pattern of God’s people – “as it is, there are many parts, but one body” – v.20

In His last prayer with the disciples before the garden and the cross Jesus prays for unity within the church, His body. This has been called the only unanswered prayer of Jesus. Is remains unanswered because this unity is entirely up to the members of the body.

Check back next week for the final sermon summary from the “The Church is …” series.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Church Is ... (Part 1)

The Church is the Building of Christ. This building is not made of bricks, blocks and boards but “living stones” according to Peter.

Jesus talked to Peter and the other disciples about the church being his building in Matthew chapter 16. The following is a sermon outline:

The Foundation is Jesus – “you are Peter and on this rock”
The Formation is by Jesus – “I will build”
The Fellowship is in Jesus – “my church”
The Future is with Jesus – “the gates of Hades will not overcome it”
The Function is through Jesus – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom”

From start to finish we are His church. What a privilege to be a part of a building that is bigger and better than we are.

Check back for the next sermon summary from the second part of my “The Church is …” series.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Pastors

Monday mornings have become, when possible, my internet research day. Pam says that she can't believe that I think this is a good use of my time. She just doesn't understand the wealth of stuff that I find. For instance, this video is priceless in my opinion.



I suppose your view on this video is determined by whether or not you are a pastor, live with one, know one well, or wish you didn't know one so well. No matter, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Thy will be done!"

C.S. Lewis, now more widely known than ever before through the The Chronicles of Narnia series, once wrote these words: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

The same is true with churches. When NGWC or any church decides to abandon selfish motivations and prayerful seek to surrender ownership of the church to God as our Transition Team is challenging NGWC to do, they are saying to God, "Thy will be done." Sadly, there are too many churches where the members are only concerned about themselves and God is having to say to them, "Thy will be done."

"Thy will be done." Are you saying this to God or is He having to say it to you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough ...

Why should a church consider Intentional Interim Ministry? When churches experience tough times filled with conflict or uncertainty the instinct is for the congregation to circle the wagons, cut back, hold on, and wait for the difficulties to pass by. But experience has taught me that this approach never solves the problems or changes the circumstances.

I love the story about General Ferdinand Foch, regarded as a World War I French hero, who sent the following dispatch to his superiors at a time when his army was in deep trouble: “Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I attack.”

General Foch's dispatch communicated courage instead of fear, faith instead of capitulation, and resolve instead of paralysis. And his counter-intuitive, counter-attack successfully stopped a strategic German advance. The church needs men and women with this same kind of courage, faith and resolve in turbulent times. The church needs intentional interim ministers with this kind of instinct.

The word – intentional – is in my job description for a reason. Moments of crisis are not the time to do nothing. They are the moments of opportunity to do something and to do something significant. They are moments to consider new ideas and new approaches to old problems. They allow us to not only make little changes to the little things but to try making big changes to the big things.

My prayer is that I will serve NGWC with intention and that God will bless those intentions because they align with His will and that the changes that flow out of those intentions will have a positive impact on the Kingdom.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ecclesiology

Since the Transition Team’s first statement states: “we will strive to abandon selfish motivations as we prayerfully seek to surrender ownership of Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church to God “ I have decided to preach a 3 week series focused on ecclesiology. When I announced this topic to the congregation on Sunday morning they started jumping up and down for joy. NOT!! Ecclesiology is a word that is only found in systematic theology type books. The word root is found in the Greek word that translates into English as “church”.

So, I am preaching a 3 week series on the nature of the church. We will explore the nature of the church as the building of Christ, the body of Christ, and the bride of Christ. Our people will be challenged each week to realize that God has always had ownership of the church. The problem is that we, the people, don’t always behave as if He does. This decision to surrender ownership of the church to God is one that must be made consciously and continuously.

Sunday was another good day in the life of the Neighbors Grove Church. We celebrated the receipt of a significant anonymous donation that was recently made to the church. We had over 100 in attendance for the second Sunday in a row with several first time and returning guests. We celebrated the 94th birthday of Bill Brower. There was the sense of a sweet and warm spirit in the fellowship.

This week promises to be busy. I have some important meetings this week including both a Transition Team and Church Board meeting. And I hope to make a two day trip to the coast to visit my mother briefly.

Finally, a good quote: “It is better to have one person working with you than three people working for you.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Transition Team Retreat

The NGWC Transition Team met at the Victory Mountain Camp in Sophia, NC from 6 pm last Friday through 1 pm Saturday for the our kick-off retreat. This was a very intense time of team building as we developed a spirit of respect and trust for one another. We laughed and cried together. We reflected and prayed together. We met all five of our objectives, one of which was developing a team covenant. Here it is:

We will strive to abandon selfish motivations as we prayerfully seek to surrender ownership of Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church to God.

We will listen with sensitivity to persons with various perspectives within the congregation.

We will strive to be available to everyone within the church family.

We will provide support and guidance to the interim pastor.

We will respect each other’s dignity and privacy.

We will communicate regularly with the congregation about the work of the Transition Team.

We will recommend activities and directions that will strengthen the congregation and move it through the interim period.

We will strive to model healthy life in Christian community.

The team begins regularly scheduled meetings next week on every other Tuesday night. Our first congregational event is being planned for February 1st around the Heritage (coming to terms with history) focus point. Come back to this blog for regular updates on the Transition Team in the near future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Creating Communities of Grace

I recently found a blog written by Tim Chester via the "Route 5:9" blog of the Peacemaker ministries. God seems to be giving him some good food for thought. In one of his post he talks about creating a community of grace. He defines a community of grace as one where "[we acknowledge] that we are all sinners, we are all messed up people, all struggling, all doubting at a functional level. But grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome, all are Christians (there are no lesser Christians)... When [broken people] come together they accept one another and celebrate God’s grace towards each other. They rejoice that they are all children of God through the work of Christ. And they remind one another of the truths each of them needs to keep going and to change. It’s a community of grace, a community of hope, a community of change."

I'd encourage you to click over and read the whole post, but here are his 7 main points for what we can do to help create a community of grace in our churches:

1. Make the connections (between teaching grace and what it looks like in daily life)
2. Welcome the mess
3. Stop pretending
4. Stop performing
5. Eat and drink with broken people
6. Give time to change
7. Focus on the heart

What a great list! My own prayer is that I won't think of this as something that other people in my church or community need to do (thereby placing myself in judgment over them), but that God will show me very specific ways that I can be an agent in creating a community of grace this week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seven Indicators of Church Health

I just read a good article by Dan Reiland. Here are the highlights of his seven indicators of church health.

1) VIBRANT SPIRITUALITY
This includes things like passionate worship, robust prayer and a genuine eagerness to live the life of Christ. Dependency upon God is the overarching theme of a vibrant spirituality.

2) ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEER SERVICE
This is the muscle of your church. The more volunteer service is exercised, the stronger your church becomes. Volunteer recruitment isn't about getting the work of the church done. It's about developing the people by helping them find their sweet spot of service in God's Kingdom.

3) TRUSTED LEADERSHIP
This includes not only the pastor, but the staff, board and key leaders. Leaders can and will make mistakes, but a violation of trust is different and difficult to recover from. Integrity, character, morals, ethics are all in play when it comes to trust. But so is competence.

4) EXPRESSION OF COMPASSION
Helping the poor, the hungry, and people in need is just the tip of the iceberg. There are nearly limitless possibilities to show compassion to those outside your church. It's not so much about which cause(s) you choose to help, (you can't choose them all), but the heart behind your choice.

5) GENEROSITY IN FINANCES
There is no getting around the reality of money. Mature Christians give. In many churches, they give generously. Some of the generosity is connected to vision and momentum - the people believe in what's going on. But even in average churches, mature believers help shoulder the load financially. They give not as if it's a bill to pay, but because they love the Lord and follow the scriptural direction to give.

6) GENUINE COMMUNITY
Loving relationships in a local church not only reflects the heart of God, but also attracts people who are spiritually searching. Love is a universal language. Caring about people is something everyone understands. Finding a place to belong is something everyone wants. Negotiating life alone is difficult. Experiencing life without being loved is nearly impossible.

7) SALVATION ANTICIPATED
Evangelism. Call it by whatever name you want. Go after it however you like. When it's all said and done your church's purpose, in essence, is the Great Commission. Your congregation should get excited about nothing more than people coming to Christ. It's a party in heaven, so why not here on earth?

Reiland says, “I've never seen a church with all seven of these factors in good shape not grow at least at a modest rate. And the people love the church! It's not about a perfect church, but one that is alive, healthy, and living for the purposes of God. How is your church doing?”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Political Wonders and Hopes

To those who read this blog for intentional interim stuff – please forgive me for today’s political sidetrack. I also realize that these opinions are personal but not very powerful (if they were, I would surely be on TV). But here are my hopes and wonders two days after the 2008 Election Day.

1) I hope that all Christians will pray for our national, state and local leaders as the Bible commands. This command is binding whether or not we voted for these individuals and whether or not we agree with their opinions and decisions.

2) I hope that the American voters get better than we deserve. Elections say more about the electorate than the elected and we seem to elect candidates who promise to pander to our self interest more than our national welfare.

3) I hope that our President elect will attempt to govern more like the centrist candidate who ran for office than the liberal Senator (both state and U.S.) who sat in the office. If George W. Bush can run on the right and move to the left then Barack Obama can surely run on the left and move to the right.

1) I wonder if the media and rest of the nation will ever realize that President elect Obama is bi-racial, not just African-American. This fact could certainly be used as a positive more than a negative except with the bigots.

2) I wonder what it will be like having a president that is younger than I am. I am 54 years old and for the first time I will be older than my president. It makes me also wonder – how does he have enough experience for the job?

3) I wonder what President Obama’s re-election campaign theme will be in four years. I don’t see how “change” will work again. I wonder if “change” will come back to haunt President Obama the way that “read my lips – no new taxes” haunted President George H.W. Bush.

So what are your hopes and wonders for our new President and other political leadership?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 A.I.I.M. Conference

Pam and I enjoyed our three days near the top of the mountain in Blowing Rock, NC at the A.I.I.M. Conference. We actually saw snow on the ground and felt 50 mph winds in the air. It was cold outside and but our hearts were warmed by the fellowship with about two dozen other Intentional Interim Pastors and their spouses. Being one of the only, if not the only, Wesleyan currently serving in this type of ministry this network is important to me.

Why is the A.I.I.M. Conference so important? This conference reminds me of the calling that God has placed into my life. That calling is to assist churches in transition to refocus on the Great Commission and the Great Command of our Lord. The dream of most pastors, I believe, is to serve in churches that are healthy, thriving and growing. Who in their right mind would want to pastor a church that is struggling, grieving or in conflict? Yet that is where God has called me and in that call I am finding fulfillment and satisfaction. I hope to serve as a catalyst for several churches to recover their bearings and refocus on their mission before I retire some years from now. But even if I only can help one, it will be of great value for that one and for the Kingdom.

Here are a few quotes that I heard at the conference that impacted me. I hope that at least one of them speaks to you.

“You can’t talk yourself out of something that you behaved yourself into.” Stephen Covey

“If you can’t get out of it, get into it.” Outward Bound Motto

“We can become so caught up in the life of the church that we forget about the life of faith.” Barbara Brown Taylor

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Very Special Sunday

Sunday was a special day in the life of NGWC. The congregation experienced three special events.

1) During the morning service the seven members of Transition Team was announced to the congregation. There are four ladies and three men on the team, they range from approximately age 35 to 80, span a range of 3 years attending the church to over 50 years. I believe that these seven people represent a full range of perspectives on the latest church conflict. As we concluded the service this morning the congregation gathered around this team and commissioned them in prayer. The first team meeting is an overnight retreat scheduled for November 7th and 8th.

2) The Youth of the church sponsored a spaghetti dinner after the morning service as a fundraiser. Approximately 50 people enjoyed a fine meal and supported the youth. Our current youth group consists of about eight teens and is led by a great young man, Chris James. I believe that great days are ahead for the youth ministry under his leadership.

3) During an afternoon baptismal service I had the privilege of baptizing five individuals. Each of them gave testimony to how they had come to faith in Christ, what God is doing in their lives and how much their church family meant to them. Our thanks go to Rushwood Park Wesleyan Church for letting us use their beautiful facilities for this service. My prayer is that the church will have additional baptismal services both during my two years with them and in the coming years.

Pam and I plan on attending the Annual Intentional Interim Conference in Blowing Rock, NC this Monday through Wednesday. Last year was my first conference and I found it very helpful and insightful. This is a great opportunity for us to network with others serving in this specialized field of ministry. I am going with two or three questions that I hope some of veteran IIMs will help me figure out the answers to. My intentions are to post an article later in the week about our trip.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers when the Lord calls us to your minds.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Revenge or Reconciliation

Years ago we were entertained with the “revenge of the Nerds”. George Lucas first introduced to “the empire strikes back” and later to the “revenge of the Sith”. Some philosophers and psychologist would argue that thoughts of revenge are often entertained by most people.

This may be true since a brief google search found websites like: payback.com where you can buy revenge such as wilted roses and melted chocolates; revengeguy.com where you can purchase t-shirts with “life is too short to not get even” slogans; revengelady.com where you can get “advice on using the ancient art of revenge to bring humor and happiness back to your life. Come rediscover this traditional code of honor”; and, if you still don’t have enough revenge you can visit revengeunlimited.com.

But is revenge really all it is cracked up to be? Reflect on these nuggets of wisdom.

“There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” Josh Billings

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi

“In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.” Sir Francis Bacon

And here is the quote that got me to thinking about revenge in the first place – "To triumph fully evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned. After the first victory, evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life." Miroslav Volf

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Romans 12:19-20

No matter what happens to us or is done to us our response is our responsibility. The next time you are wronged will you seek revenge or reconciliation?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Enablers to Encountering God

Reflecting on the great moments of forgiveness in human history also got me to thinking about the moments when I am most aware of and sensitive to the presence of God in my life and around me. I wish that I was more like David when he wrote, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you ... My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." (Psalm 63:1, 8)

It is in those moments that I most strongly feel the presence of God that I also feel most alive. So, I offer to you the following list that I call - Great Enablers to Encountering the Presence of God:

Hearing & Singing Heart Warming & Soul Stirring Music

Experiencing the Awe Inspiring Beauty in Nature

Observing the Honesty & Innocence of the Mentally Handicapped

Observing the Tender Care & Concern Shown to One Another by Lifelong Spouses

Experiencing the Faith & Hope of Christian Families in the face of Death

Witnessing the Church functioning as the Body of Christ

Receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

Experiencing Brokenness in a Moment of Vulnerability and Weakness

Having opportunity to Serve God & Others using One’s Spiritual Gifts

What enablers would you add to this list of experiences or activities that help you to encounter God in a more powerful way?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Moments of Forgiveness

I came across this “gem” during a recent Internet expedition. It was found at www.incharacter.org.

Ten Great Moments in Forgiveness History:

8th Century BC: The Sabine women implore the Sabine men not to attack their Roman abductors, who are now their lawfully wedded husbands.

A.D. 29: Christ forgives from the cross.

13th Century: Genghis Khan (yes, that Genghis Khan) spares the life of blood-brother turned bloody revolt leader Jamukha, who, alas, admits he prefers death.

April 9, 1865: Union general Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain salutes Confederate soldiers on the eve of the surrender at Appomattox.

1947: After only a moment’s hesitation, Corrie ten Boom is glad to shake the hand of a guard from the concentration camp where she and her sister had been held.

December 27, 1983: Pope John Paul II visits his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot him in the abdomen in St. Peter’s Square, and forgives him.

September 16, 1990: Representative John Lewis, severely beaten during the civil rights movement, writes in a New York Times op-ed that George Wallace, former arch-segregationist governor of Alabama, is a “changed man” and should be forgiven.

1990: Nelson Mandela, recently released after twenty years in a South African prison, tells a rally, “We especially need to forgive each other, because when you intend to forgive, you heal part of the pain, but when you forgive you heal completely.”

2003: In a dramatic event captured on CBS, Reo Hatfield and Bo McCoy sign an “official truce” that formally ends a more than century-old family feud that began over a stolen pig.

October 2, 2006: Within hours of the school shootings that left five little Amish girls dead, members of the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, visit the killer’s wife to offer comfort and support.

What events do you think should be added to this list of “Great Moments of Forgiveness”?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Selection of Transition Team

NGWC has entered the Transition Team selection phase of our Intentional Interim ministry. Over the last two weeks congregational members have been submitting nomination ballots for this team. About 2/3 of the adult congregation participated in the nomination process by offering four names each of individuals for consideration.

The church board met last night and selected ten individuals from the list of nominations to be asked to serve on the team. These ten individuals are all considered to be trusted, respected and spiritually maturing individuals. They also represent a balance of gender, age, church tenure and perspective within the congregation. Our hope is that at least seven of these ten individuals will agree to serve on the transition team for the next 16 months. The team will meet, on average, twice per month with short breaks for Christmas and summer vacations.

Those asked to serve on the team have until October 24th to respond. The first Transition Team event is mandatory for all team members. This event is an overnight retreat on the weekend of November 7th and 8th. Our goals for this retreat will be:
1) Build a spirit of trust and respect within the team.
2) Establish a team covenant for our work together.
3) Select team officers and determine how decisions will be made.
4) Set up a schedule for future meetings.
5) Begin work on the first transformational task: Coming to Terms with History.

Continued prayers are appreciated for these ten individuals as they decide whether or not it is the Lord’s will for them to serve the Lord and their church as a member of the Transition Team.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Forgive Like God

One of the major biblical themes that I continue going back to in my current ministry is forgiveness. I hope to preach a series of “forgiveness” messages in the near future. One of the things that I am constantly reminded of is that I will never be more godly than in that moment that I offer unconditional forgiveness to one who has hurt and offended me.

Thomas Watson, a Puritan Pastor of the 1600's, once gave this definition of forgiveness as he taught from the Lord’s Prayer about forgiving our debtors, "when we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemy’s mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them".

Greg Oliphant of Peacemaker Ministries attaches scripture to each one of the seven points of forgiveness in Watson’s definition:

Resist thoughts of revenge; Romans 12:19
Don't seek to do them mischief; 1Thessalonians 5:15
Wish well to them; Luke 6:28
Grieve at their calamities; Proverbs 24:17
Pray for them; Matthew 5:44
Seek reconciliation with them; Romans 12:18
Be always willing to come to their relief; Exodus 23:4

Take a few devotional moments to read these verses and let God speak to you from His Word. Ask the Lord if there is anyone to whom you need to extend they type of forgiveness. Is there anything more godly that you can do than that?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Now, what am I suppose to do?

My office is directly across the hall from the 4th-5th grades class of the church academy. There are two girls in the class who also attend our church. Both of these girls are affectionate so I often receive a hug when they see me. But today one of them also said this to me, “Pastor Doug, you did a good job on the sermon Sunday!” Needless to say, that comment made my day. But it also has gotten me a little unnerved.

I often get positive feedback on my sermons. I guess that is one of the reasons why I keep preaching every Sunday. I enjoy doing it and people seem to appreciate it most weeks. But this past Sunday’s message has received a significantly larger amount of compliments than normal. So why does this have me so shook up? Simply put, the message being complimented was not my normal style. Let me explain.

I am a very logic driven, analytical thinker. Therefore, most of my sermons are what I call a linear style. I try to engage the congregation at point A (usually something of human interest or that people can relate to) and move them through a sequence of steps to point B (the conclusion with a call for a decision). Another way of describing my typical sermon is that it is a journey with markers (or points) along the way.

Sunday’s message was far, far from this style. I consider this Sunday’s sermon’s style to be circular. The one main idea was stated very clearly at the beginning; namely, that we need to understand that Christ lives in us as believers. I then presented this truth via four vehicles: an object lesson, some brief teaching thoughts, reflecting on a poem, and the sacrament of communion.

Much of what I have been reading lately makes the case that this style of preaching is more effective in the post-modern culture we live in today. So how should I go about sermon development? Stick with a style that is my natural way of communicating or adapt to the times?

Any thoughts or feedback from both pastors and laity who read this blog would be appreciated! Pastors – what do you think of the different approaches to sermon development? Laity who have heard me preach before – do you think I have correctly identified my normal sermon style? Laity who heard last Sunday’s sermon – did you sense that this was a different type of sermon than the others I have preached at NGWC?

Friday, October 3, 2008

35 Years + 4 Days

This past Monday Pam and I celebrated 35 years since our first date. I returned to my dorm room that night long ago and told my roommate that I was in love. When you are a 19 year old male falling in love is an easy thing to do. But over the last 35 years I have grown in love with Pam and stayed (most days) in love with her. God knew the kind of spouse I would need while I served in ministry even before He called me into the ministry. Pam, I believe, was His choice for me.

Because I read so much I often get credit for coming up with some great ideas. Little do people know that I am just sharing what I read some where. I don’t think I have ever had but one original idea but that was a great one. My one original idea in life was to marry Pam. I am greatly indebted to her for anything good in my life and ministry.

Speaking of reading – one recent book on my reading list was by Leonard Sweet entitled, Eleven indispensable relationships you can’t be without. Sweet shares the eleven key relationships that we need in our life to be successful. He says that more than one person can help to meet a particular relationship role and that a particular person can fill more than one relationship role. Here are the relationship roles from Sweet’s list that Pam helps to fill for me.

Pam is my Jonathan – a true friend. Sweet says, “A Jonathan believes in you when no one else does. …gives and gives and wants no payment. …walks with you in all seasons of life. …has seen you naked, in all your treachery and lechery, at your most heinous and most luminous, and loves you anyway. …grants you grace when you take him or her for granted. …sacrifices himself for you.” Pam has been all these things and so many more as only a true friend can be. My life has been quite a journey and she has been my soul mate through it all.

Pam is my Nathan – an editor. Again Sweet says of your Nathan – “a person who believes in you and wants the best for you, even when he or she shows up at the door with a sword.” A Nathan is someone whose greatest ambition is help you become the best you can possibility be for the Lord. A Nathan will get under your skin on occasion, ask direct questions when needed and tells the truth in such a way that we can see the truth about ourselves. No one knows how many times Pam has been my editor and spoke correction into my life in a loving but firm way.

Pam is my Deborah – a back-coverer. A Deborah is someone who provides you with protection; protection from attacks both from the enemy and yourself. “The world is full of people who like nothing better than to kill your reputation, your spirit, your mission. … If your life is on mission for good and God, you’ll be the first to be fired on by enemies and friends.” The greatest hedge of protection that any Deborah can provide is a covering of prayer. I know that Pam prays for me but even I don’t know how much protection she has provided for me over the last 35 years.

Thanks Pam for a great 35 years. How about let’s try for another 35 together?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Whose Hand is on the Wheel?

Tomorrow I will challenge the congregation of NGWC to give the steering wheel of the church back to God as we all submit to His leadership, to those in authority, and to one another. We need God's hand of control on the wheel. At most, we should only be the glove covering that guiding hand - like the glove of the race car driver.

This an important attitude to have as we journey through the intentional interim process. We can't get ourselves out of the proverbial "woods", only God can do that as we submit to Him. We have a process and will be making plans but without divine guidance we will not get to where we need to be.

After the worship service tomorrow, we will have a congregational meeting to review the intentional interim journey and the importance of being prayerful and careful in the selection of the Transition Team which will take place during the next three weeks. Some of what I will share about the Transition Team is that they are to be:
* 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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Richard Foster on Leadership

I once heard John Maxwell say that if you weren't a learner, you weren't a leader. I'm not sure what kind of leader I am but I want to be a learner. This desire drives me to be a reader. Every once in a while I read something that just gets inside me and I can't get away from it. Last week I read the following thoughts on leadership by Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline.

"Leadership is an act of submission to God. To be a leader means listening to all kinds of people and situations. Out of that listening, we are hoping to discern the mind of God as best we can. This is the price of leadership—it's an act of sacrifice. So leadership is part and parcel of the work of submission to God.
I could be perfectly happy to go up into those mountains and disappear. But at least up to this point, that has not been my lot. There is a sense of call to take leadership roles. You're serving people and submitting to God as best you can.
We all learn submission because we all have "bosses," whether we're presidents of companies or not. The easiest place to learn it is in family. Paul's words were, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"—there is subordination, husband and wife, parent and child. We're doing that all of the time, looking to the needs of our spouse or our children, even though we have to make certain kinds of decisions they may not like. It's an act of submission to help.
I think of Pope Gregory the Great. He wanted the cloister. He wanted to pray and study, and yet he was thrust into this administrative job, and he submitted to that. And in that submission, he became a great leader. You could say that the only person who is safe to lead is the person who is free to submit."

That last sentence is what really is working on me. Neither pastors nor lay leaders in a church have any business picking up the mantle of leadership unless we are willing to lay it at the feet of Jesus. If we have to be in control or power then we are probably too dangerous to be given that authority.

What do you think? Am I hearing Foster correctly? And is Foster correct?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who Stole My Church?

I just finished reading: WHO STOLE MY CHURCH? Here is my review and reflections.

This book is a fictional story that reflects the real world of many churches today. This is a story of the struggle between multiple generations within congregations as those who have served faithfully and sacrificially for decades are now asked to let their church change style and structure to reach the current culture. The real life pastor author, Gordon MacDonald, allow you to walk alongside an imaginary group of older church members as they discover God, themselves, and the younger generations within the church and community. As I followed these senior saints on this discovery journey I came to understand the churches I have served and now serve better. Hopefully I also gained an insight or two in how to better lead them. This group of seniors and their discoveries were in many ways like the Transition Team that leads a congregation through the intentional interim process.

The book cover says of the author. “Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor for more than forty years in five different communities. He has seen churches drop their long-standing programs and traditions … in an effort to mobilize younger members. He has also seen the bitterness and heartbreak that sometimes chokes older members who have spent their lives building that very community, dedicating hours of service and significant amounts of money in tithes. These ‘builders and boomers’ fell that their churches have been hijacked from underneath them, that someone has come in and stolen what they’ve worked so hard to create. While he understands the frustrations that come with change, MacDonald believes that finding a way to move gracefully into the 21st century is necessary for churches to survive.”

So what did I get from this book?
1) A greater sensitivity to the struggle that people face when coping with changes in the church.
2) A good review of historical changes both in the culture and the churches that gives perspective for dealing with the current era of change.
3) Some wonderful “seed thoughts” for a few sermons or Bible studies on how Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for the changes that were going to soon take place in their religious practices.

This book is well worth the money to buy it and the time to read it for anyone who is part of a congregation dealing with change.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The 3rd G

I am taking a couple of Sundays to focus my messages at HGWC on the 3rd G of the Peacemaker’s Pledge – gently restore. These two messages are under the umbrella sermon title of “How to Handle Your Hurts”. The Scripture focus is Matthew 18:12-22. I am making the case that as a Christian peacemaker there are three things that we must do about our hurts.

1) Anticipate them. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble”. He also warned that offenses would surely come. So we should not be surprised when they happen since we live in a fallen world.

2) Deal with them. As peacemakers we don’t have the options of verbal revenge or physical attack. We deal with our hurts by either overlooking them or by confronting them. The preferred option is to overlook them. But some hurts can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. When our hurts must be faced head on then we must address them in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 – “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently”.

3) Forgive them. Whether we overlook or confront the offenses that cause us pain and hurt we have to forgive them first. During the month of October we will return to this matter of forgiveness and try to explore it more deeply with a series of sermons.

For those who want to find the blessing that Jesus promised when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” I recommend for your reading two books: The Peacemaker by Ken Sande and Making Peace by Jim Van Yperen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Golfing at the Carolina Pastors Gathering

Many preachers play golf, most not very well even though we seem to enjoy trying. I am one of them. Because of this, one of the annual traditions at the Carolina Pastors Gathering is a Captain’s Choice golf tournament for us preacher “want a be” pro golfers.

Captain’s Choice means that all four golfers on a team hit their tee shots and then they decide which shot is in the best location to hit the next shot and then all four golfers hit their shots from that preferred location. This process continues until the ball is hit into the cup by one of the team members.

So here is my “claim to fame” golf story from last week’s golf at the Carolina Pastors Gathering. On the sixth hole I hit as good a tee shot as I can make – 230 yards and in the middle of the fairway. Two of my team members are capable of hitting the ball as far or further than I can, but on this hole neither of them did so. The team will now hit their second shots from the location of where my tee shot came to rest – about 150 yards away from the cup on the green. My three teammates all hit before me and one of them is on the green so that we can putt our next shot. This 150 yard shot requires a perfectly hit 5 iron for me. I hit this 5 iron shot perfectly. The ball lands just in front of the cup and rolls into the cup for an eagle.

I have never made a hole in one on a par 3. I keep telling myself that this feat was actually more difficult than a hole in one because it required two (not one) perfectly struck shots. Any way – even if I never get a hole in one, I at least have one fantastic golf story that I can tell my grandkids (if I ever have any) one day.

For those who read this blog because of your interest in the intentional interim work, I promise to return on topic next time. Please excuse this moment of bragging and pray pride does not enter my golf bag. Although the rest of my play that afternoon should curb that temptation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Corporate Prayer of Confession

For those who are interested - here is the congregational prayer of confession that was used prior to the observance of the Lord's Supper this past Sunday morning at NGWC.

Pastor: Have mercy upon us, O Lord, according to Your mercy and not according to our merit. Blot out our transgressions, wash us from our iniquities, and cleanse us from our sins. We acknowledge our failures for Your Son, Jesus Christ, offered us Your blessings when He told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”

People: but we have been rich in pride.

Pastor: “Blessed are those who mourn”

People: but we have not known much sorrow for our sin.

Pastor: “Blessed are the meek”

People: but we are a stiff-necked people.

Pastor: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”

People: but we are filled to the full with other things.

Pastor: “Blessed are the merciful”

People: but we are harsh and impatient.

Pastor: “Blessed are the pure in heart”

People: but we have impure hearts and wrong motives.

Pastor: “Blessed are the peacemakers”

People: but we have not sought reconciliation or made peace.

Pastor: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”

People: but our lives do not challenge the world.

Pastor: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”

People: but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.

Pastor: Show us our secret faults and keep us from presumptuous sins. Draw near to us and help us to desire to draw near to You.

People: Create in us clean hearts and renew right spirits within us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Day After "Confession"

Was yesterday’s “confession service” a turning point for NGWC? Only time will tell. But I am beginning to see some cracks in the dam that has been blocking the flow of the Spirit. People are listening to the challenging truths about living as peacemakers and many are responding with life changes.

Examples of things that give me hope:
1) Yesterday during the time typically called the pastoral prayer I invited those who would like to come to the altar for prayer to do so; 15-20 people came forward.
2) The lady who told me that when she went back to work after last week’s service she asked her co-workers to forgive her for some of her attitudes on the job.
3) The man who admitted he had been nervous about this “confession service” but afterwards felt lifted and encouraged because God had shown him some sins that he needed to confront and confess.
4) The lady who’s first thought when hearing about a “confession service” was that she hoped that certain people would publicly confess their sins but immediately realized she needed to confess that thought as sin.

Personally, I sensed the presence of the Lord in yesterday’s service. I felt that the communion time was especially meaningful after we had just spent about 40 minutes interweaving preaching and practicing confession. Conviction has rested upon me that I must be the first to practice what I preach – so strongly that I had to go privately to someone in the congregation during yesterday’s service and ask for forgiveness.

After tomorrow night’s L.B.A. meeting I will travel to Oak Island for the annual Carolina Pastors Gathering. This gathering of Wesleyan preachers is an annual highlight for me. The fellowship and support of these peers means more and more to me each year. And yes – we DO play golf during this event; which makes the trip a double blessing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Confession Is Good for the Soul

“Confession is good for the soul.” My best research reveals this to be an old Scottish proverb. I could find no other historical info or background but, I guess, the statement pretty much speaks for itself. Still the question must be asked, is this proverb true? And, if it is true, why don’t we see more confession of sin in the church?

Last Sunday I preached a sermon focusing on the 2nd G of the Peacemaker’s Pledge – Get the log out of your own eye. It is easy to say, “Mistakes were made.” The challenge is to also say, “And I was the one who made them.” At the conclusion of the sermon I announced that before the serving of Communion in next week’s (tomorrow’s) worship service that we would give opportunity for confessions.

This was one of those times when I had not totally thought through how this confession thing was going to work. Upon more thought, I realized that had no training or resources for doing a structured time of confession in a worship service beyond a congregational prayer of confession or a time of individual silent reflection and confessional prayer. So I struggled and sought wisdom from above all week about how to plan tomorrow’s service.

At least I have developed a plan. This plan includes corporate, personal, private and public opportunities of confession before the congregation celebrates our common forgiveness at the Lord’s Table receiving Communion together. Check back next week for a report on this service. Naturally, my prayer and hope is that this will be a Sunday that will be remembered as a “turning point” on NGWC’s road to recovery and spiritual health.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Theological Foundations for Peacemaking

From Sunday noon until Tuesday night I did not have access to the Internet and have been busy since - this is my excuse for not posting this week until now. I still hope to get an update posted by Saturday on the progress at NGWC. But for now - I found this on the Route 59 blog (title comes from Matthew 5:9) that I read and it is so good that I wanted to pass it along to others.

Three theological principles of peacemaking as stated by Ajith Fernando who is a leader with Youth for Christ.

1. What unites us as members of the body of Christ is much, much more powerful and influential in determining our actions than what divides us. Ephesians 4:4-6 says that what unites us is the motivation to being eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit (4:3). This theological motivation causes us to approach the problem with confidence even though the conflict may be huge.

2. Because God is sovereign over the affairs of this world, however serious the problem, he is able to turn it to good if we let him. So we work with believing that good will come out of this if we are obedient. Because unity is the will of God, it should come into our reckoning when we think of the goodness that will come out of the conflict.

3. However deep the hurt, we know that God’s love is greater than that pain and than the unkindness that caused it. This gives us the courage to forgive those who have hurt us and to strive for reconciliation rather than to strive to win the immediate battle. We can win the battle to retrieve our wounded ego and lose the war for kingdom principles. True success is measured not from temporary triumphs in individual battles but from the triumph of the agenda of the kingdom. It is sobering to note that this agenda encompasses every member of the body of Christ, even the one who is now our enemy.

These three principles, I believe, is why I am passionate about intentional interim ministry and trying to help congregations and individual believers make peace and learn to live in peace with one another.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Meditations

1) Morning Worship attendance was about 10% higher yesterday than it was a month ago. This is not always the best indication of progress but at least more people add energy to the service. The message was taken from James 3 and titled, “A Church of Peacemakers in a World of Troublemakers”. I ended with the challenge of taking the Peacemaker’s Pledge which is borrowed from Ken Sande’s book – The Peacemaker. I don’t know how long we will stay on the focus of speaking the truth in love and living in peace as a community of believers. When I sense God telling us to move in a different direction, I will, but not until then.

2) Last night we commissioned 8 Share and Prayer Triplets. I was hoping for ten, which would have been about ½ of the average adult Sunday morning attenders. But these 24 people are excited about getting involved with each other on a deeper level and praying more intensely on behalf of the church. I know that these triplets will have some powerful testimonies to share with the rest of the congregation throughout the months of September and October.

3) This Wednesday we kick-off our Mid-week Bible study series based on the “one another” commands of the New Testament. Besides the Bible, my source material for this study is Living in Authentic Community by Jim Van Yperen. This series will last about four months and will give opportunity for our people to go deeper into the Scriptures as we learn how to live together as a faith community.

4) This morning I made a hospital visit with a man who is a former church attender (from like 30-40 years ago). When I introduced myself, he responded, “I sure hope you can get that church straightened out.” I have heard some version of that statement over and over again in the last few weeks. Confession: it bothers me. I can’t straighten other people out. Only God can do that and He will only do it when they let Him. My calling is to be a model of what it means to live as a peacemaker and to help others figure out how God wants them to live as peacemakers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Share and Prayer Triplets

The following is the orientation material that will be given to our Share and Prayer Triplet participants. The concept of Share and Prayer Triplets is borrowed from George Bullard with only slight modifications to begin the intentional interim journey at NGWC.

Between August 31 and October 19, you will be meeting at least 5 times with your group. During that time, you be getting to know one another better through personal sharing and praying. You will talk about your life and your prayer requests, and you will also share your thoughts about Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church as you discuss where we are and where you see God calling us as a church over the coming months. We ask that you use the guide provided for you at each meeting to assist you in that process. It has space for the concerns that God is placing into your spirit to be shared. It also includes request that focus on the church’s leadership, staff and ministries. The guide is designed to make your meetings helpful and enjoyable, but they are also designed to help us as a congregation sense what God is saying now, and the future He is calling us toward together. The hope is that as our congregation enters into the intentional interim process, we will be spiritually revived, and gain clarity concerning our mission in this community.

The meetings are intended to go something like this:
* Sharing of Praises and Testimonies – 8-10 minutes
* Sharing of Personal Prayer Concerns – 8-10 minutes
* Sharing of Church Prayer Concerns – 8-10 minutes
* Deciding which Church Areas to Focus Prayers – 5 minutes
* Assigning who will pray for which concerns – 2 minutes
* Listening to the Psalm of the Day as an entry to prayer – 3 minutes
* Praying out loud for one another and for the church – 20 minutes
* Journal what new ideas and actions steps God has shown you – 5 minutes

Our covenant together:
You should be very clear as a group about confidentiality. Overall, anything shared about the church and its ministry should be able to be shared for the good of the whole Body with the whole Body. Individual prayer concerns may be held confidential, if your group so chooses. Be clear with one another concerning your need for confidentiality, and about your expectations of one another. Each group should be prepared to share at least one report with the rest of the Body regarding what God is doing in your triplet as you pray together. This report can be done either in a Sunday morning worship service or in the monthly church newsletter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One Month Report Card

This Report Card is self graded, so there must be some "fudge factor" figured into the evaluation.

a) Accomplishments:
1) Getting engaged and connected with the people of the congregation. I have worked hard at learning names and getting to know the people. We are well on the way to belonging with the people.
2) Clear sense of direction for the preaching / teaching focus for the first 4-6 months. I have preached some challenging sermons but they have been easy to preach because of my sense that this is what God wanted the people to hear.
3) Valuable ministry opportunities with the Clifford Richardson family. I have conducted my first funeral after Dot, Clifford's wife, had a 3 1/2 week stay in the hospital following a stroke.

b) Surprises:
1) Amount of time and attention needed for the Academy and CDC. The CDC needs have been minimal but the Academy needs have been large because of the absence of an administrator until this week.
2) God’s providential guidance to find and secure a new Youth Director. Filling this position has been critical for the church's ministry to the entire family. God orchestrated, I believe, our securing Chris James to fill this position on a part-time basis.

c) “Do Overs” Needed:
1) Making more contacts with the shut-in members and attenders of the church. Competing time demands have delayed my getting into as many homes of our shut-ins as I would have liked.
2) Remembering more names and faces of people in the congregation. I wish I had a photographic memory but God has given me that gift. I will keep striving to get the rest of the folks' names in my head.
3) Communicate and promote better for the Share and Prayer Triplets. We would like to see more of our adults get into a triplet group to pray and grow closer together. The next post will hopefully give more details about this endeavor.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Practicing What We Preach

Pam and I returned from our Outer Banks vacation late Friday night and received a phone call early Saturday morning that Dot Richardson, a long time church member who had a stroke about 3 weeks ago, had passed away. Sunday afternoon I conducted her graveside service. These types of services, when you are a new pastor and don’t know the deceased very well, are always a challenge. But I had the opportunity to visit with the family several times in the hospital, asked a lot of questions and tried to listen closely. I was able to share my impressions from these conversations at the service. The family and friends seemed to appreciate the service. If so, may God get the glory for what He was able to do through me.

Sunday morning my message continued to focus on the church being a community that practices biblical communication. The hallmark of this communication is the balance of truth and love in our words and deeds. The message was concluded with a three-fold challenge: we promise to make a good faith effort to not gossip or speak negatively about others, we give permission for others in the church to correct us if this promise is not kept, and we promise to rebuke in love others in the church that gossip or speak negatively of others. Several stood for the closing prayer to affirm their desire to accept this challenge. As more and more people live out this commitment our congregation’s atmosphere and culture will be transformed in a powerful way.

This is our final week before the Share and Prayer Triplet orientation next Sunday night. I plan to devote an entire posting about these triplets. So, check back later in the week for details and information on this first step on our road to recovery and church health. Also, I will be chairing my first monthly L.B.A. board meeting this week. My report to them will be like a 30 day report card. I will also be sharing this one month report card on this blog later in the week.

Please pray that God will help the NGWC congregation to practice what I preached on Sunday morning and that those who made the three-fold commitment mentioned above with be role models of biblical communication within the church family.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Week that Was and Is

Highlights from NGWC:

1) We have hired Rev. Kris LeRoy to serve as the interim Academy Administrator for this school year. I think Kris’ gifts and personality will be a great asset to the school. He is a team builder and encourager. These are things that the staff, students and parents really need.

2) The Work Day at the church was a success. Many things on the buildings and grounds “punch list” got done. I got to build better relationships with some of the guys. But there are still a number of items on the “punch list” to be done.

3) I preached the third message completing the sentence: The church is … This week the sentence was: The church is a community that practices biblical communication. Biblical communication is identified by its content (truth) and character (love). These must be kept in balance. The conclusion was reached that none of us knows the truth completely by ourselves and we cannot know the truth about ourselves by ourselves; therefore, we need others with whom we can both confess and speak the truth in love.

4) This is vacation week for several people. Kellie Councilman, my administrative assistant, traveled to visit family in PA over the weekend. Chris James, our new youth director, will take his family to the beach this coming weekend. Kris LeRoy leaves Wednesday for five days in CA. Pam and I are spending six days this week on the Outer Banks with some of our best friends, Ken and Vicky Rogers. When we all get back in town we will join our hands and hearts to lead NGWC on the road to recovery.

5) If you are reading this and belong to the NGWC community of faith I hope that you will make a special effort to be with us for worship this Sunday. The message will be a challenging one. But if we will live out this part of the gospel message our church will never be the same again.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

First Sunday of August - My Second Sunday

Over the first few weeks at NGWC I will be preaching a series of messages that have been birthed in my spirit as I have read and reread Jim Van Yperen’s book, Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict. Last week I talked about what the church is supposed to be – the realm where forgiven saints live out the gospel. Today I challenged the congregation around the concept of who the church is supposed to be – a collection of forgiven and forgiving saints.

Everyone was given a blank piece of paper and encouraged to write down both sins they had committed that needed to be forgiven by God and hurts that they needed to forgive others for committing against them. The paper were then brought forward and placed at the base of the cross (the place of forgiveness) as they each received communion (the celebration of forgiveness) at the Lord’s Table.

I know that God’s Spirit was at work today within the congregation. This move of God was evident on the faces of a number of people and in the comments of several who spoke with me privately afterwards. Please join me in prayer that hearts will continue to be soft to receive God’s truth that can set us all free.

More good news today was that we have hired a new part-time youth director for our student ministries. The new youth director is Chris James. He is a young man with a heart for God and for teenagers. We will be introducing him to the congregation next Sunday and he will begin work on August 24th. Pam and I had lunch today with Chris, Courtney (Chris’ wife) and their two children, Christian and Kaileigh. They are a precious family and will be a great addition to the congregation in a number of ways.

We are still looking for someone to serve as a part-time music director. Ben and Dana Saunders are doing a great job and working hard to serve the church with their musical talents. This is another young couple that God will use in the coming years in mighty ways. But they both sense the need to have someone come along side them to help them and to guide them in the music ministry. Pray with me about this as well.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The New Journey Begins

Today I began a two year journey on a road to recovery with the Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church. The church had two reasons to be filled with energy this morning. Not only was it their new pastor’s first Sunday, it was also the closing program for Vacation Bible School. Due to these two factors attendance was around 160 instead of their current average between 100 and 110.

Even knowing that we had guests present I felt that I needed to begin the sermon with a reminder of the bad news / good news story. The bad news is that NGWC is not a healthy church. But the good news is that most, if not all of us, are willing to admit it and want to do something about it. This is what sets NGWC apart from most other sick churches that do not want to admit that they have problems or aren’t willing to do anything about the problems they know they have.

I discovered after the service that there were first time guests present that were not associated with the VBS program. I made a point to invite them to join us on this two year recovery journey. These guests were the Dr. Marcus Gentry family. Marcus is the son of Rev. and Mrs. Warren Gentry who pastured immediately before me at the Rocky Mount, NC church in the mid80’s. If God does lead them to join us I feel certain that they will be a great asset to NGWC.

I closed the sermon this morning with the announcement that our first step on the journey to recovery was a call to congregational prayer together. Next Sunday we will join at the Lord’s Table to pray and commune as a community of faith. During the month of August we will be forming Share and Prayer Triplets that will meet together at least 5 times during the 50 days between August 31st and October 19th. The congregation will be encouraged to form triplets with others that are not that familiar with already and to pray for one another and their church.

The proverb goes something like – a journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. We took that first step today with what I believe to be God’s smile of approval and favor.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Holy Spirit Gully Washer

Growing up in the flat land of eastern North Carolina I often heard the term “gully washer” to refer to a strong and long rain. But it was not until I went for a walk recently after a night of some torrential rainfall at our Lake Lure mountain house that I came to fully appreciate the expression. As I walked down our long and steep driveway to the street I saw at the bottom of the hill a line of rocks, clay and debris that began at the end of our ditch or gully and stretching some 60-70 yards down the street.

As I continued my walk God reminded me that Scripture refers to the rain of the Holy Spirit, how the Holy Spirit was poured out on the earthly church and how I have experienced the strong flow of the Holy Spirit in my life and ministry. What I want to see again in my life and in the church is a “gully washer” of the Holy Spirit poured out.

Observations about Gully Washers:

1) We can petition for a gully washer but we can’t produce one on our own initiative. God sends the gully washers at His discretion and in His time.

2) The longer the season between gully washers the more impediments build up that need to be flushed out. We let the crud of sin and selfishness mount in our lives without realizing how unattractive it is.

3) We often create human hindrances to slow or stop the flow of the gully washer. We like to control things so we craft ways to contain the movement of the Holy Spirit to a speed or pace that we are comfortable with.

4) The more impediments and hindrances, the stronger the gully washer must be to break through and flow mightily. It is our responsibility to clear the impediments and remove the hindrances. When we do, God rejoices to send a gully washer of Holy Spirit rain into our lives.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just "Doug"; Not "Pastor Doug"

Almost three weeks ago I told the Bessemer City First Wesleyan congregation that I had been “Pastor Doug” for the last four years but that from this time forward I would just be “Doug”. Next week I again become “Pastor Doug” but this time to the congregation of Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church in Asheboro, NC.

During these three weeks I have felt so strange. I felt so strange that I slipped into the church office for a couple of days this week to get a head start on the work. I look forward to being “Pastor Doug” again. I have also attended the NC East District Conference this week and appreciated learning more about this district’s vision for planting churches and getting established churches refocused on mission and ministry. I am looking forward to serving under the leadership of District Superintendent Dan LeRoy.

Let’s get back to the feeling of being “Doug” for three weeks instead of “Pastor Doug”. My interim training gave emphasis to the need for exit preparation from the moment of entry into each assignment. I had for several months done my best to prepare myself and the congregation for a good closure in our ministry with the congregation in Bessemer City. But as I spoke those words to this group of people that I was releasing to the care of another it hit me pretty hard – this was it – it was now over. I wonder how that moment impacted those who were listening. If I did my job well then they were ready for it.

This concept of preparing for your exit from the moment of your entry carries much truth for all of life and living, especially for believers. Think about it!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Attack of the Dogs

The following is the account of the second Monday mentioned in yesterday's posting. On July 7th, after arriving at my mom’s house for a two day visit, I decided to take a 40 minute walk before going to a visitation at the local funeral home for an old high school classmate, Ross Bennett. But my plans were suddenly derailed after getting about ¼ mile down the road from mom’s home when three dogs attacked me from a neighbor’s yard. Before I knew what had happened I had received two dog bites on each leg, all bleeding, and one pretty significantly. The worst bite took two hunks of flesh out of my leg and are now open wounds having to heal from the inside out.

After limping back to mom’s house, she and Pam got me in the van for a trip to Urgent Care. After two hours at Urgent Care and one hour in Wal-Mart waiting for a prescription to be filled we returned home to see the Animal Control officers waiting for me to go with them so that I could identify the dogs. They indicated that they would have to impound the dogs for 10 days and that it would cost the owner $150 per dog for him to get them back. The officers had already been to the owner’s house and he said they weren’t taking his dogs so they had called for a sheriff’s deputy to accompany us.

The owner did become very irritate and it took several minutes for the officers to secure the dogs. The owner never spoke to me but I tried to tell his sister that I didn’t call animal control but that the Urgent Care office was required to report the incident once I asked for medical attention. When the officers (animal control and deputy) and I were back at my mom’s house the deputy informed the animal control officers that we were too slow leaving the owner’s property. They were concerned that once the owner went back inside his home that he could come back out with a gun.

Lessons Learned:

1) Like the Boy Scouts, you ought to be prepared. I have walked on this road before and these same dogs have barked at me before but never attacked. I should have, at least, carried a stick with me.
2) It is good to keep a positive attitude in a negative situation. I made up my mind to be light hearted and as cheerful as possible in spite of my pain. I think this attitude impacted those who were providing for my medical attention.
3) We live in a small world. During conversation with one of the nurses I learned that years ago she attended the Rose Hill Wesleyan Church and spoke kindly of her pastor and my friend, Bill Tietje.
4) It is good to have people who love you near when you are hurting. Both my wife and mom displayed such care and concern for my welfare in the moments, hours, and now days following my injuries. I owe more to these two women than anyone else alive today. Also, I have received many, many calls and emails from several people in Bessemer City after the congregation there heard of the dog attack. These expressions of concern have meant so much during these days of recovery.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm Doug Dennis and I'm an Idiot!

The last two Mondays have been two that I would just as soon forget. Here is the account of the first Monday. The second Monday story will follow tomorrow. June 30th was moving day. What a day! As long as I can remember how tired and sore I felt the next morning I will never be tempted to move again. But my fatigue should have been expected and was the least significant event of this memorable day.

Being the person that I am, I had a plan for the day. Not much went according to the plan.
1st: I had reserved a U-Haul truck 3 weeks ahead and had checked with the dealer personally twice in the last four days before to insure that I would have a truck at 8:30 am. 8:30 am came and no truck! I had to go to the U-Haul center in Gastonia to get a truck and the packing started two hours late.
2nd: I thought I had Josh, Trey and two men from the church to help me pack. I had Trey and at least six men from the church to pack the truck (way to many to pack effectively).
3rd: I knew from multiple prior moves to turn the gas value off the grill before putting it on the truck but in our haste to finish forgot. I will come back to this detail later for this is the detail that makes this moving day memorable.
4th: I thought I had two friends planning on help Josh, Trey and I unload the truck in Archdale. Josh did arrive late but his car is having transmission trouble and he had no business driving to Archdale. So, Pam, Trey, Elizabeth and I made the trek toward Archdale with each of driving a vehicle. In route I learned that one of our two friends in Archdale would not be able to help but within five minutes got a call from a third friend and his wife were planning on helping us and the other original friend was bringing his son. PTL!!

Upon arrival in Archdale, I determined that I would need to angle the U-Haul truck up our steep driveway to keep the truck from bottoming out. It was during this angled climb that I think something moved inside the truck. Anyway, some how and some time near the end of the trip the gas control knob on the grill turned on and igniter switch was pressed so that the grill fire lit. When we opened the back door of the truck smoke came rolling out. I blistered my thumb getting the grill fire turned off but the damage had been done. Our coffee table that was close to the front of the grill had melted and warped. The freezer door that was against the back of the grill was severely blackened. Several plastic baskets near the grill were ruined. Soot was on everything near the back of the truck and a burnt plastic smell was in everything on the truck.

We spent several hours cleaning up that night and the next day. The smell is gradually lessening as we wash clothes, remove emptied boxes and the odor naturally dissipates. My loving wife was brought to tears as she reflected on what might have been (including the loss of all our belongings and maybe even my life).

Why did God allow me to forget to turn off the value to the gas tank on the grill? I had always remembered to do this on every other move! I am not sure but here are some possibilities:
1) To remind me that I need to be humbled from time to time. I now reference the title given to this story.
2) To remind everyone that He still is looking out for us, even when we do stupid things. This story could have had so much worse an ending.
3) To serve as a reminder of others to not make the same stupid mistake that I made, especially my children who will probably move many times in the future.
4) To help Pam and I to realize what the most important things are in our lives. Obviously it is not the “stuff”.
5) To serve as a powerful sermon illustration in my future ministry.
6) ??? (Only time will tell what other reasons God may have had!)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Transition Team Appreciation

Last night our congregation met for a pizza party and time to celebrate the work of the Transition Team. Everyone signed cards that were given to each team member along with a small monetary gift. I reminded the congregation of all the work that the team had done over the last year. The details of this work were listed in last week's blog.

But then the team turned the tables on me and surprised me with a unique gift. They had a lapel/tie pin especially made for me. It was shaped like a shield (of faith), had an image of a cross with a dove overlaid on the cross and the dove held an olive branch. In the very center of the pin a small diamond had also been set. There was a certificate of value included with the pin stating that the current retail value of the gold and diamond was almost $600. But, as they say, the pin is priceless to me. This is a special gift from a special group of people and I will cherish it for as long as I have my memory.

I concluded the service by telling the following story of a lady named Kiva. The story speaks for itself so here it is:

During our early days of my pastorate almost 4 years ago I told the story of Kiva. I told the story then as an example of how God can bring reconciliation and healing to broken relationships and revival to churches when people simply obey the Lord’s promptings. Let me briefly remind you again of this powerful story of obedience. Kiva was one of the prayer warriors of the church, her husband served on the church board, and both her children and grandchildren were very involved in the church.

But six years before I met Kiva a very hurtful event happened. Kiva’s son-in-law, who was also the church treasurer, had an affair with a lady who had also been raised in the church. This affair had gone on for quite some time even after repeated denials. This affair resulted in two divorces – both of key leadership couples in the church. The adulterous couple then got married and left the church.

Kiva was deeply hurt and offended at this wrong which her daughter had suffered. But Kiva had let the offense grow into a root of bitterness deep within. Over the course of my first two years as Kiva’s pastor I would from time to time preach on the core message of the gospel – forgiveness.

One day she told me that God had convicted her about her bitterness and that she had called the woman who had caused so much hurt to her daugther and asked her to forgive her of this bitterness toward her. I asked Kiva to pray about sharing this, in general terms, with the church when the Lord led her to do so.

A few weeks later she came to the platform as the congregation finished singing a song and turned to ask the congregation to forgive her for holding the church back for the last 8 years while she had carried this bitterness inside her. Her repentance, public confession, and obedience prompted a congregational revival. Over the next hour, others stood and made public repentance and private reconciliation. Many came to the altar for prayer. The church experienced a strong movement of God that lasted at least one full year after that Sunday morning.

In many ways our Unified Service last July reminded me of that Sunday morning. Some things were different – our service had been planned and prayed for; the other one was a spontaneous event. But in both God showed up and helped us to heal many past hurts.

I remind you of this story because there is a second chapter that I have not told you. This past February Kiva’s church had been instructed to prepare themselves for a scheduled revival. So, Kiva, now 85 years old, began to ask God to show her anything that she needed to repent of or make restitution for. God reminded Kiva of a very mean and vindictive letter she had written to her former son-in-law over 20 years ago. Though the man had terribly wronged her daughter, God told Kiva that she was wrong to say what she had said in her letter.

Within a week God opened a door of opportunity for Kiva to speak privately with her former son-in-law. She asked him if he remembered a letter she had written to him long ago. He said that he certainly did. Kiva asked for his forgiveness and he simply sat in silence. Still Kiva went home rejoicing because, once again, she had experienced the joy of obedience and the freedom that forgiveness provides.

A few days later Kiva received a call from her former son-in-law. He asked if he could drop by her house and she quickly said, “Yes”. When he arrived, he was holding an envelope. He had kept the letter for over 20 years and stated his desire, more than once, to use it against Kiva as an act of revenge. But now he turned to Kiva and asked if she would like for the two of them to burn it together. The two of them, along with Kiva’s husband, went to the fireplace. As the flames rose to consume the evidence of a by-gone hurt, the tears flowed down and God brought a measure of healing to a broken relationship.

Kiva found forgiveness for her wrong through an act of humble obedience. The next week God reminded Kiva of what her former son-in-law’s favorite dessert had been those many years before. So what did Kiva do? Into the kitchen she goes to make him a sugar cream pie. As she delivered it to his door, it became her token of the forgiveness that she had also granted him for the deep hurt he had brought into her life years ago.

I tell this story tonight to say that forgiveness is a process. Do not think that because we have completed a year of intentional interim ministry together that the work of God is completed in your life. Even if you took steps of reconciliation and forgiveness over the last few years God may remind you of further steps you need to take in the future. If He does, don’t dismiss His promptings because of your earlier obedience. Just keep obeying the Lord. If you do – God has greater things still in store for you and your church. I pray that you will see these greater things and find His favor in the future.