Monday, May 19, 2008

How Do the Methodist Charge Pastors Do It?

Two, three and even four church charges used to be very common in the United Methodist Church. Yesterday I gained a greater appreciation for these multi-church pastors. Here’s why!

Sunday morning I was in Asheboro, NC to be officially introduced to the congregation as their incoming Intentional Interim Pastor. I preached from Ezekiel 37 a sermon entitled: Graveyards Can Be Birthing Centers. My main point was: There is hope if we will admit that we need God’s help, believe that God can help us and do whatever He tells us to do. I met many good people Sunday morning and Saturday evening at a church cook-out; people who love the Lord and their church. I believe God helped us and the process of relationship building was begun that is needed for a vital trust between this congregation and myself.

After lunch with some of the Asheboro folk Pam and I drove back to Bessemer City, NC for a full evening at my current church. I chaired an open congregational forum discussing the future of the Future Facilities Fund that the church has. The congregation members will be completing a survey over the next two weeks. The intent is to find the current heart and mind of the congregation regarding this fund prior to the arrival of the new pastor. As soon as the open forum concluded I met with the Transition Team for our next to last meeting. We reviewed some ministry job descriptions that some of the working committees within the team had prepared. We discussed what we had learned about ourselves and our church over the last year. The 11 members of this team (including myself) have bonded so strongly over the last 12 months. It will be a year that none of us will ever forget!

I got home last night about 9 pm trying to process a long day of engaging in two different congregations; one that I have come to love dearly over the last four years and one that I will come to love just as much over the next two years. Like I said – I have a greater respect for those pastors who serve multiple congregations week in and week out.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Church Signs Everywhere Said the Same Thing

Sunday afternoon I drove about 4 hours to spend the night and Monday with my Mom. On the way we stopped and had a Mothers Day lunch with my wife and gave her a nice (I think) card. The thing that both my wife and I noticed was that every church we passed (must have been a hundred or more) all had the same type of message on their signs. They all said something like: Happy Mothers Day!!! Not one sign made mention of Pentecost Sunday.

So I can't help but think that the number of Christians who were reminded of one of the greatest days in Christian church history were very few. I like moms in general, love my mother and the mother of my children but I still keep asking which is more important: Mothers Day or Pentecost?

The good news is that Pentecost only has to compete with Mothers Day more than about once a century.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Your Answer Please!

Last Sunday, May 4th, as I gave the announcements to the congregation , without prior thought, I asked if anyone remembered what was special about next Sunday, May 11th. Several called out, "Mothers Day". I then asked if anyone remembered anything else special about it. No answers were given. I reminded everyone that it was also Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church and asked, "Which is more important - Mothers Day or Pentecost?"

Later in the day my mind went back to the question and God seemed to say to me, "Your answer please!" You see I had planned a Mothers Day message for May 11th. So, this week I have been prompted by the Lord, I believe, to change my sermon to focus on the Holy Spirit. I will be preaching from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and focus on what we are to do with our bodies since they are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

I have been asking other preachers this week what their sermons are about this Sunday. So far they are all planning on preaching a Mothers Day message. I wonder if I am making to much of this tension between Mothers Day and Pentecost. We will still have a Mothers Day emphasis in the services (including a funny video in the 11 am service) but I feel that the proclamation of the Word should focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit.

My conviction is that since I only have 7 more Sunday morning messages in Bessemer City (next Sunday I will be preaching in Neighbors Grove Wesleyan) they all are taking on an added weight of importance to me. I guess I ought to have that sense of urgency every week. But let's get back to the point of this post - Mothers Day vs Pentecost.

So, what was the sermon Scripture and topic in your services on May 11th? I really would like to know. So, post a comment with your answer please!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Next Appointment

After months of wondering and waiting for God to open a door of opportunity to serve another church as an intentional interim pastor I can now announce that I have agreed to serve the Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church in Asheboro, NC as their intentional interim pastor for the next two years.

I will be going to the church under district appointment rather than by a local church call. Our denominational structure is such that probably many of the intentional interim assignments that I receive may be of this nature. The District Superintendent did have me meet with the Local Board of Administration to discuss this “arranged marriage”. After this meeting the board gave their endorsement to this decision. I was very frank and open with the board about what the intentional interim process would be like. The board members all agreed that the church needed to do something different to try to get the church back on the right course.

So what do I know about the Neighbors Grove church? I wouldn’t say everything I know but I will quote you part of what the District Superintendent said to the congregation on the morning of April 27th.

“I have known this congregation for more than thirty years. It seems like every five to seven years this congregation goes through a cycle of self-destruction.

That has to stop. We are all weary. Asheboro is weary. The District is weary. You are weary. We are all weary of the abuse you heap upon each other in this place. I speak for the District Board of Administration, former district superintendents, the many pastors who have suffered through unkindness and mistreatment, those pastors’ wives and their children, and all the people who have been hurt in this place across the years. This has to stop.

We find ourselves once again in this ugly turmoil. The issues are different this time. Maybe the people are different this time. The pastor is different this time. But it feels the same. And the roots of the disruption are the same:

1) A pastor who does not live up to the expectations that people place on him.

2) People who will not give up control.

Two years ago, on Sunday evening, April 23, 2006, I met with you in a congregational meeting to try to resolve your conflicts. At that time you were given two options – that Pastor Larry Moore continue as pastor, or that the church ask for District intervention. You chose the first option. I informed you that we would go forward with your desire, but that when we come to the time to change pastors, there will be District intervention at that point.

I am here this morning to inform you what that intervention will look like. Although it has been unkindly and unfairly characterized as ‘the District taking over our church,’ you will see that it is a well-crafted plan to get us on the path to healing and health.”

The District Superintendent then laid out a four fold plan concluding with:

“The fourth and most critical piece of the plan is to appoint an Intentional Interim Pastor. This plan comes fully and overwhelmingly endorsed by your local board of administration. The appointed pastor will be Pastor Doug Dennis, a man who has a Wesleyan Methodist background, is trained in this specific strategic ministry, and has the heart for Neighbors Grove church that will be necessary for this plan to succeed. Pastor Doug will be with you on Sunday, May 18, to preach in the morning worship service, and to further explain the Intentional Interim Pastor concept.”

So, I have two more months of service at Bessemer City First Wesleyan. My last Sunday here will be June 29th. I will then take 3 weeks of vacation and get moved to our new home in Archdale, NC. July 21st will be my first day in the office at Neighbors Grove Wesleyan. Their Vacation Bible School is scheduled to start that night so I will spend each evening that week getting to know as many families as possible.

Please pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as I conclude our time at Bessemer City and make the transition to Neighbors Grove.