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.