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: where you can buy revenge such as wilted roses and melted chocolates; where you can purchase t-shirts with “life is too short to not get even” slogans; 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

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

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?