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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?