Sunday, June 28, 2009
- our daughter visiting from Kentucky and taking care of her ailing mother so that I could attend the NC West District Conference and reconnect with old friends and associates.
- a great week of VBS at Neighbors Grove with over 100 children enrolled and over 40 children inviting Christ into their hearts or rededicating their lives to Him.
- a great day of worship at Neighbors Grove. Rev. Ken Reeves, Balfour Baptist pastor, started the service with a a powerful witness. The VBS staff and children led the congregation in worship music. I witnessed the church body minister to a grieving family and sensed the Lord's anointing while preaching. Not sure what the attendance was but the sanctuary looked full. There is such a different spirit in this place from when I arrived 11 months ago.
I have been reminded that:
- one year ago today I closed out our ministry at First Wesleyan in Bessemer City. God continues to bless that congregation as they move forward after our intentional interim ministry with them.
- God gives us opportunities for a ministry of presence when we don't even know it. I received an email today from a widower thanking me for attending his wife's funeral and how much it meant to him to see my face in the audience during the service.
- we need to continually drink from God's spiritual well. As I walked our neighborhood tonight I noticed the grass beginning to turn brown after about 10 days without rain. Earlier this spring we had an abundance of rain, but the grass needs water constantly. So do our souls.
I pray for:
- the Glenn McGrady family in their loss with his sudden death last week. He leaves a sweet five year old daughter, Emma, that will need our love and support.
- our daughter and son-in-law to find God's open doors for ministry and employment as they seek to follow His will for their lives.
- my wife, Pam, to continue to heal from her kidney stone attack and back surgery. We are thankful for seeing God's hand upon her life already.
Well, this post now has three sets of three items each so I guess I will close it out.
May God bless and keep you as you go on mission with Him this week!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
June 7th - Homecoming!! Great day of worship and fellowship. The choir "knocked it out of the park" with their special music and Rev. Luke Jackson returned home and preached with a fresh anointing.
June 14th - Experience has taught me that the week after a BIG day like Homecoming can be a real challenge to get up for. But we had a wonderful spirit in the service as we dedicated for newest baby in the congregation, Garrett Saunders, and honored our R.C.C. graduate, Justin Henderson. Our Intentional Interim focus point this summer is "Connections". We are using this time to reflect on our Wesleyan heritage and doctrine. Therefore, I started a sermon series - Wesleyans Believe In ... Worship attendance was over 100 (great for the summer).
June 21st - The choir sang for the last time before their summer break. They finished strong, doing a great job with some challenging music. Our Youth Director, Chris James, led us in prayer with special attention on our ten teens (largest number in several years) attending Youth Camps this month. There was a sweet spirit in our midst as I preached the sermon, Wesleyans Believe in the Saving Grace of God. Worship attendance was over 100 again.
Missional Measurement - Totals for the second week of reporting are better than I could have imagined. 21 people reported. Knowing that not everyone reported, we can say that that at least 44 conversations were transformed into spiritual conversations. There were at least 57 hours spent in prayer for spiritual needs and blessing others. And at least 125 hours were given in volunteer service to other people or organizations. Neighbors Grove has a bunch of missionaries in the field every week!
Vacation Bible School - Each morning this week we will be having VBS. Most churches offer VBS in the evenings because so many adults work during the day. We are doing VBS during the day for the same reason, because so many adults work during the day. We have had to stretch to get enough staffing but we are determined to offer VBS to all the children enrolled this summer in the Child Development Center and Academy Camp programs. This is another expression of our missional mindset. Though most of our own church children will be enrolled in VBS, we especially want to serve the families of the CDC and Academy.
Church Spotlight - Another part of our "Connections" focus point is to help the congregation appreciate it's place in the larger body of Christ. Over the next several weeks we will be spotlighting one of the other local churches in the area. Either the pastor will make a personal visit or we will share a ministry report from the church and offer special prayer for that congregation. I look forward to this opportunity to highlight what God is doing in other places.
Stay tuned for further ministry updates as we seek to groove with God at Neighbors Grove. We pray that God's Spirit is at work where you are as well.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Well, I was reading a Christianity Today interview of Lee Strobel. This is part of what he said, "The evangelism value leaks away from us faster than any other value in the Christian life. Churches are faced with the problem of having to elevate many different values: Bible study, prayer, community, and so on. Evangelism is [just] one of them. But I haven't run into anybody who says, 'Man, my spiritual life is so dry right now. I feel like I'm in the middle of the desert and, oh, by the way, I have a friend next door who's not a Christian, and I'm really praying for opportunities to reach out to him. I've invited him to lunch next week, and I'm hoping God opens up a chance to talk about spiritual stuff.'"
Why does our evangelism value tend to leak quickly? My opinion is that evangelistic outreach and a missional mindset runs completely contrary to our natural self-centered human tendency.
What do you think? Why is so easy for us to lose our interest in reaching others for Jesus?
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Either you are a minister or you need one.
Either you are a missionary or you need one.
-- John Huffman (Presbyterian pastor)
I will be using this one in the future when I am recasting the missional vision to the NGWC congregation again in a month or so. This vision, like any other, or maybe more than any other, must be refreshed in the minds and hearts of the people about every 30 days.
If you are a pastor reading this - when was the last time you recast the vision to your church people?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Good to Great by Jim Collins
The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham
Collins has written another book that holds promise for potential impact. I found the following review about his new book. Hope to pick it up soon and give it a read.
In his newest title, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins peers into the causes underlying the decline of greatness. In light of our economic plight, one of Collins' observations loudly rings true. He identifies the "undisciplined pursuit of more" as a key stage in the breakdown of a once-mighty business or nation. In doing so, he makes three points worthy of a closer look.
1) Fear Excessive Ambition More Than Idleness
In examining the histories of companies that regressed from great to good, Collins expected complacency or loss of initiative to be a common denominator. Instead, research showed the reverse to be true. As opposed to laziness, "Overreaching much better explains how the once-invincible self-destruct."
Collins points to Rubbermaid to illustrate. In the mid-'90s Rubbermaid committed itself to introducing a new product every day of the year. Although the company won acclaim for innovation, it abandoned cost discipline along the way. In its efforts to develop thousands of new products, Rubbermaid lost its grip on core competencies and eventually sunk into bankruptcy.
2) Do Not Confuse Growth with Excellence
Collins recounts Merck's decline as a cautionary tale of a company who floundered after pursuing a growth-above-all strategy. In 1995, Merck chose growth as its number one organizational objective. Chasing the holy grail of growth, Merck bet heavily on the success of prescription drug, Vioxx at the turn of the century. Bent on expansion, Merck neglected to investigate troubling data on the cardiovascular risks associated with Vioxx. As time went on, concerns about Vioxx became undeniable. Merck did voluntarily pull Vioxx off the shelves, but not before the company had taken a massive PR hit and had suffered a $15 billion drop in market value.
As Collins observes,
"The greatest leaders do seek growth - growth in performance, growth in distinctive impact, growth in creativity, growth in people - but they do not succumb to growth that undermines long-term value. And they certainly do not confuse growth with excellence. Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big."
3) You Grow Only as Fast as You Can Attract the Right People
More often than not, the attempt of a business to grow its operations becomes its undoing. In the words of David Packard, "More companies die of indigestion than of starvation." Why? Most companies don't bring in the right personnel to handle an uptick in business, and they go under as a result. Growth must be staffed with the talent.
Drawing inspiration from HP's co-founder, Collins and his team coined Packard's Law: "No company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company." Internally motivated, self-disciplined people are the foundation for growth. Without them, new business ventures collapse.
In another groundbreaking leadership text, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins has hit upon a root cause of organizational / societal decline: The Undisciplined Pursuit of More. To maintain a healthy sense of discipline, leaders ought to be wary of the hazards of excessive ambition. In a similar vein, leaders must put growth in perspective. Bigger isn't necessarily better. Finally, leaders would be wise to realize that growth has to be fueled by the right people. Otherwise, the expansionist urge will bleed an organization of its resources.
While on the topic of good books - may I ask:
What was the last good book that you read?
When did you read it?
Monday, June 8, 2009
Attendance was 168. Our average attendance for the recent months is around 105. These figures compare to a mid 80s average for the summer months last year. The service had high energy and the sense of the Spirit's presence in our midst. Overall, I felt this was a great day for the church as we near the half way point in our intentional interim journey.
Rev. Luke Jackson, a young man who grew up in the church and who now serves as the Student Ministries Pastor at Mt Zion Wesleyan Church in Thomasville, was our guest speaker. His sister, Creath, and the church choir provided the special music. Luke's message centered on the nature of the God to whom the church prays. I thought this served as a great connection to the intentional interim emphasis of giving the church back to God (signified with the signing of a title deed giving God ownership).
I especially appreciated the closing prayer that Luke prayed over his home church.
"May God give you wet eyes, a broken heart and a bended knee.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen."
Monday, June 1, 2009
In our recent discussions focused on being a missional church we have been using Reggie McNeal’s definition: The people of God partnering with God in His redemptive mission in the world.
During the Mission Possible Pizza Party the Transition Team asked the participants to rate NGWC on a scale of 1 to 10 for having a missional mindset using the above definition. The average rating was 3.6. The participants were then asked to set a goal for where the church should be a year from now. The rating for this goal was 6.5 using the 1 to 10 scale. In other words, a desire for improvement was indicated.
Knowing that this will require the church to change the way some things are done, the Transition Team proposed some changes to the church scorecard. One of the best ways to change behavior is to change what gets counted, to change the scorecard. The L.B.A. agreed to the proposals and yesterday they were presented to the congregation.
1) To nurture a culture in our community of faith in which the importance of mission is continually present the following expectation is implemented throughout the church:
Every Sunday School class and other small group ministry is to have at least two designated “servant evangelism” or “missional” projects per year.
2) Realizing that a missional mindset flows primarily out of our individual lifestyles into the community culture we need a way to have accountability with one another. Therefore, adults and youth attending Sunday School are asked to respond weekly to three questions for the next four months and that the totals be shared with the congregation as a whole.
How many conversations were transformed into spiritual conversations?
How much time was spent in prayer for spiritual needs or blessing others?
How much time was given in individual volunteer service?
Can you think of other changes that a church could make to the scorecard that would emphasize a missional mindset throughout the congregation?