18-19: Decatur First United Methodist Church. 20: Spring Valley Baptist Church [Stewardship] 22: Decatur, FUMC [ConfCall] 23: FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community [ConfCall]. 24: Mennonite Brethren [ConfCall] 26: Congregational Visits [South Carolina]. 27: American Baptist Churches of Vermont/New Hampshire [ConfCall] 28: SVBC [Dinner in the Valley]. 29: Decatur FUMC. 30: FSCLC [Webinar].
2: Spring Valley Baptist, Columbia, SC [Teach Bible Study, Go to Lunch with Class, Attend Deacons Meeting]. 6: FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community [ConfCall]. 9: SVBC [Deacon Ordination and Church Conference]. 10: SVBC [Stewardship]. 13: FSCLC [Webinar]. 16: SVBC [Teach Bible Study, Count Offering]. 16-19: Mennonite Brethren [Phoenix]. 20: FSCLC [ConfCall]. 23: SVBC [Teach Bible Study, Serve Lord's Supper]. 27-12/1: Thanksgiving with Family.
PRAY for the Ebola crisis. Keep in perspective that in spite of all the hype, the USA can handle the crisis in our land. Who most needs our prayers are the countries of West Africa--particularly Liberia. This disease is killing many people, disintegrating families, and severely disrupting the economic of Liberia. It will take many years to recover.
PRAY for Decatur First Baptist Church as it engages in a Spiritual Strategic Journey process. It has a great opportunity to transition and change in response to a dynamic contextual setting of downtown Decatur. Will they be up to challenge? Pray that it may be so!
PRAY for Shelby, NC, First Baptist Church as they craft their future story of ministry. May significant new vitality and vibrancy result from their efforts. They incremental decline has happen over many years, and they must take prophetic action to move forward.
PRAY for the work of the Baptist World Alliance led by Neville Callam, and its North American Baptist Fellowship that I lead, as we anticipate 2014 as a year that will significantly move forward our work among Baptists worldwide. Pray specifically for our NABF's 50th anniversary as celebrate the future of Baptist missional collaboration from the base of North America. The theme is FutureBaptists: A Collaborative Missional Movement.
The FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community has been launched by The Columbia Partnership to empower congregations of all sizes and shapes who are at least one generation old from their founding to develop patterns that allow for continual vitality and vibrancy. We call this FaithSoaring.
Overall Benefit: To be part of a movement of congregational leaders and congregational champions committed to the continual transformation of congregations throughout North America, and empowering them to soar with faith as they seek to reach their full Kingdom potential based on their discernment of God’s vision for them.
If you are ready to join now click HERE. The 12-month fee is $99.
Has a more general, difficult to measure, New Testament-oriented concept called generosity snuffed out the clear, easy to measure, Old Testament concept of tithing?
Let me try that again. Has a left-brained legalism about tithing interpreted as 10 percent of income given way to an even greater, right-brained commitment to generosity that blows past a 10 percent mark?
One more time. Has the giving pattern popularized by the Silent and Builder generations, then questioned by the Baby Boomers generation, given way to a new dimension of giving called generosity and created a reconceptualization of how the Missio Dei is financially supported? Are Baby Busters and Millennials redefining sacrificial giving to the work of God’s kingdom as an issue of generosity rather than tithing?
Many years ago when walking down the hall in the building where I worked, I decided I would stop by Ken’s office and ask about him. It was discovered several months earlier that Ken had a growth behind one of his eyes. The surgery to remove the growth would result in him losing his eye. He had rejected the surgery and sought alternative treatment.
The disease impacted Ken physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He sought religious counsel from sources that were outside what he previously experienced during his life. He announced he had received the gift of speaking in tongues, and he was convinced God would heal him.
We were all praying for him. Although he and I had only known each other for a year, we connected deeply early in my time with this ministry organization. I was really concerned about him, but I was not prepared for what would happen during this visit.
We talked for a few minutes, and then he said he had something special to ask me. He got up and closed his office door, sat down next to me, looked at me and said, “I want to ask you to pray for God to give you the gift of speaking in tongues. It is a wonderful gift. It will change your life as it has mine.”
My first thought was, “Can I make it out the door without him stopping me?”
Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001? I do too. That is a morning very difficult to forget.
I was sitting in the lobby restaurant of a hotel in a major USA city having breakfast with the national director for church planting for a mainline Protestant denomination. We were talking about what it would take for his denomination to move from starting around a dozen new congregations per year to starting 100 per year.
This seemingly impossible goal would take his denomination to the level of starting a number of new congregations each year equal to three percent of the number of congregations they currently had affiliated with them. Three percent is the foundational figure I learned from Lyle Schaller several decades ago. It is a solid figure that is still true for denominations.
Within three years this denomination was starting or having affiliated with it around 80 congregations per year. Within this short time they were experiencing great success.
Twenty-five years ago on September 21, 1989 Hurricane Hugo made landfall in the Charleston, SC area and brought significant destruction in almost two dozen counties. At that time I was working for Baptists in South Carolina and supervised the department that handled disaster response.
One of our responsibilities was to suggest places where mobile industrial kitchens–some contained within 18-wheeler, tractor-trailer rigs–should be set up. With that in mind I recommended that one of the feeding units be stationed on the parking lot of a particular church we will call Hope.
I was leading a strategic planning process with this congregation which decided to relocate seven miles away as it was no longer effective in reaching its community context and was continuing to decline. This all-white congregation had the reputation of not allowing a black person in their building except to make a delivery after which they were to leave immediately. Their community context was 99 percent black and the church’s reputation was well known.
A quote similar to this title can be found in many places attributed to various people. The exact quote and who said it first is not the point of this article. The meaning of the quote is the point.
To me it means that if you are willing to empower others who do same or similar work you do to serve the same or similar clients you serve, then your desire is for your current and future clients to succeed more than for you to succeed. If you have to be the one who is helping them succeed, then you have made yourself the client for the leaders, teams, or organizations with whom you are working.
In this article I choose to apply the meaning of this quote to those persons and organizations helping congregations achieve vitality and vibrancy as Christ-centered, faith-based communities. It really does not matter who gets the credit as long as congregations are empowered in response to God’s call upon their life and ministry.
As President of The Columbia Partnership [TCP] that is the stance we are taking with our new initiative called FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community. This is a learning community for congregational leaders plus the congregational champions who work with them as third-party providers in their effort to respond to God’s leading and to be on a purposeful, significant, and intentional spiritual and strategic journey.
Since they only plan to wade into the shallow end of the pool, or a few feet into the river, lake or ocean, the typical congregational participant only needs to remove their shoes and socks. And we are not talking about feet washing here.
They have no plans to change into a swimsuit and get fully immersed in water, to swim in the deep end above their heads, or to allow the currents or the ocean’s undertow to challenge them. And we are not talking about baptism here.
Shallow congregations, like people who only wade into shallow water, only plan to lead people connected with them into a Christian lifestyle that gives them just enough Jesus to get their feet wet. That is not enough to call for a full commitment to a Christ-like lifestyle, and an ever deeper journey into a Christian community characterized by significant discipleship and mutual accountability.
A previous post spoke to the shallow and private nature of many Christians–That’s Between Me and God [And God Ain’t Talkin’]. That post suggested congregations often lack a commitment to open sharing, personal accountability, and meaningful community. Such a posture leads to an overall shallow congregation.
Recently I spent a couple of days with Samuel Tolbert, the pastor/teacher of Greater St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles, LA. [See the church at www.gsmmbc.net.] I have known Sam for a half-dozen years or so, but this was the first time I had an opportunity to be with him in his place of ministry.
I did not notice until after our visit that on the back side of his calling card is the following: “Mission Statement: Greater St. Mary will bring people to Jesus and Membership in His family, develop them to Christ-like Maturity, and equip them for their Ministry in the church and life Mission in the world, in order to Magnify God’s name.”
I did not need to read that statement to know that Sam is living out the mission and vision God has for his congregation. It is obvious in everything he says and all the actions he takes. He is the embodiment of that mission statement. It is obvious he has a clear vision from God about the life and ministry of his congregation not only in its community context, but throughout the world.
Back in the 1970s a lot of congregational prognosticators warned that the Church, in general, was in the process of losing a whole demographic generation known as Baby Boomers. Existing congregations, new congregations, and denominational approaches to ministry were losing the ability to appeal to this numerically largest generation ever born in North America. Generally the birth years of this generation were 1946 through 1964.
As this generation approached their 20s during the 1960s they became a generation known for their rock music, pursuit of mind altering drugs, guilt free sexual love, and demand for peace. While not nearly all—or even a majority—of this generation connected with all these issues, the segment of the Baby Boomers who did was loud. They rejected institutions and authority and saw the Church, in general, and congregations, specifically, fitting into their perception of irrelevant.
I was part of this generation, but missed out on most of the experiences. The only parts that infected me was a pro-peace bias, a belief popularized by Jacques Ellul that institutions do violence to individuals, and some learnings from Saul Alinsky about community organizing that have helped me work with congregations to organize them as social systems.
When natural or other types of disasters strike, disaster response organizations quickly send the first wave of relief workers to the disaster zone. They carry with them enough supplies to last from a few hours to a few days depending on the situation.
In a short time their response could end if behind them essential supply lines are not set up. These supply lines include—among other things—new rounds of workers staged to arrive every few days, food and water for those impacted by the disaster and those working in the disaster zone, specialized equipment and material, expertise in how to appropriately use these resources, security for the disaster workers, and financial backing for the disaster response.
These supply lines should not include truckloads of used clothing and other commodities people believe ought to be needed in the disaster zone, but are not. Yet these come anyway. Supply lines should also not include disaster tourists unless they are vetted, trained, and come ready to work.
Wise disaster response organizations prepare before a disaster to handle all of these situations so that supply lines with appropriate travel lanes are set up literally overnight. They either have the capacity to do this directly, or they have collaboration partnerships set up that populate their supply lines.
What’s going on when you ask a Christian about a specific practice of discipleship in their life and they say, “That is between me and God”? Perhaps nothing unusual. Or, perhaps a whole bunch of evasive things. What do you think?
Legitimately some people are very private about their practice of Christian discipleship, they are shy about sharing, genuinely humble about boasting, or truly believe it is inappropriate pride to talk about their practices. These people do hold an annual gathering in the telephone booth at the corner of West 47th and K Street in some major city in North America, but I cannot remember which one.
I suspect the vast majority of people who will not share about their practice of Christian discipleship are hiding the fact that their answer will not be an acceptable one, and they do not want to lie. They would rather hide behind God than lie.