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.
Should we forget tithing? Is it passé? Does it set up an artificial target on which too few people actually agree? Tithing seems like an obvious principle–10 percent of your income–yet too often it becomes a negative point for confusion, rather than an experience of positive passion for celebration.
I know that for many people tithing is a non-negotiable biblical principle. Many who feel this way are from the Silent or Builder generation, with fewer coming from the Baby Boomer generation. Less agreement, I suspect, is found among the younger generations called Baby Busters and the Millennials.
Tithing can also be a restrictive cap on financial discipleship. It can set up an arbitrary goal you seek to achieve, and when you arrive at the tithing finish line you declare your race over. Now you can rest. Now you can put on your Pharisee clothes and be proud that you are not like those non-tithers.
The secret is really not a secret. It is well known by many congregational leaders. But, they do not accept it because they are looking for a magic act that brings quick vitality without deep commitment and persistent action.
Too many congregations are looking for a short-term fix rather than a long-term solution. They want a pastor who is a magician who can help them become something extraordinary without having to change their church in a way that moves it outside their comfortable zone. They want leadership that does not require them to alter their pattern of life, make sacrifices, or confront the fact that they prefer the comfort of their culture to the confrontation of living a prophetic lifestyle.
During a recent conference call as part of the FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community that I lead, I was reminded of the secret to congregational vitality that is clearly known by many Christian leaders, and clearly hidden to those who have not yet experienced it and believe it. It is simple, yet complex. It is easy, yet hard. It can start immediately, yet take years to become sustainable.
When you are looking for a story or saying in the four gospels about the life and ministry of Jesus, which gospel do you go to first? I go to the gospel of John. How about you?
The gospel of John is my favorite gospel. It has been all of my life. When looking for a story or saying about Jesus, I look in John first hoping to find it.
But, I do not read the gospel of John near as much as I once did. I have read a lot in the gospel of Luke over the past decade or so. Recently I have shifted to the gospel of Mark.
A long time ministry colleague--Bob Dale of Virginia--suggested some years ago that the four quadrants of the brain each have one of the four gospel books that reflect the thinking style of that quadrant. In further conversation in a learning community we suggested that birth generations have a theme that also connects with one of the four quadrants and thus also with one of the four gospels.
This was not pop-psychology, but was based on some serious brain research. We had significant dialogue with the creator of a highly accurate thinking style assessment to be sure various implications we were building were foundationally sound. They were.
Anyone who has followed my lifelong trek through the maze of denominational staff service, and consulting and coaching with denominational organizations, knows that I believe in denominations. I also believe they have a future that respects their past and present.
The current era that many people like to call a post-denominational era I describe as a denominational transformation era. Denominations are not going away. They are simply being transformed–or morphed if you prefer–into a new form.
What is this new form? Let’s wait and talk about that later.
Before we can go there we have to talk about things that are no longer part of denominational organizations emerging out of the morphing phase. Many denominational organizations embracing these things are already dying. Way too many current denominations are still doing old things, and do not realize they are surrounded by dead bodies. Perhaps they are best known as the walking dead.
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.