Jesus on Strategic Visioning

Jesus on Strategic Visioning

Building a congregation’s life around a clear vision and purpose is an easy thing to believe in. Aligning that purpose with biblical teaching and witness is an agreeable notion. I seldom encounter a leader or leadership group who resists the idea that the path toward a vibrant and engaging congregation is to embody God’s mission in clear, dynamic and powerful ways. The problems emerge when we begin to talk about the HOW of living out God’s call to be his people on a mission. Like barnacles on a ship, our preferences, traditions, icons, and cultural accommodations have encrusted the mission and threaten to smother it. I’ve been thinking about using Jesus as a model for how to live out a clear and compelling mission. In his life and practices, perhaps there are some insights for us in our struggle to stay true to our calling. How about this for a list of healthy habits of congregations on a mission? Solitude: Jesus knew the value of time spent with a compass rather than a calendar. He repeatedly frustrated those who prized efficiency. From the beginning, he was prone to pull back from the limelight and reconnect with the divine dream and mission. Rather than allow others to sway his agenda and trajectory, he clearly defined who he was and what he came to do. The wilderness was his friend, and solitude was a regular habit. Planning and preparation claimed a healthy portion of his time. Relentless adherence: For the kingdom vision to take root, Jesus found it imperative to avoid every temptation to water down or diverge from the vision...
Courage to Become

Courage to Become

I’ll never forget August 3, 1995. The family and I were in Destin, Florida with good friends. We vacationed here regularly during the child-rearing years. We did the same thing every summer. We had our place to stay, our spot on the beach, and our list of restaurants we loved. The image has never left me—the water was literally “rocking” in the commode! I was searching for a “safe” place for us in the condominium. Hurricane Erin was making landfall on the Florida panhandle. For most of that week, we followed its route from its origin in the Atlantic Ocean across the Florida peninsula, projecting along with the “experts” the path it would take. All along, convincing ourselves that this year would be like every year. We could expect our experiences in the past would prove to be so again. The weather channels predicted a Texas coast event. However, all residents and tourists were encouraged by local authorities to evacuate. Despite the warning of Southeastern Conference basketball expert, Joe Dean, the night before at a local restaurant, we still decided to stay put and do nothing. At 2 a.m., Erin turned due north, straight toward Fort Walton Beach, leaving us just to the east of landfall at 8:30 a.m., August 3. We were scared, all day long. Hurricanes come early and stay late. They aren’t like tornadoes. Suffice it to say, though shaken, we were not hurt. A section of the roof from our condo struck our van. Thankfully, it was still drivable and we made it home. I will never make that mistake again. Today’s church finds itself...
Faith & The Arts – New York

Faith & The Arts – New York

Jay Lynn Executive Director / Pastor St. Martin Baptist Fellowship www.stmartinbaptist.org Faith Foundry Studio www.faithfoundrystudio.com Dear Friends, Join us May 15-18, 2017 as we explore the many facets of creative expression in the Big Apple, New York City, focusing particularly on ways in which the Arts can be integrated into faith communities. Bring your curiosity (and your walking shoes) for some of the following experiences: (Specific events and venues may change as plans continue to develop) Exploring the biblical history of the arts and the use of individual artistic gifts in a ministry setting in partnership with Marble Collegiate Church Worship together through music in jazz vespers. Central Park and its prolific works of sculpture and inspiring venues. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and its vast collections of works in the visual arts Attending a performance of The Most Reluctant Convert, C.S. Lewis’ journey from atheism to faith at the Fellowship for The Performing Arts, followed by a Q&A session with the production team. Reflections on architecture and design at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, The Cloisters, and Riverside Church Designing experiences with an emotional impact at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum All of the experiences will involve aspects of presentation, observation, and reflection, guided by Learn By Going staff or on-site subject experts. For more information, go to www.learnbygoing.com Where do you want to learn?...
I Beg to Differ

I Beg to Differ

When Dr. Bill Wilson asked me to join him and others as he was founding the Center for Healthy Churches, he explained that the main focus of our work was to be four-fold: visioning, pastoral transitions, staff development and conflict engagement. While honored by his invitation, I told him I wanted no part of the ‘conflict’ work. He has recruited other folks who do that kind of work, and they do it well. But the truth is that no one of us and no church can escape conflict altogether. It happens in business when partners disagree. It happens in sports where players and coaches dispute the call of a referee or umpire. It happens in our families when there are misunderstandings. It happens when teachers at school assign a grade someone thinks is unfair. It happens when there is an accident and everyone points at someone else. It happens in Congress when ideologies clash over policy. Much of what takes place in court rooms is born out of conflict, and lawyers are paid large sums to help their clients win a settlement. With due respect to those who make a living in the practice of law, my dad used to say “If we didn’t have the first lawyer, we would not have needed the second one; but once you get yours, I have to get mine.” What he was saying is that we need someone who knows the system to argue our case for us. No one ever wants to lose in a dispute or conflict. Our son-in-law practiced law for seventeen years. He did a lot of good...
Why I Love the Church

Why I Love the Church

My mother-in-law died twenty-five years ago.  One of my wife’s brothers, also a pastor, preached the eulogy.  His title for his message was, “How the Church Saved My Family.”  In it he described his mother’s home life as a child.  He held nothing back as he explained his grandfather was an alcoholic who abused his wife and two daughters, one of which was his mother.  It was a bleak description. But he also told of a small neighborhood church that loved his mother and nurtured her through her teenage years.  Did they know what went on in that house?   No one knows.  But they did love her and provided a sense of family and normalcy that she didn’t find in her own home.  When she married my father-in-law, it was after morning worship.  Following the benediction, everyone sat down, the pianist played the bridal march and my mother-in-law walked down the aisle, dressed in white.  All the members of the church family were the guests. My brother-in-law explained how that little church saved his mother by their love.  They didn’t simply talk about God’s love; they lived it.  And because my mother-in-law experienced true love, she was able to provide a stable family life for my wife and her two brothers. I still think it was the most profound funeral messages I’ve ever heard.  I’ve thought about it many times and reflected on how it applied it to my life.   My mother died when I was six.  We lived a couple hundred miles from family and my father could not raise my sister and me by himself.  The family...
Is your church making you healthy or sick?

Is your church making you healthy or sick?

When our grandson was 10 months old, he underwent a medical emergency. His immune system was compromised and his body was under assault from an infection. He needed immediate treatment and the diagnosis called for him to receive intravenous immunoglobulin. This is a concentrated dose of antibodies, extracted from blood plasma, which helped his body fight off the illness. Within 48 hours, his high fever and other symptoms responded to the treatment, and he came through that traumatic experience in good health. In talking with the doctors and nurses during his hospital stay, I learned that one dose of immunoglobulin is derived from the donated blood of more than 1,000 blood donors. This collection of antibodies from the donated blood provides what the patient’s body cannot: defense against infection. As we marveled at the efficiency of the treatment, the knowledge of the medical professionals, and the healing touch of God’s providential love, I came away struck by how congregations provide much of the same hope and healing for one another. Despite our illusions, none of us are capable of living the life God has called us to alone.  We all need someone, some group, some community to help us fulfill God’s dream for our life. We may be extraordinarily gifted, wealthy, wise, self-sufficient and independent, but in the end, it will not be enough. There will be a day, if there has not been already, when you will come to a point where you cannot stand alone. Our grandson benefited from hundreds of people donating their blood so that others could be blessed their healthy blood. The extraction of...
Preaching from the Purple Pulpit

Preaching from the Purple Pulpit

Except in very rare cases, there is always a bit of tension between a pastor and his/her congregation when it comes to preaching, especially prophetic preaching. We all know a few congregations where a liberal pastor and liberal congregation seem to be perfectly matched.  We also know a few conservative churches where the same is true.  But we also know how few and far between such perfect matches are, and we suspect that even those pastors hear from an angry parishioner at the back door of the church every once in a while. For most of us who preach, however, the context is quite different.  We preach in congregations that some are calling “purple” churches: neither all “red” (conservative) or all “blue” (liberal).  We preach to pews filled with Republicans and Democrats, with a sprinkling of Independents and Libertarians added in. This inherent tension between pulpit and pew has escalated dramatically in some churches over the last few weeks as the Trump administration has begun to implement its agenda. Some congregations – and pastors – are already showing signs of being stretched to the breaking point. The question many of us who are pastors find ourselves asking is, “How do I do this?  How do I engage the issues the Spirit has laid on my heart and maintain my relationship with these people I love … even if I disagree with them sometimes?” There is, of course, no “one size fits all” answer to these questions.  Every pastor finds him/herself in a unique context and will have to balance many factors in play in that particular congregation. There are, however, some...
Pastor: A Unique, Contextual Calling

Pastor: A Unique, Contextual Calling

While searching for a particular volume in my library, another book caught my attention. The Pastor: A Memoir, by Eugene Peterson, is an inspiring autobiographical account of what it means to be called to pastoral ministry and to live out that vocation in a unique community. This book has inspired me to reaffirm my calling with fresh perspective. While Peterson is known to many primarily for his popular Bible translation called The Message, his most significant contribution to my world has been his writings about pastoral work.  Years ago I read three of Peterson’s books about pastoral ministry:  Five Smooth Stones of Pastoral Work, The Contemplative Pastor, and Under the Unpredictable Plant.  In a church world that looks to the pastor to be the CEO, a chaplain-on-demand, or an ecclesial entrepreneur, Peterson reminds ministers and churches that a pastor is more like a spiritual director, a “soul friend” who walks alongside others pointing out what God is doing in their life. In a fast paced world, where a competitive consumerist culture has invaded the church, pastors are often expected to be an idealistic combination of captivating motivational speaker, savvy executive/administrator, and extraordinary counselor.  But the call to be a pastor is unique.  There is no other vocation like it. Veteran pastor Hardy Clemons reminds us that the church is to be “more family than corporation.”  Clemons reminds pastors and churches of their peculiar mission: Our goal is to minister: it is not to show a profit, amass a larger financial corpus or grow bigger for our own security. The ultimate goals are to accept God’s grace, share the good...
BEing the Church

BEing the Church

Not long ago, a friend asked the question “When is a time you felt lonely, confused, hurt, or angry, and it was the church the saved or helped you?”  As I considered my answer to this question, several memories came to mind: The day that we had a miscarriage and our pastor and their spouse came to our house and held our hands and cried with us.  They didn’t try to say the right thing.  They hugged us, cried with us, told us how sorry they were and how sad it was.  Then they went and bought dinner and brought it back to the house for us. The day my brother died – I was living 2,000 miles away and my husband was traveling home from out of the country and was unreachable.  A good friend just happened to call me minutes after I got the call about my brother.  When I told her what had just happened, she stayed on the phone with me for over an hour, and she and her husband helped me make the travel arrangements to get us across the continent, including arranging for a car for us once our flight landed. When going through a particularly difficult time with a child, a friend texted with dates for us to choose from when she would stay with our kids and give us a night away. When our preschooler broke his arm, we arrived home from the hospital to a couple from our church waiting on us with dinner for our family. Upon learning that we had just received devastating news, our pastor drove until...
Dr. Joel Snider to Join CHC Consultant Team

Dr. Joel Snider to Join CHC Consultant Team

The Center for Healthy Churches (CHChurches.org) is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Joel Snider to its team of consultants. Snider retired in 2016 after 40 years in active ministry, and spent the last 21 years as pastor of First Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia. Joel has an active coaching practice with a wide variety of clients, including ministers, small business owners, and financial planners.  In his work with CHC, Joel will focus on creating a faith development ministry with young families and churches, in addition to consulting for minister search committees and congregational health. With a Ph.D. in preaching, Joel is also available to coach those who want to grow in their preaching skills.   Joel serves as chair of the board of Directors for the Community Foundation for Greater Rome and is a member of the Floyd County Hospital Authority.  He and his wife, Cherry, have two two daughters and 3 grandchildren. He is currently working on a resource for parenting entitled, Seven Conversations to Change Your Family. CHC Director Bill Wilson says: “Joel Snider represents the kind of pastor I think of when I think of a healthy church and a healthy pastoral leader. His track record shows how his intellect and insights have been translated into effective and meaningful ministry.  I am so pleased that we will be able to offer his wisdom and leadership to a national audience.” Snider said: “I believe in the church, and I am pleased to partner with CHC as an organization that supports congregational ministry and shares common values about leadership style and healthy relationships.” The addition of this new service...