Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm nearly at a loss for words

I know that may sound odd for me, but it is true. Last night my Theology and Practice of Worship class led the chapel service at Nazarene Theological Seminary. It was an interesting chapel, and I won't go into the mechanics. Rather, what I wanted to talk about was what happened during that service.

We issued an invitation for people to come up and be anointed for healing. At first, no one came, and then it was as if a dam burst. We had more than a dozen people come forward and ask for anointing. What is still spinning in my head is that I was one of the ones doing the anointing, and that was the first time I had done that. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

To have someone stand before you and ask to be anointed truly puts the "Priesthood of all believers" into an entirely different context. I was the emissary of Christ in that moment, anointing their head for a healing they were praying for. It was awe-inspiring and incredibly humbling at the same time. My head is still having a difficult time comprehending all that we did, but I know, in that moment, the power of the Holy Spirit felt more real to me than it had in a long time. It's not anything that I did. Rather it's the contrary. The Holy Spirit was able to use me with all of my infirmities, weaknesses and fears, to minister to people who needed to feel the healing touch of God. I'm still nearly choked up when I think about it.

I am so glad that God brought me to this place. It's scary and challenging, but I can't wait to see what is next. It's an incredible journey so far.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Keys for a Minister to Long-Term Ministry

Another good thought from The OOZE.

Key’s for Minister’s Aspiring for Long Term Ministries
By Phil Fairchild

1. Think Long-Term: Not Short-Term—Plan to remain in one church for the duration of your ministry or the rest of your life.

2. Honor God's Timing: Whatever the actual length of one's ministry in a given location, one of the most important things is to honor God's timing. The only way you will move is if God's timing indicates otherwise.

3. Don’t Be Reactive: The pain, hurt, failure and rejection you feel may or may not be real at all. It may simply be an over-reaction to negative—but "normal"—ministry experiences.

4. Prayerfully Seek God’s Direction: There are, I believe, two types of "prayer-led" Christians. They are the "Direction Seekers" and the "Direction Givers. Direction Seekers are those who pray genuinely seeking God’s direction for decision and His blessing. Direction Givers are those who make their decision first, then decide to pray to God tell Him what they’ve done—and what He must do. Long-term preacher must be driven by the experience of God’s answer to prayer, not by self-driven motivators

5. Think Vision: The quickest way to bring the possibility for a long, vibrant ministry to an end is to avoid casting a vision. Unless leaders continually cast the vision, the real challenges and opportunities needed to be addressed by long-term ministry may never surface. Vision also creates euphoria, purpose, and greater dependence on the leadership. It is that healthy dependency which forms the basis for a leadership team which is empowered, energized and equipped to aspire and attain God’s vision for the congregation.

6. Don’t Be Driven By Numbers And Externals: This does not mean to ignore them. Nor is it an excuse to avoid appropriate accountability. Instead, this advice is directed to look toward trends and movements, not "blips" and "bleeps." Numbers will rise and fall. Programs will come and go. Long-term preachers understand that ministry is more than numbers or programs. Instead, it’s the holistic effect of all the experiences of the unique journey of faith which God leads the congregation to experience.

7. Learn About and Love the Community: If you and your family don’t and can’t love where you are, you will likely not experience a long-term pastorate in that place. Long-term preachers allow themselves and their families to participate in the community. They love their community and support it, knowing that there is no place else on earth that God would have them minister. They are not just called to take care of the church. They are there to make an impact on the community, too.

8. Climb Off The Career Ladder: There are at least four problems with preachers climbing the professional ladder. It takes your feet off the solid ground and makes you susceptible to falling, takes you away from where you are supposed to be, gives you a fantasy-based view of the "greener grass" on the other side, and fuels and feeds a "built-in" "I’m outta here ASAP" mode of thinking.
Certainly God can and does call individuals to positions of greater responsibility and authority in the church. But it’s His calling—not our selfish, narcissistic impatient covetous—which should draw God’s chosen toward these positions.

9. Learn To Deal With Problems: Many preachers flee churches with problems. Every church, every ministry, has struggles. The most difficult problems, perhaps, are those which cannot be solved immediately…or at all. Some things can’t or won’t change. Learn them; deal with them, live with them. In many cases, the first step to dealing with congregational problems is to identify, learn and deal with one’s own personal issues

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I'm taking Theology of Worship, which had quickly become a very fun class for me. Dr. Schwanz, who teaches it, is a great deal of fun as well as being a masterful worship leader. But what he has done for me is give me an appreciation for the richness of worship that I haven't felt for a long time.

Like any seminary class we deal in the possible. We don't deal with the limitations of our situation, the time constraints, musicians etc that are part of reality. Instead we deal with what worship could be and should be. Which is far more comfortable for me.

What I do know is that if God wants me to become a solo/senior pastor, I will be very intentional about how worship is led for the congregation. Worship should allow the congregation to express itself toward God in the ways that best suits the congregation.

I know this seems obtuse, but there are a lot of thoughts going through my head that I am struggling to put into a coherent form. Watch this space for more later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Carmen Sandiego has a much cooler name

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We could play where in the USA is Roy, but after the driving day, I've been in Kansas City since Sunday. I'm down here for two weeks for two modular classes - Theology of Worship and Spiritual and Personal Formation of the Minister - which occupy my mornings and evenings. My spare time, other than this afternoon, is reading, completing assignments, and occasional sleep. It's tiring but fun.

I'm pleasantly surprised by my worship class. Worship has been a struggle for me for a while, and this class has opened my eyes to some things I had forgotten as well as some new things that are making worship far more alive than it had recently been. I realize Deb should be taking the class, since she is on the worship team at our church, but here I am furiously taking notes.

Pray for us. God seems to be preparing us for something that I'm not quite sure how to describe. It's as if I feel movement but I don't know where the movement is going. I'm sure it will be a good thing, but it can be unsettling. The last time this sort of movement occurred, we didn't recognize it for what it was and fought it. I'd like to avoid a repeat of that. Walking in stride with God, neither ahead nor behind, is my goal. But its not easy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A good thought from The Ooze

This thread on The OOZE has some thoughts worth sharing on the relationship between a church and its pastor. As I move forward in my call to ministry, these become more real to me. I've copied them below:

Keys for Churches Aspiring Long-term Ministries
By. Phil Fairchild

1 Thessalonians 5:12&13—12But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

1. Pray For Your Preacher: He is a target for the devil. You have a responsibility before God to hold your preacher in prayer, and seek God's protection over his life. Assure him of your love and prayers and as you do your part faithfully, the Lord will lead and guide, and strengthen him for his important work. This is the greatest gift you can give him.

2. Be Reasonable in Your Expectations: Too many people expect the preacher to be everything from all the shepherding & evangelistic calls to editing materials & teaching classes to doing secretarial, janitorial, and lawn care work. God has given specific instructions about what a preacher is supposed to be. Let him be it, and protect the calling and anointing God has placed upon his life. Allow him to carry out his function without frustration.

3. Be Team Players: Forget about the old game of Us vs. Them. Accept the preacher as a part of the leadership of the church. Consider him and equal among the Elders.

4. Let Your Preacher Dream His Own Dreams and Let Him Lead: Expect that your preacher will have a vision for the future and don’t expect it to necessarily be tied to the past. It may be something completely new. Pray that God would make that vision clear, not just to the preacher but to all the leaders and that when it is made clear that there would be an effort of unity to move toward that vision. Give him your allegiance; follow him as he follows Christ. He needs your support.

5. Hold onto the Vision: Once the leadership team has prayed, sought, and caught God’s vision for the church hang onto it tightly and never waiver.

6. Handle Conflict Quickly: Use the Biblical pattern of Matthew 18:15-17. Don’t immediately side with whoever is against the preacher. Just because they’ve been there forever and the preacher hasn’t doesn’t make them right.

7. Commit to Stand with Him through Hard Times: You know hard times and difficult times eventually come, conflict is inevitable in most places, because we are human beings. Be committed to the preacher for the long haul.

8. Don’t Let the Critic Run the Church: Christ is the head of the church and has placed the leadership team in their position, given them His vision for the church, and the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them through prayer and Bible Study. Remind the critic of this and the fact that they are to make carrying out leadership a joy and not a burden.

9. Compensate Him Appropriately: Preachers and their families have the same financial needs as everyone else in the congregation. In fact, they often have more expenses, because of the needs of visiting people and ministering to them. Consider selling or renting the parsonage and allow the minister to buy a home in the community and not only establish roots but build up equity.

10. Give Him a Concise Job Description and Contract and Stick with It: Your preacher must know what is expected of him and it must not be added to without mutual agreement. Sign a contract with him, one that both parties are to fulfill and not renege on.

11. Keep Him Apprised of Opportunities to Minister: Don't expect mystical premonitions. Keep the preacher informed about the various needs in the church family.

12. Assist Your Preacher in Ministry: Volunteer to accompany your preacher on visits or Bible studies. Cut out and share articles and illustrations to enhance the messages from the pulpit. Give him/her a copy of your favorite book, or a gift certificate to the closest Bible bookstore.

13. Take Your Own Spiritual Growth Seriously: He wants to hear is that you are growing in your walk with Christ. This is why he is in ministry, he wants to see people come to Christ and grow in Christ. He takes your spiritual growth seriously and one of the greatest encouragements to him is to see you taking it as seriously as he does.

14. Allow the Preacher to Have a Life Outside of Church: Respect his day off, encourage him to take all of his vacation, and allow him to go home to be with him family on special occasions and holidays.

15. Respect His Privacy and Time: So often, being a preacher is a 24-hour a day job. Granted, there are always emergencies that come up at the most inopportune times, but remember he needs time to study, time to pray, time to rest, and time to be with his family.

16. Let Your Preacher and His Wife Know You Appreciate Them: A kind, or encouraging word, a card, or even a small gift will work wonders to build up your pastor and help him to continue in the calling God has given him.

17. Take the Initiative in Communicating with the Preacher’s Family: Invite them home for dinner. At times, include them in some of your family trips and excursions of fun. Make sure the church family remembers the preacher on special occasions, such as Christmas, birthdays, and farewell events. Let them find in you a harbor of love and acceptance. In this atmosphere, strive to help them succeed as the Savior's ambassadors.

18. Let Him Be Himself: Expect differences from anyone and everyone who has ever been in this position before. If he is unusually funny, great—if they are unusually serious, that's okay too. Just let him be who he is by the grace of God. Appreciate his uniqueness as a person.

19. Care for the Preacher's Wife: They are often the unsung heroes. They are most often overlooked. Let her be herself. Don't anticipate a certain personality type. Don't expect that she will necessarily invest herself in ministry here. Don’t expect her to be doing particular ministries or be like former preacher's wife. Just love her into finding her place.

20. Develop a Genuine, Authentic Relationship with Your Preacher: Not one of facades. Sincerely assure them that you are their friend. Be inclusive and don't treat them as unapproachable. This will develop a community of love that is recognized as a unique, warm, innovative church family.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My vote may actually matter

For the first time in my memory, the Michigan primary will not just be a formality, at least on the Republican side. All of the major Republican candidates have been inundating us with phone calls and mail for a couple weeks now. The only viable Democrat on the ballot is Hillary Clinton, since the others bowed to the party leaders and withdrew their names after Michigan dared ask that our primary not occur after the issue is decided.

So here are our choices, from a slightly cynical point of view.

Mitt Romney - son of former Michigan governor, businessman, savior of Salt Lake City Olympics and former Massachusetts Governor. Mr. Romney is noted for his malleability on positions of interest to the Religious Right.

Mike Huckabee - former Arkansas Governor (yikes), Baptist preacher and darling of the Religious right. Notable for his fondness for tax hikes and pardoning prisoners who later commit additional crimes.

John McCain - Vietnam Vet (not again), prisoner of war, Senator from Arizona noted for his ability to vote against President Bush's tax cuts, vote for fuel economy standards that will hurt the domestic automakers and passage of the incumbent protection act known as McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

Rudy Guiliani - former Mayor of New York, September 11, 2001 icon whose personal life is a train wreck. He is avowedly pro-choice but a strict constructionist on judges. He was a tax cutter as mayor and cleaned up the porn shops and prostitutes in Times Square while dramatically lowering the crime rate in the Big Apple. Religious Right says he is not family-friendly, despite record of cleaning up city.

Fred Thompson - Former Senator from TN, and actor on Law and Order, The Hunt for Red October etc. He may be the most genuinely conservative candidate running, but his lack of "oomph" leaves many wanting more.

Ron Paul - Member of Congress from Texas and this year's Ross Perot.

So which of the seriously flawed candidates do I vote for? I won't tell you, but it isn't Hillary.

We are picking a leader to run our country for 4 years, and it is a 2-year process to do so. There are no easy choices this year. But at least my vote will mean something.

Is our Gospel too small?

A recent Christianity Today article has me thinking about the Gospel we preach. Is the Gospel we preach like a bowl of Lima Beans and bland? I know few people who get excited about eating lima beans. I eat them, but I wouldn't special order them. I sort of tolerate them as filler in with other vegetables in a medley. Is that the Gospel we preach today?

Quoting from the article:

"How could it be, some believers might balk, that "the hope of the world," the One given "the name above every name," could ever seem bland? Well, because often the church is bland. Pale. Gullible. Pasty. Just there. The fruit of this vine appears to be lima beans. If bland is the flavor of the church, then it is presumed to be the flavor of the One the church calls Lord.

This anemic image of Jesus has many adherents, both in and outside the church. Their innocuous Jesus is the result of social, political, economic, and spiritual accommodation. Who needs more from Jesus than some simple stories of a loving example? To go further would be zealous, and to be religiously zealous is definitely not a current cultural ideal. Those in the church who stand out are often seen as intolerant and intolerable. Better the disdainfully bland than the dangerously zealous.

It's a misstep, some would say, to take Jesus—his example and his teaching—too seriously. To do so is to get too close to all those details that hound religious specialists, breed religious acrimony, and cause war. Jesus from 10,000 feet away is close enough. The Google Earth view of Jesus identifies only the most prominent features of his life and teachings, bringing nothing too close and taking nothing too seriously. Such a Jesus may be vaguely interesting, but he is consigned to blandness and faint praise."

The church is bland and lacks spice. I'm surprised he didn't say that it has lost its saltiness. That would tie right back into one of Jesus' admonitions. Not that the church needs to be the coolest, hippest, spiciest thing out there. But we have a message of revolutionary love that is like nothing that the world has to offer. The Creator of the Universe wants to dwell with us an in us. He wants to make it so that we can have communion with Him and live in the power of His Love. That is spicy, not bland.

As you may have read, our congregation is in the process of securing our first building. This has me asking "how has the place where we corporately worshiped shaped what we do?" Have the limitations of space and availability taken some of the zing out of our Gospel? If so, how do we remove the blandness and present a full gospel with all of the excitement, hope and passion that our Lord brought to us?

Pray for our tribe as we sort through this transition time. Jesus deserves a robust gospel presentation, not lima beans.

Monday, January 14, 2008

God is still moving

Here a just a couple snippets from the Mexico and Central America region of the Church of the Nazarene. Bernie Slingerland and Milton Gay, both mentioned in the stories, were missionaries who shepherded us on our 2005 Jesus Film trip to Guatemala.

New Church planters

Maxima Mission reaches 5th anniversary

Pray for these folks. God is moving in this region, and great things are happening.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Disenfanchised Voters

It seems to me that only Democrats talk about disenfranchisement, and then only when they lose. Think back to the Bush-Gore 2000 Florida fiasco. Gore was screaming about disenfranchisement, even though all of the counties in question had elections run by Democrats. Now Hillary is saying that the caucus format disenfranchises voters. She may be right, but there is an elephant in the room that the Democrats seem to be ignoring. I think she doesn't like the format because she doesn't win with it. But that is my opinion.

Here in Michigan, Hillary is the only leading Democrat on the Jan 15 primary ballot. The rest removed their names because Michigan moved its primary up on the calendar into the sacred slots given only to Iowa and New Hampshire. Imagine that. A state going through a one-state recession/depression wanting to have its issues debated and its voice heard. Perish the thought.

So how do the bastions of fairness and "let every vote count" react to this heresy? Why, they strip the state of its delegates for violating party rules. If that isn't disenfranchisement, I don't know what is. But the same people screamed when the Supreme Court applied the constitution to their selective recount in Florida. It's OK to trash the constitution, but not the party rules. That is the new Democrat mantra.

Hypocrisy is such an ugly thing when it is exposed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Do you have a bucket list?

By now you have probably seen the advertisements for the movie "The Bucket List." It has me thinking about a list of things I would like to do before I "kick the bucket." So here is my list, in no particular order.

1. Visit Machu Piccu. It is an ancient Incan village in Peru at an elevation of 7900+ feet. It takes several days to get there on foot through a series of tunnels, bridges and narrow paths. It just looks awesome to me. It predates Columbus' discovery of the New World and is remarkably well-preserved. I've seen some Mayan ruins in Guatemala, and I would like to visit Tikal, but Machu Piccu trumps Tikal by far.

2. Visit the Missionaries of Charity mission in Calcutta, India. This is the mission founded by Mother Teresa to care for the poor, sick and dying members of India's lower castes. This is from Wikipedia: "Missionaries care for those who include refugees, ex-prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, AIDS victims, the aged, and convalescent. They have schools run by volunteers to educate street children, they run soup kitchens, as well as many other services as per the communities' needs. They have 19 homes in Kolkata alone which include homes for women, for orphaned children, and for the dying; an AIDS hospice, a school for street children, and a leper colony. These services are provided to people regardless of their religion."

3. Fly an airplane solo. I would love to get my pilot's license, but I've never devoted the time or money to that cause.

4. See my girls grow up and live God-honoring lives. That is all I can ask.

5. See Mount Everest. I have no desire to climb it. This stocky, middle-aged flatlander was sucking wind in Colorado. I believe my lungs would explode on Everest.

That pretty much sums up my list. There are a few things I would like to see AFTER I kick the bucket too. I'm hoping God has some sort of video archive of stuff I read about in the Bible. There are some things that would make for great viewing there.

Happy New Year

Last year I shared with you my resolutions for the new year. I apologize for the delay this year, I think I may be operating on the Julian calendar.

I did a reasonable job of keeping my resolutions from last year. I do note progress in being more accepting of my Christian brothers and sisters who worship in a different manner. My Theology of Worship class that I am currently taking will help with that as well.

Here are my plans for the new year.

1. Continue to plow ahead with my seminary education. I transferred to Nazarene Theological Seminary this year and am taking 8 credit hours this spring. At this pace, by this time next year, I will be nearly 50% done with my MDiv degree.

2. Actively begin seeking a formal ministry role. This February I will have the opportunity to renew my ministry license. With the progress on my degree and my second year of licensure, I need to begin looking at ministry opportunities that will count toward the experience necessary for ordination. I'm not sure where or when to begin this, but I do know that the Lord is moving me in that direction.

3. Find ways to impact the community around me. It may be as simple as helping my neighbors and sharing the love of Christ with them. It may be more complicated than that. But I will do what God leads me to do.

4. Be more intentional about sharing my ministry call with my family. My wife and kids will play a huge role in how the Lord uses me in ministry, and I want them to be fully on board with what the Lord is calling us to do.

I have a lot of optimism for this year. I pray that the Lord will continue to be central in my life as he calls me into a new phase of life.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Maybe these explain the Detroit Lions

Let's get this straight. Matt Millen is 31-81 as President of the Detroit Lions. what is the logical thing to do to fix this sorry situation? Fire the offensive coordinator of course! Then promote the offensive line coach, who had 2 guys in the top 5 in sacks allowed, to offensive coordinator. That my friends is Lions Logic.

I wish I knew how to quit this team.

These fine posters from pretty much say it all.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

How is this a good idea?

This week begins the official portion of the 2008 Presidential Beauty Contest. The Hawkeye Caucii (or Iowa Caucus) kicks off the season, and all political eyes are on Iowa. This brings a few questions to mind for me.

1. Why does Iowa get to go first? It is a relatively small state that requires candidates to pander to the ethanol and farm lobbies.

2. Is Iowa representative of America? Fewer than 150,000 people, or less than 5% of Iowans will probably participate in a non-secret ballot format, and this will determine delegates to a nominating convention?

3. Is making people stand in squares in the high school gym the best way to pick a president?

All of this just boggles my mind. And the folks in Iowa treat this as their birthright, as if they were destined to be the arbiters of who is elected. By the time this rolls through Iowa and New Hampshire (another bunch of self-important election snobs) half of the candidates will be knocked out of the process. Two relatively small states function as the winnowing agent? I just don't get it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A very different Christmas Carol

One of the things that attending seminary has done for me is that I have gained a new appreciation for the seemingly forgotten Christian brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Church. That is another post in and of itself, but take a few minutes to listen to the Byzantine Hymn of the Nativity in the clip below. It's very different, and very cool.

And Pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. It's not easy being a Christian there.

Thanks to Fr. Deacon Raphael for the tip on the video. He is one of my favorite OOZERS.