Visionary Leadership :: Day 3

We switched venues today, moving from CCV to Community Church of Joy (CCOJ) for the final day. We listened to presentations by Walt Kallestad and Mike Breen (pastors at CCOJ) in the morning followed by presentations by Dale Galloway and Cynthia Hale. After a dinner break, we closed out the conference at Phoenix First Assembly where Tommy Barnett and the church offered the closing presentation.

It was a good day and a good conference. One of the best things about the conference is that it created a lot of tension. There was so much contrast among the different speakers and their ministries

For example, after spending two days at CCV (an awesome new building with extravagant high tech capabilities) we went to CCOJ which is in the midst of a major transition. Walt Kallestad presented a transparent confessional talk about the personal transformation he’s gone through since his massive heart attack (and subsequent 6-bypass surgery) in 2002. That transition was written about last year in a major ministry magazine.

Kallestad talked about his personal transformation from making consumers to making disciples. It’s been a difficult process. In fact, several of his staff members are no longer with him, and they’ve lost a lot of attenders in the process. But I’m thankful to see this transition, even though it’s very hard for them!

Kallestad was followed by his new partner in ministry, Mike Breen, who shared about our purpose as Christ-followers, using the "operating system" (OS) metaphor. It was very well done. Breen noted that too often our OS is the church, but he argued that the OS should be discipleship. It was a very thought-provoking morning! I definitely need some time to process it all!

Closing out the seminar at Phoenix First Assembly only added to the event’s contrast. It’s another huge megachurch, and part of their presentation involved special music presented by their various (huge!) music groups. They showed a couple videos of their Christmas and Easter pageants, and ironically, they were the kinds of productions that Kallestad has abandoned in the last few years.

So, as I said, this event has created a lot of tension. In the coming days, I’ll have to try to process it as much as I can in order to come to some conclusions for my on life and ministry.

But that just about wraps it up for now. Joleen and I (after we complete the first round of papers for this class in the morning) plan to head up to the Grand Canyon. We’ll return to Phoenix for the Emerging Worship service at CCOJ Saturday evening; we may also attend at least one Sunday services at CCOJ and/or CCV. So I may have more to say about what’s
happening there in the coming days.

God’s best to you!

Visionary Leadership :: Day 2

We had the local news on this morning and the weather forecaster consoled the viewing audience, "It’s going to be a cool day. Only 66."

Can you believe that?! Well, it wasn’t so bad! 🙂

The bad news for the local area weather-wise, though, is that it has now gone 127 days with no rain.

The host church (CCV) has a cafe, which provides our lunch this week, and they have a lot of seating outdoors, so we ate our lunch today outdoors; it’s an incredible setting. That was very nice, especially since we have to spend most of our time indoors.

Well, there’s way too much to process from today, but I’ll try to briefly summarize each. Today was a lot of fun! Both Ed Young and Kirbyjon Caldwell were amazing. I took a lot of great notes from both of them and will need some time to process all of it. I will especially be sharing a lot of this stuff with our "Adventure Guides"!

Ed Young, who is obviously and admittedly ADD, as well as highly creative, talked first about the "sway of the they." That’s when people say to leaders, "Well, they (or so-and-so) said …" The "they" is usually a few. And listening to the "wrong they" will always get you off task and off course.

In his second presentation, Ed talked about asking questions. Growing leaders are always asking questions. And the key is to ask the right people the right questions to get the right answers.

Kirbyjon Caldwell talked, in a visual and creative way, about getting our priorities right — Vision, Mission, Ojectives & Strategies, Structures & Systems, and People. IOW, when we get this stuff in order, good people will follow. Kirbyjon strongly emphasized having a vision for the home, asking, how can you have a vision for God’s house if you don’t have a vision for your house?

Well, there’s lots more to process, but for now, though, I’ll simply note something that was a real highlight for me, personally: Joleen and I bought a copy of Ed Young’s new book, The Creative Leader so that we could get it signed. Ed Young is the founding pastor of Fellowship Church which currently runs around 20,000 people in worship each weekend. He has a weekly TV/radio program called "Creative Connection" (one of the few good Christian programs, IMO).

Anyway, we were second in line, I think, and since Ed had talked a little about mind mapping (he’s been mind mapping for 16 years, I believe), I showed him a copy of my last MapNotes (the term I use for my sermon notes which are in mind map format). I have been mind mapping for several years and just in the last year have begun putting my sermon notes in a mind map format (they’re a lot better now than they were a year ago, but there’s always room for improvement!). He asked if he could have it, and for the name of the program I use. That was cool. (FYI, here’s the PDF of the MapNotes I gave him).

I’ll post one more thing: Ed Young did something that alone was worth the entire cost (tuition, plane tickets, car rental, hotel, food, etc.) of coming to this event! Ed was making the point that you have to be who you are; don’t try to be someone you’re not. To illustrate that, he did a great impersonation of TD Jakes. Then to drive home his point, he did an impersonation of Joel Osteen impersonating TD Jakes (Jakes’ words in Joel Osteen’s style). It was absolutely hilarious! And a point well made.

Well, there’s much to chew on as I turn in for the night. One day to go. Tomorrow we go to be impacted by Walt Kallestad and Mike Breen (and a couple others). It should be another incredible day! May God help us (like sponges) absorb all we can!

Visionary Leadership :: Day 1

Wow! Where to start!

It’s been a great day. The weather was great even though we spent much of the day indoors. And although a cold front moved in for the week, the 60 degrees (not to mention the sunshine!) we had today was a lot higher than the 37 degrees back in PA! (Each day is to be a bit warmer than the previous day, according to the forecast).

This was the day I knew the least about. While I am familiar with the people lined up to speak on Wednesday and Thursday, I was not familiar with the host church, Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV), or their leaders (including Don Wilson, the senior pastor). But we have been so impressed with this place and Don Wilson (introduced as one of the most visionary leaders); in fact, we have decided to attend one of their services this weekend in addition to one or two at Community Church of Joy.

This is indeed an amazing place, with Incredible (and expanding) facilities located on 100 acres of desert. We took some photos and will try to post some of them when we return home next week (since we did not bring our USB cable with us). In the meantime, check out Google’s Satellite Image of the church here (this photo seems to have been taken before some of the construction, including road construction, was completed).

Here are some of the more impacting quotes and/or thoughts that I jotted down from today’s presentations/discussions …

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The problem with facilities is convincing people that they are the church on Monday through Saturday and not just on Sunday. IOW, ministry can and must happen anywhere, not just on church property.

Most new churches build their building too soon and too small.

Two essentials: "critical mass" and "momentum."

Lead by example.

Big vision attracts people with big vision.

Every time we go through building programs, we suffer big Satanic attacks.

Don’t plan too far out. No 5-year (or longer) plans.

Need to work on core values. Difference between successful churches and successful corporations — successful churches tend to be personality driven and successful corporations tends to be core values driven. We need to determine our core values!

Do more with less. CCV plans to cut out 1/3 of their ministries in the next year!

You are your greatest leadership challenge.

Your leadership style has to change at every level.

Old Proverb: "An army of sheep led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by a sheep." That’s a great statement about the importance of good leadership!

Sacrifice was a real focus today, and Don Wilson asked, how do you get people who don’t tithe to understand the concept of sacrifice?

90% of the things we pray about in our churches are things that Jesus never prayed about. Jesus prayed about kingdom issues.

CCV’s vision is to WIN, TRAIN, and SEND, and their priority is on the winning part.

Instead of the old "here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and here are the people," it should be "here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and release all the people."

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There are many people from around the nation (and world) who attend these Beeson seminars. Twelve of us are attending the seminar for course credit. During the seminar, attendees are assigned to "processing groups," and we break into those groups a few times during the event. Our class serves as a processing group. We’ve  had some good discussion in our group, so far.

We spent part of our break times today walking around the campus here — awesome place and location. At the end of the day we ate dinner at Abuelo’s, an upscale Mexican restaurant with four others, including our professor (who is a pastor from Oregon).

It’s been a good day. Now, I am going to get back to my reading. I still have one book to finish (then two papers to write), hopefully by Thursday morning.

Tomorrow we head back to CCV where we’ll listen to two main speakers. The morning presenter will be Ed Young, Jr. from Fellowship Church in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. I am really looking forward to his presentation where he’ll tell Fellowship’s story and talk about creativity. His book, The Creative Leader, was published recently. It’s the next book I want to buy and read!

The afternoon speaker will be Kirbyjon Caldwell from Windsor Village UMC in Houston, TX. I’ve been looking forward to his presentation ever since I heard he was going to be at this event.

Until tomorrow night, thanks for reading!

From Phoenix …

Greetings from sunny Phoenix!

The good news is that I’m writing this around 6:45 pm (MST), but the bad news is my body is telling me it’s really 8:45 pm (EST). And if you knew how much sleep I got last night (keep reading), you’d know that’s not a good thing!

Joleen and I arrived here a few hours ago, thankfully. For some reason we like doing things the hard way — we got up at 2:00 am to get ready and drive to the Pittsburgh airport (on less than three hours sleep) for a 7:15 am departure! Next time, we’ll go to Pittsburgh (or wherever) the night before!

We had a good flight, though, and now we’re ready for the week ahead.

(Let me insert a personal reflection here: my family moved from California to Tennessee when I was 11. I remember the long journey in a Ryder rental truck traveling along I-40. We spent a night in Flagstaff, AZ and the next night in Albuquerque, NM. I remember loving the land of the desert southwest, so it was nice to see NM and AZ from the sky today! And I look forward to seeing more of the area as the week progresses! And since we love Mexican food, it may be just about all we eat this week, for dinner anyway — there are Mexican restaurants everywhere!)

(And while I’m at it, let me insert a second personal reflection: Joleen and I went to the grocery store after arriving to pick up some stuff for breakfast this week and I suddenly realized something — this is the closest I’ve been to California since I left the state in March 1980. It was an interesting feeling. Anyway. Back to the topic at hand …)

Tomorrow morning, we’ll begin our seventh class (as part of our degree program at Asbury). The class is on "visionary leadership" and is being conducted at some cutting edge churches here in Phoenix (more on that as the week progresses).

The first two days of the seminar/class will be conducted at Christ’s Church of the Valley. Tomorrow will be primarily teaching from their pastor (Don Wilson) and staff. I’m excited about tomorrow’s lineup, but I am even more excited about Wednesday’s lineup. And as if it couldn’t get any better, I am most excited about Thursday (but I’ll talk about those days later).

So, check back later for reports on the events of each day. I especially want to reflect on things that are life-changing for me and how I think those things can impact what God is doing bck home in the Juniata Valley!

The seminar/class ends on Thursday night, and as you know, we’re heading back on Monday. We plan to go to the Grand Canyon on Friday and return on Saturday in time to attend the Emerging Worship service at Community Church of Joy. We may also attend one or more of their Sunday morning services (all different services led by different pastors).

That’s what the week looks like from this vantage point. Let’s see what God does!

Well, I have some homework to do now. 🙂

Heart of Worship 2.0

Last week we talked about worship as a lifestyle (basically, our individual worship). Today, we want to talk about our worship as a community.

Let’s start with Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples in Acts 1.4 …
"Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember, I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Acts 2 tells the rest of that story where people from all parts of the world heard the Gospel proclaimed in their own native languages. You see, the worship of the Christ-followers had a missional purpose. It wasn’t about goosebumps or simply  having an ecstatic experience. It was about encountering God in such a way that impacts others! (Read Acts 2.1-4; 2.42-47)

So, who are the people God is calling us to reach?
Specifically, I want us to think about the generations of people in our local community. Here is one way of looking at recent and current generations …

  • G.I. Generation (1901-1924)
  • Silent Generation (1925-1942)
  • Baby Boomers (1943-1960)
  • Generation X (1961-1981)
  • Millennial Generation (Generation Y) (1982-1991)
  • Generation Z (2000s-?)

I like the way Leonard Sweet talks about the culture we find ourselves in. He talks about people falling into one of two categories: Immigrants or Natives. The dividing line, according to Leonard Sweet, is the onset of the personal computer. Natives in today’s culture are computer and Web savvy. Those who who are not computer literate are immigrants in today’s culture.

Interestingly, in my own lifetime (as a Gen-Xer), I’ve watched the progression of computers in the classroom. When I was a junior in high school (in the mid-80s) I remember a computer being placed in the chemistry classroom for the first time. No one (including the teacher) knew what to do with it!

Later when I was in seminary in the early 1990s, it was fairly uncommon to see a laptop in the classroom. Jump ahead now to January 2006 and compare that to the last class I had. There were 25 students and I think all but four were using laptops in the classroom! The world is changing before my very eyes!

So who’s responsibility is it to change?
In the past, (English) "immigrant missionaries" would often go to
"native cultures" with one of their goals being the "civilize" the
people — IOW, make them like us!

I believe we must be careful about this way of thinking. But whose
responsibility is it to adapt and adjust? Do we expect the "natives"
(in our community) to change and adapt to our worship/ministry? Well, I
believe we do. And I believe that’s wrong! That’s not being good
missionaries! Isn’t it the responsibility of the immigrant missionaries
(that’s us, for the most part) to make adjustments to our
worship/ministry/communication to effectively reach the native cultures
(the younger generations, for the most part), to communicate the Gospel
in language/images they can understand.

Is this difficult? Absolutely! It takes a great deal of love and spiritual maturity; it takes a missionary heart! It takes giving up and letting go of "our way" of doing things and the way we like things to be. Missionaries know that it’s not about them; it’s about the natives hearing and understanding the Gospel; it’s about missionaries embracing the natives so that they can become part of this amazing, ever-growing incredibly diverse community of Christ-followers called the Church!

I hope you will join me in growing a bigger missional heart!

I think Paul gives some great guidance and insight into the way we need to interact and relate to the people in our community. Read 1 Co 9.20-27, especially, "When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. … When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. … Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ …"

Bishop Middleton talks about "the seven characteristics of vital churches." She includes in that list  the category of "media," saying, "Worship which excites, inspires, and speaks the saving message of Jesus Christ using a variety of media and music." If we are going to reach the "natives" in the missionary setting God has placed us in today, we are going to have to learn a new language!

As we create a new church (among the Alexandria and Barree folks) here in the Juniata Valley, let’s create one whose worship gathering has a missional purpose, the purpose of reaching the people in our Valley who have no commitment to Jesus Christ! Let us create a worship experience that connects with youth and children, one that shares the Good News of Jesus Christ in language, images, and expressions that these emerging generations can relate to!

I want to leave with you some verses from the Psalms where the psalmist challenges the people to sing a "new song." Is it time for us to sing a new song, to find fresh expressions of worshiping God, expressions that will impact the people in our Valley much like it did on the day of Pentecost? When our worship has a missional focus, I believe it will have that same kind of impact, because I believe the same Holy Spirit who was active that day is still active in this day and in this time!

  • He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD. (Ps 40.3)
  • Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! (Ps 96.1)
  • Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. He has won a mighty victory by his power and holiness. (Ps 98.1)
  • I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp. (Ps 144.9)
  • Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. (Ps 149.1)

Heart of Worship 1.0

Today’s message was pretty short. We spent a little time discussing the implications of last Tuesday’s vote. We wanted to make sure everyone is clear about where we’re at and where we’re headed.

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"I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus."

Those are great words from Matt Redman’s song.

Worship > Lifestyle!
Worship is not just music; it’s not just what we do on Sunday morning. Worship is a living, breathing, waking, sleeping, 24/7 lifestyle!

"Worship him continually." (Ps 105.4)

1 Thessalonians 5.16-24 (NLT)

"It’s all about you, Jesus"
It’s not about what WE get out of it, but what GOD gets out of it!

"You created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created." (Rev 4.11)

Rejoice (always be joyful)!
"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice!" (Philippians 4.4)

Keep on praying (pray without ceasing)!
Master the art of prayer!

Be thankful, no matter what!
"Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere." (Eph 6.18)

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit!
“Yes, Lord, Yes” > I’ll say yes, Lord, yes, to your will and to your way. When your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree, and my answer will be yes, Lord, yes.

Keep yourself pure!
"Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil."

Test everything to stay focused, to keep from worshiping the wrong things!

"Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this." (1 Thessalonians 5.23-24)

New Beginnings: The Prodigal

Luke 15.11-32

This is a team message with all four of the lay speakers of the Charge participating. Ruth: the prodigal (the younger son); Ken: the father; Jeff, the elder son; and Jay, the servant. I am bringing the conclusion and that is what follows.

Maybe you resonate with one of the four characters of this story presented today.

You may feel like the prodigal. You have turned away from God and you wonder how on earth he would take you back. Maybe you knowingly turned away – after serving him, some how you have distanced yourself from him and done things that you know he is not pleased with. Maybe you’ve never known him. And now you are aware that you are living your life apart from God. Some may think, “How can God ever forgive me of ???” “I can’t even forgive myself.” Or “My family won’t even forgive me.”

Or you may be like the elder son. You have been faithful to the church all your life. You have served, you have attended, you have tithed, but you look at others and see God blessing them and you just don’t feel blessed. You don’t feel like God even knows you exist.

Or maybe you are like the servant, a kind of bystander. You stand on the fringes of the church, not knowing if you want to be involved. Not understanding entirely who this God is and definitely not understanding his actions. How can he love people who hate him, who deceive him, who use him? How can he so easily forgive and embrace people who purposefully despise him and even squander the gifts that he has given them?

Truthfully, the Father of this story is a mystery to us all: to the prodigals and prodigals-come-home, to the responsible ones who never left home, and to the ones on the sideline who are full of questions. But the Father understands each of us. And he loves each of us. And the only way to gain an inkling of understanding him, is to enter into the mystery. To cry out, Lord have mercy, forgive me, forgive me of running away and wanting to live life my way; forgive me for being so responsible and in charge that I think I can do it on my own without relying on you; forgive me as I have peered in from the outside, questioning who you are, and questioning your actions in this world.

Lord, have mercy

Our God is like a Parent who loves his children equally. He loves not because of what we do. But he loves us because we are his. And he loves us even before we are adopted into his family. He loves us into relationship with him and then he calls us his sons and his daughters. Does God call you his son or daughter today? Do you want to be called his son or daughter? God is calling you into his family today. And God is calling all of us into the center of his love, a love that forgives, a love that plays no favorites, a love that need not be earned, a love that is freely given. Will you enter into the arms of a loving Father, a loving Mother? Remember you don’t have to make everything right in your life before you come to him; that’s what he does. Come to him today. He will come running to meet to you and to welcome you, and to embrace you.

New Beginnings: Help Wanted, Apply Within

Matthew 9.35-38
Matthew 10.1-8 (ff)

The Need
This is Super Bowl Sunday and as I have been out and about there are a lot of people out there suffering from Steeler-mania. The billboards sport the slogan, “Go Steelers!” People are dressed in their Steeler jerseys, from Emergency Room workers to little ole grannies in Sam’s Club.

It used to be we had three basic sports, football, baseball, and basketball. But the list has grown, especially with the addition of x-sports. These sports seek the x-treme. And each is more extreme than the last. Every experience must be more daring, more exciting, more dangerous, more extreme.

Jesus looked out over the people and he saw a people who were harassed and helpless, perhaps bothered or confused and exhausted; troubled and bewildered. They are sheep without a shepherd. The Bible and the church have used the description of those who are without Christ, as lost. The post-modern generation doesn’t like to be called lost. They don’t feel lost. And yet, they are just as Jesus describes them. They are on a quest to find meaning in life. Whether we are driven by the x-treme sport experience or by the pursuit of career, education, or financial gain, there is a spiritual need in our lives.

As Jesus sees the need, Matthew says he is “moved with pity” – a very strong word describing deep compassion. Jesus cannot in his physical body meet every need. And tells the disciples to pray for workers.

The Prayer – Help Wanted
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Jesus will not do the work alone. God wants to raise up others to work. God is at work and he is calling others to be a part of what he is doing.

The Answer
The exciting thing about this passage is that there is an immediate answer to that prayer. Looking at 10.1, those who pray the prayer, “send workers” become the answer to their own prayer. Jesus, in chapter 10, sends out the twelve disciples, giving them the authority to join in the work Jesus himself has been doing. The disciples become the answer to their own prayer.

And this prayer goes beyond the twelve disciples. As Matthew writes, he is calling the readers of his account to pray and become the answers to their prayer. The prayer was for the current readers in the first century church. The prayer for harvest hands is directed to and answered by the Church of every generation. Today, just as there continues to be a harvest, there continues to be a need for harvest hands. It is an invitation for the church today to be harvest hands. Will you be those hands?

God’s Harvest Field
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

We are called to be a part of what God is doing. We are called to join God. Too many times we decide we are going to do something for Christ and then we ask God to bless it. We decide and then we ask God to be a part of it. God is at work in our world and in our communities and in our church. Knowing that, the prayer becomes, let us be a part of what You are doing. Reveal what you are doing and allow us be a part of that.

Also, it is giving God the glory for whatever is accomplished. Knowing that it is not we ourselves who plan or will for something to happen – it is God. It is always God. If it is his fields, it is his work, and it he that accomplishes every good thing. And he must be glorified, praised and worshiped.

Everything we do as a church should be measured by the phrase: “his harvest field”. I, as your pastor, do not encourage you do things for my benefit. Your ad council does not do things for their own personal benefit.

Those of us who went to college or educational program are familiar with the phrase, “It will look good on my resume.” Sometimes people participated in certain activities to add a certain dimension to their resumes. Or the school required things in one’s program to make one more marketable upon graduation.

As a pastor, I don’t have a resume anymore. I don’t have an agenda. My only agenda is to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to be faithful to the call he has placed upon me as your pastor and spiritual leader. And I interpret that call as providing opportunities for you to become faithful followers: to provide opportunities for you to grow in your faith and to put your faith into action. Today God is calling workers. Jesus didn’t do it alone. Your pastor won’t do it alone. This is a call to the church, will you be the church, will you be harvest hands?

Answering the Call
Opportunities:
Faith Ministry Meeting next Tuesday, Feb 14.
Completing a Gifts Inventory.
WC/EV Ad Council.

If God is speaking to you about a ministry, speak to me. That’s a part of my job as pastor – to coordinate ministries, to have the body join you in the discernment process. The scripture today says that Jesus sent them out, giving them authority. Apostolic authority means the passing on of authority, the recognition of God’s call and the gifts and graces He has given. It means partnering together in support of various ministries through prayer, blessing, encouragement, guidance and accountability. This is part of what it means to be in community. The disciples were an extension of Jesus’ ministry. As others become involved in ministry, you become an extension of the ministry of this Church.

We live in such an independent society, where we make decisions, even decisions that impact the church community, on our own, independent of the body. And that should not be. And I don’t condemn anyone on this point; because I’ve been there, done that. And I’m still learning. I know this might be a different way of seeing the church and it will take time to grasp hold of the concept of true biblical community. But it is my desire for us to strive to be the body of Christ, to be the community that we are called to be. And today we start that journey by praying, “Lord of the harvest, send workers into your harvest fields.” Will you join me in that prayer? Will you be an answer to that prayer?

Let’s Conquer the Land 4: Learning from Past Failures

Today, we wrap up this series (“Let’s Conquer the Land!”) which leads up to our vote this Tuesday. As we wrap up the story, we want to learn from the critical mistakes made by the Israelites.

"You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself." (Sam Levenson)

God’s Judgment
Numbers 14.26-45 begins with a message of God’s judgment on God’s people who have rebelled and rejected God’s call. God says, "How long will this wicked nation complain about me? I have heard everything the Israelites have been saying." (14.27)

Some other statements in God’s message stand out to me as well …

  • "I will give you exactly what you wanted. You will die right here in the desert …" (14.28-29)
  • "You sinful people who ganged up against me will die here in the desert." (14.35)
  • "But I, the LORD, will let them enter the land you have rejected." (14.31)

Well, after the ten scouts who “incited rebellion” died as a result of their disobedience, the people felt guilty or scared, and they decide they had better go. But it was too late! Moses tells them, “You’re disobeying the LORD! Your plan won’t work, so don’t even try it. The LORD refuses to help you, because you turned your backs on him." (14.41-43)

Well, this has been a great story for us to look at. But, personally, I’m hoping that our result will be different. I hope and pray that our response will be a courageous one, one that honors God!

God is doing a new thing!
“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43.18-19)

What is the “new thing” that God is doing among us? Do you see it?

The “scouts” (Exploratory Team) have reported to us that they believe God is calling us to unite and become one. Why? The scouts have reported that they believe we’re better together, and that we’ll have more resources. And that we’ll be better stewards!

Will this new direction involve risk? Absolutely! Will it require change? Definitely! But change and risk are always part of being the church!

Jesus had a couple interesting encounters with some would-be followers. They both said, “I will follow you, but …" (Luke 9.59-62)

Jesus says to one, "Come, be my disciple." The would-be disciple says, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father." Jesus responds, "Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus invites another to follow. That person says, "Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family." But again, Jesus responds, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."

Someone has said that there’s good reason that the windshield is larger than the rearview mirror. While we must occasionally glance at the rearview mirror, we must not focus on it. We must give attention to the future, where God is calling us!

Worship where?
One of the challenges we face in becoming one is letting go of our buildings. You know, buildings use to matter! In the Old Testament, religious life was centered around the Temple in Jerusalem.

But interestingly, even back then, Jesus had a conversation with “the woman at the well” (John 4), who talked about the right place to worship God. Jesus says, "Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father here or in Jerusalem."

And on another occasion Jesus’ disciples are mesmerized by the Temple. They say, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Quite simply, buildings are tools for ministry. Nothing more.

Questions
Well, this decision will affect you, but it will also affect others. I want to leave you with a few questions to reflect on in the next two days …

>> What is God calling us to do?

>> How will this decision affect others?

>> What’s keeping us from becoming one?

>> How can we honor those who have gone before us?

Our History > Our Future: Appointments on the large Huntingdon circuit began in Petersburg about 1812 and in Alexandria about 1820. Over the years this large circuit gave birth to many smaller charges.

Giving birth is painful! (so I’m told!)

>> What are we giving birth to?

>> What will our legacy be? What will people 50 years from now say about 2006?
Because this *will* be part of our historical record! Will future generations say, “Wow! They demonstrated great courage!” Or, will they say, “Boy! They sure missed it!”

I remember the report of the Exploratory Team at last year’s charge conference where Karl told us that the team was unified in its belief that becoming one was in the best interests for our churches and our communities. In that meeting, Karl said we need to "Lead, follow, or, get out of the way!"

That’s where we’re at right now. And I want to leave you with my personal opinion (for whatever it’s worth).

I believe this is probably our last chance at becoming a missional church! I believe that “no" vote will be the beginning of the end!

But I also believe that there WILL be a missional church in the Valley! If not us, God will raise someone else up to do kingdom work. But it may very well be some of you! There will be a missional people in the Valley!

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139.23-24)

The Disciple’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.