Great Adventure 1: It’s all about Jesus

Today, we begin a new series: "The Great Adventure." Following Jesus Christ is indeed an adventure!

And the great adventure is all about Jesus! I agree with Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”

So let’s get started. Read Luke 9.57-62.

Talk is cheap!
While Jesus was on a journey, he had some conversations with different people. One guy said, "I will follow you no matter where you go."

It’s easy to make these great statements of devotion and commitment. Living them out is a whole other deal! Sometimes it takes a while for our hearts to catch up to the commitments we make with our mouths!

Hard words of Jesus!
Jesus doesn’t coddle the person who made this statement. Rather, he says, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head."

I think Jesus is giving this guy a sense of "the way" this guy is committing to – the way of the cross. Jesus wants us to ‘count the cost’ before we embark on the journey!

Excuses
In the other two conversations Jesus had on this journey, he was subjected to excuses why they couldn’t follow Jesus right now. One guy says, "Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first …"

Well, it doesn’t really matter what they’re excuses were. Our excuses will be different than theirs. What are our excuses? Why keeps us from following Christ? Are we too busy, feel like we’re not good enough, or do we, like these would-be followers 2,000 years ago say, "not now; maybe later."

"If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas!" (John Maxwell)

Jesus’ Response
Interestingly, Jesus never says: "That’s okay; come whenever you can!" Jesus doesn’t accept our excuses. (Now Jesus arms are always open and he’s always welcoming us into his kingdom, but he doesn’t coddle us as we make our flimsy excuses). Jesus calls us to follow him, to be with him!

Rather than accepting their excuses, Jesus says, "Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God. … "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."

Follow Me!
It’s the call to discipleship. Jesus invites us to be on the journey with him.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8.34-35)

What’s required?

  • Willingness
  • Surrender
  • Loyalty/devotion
  • Perseverance/Tenacity
  • Passion

"The life of following Jesus "is a life fueled by passion—a passion for God and a passion for people." (Erwin McManus)

"God is seeking worshippers who will be ready to follow the adventurous whispers of His Holy Spirit." (Matt Redman)

Questions for Prayer & Reflection

  • Are your hands to the plow?
  • Are you looking/moving forward?
  • Can you say, "it’s all about Jesus"?

O God, thank you so much for inviting us to be on the journey with you! This journey is indeed a great adventure, an adventure that begins the moment we say, "Lord, I will follow you no matter what!" Help us to follow you in ways that bring honor to you, O God! Amen.

Christian Hosptitality: Entertaining Angels

The Three Visitors: Genesis 18.1-15
Genesis 18 is a story of hospitality, biblical hospitality.

Hospitality is:
Offered to strangers
Verse one reveals to the reader what Abraham does not know, that the visitors are the LORD, Yahweh. It is told for the readers benefit. As for the hospitality offered, it is offered to strangers who are treated as guests.

A warm, respectful welcome
Verse one also gives the setting, it is in the heat of the day. Abraham has worked all morning and now is preparing for his afternoon siesta. It is time to rest.

The scripture says that he looks up and sees three men standing. Abraham is not sure how they got there. He probably assumes he dozed off and they approached as he was sleeping. With the narrator telling us who the visitors are, the LORD, it may cause us to wonder about the supernatural nature of these guests. Could they have supernaturally appeared?

Abraham, being that he didn’t notice them at first, sets off in a hurry or running to meet the guests. This demonstrates his joy at having guests. It is a warm welcome, a generous welcome. Elsewhere in Genesis people run to greet their relatives, but here Abraham runs to greet those whom he does not know. It is also a greeting of respect, as Abraham bows down, a position of worship.

He greets them with a rather lengthy greeting in biblical standards, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.” There is politeness; there is charm in “If I have found favor”. And he calls them lord with a small l. It is a title of respect and is more true to the identity of the guests than he knows.

Sees and meets needs
Then Abraham offers what any weary traveler needs: a drink of water, water to wash their feet, and a place to rest under a tree.

Generous, yet not making them feel as if they are imposing
He also offers them a bit of food, probably a pita roll. But as soon as they accept, he begins to prepare a feast. It is an understatement, which is characteristic of generous people in Scripture. If he had offered the feast, they may have felt they were imposing and not stayed. But now that they were staying, Abraham shifts into hurry mode again. In the Hebrew it is worded as if he goes to the tent and to the cattle almost at the same time. He hurries to Sarah, he runs to the cattle, the servant hurries to prepare it.

The Feast:
A seah is about two gallons, so six gallons of flour will make a lot of bread for three guests. And Abraham kills a bull, once again much more than needed. It is royal generosity.

And as they eat, Abraham, the good host, waits discreetly in the background.

Biblical Hospitality Defined
-This hospitality is not like that of today which is extended to someone we know, but hospitality that is extended to the stranger.
-Not hospitality like that of today that is extended to someone who is invited, but to the uninvited.
-A hospitality that sees the need and meets it.
-A hospitality that is not ruled by convenience, but generously spares nothing on behalf of the guest.
-It is a hospitality that does not entertain, but meets the needs of strangers, who may not be able to repay, and are not expected to repay.

“Hospitality meant extending to strangers a quality of kindness usually reserved for friends and family.” Especially focusing on strangers in need. (Christine Pohl, "Making Room")

It goes beyond meeting needs to recognizing and valuing the stranger and guest.

Hospitality in the first Century Church
Hebrews 13.1-3 is a reference to the Genesis 18 story.
Hebrews 13.2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hospitality begins with believers and extends to all:
Galatians 6.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

In early Christian life, hospitality broke down cultural barriers and nurtured a sense of equality. It transformed relationships.

Whether they finally be lost or saved, you are expressly commanded
to feed the hungry and clohe the naked. If you can, and do not,
whatever become of them, you shall go away into everlasting fire.
-John Wesley

The Disappearance of Hospitality occurred in the 1700s as inns developed. People were no longer dependent to stay at other’s homes, but could rent a room. Also, hospitals and hospices and other institutions developed. They cared for more people but not with the attention of hospitality that lifted one’s esteem and made one to feel special. This is still evident in our care systems today. The 16th Century Reformers called for a return to hospitality, with our John Wesley being the closest to achieve such a practice because his small groups returned to the use of the home for such meetings.

Offering Biblical Hospitality
Personally, I leave you to grapple with that question. We all know that we are cautious of picking up hitchhikers and inviting strangers into our homes. One of the factors prohibitive to this is that we have more “stuff” which can be stolen or broken.

But in the church, how can we offer Biblical Hospitality?
~Welcome all. Those who are different from us. Those who are not yet followers of Christ. Remember that we are all sinner saved by grace. Remember that places of biblical hospitality were transformational places.
 
~Offer hope. Give the gift of respect and dignity.

~Can we create centers of hope or centers of hospitality? Is that not what teen outreach centers are?
What about a clothing ministry? A ministry of outreach into our community. It’s not just a place to get clothes at an affordable price, but a place where people come and feel welcome and respected and gain dignity. A place where they are offered spiritual guidance and prayer. And as the ministry grows a place that can possibly offer career counseling, help women reentering the workforce, GED classes, parenting education, and the list goes on.

Brings Blessing
Angels unaware – we don’t know who we serve. Again referring to the story of Abraham and Sarah. The next section, after the guests have eaten, they ask where Sarah is (probably knowing where she is.) And they say that one year from now she will have a son. This story connects hospitality with God’s presence, with promise, and with blessing.

Christian Hospitality: Come Into the Light

John 3.1-21

The Flower called Nicodemus
What kind of flower is pictured on the cover of the bulletin? It opens only at night (it closes in the daytime) and just for a few short weeks around the start of summer. The evening primrose, nicknamed the Nicodemus flower.

The Person of Nicodemus
The story of Nicodemus is the story of a secret visit, a visit made in darkness. You see Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council (the Sanhedrin, the highest legal body among the Jews). Nicodemus was a teacher himself, and now he seeks out another teacher, Jesus. But he comes at night, when others will not see him. Why? Perhaps he is fearful what the others will think. Perhaps he is uncomfortable with others seeing him seek out another teacher.

My Fears
I in some ways can relate to Nicodemus’ fears. I’m an introvert, which is defined as drawing strength from being alone. When I first moved into the Valley one of the first invitations I received was to the “famous” community July ham and turkey dinner. Having been here just a few weeks it was way out of my comfort zone to walk into a room full of people I didn’t know. It was just that I didn’t know them, but they might know me.

Church Fears
Many people fear going to a place for a first time. Many people fear attending a church service for the first time or even if they attend regularly and move to another area, they fear attending a new church for the first time.

Especially in churches our size, in communities our size, there is discomfort in being a stranger where everyone else knows one another.For those who haven’t attended church, there are questions as to what to expect; what will it be like. It used to be churches would have first-time guests stand and give their names. People don’t like to do that anymore. They don’t like to be singled out.

And knowing all that, sometimes we invited people to church and we think we’ve done our job, but we leave them to deal with all these fears on their own.

Removing Barriers
So how do we remove these barriers?First, let me remind you that when you invite someone to church they might not say yes the first time. It usually requires numerous invitations over a period of time. And if you don’t know the person, it takes longer.

-Build relationships
This week I was speaking to someone who told be the story of inviting a new neighbor to church. The person didn’t come, but she kept building a relationship with this neighbor, with visits and shared interests. And after some time this neighbor came and continued to come. It’s about building a relationship with people and caring for people as well as being invitational.

-Invite them to come with you. Pick them up. Travel together. Or if that is not possible for some reason, like the size of their family and your family prohibitive, then …

-Meet them at the door.

-Help them with parking.

-Greeters (friendly; restrooms; welcome brochure/sign guest book; help with children)

-Be welcoming. Whether you have invited the person or not, whether you know the person or not, be welcoming.

At Quest Community Church, Lexington, they don’t just visit with the people they know, they look for people they don’t know. After church they look for guests. To welcome, to help, to make them feel comfortable. The mission of their church is to reach people who don’t know Christ, and they are constantly putting that into practice.

-Invite to other events

Sometimes it is easier for people who are unchurched to come to church-sponsored events other than worship. The above applies (go with, meet, be welcoming).

Nicodemus: The Rest of the Story
The Flower: The Nicodemus Flower or Evening Primrose, grow in poor soil or even in the desert. They grow in unexpected places. Sometimes people grow in unexpected ways.

In John 3 we don’t know if Nicodemus gets it. Jesus gives him this teaching about being “born again,” a term that is fairly common to us in referring to believing in Jesus Christ and accepting the salvation that comes only through him. But Nicodemus is really confused. Jesus is speaking in spiritual language and Nicodemus is thinking in physical language. And at the end of John 3 we are left hanging.

But later we find out that Nicodemus does come to understand who Jesus is and what his mission is.

Nicodemus speaks up in the midst of the Pharisees who are speaking negatively of Jesus. Nicodemus encourages them to hear what Jesus is saying.

Nicodemus is with Joseph of Arimathea to take Jesus’ body down from the cross, treat the body with spices and to bury it.

John 3.21

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…”

Nicodemus came out of the darkness into the light. Nicodemus fears were conquered as Jesus Christ was revealed to him.

Character Tour: Daniel

Scripture gives us a few "snapshots" of Daniel’s life. We learn, that as a young man, Daniel was taken prisoner by the Babylonian army when Jerusalem was captured. He remained faithful to God even when it meant risking his life.

We discover that already in the first snapshot we have of Daniel: “But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead” (Daniel 1.8). Later Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2), and then he interprets writing on the wall for King Belshazzar (Daniel 5).

But what Daniel is best known for is his night in the lion’s den. Read about it in Daniel 6. Daniel, who’s been shown favor by the king, is the target of the other leaders who convince the king to enact a law to forbid anyone from praying to anyone other than the king for 30 days. These leaders knew this would be the only way for them to entrap Daniel! Well, Daniel breaks the law and spends a night with lions.

From this story, we learn at least three lessons that challenge us.

Be committed to God no matter what!
No matter what society, culture, friends, laws say, be committed to God!

“If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

But Jesus told him, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God." (Jesus, Luke 9.62)

Of course, our society is a bit different from Daniel’s and many others around the world. We live in a nominal society, so we are not tested in quite the same ways Daniel and others were/are. It makes me think about something Jesus said to church of Laodicea: "… you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! Don’t be lukewarm; choose sides!

Incidentally, Elijah once sensed the same thing, when he challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel: "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!"

Be willing to take risks!
"Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared." (Eddie Rickenbacker)

I like that. Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s being afraid, but doing what needs to be done anyway! I think of David going against Goliath and Peter getting out of the boat in the midst of a dangerous storm.

"Test fast. Fail fast. Adjust fast." (Tom Peters)

Of course, living a bold life will bring lots of enemies out of the woodwork. It certainly did for Daniel. The important question, however, is, are you being faithful with what god has entrusted you with?

 

“If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticizes me.” (John Bunyan)

"Living as Christ desires but simultaneously playing it safe is
impossible. Faith presumes risk. What risks are you taking?" (Jean
Fleming)

Let God be your “operating system”!
A computer is driven by an operating system. What about you? What’s your operating system?  What (or Who) is driving your heart, soul, mind? God was clearly Daniel’s operating system!

"Daniel’s faith in his God had kept him from being harmed." (Daniel 6.23)

Questions for Prayer and Reflection

  • What’s guiding your life – God’s Word/God’s Spirit, “common sense,” culture/society?
  • How faithful are you following Christ? In what ways do you need to grow?
  • In what areas do you need to be more courageous?
  • What risks is God leading you to take? What’s holding you back?

“We do not need more knowledge, we need more character!” (Calvin Coolidge)

My Call; Our Call

This month I begin my sixth year with you. Hard to believe isn’t it?

It is a good time to do some reflection: to look back, to look forward. It is a good time to remember my call and how that affects us as the body. My very first sermon the first of July, 2001, I shared my call to ministry with you. Some of you were here, some of you weren’t; some may remember, some won’t; some details you will remember, some you won’t.

In July 2005 in my class, our teachers, Jim and Molly Davis Scott, instructed us how they shared their call with those they were serving on an annual basis. Each time we tell our stories they get told a different way. We are different people, as we continue to develop and grow.

And I know God continues to sharpen my call. In fact he recently has reminded me of aspects of my call and how that fits with where we are now and how the specific words of that call are being brought more into focus. It all speaks to me that the words of my call were more distinct and directional, more rich with meaning, than I knew them to be at the time.

And my call affects you. It affects this church. If God has called me to a specific task, and God has placed me in your midst, then it follows that He is calling you to walk with me, to learn and grow with me, to flesh out this call together.

My call
After high school, I attended Indiana University of PA. When I began college teaching was the only thing I wanted to do. But four years later, I knew that wasn’t what I would spend the rest of my life doing. About half way through college I began to sense that God had different plans. I was very active in my church. At graduation I had no specific direction regarding my calling. I would have loved to stay at that church, but I had a college degree and thought it best I use that degree until God further directed me.

So I taught school for three years while God continued to unfold his plan. During that time I spent one summer in the Philippines as a short-term missionary. I had an interest in mission work, but God used that experience to open my eyes to another ministry. The Filippino Christians were so dedicated to Christ. They were ready to give up everything to serve God. Their whole lives centered around Christ.

God gave me the vision of seeing Christians in the United States with that kind of passion, that kind of commitment, that kind of hunger to serve.

I continued teaching, waiting for more direction. And wanting to be sure of this call. And wanting more pieces to the puzzle. One night at church many of us were gathered at the altar for prayer and someone spoke out what we would call a prophetic word, “The fields are white unto harvest.” It was like a thunderbolt went through my body, it was the Holy Spirit confirming my call. And yet it wasn’t time to launch out in ministry. I still had no direction what I was to do with this call.

I was miserable. I kept teaching. I kept praying. I kept seeking. My church family prayed with and for me and one day God used one of them to speak to me to basically say, “Wait.” That thing we don’t like to do. But that gave me so much peace. I knew God would tell me the next step when it was time and it that it would be in his time.

So I was faithful where I was, continuing to teach and continuing to be involved in ministry at that church. Soon I began investigating Bible schools and colleges. When I called the college of the denomination I grew up in for information, they directed me to the denomination’s seminary which was just across the street. I’ll never forget the day, sitting in the back of my classroom with two catalogs, one from the college and one from the seminary. It was near the end of the school year and I was showing “West Side Story” in my general music classes. It was like I was determined to go to the college. The college was all I had ever heard about.

And yet the catalog wasn’t doing a thing for me. So finally, I opened up the seminary catalog and everything just clicked. The weight, the heaviness, I had been feeling for months and even more than a year, it just lifted immediately. I knew what the next step was!

That doesn’t mean it was easy. I handed in my resignation with tearful eyes. A chapter in my life was closing. And I was saying good-by to financial security. But God was there every step of the way and he put good people around me every step of the way to support and encourage and confirm those steps.

The story doesn’t end there. God’s specific direction doesn’t end there. But I’m going to stop there for today.

“The fields are white unto harvest.” – “Go, make disciples.”
The things God has reminded me of are the specifics of that call. The words, “The fields are white unto harvest.” And God’s guidance in the Philippines and he place a burden on me to see committed Christ followers in the States.

Those two things are very clear in Jesus’ scriptural mandates. Jesus words to “Go, make disciples.” They are words to invite people to know Christ and his salvation. But it is instruction to teach them to follow in the ways of Christ. To become like Christ. To develop Christlike qualities in their lives. To be in relationship with Christ, a relationship that is growing and thriving and maturing. A relationship and commitment that doesn’t end with them becoming disciples, but with them being sent to make disciples.

It is a personal commitment to Christ that is so life-changing, so life-permeating, that it affects all those around us.

Is your life infectious?
We usually look at that word in a negative sense, like an infectious disease. It’s contagious. If you get close to people they will catch what you have. So with some, we quarantine them, keep them away from people. But God sends us forth to rub shoulders with the world, not so that the world rubs off on us, but so Christ rubs off on the world.

It like the parable of the yeast. It only takes a little to work through the dough. It only takes a small amount and the whole batch is affected, changed. Are you affecting the world around you? Are you changing the world around you? Or when you leave here do you “fit in” with the world?

Let’s be world-changers. Let’s take Christ with us everywhere we go. Let us invite God to permeate every part of our being, so that as we go forth he can permeate the world around us. It is “white unto harvest.”

Character Tour: Joseph

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge one yourself.” (James A. Froude)

Joseph was passionate about life.
We encounter Joseph as a young, somewhat cocky, 17 year-old kid who has great dreams. And he loves to tell others about his dreams. He’s passionate about life. But that passion gets Joseph in trouble with his brothers. In fact, they become so envious of him that they decided to kill Joseph.

Read Genesis 37.18-36

Joseph senses God’s presence, especially at his lowest moments.
There’s a great statement that gets repeated during the telling of Joseph’s story, especially at his lowest points: "The LORD was with Joseph and blessed him greatly …" (Genesis 39.2).

Joseph experiences hardship but chooses the right path even when it’s hard.
Potiphar’s wife gets Joseph sent to prison. Again, Joseph hits bottom and faces a difficult ordeal. But, as D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” Joseph chose the right path even at his lowest points.

And again, Scripture says, "But the LORD was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer" (Genesis 39.21).

Joseph helps others, even when he is needy himself.
While in prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of others, namely, the cup-bearer and the chief baker who both fall out with Pharoah. Their dreams come true (the cup-bearer regains his position in the palace while the chief baker loses his life). Two years later, when the king has a troubling dream, though, the cup-bearer remembers Joseph, and Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dream.

Joseph doesn’t seek revenge.
After everything Joseph’s brothers put him through, one might think revenge would be understandable. But Joseph never seeks to get even. Instead he takes care of his family and they are spared from certain destruction due to the famine in the world.

Joseph saw God at work in his life.
I believe Joseph was able to be gracious because he saw God at work in his life. Joseph said to his borothers, "Come over here. I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives." (Genesis 45.4-5). Talk about a gracious response!

Joseph trusted God to continue to work among his people long after he was gone.
There’s an interesting phrase about Joseph in the New Testament: "And it was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, confidently spoke of God’s bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt. He was so sure of it that he commanded them to carry his bones with them when they left!" (Hebrews 11.22). Interestingly, of all the things the writer to the Hebrews could have mentioned he chose this final act of Joseph. Joseph ws able to take this last faithful step, I think, because he had lived a life of strong, godly character.

What about you? How’s your character?
Joseph was the same person whether he was in the pit or the palace. What about you? Are you faithful to God no matter where life takes you?

God, thank you so much for faithful men and women who have gone before us, people who have modeled lives of faith and faithfulness. Thank you for Joseph. Help us to go through life like him. When life tosses us in the pit, help us to know that you re in charge and that you have a plan for our lives. We may be in the pit, but with your help, we won’t always be in the pit! Amen.

“Developing Leadership” Day 5

I’m writing this final reflection on Friday (and the week) on Saturday
afternoon. Yesterday was a very long day; we arrived home last night
around 11:00 pm, slightly more than 9 hours after leaving Asbury.

Class concluded shortly after noon yesterday, after which Joleen and
I went to Subway for lunch with Dr. West to discuss our dissertation
ideas. It was nice to get to know Russell a little better and to get
some direction on our dissertation topics.

At the moment, Joleen is thinking about something along the lines of
teams, small groups, and community. I went into this week thinking
about "spiritual leadership," but during the course of the week began
changing my focus toward something along the lines of developing and
creating a leadership culture in order to experience community
transformation (church and the wider community). Well, this is all
still very much in process!

Yesterday’s final class session began with devotion by a student based on Acts 4.23-31
(a section of scripture I especially like). Then we divided into two
groups for two final team-building activities. We also attempted, as a
class, the exercise that we were unable to do a few days ago (lowering
the hula hoop as a group using only all of our index fingers). We did
better (at least holding it in place a little longer) but we still were
not able to lower it. Oh well.

This week we’ve watched a few clips from the movie Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story (1996). We hope to watch the whole movie soon. It’s a challenging and inspirational story.

Our week of class on campus is over but we now have nearly 3 months
to complete our post-class work which involves writing 17-20 page paper
(more about that later).

Well, thanks for reading along this week. Now it’s time to make
final preparations for worship gatherings tomorrow at 12th Street and
Hope. I hope to see you there!

“Developing Leadership” Day 4

Today was the last full day of class. We talked more practically and more specifically about mentoring, which has been a real emphasis of the entire class, actually.

I have had a candidacy mentor since 2000 for which I am grateful. And over the next course of the next few months, Joleen and I hope to enter into another mentoring relationship with a leader in our Conference. We always want to be learning and growing by interacting with other leaders who are more experienced than us.

But it’s certainly not just about us receiving from others; it’s about us receiving and being formed so that we can give to others and pour into their lives.

One thing that really struck me today was a statement that "dumping tasks" was not necessarily the same thing as "delegating tasks." It’s an attitude. Some leaders simply want to dump the tasks they don’t like to do, while others want to expand the ministry by sharing the ministry with others.

I believe I am in the second camp — I want to develop others for ministry and share the ministry with them. It’s not really about lightening my load!

I share that because many of you know that I intend to involve everyone in ministry. I hope I always make it clear that it’s because I believe the ministry will be better if you are involved, not simply that I’m trying to get others to do my work. Make sense?

If you’ve been reading along, you may know that this is our last class before we begin the dissertation-writing phase (in January 2007). Early on in the program, I had one idea that was fairly short-lived (I satisfied that particular desire with a research paper I wrote for one particular class).

But about one year ago, I developed the idea of writing a dissertation (project paper) on something within the context of "spiritual leadership." However, this class has caused me to rethink the direction for the paper.

Basically, I’m not really sure how I feel about the phrase "spiritual leadership" anymore. As I understand it, there’s no word in the Old Testament for "spiritual" or "secular."  It’s just life; all of life is to be lived for God. So, all leadership, regardless of where it’s practiced, can be "spiritual."

I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple of days and I shared my thoughts with Dr. West during one of our breaks today. In sharing this with him, I said I was thinking about some sort of connection between "developing a leadership culture" and "transforming community." In other words, what is the role of creating a leadership culture and transforming community?

His response was very helpful. In fact, we’re planning to talk more about it before we head home tomorrow after class. I will share more about this, and probably flesh it out with all of you, over the course of the next few months, as well as the next year or so, as we work on the church-bsed project paper.

Well, if I get a chance, I will write one final reflection piece after tomorrow’s session. For now, I want to thank you for reading and for praying!

“Developing Leadership” Day 3

Today was another good day of class.

Each day, a different student leads devotion at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day, another student offers a reflection on the day and a closing prayer. Today, I was the "reflector."

I asked the question, "What are you taking with you today to help you in this process of going deeper (personally)?"

I asked that because I felt the key theme for the day was maturity. And I believed we talked about that maturity on two levels: 1) leading ourselves deeper, and 2) leading others (i.e. our churches) to go deeper.

During the day, the professor (Dr. Russell West) shared that a mentor told him early in his faith journey, "Start in Matthew. Read to the right, and read no faster than you can understand and obey." That’s great advice. Too often we simply read the Bible for informational purposes. But the Bible is not given to us primarily for informational purposes but for transformational ones!

Russell said at one point, "It’s the gospel that will take people deeper in the faith!"

One of the focuses of the day was a discussion on Paul’s cycle for developing churches:

Paul’s Cycle

  • Evangelism (preaching the message)
  • Establish (grounding new believers)
  • Equip (equipping leaders)
  • Expand (sending people)

I love that. It’s very similar to the three phases I’ve tended to talk about: Reaching, Teaching,  and Sending. In the cycle above, "teaching" is divided into a discipleship component (Establish – discipleship) and equipping component (leadership development). It’s a great way to understand the process; I will remember these as I lead the congregations I serve.

Today’s team-building activity involved two teams. Upon arrival, everyone received either a small or large bolt. Joleen and I (the only married couple in the class), had already each been given a small or large screw that matched the bolts that were given out. Everyone had to come to one of us to match bolts with the same-size screw. That’s how we devided into two teams.

Once divided into two teams, my team’s purpose was to transport a golf ball (placed on a "bull ring") using 8-foot strings that were tied to the bull ring. We had to meneuver the apparatus through a couple doorway. Once there, we had to drop the golf ball into a coffee cup on the floor.

To complicate matters, Joleen’s team’s purpose was to try to prevent us from being successful — placing obstacles in our path, standing in the way, placing obstacles around the cup, etc. To make matters worse, we only had a few minutes in which to accomplish the task.

We had a hard time figuring out how to keep the golf ball on the bull ring, but once we were able to do so, we were successful in the task. It was a good experience. We’ll have to see how some of you do with it at some point in the future! 🙂

It also nice to have part of the afternoon off. We ordered Chinese food and worked through lunch, then called it a day around 2:15 pm.

Joleen and I did take the afternoon off to enjoy some time together. We watched the movie "Click." It was both a good movie AND a bad movie. It was bad because it was typical Adam Sandler crudeness, unfortunately, but the message of the movie was great. The crudeness was absolutely unnecessary to the message of the movie; in fact, it got in the way, for us, anyway.

Well, one more full day, then a half day on Friday before returning home on Friday afternoon. We look forward to our remaining time in the classroom!

“Developing Leadership” Day 2

We’ve now completed two days. Normally, classes are from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm with 1.5 hours for lunch with a 15-minute break in the morning and afternoon. This class has followed a different schedule — 8:30 am until 5:00 pm with only 1 hour for lunch and shorter than 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon. But we don’t really mind the extra time — we’re here to learn as much as we can. Class ends Friday at noon at which time we’ll head home. BTW, we’ll have 3 months to complete our post-class work.

Our days are filled with a lot of variety — devotion, team building exercises (i.e. games), lecture and discussion, as well as a few video clips. The team building exercises come from the book, Teamwork & Teamplay. As I said yesterday, you’ll be seeing some of these in various places from time to time. They’re fun, but they’re also great ways to build teamwork.

We did three exercises during today’s class. We did very well on two of them, but awful on one. I’m hoping we get another chance at that one, because I have some ideas on how we might be able do it successfully. We’ll see how some of you do with it in the near future! 🙂  (It involves a hula hoop and a bunch of people.)

We have wireless Internet access here on campus, which is nice (especially since we’re limited to dial-up at home). This time we even have access in the classroom (not all classrooms do, for some reason). I love being able to search Scripture at BibleGateway.com or for books that are mentioned in class at Amazon.com as well as checking email. Oh, during the morning break yesterday, I finally replaced my desktop images/screensaver from The Incredibles to images from Disney’s recent movie, Cars. 🙂

One of the more valuable pieces from today was a discussion on the many different types of leadership styles. When we think about leadership, we tend to think of one style. But there are really many different types of leadership. Here are the ones we discussed today. If there’s one (or a few) that you’d like me to attempt to describe, let me know in the "comments" section (click on "comments" just below this post).

  • Doxalogical Leadership
  • Missiological Leadership
  • Apostolic Leadership
  • Submissional Leadership
  • Episcopal Leadership
  • Pastoral/Poimenial Leadership
  • Fiducial Leadership (Stewardship)
  • Consensual Leadership
  • Apologetical Leadership
  • Polemical Leadership
  • Prophetic Leadership
  • Didactical Leadership
  • Liberative Leadership
  • Restorative Leadership
  • Absolute Leadership
  • Sacrificial Leadership
  • Sapential Leadership
  • Embassorial Leadership

Out of these, I tend to identify mostly with Episcopal (big picture, looking 2-3 steps down the road, etc) and Consensical (involving others in leadership, team effort, etc.) along with a couple others, perhaps.

We are really looking forward to tomorrow. This is the only class we’ve had where the professor is giving us part of an afternoon off (besides Friday, of course). We’ll have a working lunch then call it a day at 2:00 pm. Some of us are talking about going to watch a movie, perhaps Click or The Lakehouse, both of which Joleen and I want to see, either in the theater or on DVD when they come out in a few months.

Something to look for in the next couple days, weather permitting: I hope to take a couple photos around the campus and
post them here; there’s a great life-size statue of John Wesley in "John Wesley Square," my favorite place on campus.

Well, that’s it for Tuesday. Thanks for reading!