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I wish there was a great story of the hundreds of thousands of dollars given to us to start this new ministry adventure. There was a promise of $5000 and a pat on the back: "Good luck."
September 25, 2014 1 1 comments
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How many pastors wouldn't love this kind of confirmation of their calling?
September 25, 2014 0 0 comments
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Preachers help us cross that hermeneutical bridge between the text, and what it means for us today.
September 16, 2014 0 1 comments
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I confess--when I had to write down in my sermon log book what I had preached the day or two previous--sometimes it happened I'd find myself with my pen poised over the log book page and I could not recall the sermon...
September 16, 2014 3 6 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines
Many pastors and churches would like to focus their missionary outreach by concentrating on fewer but deeper missionary support relationships, but currently have a larger number of superficial ones. How do you get from here to there?
September 2, 2014 0 0 comments
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There is no question whether the apostle Paul had the gifts to be a powerful and effective evangelist, but the skills of an evangelist are different from those of a church leader.
August 27, 2014 0 1 comments
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I was away from my church for two weeks. It’s called vacation. I am fortunate to have enjoyed some of God’s beautiful creation. I spent some good time with my family. What I realized I missed, however, was my church...
August 21, 2014 0 1 comments
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Readers of the Network,

Heath King, former Yale Professor and author wrote according to Newsmax, "He (Williams) fit the profile of an entertainer trying to manage-and mask-mental illness with laughter."  I do not think so.  Robin Williams was first a comedian who happened to be suffering...

August 20, 2014 0 1 comments
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I am intrigued by the repetitive act in the Old Testament where God’s people would erect stone monuments. They served as a visual way of reminding themselves (and sometimes future generations) about God’s acts of faithfulness.
August 19, 2014 0 1 comments
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This is the last week of our summer break. Accordingly, I want to reflect a bit on our experience. As I take a moment to think about it, I’ve been reminded of at least three things over the last month.
August 4, 2014 0 0 comments
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Preaching should mostly be about saying something nice, but not at the cost of saying nothing at all in case the soundness of the faith is threatened.
July 22, 2014 1 2 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet
This book presents an alternative model for churches, from its leadership structure to its mobilization of the laity, that hopes to recreate the church Jesus and the apostles cultivated: a church not chasing the wind but rather going into the world and making disciples of Jesus.
July 17, 2014 0 0 comments
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The question has been raised by many in the church as to why there needs to be genuine unity and connectedness among believers.
July 7, 2014 0 0 comments
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When sermonating or reading at my office, I get interrupted. So, yesterday I did something different. I went to the library to get some work done. I got more done in two hours than I had in the week. But it felt weird. I hadn’t been interrupted...
June 27, 2014 1 4 comments
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Mondays are the days in which I rest, relax, enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and pretty much try as hard as I can to do nothing. Unless absolutely important, I try to do no church work on a Monday.
June 16, 2014 1 0 comments
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I hear more stuff that makes me wonder sometimes – “Are we running a business, or some organization…. or are we a church?
June 11, 2014 2 1 comments
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“In a typical congregation of 200 adults, 50 will experience depression at some point, and at least 30 are currently taking antidepressants.” (Dan Blazer, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, in Christianity Today, March 2009). What could that mean for your church's preaching, programming, pastoral care, and congregational care?
June 9, 2014 2 1 comments
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I want to remind you of a trusted faith formation resource provider: Faith Alive Christian Resources. The Faith Alive 2014-2015 catalog is full of Sunday school curriculum, Bible studies, and other resources to help people of all ages to grow in faith.
June 6, 2014 1 0 comments
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As summer approaches, I've been reflecting on a subtle language shift around summer plans. Can we recover a glimpse of creational goodness by altering our language from summer vacations toward summer "holy-days"?
May 27, 2014 2 2 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet
This book presents a incredibly comprehensive vision for how pastors and ministry leaders can adapt to a post-Christian culture without abandoning orthodox theology. It offers challenging insights and provocative questions based on Keller's more than 20 years of ministry in an urban context.
May 16, 2014 0 0 comments
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Most weeks, I receive a note or two regarding the Sunday service. They are usually encouraging. Father God knows I need them. Most Monday’s, I suffer a little bit from what I call my “Elijah moment”. I feel like I’m the only one left in Horeb  (Read 1 Kings 19:10). Your notes pick me up,...

May 14, 2014 0 0 comments
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A while back I was at a classis leadership event and noticed that most of the presenters were not “home grown”. It got me wondering whether something ought to be done about it.
May 13, 2014 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic
I realized this was a challenge for churches when I saw the large role expectations played in the relationship between pastors and churches, particularly when stated expectations were not met, but even more so when unstated expectations were not.
May 1, 2014 3 5 comments
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In life and in ministry, I need to be reminded that what I have related to as “initial success” is different than “impact.”
April 11, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Report
This survey focused on United Methodist clergy, but I would guess that it's conclusions are broadly applicable to clergy from many denominations. "Answering God's call shouldn't be bad for your health. But for about half of all ordained United Methodist clergy, it is."
April 2, 2014 0 0 comments

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Here is a response from another blog on the Network by Larry Dornboos.  The response was by   Norman Sennema on May 10, 2014  I thought the whole thing was very relevant and spoke my thoughts well, so I'm including the whole thing.

"Thanks for sharing this, a great topic, one that I have been personally wrestling with. I would avoid the extremes (no need for shepherds at all, calling people only to be 'self-feeders'), but would encourage a rethink of how we think about shepherding. I would like to add to this discussion, and to hear what your responses to my 'rant' might be.

1) An important qualifier is that we are under-shepherds, working for the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). My fear is that instead of helping the sheep hear His Voice (John 10:27), we are training people to know our voice. They come to rely on us to interpret scripture for them. Or if they don't like our voice, they look for a shepherd who's voice they prefer. The shepherds need to improve their voice to keep their audience, and compete with others in order to satisfy their sheep... or they look for greener pastures. Somehow we need to teach the sheep to hear His Voice whenever scripture is opened, whether the sermon is good or bad, the speaker is dynamic or bland, ordained or not ordained. For me, the Voice of God (Logos, Jesus) is more important than the mouthpiece (which we need too); whether the mouthpiece is a professor, pastor or pew-sitter, a sunday school teacher, a parent, a youth group leader, or a stranger on the street, God's Voice needs to be heard. 

2) I would suggest adding another image to help us explain the shepherding image: a parent (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12). When children are young, they need to be fed. But eventually they need to learn to feed themselves, and eventually even feed others. This does not end the parents role, they still help them get the food, help them prepare it for a time, but the children eat for themselves. And soon they are able to prepare a meal, and maybe even surprise their parents with a meal prepared for them. And one day, they will have opportunity to feed their own children. By feeding themselves, I don't mean 'self-feeding' as you characterized it (independent, individualistic). Eating and feeding should always be communal affairs, but at some point the kids need to grow up and eat... with the support of the community. My experience is that we make 'food preparation' so complicated that you have to have a seminary degree to do it rightly. We not only lead our sheep to the table, we precut the food, we decide on what to eat, when and how, we even make them sit quiet and still while we spoon feed them. This makes sense for babies, but when do they grow up? See Hebrews 5:11-14, where eventually the babes become teachers, who by constant use they have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

3) How many of us have heard those dreaded words, 'I'm not being fed'. They make it sound as if they are deeper than we are, that their maturity level has grown beyond our shepherding skills. But that is not what I hear. I hear baby robbins squawking in the nest, demanding that we give them what they want - feed me, love me, help me, teach me, care for me, comfort me... This is the kind of SELF-feeding that I think we need to address. They have not grown up, they are still in their high chairs, with their clean bibs, waiting for us to spoon feed them. Is this cycnical... maybe? True of everyone... of course not. But it is I fear a common pattern, one that is related to our traditional shepherding/preaching ideas and practices.

4) I am presently serving in a long time 'church plant' setting. We have lots of babes in Christ, and they do not know how to hear God's Voice. But they have learned enough of churchianity to know that some shepherds provide better sermons than others. I have felt the pressure to perform better, to compete with the mega-shepherds. But that is not the way I want to go. I am who I am, and I do the best I can. I need to instill in them a love for God's Voice in scripture, and an ability to feed themselves in community, to grow up and eventually become teachers, who by constant use of Scripture have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. My sermons are not all great, and some of them are pretty bad, but the scripture is always great, and God's Voice can always be heard. 

5) So I am trying something, and praying that it will help. I've adopted a three year bible-reading schedule. I hand out the readings each week, and highlight which reading from that list I will be preaching on next Sunday. The handout has open space for them to answer the question beneath each reading, 'what do you hear God saying?'. I blog my own reflections for each reading, each day, and ask them to post their own thoughts. I email 5-10 members each week and ask them to share their responses to the upcoming Scripture passage, and incorporate their responses into the message (I would love to meet weekly with some, as I've heard other pastors do, but in my busy, commuter culture meeting time is at a premium). On Sunday morning, I attempt a partial 'lectio' by reading the scripture, pausing, then reading it again. Then I ask them to share what they hear God saying in the scripture. Finally, I share some of my own reflections, trying to model how we need to all hear God's Voice in scripture. I am letting them know that one day I may be asking them to publicly share their own reflections in a 'sermon'. So far only two have done so... but in time.

6) I have discouraged them from saying 'good sermon' to me after the service (that was easy, not too many did). Instead I've urged them to share with me if they heard God speaking to them - teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, comforting, blessing, etc. - in the service. Sometimes it was in a prayer, sometimes in a song, sometimes in message. One time a young girl shared with me what God said to her in the passage, and it had nothing to do with my 'sermon'. Thing is, after I heard what she said, I myself heard God differently, through her 'sermon'! I am often surprised and blessed by what others hear God saying in scripture. I realize that all my training and experience gives me tunnel vision, seeing things that others don't see, and missing (obvious) things that others do see. Reading scripture and hearing God is indeed a communal activity - we should stop restricting it to the educated and qualified few. 

7) I fear that our emphasis on ordination and the formal 'preaching of the word' has held back the church. We stress the anointing of the pastor, but scripture also stresses the anointing of the disciples, so that they do not need anyone to teach them (1 John 2:26-27). It is the Spirit that teaches us, it is the scripture that is God-breathed and useful, a double-edged sword. Why is it that so many christians do not know how to proclaim (preach, share) Jesus in the marketplace? Because we've hired that task out to a limited few. When the early church was persecuted, the disciples that scattered preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:1-4); today they just look for another church to preach it to them. Think of the story of the church in China, when the communist government killed the pastors, burned the bibles and books, sent away the missionaries, scattered the churches, closed the seminaries. The west thought for sure the church was toast; but they (and the Chinese government) forgot about the Holy Spirit, the Chief Shepherd, and the power of God's Voice. When the walls in China finally opened a little, the west found a thriving church. Still to this day ordinary people (without seminary training) are being used by God to speak, and be heard. We need to learn from them!!!

Conclusion. Do we still need shepherds? Yes! But do we need to rethink what shepherds do, and how they do it? YES! Reading scripture for yourself is not the self-feeding that concerns me. I feel the bigger problem is the SELF-FEEDING of baby sheep that never seem to grow up and learn to feed others."

And I would add, that it seems sometimes the shepherds only feed, and do not teach others to feed.  They give the flock a fish, but never a fishing rod.  (mixed metaphor... but you get the idea).

posted in: Gracious Residue

A beautiful, humbly-told true story of church planting. Thank you.

Hmm.  The difficulty with an analogy is that the desire to understand it is key.  I understand your analogy of  food for the body to food for the soul.  But, you should understand my poor analogy of recipe and serving as well.  I understand the Word is not a recipe book... its just an analogy.   You don't have to be a master chef in order to bring some hot dogs, relish, roasting sticks, marshmallows to a picnic.  Its not hard to add some corn and honey dew melons, and presto, you have a meal.  Fairly nourishing, especially if you add some tomatoes and carrots from the garden.   It might not be the only meal you would want, but you wouldn't starve.

Presentation matters?  It probably helps.  But maybe it doesn't.  Presentation that clarifies for one person is a roadblock for another person.  Moses thought he couldn't speak... so he got Aaron to help.  But either way, presentation would not have changed the outcome for someone who had his own agenda.

The problem I sometimes see is that some people are only ever concerned about being fed.  Feeding others is not their concern.  They get spiritually fat and spiritually lazy as a result.

Now I know the Word is not a recipe book;  perhaps more of a plan for building a house on a solid foundation.  But no analogy is perfect.  Our relationship with God is not a house, after all;  yet Jesus used this analogy.  Was it the apostle   that wrote:  leaving aside the milk of the gospel, the elementary things, for the meat is what we should be looking for?  Being fed what?  What's the milk?  what's the meat?  He seems to allude to the "recipe" being the meat... in other words, how do we live?   How do we shape our lives in response to God's grace?   Hebrews 5 and 6.  How do we cook the "meat...?

Ironically, it is only in sharing the "recipe", that we learn more about it.  And if we demonstrate the "recipe" (christian living) or forget certain items in the recipe, our actions speak louder than our words.

posted in: Gracious Residue

Serve it up: Maybe, probably not. Presentation matters and is a skill/craft/gift of it's own.

Deliver the Recipe: No, definitely not.

Share the Recipe: No.

The Word is not a recipe book. To turn it into recipes is a dimunition and a violation in my view.

 

 

 

 

posted in: Gracious Residue

You might not be able to cook all the meals, but certainly you should be able to serve them.

Should not sermons be delivering the recipes?  And should not you then be able to share these recipes with others?

posted in: Gracious Residue

"Could you cook all the meals that have nourished you in your life?" I asked, somewhat defensively, as a rookie preacher, when a man said in a group of people that he had heard enough sermons in his life that he could probably write and present one himself. I think it is a fair analogy, and I hear hints of it in what Scott wrote. Fair, minus the defensiveness.

My sister and I did a highly appreciated skit at a event celebrating our father's x number of years in the ministry, years ago. In the skit, our punchline was that we as kids would watch and test-taste the pan of soup Dad made on Saturday as he was finishing up his sermon. If it was spicy, watch out on Sunday! If it was bland, be ready as well.

I suppose I like food-nutrient analogies for sermons. 

posted in: Gracious Residue

Hebrews 5: 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Heb 6 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen[c] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

posted in: Gracious Residue

Much preaching is pastoral, but not prophetic.   It considers the feelings of people, but not the feeling of God.

posted in: Prophetic Preaching

Verlyn,

Thanks for an interesting post on Paul's pastoral sense and strategy.

It's an interesting thesis: Paul learned gradually that local pastors have more influence than out-of-town experts and therefore shifted his strategy from writing letters to churches to writing letters to local pastors.

It's an interesting thesis, which I will explore with my students the next time I teach NT Survey.

But I think it breaks down at a couple of points.

-Paul's letters to Philippi and Thessalonica seem to have been well-received and accomplished their purpose. So maybe the contrast is not so much letter vs. personal presence as Corinth vs. Macedonia.

-It seems clear that Titus was able to turn the situation around in Corinth. This was likely due to his exceptional ability, more than the force of personal presence. Paul's personal presence in Corinth did not always accomplish his goals, any more than his letters did.

-having served in several locations as a local pastor, and on several occasions as the out-of-town expert (including writing "pastoral letters" from afar),  I do not think there is a clear pattern of local pastors having more influence. I have seen it work sometimes one way, sometimes the other.

Maybe the take-away point is: vary your strategy.  Which is, I guess, just what you say Paul was doing.

Thanks for writing,

Thomas Niehof

 

Thanks Larry!  Your words and example may well be used by the Lord to set other pastors free from this debilitating and dangerous disease!  Ken Van De Griend

Thanks, Paul,

Good read that encourages us. I think Sacramento  is blessed to have you as a pastor in its midst.

Shalom,

George

Good article.  It used to be in the southern part of the Netherlands, which is mostly Catholic, that you would see piles of rocks in the very middle of a farmers field.  Farmers would on purpose place a pile of rocks that were sort of "in the way" when they worked the land with tractors or harvest machinery.  It was said that as they had to make their way around these piles of rocks, it would remind them to pray and to thank the Lord of the Harvest.  As a protestant girl growing up in the Netherlands, I was told that this was superstitious but I am not so sure - it is good to have reminders to pray, to be thankful and to submit daily to our God.  If that is through a pile of rocks, a painting, a cross or whatever - that reminder is very helpful. Enjoy Tiffany Falls and the rocks that point to the Rock.

 

Preaching should be about bringing the truth, repentance, salvation, and renewal into daily life.  It is not about saying something "nice".  Without condemning sin, there is no need for a Saviour.   Whether obedience is presented from a positive or negative perspective, the implication of disobedience is the same.  And certainly Peter condemned Annanias and Sapphira as deceivers and liars with dire consequences.  Paul certainly told the Corinthians (I Cor 5) to cast out the sexually immoral person (and to forgive based on repentance).  Revelations makes several judgements about the churches.  But, be careful.  Every elder, every christian needs to be careful about judging, because everyone can and will be judged.  Judge with compassion and forgiveness.   But do not think you are more compassionate or forgiving than the apostle Peter or Paul.   Or more compassionate than Jesus, who condemned hypocrisy and impure hearts.  Who told many parables about bearing fruit, or of using talents or minas given by God, who explained what would happen to the weeds, to the bad fish, and to the seed that fell on hard ground or was swallowed by weeds.  

Warnings about sin, or about false teaching, are love gifts to God's people, to keep them close to God.   

"Preaching should mostly be about saying something nice, but not at the cost of saying nothing at all in case the soundness of the faith is threatened." Really? Someone should speak to Paul Washer, David Wilkerson or Leonard Ravenhill.

I can't imagine any minister would disagree that sermon preparation is only one part of ministry.  That would be a pretty tough position to defend.

As Joshua Benton has correctly described of Jesus, "He took time to pray, he took time to connect with The Father, he took time to rest."

Regardless of how he used certain private moments, it's easy to picture those moments of Jesus' life as being free from interruption.  

While I have times where I do receive people who appear and phone calls that spontaneously arrive.  My only point is that I need pockets of time that are free from interruption from time to time, too.   Whether it is for another step forward in preparing the sermon or for going to bed for the night.  In the case of emergencies, there are even exceptions to guarding those important moments.  

Guarding certain pockets of time within reason is a necessary part of ministry for me.  It enables me to see certain commitments to the ministry through to completion.  I wouldn't dream of walking out of a board meeting to go work on my sermon; I wouldn't interrupt pastoral counseling with a grieving family to start making phone calls or to receive another parishioner who suddenly appears (again, unless it was an even more urgent emergency).  Why should assembling the gift of a good Sunday sermon warrant any less care?

The author of the article indicates that interruptions are an important reality in ministry.  I completely agree.  

But, never guarding certain pockets of time from interruption would not work for me.  It would be chaotic.  It could open the door to not being dependable.  It would be rude and disrespectful to parishioners who need and deserve a moment with a fully engaged pastor.   

posted in: Work: Interrupted

I appreciate both of your observations and reflections on this post. I agree that preaching the Word is very important to faith formation and it is central to worship. I also agree that careful preparation is needed to faithfully preaching God's Word. It is something exciting and also terrifying to do each Sunday (for some, twice a Sunday). It is a great responsibility to correctly and faithfully preach His word. Yet ministry isn't about just that. It is part of it but not the only part of it. Reading through the Gospels, yes, Jesus took time away from people. He didn't take time to prepare his sermon on the mount though. He took time to pray, he took time to connect with The Father, he took time to rest. Reading through the Gospels, Jesus was about people. He was about the sinners, the tax collectors, those on the fringes. He even calls the pharisees to repentance and invites them into the kingdom.

I find that the word "balance" is tossed around as an excuse to hide away rather than engage; to evade rather than encounter. Reading the Gospels, Jesus lived rhythm not balance. He lived in a rhythm of doing God's work and then rest and prayer (for example, he went to pray before and after important events in the book of Mark). He had a rhythm of work and rest. You're welcome to check out my blog where I look more into this subject of work and rhythm here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/coffee-rest-and-work/ here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/sweet-hour-of-prayer/ here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/the-art-of-not-doing/ here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/the-art-of-silence/ and here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/be-still-2/

Rhythm is important to doing ministry. God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, not because he had to because he was tired but because he knew rhythm. Jesus lived this rhythm, not balance. Engaging people helps me engage God's word. If I do not know what someone is going through, how I can faithfully speak God's word to them, allowing the Spirit to move in their hearts?

Thank you again for your comments and observations and thoughts. May God bless you in doing his kingdom work

posted in: Work: Interrupted

It's interesting that scripture tells us Jesus would slip away from the crowds to the mountains to pray.  Not even his disciples were around.  It would seem that during those moments Jesus was not interrupted.  Perhaps the Savior valued balance.  Like Doug Bouws has indicated, I find it important to engage people when they appear, guarding their time with me from interruption.  And its necessary to have stretches of concentrated time to prepare for Sundays.  I find it necessary and rewarding to have this type of balance.

posted in: Work: Interrupted

I've been going to the library for years to get sermon work done.  I make little or no progress at the office.  I set aside time to be interrupted (when i'm at home/at the office), and time when I can focus and think without being interrupted.   If I didn't my sermons would never get finished.  You can accomplish ministry by engaging people when they are appear or you can accomplish ministry by being able to think clearly and write a good sermon.  I think both are important.

posted in: Work: Interrupted

Thanks, Ken.  Good stuff.

- Dave Vroege, Halifax

posted in: Life Together

Hi there,

The links to the talks are not working. I would love to listen to these talks, do you have alternative links?

 

Thanks,

Larry, 

A resource you might be interested in is Key Ministry's blog, Church4EveryChild, written by Dr. Steve Grcevich. He regularly writes about how the church can include families and individuals impacted by mental illness. 

Thanks for shedding light on this import topic!

Katie

Hi Chris,

Thank you for this blog post.  I like your angle.  We too "vacate" a bit during the summer, as we love to go camping and visit family.  But like you suggest, I'm trying to take more "Sabbath" during my vacation.  Slowing things down, reading more, spending more time in quiet.  We also spend considerable time in our backyard, working in the garden, but also spending time in solitude and silence, in God's creation.  But as much as we enjoy staying home during summer holiday time, we've also learned to get a way a bit, as you'll know that when a pastor is home, he is "on-call."

May the Lord bless our Summer-Sabbath breaks!

--Leon

I once had a wise spiritual director say words to me that I will never forget and that have helped guide my life ever since: She said, "Consider the things that bring you life; consider the things that bring you death; and don't do violence to yourself." Work for me includes both those things that bring life, and those that bring death; and I can tell when the balance gets shifted and I need to make some changes. The Lord has created us with a need for Sabbath, for rest, for the renewing and refreshing of our souls. This blog is thought-provoking for me. What brings life to my soul? A vacation-day or a holy-day?

This article touches on something I heard recently. John MacArthur (Masters Seminary) made this statement. "There are two large global movements currently in place. One is the Charismatic and the other is Reformed." I wonder why we seem to be in wane here in N.America and yet globally we see a growing influence of Reformed minded. Any thoughts on this obserevation? 

posted in: Supply Management

Thanks Jeff. Those resources are added to my togettoread list.

Appreciate it. Thanks Kim.

Pete,

The book "Studying Congregations:A New Handbook" by Nancy Ammerman may be helpful to you, especially the chapter by Robert Schreiter that speaks about surfacing the "implicit theology" of a congregation. My first thought is that this is the kind of question that lends itself to a qualitative method, not a quantitative "check this box" type. "Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice" by Mary Clark Moschella may also be helpful.

Thanks for the suggestion. We've made the change.

To those who run the network. I would have liked to have this posted under the topic of "Transitional Ministry" or, fitting what we call it in the CRC, "Specialized Transitional Ministry." If that can be done then my intent will have been fully achieved.

Len, I think that you are right on the money.  About 15 years ago I started having a fair amount of contact with the Anglican community where I live and found that the generally shorter sermon and the weekly celebration of the Eucharist gave worship a completeness that I found lacking in the CRC.  The shorter sermon had the additional benefit of much less repetition on the part of the person preaching.   I have been heavily involved in worship planning at over the past 15 years at my home church and have become much more convinced that there are 5 worship pillars: Praise, Confession and reconciliation, prayer, the Word and sermon or homily, Eucharist.  Each of these pillars in my view are equally important and I think we have been short changed by the emphasis on preaching. 

Thanks Len, for your enthusiastic support of the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper. 

Of course, in our survey we did not take a particular position on frequency but we did ask the question. Of the Protestant congregations surveyed 20% celebrate the Lord's Supper each week, 67% once a month, 10% less than once per month, and 3% two to three times a month.

I don't know if those stats confirm your assertion of a movement of including the Lord's Supper every week.Perhaps there are other surveys to which we may compare this data?   

My reaction to the survey is a resounding "duh."  Since reformation churches have been experiencing the "centrality of the sermon" for centuries, it's no wonder that the people on the pew think it's the main event. 

The real issue is what we left behind in this historical evolution. What we left behind is the dual foci of word and sacrament that goes all the way back to the New Testament and early church (and was advocated by Calvin himself). 

Today there is a remarkable movement across the board, from Reformed to Pentecostal, of balancing the Word with the Eucharist every Lord's Day. For example, check out the number of CRC and RCA church plants that have instituted weekly Eucharist from the start. If you attend a church that has rediscovered this ancient practice, you will realize that the sermon is enriched, embodied, and affirmed when the congregation gathers at the table to receive Christ in the bread and wine. 

As Dutch theologian Von Alman put it: ending the service without the Supper is like ending a sentence with a colon rather than a period.  Something important and climactic is missing. 

 

This sounds like an interesting course! I'll be interested in reading what you share. 

In response to Larry: I don't think rehearsing and remembering the story or the cross is exactly a way to live in the thrall of the devil or to do an end-run on the victory of Easter.  What do we do each time we come to the Lord's Table but remember: "This is my body . . . my blood."   We do remember the cross--we never put it behind us.  It is the locus of our salvation that leads us with gratitude to Easter and beyond.   And anyway, I don't think the rhythms of the Christian Year per se keep us down or away from Easter.   In fact, if you want to see something that really whallops one with a sense of sin and penitence, few things do this as well as the very serious Preparatory Form for the Lord's Supper that the CRCNA traditionally used the week before the sacrament.   Just sayin' . . .

posted in: Mardi Gras

I wonder how often Jesus and his disciples shared laughs together. I wonder whether Jesus' sense of humor was more slapstick, or droll, or punny, or ??? I wonder whether they teased each other. If they did, I expect Peter gave and took more of it than anyone: "Hey, Peter, think you can walk all way way across this puddle without sinking?" 

Yes Scott I can identify.  I grew up in the CRC of the 1950's and 60's in Leota MN.  I never heard about the liturgical year until way after Seminary. I had a hard time accepting it mainly becasue I did not think it proper to relive the history of redemption in our personal lives.  "It is finished" seemed to me to mean enough with the sin problem.  The cross is behind us.  I still have trouble with this business of repeating the story of redemption to be honest.  Why can we not live in the power of the resurrection every Sunday and every day?  Is this not a waste of time? A tyrranical hold of the evil one to keep us in the defeat of our sin rather than in the once for all victory of our Lord?  Is this not pretending that we live in Romans 7 and have not yet moved on to Romans 8?  I do not think our Pentecostal brothers and sisters practice this, I doubt whether more conservative Reformation churches do such as the Protestant Reformed, URC, or even PCA? Also Advent has been turned into a  mini-lenten season.  Sometimes I long for the good ole Leota days when we liturically sinned with a passion.

posted in: Mardi Gras

Hello Scott,

Thank you for this article.  I also grew up in a non-liturgical ("free") church tradition, which I appreciate.  But in recent years, I've been wanting more--more beauty, more ritual, more depth.  And like you, I'm finding it in the pattern and practices of the Christian year.  The ongoing challenge I have is how to engage my people in these practices.  I'm doing it slowly, trusting that, as James K. A. Smith teaches, they will form us all into more devoted students of Christ.

Have a blessed Lenten journey!

--Leon

posted in: Mardi Gras

If we truly believe that Jesus lives in us by his Holy Spirit, we don't need such annual, ritual reminders of Calvary's cross derived from Roman Catholicism. If we need such a reminder, no amount of organized Lenten activities will make a difference.

Thank you for your summary of this book. Some CRC pastors are implementing the seven dynamics of being led by Holy Spirit. They are also facilitating the training.

There is a one day overview, of the 4 day workshop, in Guelph on March 22/14. I am asking a number of people from our church to attend. As one pastor said, "this must be a grassroots initiative and the leadership must be fully invested".

John A. Algera, in his book, "Signs & Wonders - page 97", states, "In reformed circles, an underemphasis on the work and power of Holy Spirit has tradionally existed, along with a fear of any manifestationof Holy Spirit that cannot be controlled or predicted".
As if we could control God.

Thanks for reminding me to work on the book I am writing regarding my mom and dad's story.

Finding acceptance in a local body can lead a person to Christ.  It may take a while, but everyone desires acceptance and what better place than a body of believers who truly love God.  Some people have never felt accepted whether inside or outside the church.  So, therefore, they have trouble feeling accepted anywhere.  Those that we don't like, love them anyway.  Those who are quiet and shy, shake their hand and say "Hi" everytime the church doors are open and you see them in the grocery store, etc, even if we think they are wierd.  This is where Godly discernment is needed.  Love is the greatest gift. 

Jim, how good to hear from you again.  I remember when we often talked before or after worship in our University days before I used the commoon lectionary in preaching. This is what I learned since then.

In 1983, 26 years after ordination, I was allowed a six-month sabbatical for study and writing.  Three months were spent at Princeton Seminaray.  For the final 15 years of my ministry I preached from the lectionary in the morning service and mostly taught from the Confessions in the evening.

I experienced freedom and discipline in a new way.  Each week I started with the four texts given by the ecumenical church instead of my choices of the "right texts."  That plunged me into the discipline of preparing to preach from less than familiar texts than I would have chosen.  I also learned the discipline of taking "contemporary situations" or congregational tragedies and setting them in the context of the text(s) for the day to listen for the Word.  And, knowing my own limitations and the "light" that a given text yields.  I also learned when and how to "punt," meaning, when to depart from the lectionary as a servant for the day.

I also enjoyed hearing a parishioner who, having missed worship in our church on a Sunday, report that "We heard a sermon in Georgia on Sunday from your lectionary text."

Thanks, Jim.  How abouat lunch on High Street Again?

Roger

There are benefits to lectionary preaching.  However, I find lectionary preaching insufficient if we truly want to preach the whole Bible to all of God's People.  The lectionary leaves out significant and important chunks of Scripture (notice how few passages there are from Revelation) and its pericope divisions don't always make sense.  Furthermore, follwing the church seasons/calendar makes much more sense in a rural setting than in most urban settings.  For a banker or a single mom there isn't much difference between December 18, March 18 or October 18.  The rhythms of the lectionary are beautiful for people who relate to them, but it was written for a different time and place.

Since we must preach a text in its context, following the lectionary is additionally hard because it necessitates significantly more background study week after week. 

My practice that has worked very well is to follow John Stott's pattern in "Between Two Worlds."  Preach through a book of the Bible.  Alternate between an Old Testament book and a New Testament Book.  Then on the last Sunday of each month take a break and preach from God's word about a contemporary issue.  It's amazing how many life issues are addressed in the pages of scripture when we simply let the Bible speak to us as it was written.

Duane, I fully agree with you that most parishioners don't believe their pastors understand their concerns.  That doesn't mean however, the author of scripture doesn't understand their concerns.  Our challenging task is to understand the text in its context and help our audiences grasp that while we as preachers may not understand - God understands.  I love the illustration from Haddon Robinson who related the following story.  His son was just ordained as a pastor.  He said to his son.  "What does a young guy like you have to say to an old guy like me that I don't already know."  His son responded, "Nothing dad.  I don't have anything to say to you - but Scripture does, that's why I preach from the Text."  AMEN!

Yes, I see.   The data you cite is heart breaking.  It make a giant leap in my mind to the question of why the increasing numbers of article 17s....   could it be that the loving relationship between pastor and flock gets weakened by preaching that seems disconnected, and then flaws take center stage and resentment follows.... 

It certainly can.  I just think we overestimate how much our preaching connects with people's lives. I thought it was interesting that the post begins with her cry of the heart and then all of a sudden we're talking about lectionary instead of what she might have to teach us about preaching that engages (or doesn't engage) people where they are.  I have no strong opinions about lectionary.  I have very strong opinions that we need to listen to that 40 year old mom a lot more.  I can't put my finger on the data right now, but there has been plenty of survey data over the years to support the assertion that most people do not believe their preacher really understands their life.  That's my concern.  

 

DK, I want to think that competent preaching using the lectionaries would in fact speak to the 40 year old mom's heart.  Would you agree?

 

I'd rather talk about the 40 year old mom's cry of the heart.  

 

Good points all, Jim and Todd.  Thanks for a thoughtful discussion!

Jim,

I appreciate the post.  While I have not followed the lectionary through an entire liturgical year, I have found it particularly helpful during the seasons of Advent and Lent.  The collection of texts:  OT, Psalm, Gospel, and Epistle follows the moves weaves together the texts that lead us from God's promise to the Incarnation, from ministry in Galillee to the empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday.  

What I have particularly appreciated about the lectionary is that it is a faithful guide to lead preacher and congregation through the major themes of God's salvation plan.

I point the finger at myself as I share that the lectionary also keeps me from what I perceive to be the tempation of putting together the gimmick sermon series all done with the intent of keeping things "fresh."  As one parishoner shared with me during this past Christmas season, "Sometimes we forget, but it is is the 'old, old story' that we need to hear.  Everything else is tinsel and ornaments.  It's nice for a while, but after a few weeks, we put it back in a box and forget about it for another year."

While I am glad that I am not bound to the lectionary as some other religious traditions might be, I am thankful that I have the lectionary as a resource to enrich my preaching.

I do not know where to start.  Most of what you say is beyond dispute. Thanks for such a well thought out response. However I do not know who are what you are speaking of when you refer to the "gospel according to today's evangelism."  Is this a reference to ministers in the CRC, perhaps a specific group of CRC pastors?  I do know that the greek (euangelizo) from which we get the word evangelism is used nearly synomously with the greek word for preach (parakaleo)  I know that the angel  "evangelized" the shepherds (Luke 2:10), that Jesus proclaimed the evangel ( Mk1: 15) and Paul was not ashamed of the evangel and was eager to evangelize (preach) to the people in Rome.  This leads me to think that we could call all our preachers evangelists and that our task is to evangelize the world.  I have a very high regard for evangelism as well as preaching because they are one and the same.  But the audiences change.  Not the gospel.  Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23.  It seems then that the preacher must adapt his message for the benefit of his audience so that "by all means we/I might save some."

Thanks

Larry 

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