Master Provisions 2013

MP 1 2013Yesterday we took what has become our annual trip to work with Master Provisions. I’ve posted about previous trips in 2011 and 2012 and it was another good experience working with a great ministry.

Our tasks this year included sorting and packing winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves to be used for local outreach. After we finished that, we sorted summer clothes (headed for Africa at some point) and winter clothes. The summer clothes were packed for shipping while with winter clothes were put on cars to be packed later.

It has been great to see how Master Provisions has grown, which has included hiring more staff and acquiring their own warehouse and office space. It feels like the times we go to help, we make such a small dent in the work that needs to be done. It is an ongoing ministry of collecting, sorting, packing and shipping clothing while also raising funds for costs associated with shipping and actually going to the various countries they serve. The people who serve there have a heart for what they do.

Serving at the warehouse is a great experience for any able-bodied person. Our group had a good day and we look forward to going back again.

The Church and Spiritual Formation

churchOur current sermon series this month is titled Roots: Maturity and it is focusing on spiritual formation. This morning I saw a link on Tony Morgan’s blog to an article called “12 Reasons Why Your Church Doesn’t Produce Spiritual.

Mr. Morgan had read the book Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. I had not heard of the book, but I thought the highlights Mr. Morgan shared were interesting and gave some food for thought for those who work in the church. I shared it with our Senior Minister to see how some of these might apply to us.

Here are Tony Morgan’s highlights from Move.

1. You focus more on Bible teaching than Bible engagement. – “We learned that the most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement. Not just getting people into the Bible when they’re in church—which we do quite well—but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.”

2. You haven’t developed a pathway of focused first steps. – “Instead of offering up a wide-ranging menu of ministry opportunities to newcomers, best-practice churches promote and provide a high-impact, nonnegotiable pathway of focused first steps—a pathway designed specifically to jumpstart a spiritual experience that gets people moving toward a Christ-centered life.”

3. You’re more concerned about activity than growth. – “Increased church activity does not lead to spiritual growth.”

4. You haven’t clarified the church’s role. – “Because—whether inadvertently or intentionally—these churches have communicated to their people that, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey, the role of the church is to be their central source of spiritual expertise and experience. As a result, even as people mature in their beliefs and embrace personal spiritual practices as part of their daily routines, their expectation is that it will be the church, not their own initiative, that will feed their spiritual hunger.”

5. You’re focused more on small groups than serving. – “Serving experiences appear to be even more significant to spiritual development than organized small groups.”

6. You’re not challenging people to reflect on Scripture – “If they could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice would be equally clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.”

7. You’re unwilling to admit that more is not better. – “Based on findings from the most effective churches, however, this ‘more is better’ way of thinking is not the best route for people who are new to a church, and it is particularly unsuitable for people who are taking their first steps to explore the Christian faith… Instead of offering a ministry buffet with multiple tempting choices of activities and studies, these churches make one singular pathway a virtual prerequisite for membership and full engagement with the church.”

8. You haven’t raised the bar. – “Too many churches are satisfied to have congregations filled with people who say they ‘belong’ to their church—who attend faithfully and are willing to serve or make a donation now and then. But that belonging bar is not high enough; simply belonging doesn’t get the job done for Jesus.”

9. You’ve created a church staff dependency. – “Taking too much responsibility for others’ spiritual growth fostered an unhealthy dependence of congregants on the church staff.”

10. You believe that small groups are the solution to spiritual formation. – “Based on the churches we have studied, including our own, there is no evidence that getting 100 percent of a congregation into small groups is an effective spiritual formation strategy.”

11. You focus on what people should do rather than who people should become. – “Unfortunately, churches often make things harder still by obscuring the goal—to become more like Christ—with a complicated assortment of activities. For instance, encouraging people to: Attend teaching and worship services every week. Meet frequently with small community and Bible study groups (often requiring follow-up communications and homework). Serve the church a couple times a month. Serve those who are underresourced on a regular basis. Invite friends, coworkers, and family to church, special events, support groups, etc. When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal—which is who they should become.”

12. You aren’t helping people surrender their lives to Jesus. – “Spiritual growth is not driven or determined by activities; it is defined by a growing relationship with Christ. So the goal is not to launch people into an assortment of ministry activities; it is to launch them on a quest to embrace and surrender their lives to Jesus.”

90 Day Challenge – Week 5

GOYOYesterday’s reading completed Day 35, which signified the end of week 5 in our 90 Day Challenge. Now that we are over one-third of the way through, hopefully we are saying consistent in our reading and, more than that, growing in our understanding of God and His Word.

We are moving swiftly through the book of Acts and it presents such a great picture of what the church should look like. As they met together, they shared whatever they had with one another and met each other’s needs. Because of how they loved each other and treated each other, God brought more people into their fellowship. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group that loved genuinely and served selflessly?

As persecution comes on the church, the followers of Jesus spread out from city to city and village to village. As they went, they shared what they knew about Jesus. As you read the sermons and testimonies that were shared, the followers of Jesus always came back to His life, death and resurrection. It was simply about Jesus.

Hopefully we are reminded and encouraged to simply share what we know about Jesus with those we encounter. Keep up the good work in your 90 Day Challenge.

90 Day Challenge – Week Four

GOYOYesterday we concluded week four in our 90 Day Challenge. Today’s reading concludes our time in the Gospels and moves us into the book of Acts and then into the letters of the New Testament. Also, after completion of Tuesday’s reading, we will be one-third of the way through out challenge! I’m hoping that all of those who have accepted the challenge are staying with it or trying to get caught up. Again – remember – the goal is to create a habit of spending time with God through His Word. We gain when we grow in our walk with God.

As we read through the Gospel of John, we were reminded why spending time in His Word is important. In chapter 15, Jesus uses the word picture of vine and branches. He states very clearly in verse 5 who plays what role: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Sometimes we need that simple, yet straightforward reminder that we need to stay connected to the vine. Regardless of our best efforts or ideas or plans, apart from Him, we can do nothing. Only by staying connected to Him can we bear fruit.

As we continue to go through our 90 Day Challenge – or use whatever reading plan you are on – remember that image. He is our source of life and health and growth and we need to remain connected to Him.

Keep it up!

Take the Lid Off Your Church – review

In this brief, easy to read eBook, Tony Morgan provides leadership principles and guidelines written specifically for the church. I read the entire book in under an hour, so it is easy to sit down and digest while providing good insights you can return to for reference and reminder.

I’ve been involved in the local church for a couple of decades and recognize how important leadership is to the church. Morgan’s direction to churches, no matter the size, is clear and understandable.  He takes into account some church’s leadership teams may be mostly volunteer led while larger churches and organizations may pay their senior leadership team.

I especially appreciated his focus on modeling team-based ministry in the senior leadership team and the importance of communication with staff and volunteers.

This is worthwhile resource for church leaders and you can’t beat the $3 price tag.  Click here to purchase this eBook.

Awakening – a review

Prayer and fasting are sometimes seen as activities done by the deeply spiritual people in the church.  Perhaps it would be fair to say that a majority of Christians would see those activities linked together as reserved for only the mature minority.  In his book, Awakening, Stovall Weems invites all Christ followers to participate in these disciplines.

Weems leads Celebration Church in Jacksonville, FL, and has made fasting and prayer a part of his church’s culture.  In the recent past he has invited churches all across the country to participate in 21 Days of prayer and fasting and shares how these practices have benefited his church, both corporately and individually.

In his book, Weems shares the purpose for prayer and fasting and also some specific practices the reader can take away to make these disciplines a regular part of his/her life.  Throughout the book he has included Awakening Stories — experiences people in the Celebration Church have had as they have participated in the 21 day experience.

One of the primary things I took away from the book was that prayer and fasting are designed to bring the individual into a closer relationship with God.  It isn’t so much about the food you do or do not eat, how long you decide to fast or what plan you take.  The primary goal is to align oneself with God’s will and purpose for your life.  I know as I have thought about fasting, it is easy to get hung up on the what of the fasting experience, and not the Who.  As he states several times in the book, the purpose is to make room for God to work in the individual’s life.

Within the book, Weems provides some resources, ideas and even basic menus for those considering taking up the challenge of fasting.

For the Christ follower interested in deepening his or her walk, this book would be a helpful tool.  You can find more information about this book and read an excerpt by clicking here.

( I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)

You can offer a rating on this review by clicking here.

Nineteen

A year ago at this time I had a blog post entitled Eighteen, the day my son turned 18. Today he is 19. Kind of interesting to go back and read where we were at that time. He was a senior in high school, just made a college visit and was looking forward to the “next chapter.” Now, he has started the second semester of his freshmen year and has made the transition to the college life. He won’t be home on his birthday as he is gone with the school choir on a short retreat. Interesting how things change.

As I visited his Facebook page this morning, he already had a number of birthday wishes and I’m sure that number will continue to grow through the day.  I am grateful for the many people in his life that have had influence on him and for those who will continue to play that role.  Just like the rest of us, he is a work in progress and I look forward to seeing what things God has in store for him.

Happy 19th Birthday Joe!

Gotta Love Junior High

I have the opportunity to substitute teach on occasion and today I am in one of our local junior high schools, hanging out with 7th graders.  Being in the junior high is always an interesting experience.

I enjoy observing the students in the hallway and in the classroom.  There is such variety in the middle school years.  Physically you have students that are early bloomers and others that are late.  Many of the girls are taller than the boys.  You can tell that some try to look older than they are, yet many of them could care less.

Socially you can tell right away who the “class clowns” are.  (I have one sitting in my class right now).  Some are just plain loud, while others keep to themselves.  A few just can’t seem to sit still.  While some are very concerned about academics, others are all about sports.  Fashion is a concern for a portion of the students, while others seem pretty oblivious.

Some adults find the junior high years annoying at best; on most days, I enjoy being around them.  They aren’t as “cool” as high school student tend to be, so they are a lot more real.  You usually know what they are thinking because they come right out and say it most of the time.  If they are mad, you know it.  If they are having a good day, you see that as well.

Junior High years are all about change.  They are changing and growing in so many ways.  In dealing with middle schoolers, you not only need to see them as they are now, but who they will be.  They are trying to discover who they are and need some love and grace to go through that process.

A good thing to remember is this – we were all junior high students at one time.  Just as the people in our lives loved us enough to let us survive those years, we need to offer that same chance to today’s generation.