It is hard to write blog post that both fully expresses your thoughts while also being short enough that people read them. Yesterday’s post Setting Sail “Is the Church a Rowboat or Sailboat?” has sparked some pretty good conversation. As such I thought I would follow it up today with a bit more about what Joan S. Gray says in her book,“Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers: A Handbook,”says are the differences between Rowboat Churches and Sailboat Churches. One part of this is expressed by the images below. When I read her descriptions of the two I am more apt to think of the rowboat church as a galley ship rather than a dinghy. That makes the oarsmen slaves not a crew. More than once I have felt that the Church (Universal) has treated people in this way.
I think that at the heart of it all is where the starting point for our ministry and life is found. She reminds us that we need to be dependent on the power and will of God. Like it or not, many times the Church (Universal) has often thought of itself as the master of the mission of the church. Rather than seeking to discern, follow and work towards the “Missio Dei” or the Mission of God. Continue reading →
Today we are reminded of the reality of our two citizenships and the struggle between our earthly and heavenly commitments. Jesus was confronted with this question in Matthew 22 when he is asked about taxes. Jesus reminds us that God and civil authorities have their claims on us, but we should not forget what part of our life belongs to each. Current events highlight the struggle to govern and the way that our brokenness has real consequences. The government shutdown shows us just how hard it is to find ways to find unity in the midst of divergent world views. Continue reading →
Every week at the beginning of our worship services at Christ Presbyterian I am called upon to share announcements and highlight activities. While we have an extensive bulletin with a great deal of information and details, it still is expected that I will highlight them. When I first arrived at Christ Presbyterian, we actually passed the microphone to do this. It often took a great deal of time, so we decided that we would only announce a few items that either were impending or missed the bulletin.
Soon announcements were turned into prayers so they could be said during prayer time. I guess there are worse things to have happen than the ministries of the church being the subject of prayers. Yet, it also seems a bit strange. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were a sleepy church that didn’t do much. But we are a vital church with dynamic ministries. Perhaps you have noticed recently that I have made more announcements from the pulpit than I normally have chosen to. Part of this is because we have a lot going on. The other part of it is that it is difficult to choose what needs highlighting and what doesn’t. Inevitably someone is upset if you highlight one thing and not the other. Continue reading →
Each year as Pentecost rolls around on the church calendar I try to ensure that we do our best in worship to embrace the day. The account of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church is a powerful story about how the Spirit worked in the past as well as today. In more docile traditions of Christianity, of which Presbyterians are part of, the Holy Spirit has not always been given the attention it deserves.
For many the Holy Spirit may even be something that they have a fear of. One popular conception of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is the “Holy Roller” on the ground, shaking with convulsions, having been seized by the Holy Spirit. Even a peripheral experience of this type of experience can strike fear into the most firm of a believer. Fear also comes from the fact that when we read Scripture, we continually read of Holy Spirit experiences that cause trouble for the one interacting with the Spirit. People who are in the midst of a Holy Spirit experience have their lives changed and often are given a new mission from God. Continue reading →
I find it amazing how easy it is to get distracted by the negatives in life. Truth be told, lately I have allowed some of the struggles of life hold more weight than the positives. Some of this is due to the fact that I have been struggling with a nagging sickness that seems to want to hold on to me more than I want it to. The reality of the mind, spirit and body connection is one that we often only pay attention to when it’s too late. Yet we know that when one part of our bio-psycho-spiritual being is off, the rest are surly effected.
I also know that we live in a world that celebrates the negative. We live life surrounded by bad news. In 1982 Don Henley released the song, “Dirty Laundry.” Continue reading →
Today our discussion turns to the office of what is currently identified as Teaching Elder. In fact this is a return to language used earlier in the church. The office of Teaching Elder is the ordained office most commonly called Pastor, but also may be known as Minister of Word and Sacrament, Chaplain, Reverend, Preacher and sometimes with the Preschool kids, “Chapel Man.” The fact of the matter is that the Teaching Elder, like Deacons and Ruling Elders, are set apart for certain ministries. We have these diverse titles because the role of a Teaching Elder is unique to the gifts of the person and the needs of the ministry context they serve. Continue reading →
This past week in worship we reflected on the words of Paul as he speaks about Spiritual Gifts. Paul writes to the church in Corinth with regards to how the gifts of the Spirit are given:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Today as we shift our discussion of the ordained offices from Ruling Elders to Deacons, I believe this is a great place to start. In this passage Paul is encouraging us to remember that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives is varied and as such enables us to perform various activities. This is a critical lesson for us to learn when discerning who is called to the different ordained offices. Each office calls for different gifts. Yet they are all brought to life in the shared ministry for the common good. Continue reading →
Each year our congregation goes through the discernment process of selecting leaders for our congregation. The nominating taskforce is working to recommend a slate of officers to the Session for the next class of Elders and Deacons. This is perhaps one of the most anxiety ridden times of the year. The nominating taskforce is concerned with not only getting the people to fill spots, but perhaps more importantly, the right people to answer God’s calling. Today, I will discuss the specific calling to be a Ruling Elder. A few years ago, Christ Presbyterian Church made a conscious effort to be more fully open to the leading and discernment of the Spirit in this process. In the past, like most congregations, our congregation would approach the selection of Elders by trying to find people who were going to be Elders for specific areas of our ministry. Examples of this would have been an Elder for Finance or Christian Education. In this model, the ability to fulfill a specific role would often trump the spiritual calling to such a leadership role. I’m sure that you have experienced in you life those who are at the top of their field for their ability, but once given leadership, fall apart. Continue reading →
This past week has been a hard one for our country and the world. While violence is ever present in our lives and we see daily reminders of how shockingly horrible we can treat each other, the events of Friday in Newtown shone a spotlight on just how deep our sin has cut us. In the aftermath of these tragic killings and many like it, there is always an over abundance of talking heads who seek to use the death of others to advance their positions. “Gun control” advocates come on and talk about how new laws would may have prevented this event. “Gun rights” advocates are on the other side of the split screen talking about how if the teachers had guns they could have stopped the gunman.
I agree that in the midst of this tragedy there is a calling to have deep conversations about guns, violence and the mental health system. Some of my colleagues have chosen this time as that time. Roy Howard, Pastor of St. Marks Presbyterian in North Bethesda, Maryland for one, made an impassioned response and a call to action against violence and calling for more Gun Control. Please email me and I can pass along his Facebook post of what he said to his congregation. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, has chosen to use this situation to draw attention to his beliefs about abortion and homosexuality. For many Pastors, their judgment led them to use this event as a springboard for what they hope will be meaningful discussions about deep issues.
I had more than one parishioner say to me prior to Sunday’s service, “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes today.” Continue reading →
Practice what you preach is one of those sayings that is easy to throw around, unless you’re a preacher. As one who consistently is called to stand before the assembled congregation and proclaim God’s Word, it can be a daunting task. Not only does it mean that I have to make sure that I am being true to the sacred Biblical text, but I also must ensure that I am a creditable witness to the text. This isn’t always easy. The news has many accounts of preachers who subscribe to “the do as I say not as I do” school of thought.
I remember when I was a Chaplain Candidate with the Navy and I was taught this very important lesson. Each summer I would spend time with sailors onboard a ship or other installation. The first summer I was stationed aboard the USS Anzio. The Anzio is a guided missile cruiser. For those of you not versed in Naval architecture, a cruiser is not a large ship. At only 567 feet long and 55 feet wide, this means that the crew live in close quarters. A crew of 367 people share every space and find themselves in almost constant contact with others. This context helped to heighten my awareness of just how important it is to be of a consistent character and to ensure that I am practicing as well as preaching. You can’t be a fake with people when you share a bathroom. Continue reading →