29 February 2008

Friday Brain Dump - 2/29

Here are some random things running thru my head or across my computer screen that don't really fit neatly into categories. Or, they are just things I need to get out of my head so they don't cramp my style all weekend. Six of one, half-dozen of another....
  • Mark Batterson's thoughts about meetings
  • WIRED Magazine's list of Best Sidekicks - all I have to say is "Where's Al Borland?"
  • I am really bummed that I have to miss Bible study next week for a mandatory seminar on anti-racism...I mean, come on...I'm not a racist, nor do I plan on becoming one...so why do I have to go to a two-night seminar on it?
  • Dear Lord, I pray that someone wants to send me to this workshop. Amen.
  • This magazine continues to make me think about how much overlap there is between the world and the church...especially when I read this.
  • I am so confused about how the process works...mostly because getting my hopes up equals getting my family's hopes up...and if the process breaks down, then my family suffers. And I don't like that at all!
  • I am excited about preaching on Maundy Thursday, but I wish I had some more time to prepare...I guess I'll talk about the Last Supper since time is running short.
  • It's Leap Day...happy birthday to all you "Leap Babies" out there! Enjoy your special day - it only comes once every four years!

That's enough for today!

28 February 2008

The Hard Work of Thinking Theologically

I went to LIFE Journal Bible Study this afternoon for the first time in quite a while and I was immediately reminded about why I need to make the time to be with that group of people every week.

I knew going in that I had not done any of the readings for this week, but they gladly accepted me back and welcomed my presence in the group. I was encouraged to write down my prayer requests for the week and have one of the other members of the group pick my card at random to pray for me this week. My comments about the texts were welcomed and my theological training as a pastor was tested during one portion of the discussion.

At one point the group began talking about Jesus' baptism in Mark 1 and the question of Jesus' need for baptism arose from the group. I must admit that this puzzles me too sometimes, but I didn't say much at the beginning of the discussion - I wanted to see where they would go with it. When the asked about the specific UMC teachings on baptism in general, I chimed in then.

As the discussion was winding down, someone made a comment that this passage can give rise to thoughts of not wanting to spend time thinking hard about the God and the Bible because there was not always resolution to the problem being addressed. I asked, "If we did fully understand, what would that say about God?"

That question has been rolling around in my head for a while and I wanted to see what you think about it...

If we did fully understand, what would that say about God?

Extra Quotable for today: "Holiness is giving God your full attention." -Sherry Trojanowski (I'm so proud of my admin!)

26 February 2008

Stewardship is a "God Thing"

I recently finished reading Andy Stanley's book, Fields of Gold in preparation for the capital campaign that Trietsch is about to embark upon. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the book here and see what your thoughts about financial stewardship might be.

Throughout the book, Andy uses the "harvest" metaphor to help people imagine the possibilities surrounding generous giving. I found this incredibly helpful in picturing how a small amount of seed (read: money) can turn into a huge harvest (read: blessing from God) when we are faithful to put that seed out into the ground and let God take care of it.

Andy dealt with the fears that many people have associated with giving and highlighted that many of those fears are irrational. How often are we swayed into irrationality because of our fears? How often are our fears themselves irrational?

The Four P's of Giving:

  • Priority - give to God first when income shows up in your household; this avoids giving God the "leftovers" when you finish paying bills
  • Percentage - pick one (10% is a good starting point) and keep that target in mind
  • Progressive - adjust your giving higher throughout your lifetime as an exercise of faith
  • Prompted - "random" giving in response to unique needs; these are not part of your regular planned giving

Fields of Gold largely deals in theory with points of application, but made tons of sense and jived with what other programs/authors have said and written.

The lack of "plan specificity" makes this book applicable across many situation (capital campaign, yearly stewardship, small group learning) and focuses on our response to God's involvement in our finances.

19 February 2008

HD DVDs are History

Not that I own an HDTV or anything, but I thought that this news was interesting. I guess HD DVDs are this generations Betamax! I think I'll go do some research on Blu-Ray.


17 February 2008

Leadership Journal - Winter 2008

I haven't finished reading the latest issue of Leadership Journal, but I have pulled out some interesting quotes for your consideration. Take a read and let me know what you think.

Tim Keel (scroll down to Tim's picture), pastor of Jacob's Well in Kansas City, MO
"Has our articulation, and more importantly, or embodiment of the gospel invited people to be come a part of an alternative reality, a community of salvation for this world and the world that is to come?" (21)

"I began to realize that every articulation of the gospel I had heard focused exclusively on Jesus Christ and his role as redeemer. It is obviously true and good news that Jesus and his life and work function redemptively. But when we reduce Jesus to redeemer only, we miss another essential element of our faith: that Jesus is also creator." (22)

"A reduced version of the gospel will have little to say to such questions [about creation]. No wonder so many have determined that the church and 'the gospel' have very little to contribute to the world." (22)

Leighton Ford
"The gospel is the core, with an invitational edge. So we preach the gospel never knowing what listeners have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. We also preach knowing that those who are already Christ-followers need to be constantly re-evangelized, reminded that our faith journeys continue as they began, by grace." (27, emphasis mine)

"In our postmodern world, many see the gospel as neither good nor news. Perhaps this is because we have simplified it and 'codified' it too carelessly. 'Accept Jesus and you'll go to heaven. Don't and you won't.' True, but not meant to be a truism." (27)

Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of and grandson of Billy Graham
"[P]reachers need to be careful that people leave a sermon not so much with grand impressions of human personality, but with grand impressions of divine personality." (33, responding to the question: What part does the preacher's personality play?)
This is one I struggle with because I want to come off as polished and professional but I also want to leave the people with a profound sense of the divine. My personality is important because it is part of who I am, but I must re-present Christ in sermons - I must incarnate my sermons, they need to reflect me and Jesus.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback and author of The Purpose Driven Life
"I don't doubt the Word of God, but I have doubted my ability to live it and convey it." (35, responding to the question: Is there any room for doubt or uncertainty in the preacher?)
Doubt is honesty. Everybody doubts and we preachers need to be honest with ourselves and our congregations to let them know hat we don't have everything figured out just yet.

John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
"Some 65 million copies of the Bible are bought or distributed in the US every year - nothing is a close second. The average house has at least 3. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible - they just don't actually read the Bible." (38)
This is just funny...and true!

"Congregations shaped by the Scriptures have preachers shaped by the Scriptures." (38)
I wonder if this corollary is true: "Congregations shaped by pop psychology have preachers shaped by pop psychology."?


Youth Ask Good Questions

I wrote this on Valentine's Day, but have had a chance to post it until now...

Last night [2/13] the youth asked me to talk about what the UMC says/believes about homosexuality as part of their journey thru the Good Sex curriculum this semester.

I prepared my Discipline research and my own heart for talking about this subject, but I never really felt ready to teach the lesson. The Holy Spirit helped me to understand that all I needed to to was present te truth and then let them wrestle with their questions.

They asked thoughtful questions about the UMC stance (there are other places where the BOD references homosexuality - this is just one of them) and their confusion about the seemingly contradictory nature of our stance. I told them it confused me at times too. We talked thru their concerns and they appreciated my willingness to address the issue head-on.

After the study ended, three of them came up to me to ask deeper questions that related to someone they know who is gay. I realized once again that theoretical issues might be able to be resolved on paper, but putting flesh and a face on those issues raises the stakes. Raises the importance of handling our feelings with care. Raises the necessity for admitting our shortfalls and realizing our need for grace.

Where have you offered a simple answer to a complex question? What was the outcome?


09 February 2008

Mornings at B&N

Caitlyn and I found ourselves at Barnes & Noble this morning sitting in the Cafe. I was drinking a red eye and she was enjoying some apple juice. As she sang and laughed and smiled I was reminded how much I enjoy spending time with her - just the two of us.

And then I had a "light bulb moment" ... God loves spending time with us too. Whether that's alone on a sunny Saturday morning sipping coffee or gathered together with our friends to lift our voices in song.

How do you spend time with God? What's your favorite hang out spot with God? Where do you go to laugh and smile with your Father?

08 February 2008

Secondhand Sermons

In November I preached at our daughter church when their pastor was filling our pulpit during the transition between Jim and John. When Deb, Caitlyn and I went to my parent's house for Thanksgiving later that month, I downloaded the audio of the sermon for them to listen to sometime later.

I didn't think much about it until my parents came to our house for Christmas and they told me that they used my sermon podcast as a lesson for the Sunday School class earlier in December. I thought - "wow, that's cool...hope they liked it." They told me that several people took notes the whole time and several others had no idea that a church needed to grow smaller in order to grow bigger.

Earlier this week, I received a letter in the mail from one of those people. She told me that my sermon impacted her so much that she realized that she needed to seek out a member of the church and ask for forgiveness for her behavior earlier in the year. I was blown away! I stood in the kitchen dumbfounded at the power of the Holy Spirit to change the heart of someone I have never met because of the words I spoke in the name of Jesus.

It's moments like this that keep me doing what I'm doing!


07 February 2008

Post #200b: Radical Hospitality

I have talked about this before, but it is worth repeating and remembering.

Hospitality is not just for hotels and restaurants. The Church needs to learn the fine art of tailoring a guest's experience on Sunday morning (and throughout the week if possible) so that the guest knows from moment #1 that they are loved by God and loved by the church.

Here are a few things I have learned in my quest to improve the guest experience here at Trietsch:
  1. Practice reaching out to every new face you see at church. If they are an unfamiliar face to you it doesn’t matter how long they have been here – one day or ten years – they deserve to enjoy worship and perhaps make a new friend or two. The larger your church is, the more important this practice becomes.

  2. Greet guests and members with the same friendliness and warmth. When the people who come through our doors know that everyone gets treated the same, no matter where they are on their faith journey, then they will tell their friends.

  3. Park as far away from the building as you can. You know how to get around the building, so taking the shuttle will not slow you down from getting to your destination. A guest will need the extra time that a close parking spot affords them. And if they need to drop off kids or locate the Sanctuary, they can do so without having to first locate our satellite parking lot down the street.

  4. Stop pointing. If someone asks you for directions to a particular location within the church, don’t just point over their head and say “walk down that hall, go around the corner, look for the fish wall, and turn right.” That is not helpful! At all!! If you are able, take them where they need to go. Talk with the person along the way. Get to know them a little. They will thank you for the attention and they will get to where they are going much faster than if they were to go it alone.

Look for God in our “guest experience” and find ways to show that people matter to us and to God.


PS - Tune into Mark Waltz's blog for more on this topic.

Post #200a: Church Leadership

We recently had a lay leadership training event here at Trietsch called Super Saturday and as I reflected on the mornings events several thoughts ran thru my head like a freight train.
  • How often do we have to repeat a message before people begin to understand its importance?

  • How many times do we tell people to fill out forms and follow procedures before they actually fill out forms and follow procedures?

  • What is happening between our delivering the message and the acting on the message?

At Super Saturday last year, the Communications Team (CT) spent 35-40 minutes explaining the forms and procedures to people we elected as leaders in the congregation (chairs of committees, board members, etc.). However, throughout 2007 the CT continued to express frustration that no one filled out forms (correctly or at all), but the CT continued to produce communication pieces for them (and us as staff) anyway.

Then another question came to my mind:

  • What are we teaching / rewarding our congregation to do?

We are teaching our people that processes don't matter and that we will think for them. We are teaching our people to break the rules and rewarding them for doing so...then getting mad at them for doing the very thing we are rewarding them for!

We need to stop the madness! We have a systems issue that needs fixing.

At Catalyst in October, Andy Stanley said: "Systems create behaviors" and "The systems you inherit, adopt, or create will eventually impact what staff and volunteers do" (emphasis mine). As I was listening to that talk again this week, I was hit in the face with the fact that we have (unintentionally) taught the people of Trietsch to skip the process and proceed directly to the person on staff who can get what you need. We have rewarded them for not following the process by not holding fast to deadlines, timelines, and/or availabilities.

It's not their fault...it's ours!

We (as a staff) need to learn the processes, follow the processes, teach the processes, and stick to the processes in order for the congregation to ahere to the processes. If we don't set the example, then we can't complain when they do exactly the same thing we do.

Thoughts? Objections?


06 February 2008

Memorable Quotes from GATW

I promised you a list of some memorable quotes that I found in Going All the Way a week ago, please forgive me for my tardiness. Here they are:

To go all the way, you must be united in partnership under Christ. (32)

Most of the time the advice [re: sex] coming from the Christian community is muddled, watered down, and out of touch....Then when the church marries a couple, the message instantly changes....And the well-intentioned young couple does their best to unlearn all of the church's negative, uninformed impressions about sex in one night. Good luck. (54)

When you're married, I'm sure you want to be faithful to your Two. But to succeed in that faithfulness, you must first learn to be faithful to the One. (59)

If you want a marriage that goes the distance in every way - the marriage that God fully desires for you - being involved isn't enough. You need to be committed. (83)

If you want to raise an insecure child, put her first, neglect your marriage, fight with her other parent, and let her worry that you might divorce. The receipe for a secure child? Honor God at all times. Love your spouse - and let the child see your affection. Pray together. Communicate. Date. And your child will rest well knowing that Mom and Dad's marriage is strong. (118-9)

Wherever sin lives, intimacy dies. And where intimacy lives, sin dies. (139)