26 January 2010

Things You'll Never Hear the Preacher Say

Hmmm....I am pretty sure that I have never said any of these things!

"Oh, no, I couldn't eat another bite of that delicious pie!"

"I can't think of anything to preach!"

"I wish we had a church business meeting every week!"

"I'm afraid that our choir is at full capacity. Can't take anyone else."

"We'd like to start paying our Sunday School teachers next week."

"December is a boring month--I never have anything to do."

"I hate it when people volunteer!"

"I believe the Lord has called me to a smaller church."

"There will be no offering today--we've got plenty of money."

HT: Michael Duduit & Preaching.com

24 January 2010

Studying the Beatitudes

I read this the other day in my devotional book and I thought I would share it.

I do not understand my own actions.
For I do not do what I want,
but I do the very thing I hate.
Romans 7:15

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
Psalm 86:11

Beatitude 6: Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. (NJB)

The nineteenth-century lay theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote that "purity of heart is to will one thing." One thing, not two - between which we must then choose. But how to achieve such unity of purpose? How often have you said about some spiritual challenge: "On the one hand, I want to go in this direction, but on the other hand I am drawn to the opposite way"?

Even Paul the apostle confessed that too often he wanted to do one thing yet did another. Ultimately Paul resolved his conflict by seeing that in this own power he could not be always of one mind; only Christ could deliver him from his spiritual confusion. (Romans 7:21-25)

Could it be that this beatitude is not saying that first we must have purity of desire and as a reward will see God? Could it be instead that when we pray to be delivered from a double mind we see God in ways that only God can know? How appropriate to keep offering the petition of the psalmist quoted above, to seek an undivided heart.

What do you think?

23 January 2010

Asking the Right Questions

During the upcoming year I will be spending a great deal of time engaged in the Congregational Transformation Process through our partnership with Rev. Dr. Don Nations and his consulting firm, DNA Coaching, Inc. My hope is to learn all that I can from him and his associates so that I can help the Church Council lead our congregation into a brighter future. Rev. Nations and I have already begun to dialog about beginning a second worship service here at University, but we still have several questions to wrestle with before moving forward.

As I asked him about what would be necessary to begin an alternative worship service he asked me if I could answer the "why" question – "why do we want to do this?" The answer to that question begins to determine the direction that the new service will take. There are two possible answers to the "why" question that are helpful:

  1. Because a current service is approaching 80% capacity
  2. Because we want to reach out to an new segment of our community who is not currently being reached by our current worship service

If #1 is our answer, then we need to replicate our current service at another time (either on Sunday morning or at another time that makes sense for our audience). If #2 is our answer, then we need to design an alternative worship experience that meets the needs of the people we would like to see included in our congregation, but are not currently attending or participating.

I believe that #2 is our answer to the "why" question Rev. Nations posed. To that end I did some research through the Percept Group to find out about the demographics of the community immediately surrounding University UMC. The information I found out about the community within a 3-mile radius of our church was startling, eye-opening, challenging, and encouraging. Here are some of the highlights that might impact our decision to begin a second worship experience:

Current Population: 55,839

Households with No Faith Involvement: 29%

Average Age: 38.0 years

Overall Church Style Preference (Trad. vs. Cont.): Both

Preference for "Historic Christian" Tradition: 83%

Overall Faith Receptivity: Somewhat High

Overall Church Program Preference Category: Spiritual Development

This data (along with about 10 more pages worth of data) gives me a good indication that with the right team in place to launch a new worship experience here at University, we could double worship attendance (or more) within the next year.

If you would like to serve on the team that will strategize about this new worship experience, please send me an email (pastor@uumcwf.org) indicating your interest before January 31, 2010. I am looking for 15-20 people to serve on this team.

Thank you for your generosity in our second offering Sunday morning! With your generous gifts, we will be able to help the United Methodist Committee on Relief continue its post-earthquake efforts in Haiti.

21 January 2010

A Powerful God

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.

The Lord is the one who goes before us into this world. He is the one who clears the way for us. God is the one who can move mountains and destroy barriers that stand in our way. Why then do we often rely on ourselves for deliverance?

In an age of hyper self-reliance, we dismiss the need for others to help us out. We think we can solve all of our problems and defeat all of our enemies. In these attempts to be our own God we fail to recognize the powerlessness of our selves and the powerfulness of God, our Creator. What obstacles are we unable to overcome because we have not begun to rely on God and God's power to "level the mountains"?

Amazing God, you are able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine. Give us the ability to expand our imaginations and embolden us to ask big questions. In Jesus' name. Amen.

20 January 2010

His Agenda, Our Agenda

With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure...

Paul writes that God reveals his will in his own time and not ours. God makes his will know to us according to his good pleasure. The will of God is still a mystery to us, but it works for our own good and is done with all wisdom and understanding.

How do we get caught up in trying to bend God's will to ours instead of the other way - our will to his? Inherently our will is flawed and only serves to further our agenda. But when we serve God and his agenda, his agenda becomes our agenda. When we trust that the plan and purpose of God will come to light just when it is needed, then we can trust God in taking the next step of faith.

God, as we move into 2010 with a head full of dreams, help us to pause long enough to make sure that we are seeking your will for our lives and our church. May your goals be our goals and may we be a powerful witness to your faithfulness in 2010. In Jesus' name. Amen.

19 January 2010

Allow Me a Moment to Brag, Please

As the world responds to the crisis in Haiti following last week's devastating earthquake I want to thank the great folks at University UMC for stepping up to give from their hearts on Sunday morning during our second offering.

I want to brag on them for a minute and let all of you know that after giving toward the mission and ministry of our church through their tithes and offerings, they dug into their hearts (and wallets/purses) a second time and gave an amazing $2,729 to go to relief efforts in Haiti!

Thanks again UUMC!

If you would like to make a donation through UMCOR, just like we did on Sunday, you can go here and give online. Remember, 100% of your gift will go to provide life-giving supplies and aid when given through UMCOR.

UPDATE: As of today (1/25/10) University UMC has now donated a total of $3,200 toward earthquake relief in Haiti! Way to go!

18 January 2010

New Look for a New Year

Sorry for my absence from the blogging world during the last quarter of 2009. I am back and I have some thoughts that I would like to share with the world once again. So be on the look out for more frequent posts.

And in between blog posts, follow me on Twitter or Facebook!