Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eagles Wings

Year ago, my former district superintendent, Dr. Steve Babby, presented me with an eagle statue during a morning service at Wesleyan Church of the Valley in Bonita, California. His kind words about my leadership of the church and district both humbled and inspired me. That eagle is one of my most prized possessions and has a place of prominence in my office. I'm always lifted up when I see that eagle.

In Isaiah 40, we find these words of hope: "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (40:31)

For those of you who take the time to read this blog, would you please do me a favor? Would your please take a moment and tell me an "eagle story" from your life? What has God renewed your strength? When did He enable you to soar on eagles wings, especially after a time when you struggled? Let's share our stories with each other and encourage one another with these words of hope.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tracing Spiritual Formation

I did something today that turned out to be a great blessing! I spent the past couple of days in Greenville, PA, visiting with my dad @ the nursing home. As I left to return home to Indiana, I took a different route to the interstate. The route I took led me past the church where I was saved and where I received my call to ministry. Even though the church fell on some bad times many years ago and the buildings are now occupied by a different ministry, I felt compelled to stop. I wanted to stick my head into the place where the foundations of my spiritual development were laid.

The current pastor of the church, Pastor Jim and his wife, Pastor Jan, graciously allowed me to look around. Memories flooded my mind and my heart. Then Pastor Jim invited me to his office (my old senior high Sunday School classroom!). As we shared together, I was able to help fill in the blanks on a few years of the church's history - the "boom years" of the church. But more important, he shared with me how the vision given to him for this church in 1993 was identical to the one given to my pastor, Rev. Clemens Farver, way back in the late 1960's! We rejoiced in the fact that while the "players" have changed, the mission hasn't!

Those of you who know me know that I am not a sentimental person. But as I got up to leave, I shook Pastor Jim's hand, and I prayed. I wept as I asked God to "do it again," just as he had during those days long ago. God is blessing the ministry there in a new and fresh way, but in many ways, it felt like it did those many years ago.

I have never put much stock in places. That's been a mistake! Today I realized why God told the Israelites to pile up stones, or name cities certain names, or why certain stands of trees where so important. They were spiritual markers as well as reminders of what God had done. Today, I visited one of those markers in my life. It was a rewarding visit, and one that I will make again and again. Let me challenge you to go back to a spiritual high water mark place in your life. Allow God to speak to your heart afresh.

Thank you, Pastor Jim, for allowing me the privilege of spending time with you and for your faithfulness to God's unchanging call and plan!

Friday, April 2, 2010

How's Your Coffee?

"Like great coffee, great churches are slow brewed." - Matt Keller in The Up The Middle Church

My "growing up" years in ministry training were in what I will fondly call "the church growth era." I went to conferences and heard great speakers, read books, and followed great churches, all of which told me that if I plugged in their formula, my church would experience explosive growth. I have to tell you that I tried all of that. I was privileged to pastor some great churches, but I never once experienced that big blow out that was promised. I worked the programs, trust me! I stressed, put in the long hours, and busied myself with the task of growing a great church. I was a ministry-aholic who put my work above everything, including my family. And I was miserable, but I didn't want to confess that to a single soul.

I've learned in recent years that my job isn't to grow a great church. That was a hard pill to swallow. This revelation was contrary to everything I had been taught about church growth. But I've come to the conclusion that it's not my job to build a great church. It's Jesus' job - He said "I will build my church..." (Matthew 16:18). He promised to build a prevailing church; a church that would stand against the forces of hell itself!

So what's my job? I'm supposed to build people - people Jesus will use to build His church! It's a slow process. Oh, some individuals "build" faster than others, but over alll, it's a lengthy process. I wish I had embraced this concept years ago. I wouldn't have been frustrated about ministry for all those years. I'm not saying I don't get frustrated now. But I'm learning to walk with people in the three-steps-forward-two-steps-back faith journey. I'm learning to be content with that. It's not always easy, and there are times I still want things to happen sooner rather than later. But just as I've learned to enjoy a good cup of slow-brewed coffee (thanks, Sarah!), I am learning to enjoy seeing God work out His will in an individual's life. And I'm learning to enjoy that process in the life of the church.

That's where I'm at. How about you? How's your coffee?