Mission Trumps Tradition

In case you don’t  know, I really like Dan Kimball.  Why?  Because I think he does his very best to connect with the people in his community who don’t know Jesus Christ.  I think he carries a sense of urgency about sharing the gospel that we need to reclaim across the Church.  I also think he properly understands sharing the faith with our community as an essential piece of our overall mission as followers of Christ.  Take time to watch his presentation from the Nines (FYI: I have  an HP laptop and a Mac, so I’m like Switzerland in that debate), and see what I’m talking about.

15,000 Visitors

Whoever reads this post first will be the 15,000th visitor to this blog.  I’ve been using Twitter a lot more than blogging lately, because it really fits my schedule better right now.  However, I think it also probably forces me to do less in-depth thinking.  So, I’ve been thinking about doing a little more posting here at the blog.

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about leadership (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins were my most recent reads in that area), challenges within the UMC (see the book by Collins), and some of the core commitments of my life (for instance, as I’ve studied and taught through the book of Acts, I’ve been thinking more about the way Paul and the earliest followers of Christ called both insiders and outsiders to repent and respond to God in Christ).

Church Growth United Methodist Style

If you’re a Methodist concerned with renewal and you aren’t reading Bishop Willimon’s newsletter or blog, then by all means remedy that by clicking here.

On one hand, it’s sad to see one of our conferences celebrating the “least decline in two decades” as a remarkable triumph, but on the other hand it’s exciting to see the proactive changes being made in the North Alabama Conference and the growth that seems to be taking place. Overall, I just want to applaud the effective changes they seems to be experiencing, and say it will be a travesty if other conferences don’t follow their lead.

A Goal Accomplished

Running has never been my favorite sport.  In fact, after playing baseball and basketball in high school, I have always joked that running means that I’m being punished!  But I had to do something.  Heart problems run in my family, and I haven’t been exercising since moving back to Oklahoma City.  On top of that, clergy are notorious for being in terrible health, and I just don’t want to go down that road.

So, on January 30th, I began the “Couch to 5K” program.  It wasn’t easy, and I had to take a little time off right after Blake was born in late March, but I did it!  This morning I ran my first 5K at the Andy Payne Memorial Races.

It was a pretty exciting morning.  The only hitch came about a quarter of a mile in when my left shoe came untied and the racing chip used to check our times began to bounce along the road.  I stopped for a split second, jumped off to the side, and tucked it in my shoe before sprinting to catch back up to where I was before.  Even with that goofy little mishap, I finished at 34:03, my very best time yet!  It feels good to reach this goal!

Distance Between Pulpit and Pew

In case you haven’t caught wind of this yet, you’ll need to see the conversation that is beginning between Shane Raynor at Wesley Blog and Jeremy Smith at Hacking Christianity.   I tend to agree more with Shane on this issue.  

One of the best books I read during seminary was by Helmut Thielicke, A Little Excercise for Young Theologians. In fact, this short book should probably be required reading for incoming pastors, as it touches on this very issue in some pretty insightful ways.

I Had a Good Experience with the Board of Ministry

Lately, there have been several posts on the Methoblogosphere about horrible experiences with the Board of Ministry.  Here is the most recent one I’ve read.  Even though I don’t know Will personally, the post seems pretty level headed and a genuine mistake on part of that board.  It seems that many folks have chimed in with horror stories about the Board of Ministry.

In fact, I have been hesitant to post my experience becuase for the most part it was positive.   The PPRC of my local Church asked all the right questions about my call, and would have been willing to share the hard truth if they believed I didn’t have a call to ministry.  My District Committee was encouraging and asked appropriately probing questions.  The BOM was rigorous and thorough, but I never got the sense that they were out to get me.

I’m not without complaints.  Yes, the process was really, really long.  Yes, I did have to know the process better than anyone else (including the board) and work hard to stay in contact with my conference while I was in seminary.  It wasn’t an accidental process by any means.

Our BOM retreats provided opportunities for me not only to get to know my fellow commissioned elders, they gave me time to get to know my interview team – several of whom I now consider to be friends.  My interview process allowed me to tell my story enough times that I am very comfortable talking about my call to ministry at the drop of a hat.  In fact, it’s my opening story as I teach in various Sunday School classes now.  The process allowed me to see how ministry shaped my theology following seminary, and I believe I was challenged in some places where I needed challenging and affirmed in some places where I needed affirmation.  In fact, I believe an authentic call to ministry is essential in sustaining a ministry during difficult times, and I thank the board for helping me discern God’s call in my life.

This isn’t a commentary on those who have had horrible experiences.  I don’t doubt their disappointment or experience.  I just want to lift up the fact that this experience isn’t ubiquitous.  No one lost any of my information, no one questioned my sincerity, and no one treated me as though I was anything less than a future colleague in ministry.

I want the BOM to continue to ask tough questions.  If I’m ever on the board one of the very subjective questions I’ll ask myself is this, “Would I want my son or daughter attending a congregation where this person is an Elder?”  If I can’t say yes, then I’ll think long and hard about whether or not to support them.  Granted, this should take place at the local church, and early on in consultation with their pastor.  But if that step is left out, I won’t be afraid to step in and ask it.

I would start to wonder if my experience might be the exception if I didn’t know that several of my friends (friends with a variety of experiences in early ministry, good and bad) have had similar experiences.  Hopefully this gives at least one positive experience to read among all the others.

National Pastor’s Conference

One of my good friends has sung the praises of the National Pastor’s Conference for years.  Since I’m not there and you probably aren’t either, you can follow some of the summaries of the keynote talks here.  I really enjoyed the summary of Rob Bell’s talk on the essential nature of forgiveness for those of us who serve as pastors.

A Week in the Life

It’s been yet another busy week.  We’ve started Servant Walk, our Sunday morning video curriculum, again after a couple weeks off of filming for Christmas and New Year.  If you’re really interested in looking at some of the early attempts at video teaching by yours truly, hop over to YouTube and check out what we’ve done.  

Next week, I’ll get back to teaching my two large group bible studies.  We’ll finish up with the women’s study of Romans, and the men will be beginning studying Acts of the Apostles.  Since our director of missions just took a new position as the director of mission for the Alabama West-Florida conference, I’ve been getting more of the assistance calls in the missions area, sometimes as many as three or four a day.  We’ll have our first mission council meeting of the new year on Tuesday.  

I’m also beginning preparations for my D.Min. project which begins the first week of Lent (a virtual classroom for the Servant Walk curriculum), getting ready to develop the parents class for confirmation in my spare time, and leading a Service of Death and Resurrection (Funeral) on Monday.  

Since I don’t have anything else going on, I’ve also switched to a Mac!  I was given a 1.67 GHz PowerBook G4 awhile back, and I finally upgraded the RAM to 2GB and a friend installed Leopard on it.  It’s pretty darn fast now, and I’m loving it.  I look forward to using Keynote instead of Powerpoint and see how that goes. 

So, that’s what’s going on in my world!  Anything going on in yours?