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Reflecting and Planning

How are you living your life? Is it with thoughtful intentionality? Or is your approach to life carefree and serendipitous? The truth is that we all want to live a successful and godly life. We want our life to count. When we go to heaven, we want to know the people in our life were better because we were here. Are these fair assessments?

One of the ways to do achieve this outcome is to reflect carefully on what the new year holds for us. More precisely, it’s to reflect on our lives and then craft a personal plan for growth and impact. So, how does one do this? Michael Hyatt offers 10 areas of life we should consider evaluating in order to achieve a well-rounded approach to growth. These areas are listed below. He also provides a simple tool to help us more adequately consider how we are doing in these 10 areas.

This can be found at: https://assessments.michaelhyatt.com/lifescore/?inf_contact_key=9d688f0d6d4ea4572320eb2a41efd499bda0692c2bf55abeb42db59177fa9e9f.


Let me offer some meaningful steps to help you discover how to make 2018 the best year yet.

  • Get a journal or tablet of paper.
  • Go the website above and complete the assessment (it only take 2-3 minutes).
  • Print the results.
  • Take the results and think carefully through each of the 10 items.
  • Create a plan for success using the journal. Jot down what it will take to accomplish your goals in each area.
  • Go and do.

I hope this proves to be a beneficial exercise for your life and ministry. You might even want to share this with your church or small group. Godspeed on the journey.

Hyatt’s Categories of Life Health

1. Spiritual: How vibrant is your personal relationship with God?

2. Financial: How do you feel about your current financial position?

3. Avocational: What is your life like outside the walls of the church?

4. Vocational/Ministry: How do you feel about where you're at with the ministry?

5. Parental: How are you doing as a parent to your kids?

6. Marital: How vibrant is your marriage?

7. Emotional: How do you manage the array of emotions that comes with ministry?

8. Physical: How well do you take care of your body?

9. Social: What are the relationships in your life like?

10. Intellectual: How much are you still learning and growing?

Church Business Meeting Tips

This post may be a little late for some of us, but the content could be helpful in a variety of circumstances. The following is an article adapted from Smart Church Management. I hope you find it useful!

5 Tips for a Successful Church Business Meeting
November 29, 2017 by Patricia*

1. Respect People’s Time
Most people are busy and have a limited amount of time. Being sensitive to this fact, it helps to reinforce the importance of being respectful of the attendees by beginning and ending the meeting on time.

Being timely can become a cultural norm if members understand that being late means missing the first part of the meeting.  This can be tricky, but it can be done if there is a determination to consistently begin and end every meeting at the scheduled time. Once the organization demonstrates discipline with meeting facilitation, members will feel more inclined to participate, which will increase attendance.

2. Stick to the Agenda

Every organization has unresolved issues, and members often take advantage of time together to bring them up for discussion. Spend time before the meeting anticipating possible issues that might arise and naturally work an update into the agenda. If someone attempts to hijack the meeting, politely offer to discuss at a later time to keep with the meeting agenda.
 

3. Assign a Time Keeper

It can be helpful to have someone designated to watch the clock and keep the presenter on the time schedule. This takes the burden off of the presenter to communicate information while watching the time. Get creative and use a bell or buzzer as a reminder of the agenda schedule. Be diligent with doing this for a few times and people will learn that when the buzzer sounds its time to move on.
 

4. Table off Topics

Occasionally a member might bring up a topic for discussion that doesn’t fit with the agenda. Keep a flip chart at the front of the room and make note of these outstanding items, and follow up by putting those items on the agenda for the next meeting. Some topics may require a separate meeting so be sure to follow up and schedule a time to discuss. Follow through is critical to establishing and maintaining credibility with members.
 

5. Note Taker

Assign someone to take notes of the meeting, particularly in follow-up of any outstanding items. If possible, send meeting notes to attendees as an additional measure of communication and accountability for follow-up. Once things are in print, it becomes more difficult to neglect follow-up steps. Finally, employees, church members and volunteers are the lifeblood of the church.  Members fund the church, volunteers do the work of the church and employees facilitate the process. This is why it so important to maintain good communication and information sharing.  Being deliberate and strategic with meeting planning is one way to honor those who support the church and include them in the process.
 

*https://smartchurchmanagement.com/sample-agenda-church-business-meeting/?utm_source=SCM+Newsletter&utm_campaign=db9cf92690-SCM_Newsletter4_8_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_57409e0d78-db9cf92690-103537913

Advent

Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming.” For Christians, advent marks the beginning of the liturgical season as the church celebrates the first arrival of the Christ-child and prepares for the second coming. The Church of God is not a liturgical church in the strictest sense, but many of our congregations invoke this powerful seasonal celebration to enrich their worship. If you are one of these churches, then you know advent begins this Sunday, December 3 and ends on Sunday, December 24. So, how does advent typically work?
 

In the West home, we place an advent wreath on the coffee table in the center of our living room, which is the symbolic center of our home and lives. The beautifully decorated wreath has 5 candles, three purple, one pink, and one white. We read Scripture, sing a song, say a prayer, and light one candle each Sunday corresponding to the following elements as noted in the list below. The entire home worship service takes about 15 minutes.

  • December 3–First Sunday (purple candle): This candle is called the “Prophecy Candle” because it anticipates the birth of Christ as foretold in Isaiah.
  • December 10–Second Sunday (purple candle): This is the “Bethlehem Candle” because it illustrates the love of God revealed by the manger.
  • December 17–Third Sunday (pink candle): The pink candle is called the “Shepherd’s Candle” since it represents the joy these men experienced at the birth of Jesus.
  • December 24–Fourth Sunday (purple candle): The peace of Christ is depicted by the “Angel’s Candle.” The white candle, lit on Christmas Eve, is the “Christ Candle” and symbolizes the light of the world Jesus brings into the world.

Our family has continuously celebrated advent at some level for the last 25+ years. We find it is a simple and powerful practice to tell the essential story of the gospel. It is especially good with younger children (but watch the fire!).

As you know, it is so easy for the festivities and fun of the season to distract us from the uplifting and important message of the holy day. Advent might just be the tool to give you and yours what they need to be truly ready for Christmas.

I Quit!

I quit.

These are words many pastors mutter under their breath almost every Monday morning. Why? After all, we are in the service of the King, the greatest boss in the universe. Moreover, the mission given to us is intense, exhilarating, and eternally significant. Why would any pastor want to quit? A ministry called Expastors* works with those who are facing severe challenges in ministry—maybe even you or someone you know. Read the following excerpt from their blog and see if you, or your pastor, might identify with these words. I’m citing the article beginning at the place where the author presents the most common reasons pastors give for laying down the mantle.

#1: Most pastors are overworked.
90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

#2: 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

#3: Most pastors feel unprepared.
90% report feeling they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands and 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

#4: Many pastors struggle with depression and discouragement.
70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. Wait, this is huge. Let’s pause here for a moment. This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry.  So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families.

#5: 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

#6: Many pastors are lonely.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

And then there is this:  50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close. The statistics speak for themselves. Working in ministry – whether you’re a full-time pastor or a lay minister balancing a job and a church – can be challenging. Families suffer  discouragement and depression – amongst a gamut of other things – and it runs like a river in the lives of those who sacrifice their own life to the cause of the church. (end of article)

How do we combat these issues? What can be done? In the 2018 ministry year, we are proactively offering starting places to address many of these common issues. For example:

  • THRIVE will help pastors find companionship and preparation in the journey.
  • A CLERGY FAMILY RETREAT in June will give us the time to spend connecting with other clergy families.
  • ASSOCIATE PASTOR RETREAT envisions strengthening skill and relationships among those who lead from the second chair.
  • THE SHEPHERDING MINISTRY we are trying to start will provide care and “checking in” on lead pastors.

In short, we care about you and want YOU to be the best you in ministry possible. Choose to join us. Or, as Jerry MacGuire says in the infamous movie, “Help me, help you!”
 

*http://www.expastors.com/why-do-so-many-pastors-leave-the-ministry-the-facts-will-shock-you/

Discussion Thoughts

The 2017 Assembly meeting has come and gone, but the moment lives on for many of us. In addition to a powerful time of group confession, we decided to approve a new set of by-laws that helps to structurally bind our hearts to action. While not perfect, these pages of ink assist our forward movements. Thank you for this spirit of togethering.
 

On Friday afternoon, we conducted tabled discussions. One of the questions we asked the 20 or so tables to explore was this:  “As our assembly seeks to fulfill its mission, what one or two suggestions/ideas/changes/additions/tweaks would you recommend to the Board of Ministry (BOM)?

I’ve listed the responses here for you to see. Where overlap occurred, the responses were listed as one. Some must have been written in a form of shorthand in which I am not schooled and therefore are not included. I make a few comments at the end. So here we go …

  • More time for fellowship at Assembly meeting (many groups mentioned this one)
  • Find ways to be more sensitive to the Spanish-speaking aspect of our assembly
  • THRIVE Program for non-lead pastors
  • More women on the BOM and at least one woman on credentials
  • Provide information in a clear, compelling, and concise way
  • Focus on life within our Movement by showing us our differences and similarities
  • Have a health chart on each church to assist new pastors
  • Have a scheduled gathering that includes entire state
  • Provide multiplication resources
  • More training in the state, especially with outreach
  • More collaborative ministries
  • City-wide events
  • Explore social media
  • Include associate pastors on the BOM
  • Require attendance of ministers at the State Assembly meeting
  • Explore meeting times that will help bi-vocational pastors attend
  • Tell more stories about what is happening in the state

Here are my responses in a general format.

  • I LOVE that you want to spend more relational time together so the Assembly planning team for 2018 will seek ways to better implement this into our program.
  • We have tried a variety of ways to better accommodate our Spanish speakers but it seems that a running a Spanish track is preferred—for now at least.
  • If we can get enough associate pastors interested in THRIVE, then we will start these groups as well. Contact me if interested!
  • It is very hard to find women in ministry to serve on the BOM, but we will charge the nomination team with working harder. Remember, all BOM members must be from financially partnering churches. It might also help to know that we do not have 2 staffers from the same church serving on the BOM at the same time. Right now, there are only 13 Board and Credentials slots for serving for a minister population of over 200.
  • Training was a big request. This year, we will offer the following several opportunities, to include: THRIVE, 1 Day Leader Events, Assembly meeting, and a couple of other retreats in addition to training offered by the TSA and Concilio. Leadership equipping is really important and we invest a lot of time and money into this area.

The Texas Ministries of the Church of God is not perfect. But we are trying to do better. Your partnership brings out the best in our collective work and we value it greatly. Keep it up. Share your stories so we can share them with others. Blessings friends!

A Powerful TEAM Texas Assembly

This past weekend, TEAM Texas shared a powerful moment together. Numerous people have commented on the move of the Spirit in the Assembly meeting and the various ways they were touched. I hope you sensed Him, too.
 

The big idea was what we called togethering. As you know, this topic communicated a desire to be with one another, recognizing that we don’t always do it well. Even so, we determined to lay aside our own preferences and comforts in order to partner with one another. Beign together well, as you heard, is an ongoing process. To that end, Chuck Myricks challenged us with this thought: “We are better together, but we are inadequate alone.”

At the end of the day, the Spirit seemed to be saying to us that mission is what brings us together. Jeannette Flynn gave an awesome talk on this topic. We all laughed when she told the story of a struggling church that was going to take a weekend retreat to discover their mission. With humor in her voice, she asked them, “It takes a weekend to discover your congregation’s mission?” Her point was simple: we already have our mission from scripture; we just need to go do it—together.

One of the more important moments was the reBranding presentation. In this time, we shared our common and significant history in Texas. We were also challenged to consider the role confession has in our present. We determined to go forward into our future as a new kind of Assembly. We cannot let the power of this moment escape us. We cannot let detractors steal it from us. We cannot let time dampen the fervency of commitment we made. This was our moment to embrace the possibility of a brighter and more significant future.

What are the next steps for us? Let me give some practical ideas.

  1. Embrace the truth that two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
  2. Share what you experienced with someone you know wasn’t present.
  3. Identify as a partner with the new Assembly.
  4. Join a THRIVE group.
  5. Make an effort to connect with someone you don’t usually spend time with.
  6. Get involved (call the office to ask how).

In the days to come, you will read more about the new Assembly, our new name (Texas Ministries of the Church of God), and our new way of doing ministry together. I hope you can enthusiastically join with us. You really are wanted – and needed!

"Believing"

There is an old story told of a notorious criminal who was mortally wounded. Despite his deeds and reputation, a group of missionaries nursed this man back to life. He was so moved by the compassion and care of these Christians that he vowed to never rob another Christian again. Word quickly spread. As the criminal returned to his career, he quickly discovered a problem: everyone he tried to rob had suddenly become Christian. He was perplexed as to what to do, so he returned to the missionaries who had cared for him for advice. “How do you know when someone is a Christian?” he asked. The missionaries replied that every Christian should know the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Armed with a solution to his problem (pun intended), before he robbed someone he gave him or her the chance to recite these great texts.

It’s a cute story, but it missed the point. Certainly Christians should be able to recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, but the missionaries gave the wrong answer. Their response implied the Faith is more about knowledge than experience. It’s more about principles than a Person.

Prominent theologian and author, Leonard Sweet contends that whenever one reads the word believe in the biblical text that it refers more to a relational concept than a principle. More to the point, believing is not as much as about cognitive content as it is about relational substance. Consider John 3:18. It reads: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Does this text mean that whoever has the right intellectual conviction about the Son will be saved? If this is so, then even the devil will be saved. While there is always some level of cognition to faith, the basic import of the word is to trust, to trust in the one to whom you will give your life.

If the notorious criminal cited above were to come to attempt to rob your house, would he be able to identify you as a Christian based on the believe scale rather the recitation scale? Is your faith energized by relationship with the Persons of Jesus or by the content of your knowledge? Are you helping your people believe more or simply know more?

Reformation Day

This Sunday may be the biggest day of the year for the church, behind Easter and Christmas, and most people do not know about it. It’s called Reformation Sunday and this year—2017—marks its 500th anniversary. What is this a big deal?
 

Christianity Today provides important background to this important date. “Leo X was Pope in Rome, a member of the high-living de Medici family. He dished out bishoprics to his favorite relatives and tapped the Vatican treasury to support his extravagant lifestyle. When the money ran out, he made use of a fairly new fundraising scheme—selling forgiveness of sins. For a fee, bereaved relatives could get a deceased loved one out of Purgatory. At the right price, they could also save up for their own future sins—sort of a spiritual IRA.”

This “product” was called an indulgence. Due to the power the church wielded, especially among the poor, indulgences became an extremely lucrative way to inure the church with funds.

Fast forward to Martin Luther …

He was born in Thuringia (Saxony, today Germany) and lived between 1483-1546. His father was a wealthy merchant and determined for his son to become a lawyer. While pursing this path, Luther had a significant spiritual experience and this event rerouted his career path. Instead of a life of commerce, Luther joined the religious order of the Augustinian Hermits and studied theology.

Although a Catholic priest, Luther’s studies of scripture and readings in Augustine began to percolate in his soul and eventually lead him to conclude that some of the teachings of the Church were wrong. Two key theological propositions became foundational in his theology. First, he held that the Bible was the central authority, not the Church. Second, he believed that faith in Jesus alone, not works and not indulgences, were the only means of salvation. Both of these tenets were anathema to Pope Leo X and the institutional church. Acting on this belief, he wrote the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” also known as “The 95 Theses,” a list of questions and propositions for debate. Popular legend states that on October 31, 1517 Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. The reality was probably not so dramatic; Luther more likely hung the document on the door of the church matter-of-factly to announce the ensuing academic discussion around it that he was organizing.

Either way, the act was abuzz in the empire. Luther’s deed that day set him at odds with the Pope, the church, and others in power. It also made him a cult hero among the poor and a leader in what became known as the Reformation. You and I are the blessed recipients of his courage and tenacity. Without this pioneer of the faith, we might still be attending mass and, well, buying indulgences. Courage of conviction always attends great movements.   What courage do you possess?
 

P.S. Does anyone know the name of the greatest civil rights leader in the 20th century? His name was Martin Luther King, Jr. It makes one ponder what’s in a name…

P.S.S. Legend says Martin Luther was inspired to launch the Protestant Reformation while seated comfortably on the chamber pot. This cannot be confirmed, but in 2004 archeologists discovered Luther's lavatory, which was remarkably modern for its day, featuring a heated-floor system and a primitive drain.

P.S.S.S. Martin Luther wrote one of the greatest hymns of the faith, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” You might want to sing it this Sunday.

P.S.S.S.S. Many Americans today don’t know much about Luther. In 2010, the Pew Research Center found less than half of respondents (46 percent) could identify him and his significance. More Jews (70 percent), atheists and agnostics (68 percent), and Mormons (61 percent) knew about him than did Protestants (47 percent).
 

--http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-14/selling-forgiveness-how-money-sparked-protestant.html
--http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/5483/reformation-sunday-a-day-to-celebrate
--http://courses.wcupa.edu/jones/his101/web/37luther.htm

The Family of Jesus

Being a part of a community—any community—is both a privilege and a responsibility. I may choose to be a part of the local HOG chapter, but they admit me into their group and I’m expected to follow the rules of this group. I may choose to join the YMCA and share their community, but I must conform to their standards. When I was transferred from darkness to light by the saving blood of Jesus, I was adopted into a new family. This family has values and norms and standards and yes, even rules, incumbent upon me to follow as a member of this new community.
 

In the last month or so, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Pastoral Epistles and Hebrews. My readings in these rich texts remind me of how lucky and privileged I am to be a part of the new community. The teachings from these passages seek to focus my purpose in life and develop a center (Jesus) around which my life revolves. Put another way, the texts remind me that Jesus is the Subject.

These letters to the early church call us to a greater level of responsibility. We are responsible for one another. We need to look out for one another. We need to care for one another. We need to bear one another in their burdens. We need to encourage each other. It’s as simple, or as tough, as that.

As you may know, my dad died unexpectedly in 2003. Since then, the family has kept watch over my mom. Recently she wanted to buy a house so she would never have to move again. Social security and a part-time job qualified her for a very small home, but she needed some down payment assistance to make this dream come true. It was my honor to be able to care for my mom with a few quid from my savings. Family cares for one another.

I hear you … it’s not always easy being a part of a family. Sometimes family can truly be tough to live with, but it’s also very difficult to live without them. As you read this article today, I want to ask you to take a moment to thank the Father and your Brother Jesus for allowing you to be a part of the family. While you are praying, could you say a prayer for those in your family that God brings to your mind? It is our privilege to pray for one another—and it’s also our responsibility.

A Better Ride

As many of you know, I am an avid motorcycle rider. I am fortunate my wife shares this hobby with me. There are some days when I really think my spiritual gift and calling is to ride my motorcycle. In fact, Cindy and I have humorously worked on a list of 50 ways to make money riding the Harley. To date, our accumulated monetary total is exactly $0.

Recently, I did what’s called a Demo ride. When Harley Davidson releases their new models, they travel around the country putting on what they call a “Demo Day.” Anyone with a valid motorcycle license can ride any or all of the models at the Demo Day. Of course, I planned to attend.

On the day, I decided to ride a 2018 Road Glide CVO. The term CVO indicates the custom vehicle operation bike. It’s the most decked out model available and it has the most horsepower. I would love to own one of these bikes one day, but I’ll have to cut off an arm to afford it, unless I can figure out how to make money riding it. At any rate, can I say that many days later I am still smiling? This bike was the most incredible riding machine I’ve ever ridden! It would go from 0 to 80 in like 4 seconds. If you’re not a cyclist, you might not understand the sensation, but think of it like jumping on the best roller coaster ever made. When I finished the ride, I said to myself, this is truly a better ride.

In Hebrews, the writer uses the word better to describe the experience of the Christian life over the former way of religious experience under the law. Notice several examples cited in this book: better salvation (6:9), better hope (7:19), better covenant (7:22), better sacrifices (9:23), better country (11:16), better life (11:35), and a better word (12:24).

The notion of better is not lost on any of us. It indicates something superior when compared to something else. By whatever measure one might use, something better has more value to us. In ministry, I’m always trying to provide a better service or experience. I’m trying to help others know what the next level is in life or ministry. I’m sure you’re doing the same.

Put in motorcycle terms, I want to help leaders get from a sportster to a Road Glide CVO. This new level of riding—and ministry—is more fun and exhilarating. It provides a kind of fulfillment for the journey that others can appreciate and value. There are strategies for getting there, if you’re willing to take a ride. Let’s get together and Demo these ideas. I believe this encounter will leave a smile on your face!
 

P.S. At the Assembly meeting in November, I’m going to invite you to “ride” what I think will be a better way for us.

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