Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thankful for "the one"

The "buzz" after Sunday's vote on the motion to sell and relocate was "do you know who the one 'no' vote was?" In the very positive affirmation of a 122-1 vote, that "one" really stands-out.

Me, I'm thankful for the "one." It means the process worked and the way we choose to do church was affirmed. All along the way on this issue we have encouraged our members to pray, participate in discussions, and seek God's direction. Don't get me wrong, I am very excited by the outcome, and feel that the will of the congregation was clearly expressed. But, I am glad that one person felt the freedom to express themselves in a different way.

Congregational church polity (governance) is based on the idea of the priesthood of all believers: we all have equal access to God and all are equally accountable to God. The outgrowth of this bedrock baptist understanding of the Christian life is that everyone has a voice- and a vote- in the life of our church. We choose not to follow a model where entities outside our church have authority over the affairs of our congregation; nor do we have have small group of leaders who make decisions on behalf of the congregation; nor does the pastor have executive authority.

Congregational decision-making can be messy and time-consuming but ultimately it makes each member responsible for participation in the process and to prayerfully seek to gain an understanding of God's leadership. This week I am thanking God for the hard work of our Real Estate Committee (Scott Conti, Jerry Jansen, and Jim Smith); for the partcipation, discussion, and good questions of our membership through the process; and for the "one," who reminds us all that we have a voice and a vote.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Looking into the future

This Sunday is an important day in the life of our fellowship. Actions we take in this gathering will say a great deal about our future.

Yes, we'll be voting on the recommendation from our Real Estate Committee to sell our current location and purchase land just up the road for a new church site. This will be the first step of many to come in the process of relocation.

We will also be sharing in a time of parent-child dedication for the Miller and VanHentenryck families. When I hold those boys I will catch of glimpse of our shared future.

At the appropriate time we will receive the offering. I know we do this every week- but each time we give we express our commitment to the future of our church and its mission.

My sermon this week, "His Message-Our Mission," will come from Mark 1:9-15. My prayerful goal is to clearly set before us the challenge of the future.

And, as is our custom, we will offer a time of response. This will allow each of us present to consider our future participation in God's plan.

As our song of dismissal we have chosen "In His Time." What a thoughtful, beautiful prayer to have in our hearts... as we step into the future.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Herding Cats

Leadership in a church can be challenging- I have often likened it to "herding cats."

Sometimes when folks say "lead us" their request actually means "lead us where we already want to go."

Sometimes "help us change" really means "I'm quite happy where I am- help that other guy change."

Some like to lead from the conquered hill, "I've accomplished this, now the rest of you need to get on board."

Others will lead from behind, "I've told you what to do, now go!"

I know of pastors who lead their churches on a military model- as generals commanding the troops. Some follow a business model where the pastor functions as Chief Executive. Every now and again a pastor will think that he has filled a vacancy in the trinity and lead from a sense of spiritual superiority.

Our church is in a time of significant decision-making. Each decision simply opens a door for future decisions- all holding great challenges and possibilities for our mission. My biggest prayer is that I stay in tune with God's leadership and that as a church we will clearly hear his voice and follow his leadership... with minimum hissing, clawing, and scratching and as much purring as possible.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Unexpected Answers

I asked the Lord for a bunch of fresh flowers
but instead he gave me an ugly cactus with many thorns.

I asked the Lord for some beautiful butterflies
but instead he gave me many ugly and dreadful worms.

I was threatened, I was disappointed, I mourned.

But after many days, suddenly,
I saw the cactus bloom with many flowers,
and those worms became beautiful butterflies
flying in the spring wind.

God's way is the best way.

prayer written from prison by Chun-Ming Kao
from The Doubleday Prayer Collection

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thoughts from the beach

It was nice being back on the beach last weekend for the wedding of Hope Stewart and Michael May. We couldn't have asked for a better day to be on Amelia Island.

As I watched the waves I was reminded of Jesus' words to the disciples when the storm rocked their boat: "don't be afraid."

With my toes in the sand and my eyes on the sky I remembered God's promises to Abraham that his blessings would be greater than the grains of sand or the stars in the sky.

Looking across the horizon I quietly recalled the old hymn "there's a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea..."

Meanwhile, it's Monday morning in Kennesaw, a dreary, 45-degree, overcast Monday morning... and I am thanking God for a day at the beach!