A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Friday, October 31, 2008

Have you seen this soft & cuddly Nittany Lion?

Sometime on Friday, October 31, the soft and cuddly Nittany Lion stuffy, which stands about 6 inches tall, was kidnapped from the front desk of Faith Community church.

A ransom note was placed in my church mail box today which had early elementary age large print on the envelope with the words, "PASTOR ROBERT."

Inside the envelope was a letter from the kidnappers which utilized words clipped from various newspapers and magazines explaining that more instructions will be given if I want to see my Nittany Lion cub alive again. The front office staff did not see the perpetrator take the little harmless stuffy but investigators are presently interviewing staff members and suspicious church members on where they were on the day of the crime.

I can only imagine where lil Nittany is at this very moment...probably in some dark cellar with Buckeye Brutus nearby.

Nittany...if you have internet wifi handy and they haven't taken your smart phone, go to daddy's web blog and know that I will not stop searching for you even if it gets to feel like it's early in the fourth quarter and we're losing 6 to 3. Remember to keep hope. Buckeye Brutus might get careless and fumble the deal and we'll be able to rescue you.

Your spot on my office desk furniture will not be the same without you. Your friend, Pittsburgh Steeler piggie which sits next to you in my office has also made a vow to not blow any more leads until you are found and returned safe and sound.

Hang in there lil Nittany. Thank goodness we have a bye week.

Happy Reformation Day!

On the Eve of All Saints, Day, October 31, 1517, Augustinian Father Doctor Martin Luther, professor of Scripture at the University of Wittenberg, Germany posted an invitation to debate on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. The invitation to debate contained ninety-five points, or theses, concerning the sale of indulgences. Luther chose this date for posting his theses because the coming holy day (All Saints' Day) would bring many of the community to services, ensuring that his statements would receive wide exposure.

We celebrated Reformation Sunday last Sunday (October 26) in church and sang the great Martin Luther hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in thanksgiving for the influence of the 15th and 16th century reformers, including Martin Luther.

One caution regarding Reformation Day however - The United Methodist Church has both a Protestant as well as a Catholic heritage. Protestant in the sense that we have inherited the influence of the Reformation from our Anglican Church heritage and Catholic in the sense that the Anglican Church was also steeped in the rich Catholic heritage dating all the way back to the 3rd century in England. Modern day United Methodists tend to forget that the Anglican Church from which we were born through John Wesley, himself an Anglican Priest, has both a Protestant and a Catholic flavor to it. Part of our forgetfulness is due to the American Methodists becoming their own denomination in 1784 and some distancing from our Anglican roots over the past 200 years.

This distancing from our Anglican roots is regretful since both the Protestant and Catholic heritage offer a rich diversity of theology and practice. For example, we don't only emphasize the importance of the Bible (Protestant), but we also want to celebrate the importance of the Sacraments (Catholic).

Reformation Day Prayer:
Almighty God, gracious Father, pour out your Holy Spirit upon your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your Word, protect and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all their enemies, and bestow on the Church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord,who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Week #1 - The Blue Parakeet

For the next six weeks, my goal is to provide a brief summary of the book, "The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible" by Scot McKnight. This is the topic of my weekly Thursday morning bible study at Faith Community United Methodist.

For this first week, (first two chapters) here are the highlights of our conversation:

Like it or not, all of us "pick and choose" when interpreting verses/passages in the bible. Even folks of the fundamentalist variety who take the bible very literally pick and choose. Examples include Matthew 10:7,8 - why are many of us preaching about the kingdom (verse 7) but few of us are showing the signs of the kingdom through healing (verse 8.) Another example: Why do folks who point out that the practice of homosexual relations is sinful with such verses as Leviticus 20:13a not also apply the punishment for such activity (the 2nd half of that verse.) While we say, "thank God that people don't apply the 2nd half of that verse," the point is that we pick and choose.

  • The point of this first chapter isn't that it's right or wrong to pick and choose. The point is that we can't escape from doing it!

  • The 2nd chapter explains the author's use of the blue parakeet as a metaphor for his book. A blue parakeet is its own bird. That is, when a blue parakeet is around other types of birds, it does not adapt to their habits and flight patterns. Sometimes other birds try to get the blue parakeet to adapt to their ways, but it will stand its ground (its sky?) McKnight says that the bible is like the blue parakeet. Even though we try to fit the bible into our way of thinking and worldview or what we think it should say, it holds its own ground. We need to let the bible be the bible. And the first step in letting the bible be the bible is to admit that all of us pick and choose

  • Often times we get Tradition (capital "T") confused with traditionalism in studying the bible. Tradition (capital "T") is how the church over the centuries has interpreted scriptural passages whereas traditionalism is how we so often take one strand of interpretation and without any critical thinking, allow that particular interpretation of a passage of scripture to be the final authority. In summary, Tradition is vital for the appropriate interpretation of scripture. Traditionalism is the wrong way to go!

  • Looking ahead to next week's bible study (chapters 3 - 5) the proper way to interpret scripture is in remembering these three words:
Story - Listening - Discerning

More on this next week!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Thursday Morning Bible Study Topic

I am blessed to facilitate a weekly Thursday morning bible study at the church which has been meeting for the past couple of years.

We have focused on a variety of topics such as the "Just Neighbors" study on local and national poverty issues, the United Methodist Book of Resolutions which covers over 300 denominational stances on various social issues, the United Methodist Hymnal and the meaning of the hymns, the Book of Romans, the Book of Colossians, the Gospels, the Book of Revelation, several video studies by New Testament scholar and Anglican Bishop, N.T. Wright, and more recently, the "Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service: Forty Day Journey" stewardship campaign.

Tomorrow, we are excited to begin a new topical study focusing on the newly published book by the New Testament scholar, Scot McKnight, "The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible."

This is the kind of book that has a way of upsetting our apple carts because it helps us to see our own assumptions in our personal interpretations of biblical texts. Some of our assumptions are based more on commonly held interpretations about the bible rather than on a careful study of the original meaning of a particular text. McKnight offers specific examples of some of these commonly held assumptions.

What I like most about this book is that the author emphasizes how the bible has an overarching grand narrative which links the texts together. By knowing what the grand narrative of the bible is (the book describes this) we put ourselves in a much better position to interpret a particular passage of scripture.

But what does a blue parakeet have to do with all of this? Come Thursday morning at 10 A.M. and find out!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Worship Preview - November 2

Sunday, November 2 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Features - All Saints Sunday & Holy Communion

Sermon Title - "The Resurrection Experiment"

Scriptures - Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10, 22; I John 3:1-3; & Matthew 5:1-12

Theme - One of the ways that people come to belief in Christ is through the lives of faithful people who live in such a way that helps people see the authenticity of the Christian faith. On this All Saints’ Sunday, we will not only remember the members and loved ones of our congregation who have died since last year’s All Saints’ Sunday, but we will also be inspired to follow their example in offering the love of Christ to the people around us through word and deed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Being a Christian leader means...

Adam Hamilton, Sr. Pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, the largest United Methodist Church in the country which has about 7,500 in worship attendance each weekend, was the opening speaker at the "Change the World Conference" today at Ginghamsburg UMC.

He defined an effective Christian leader as someone who helps followers of Christ become authentically human. Adam spoke at length on the importance for Christians and churches to be genuine and authentic in living out their faith. This is the only approach that will reach younger generations for Christ.

Speaking of young people (16 to 29), Adam shared that 40% of them have left the church because they perceive the church to be too judgemental. Young people are not leaving because they believe church people are hypocrites. They readily admit that they are hypocrites themselves. The difference is that they know they are hypocrites and church people think they aren't. Ouch!

Adam said that the church needs to reclaim Jesus' method of reaching the unchurched or the disenfranchised by authentically and genuinely reaching out to our communities and world through hands on missions like food drives, hunger walks, etc.

In addition to hands on missions, Adam also emphasized that the church of today needs to not oversimplify controversial or difficult issues and questions that people face in life like. Instead, the church should welcome people's questions and not offer them tired and worn out religious cliches. In short, and back to Adam's definition of a Christian leader, we are to be authentic.

Last year, I visited Adam's church in Kansas City, and it was easy to see that his church emphasizes hands on missions and being genuine and authentic in welcoming people, especially those who have honest questions about their faith and the meaning of life.

What does all of this mean for us? For those of us who are United Methodist, it means that the mainline denomination has a lot to offer young people and the unchurched population in general, who are living in this culture. Our own Wesleyan/Methodist theology is one that invites open dialogue and authentic Christian witness that meets people where they are. Today was a reminder for those of us in the church to consciously check our judgemental attitudes at the door and to welcome people as Christ welcomes people. And we need to provide several hands on mission opportunities in which people can participate (both inside and outside the church.)

For those of us who are preachers, our sermons and messages need to connect with people where they are and communicate authenticity and humility as we offer the good news and the hope of the gospel.

Maybe the commercial slogan of the United Methodist Church can be a reminder of what Adam shared with us today. We are to be a people of "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors."

If you'd like more highlights from the October 24/25 Change the World conference, come to the Wednesday Common Cup 7 P.M. Growth Group at Faith Community on October 29. The Common Cup pastors who attended the conference will be present to share what we learned at the conference. What I shared here is just the tip of the iceberg!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Visit with Former US Ambassador Tony Hall

This morning, my daughter, Naomi and I had the privilege to be part of a small group discussion with former US Ambassador Tony Hall regarding the vital issues facing our country and world. Tony wanted to meet with a sampling of religious leaders in the Dayton area to share some of his thoughts with us and to hear our comments and questions.

No longer an Ambassador, he continues to serve his country particularly in the areas of global hunger relief and the Middle East peace process. How's that for your mission in life!

Here are some of the specific things he is doing in these areas:
  • Works closely with the organization, "Opportunity International" which provides loans to people living in the poorest nations of the world. Since banks in the third world countries typically only do business with only 5% of the population, this organization provides loans to people who are in desperate need. Interestingly enough, 98% of the loans are paid back in full.

  • Regarding peace in the Middle East, he is working hard to include the leading religious officials of several different faith traditions representing these countries to be officially part of the peace process. In the past, it's been primarily the political leaders who come to the table. But in this area of the world where tensions are due to religious differences, it only makes sense to include the major religious leaders. I believe he said that he's traveled to the Middle East 9 or 10 times this past year. He's returning in November.

In addition to sharing what he has been doing since serving as a US Ambassador, Tony Hall also shared what he believes to be the important issues facing our country today:

  • The National & Global Hunger crisis. Only 1/2 of 1% of our nation's budget is in the form of foreign aid, but he publicly affirms President Bush's because he has done more for the poor who are overseas than any other US president.

  • The health care crisis needs to be addressed. It's wrong that 40 million Americans are uninsured.

  • He has been part of a weekly prayer and scripture gathering with members of congress (both Democrat & Republican) every Wednesday at 4 P.M.

  • He said that he has been motivated to help end global hunger because there are almost 2,500 verses in the Bible which are about caring for the hungry and those who are poor.

There wasn't a lot of time for Q & A, but I asked Tony Hall this question: "In your experience in working to help end global poverty, what are some positive signs you are seeing in the area of third world debt reduction and elimination?"

His answer: "Eliminating third world debt is making a huge difference in these countries, particularly in countries like Ghana and Mozambique. Our world needs to live out the biblical principle of the 'Year of Jubilee' where debts are forgiven and countries can use this money to provide education and food for their people."

It was an honor to be part of this meeting and to be part of the dialogue.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Worship Preview - October 26

Sunday, October 26 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Features - 24th Sunday After Pentecost; Celebration of “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, & Service: A Forty Day Journey;” & Reformation Sunday

Sermon Title - “A Forty Day Journey - Celebration Sunday”

Scriptures - Acts 2:41-47; Psalm 100; & Luke 17:11-21

Theme - This is the final sermon of a six-part sermon series on “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service: A Forty Day Journey.” On this final Sunday of our forty day journey together, we will reflect on the sixth week of readings and celebrate the conclusion of our forty day journey by renewing our commitment in offering our prayers, presence, gifts, and service to God.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A College Football Cheer & Social Justice

Check out this video on the origin of the "We are...Penn State" cheer that is used often at Penn State home games. It's related to the issue of segregation in the 1940's.

Note: You don't need to be a Penn State fan to appreciate this short video.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hispanic Ministry in Dayton

Our Common Cup clergy served a meal today for the participants of a Hispanic seminar held at St. Pauls United Methodist Outreach Center in Dayton. It was exciting to have a small part in helping behind the scenes for this vital ministry. One of the goals of our Common Cup clergy group is to be involved in a hands on mission outreach at least once every two months as a group.

This week's 40 day "Prayers, Presence, Gifts, & Service" readings at Faith Community are focusing on service and being involved in hands on missions. Personally, I have found that a good way to be involved in hands on missions is by participating in a small group that makes this a priority.

I like the concept of small groups/bible studies/Sunday School classes being involved in hands on mission outreach on a regular basis. Not only does it give group members an opportunity to put their faith into practice, it also deepens the relationships among the group members.

Look at how much fun we had in preparing the meal tonight!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Update from Eric Bondapa

Eric Bondapa, the Africa University student who our Common Cup ministry was going to host this past summer and who is studying for the pastoral ministry, sends this word of thanks for the recent love gift our churches sent him. We also gave a financial gift to Africa University.

This past week, Faith Community focused on tithing our financial gifts toward the work of Christ and the church as part of our 40 day stewardship campaign. Eric's letter is another reminder among many of why it is sheer joy to offer our gifts to those in need. Enjoy his letter.

Eric's Letter:

To all members of common cup ministry:

I have come through this letter explain my gratitude and acknowledge receiving 900$ from you, which is directed to my studies at Africa University . Because of the love shown to me, I wanted to thank all the churches that participated in raising this money. For me it is a great benediction to have this money, really this will make a difference in all my life. Because, It will keep reminding me of God's working through his people. It is true that when we receive from God, he also except us to be faithful servants.

I thank the Churches for having this spirit of sharing, because the Bible says "when you do this to the least of these people, you do it to me." "Jesus-Christ"

I realized God's love when I received this money for my studies. This transfer God's love that reaches my life. You are doing it through your hands to touch all my Love; this is an extension of God's love, reaching somebody who is really in need through your sharing of the resources. Moreover, for all my lovely congregations, I have received your love with great joy, the only thing is that this gift reminds me to work faithfully to God and continues to love him forever. Thank you very much for accepting to respond to the Divine duty. May God assist you and bless you all. In the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit Amen!!!

Rev Eric Kalamba Bondapa
Third year Student
Africa University

Oversimplifying the Abortion Debate

The topic of abortion is becoming a top media issue in the presidential campaign due in part to recent statements made by Governor Palin. I received an e-mail from an evangelical Christian organization which basically said that if you are a Christian, you need to vote Republican since the McCain/Palin ticket is pro-life.

Personally, I am more in line with Sojourners on how to approach this issue than with what either the far right or the far left offers regarding the abortion debate. Knowing that this is a highly controversial and important topic, I invite you to read this recent message from Sojourners (see below) which in my view is in line with the stance of the United Methodist Church and with Wesleyan theology which embraces both vital piety and social justice. It's something worth keeping at the center of this important debate.

The Meaning of "Life": Seeking Common Ground to Reduce Abortions

Sojourners has advocated for a “consistent ethic of life” approach for years, and we believe our nation is ready for a new kind of politics and leadership on the issue of abortion.The majority of Americans believe that reducing the number of abortions is an important goal that people on all sides of the debate can agree on.

Recent research affirms that social and economic support for women and vulnerable families are effective solutions to lowering the abortion rate, including greater access to health care, poverty reduction, adoption reform, and pre and postnatal care.

Republicans and Democrats must learn to work together on this issue – tell the presidential candidates to lead the way for the duration of their campaigns. We must look forward to the day when both poverty reduction and abortion reduction are nonpartisan issues and bipartisan causes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Historic Day for Common Cup

This afternoon, I had the honor of presiding at an historic Church Conference for Paintersville UMC and Eleazer UMC, two of our sixteen Common Cup Churches. Each church voted unanimously for Paintersville to merge with Eleazer and become one church, keeping the Eleazer name and using the Eleazer church building and property.

Future decisions still need to made regarding the use of the Paintersville building. The historical information and several items in the Paintersville church will need to be incorporated into the new combined congregation at Eleazer.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline is very clear that the purpose of a merger should only be considered if it will help the two congregations to more effectively fulfill their ministry. It's interesting that this is also the purpose behind our Common Cup shared ministry model of sixteen area churches (now fifteen!) The Common Cup mission statement is to be more effective by making disciples of Jesus Christ together for the transformation of the world.

Today, the two congregations shared a meal after worship, conducted the joint Church Conferences, and shared in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I took the above picture of the members of Eleazer and Paintersville who attended the meeting today. Notice the smiles!

Let's keep the newly formed Eleazer congregation under the leadership of Pastor John Beers in our prayers as they continue their transition of bringing their resources together for the sake of the kingdom.

Sunday Worship Preview - October 19

Sunday, October 19 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Features - 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

Sermon Title - Rev. Rick Tettau: “A Forty Day Journey - Service”

Scriptures - Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; & Matthew 22:15-22

Theme - This is the fifth sermon of a six-part sermon series on “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service: A Forty Day Journey.” On this fifth Sunday of our forty day journey together, we will reflect on the fifth week of readings which focus on serving others as a witness to God's grace.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Church Members in the Community

Today was the annual Partners in Education breakfast/awards program sponsored by Xenia Community Schools. The purpose of Partners in Education is to recognize the support our schools receive through businesses, organizations, and churches.

This year, a new award was created to highlight how being a partner between the schools and the community is a two-way street. The award is for a school group which has helped an organization in the community.

The first recipient for this new award was a Central Middle School class that was taught by Betsy Murray (far right), a member of Faith Community for the work of her class in helping the Xenia Adult and Recreation Services (formerly known as Golden Age Senior Citizens Center.)

Two of the class members, Ashleigh Spahr (4th from right), and Sarah Middlebrooks (2nd from right), were part of the 2007 confirmation class at Faith Community. It's always great to see our church members being recognized for shining the light of Christ in our community. Way to go!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Much Is 700 Billion Dollars?

The recent $700 billion dollar proposed bailout of our nation’s financial system has created a climate of alarm, embarrassment, anger, and disbelief that our country has fallen so far. On SNL’s satirical “Weekend Report,” the news anchor says, “To give you an idea of how much $700 billion dollars is, I can’t give you an idea of how much $700 billion dollars is.”

Most of us already knew that we were a nation living on the edge, feeding off greed and the insatiable appetite of always wanting more toys, but how many of us knew that we were this close to collapse? Even with all of the safeguards surrounding the proposed bailout, we have been painfully reminded of the cost of being part of a culture which promotes the philosophy that enough is never really enough.

Many of our area churches are participating in stewardship campaigns this fall to prepare for 2009. Part of our stewardship campaign includes reflecting on what it means to be faithful with the financial resources God has given us. Obviously, the secular agenda’s approach to handling money (unbridled capitalism) when left unchecked, offers instant gratification, but in the end, will lead us down a dead-end street (the street formerly known as Wall Street.).

Enter the biblical view of stewardship and God’s call for each person to recognize that all good gifts come from God: a roof over our heads, food for the table, skills and abilities, the air we breathe, good health, loving relationships, a caring and nurturing community of faith, and the list goes on and on. When we remember this basic truth that all good gifts come from God, our attitudes and approach to money take on a whole new meaning.

Not only do we become more grateful for what we already have, we begin to see ourselves as extensions of God’s grace on behalf of a world in great need. Our lifestyles begin to reflect the giving nature of God, and we grow in what it means to practice extravagant generosity through the sharing of our financial gifts with those who are hurting.

Recently, our community participated in an annual two-mile Hunger Walk, CROP Walk, in which 25% of all funds collected remain right here with our Greene county FISH food pantry. The remaining money will go to support world-wide hunger relief efforts. Our food pantries are in need of additional financial and volunteer help, especially after the recent wind storm that left thousands of people without power.

As I made the stroll down the Xenia bike path and through the canopy of changing leaves on that warm autumn day, it was obvious that God’s many gifts were streaming down upon us from every direction. Pure gifts. Pure grace. So yeah…I know how much $700 billion dollars is and it’s nothing compared to the immeasurable love of God.

That’s something Wall Street can’t teach us.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Worship Preview - October 12

Sunday, October 12 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Features - 22nd Sunday After Pentecost & Coins for Missions (Coins placed in the offering will help support St. Paul UMC Outreach Center in Dayton, FISH Food Pantry, the Caring Place Meal Ministry in Xenia, & IHN which provides temporary housing for families in need.)

Sermon Title - “A Forty Day Journey - Gifts”

Scriptures - Isaiah 58:1-12 & Matthew 6:19-21

Theme - This is the fourth sermon of a six-part sermon series on “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service: A Forty Day Journey.” On this fourth Sunday of our forty day journey together, we will reflect on the fourth week of readings which focus on offering our financial gifts to the work of Jesus Christ and the church.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Our Father, who art in heaven..."

Last week, our church focused on the importance of "prayer" for our "Prayers, Presence, Gifts, & Service" 40 day journey. The sermon for that Sunday focused on how the Lord's prayer can serve as a template for our daily prayers.

The sermon talked about how we address God. In the Lord's prayer, we address God as "our Father." When the disciples heard Jesus refer to God as "our Father" they would most likely have thought of Israel's exodus story when God had rescued their forebears from slavery in Egypt and then led them to the Promised Land.

Today, Hosea 11:1-9 was the Old Testament reading from "The Daily Office." This is one of the main Old Testament scriptures in which the exodus story is connected with God as "father" or more generally, as a loving parent. Of course, we need to keep this in context with the reality that for some people today, the image of God as father can be hurtful because of bad experiences with their fathers. Nevertheless, as students of the Bible, it's important for us to get into the minds of Jesus' disciples when he began his prayer with, "Our Father..." The Lord's Prayer reminds us that just as God had rescued the Israelites from slavery and led them through the wilderness, so will the Lord rescue us and teach us how to walk as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

Hosea 11:1-9 (NRSV)
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2The more I called them, the more they went from me;they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. 3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Natural Church Development

Rev. Mike Denman, Assistant to the District Superintendent of the Maumee Watershed District, located in northwest Ohio, gave an inspiring one hour Natural Church Development (NCD) presentation to our Common Cup clergy this afternoon. Natural Church Development is a proven process of helping congregations identify where they are, what are their strengths and weaknesses, and how to go about discerning God's vision in moving forward in faith. Included in the process are congregational surveys and an outside coach to help the congregation implement a plan in line with God's vision.

Several times, Mike shared the importance of our churches to offer excellent strategic ministries in line with God's vision. While this may sound like something most church members and pastors would offer a resounding, "amen," Mike cautioned that this type of strategy would involve change which is very intimidating but is vital in order for any worthwhile vision to move forward.

Mike shared a helpful image with us regarding the Natural Church Development process by having us think of a car with four passengers whose names are vision, relationships, programs, and maintenance. In healthy and growing churches, vision is in the driver's seat and relationships is in the passenger seat. The back seat of the car has programs and maintenance. The key point in all of this is making sure that vision is in the driver's seat.

I have been thinking about a couple of things related to Mike's presentation. The first thing is that even though Faith Community has a clear mission statement which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, our church really doesn't have a well defined vision. Before we can make sure that vision is in the driver's seat, we first need to know what our vision is!

Once we know our vision, the relationships, program, and maintenance fall in line. In most churches, vision usually takes a back seat.

After Mike's presentation, we all agreed that Natural Church Development has a lot to offer our Common Cup churches. More on this later.