September 2007

“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”
Og Mandino

For those who live in the Baltimore, Elliott City, Columbia, and Catonsville area I would like to invite you to join me for a new ministry venture, Motivational Mondays.  We will be meeting at Panera Bread Company, 6600 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, MD 21228.

I  will provide a short motivational scriptural reflection about attitudes, conflict management, coaching, time management, finding a job, developing a career and other related topics.  The goal is to assist people in connecting their professional lives to the Gospel.  We will be investigating questions on how the scriptures can influence and affect our relationships with friends, co-workers, family members. and ultimately impact our success.

Our first session is October 15th at 5:30.  Everyone is invited.  For more information email info@thegracecafe dot net or call 410 945 8397
For more information go to or email

The Grace Cafe is an organic emerging community.  Check out our blog.  Grace Cafe


“Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts has found purpose in her cancer battle.

 “I never for one minute asked, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ But rather, ‘Why did this happen for me?” she said.

 “You have no idea how that makes you feel, that people are thinking and praying for you,”

 “I know that part of the reason was for me to get the message out about early detection. It’s going to save my life,” she said. “So the amount of pain I have to go through, it’s miniscule compared to what it can hopefully save other people.”

 Read the Entire Article

Definition of Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God’s spirit, for the transformation of the world.

1. a process:

  • gradual, life-long movement, not single, momentous conversion
  • goes against grain of “quick-fix, instant results, Five Easy Steps” culture
  • draws us by God’s magnetic attraction, awakening our desire for God

2. of being conformed to the image of Christ:

  • Christ is the image of God made visible to us (Col.1:15)
  • image of Christ is pattern of human wholeness — we share God’s image (Gen.1:26)
  • God’s likeness feels strange since we are misshapen by images of worldly culture
  • the Christ image heals, renews, restores us
  • moves us from being centered in self to being centered in God

3. by the gracious working of God’s spirit:

  • we want to make things happen in our self-reliant culture
  • but cannot conform ourselves to Christ by own will power
  • we can open ourselves to gracious working of God’s spirit
  • the Spirit enables us to choose way of Christ over self-interest
  • grace helps us give reins of control to God and to cooperate with Spirit
  • we resist Spirit’s work because change in ideas/habits/ behaviors is scary
  • spiritual disciplines (practices) are ways of opening ourselves to grace

4. for the transformation of the world:

  • being like Christ means living in self-giving love
  • spiritual life not about “me” but about the world God loves
  • as we are conformed to Christ we embody more of God’s love for others
  • fruits of spiritual formation are compassion, patience, truthfulness, reconciliation
  • transformed persons are leaven for transforming the world

This definition adapts and expands Robert Mulholland’s work Invitation to a Journey (InterVarsity Press, 1993). Companions in Christ Training © 2004. All rights reserved.

This is the best definition of spiritual formation that I have found. I like it because it emphasizes the process. We can not take a class to learn to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can not go on a weekend retreat and expect to be a fully mature follower of Jesus Christ. It is a reforming,re-engineering, realignment and repositioning of our core values that shapes our lives as disciples and allows us to live into the call to be completely devoted follows of Jesus Christ.

As a disciple of Christ my commitment to the community of faith will have priority over many of the culturally popular social trends. Soccer, football, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, and other sports practice schedules will not take priority over the gathering of the saints. Our family obligations will be aligned with the priority of small groups and worship. We can not make disciples in anyway shape or form but we can create an environment for men and women to grow.

Our faith communities must strive to be the most empowering, engaging, enlightening and the most significant high impact event of our members lives. This is the total life engagement precess that Jesus engaged with the disciples. They followed him around, observed his disciplines, participated in his life encounter groups with other “sinners” and eventually became the men who would carry the message to the world about our resurrected Savior.

Making disciples is about asking the question “How do we engage people’s lives?” rather than “How can we attract them to an event?”

Can the modern mainline church re-engineer its ecclesiastical culture from events and committees to life style engagement and the beloved community of God? Can the administration of the church be driven by technology and the life of the church center around meals, coffee, pray and studying the scripture? I believe the answer is yes but the resistance will be significant because the old way must be evaluated and then sentenced to death. Holding on to mediocrity in ministry is the enemy of excellence. Holding on to the past is the enemy of God’s vision and call to the future.

The Revised Standard Version   

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were heathen, you were led astray to dumb idols, however you may have been moved. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

 The Messiah Complex will Kill You (Literally)

 Trying to do everything in your power to make sure that the church functions is one of the most destructive things that a pastor or lay leader can do. 

Yes you can sing but that is also why the church has a choir.

Yes you can do stewardship but you have a community of believers who can also teach the congregation about their time, talents, gifts and tithe.

Yes you can visit the sick and shut for 20+ hours per week but those who sick often do not want to be bothered and the elderly often miss their friends from the church a lot more than they miss you.

 The solo pastor gig must be viewed as an opportunity to equip a ministry team. The lay leaders who possess  leadership, administrative, pastoral care and other spiritual gifts must embrace their gifts as an opportunity to share and empower others.

 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

 Building ministry teams is essential for the life of the church to be embraced and shared by the entire congregation.  Jesus knew that when he choose his first team of disciples. He lived with them as they learned and skeptically looked at his teachings as different yet refreshing.  Jesus moved in and out of the lives of people modeling for the disciples God’s unconditional love and unmerited favor as he forgave people of their sins, healed their infirmities and challenged them to lives of deeper commitment to God.

 I am sure that it would have been easier to meet and bless more people if Jesus did not have the 12 and others following him every time that he moved.  I am sure that his prayer time was interrupted by those seeking his council during prayer time.  Building an effective, efficient, winning team is not easy in any sport.  The same is true about building ministry teams.  It is not easy but it is worth it.

 There is one truth about teams that is clear in any sport or organization.  People operate most effectively in areas where they are gifted or they have a passion.  This is also true in the church.  People who are gifted in hospitality are great as greeters.  They love to arrange the bulletins, meet people with coffee and a smile and they can do it for hours.  Some people have the gift of looking at people and knowing that something is wrong.

 The challenge is most churches in mainline denominations has been operating on the basis of fill a committee with a warm body. The Lay Leadership /Nominating Committee will be presenting a bold new proposal for reorganization of our church council.  The basis of this proposal is that all leaders and potential leaders will take the Spiritual Gifts Assessment.  The Lay Leadership Ministry Team will then match people’s gifts to the leadership and ministry needs here at West Baltimore UMC.

 We will be sharing with you the leadership profile for each ministry position and the goals for 2008.  We will then ask you to pray about being called to lead a ministry based on your spiritual gifts.  I already know that you have never done it that way.  I also have heard that you are not aware of any other UMC churches doing it this way.  My response is that I understand your concerns and ask you to reflect on how Jesus called the disciples.

 He needed people who clearly understood the Hebrew Scriptures so that he could teach them the contrasting new way to be in relationship with God. He needed people who were not afraid of rejection so he chose people who were already considered sinners.  Jesus needed people who were self starters and entrepreneurial so he choose, fisherman and a tax collector. Philip and Andrew were task oriented yet Peter was one to talk loud and take action.  Jesus chose 12 men who could work together to achieve consensus and build teams themselves. This was not by accident

Our spiritual gifts are given to us with a purpose.  Spiritual Gifts are essential to the life a disciple.  Spiritual gifts are often misunderstood by most believers.  Disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to living God’s purpose for their lives are men and women who are also seek to discover and share their spiritual gifts. When a believer is exercising their spiritual gifts they are also living out their purpose.

 Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who called to live a life a purpose.  They have moved beyond living to survive and living to obtain success and they are now living lives of significance.  Their significance is not about what position they have obtained in the church but how they are living out God’s purpose for their life.  Being clear about God’s purpose for most people is a journey.  Living God’s purpose for your life will also mean that you have discovered your spiritual gift or spiritual gifts.

 Paul opens our text today saying that he did not want us to be uninformed or ignorant about spiritual gifts.  I believe this is because Paul knew that the foundation of every believer being effective and active in ministry was that they would seek, discover and live within their spiritual gift set.  The church in Corinthians was booming and growing at an uncontrollable rate.

Radical stuff was going on.  They worshiped in peoples homes rather than in the temple.  They would sing joyfully without an order or worship. They had women and en in the same space worshiping together.  Can you imagine that they even had women speaking in worship?

 The church of Corinth in their radical state was a growing and thriving church and this was due mostly to the spiritual gifts being active in the fellowship.  This caused signs and wonders where people were blessed supernaturally.  As non believers watched they became believers because they want to experience the transformation that they saw the believers in Jesus Christ experiencing.  They wanted to experience the spiritual renewal they saw taking place all around them.  They saw people who previously worshiped the Greek gods who had no power.  People were going to their temples with no fellowship.  They were reciting mantras with no satisfaction. These unbelievers were watching these Christians pray and experience the answer to prayer.  These Christians would go to each others houses and fellowship, share stories about their lives and make sure that everyone was taken care of.  The watched Christians develop a relationship with God and talk to God through prayer, believe in God to intervene in their everyday life.

         Every believer has at least one  spiritual gift

         Spiritual gifts are to be used to the building of the Body of Christ

         We all have different gifts but all gifts are given by the same Spirit

         We have to value the journey of the people that are seeking to discover their spiritual gift

Suppose you have a leadership position in your organization. Further suppose that the division you lead is using antiquated technology from the 1960s. And finally, suppose that you have been leading this division for 5 years and have repeatedly failed to upgrade the technology. Your failures are contributing to major problems that affect millions. And now is the time for you to leave your post.


My reflection has nothing to do with Barry’s article.  I am looking at the number of mainline denominational churches where the pastor has been resistant to technology and has nurtured this value in the church.  As a result the rest of the world has moved on and left many churches ATDD -Acquired Technology Deficit Disorder.

The finance committee is in shock, the administrative staff is bewildered and the church council does not know how this happened.  The Personnel committee worries about who will train everyone and the youth want to know “How will this new interest in technology benefit us.”

The question everyone is asking, “Where do we start?”

I would like to hear from you before sharing my insights about where to start in building a synchronized technology infrastructure that will support the mission and vision of your faith community.

j0178784.jpg“If my private world is in order, it will be because I have chosen to press sabbath peace into the rush and routine of my daily life in order to find the rest God prescribed for Himself and all of humanity.”

Gordon MacDonald from his book Ordering Your Private World 

Does the method of giving in your church reflect these trends? Increasingly, churches are providing their members with alternate giving methods such as:

  • Bank Draft or Automatic Withdrawal. This most common method, and the one offered by the most churches, permits members to set up an automatic giving option, usually set for once or twice a month.
  • Credit or Debit Cards. Giving members the opportunity to give with credit or debit cards was a rare occurrence ten years ago, but is now a much more common practice among churches.
  • Online Giving. As more and more people engage in internet commerce, churches are increasingly using their websites to offer persons the option to make contributions online.
  • Giving Kiosks. One of the most “edgy” innovations is the installation of one or more “giving kiosks” in a church for credit or debit card giving. Hodges reports that the pastor who developed the giving kiosk, which today sells for between $2,000 and $5,000, reported receiving $200,000 in kiosk giving last year.


I have resisted the thought that a cashless society is on its way. The reality is, A cashless society is already here and functioning well with or without my participation. Lovett Weems article is well balanced in looking at the trends and evaluating their usefulness to ministry.

clock.jpgThe lesson that is essential for churches that are revitalizing and for new church starts is to begin at the front of technology today. If your goal is to be vibrant 10 -20 years from now the technology trends that are emerging now will be outdated in 3-5 years. The rate of technology growth is accelerating and new innovations are embraced in popular culture in months rather than years. The church should not embrace every new trend but we need to be aware of the trends because they affect the people who we are trying to reach.

We are called to interpret, connect and engage the popular culture with the scripture. We are also called to lead people into becoming fully committed and mature followers of Jesus Christ. If we can assist people to become good stewards of their finances through providing online giving or automatic bank withdrawal then my personal views become irrelevant. I wonder will this require a committee vote?

Our welcoming team sometimes assumes that shy newcomers don’t want to be bothered but I tell them no. They came here because they want to make friends

Pastor Steve Choi is the outreach and missions pastor at Sarang Community Church in Anaheim, CA

Read the Entire Article – Rules of Engagement

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