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2014 Lenten Devotional

You can request our Lenten devotional to be sent to you daily. Email to info@infinitegracefellowship.org

A little known history fact is that I believed that The Flash was real.  I was always skeptical of Santa

Image but I was convinced that The Flash was the secret to kids all over the world receiving gifts in just one night. I really believed that Santa was just the front man to this multinational conspiracy to keep the identity of The Flash a secret. When my parents told me that Santa wasn’t real I was ok because I still believed in The Flash. I had been to church every year and heard the Christmas story.  I even was in a couple of Christmas plays.  As I turned 10 the reality of Jesus, Santa and the Flash became crystal clear and my world didn’t fall apart.

Another little known history fact is that until last year I had no credible proof that the legends, legacy or institution of Santa had any basis in reality.  I was privileged to visit the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and hear for the first time the story of Bishop Nicholas (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)  Although not the image of fables, and commercial Christmas portrayals there was a bishop who cared for the poor and the children with compassion as an expression of God’s love.

I say this because these realities have informed my life and none of them have shaken my faith in Jesus. Parents who are disciples of Jesus Christ have been debating if they should introduce Santa, when they should tell their children that the only story is the story at the manger.  There is some truth to the legends of real person who loved the poor and children because of his love of God.  He cared for the poor and defenseless because of his beliefs.  He sold all that he had and took gifts to the impoverished of his time. This is the man that the legend of St. Nick aka Santa Claus is based on.  Some man getting in a sleigh with Reindeer pulling around the world in 24 hours is false.  Parents spend too much and work real hard to make and spend money to bring their children and loved ones happiness.  I believe that the greatest gifts of the Christmas season are not purchased in stores but nurtured in the relationships of family, friends and loved ones. There are days when I still believe The Flash conspiracy is real. (Yes I will ask Olivia Pope to investigate)

This doesn’t replace, diminish or alter the impact of greatest event in human history,  the miracle of Jesus being born of a virgin as a part of God’s grand plan to save humanity.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:15-20

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

There are many struggling churches in mainline denominations that aspire to Make disciples for Christ, Serve the Community and Impact the World. Often they struggle with limited finances, limited energy and few people. Efforts to reach more people and share the life changing message of Jesus Christ seem futile and the few ideas that do work seem to never provide the traction necessary to change the direction of the congregations decline.    I believe that there is something to learn from relevant success stories of congregations that have already gone through the process of revitalizing and restoring their mission. The role of the transformative, revitalizing pastor is to help the congregation discover the best practices to achieving the long term mission and vision. . As a pastoral and leadership coach here are some suggestions to accelerate the learning curve:

  1. Find multiple examples of congregations with similar demographics and a similar ministry context that have coped with equivalent challenges successfully. Learn from their mistakes, experiences and successes
  2. Find congregations that model excellence in the ministry areas that you desire to grow in even if the resources are outside of your denomination in a congregation that has no ministry context similarities.  Learn what the best practices are and let them become the standards that your strive for as you revision the ministry.
  3. Develop a step by step logic model of the reasons for the best practices and the success of the turnaround churches. Look for features that they share in common.
  4. Present these shared “success factors” as precepts, guidelines, and principles that can be implemented by all those who wish to achieve similar levels of success.
  5. Document your journey by video, journaling, pictures and recordings.
  6. Celebrate mini successes along the journey and review the ultimate goal and objectives often

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Entrepreneurs Don’t Need Work-Life Balance

This is a good article that outlines the DNA of high functioning entrepreneurs. It also outlines principles that are diametrically opposed to everything that we teach pastors.  Life balance is one of the major emphasis that we encourage pastors to develop in early interviews as potential ministry candidates are beginning their journey.

As entrepreneurs, we have zero sense of balance. We’re all in, all the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, weekday or weekend — each of us focuses on our vision with a single-minded passion.

JEFF STIBEL  Chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and author ofWired for Thought.

 

Mainline churches are in desperate need of entrepreneurial pastors who will plant and redevelop churches.  The behavioral DNA of entrepreneurs are nurtured out of a candidate so they will be effective as a pastor in our average churches. The ordination committees really need to rethink their approach to identifying church planters and redevelopment pastors.  We see these entrepreneurial pastors being successful in non denominational settings and as they grow with the congregation most of them develop the life balance necessary to be effective pastors.

A paradigm shift is necessary to attract and support entrepreneurial pastor.  I believe that this has significant implications for all mainline churches.

ImagePatrick Clayborn has been a professor at Drew Theological School in 2011. He is ordained as an Itinerant Elder in the Ohio Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Patrick previously served as Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and as a pulpit associate at St. James AME Church in Newark, NJ. Dr. Clayborn is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Academy of Homiletics.

Designing Worship that Connects with the Unchurched: 

How can we make our worship services say “whosoever will let them come”? How do we create an environment that is inviting to those who have little or no connection to church? How do we take our worship to those who have no desire to come to our churches? How can such liturgies be sustained, particularly by churches with few resources? These are the questions that this workshop seeks to address. The aim will be to explore methods for planning, enriching, and maintaining worship services so that seekers find them welcoming.

Preaching and Spirituality: 

This workshop focuses on the essentials of Christian spirituality within the preaching vocation. The history and theology of the connection between spirituality and preaching; how biblical exegesis for preaching impacts and is impacted by spirituality; and ways in which spirituality shapes and is shaped by homiletical style, design, form and diversity are components that will be introduced. These concepts will be explored through various interactive activities.

(The fifth in a series of posts by Dr. Merritt on pastoral leadership) 

It is without question one of, if not the most, difficult and yet important job of any leader. You will make mistakes in hiring staff. Over the years, I’ve tried to remember three principles in bringing people on to serve with me.

1. Find people who can do what you cannot do and can do it better than anybody else can do it.

2. Let them do their job. Delegate with feedback and accountability, and then trust them to get the job done.

3. Don’t be afraid to let others shine and get credit for a job well done.

This is a great article by Dr. Merritt.  You can read the entire blog at http://pastorsedge.myshopify.com/blogs/edgeblog/4087572-keys-to-building-staff-leadership

"If your church is not innovating, it is dying."

“Innovation is changing organizational systems to provide service or produce your product more effectively, efficiently or more profitably. When the organization is crystal clear about the new results that are expected, innovation thrives and eventually becomes a part of the DNA of the organization. The organization that constantly improves stretches, takes risks, and finds new ways of delivering excellence welcomes the changes that are involved with innovation.”

This was a journal entry during the time that I was in a class on creativity and organizational development.  I look at many of the mainline churches in America and realize that the concept of constant innovation is not embedded in their DNA.  Many of these congregations are declining and struggling to reach new people, grow disciples and maintain the active fellowship. They run programs and hold events but never address the systems in the church that produced the challenges that they are currently facing.

Designing intentional systems of faith sharing, stewardship, discipleship, and worship design are essential for a church to be relevant and vital in the 21st century.  Churches that are more concerned with having church in a way that appeases the wants and desires of church members rather than intentionally designing systems to reach the prodigal sons and daughters are voting to close their doors.

There are more prodigals outside the church than disciples who are in our churches.

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