Thursday, August 30, 2007

Margaret Mead Quotes & Reflection

We publish a monthly newsletter for our senior adults here at church and I always write a column for that. I don't believe I've ever shared the contents of any of those on my blog, but thought I'd pass along the one for September.

I ran across several interesting quotes by Margaret Mead recently and thought I’d pass a few of them along. “Of all the peoples whom I have studied, from city dwellers to cliff dwellers, I always find that at least 50 percent would prefer to have at least one jungle between themselves and their mothers-in-law.” “The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends in large measure upon how our children grow up today.” “What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.” “Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to be as mediocre as possible.” And here’s my personal favorite of the bunch: “Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance.”

That last statement started me reflecting about the ways in which we express our spirituality and our joy. Prayer clearly is a vital communication link that God has blessed us with that allows us to share our deepest feelings, needs, and desires with Him, as well as interceding for others, confessing our sins and shortcomings, and praising and thanking Him for His goodness and mercy. The gift of song and music inspires us as few other mediums can. There is practically nothing that compares to the power of a song to lift our spirits, give voice to our beliefs, or proclaim our love for God and others. A lullaby can soothe a restless child and help him or her to sleep. A majestic choral anthem can carry us into the very presence of God.

We Baptists probably struggle a bit more with her inclusion of dance in the list. Many of us were raised in an era or a religious climate in which dancing was considered utterly taboo. The Bible though repeatedly describes and exhorts worshippers of God to express their praise to Him with the dance. Other cultures with distinct customs such as those practiced by many African believers would find a worship service without dance to be unthinkable. That might not have been what Margaret Mead had in mind, but it’s a good reminder that God delights in our manifold expressions of worship. Let’s thank Him for the rich diversity of ways that we can praise Him.

Busy Ministry Week

I apologize for the lack of substantive posting this week, but I have a few more things on my plate than normal. I'm officiating at a funeral today for a lady I've been visiting in a local care center for the past two years. Her health was never very good, but her death still came rather quickly and unexpectedly. She and her husband had been married for almost 64 years. He's been a faithful member of our congregation since joining in October 2005 and I consider it a privilege and an honor to conduct his wife's memorial service.

I'm also preaching Sunday a.m. in our pastor's absence. He will be helping his daughter relocate to Denver where she recently has taken a job. Being Labor Day weekend, I'm going to focus on our work ethic as Christians as Paul helps define it in Eph. 4:28 and Col. 3:17, 23-34, before addressing Jesus' words in John 6 as He replies to the crowds who ask Him what good thing they must do to do the work of God. His reply is simply to believe in Him whom God has sent.

In addition to those things and my normal Wednesday evening Bible study preparations, we've also had a number of serious illnesses and major surgeries among our members this week that have kept me running between hospitals. I still wouldn't trade what I do for anything. Part of my introduction Sunday includes reference to a recent survey done over 18 years by the Univ. of Chicago regarding job satisfaction. It found that clergy have the highest reported job satisfaction, with 87.2% stating they are very satisfied with their work. Count me among that number.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Little Girl Recites the 23rd Psalm

This link was provided by Word & Way and is priceless.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More Insights from Missional Church Conference

As I had indicated earlier, I'd like to share some additional insights gleaned from the conference on Missional Churches. In describing the journey from a traditional, program-based approach to a missional mindset, the conference leader presented a series of contrasts between the two:

From attracting a crowd to seeking the lost
From cultural aversion to cultural immersion
From programming to empowering passion
From competition to collaboration
From institutional preservation to sacrificial servanthood
From friendliness to community
From clergy-driven to people of God
From committees to teams
From slot-filling to gifts releasing
From low tech to high-tech high touch

Each one of these contrasts is loaded with potential to alter the basic DNA of a local church. The challenge clearly is that for most of us, our traditions carry a weight that is so heavy that making the shift from a program-based approach to church to a missional mindset will require lengthy and judicious promotion and education by church leaders to bring about the reality.

One final thought from the conference--

Very few churches will thrive in the 21st century. We are …
Too nice to sweat
Too proud to cry
Too sophisticated to laugh
Too busy to celebrate

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Insights from a conference on the Missional Church

Back in the spring I was privileged to spend a day attending a seminar on the missional church. I was reviewing some of my notes this week from that conference and ran across a few things that I found to be particularly insightful. I toss out these tidbits of information for your reflection.

Challenging us not to be so dogmatic in our approach to ministry, the leader shared a quote from Anne Lamott’s book, Plan B. She writes that, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty! Faith notices the mess and discomfort. … Certainty misses the point entirely!” He then went on to share an interesting prayer: “Lord, help me to remember that all the truth I know is not all the truth.” I couldn’t help but think about some of the comments I read on blogs by those who are absolutely certain that they possess the only possible correct biblical interpretation on some thorny issues that other believers who are equally committed to the truth and authority of the Scriptures see in a quite different light.

Another very sobering statement that the conference leader made was this: “The church is becoming what the church staff is.” Like it or not, I think his affirmation is largely correct. A church will almost invariably take on the personality and priorities of its leadership. If we wish to criticize the church we serve for its many weaknesses and shortcomings, a good place to begin that critique is by looking in the mirror and asking how many of those debilities are a by-product of our own leadership.

In terms of outreach and attracting new visitors, the leader said this: “People go where they’ve been prepared for and are cared for.” Clearly we need to communicate to guests and visitors that we’ve taken into account their needs by doing the advance preparation necessary to make their visit as non-threatening and comfortable as possible. We also must leave no doubt that we love them and will do everything within our power to care for and meet their needs.

I’ve got some more ideas to share about the missional journey—moving from program-based to a missional mindset, but I’m saving those for a future post.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Senior Adult Ministry

One of the joys and challenges of working with senior adults as I do at our church is helping them deal with the struggles of poor health and many times, the need to consider long-term care in a skilled nursing environment. I visited with a good friend yesterday who is approaching 99 at a local care center. His wife is 94. Unfortunately, he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and can no longer live in their apartment. While he does have times when his thought patterns are confused, there are days like yesterday when his thoughts are as lucid as yours or mine (well, maybe they’re more lucid than mine at times). He has been the primary caregiver for his wife for many years as she has struggled with poor health. Now, he can no longer fulfill that role and it is a terribly painful situation for each of them. She is able to visit him occasionally at the care center, but her own health prevents her from doing so frequently. Thankfully, they are at least able to talk on the phone almost every day.

After seeing him yesterday I went by to visit with her in the couple’s apartment. We had a good visit together—sharing some tears, hugs, words of comfort, and of course, prayer. Visits like these are part of what I do each week as a minister to senior adults at our church. It can be very emotionally demanding at times, but also extremely fulfilling as prayerfully those encounters bring a touch of God’s grace and encouragement into the lives of some who have little contact anymore with the outside world as their health has restricted their mobility. I’m grateful for the opportunity of ministering to some of God’s choice saints in their golden years.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back Home, A/C Woes

My blogging has been non-existent for the past 2 weeks. Let me briefly explain my absence from the blogosphere. The week before last we headed to Waynesboro, MS to celebrate our second son’s wedding. Joel married April Smith, who also grew up as an MK in Argentina, so they share a great deal of common experiences. The Smith family lived about an hour and a half north of us in the city of San Juan during our first term of service in Mendoza. They moved to the southern part of the country in Neuquen about the same time that we relocated to Buenos Aires. Eventually, their family also transferred in to Buenos Aires for a while before they moved on to Peru. The Smiths are a wonderful family and we couldn’t have wished for a sweeter girl than April as a daughter-in-law. We were blessed by some great southern hospitality as members of the FBC of Waynesboro where April’s dad (Steve) pastors made a beautiful home out in the country available to us to stay in for the week. One of the deacons of the church loaned us his canoes for an enjoyable float trip on Tuesday, followed by a fabulous meal at his home that evening. The ceremony was on Wednesday evening out at the home where we were staying and Steve and I each shared a few words before Joel and April exchanged their vows. It was a simple ceremony, attended by family members only.

We left Mississippi late Thursday afternoon after helping Steve’s wife, Vidonia, set up the preschool area for an open house at church that afternoon. We drove to Marshall, TX where we spent the night and then drove on to Granbury, TX on Friday where we spent the rest of the day and Saturday with my Mom. We had an enjoyable visit together and also got to see my brother.

We drove back to Lee’s Summit on Sunday and then had to tackle for the rest of the week the task of replacing our air conditioning unit that gave up the ghost while we were gone. It was the hottest week of the summer here in Missouri, and the inside temperatures reached 95. Luckily we survived by using the attic fan to extract the hot air during the evening. We did get a refreshing thunderstorm about 1:30 a.m. on Thursday morning that dropped the temperatures considerably. We finally made a decision about who to go with for a replacement system and got that installed on Friday. We’re relishing the cool temperatures inside today (Saturday) after having endured the high heat and humidity of this past week. I have to confess that having A/C again is a tremendous relief.

I’m going to try and get back in the swing of posting a bit more regularly now that we’re home and the A/C crisis has been resolved. The start of school is just around the corner and there are several exciting things that are being planned in the life of our church this fall. I look forward to sharing some of these on this blog.