State of the Church address

At the semi-annual church conference, I changed the format of my usual report and instead presented a “State of the Church” address.   It was meant to summarize the achievements of my pastorate and describe the position of our church today as I view it.   I am attaching it in pdf format.

The State of the Church

Having reflected on it now for a couple weeks since I wrote it, there is one section that I should have added to the innovations section.  But we take it so much for granted today and know that there is no going back so I did not think of it.   The item I should have noted concerns all the technological advances we have made in using the computer since I have been pastor.   I arrived at the end of the typewriter era in Kirkville.  During my tenure, all record-keeping has been computerized; we used the computer to keep records and generate mailing lists.  Our current database expert volunteer is Josh Basile.  Of course, all correspondence and bulletin preparation has been computerized.  Currently we are using Word and Publisher 2010 to accomplish our work.   After Mahlon Moon’s thoughtful memorial gift of the the projector and screen in memory of Tillie, we entered the era of projected song words, PowerPoint slides when needed, mission slide shows without carousel trays, downloaded video clips, movies on the big screen, and most recently now, joining in a national simulcast.   All this has required consistent upgrading through the years as technology advanced and equipment wore out.  Finally, with a great deal of help from Steven Sgroi, we have become a church with a viable web presence.   We now have our own domain name  –  kirkvillewesleyan.org, on which we maintain our church website, publish three or four blogs and  have the capability for a sermon database in printed or video form.  In addition, again with Steven’s help, we are now on Facebook.   Our web presence is of increasing importance today as people check out churches online before visiting and expect some technical savvy when they arrive too. Ben Mackey oversees the team that makes possible our projection and sound ministry on Sundays.   Also, thanks to Ed Maum, we enjoy an in-house network.   Thank you to all the other volunteers too who make all this happen.

Finally, I would recommend an important parallel anecdotal account of the current state of our church.  If you read my wife’s book, God With Us; Fifty True Stories of God’s Faithfulness, you will see that it reflects who we are as a congregation very well.  So many of the stories describe the ministries of our church co-incidentally as she relays the first person testimonies.   Overall, a very powerful picture of our community of faith emerges.

 

June messages planned

At Community Wesleyan Church we have a simple six word motto and mission statement:  Love God, Love others, Make disciples.   Each of the three elements is taken directly from Jesus’ instructions to us.  The first two are taken from the two commandments that Jesus identified as the greatest of all the Old Testament commandments.  He also declared that these two summarized all the others.  The third part of our motto is word for word from Jesus’ great commission to his church found in Matthew 28:19.   During the month of June we will be seeking to understand this part of our motto and mission better.    Our message series is titled:  Our Mission — Make Disciples. 

Our Mission – Make Disciples

Date

Sermon Topic

Scripture

A Suggested Hymn

June 3

What is a Disciple?

Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus Calls Us (424)

June 10

Why Make Disciples?

Mark 1:14-39; Acts 1:8

For God so Loved the World (164) 

June 17

How Can I make Disciples – Part 1

2 Cor. 5:11-21

Christ for the World We Sing (498)

June 24

How Can I make Disciples – Part 2

Matthew 5:13-16

The Light of the World Is Jesus (287)

Response to May 21 Second Coming Prediction

My wife has written a great response to the hullabaloo this week created by an elderly radio preacher who has predicted the coming of Christ this Saturday.  Personally, I’m always surprised at how much traction these types of predictions seem to get.  I think it reflects humankind’s inner fears of eventual accountability to God.  But as JoAnne points out, it also gives us opportunity to help others hear from us a more Biblical perspective.  I’m including the majority of her e-mail.

Hi Friends,

    So did ya hear? According to an 89-yr.-old preacher, the rapture is supposed to happen Sat. May 21, around 6 p.m. My first reaction was, “Well, I guess that’s one day we know He’s NOT coming back.”

    As you know, the Bible says, “No one knows about that day or hour… So you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him: (Matt. 24:36-44). It also tells us to make the most of what time we have left, being good stewards of our opportunities (Luke 19:13, Phil. 4:5).

    Guess what I just read in my devotional for May 18?! “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col.4:5)  Talk about God’s timing – WE HAVE A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TODAY!

    People are talking about this all over the Internet, Facebook, News, etc. We don’t want to be lumped in with those “Christian fanatics” who will look stupid on May 22. Therefore we must speak out – today thru Saturday – before the event.

    1. The fact that people are already talking about it opens a wide door of opportunity. We don’t need to bring up “religion” – just the daily news. They have questions – we have answers. How do they feel about the end of the world? Do they know where they’re going? Now’s our chance to talk about our certainty of going to heaven and how they can be sure as well. Talk about your own peace – they can’t argue with that.

    2. The point is, life is uncertain. Any one of us may leave this earth BEFORE May 21. We could drive out our driveway today and be involved in a fatal crash. We all need to be ready, and so do our neighbors who are “far from God” (as Bill Hybels would say). 

    Today is an opportunity to take a “Walk Across the Room” to Facebook friends, co-workers, the clerk at Wal-Mart.

    Our doomsday friends are focused on Christ’s return, as we all should be. They’ve also done us a favor by opening the minds of America to listen to the real truth of the Gospel. And we get a chance to plant some seeds and harvest some fruit.

 

 

  

Reflections on a Very Significant Change in My Job over 30 Years.

I have been reflecting recently about how some key changes in our culture have affected pastoral work over the 30 years.  Particularly, I have been documenting lately the decreasing number of natural connection points for a pastor with the families in the community surrounding the church.     Many different cultural trends have joined together to have one giant cumulative effect.

When I first started as a parish minister, there were three sources of contact with folks living around the church that were very reliable, that is these dynamics consistently connected me as a the pastor with people I would otherwise not have had communication with.    

1.  The most frequent dynamic was hospital visitation.  Whenever a friend or neighbor was in the hospital, someone in the extended family would usually request that the pastor visit the sick one.   Since hospital stays were then several days long, often this grew into several contacts with the family of the sick person as well, since I would meet them at the bedside in the hospital.    Now hospital stays are comparatively rare as even major surgeries are performed as day surgeries at in/out facilities away from the central hospital.    If the person is from our church and I find out ahead, I frequently pray with them on the phone ahead.

2.  Secondly, there were many weddings that I performed for people in the community.   Between required pre-marital discussions, rehearsals, and conversations at the reception, I would meet many people in the community.    Now, many fewer people get married, opting to live together instead.   Of those, that do marry, some use destination weddings which are often performed by a cooperating minister there.  Also, it is more popular to ask family members to perform the ceremony.  The overall result is that the local pastor meets many fewer people through wedding ministry than before.

3.  The third avenue for connecting with the community was by officiating at funerals.   When I first became a pastor, I performed many funerals for people I did not know and for whom I did not even know someone in the family.   Then I was new in the community and if the family had never attended the church, often their request to the funeral director would be the only inkling I would have that they felt any connection to our church.   In those days, also, nearly everyone had a minister of some kind officiate at their burial.   Now many are buried without services, a trend that I find very unhealthy for the grieving process.   Because of cremations, there are fewer burials too.  Again, the by-product is less contact with the community for the pastor.   

It is no wonder that many pastors and parishes are feeling more isolated and insulated from their communities.   The conclusion is that I as pastor and we as churches have to be very intentional about replacing these contacts with new avenues of connection.   What are they?  How effective are they?  Who do they reach?

Excited by reception of Just Walk Across the Room study

Tonight I finished reading the book by Bill Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room; wrote my review and posted it in my book review pages.   I have been greatly encourged by the groundswell of interest in reaching out to friends and neighbors for Jesus.    This has been evidenced by the strong attendance at our first equipping class last Saturday, by the number who have already read the book (several finished it even before I did); and by those who are sharing stories of friends with whom they are engaged in possibly life-changing dialogues.

I’m hoping to excite even more interest by sparking a lively online conversation on my blog page concerning the book.   I’ve asked my readers who have also read the book to join the conversation.   To help kick things off, I’ve put out there these questions.  Donna Schermerhorn, our team leader for outreach, plans to join the dialogue too.

  • What would you have highlighted in the review that I didn’t?
  • Which story really stuck with you?
  • What was the greatest single take-home for you from the book?
  • How were you encouraged by it?
  • What provoking questions that it raised will help you grow as a disciple maker (Acts 1:8)? 

If you’ve read the book, please join our conversation.  To keep all the conversattion in one place, please respond to the book review rather than to this post.

Online book discussion planned

What if we could have several people reading the same book at one time and discuss it together online?   That was the seminal thought that outreach team leader, Donna Schermerhorn, brought into our meeting today.   

To share just the main point, we decided to try it using my blog book reviews and comments as the vehicle.   The first book we have chosen is Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels.    He is an inspiring and practical writer and the book is not long either.   We will make a couple copies available for lending at Eva’s office.   I will read the book over the next few months and write a first review in such a way as to spawn more discussion.   I think it will be fun.