January 27, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog January 27, 2019 I wrote last week about a book being read across the District and the Annual Conference called: “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.” To recap, I mentioned that the author, Todd Bolsinger, compared the principles and challenges we face today as a church to those faced by Lewis and Clark in their expedition to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. At the end of the article, I provided several questions the author asks each church to consider as it faces the new frontier. Let me reiterate these questions as they are important and relate to our future as a church. Why do we exist as a congregation? What would be lost in our community if we ceased to exist? What purposes and principles must we protect as central to our identity? What are we willing to let go of so the mission will continue? The author says that at the heart of every leadership question lie identity questions that must be answered. Each church must know and be secure in its identity – “who we are” – and that identity must be larger than any success or failure for it’s the compass whereby we, as a church, chart our course and meet our challenges. Our identity must reflect our deepest beliefs, our truest sense of self and church community and our core value(s). We need to know “who we are” when we face a new set of circumstances that we did not forsee in our past such as Lewis and Clark encountering towering mountains with canoes they did not expect. They had to adjust and in order to do so, they needed to know “who they were” and what was their primary mission? In his book, the author discusses a strategy used by Lewis and Clark that can be employed by us in the church today. It is called reframing. In adaptive leadership, reframing is another way of talking about the shift in values, expectations, attitudes or habits of behavior necessary to face our most difficult challenges. It is a way of looking at the challenge before us through a different lens. Lewis and Clark reframed their mission. Out of necessity and in order to move forward, the mission became about exploration (their core value) rather than just about finding a waterway to the Pacific. The author makes his point: “For church leaders facing this missional moment, the reframing of church strategy from a sanctuary-centered, membership-based, religious-and life-service provider to a local mission outpost for furthering the Kingdom of God enables our congregations to discover a faithful expression of our core identity in a changing world.” In other words, what is our core value(s) and what is our primary mission? Are we adaptable to the circumstances we face in order to accomplish our primary mission? The author continues, “But a reframe itself is only a new way of seeing and describing the problem. This is as far as many missional congregations get. They change the labels on the old file folders and announce that they are now a mission and not a church.” There has to be more. There has to be “new learning.” This is where so many church initiatives get stalled. There is no new learning. There has to be more than gathering together and coming up with a list of initiatives such as build a gym, bring in a rock band, give away C. S. Lewis books, change the name of the church or design a cooler website. Nothing wrong with those things, but there must be new learning to accompany these initiatives. When Lewis and Clark went over the Continental Divide was when they started discovering. They entered uncharted territory. They had to start learning all over again, adjusting their expectations, reconsidering their strategies, forming new alliances and partnerships. Our future as a church will require new learning from all of us because we face challenges we have never faced before. Our future survival depends on our ability to learn and adapt. I hope you give some considered thought to how we do mission in uncharted territory as we move forward. Are we ready to dump our canoes?

July 14, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog 14 Jul 19 What can I say about Sunday’s worship service and the very strong presence of God and movement of the Holy Spirit among us. Didn’t you enjoy being in the presence of God. Resting in His presence. Sensing the movement of the Holy Spirit across the sanctuary. I know I felt it and I hope you experienced the Holy Spirit touching your life as well. At the end of worship, I extended an invitation for anyone who felt led by the Holy Spirit to respond and to come forward for anointing with oil and a prayer of faith. After both services there were a number of you who responded in faith and came forward. We anointed with oil and prayed in accordance to God’s word found in the Book of James, Chapter 5:13ff: “Is anyone in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit was present during those precious moments as we prayed together…as we offered up our prayers of faith. For those who came for prayer, I am looking forward to hearing what God has done in your lives in the days and weeks ahead. Next Sunday I will be preaching about prayer. Sneak peek. Our Scripture will be Mark 1:35-39. I like what my friend, Dr. Myles Monroe said about prayer: “Prayer is not just an activity, a ritual or an obligation. Nor is it begging God to do what we want Him to do. It is communion and communication with God. Prayer is meant to be one of the most exciting aspects of a life of faith. The power of prayer is the inheritance of the believer.” See you next Sunday.

July 7, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog July 7, 2019 I saw this reflection on my Military Chaplain’s website this past week and I thought I would share it with you. After reading the reflection I would encourage you to read Psalm 85. It starts like this: “You showed favor to your land, O Lord; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.” The theme for Psalm 85 is reverence to restoration. I think our country today could take a few lessons from our founding fathers when it comes to subject of prayer. Please be in prayer for our country. Prayer still underpins our independence. History Reflection for the Fourth of July How Prayer Underpinned American Independence by Stephen Lynch Prayer played an important role in the American struggle for independence. The First Continental Congress (Sept. 5-Oct. 26, 1774), comprised of delegates from all the colonies except Georgia, met for the first time, in September 1774. In a letter to his wife, John Adams described the spiritual backdrop as the colonies were about to launch the Revolutionary War for independence. "When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments - some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists - that we could not join in the same act of worship. "Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might read prayers to Congress the next morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative." Adams continued: "Accordingly, next morning the Rev. Duche appeared with his Episcopal vestments and read the 85th Psalm. I never saw a greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning. "George Washington was kneeling there, alongside him Patrick Henry, James Madison, and John Hancock. By their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered. "And who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine help. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacifist Quakers of Philadelphia."

June 30, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog June 30, 2019. As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, I again turn to my Uncle’s World War II devotion book, “Strength for Service” to see what was being said while the country was at war on the Fourth of July. It was a devotion by E.P. Anderson, Calvary Methodist Church, Nashville, TN. In his devotion he wrote the following: “All of us are challenged this day to remember the values that are included in true patriotism---all those things which made our country the greatest on earth, those things for which we should be willing to die. There is something almost divine in true love of one’s country. Religion and patriotism are woven together. Love to God means love for those high things which He has created. Let us pray: O Eternal God, in Thee do we trust. May we keep sacred the heritage from our fathers. Bless, we pray Thee, those who keep the home fires burning, and those who defend our land. God bless our native land! Firm may she ever stand, Through storm and night: When the wild tempests rave, Ruler of wind and wave, Do Thou our country save, By Thy great might! Amen.” Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July!