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?

February 10, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 10, 2019 I want to confess one of my sins to you. It is my impatience at distracted drivers who get lost on their cell phones when they are stopped at a red light…and when the light turns green…we just sit there instead of moving forward. After some seconds, and nothing is happening, I am put in the position of having to be impolite and honk my horn. Has that ever happened to you? With some humor, let me go ahead and apologize up front if you were the car I honked at. I was reading in a book this week called “The Jesus Challenge: 21 Days of Loving God and Neighbor” by Justin Larosa and I ran across an interesting heading on page 16 of the book entitled: “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Obviously it caught my attention since I am blogging about it now. Let me share these few paragraphs with you since Justin makes a good point and is worthy of some considered thought as we live out our lives this week. “T.S. Eliot wrote these words a long time ago. They still fit. Our culture is busier and more technologically connected than at any other time in history. The digital age promised fewer work hours, more efficiency, and a hyper-connected world. It has delivered on those promises—except for maybe fewer work hours. But not without cost. People are distracted and overscheduled. Disconnecting from technology is a constant struggle for everyone, and we don’t yet know the long-term effects of gazing at electronics. But we have seen disconnected living—both subtle and obvious ways—including in the spiritual life. Additionally, twenty-four hour connectivity has delivered non-stop communication about conflict, polarization, and violence, perpetuating fear among many. While we will never go back to the days of rotary phones and answering machines, we must find ways to mitigate distracted living because distracted living diminishes our ability as Christ followers to live out Jesus’ Greatest Commandment. Distraction is a gigantic hurdle.” Has distracted living impacted your ability to live out the great commandment of loving God and loving your neighbor? If so, how? What changes do you think you can make to get a different outcome?

February 3, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 3, 2019 I was reading a devotional this week by Claire McGarry entitled: ‘We’re All Messengers.” The Scripture she uses for her devotional is Malachi 3:1: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” She writes: “In college, I joined the theater crowd and began auditioning for plays. I secured my first role as Messenger #1 in MacBeth. During the entire two-and-a-half-hour production, I had only one line. To make me feel more important, my director told me that the message I was delivering would the help the audience make sense of what followed. John the Baptist was cast in the role of messenger by God. He was sent to deliver a message of repentance so people would turn away from sin, ask God for forgiveness and be baptized. All of John the Baptist’s lines were pivotal in helping people prepare for and make sense of Jesus’ coming. Every one of us has a part in life. Whether it’s big or small, if we deliver our lines with the right intention, our message will point others to Jesus. Doing so will help people make sense of who Our Savior is and what he’s done for us all. Prayer: Dear God, please give me the confidence I need to deliver your message to others. Amen.” The author is right. We are all messengers and the Christian messages we share with others should all point to our Lord Jesus and how much He loves all of us. We need more John the Baptists in our society today pointing the way to Christ.

January 20, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog January 20, 2019 One of the books that is being read across our District and Annual Conference is entitled: “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.” In the book, the author, Todd Bolsinger, compares 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 in 1803. The back jacket of the book describes the basic story and theme of the book this way: “Although explorers Lewis and Clark were prepared to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, instead they found themselves facing the Rocky Mountains. You too may feel that you are leading in a context you were not expecting. You may even feel that your training holds you back more often than it carries you along. Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world. If you’re going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools.” Let me point out a couple of important things the author highlights in his book. First, at the core of adaptive work is clarifying what is precious, elemental, even essential, to the identity of the church. In other words, “This is who we are.” Lewis and Clark had to adapt to facing the Rocky Mountains with canoes. They had to recommit to their “core value” of exploration rather than just be about finding a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. We, as a church, are facing the unexpected Rocky Mountains so to speak with our canoes. We have found ourselves in a post-Christian era in this country where past models and ideas are no longer working. In other words, we have to recommit to our core value(s) and come up with a new strategy to meet the challenge of the mountains. The author poses some questions for us to consider as we seek to meet this new and changing challenge: -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? Look for more in next week’s blog.