Church

Should United Methodist Pastor’s Perform Homosexual Marriages?

In light of recent events and discussions regarding marriages of homosexual persons performed by United Methodist Ordained Clergy, I have been asked regarding my position on this subject.  So, in this blog I will make an attempt to state my position with grace and steadfastness to my personal faith.

Is homosexuality a sin? 

It is my belief that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings.  Yes, I believe it is sinful.  However, I believe that all humanity is broken and we are all guilty of sin in whatever forms it presents itself.

Should United Methodist Ordained Clergy officiate homosexual weddings? 

No.

Every United Methodist Clergy took a vow at their ordination and said yes to the following question:  “Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?”  To which every ordained clergy answered, “I will, with the help of God.”  So, each clergy has vowed to “accept our doctrine and discipline.”   This doesn’t mean we have to agree with it nor is it a requirement that we have to like everything in the doctrine and discipline…however, we have vowed to accept it and defend it.

The 2012 United Methodist Discipline states: “¶ 341.6
Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

This is the rule of the United Methodist Church and if a clergy or a bishop officiates a wedding, they have broken their vow.  What does the willful and intentional breaking of one’s vow taken before God in a worship service say about said clergy’s honor?  We also don’t have the privilege of a “Line Item Veto” where the clergy can pick and choose what parts of the Discipline they will uphold and live by.  We vow to uphold and live by all the “doctrines and disciplines” of the church.  If a person cannot do that, then they should pursue another avenue to live out their calling. 

Each year as a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry, I ask the question of Candidates for the Ordination of Elder, “Will you itinerate?”  Like it or not being itinerate is part of our church.  If the candidate refuses to be itinerate, he or she should not be a United Methodist Ordained Elder.  I believe the same is true as to someone who is so opposed to the UM stance on conducting homosexual marriages and are willing to violate the Discipline and their Ordination vow.  It’s simple, this is the rule of law within the church, you’re taking a vow to uphold and abide by that rule and if you are going to refuse to minister by that rule…DON’T TAKE THE VOW!

It all comes down to a choice for the clergy and clergy candidates

-       Can I take a vow to “accept and defend” something I may not like or am opposed?

-       Will the rule of the United Methodist Church keep me from ministering in a way I feel called?

-       Will I break or maintain a vow that I have taken before God?

If you disagree with church doctrine, there are other options rather than violating a vow and just breaking the rules.  One can move to change the doctrine using the appropriate channels and means that have been laid out.  You can change to a denomination that better fits your theology and beliefs or one can always turn in credentials.

Categories: Church, John's Rant (opinion) | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Coming Death Tsunami

6E41409CA6B34A8BB17EEB40AD84F434_death tsunami-550

Lovett Weems writes the following article about the coming “Death Tsunami” that is about to overtake churches.  Here is a link to a video with Lovett Weems talking about this topic and it’s well worth the time to watch.  

———————————————————————–

In the past several years, the world has witnessed the horror of two massive tsunamis, first in Indonesia and more recently in Japan. The loss of life and devastation surpass what most can imagine.  Those in other parts of the world are now learning about the fear with which our Asian neighbors have lived for centuries as they have experienced “minor” tsunamis and the terror that accompanies even small earthquakes and tsunami warnings.

In the Scriptures, prayers, and hymns of our tradition, our psalmists and poets described dire situations in the most compelling words they could find—a flood of mortal illsas in the summer drought, a famine of compassion, life shaken as by an earthquake. Some images have become so familiar that we may no longer be moved by these stark words. Even so, one must be cautious when using analogies or metaphors that mirror such tragedies, recognizing that the effects of physical disaster differ from the results of the dire situations writers attempt to describe.

So it is with the language of a death tsunami. American death rate statistics show we are in the middle of a plateau of 8.9 deaths per 1,000 people. What follows the plateau can be called a death tsunami, and will have a major impact on many churches in the United States.  This language is harsh and difficult to hear, as is the potential catastrophe challenging our church.

  • It is predicted that between 2019 and 2050, there will be more deaths and a higher death rate than at any time since 1940s when medical advances such as antibiotics were introduced.
  • The total number of deaths each year is predicted to go up every year until 2050 as Baby Boomers pass away.
  • It is predicted that there will be 50 percent more deaths in 2050 than in 2010.
  • The majority of these deaths will be older non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.

The Dilemma

Countless churches have fewer worshipers today than they did ten or twenty years ago.  Most of them, however, have budgets as large as or larger than they did when they had more constituents, even after adjusting for inflation. Such a congregation manages in the early years of decline by the greater giving of their fewer participants. As things get tighter, the lowering of expenditures combined with greater per capita giving maintains financial stability.

A church then gets to a point at which attendance has declined so much that making the budget each year becomes the preoccupation of the church and its leadership. Each year they search for that one new source of income or cut in spending so they can manage to make their plan. They also realize that even these yearly heroic efforts will not be enough going forward as they note the high percentage of their annual giving that now comes from those over age 70.

At some point along this journey, such a church has to make a basic decision.  One option is to continue to live one year at a time and do whatever it takes to get by—even if necessary decisions harm long-term viability, and even knowing the church may, in the not too distant future, close.

But there is another option taken by some churches facing these circumstances. The second option is to acknowledge that things are not the same as in years past, and the previous financial baseline is no longer realistic. The church makes the difficult but ultimately life-saving decision to reduce the financial baseline to one that is more realistic for the new circumstances. It is from this new and more appropriate baseline that the church can begin to build strength for the future. One of the reasons churches tend to do better after such a financial recalibration is that energy previously sapped through maintaining financial survival now can be spent for outreach and ministry.

A Window of Opportunity

Congregations with wise leaders recognize the emerging situation described above while there is time to reset their financial baseline and still have a critical mass of faithful members who can provide the foundation for a new smaller but more vital chapter. Life can continue about as it has in the last ten years with adjustments around the edges to get through yet another year.

But a major financial reset is required over the next five to ten years to position the church for seismic changes ahead due to the lack of alignment between the makeup of the denomination’s membership (age and racial) and the realities of today’s United States. As with any organization facing the future after 45 years of unabated decline in its constituency, there must be a stepping back to a new and lower baseline in order to move forward. Otherwise, all energy goes, of necessity, to maintaining the old unrealistic financial baseline.

Survival is Not the Goal

To talk of survival does not mean that survival is an end in itself. The survival sought is not for an institution and certainly not for institutional forms or entities. Church leadership is a response to God’s love and action in the world revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ. Christian leadership is a channel of God’s grace as it seeks the fulfillment of God’s vision, and such leadership emerges out of the history, beliefs, and traditions of faith communities. While religious leadership always has a theological beginning, a theological grounding will not ensure either the discernment of or fulfillment of God’s vision. The task for each generation is to help the faithful discern an appropriate engagement to meet changed circumstances, new realities, and emerging needs. To do so, they must have an accurate assessment of those circumstances, realities, and needs. To the extent that leaders are able to accomplish these tasks, there is vitality and renewal within the religious tradition.

Faithful leadership understands the church not as an institution to serve and maintain but rather as an embodiment and instrument of God’s aims revealed in Jesus Christ. The church indeed is to be Christ in the world, called to embody Christ’s presence and participate in God’s work of healing, reconciliation, redemption, and salvation in the world. Denominations become yet another of the “earthen vessels” in which the church seeks to carry the gospel. As with all such vessels, there is a temptation to focus on the container and not on the rich contents.

The time to make choices is now–while there are still choices to make. Otherwise, circumstances will very likely make the choices for us in the future.

Gross, Not Net

David McAllister-Wilson, president of Wesley Theological Seminary, makes an important point in saying that in the coming years, churches should focus more on the “gross numbers” than the “net numbers.” Normally this advice would make no sense. If a church receives twenty-five new members in a year while losing fifty members, it would generally be meaningless to focus on the gross gain of twenty-five rather than the net loss of twenty-five. But just as gross figures can be deceptive when viewed apart from the net, so also the net figures may be equally as deceptive in the coming years.

Because of the coming death tsunami, it may be very difficult for churches to show net gains in a host of categories. Looking only to the net numbers will not only lead to discouragement but may tell a false story of the spiritual energy of the congregation. Churches have relatively little control over losses, especially deaths. Churches have tremendous power to affect gains. So, even if the net figures for professions of faith minus deaths or new members minus lost members are negative for several years in a row, as long as the gross numbers for professions of faith and new members consistently increased during those years, there is reason to celebrate. The increasing gross numbers represent the church’s spiritual vitality far better than the net figures. And it is precisely this positive energy needed for the years ahead.

 

Excerpted from MinistryMatters.com. Read more: http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/article/entry/1868/the-coming-death-tsunami#ixzz2bxOguNho
Ministry Matters supports ministry leaders with resources, community, and inspiration.
Follow us: @ministrymatters on Twitter | ministrymatters on Facebook

 

Categories: Church | Leave a comment

7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often

This is a great article by Carey Nieuwhof who is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting. !

7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often.

Everywhere I go, I talk to pastors who are experiencing the same thing.

People who attend church are attending less often.

People who used to attend every week are attending 3 times a month. People who were around twice a month often now show up once a month. And attenders who used to come once a month are showing up half a dozen times a year.

This is true of rapidly growing churches, mega churches, mid-sized churches, Bible churches and churches like Connexus (where 60% of our growth is from previously unchurched people.)

You can get mad at people…but that’s not really that helpful. If all people get is judgment or ‘should have done better’ when they show up at your church, why would they keep coming? You don’t line up to be judged either.

There are fewer and fewer of us every year who

Feel guilty when we miss a Sunday (I do…but I’m a dinosaur…I know it)

Have a natural instinct to head to a gathering of Christians on the first day of the week

Miss church when we can’t get there

Some church leaders I know wonder whether people will even attend physical buildings a decade from now. I believe they will, but maybe not in the droves people are even today.

So what’s going on? And how can you ‘compete’?

Well, culture is changing (in my next post I’ll talk about the changing characteristics of unchurched people).

But two of the biggest factors that used to drive attendance in the last 20-50 years are now reproducible online.

Two decades ago:

If you wanted to hear great preaching, you had to go to church. Podcasting and online campuses have changed this.

If you wanted great music, you had to go to church. Okay, maybe church music wasn’t that great 20 years ago. But somebody liked it. Now, for $20, all your favourite songs are on your phone wherever you go.

So what do you do?

Is the battle lost? Not at all.

Here are 7 ways to respond as people attend church less often:

1. Create an Awesome Online Presence. Launching an online campus is a goal for us, but between Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, app, website and blog, people can pretty much stay connected. And even giving to church online has never been easier. (70% of our offering comes in online.) Many people tell me when they’re not physically present they stay in touch via all of these media. Don’t judge your people for not being there, help them stay connected instead.

2. Elevate Personal Relationships. Somehow facilitating a personal relationship is easier and more effective in person. Churches that value personal relationships (even for thousands of people through groups) will always attract people who value personal connection (which is, I think, almost all of us).

3. Love People. Can you love fully love people without being fully present? Do human relationships go to their deepest level in person? I think so. 2 in 5 married couples meet online today. But even those 2 in 5 couples who meet online don’t stay online…they get married. Love can be expressed online, but its fulfilment happens deepest through personal contact.

4. Create an Irresistible Experience. There is something that happens when you are in the room and in the moment that doesn’t happen watching on line. A live concert is never quite the same as watching a song on YouTube or even a concert in full HD on a kicking home theater system. Church is more than the sum of its parts…between the preaching, music, creative elements, human interaction and hall way conversations. You get much of it online, but not all of it. At least not yet. (By the way, if your church is boring, you’ve already lost the battle. Start there.)

5. Offer Offline Surprises. Do something fun in the parking lot, foyer or service that you don’t podcast. Create some fun moments. Last year we handed out an awesome Canadian treat - gourmet butter tarts – to everyone who attended on a particular long weekend. People who missed it were completely bummed.

6. Create a Culture of Serving. Online church doesn’t allow many serving opportunities. When you get up early to set up and tear down, lead a 2nd grade small group, greet people with a smile, serve on the production team, or serve meals to the homeless, somehow you find a place in service of a goal greater than yourself. Make serving guest and others outside your community part of your culture.

7. Prioritize Kids and Teens. Parents can catch a podcast or watch online, but kids really miss out when parents miss. To be with their friends who are running in the same direction, and to have another voice (small group leader) who knows their name, favourite food and hopes and dreams saying the same thing a loving parent would say, is so far unreproducible in the online world. I believe that when the parents miss church, the kids are the biggest losers. The more you prioritize families, the more families will prioritize Sundays.

The shift in our culture is probably irreversible to some extent. But you have something unique to offer – online and offline.

What are you learning about shifts in attendance and the things that you can help people with offline and online?

Categories: Church, Leadership, Links | Leave a comment

How to Pray Aloud Like a Man

Article by David Murrow:  He is the director of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. In his day job, David works as a television producer and writer. He’s the author of three books. He lives in Alaska with his wife, three children, two grandchildren and a dachshund named Pepper.

———————————————————————————————————–

Image

Have you ever noticed that Christians speak normally to one another, but when they speak to aloud to God they lapse into a strange language and tone? I call this “prayer-speak” and it’s epidemic in evangelical churches today.

Prayer-speak is especially prevalent among worship leaders.

Prayer speak silences men. Guys who might otherwise pray aloud are intimidated because they don’t know the “prayer code.” A guy might be tempted to open his mouth and say, “God, I got a problem.” But he keeps quiet because his oration doesn’t sound holy enough.

The other problem with prayer-speak is that it makes our prayers sound rather wimpy. Here is a prayer I heard recently from a musician as he closed his first set:

Dear God, we need you. God, we just need your love. God, we just need your presence.  Father be with us in this time of worship. Lord just send your spirit so that every heart is touched. Father, that no one would go home the same.

Lord, I just pray that we would run into your arms and seek safety there. Father nothing compares to your love for us.

Father God we just pray that we would honor you in all we do. Lord, give us boldness to proclaim your word to every nation. Father make us your witnesses unto the ends of the earth. We just pray that your Word would go out into the world and change lives.

Father we just ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Does this sound familiar? You probably heard something like it last Sunday.

I don’t really have a problem with what the prayer said. It’s how it was said.

Notice the prayer invoked the name of God twelve times – at the beginning of each sentence. This is just odd. Did Jesus instruct us to repeat God’s name over and over when we pray? When we speak to a flesh-and-blood person do we say their name each time we open our mouths? “Jeremy, thanks for having lunch with me. Jeremy, what will you be ordering? I’m thinking about the tilapia, Jeremy. Jeremy, can you pass the salt?”

And what’s with the frequent use of the word just? Placing a just before a verb softens it. It gives our prayers the sound of a beggar. Would you just give me a crust of bread, God? Lord, I’m just a miserable sinner, just begging you for some little thing.

We are God’s sons, not his slaves. John Wesley said, “Storm the Throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.” We should enter his presence with appropriate confidence. The tone of our prayers should reflect our place as God’s beloved children. Jesus was bold and familiar with his Father; we should be too.

Let’s reimagine the prayer above:

Lord, in the next hour we’re going to set aside all our worries and burdens and ask you to take care of those. We want to focus on what’s really important, but we’re so easily distracted by things that don’t matter. Forgive us for that.

We’re a needy people. We are nothing without you and your Spirit. We get beat up by life all week long, and we need this time with you. Thanks for loving us.

And we know you have a mission for us. You called us to be your witnesses, but we’re scared. We shouldn’t be – but we are. Next time we have an opportunity to speak up for you, fill us with your power.

We really look forward to this time in your presence. Speak to us now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Feel the difference between the two prayers? They say basically the same things, but the second prayer sounds confident. You feel it in you gut. It’s not repetitive, hesitant or sing-songy. It’s surprising in its candor. It’s not stuffed with the usual churchy phrases.

Guys, we need to start modeling boldness in prayer. The next time you have an opportunity to pray aloud in a group I challenge you to do three things:

  1. Invoke the name of God once, at the beginning.
  2. Don’t place the word “just” before the verbs.
  3. Speak to God as if he’s a real person. Make your prayer as conversational and “normal” as possible.

When our prayers sound like real conversation with a real God, more men will join in.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John Personal | Leave a comment

When You Can’t Take Another Step

A friend of mine sent this out today and it was such an inspiration, I couldn’t help but to get her permission and share.  If you haven’t watched the video linked here, please take four minutes.  It may be the best 4 minutes of your day!!   Thanks Mo.

Last night, my cousin joined Jesus in heaven. It was tragic. It was unexpected. It was not what my family prayed for. And it hurt…so so much.
I’m am glad to have a Heavenly Father who can handle my anger, my hurt, my frustrations, my critiques. How dare He be so selfish as to snatch up this wonderful woman only 10 months after she married the love of her life…but then I return to the words I memorized so many years ago…

Isaiah 40: 27-31
“Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

So I will place my Hope in the knowledge that He is the strength that will get my family through this. I know many of y’all are heading into midterms. This verse has always been a comfort to me and that’s why it was high on the list for memory verses to pass on to you all.

These past few days have reminded me once again how quick our time here will be over. Know that I love you all. Greater still, know that I love Jesus like crazy backflip style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA_uwWPE6lQ

Love and hugs,
Mama Bear Mo

 

Categories: Behold, Church, Faith Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Risk-Taking Mission

Here is a great article from the man who wrote the 5 practices of Fruitful congregations.  Take a moment to read.  Missions are great but Risk-taking missions are life changing.  Risk-Taking Mission.

Categories: Church | Leave a comment

Add Growth or To Multiply?

Leaders who develop followers grow their organization only one person at a time but the leaders who develop leaders multiply their growth.  The reason is for every leader they develop, they also receive all of that leaders followers.  Add 10 followers and you have the power of 10 people.  Add 10 leaders and you have the power of ten leaders times all the followers and leaders they influence.

Paul was the master of explosive growth.  His strategy is as effective today as it was 2000 years ago.  What did Paul do?

1.  Attracted and Equipped People

No longer can we depend on the things we’ve always been doing to keep attracting people.  Today’s person (men, women and youth) have different interest, struggles, and positions in life.  To attract them, we must engage their interest, struggles and positions in life.  If we don’t, we will never have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

We must also equip people to do Kingdom ministry.  This can take many forms.  How would you go about equipping someone in your group to be tomorrows leader?

2.  Found and Mentored Emerging Leaders

Union’s future leaders are in our church today.  It’s part of our job as current leaders to find them and prepare them for when we hand off our positions of leadership to them.  Too often this has been done without any mentoring and it has often been met with diastorous result. We must be intentional about mentoring our next leaders.

3.  Created New Organizations

Paul didn’t hoard the leaders he developed.  He sent them out to multiply.  What does this look like in at Union?  Developing new small groups.  I’m so excited that we now have 3 womens groups meeting: The UMW circle that meets on Thursdays, The LNO Group meeting at the Mexican Resturant for our 20′s-40′s age group, and the Healing Hearts group.  The men are meeting in huddles now,  a Bible study, and the monthly men’s breakfast.  All these groups encompass different people.  We can no longer have the idea that we can make a group where one size fits all.

Have you ever wondered why in Chelsea we have a McDonalds, Burger King, What a Burger and they are now building a Wendy’s?  After all, they all serve hamburgers?  Because people have different tastes.  Same is true for small groups within the church.  Same gospel just prepared differently for people with different taste.

4.  Engaged in the On-Going Development of Leaders

We can never stop developing our leaders.  We must begin a culture of expectation that leaders are continually growing and developing.  What does this mean?  Having classes, workshops, retreats and seminars specifically purposed in giving our leaders tools and resources they need to succeed.
Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Leadership | Leave a comment

Church Leaders

Last night our Bible study took a look at 1 Peter 5:1-4 and discovered some great leadership advice.  It’s important that leaders within the church are worthy of being followed.  Here’s what a leader is called to be according to Peter:

1.  A MINISTER:  They are to shepherd their flock.  This includes feeding, grooming, and protecting from things that would destroy them.

2.  A MENTOR:  Not lording over people but investing in the flock with your time, energy, skills.  One of our jobs as leader is to replace ourselves and by mentoring others, we are preparing them to be the future leaders.

3.  A MANAGER:  Having over site of those who have been entrusted to our care.

4.  A MODEL:  Be an example of someone who is growing in their faith.  Leaders are those who can demonstrate how to live.

We’ve all seen people in leadership positions who have failed at one or more of these and when that happens it can be catastrophic to the organization.  I’m not saying our leaders are perfect at these, but they must first recognize this is what a leader is and growing daily in these roles.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guaranteed Appointments Eliminated

Guaranteed appointments for Elders in the UM Church has just ended.  Click HERE to read more.  And I have noticed an increase in Facebook chatter responding in a negative way, which I don’t understand.  Let me explain…

I worked in the corporate world (or as some church people call it, “The Real World”) from 1993-2002.  I worked for several companies including

State Farm Insurance

State Farm Insurance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automatic Data Processing and State Farm.  These were both very “good” and high paying jobs. They also had one thing in common…I was expected to produce and be effective.  If I was not effective and did not produce, it was not long until I knew I would be out of a job.

I was a Fire Claim Representative for State Farm.  I was trained for months before going into the field.  I was sent to Bloomington for 3 weeks one January to learn the policy.  [Believe it or not, if someone failed the policy exam, they were escorted back to the hotel, watched while they packed, put on a plane and sent home (without a job).] When someone’s house burned or was damaged and they filed a claim with insurance, I went out and assessed the damage, took measurements, wrote an estimate and then issued a draft.  I usually worked about 30 claims per month.  Each of those approximate 30 claims had the possibility of being re-inspected by someone. (The Farm actually has a “re-inspector” position and all they do is go out and make sure you did the claim according to standards.)  The re-inspector retook all the measurements and gave us a 1/2″ allowance to be off.

Each quarter, every Claims Adjuster had a performance review in which our re-inspections were reviewed with management.  These quarterly performance reviews determined if and how much of a raise we received.  If the adjuster had consistently bad reviews, it would result in termination.  In other words, my job security was performance based and not guaranteed!

I was dumbfounded when I entered into the ministry and discovered that not only did pastor’s NOT have performance reviews to see what kind of job they were doing but also had GUARANTEED APPOINTMENTS.  We have one of the most important duties and we are not held accountable???  I really could not believe it.  However, in the pulpits, most ministers will preach on accountability yet we don’t seem to want anyone to hold us accountable.

I have and have always had (gonna make some of my teacher friends mad) a problem with tenure.  The biggest problem with tenure is mediocrity.  You have a job regardless if you do it well or not.  (I know some are going to say that it prevents teachers/preachers from being fired over what they say or teach, but let’s be real!  We have way more problem with ineffective teachers and preachers!!)  Can the system of Performance Based Employment be tainted? YES.

To be effective and fair, the United Methodist Church is going to have to institute the following or something close:

  • Clearly defined performance goals so the Bishop, DS, BOOM and Clergy are on the same page.  These goals need to be individualized for each clergy because every church is different.
  • Regular performance reviews.  These means the Bishop/DS/BOOM or other is going to have to be in the business of every local church and pastor on a higher level and more routine level
  • Develop policies for helping pastors who are not performing to expectations and a process leading to termination if expectations are not met.
  • A check and balance system so that one person cannot just arbitrarily fire a pastor.

I know this can be strange and somewhat scary. I like knowing that I’m going to have an appointment no matter what! But tenure/guaranteed appointments are not the answer.  This leads to ineffectiveness, mediocrity, laziness and the stats of the UM church don’t show we as pastors are doing our jobs in reaching great masses of people for the Kingdom.  Right now as it has been, a pastor can go play golf 5 times a week, preach on Sunday and be guaranteed a pulpit.  That’s the larger injustice.

Categories: Church, John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do We Do What We Do???

During my years as a pastor, I have noticed there are a great many programs that are not effective in making disciples.  There are church’s that have large budgets, multiple programs and have NO professions of faith or baptisms.  Why are we doing what we do in church if it’s not making disciples?  After all, that’s the only commission we have, “Go into the world and make disciples.”  Here are 4 reasons we do what we do even if it’s not making disciples:

1.  We’ve Always Done It This Way.  This is a widespread problem throughout the church.  We do it this way and we’re comfortable with it.  Most of the time, the program we’re talking about started out being effective but over the years, it’s become outdated.  However, there is a history of doing it.  It also takes little planning and little enthusiasm to crank it out.

2.  I’m In Charge.  This is not a reason that most people will come out and say but it is an underlying issue.  They see the program as being theirs and believe that if new pe0ple come, so will change.  Change in leadership, decision making and organization.

3.  We just like getting together.  There are so many groups within the church who have lost their focus in that we exist to make disciples and have found ourselves gathering to enjoy each other.  Don’t get me wrong, fellowship is vital in the life of a disciple.  However, so many groups are just getting together for the fun of it and not bringing up Jesus except for the blessing.  The church is not a social club, a sorority nor a country club.  It’s the Body of Christ and we have a mission.  To Make Disciples.

4.  Tradition.  Wow, this is a sticky word in the church.  It can be viewed as a “bad” word but it too is vital in Christianity.  Tradition links us to our past and to all the saints who have gone before.  What happens all too often is the tradition is not making disciples and has become a weight around the neck.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John Wesley | Leave a comment

Stewardship According to John Wesley

An outline of John Wesley‘s Sermon on Stewardship:

The Good Steward”

Summary:  Wesley uses this sermon to explain that we as God’s Stewards are not the owners of what God entrust to us, but temporary custodians.  This applies to our souls, bodies, possessions, time, abilities and opportunities.  Wesley states in this sermon that there will be a day of great judgment when a final accountability will be given for our stewardship.

Introduction:

  1. The Bible describes the created as debtors and servants to the creator.
  2. The best description is that of a steward or manager.
  1. The Nature of Stewardship
  2. The Duration of Our Stewardship
  3. The Final Accounting of Our Stewardship
    1. The Value of Time
    2. How precious is every moment in time.
    3. In using time, no word or deed is truly unimportant.
    4. There are no works that produce excess merit.  We cannot do too much.
    5. It is not easy to give back to God all that he has given us, it will require all our wisdom, perseverance, patience, and faithfulness.
  1. Debtors are obligated to return what they have received, but can use it however they wish until the return.  This is not the case with stewards.
    1. We are obligated to use our blessings as God wishes not ourselves.
    2. Nothing is our own in this world.
  2. God has entrusted us with all that we have received including our minds and souls
  3. In doing God’s will we obtain our own happiness; therefore we should use our blessings for his glory.
  4. God entrust us with our bodies
  5. God has given us the superior capacity for speech and it is to be used to glorify
  6. God has given us our hands and feet and bodies.
  7. God has given us worldly goods of food, clothing, shelter and money.
  8. God has given us the gift of energy, health, favorable appearance, education, knowledge and influence.
    1. The gift of time and the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit
  1. We are only stewards for a short time while on earth.
  2. After we die, we won’t need the things God has entrusted to us.
  3. The same applies to the body.
  4. Death ends the need for speech, strength, health and beauty.
  5. What about the other talents such as the “still, small voice”?
  6. Our physical faculties will not probably exist after death, but continue in a greater degree.
  7. We don’t know how much wisdom will remain after death.
  8. Our souls will remain and retain all their faculties.
  9. Our comprehension will be freed from its present defects.
  10.  Some might say that disembodied spirits have no senses but they are dreaming.
  11. The soul will retain its comprehension and the full vigor of its will and affections. 
  12. However we are no longer stewards of these faculties.
  1. After death, we are no longer stewards and must give an accounting.
    1. We don’t know if it is immediate at the time of death.
  2. We are to give the account of our stewardship when “the great white throne and the one who sat on it come down from heave, and the earth and the heaven flee from God’s presence, and no place is found for them.”
  3. God will ask, “How did you use your life?
  4. God will ask, “How did you use your body?”
  5. God will ask, “How did you use your worldly goods?”
  6. God will ask, “Have you been a wise and faithful stewards of all the gifts?”
    1. If so, God will declare, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; enter into my Kingdom.”
Categories: Church, John Wesley | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“All In”

When we read a sermon title on “Stewardship”, we know we are going to hear about giving our money to the church.  The “money part” is often couched within the other aspects of living a life of faith.  As members in the United Methodist Church, we vow to be faithful with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  A sermon on stewardship in the Methodist tradition correctly admonishes us to be good stewards in all of these ways.

Often we limit stewardship to the amount of money we give.  Traditionally and from Old Testament mandates, one tenth is the standard given for a tithe.  As New Testament Christians, we are under a new order, a new way of being faithful.  No longer is the Old Testament our only standard for living.  Now we live by the standards that Jesus Christ has set.

One example of Jesus teaching his disciples and us about giving is found in Mark 12: 38-44. He warned the disciples to “Watch out for the religion scholars.  They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.”  Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.  Many of the rich were making large contributions.  One poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together.  All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”  The Message. Eugene H. Peterson

You will not find any standard percent of giving discussed by Jesus in the New Testament, rather he does talk a lot about how we give and why.  The story of the widow’s mite shows us two things:  how not to give as demonstrated by the religion scholars, and how to give as demonstrated by the widow.  No doubt the religion scholars gave their tenth and did it out of an arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical heart.  The widow, on the other hand, gave a measly two cents.  Jesus compares her giving to theirs and calls her giving extravagant, sacrificial, and all of what she had.  She gave 100%!!

The widow reflects another standard of giving that is at the core of our being as people of faith and that is the standard set by Jesus himself.  Jesus gave his all—100% even unto death.  He gave his life willingly, out of love, and of course he gave sacrificially.

Nowhere do I find in the New Testament that Jesus will be satisfied with a tenth of who we are or what we have.  He wants all of us—100%.  When we are really understanding stewardship as Jesus taught us, we are “all in”.

Our percentages of giving in dollars may vary, but our commitment to discipleship should not.  We are all uniquely gifted by God to serve and follow him.  In order to be good stewards of what we have been given, we must seek ways to be faithful in all aspects of living a life that produces fruit for the Kingdom.  We ask ourselves,  “Am I 100% committed to the “body of Christ” with my prayer life; my faithfulness in attending church; my gifts, both monetary and spiritual; my service and ministry to others; and, my witness, sharing with others what Christ has done for me”?

Chances are we will not be perfect in our 100% commitment, but we can certainly strive to live a life of faith dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.  Ask yourself, “Am I ‘all in’ “?

Rev. Nancy Cole is an ordained Elder serving in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church as the Coordinator of Natural Church Development and Coordinator of Disaster Recovery.  Nancy entered seminary after a thirty-year career in education where she was a teacher for 18 years, and a psychometrist and guidance counselor for the last 12 years.  She is married to Steve Cole and has one daughter, Tammy,  two sons, Jason and Bo, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Before being appointed to Connectional Ministries in the Conference, Nancy served churches in Harpersville, Mignon, Tuscaloosa, and Gordo. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John Wesley, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing Generosity by Julie Holly

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:16-19

When we are the recipient of generosity—when someone does something for us— we are more likely to be generous ourselves.  This is a fairly natural and expected response for most of us.  And this is something like what the author of 1 John is saying about how people are expected to act once they have received the gift of God’s love through Jesus

When I say it is expected, I don’t mean that it is expected as in, “I expect you to do this or else…” But expect as in anticipation.  It is more like when you add vinegar to baking soda and you expect it to bubble up.  The natural and expected response to being filled up with God’s love is that one will also flow out with the same.  When we have received love, we are expected to share it with others.

There is also an element of expectation, as in obligation, involved in this as well because in order to live as a person of God, we are expected and commanded to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  But because it is the gift of God’s grace that fills us with love and makes it possible for us to act out of love, then what God commands us, God also gives us the power to do.

One of my favorite quotes about giving is attributed to Amy Carmichael, who was a Christian missionary to India from the early 1900’s.  She left her family, friends, and life in Northern Ireland to serve the people of India for 55 years.  She said to have shared this message, “one can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”.  That is pretty much what the Gospel of John is saying here: We cannot believe in Jesus without loving, and we cannot love without giving.

In order to grow toward self-sacrificing generosity that embodies the love of God, most of us won’t just jump right in head first.  We need some beginner steps, like…

  • reading what the Bible says about giving
  • praying and seeking God’s guidance
  • giving a little something to see what it is like
  • talking about it with each other—to see how others do it, to receive encouragement, and to be challenged to continue growing

And then finally, we will get to a place when we can live it.  We will not just say that we believe, we will also do what we believe.  Our actions and our lives as individuals and as a church will speak much louder than our words of faith.  We will become generous followers of Jesus.

Julie Holly is the Senior Pastor at Discovery United Methodist Church in Birmingham. You can follow her blog by clicking here! or with this address: http://pastorchickword.blogspot.com

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, Friends, John Wesley, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Important Invitation

“Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” -1 Chronicles 29:11 (NRSV Translation)

This verse is part of King David’s ongoing acknowledgement of God’s great works in the world. It is a beautiful passage of praise and thanksgiving that comes from David’s joy in laying the financial foundation that will be used by his son Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem. David lifts up this blessing to God, telling the almighty that “all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours.” We say that a lot, don’t we? We repeat that mantra, that all good things, all blessings, everything comes from God. In fact, I just said it a minute ago before the offertory. The question for us this morning is, do we believe that? Do we believe that everything we have, all our possessions, all our stuff, all our money, really belongs to God? And if you do indeed truly believe that, the next question is, does your life reflect that belief?


Whether you realize it or not, you probably DO believe that God can make a difference in your finances. I would argue that MOST people really do believe that God can affect that financial future, the problem is that most people don’t live into that belief until their finances are in shambles. It’s only when the bottom drops out and our finances are in ruins that we find out we really DO believe this. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and experienced this prayer in my brief time as minister:
“Dear God, my house is in foreclosure, I’m filing for bankruptcy, I spent my 401K, I am in midst of the worst financial hardship I’ve ever experienced. God, I need your help. I want to give you my life, everything I have, my whole life.”


To which God responds, “But you don’t have ANYTHING. Where were you 6 months ago when you had something to give?”


God doesn’t really respond that way, thankfully. But the question becomes, if you believe that God can have a hand in your finances at rock bottom, wouldn’t it make sense to invite him into your finances now, when things are good (or okay, or at least not ridiculously, terrible)? What is the point of waiting? Because God doesn’t force his way into your bank account or your wallet. You can make sure that God is never involved in your financial future, but I will bet that at some point in time you’re going to ask him in. How about now?
God wants to be invited.


But there is a risk when we invite God into our finances. I use that word invitation with great purpose. When we acknowledge that all things come from God and ultimately belong to God, when we INVITE him into our finances, there is some change that is required. It’s like any other invitation. What do we do as a church when a guest comes in? We do our very best to make them feel comfortable and welcome. I like to think we put the guest before the member here at Morningstar. And I imagine the same is true at your house when you welcome a guest for dinner or stay with you. We re-orient the way that we think and we put the guest first.
In our house, I’ll straighten up before a guest arrives. Then Denise will come behind me and re-straighten all the stuff I thought I had straightened. We plan meals and buy better food than we normally eat. We ask if they need anything? Can I get you something to drink? Are you comfortable? And we’re trying to teach our daughter Maggie how to treat guests. She’s still learning. When someone comes over, they get to choose the game we play or the movie we watch. The guest gets to choose!


And it’s the same when we invite God into our financial lives. It’s God’s choice what we’re going to do first. And here is what God chooses. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6:31-33 (page 6 in the New Testament).
Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”


What is the first thing Christ tells us to do? STRIVE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The Kingdom comes first. Be generous, help the poor, feed the hungry, take care of the widow, the orphan, the alien, care for the least of these, share the Good news. The whole shebang. That is what God wants when we invite him into our finances. And that might sound selfish, but Jesus adds this promise to the end: When you make the Kingdom of God your priority, He will take care of all your other needs. Clothing, food, drink . . .God will take care of those things. It’s a pretty amazing promise. Andy Stanley says it this way, “Here is God, the creator of the universe, who is willing to lower himself and enter into a symbiotic relationship with you and me. When we invest our lives bringing about the Kingdom of God, God promises to take a vested interest in our well-being.”
Now, here’s dangerous part of making this invitation. There is a reason why God has a vested interest in your well being and will continue to provide you with food, and water and a place to live, so long as the Kingdom is your first priority. When you invite God in, when you place your trust in Him and give generously, you are inviting repeat business. If a restaurant or a business gives good service, what do you do? You go back again and again. God remembers the loyal, the capable, and obedient. When you act out of a spirit of generosity, God will be back with another opportunity to give. But so long as you make the Kingdom your priority.
When you invite God into your finances, when you make His Kingdom your priority, more and more you will find that the obstacle of your fear is no obstacle at all. Because you have something you can trust in more than money, something stronger than your fear.

* Some parts of this devotional were greatly influenced by the preaching and books of Andy Stanley, so much so, that there may be some un-credited portions! Apologies to Pastor Stanley if I butchered or unintentionally took credit for any ideas that were his.

This article was written by Rev. John Mullaney.   John is the Morningstar United  Methodist Church’s pastor, and was appointed to the church in the summer of  2008. John’s passions include preaching, pastoral care, and  creating meaningful times of worship. John and his wife, Denise, who is also a United Methodist minister, have  two daughters, Maggie & Lucie. They live in Chelsea

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Danger of Riches

“The Danger of Riches”

1 Timothy 6:9

SummaryAs the population of the Methodist grew, the found themselves with more members who were wealthy.  Wesley used this sermon to speak on the dangers of wealth and how it could be inlet to sin.  He describes how people should gain as much as they can, save as much as they can and give as much as they can.  Wesley’s belief was to only accumulate what you need and give the rest away.

Introduction:

  1. Many don’t know about the warning in 1 Timothy 6:9
  2. It is not speaking of gaining riches unjustly, but just of being rich.
  3. There are not a whole lot of people preaching this.
  4. May God give me right and forcible words?
    1. To explain the Apostles words
    2. To apply them
  1. To explain the Apostles words.
    1. Provide what is necessary for our family.
    2.  Save up enough to carry on business.
    3.  Enough to leave our children to supply them with necessary
    4.  Pay off our debts.
    5. Applying what has been said
  1. What is it to be rich
    1. Having food and coverings plus more
    2. Riches are above the plain necessaries or conveniences of life.
  2. This also implies those that desire to be rich.
  3. Includes all those that set a purpose of endeavor to get more.
  4. It includes those who lay up treasures on earth.
    1. We are allowed to:
    2. Provide what is necessary for our family
    3. Save up enough to carry on business
    4. Enough to leave our children to supply them with necessary.
    5. Pay off our debts.
  1. This includes all who posses more than they use.  God only lends this to us.  God entrust us to be stewards.
  2. It is for those who find delight in money and seek their happiness in money.
  3. There is a covetousness of money in which people have a desire to have more.
  4. We have a hard time with this and only through God can we understand this and do it.
  5. Those who are rich fall into temptation.
  6. They fall into a snare of the devil that he set.
  7. The fall into hurtful desires
  8. They desire happiness out of God.  They love the creature more than God.
  9. The desire of the flesh has developed a “taste” for the world that is not harmful to the body but to the soul.
  10. The desire of the eyes is the desiring and seeking happiness in gratifying the imagination.
  11. Seeking happiness in learning and not in God.
  12. Seeking to be honored, yearning for the applause.
  13. The desire of having it easy and avoiding trouble, danger, difficulty and a desire of sleeping through life.
  14. Riches lead to foolish and hurtful desires and when one has the means to satisfy, these desires will increase.
  15. As they grow, the desires will cause many sorrows of remorse and end up drowning the body in pain, disease, ‘destruction’, and the soul in everlasting perdition.
  1. How do we put this into practice?
  2. Stop!  Evil is before you and you are running toward the sharp edge of a sword.
  3. Are you endeavoring to be rich?
  4. Are you laying up for yourselves treasures on this earth?
  5. You can gain all you can and save all you can without storing up on earth.
  6. Gain all you can, save all you can without wasting; yet by giving all I can I am protected against laying up treasures on earth.
  7. It’s not the quantity of what we possess, it is how we employ according to the will of our Lord.
  8. Don’t throw the excess away; give it to all men and to the poor.
  9. Your wealth will be a witness against you and destroy you as if it were fire.  Start today!
  10. Money is not going to make you happy, look at those who are already rich.
  11. If you are desiring to be rich, WHY?  It leads to a pit and temptation.
  12. Have these desires not hurt you enough?
  13. Have they not cooled your love of God?
  14. If you get richer, it will destroy your humility. People will think you are better than you are and you will believe them.
  15. The richer you are the means are available to seek revenge and thus goes the meekness.
  16. Your patience is also lost.
  17. You will no longer rejoice to ‘endure hardship’ nor rush to into the Kingdom of Heaven.
  18. You will lose the zeal for works of mercy and piety.
  19. You lose your compassion for the ignorant.
  20. You have heard the warning.
Categories: Church, John Wesley | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stewardship Article by Ron Schultz

The line was long as people moved toward the altar to leave an offering.
Some put in large , impressive amounts of money. One poor widow stepped forward and gave two small copper coins.  Jesus declared to His followers that the two copper coins from the poor Widow was more than anyone else had given.

Wait a minute! How can two small cooper coins be counted as more than the other offerings? Wouldn’t a check for $500 be counted as more than two copper coins in your offering plate?

Jesus says everyone gave out of their abundance that day except the poor Widow. Everyone gave from a heart that said, “out of all that is  mine I will give this to You God.”  Everyone except the poor Widow. She gave from a heart that said,”all that I have belongs to You God. Take what is Yours and I trust You will take care of me.”

Stewardship is the act of managing faithfully things that belong to someone else. Followers of Jesus believe that everything belongs to God.  When it comes to money, it too belongs to God. We have simply been chosen as stewards to manage varied amounts.

Each week,  many of you wonderful followers of Jesus at Union, the Church at Chelsea Park, demonstrate faithful stewardship. Your faithfulness makes ministry happen in your community and around the world through our system of apportioned connectional giving! I continue to be amazed by your stewardship efforts and the way God takes care of you.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for trusting us to manage things that belong to You. Give us the faith to always put in Your two cents worth. Amen.”

This article was written by Ron Schultz.  Ron is the District Superintendent of the South Central District in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Ron graduated from Emory University, Candler School of Theology in 1983 and received his Juris Doctorate from Birmingham School of Law in 1994.  Ron is married to Robin Schultz and has 4 children.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Ways to Live Above Your Life’s Circumstances | All Pro Dad

10 Ways to Live Above Your Life’s Circumstances | All Pro Dad.

Here are 10 Ways we can live above life’s circumstances:

  1. Be clear about what defines you:

    Make sure know who you are, understand that you were created with a purpose, be crystal clear about what makes you tick.

  2. Live according to values that stand independent of circumstance:

    Stand on the solid ground of faith. Own the fact that you are a part of something greater. Build a life around values such as service and love and compassion.

  3. Practice living above circumstances before things get difficult:

    The time to learn how to step outside of circumstance is when things are still going well. Make sure that you’re not being sucked in to a reliance on the wrong values. Don’t put your eggs in the wrong baskets. Learn the difference between values that last and things that will ultimately let you down.

  4. Understand that relationships count:

    Make the choices that value relationships ahead of the bottom line. Spend time with your children. Engage your marriage as a priority not an afterthought. Honor your parents and friends.

  5. Be the best husband in the world!

    It’s a lot easier to deal with a lost job, or a financial challenge, or a difficult child when you are confident in your relationship with your wife.

  6. Invest in things that are timeless:

    In your monthly budget, how important is charitable giving? Do you give your leftovers or is self-sacrifice involved? Be generous with what you have and you won’t miss it so much when it’s gone.

  7. Do not look to other people for validation:

    Learn to rely on what you know is wise rather than the opinions of those around you. If you need to purchase trendy items, or drive the right car, or wear the correct clothes in order to feel validated, then your sense of self-worth is going to depend on things that could (and will) easily disappear overnight.

  8. Develop a clear vision as to where you are going:

    Understand your purpose in life, and develop clear goals that come directly from your heart. Your vision is more enduring than the temporary ups and downs of circumstance.

  9. Learn to distinguish between the temporary and the eternal:

    When we understand what parts of our life line up under “temporary” and what parts can be listed as “eternal,” then it’s not so hard to be philosophical when the temporary stuff threatens to overwhelm.

  10. Be reasonable:

    Keep a sense of balance. Ask for help from those around you. Don’t think you have to be the strong and silent one. Remember to live in community. Let yourself be loved and cared for.

Categories: Church, Common Everyday Stuff, Faith Journey, John Personal, Leadership | Leave a comment

20% More?

Studies over several decades asked American families if they were happy. A large majority said No. “What would you need to be happy?” the study asked. The answer was about 20% more in income.

Stop for a second. Are you happy? If not, how much more would you need to be happy? More than 20%… or less?

The studies then did the tacky thing of following up on the surveyed families. They came back to them years later when they now were making at least 20% more — in ‘real’ money, not just due to inflation.

Are they happy now? “No!” What’s wrong? Well, we need 20% more.
It’s somewhat easy to figure this out. Our needs expand as the family grows. We didn’t really “need” this much years ago, but now we do. OK, well, it turns out that our ‘needs’ expand even after the kids move out. It depends on our definition of what are our ‘needs,’ you see.  I need This-and-That. After I get This-and-That, I’m not deeply satisfied because, in the meantime, somebody convinced me I need That-Other-Thing that ‘they’ have.

Psychiatrist Robert Coles, in his dealing with envious patients, wrote:
“Envy comes naturally to us, since we are limited in our distinctive ways, and so others (limited in their own ways) can seem so strong, so lucky, so blessed. We are bombarded so heavily in this secular world with invitations, suggestions, possibilities, and promises that we are bound to feel inadequate in their weighty presence, as we see them given life in others. Hence our wish to be those envied others, our anger that such has not come to pass.”

The happiest people you know are probably not the richest or the most famous or those who pay close attention to what others have or those whose every ‘want’ has been transformed into a ‘need.’ Nor are the happiest people those who pursue happiness — which is the surest way to never know happiness.
Happiness sneaks up on people while they’re doing other things, like caring and serving and enjoying the presence of loved ones or of God’s creation. Happiness is not stalked and trapped; it is welcomed.

 -Mitchell Williams is the Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Cullman, AL.  Mitchell was raised in Birmingham and spent a lot of time growing up at Camp Sumatanga. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University (Theater) and a Masters of Theology from Southern Methodist University. He and his wife Jodi have two grown sons (Charlie, a Marine Sergeant, and Drew, an engineer) who both married very well and each have a son themselves. Mitchell has pastored for thirty years including nine years at Asbury (Birmingham), six at Aldersgate (Huntsville), and nine at Central (Decatur).

 

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , | Leave a comment

John Wesley’s View on Money

As we begin our sermon series on the use of money, I thought it would be appropriate to give you an outline on John Wesley‘s view of money.  This sermon can be broken down to 3 points: Gain All You Can, Save All You Can, and Give All You Can.

“The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.

Introduction:

  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.
  1. Gain all You Can.
  2. Save All You Can
  3. Give All You Can.
  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.
  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.
  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.
    1. Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.
Categories: Church, John Wesley | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Transforming “I Will”

On a clear, cool Fall Sunday morning a young family makes their way to the altar of a local United Methodist Church.  They had been attending the services for three months.   After conversations with the pastor, and prayerful consideration, they made the decision to become members of the congregation.  As they approached the chancel rail of the church the pastor met them with a smile.  He asked them to face the congregation as he introduced them.  Then he asked them to re-affirm their commitment to Christ by remembering their baptism, and promising to be loyal to the the United Methodist Church by doing all in their power to strengthen its ministries. [UMH, page 37-38]  After their re-affirmation of commitment to Christ and the church, they were asked the traditional question that is asked of all who join United Methodist congregations.  “As members of this congregation will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?”  (UMH, page 38)  Their response was the same response every United Methodist has given as they began their discipleship journey.  “I will.” 

Each time a new member makes that commitment in our congregations, we as United Methodists, are challenged to renew our commitment and join their voices with a resounding, “I will.” 

It all begins with the promise:  “…will you faithfully participate in ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?”  Your response of “I will” is the first step in an incredible Wesleyan journey to fulfill the core purpose of your congregation.  How can each person faithfully fulfill their church’s mission of making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ?  They begin in prayer, and continue by being present in study, worship and fellowship.  They celebrate their giftedness from God by being faithful financial disciples.  They become the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world, and proclaim the word of God both spoken and lived out in a world that hungers for the love of God.

Conversations about stewardship and giving are viewed by some in the church as taboo.  If giving is mentioned only once or twice a year in a congregation, there is often an admonition that “all we ever do is talk about money” at church. Giving is often viewed as “too personal” to be discussed at length in the church.  By making stewardship and giving a forbidden subject Christians give money a mysterious power outside the bounds of theology.     In essence it is given god-like tendencies.  The truth is that stewardship is more about spiritual growth than financial strength or weakness.  It is time that modern Christians celebrate their role as financial disciples of Jesus.

The celebration of financial disciples begins by establishing a healthy theology of stewardship or giving.  Everything we have comes from God, and living out that giftedness in the world is vital to responsible discipleship.   Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke were both a truth and a challenge.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34, New International Version]  The treasure that a Christian posesses is a gift from God to be activated in love from the heart.  The theology of giving is best lived out in the church in three ways.  First, as an act of worship.  Both the Old and New Testaments talked about the offering of our gifts in the context of worship.  Most of those vignettes were in the temple, and were clearly acts of corporate worship.  Secondly,  giving is an expression of faith.  Not only does the Christian recognize the generosity of God in the bountiful gifts they receive, but also in the giving of those gifts they faithfully fulfill God’s purpose in the world.  Finally, stewardship and generosity are a spiritual discipline.  It is easy for modern Christians to have a serious disconnect between faith and money.  A healthy theology of giving helps us remember that our stewardship is about spiritual growth.  William Sloane Coffin began a stewardship sermon at Riverside Church in New York City with the following introduction:  “I have not come today to raise money for the church, I am here to remind you who you are.”  Stewardship and giving are not transactional.  Giving should be transformational for the church, for the world, and most of all of the faithful financial disciple of Jesus.  “I Will”,  these two simple words in response to God’s call in our lives can transform our lives, our church, and our world for Christ.

Article written by Rick Owen.

Rick has over 35 years of experience working with churches and non-profit boards. His passion for visioning, strategic ministry planning, functional- and gift-oriented board structures, leadership development, and the creation of cultures of innovation are refreshing in the world of churches and institutions. He is an experienced teacher, preacher and presenter in a variety of settings. He has served as a minister in churches from 15 members to 4,500 members; he has taught philosophy, ethics, Old Testament and New Testament on the college level, and currently works with leaders, boards and pastors as a strategic ministry coach. He has served on a number of church-related and community boards, and is committed to the vision of empowering people to live out their vision and purpose.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,460 other followers

%d bloggers like this: