Friday, December 23, 2011

GPS and the Acts 16:5 Initiative's Principles

Not too long ago, I was driving somewhere I’d never been before.  I did not have a GPS, but I did have directions courtesy of Googlemaps.  I was doing fine for a while, but then, even though I was following the directions, I began to get the feeling that I had missed something.  That something wasn’t right.  Maybe there was a mistake in the directions I had.  Maybe I had missed a turn.  I kept checking the directions and I seemed to be following them, but I still had the feeling I was off-track.  The road I was on just didn’t look like I thought it should look.  It didn’t feel like I was making progress toward my destination.  It seemed to be taking longer than it should.  I was tempted to turn off on a road that seemed like it would get me where I was going faster.  But I resisted that urge and kept on following the directions I had. And just shortly after that, it became clear that the way I was going was the right way.  The directions I had were correct.  I just had to keep going, keep following them, even though it felt like maybe I wasn’t going the right way.

I think this happens sometimes when we are in the midst of engaging the principles and practices of Acts 16:5.  We have good directions.  The gatherings and manuals provide a GPS of sorts for the journey we embark upon when we begin the adventure of the Acts 16:5 Initiative.  But then we start to dream about what God wants to do in our church.  We get excited about the vision God gives us, and we begin to map out directions towards that vision.  We get a few Action Learning Teams working on opportunities and challenges we see around us.  

And then it happens:  we don’t feel like we are making progress toward the vision.  The way we are heading doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right.  Maybe we had missed a turn.  Maybe our directions weren’t good.  And we begin to second-guess the directions and either turn back the way we came or turn onto another route.

When you get to this place—and you surely will get here at some point—let me offer you some advice:  Keep going!  Trust the directions—the principles and practices detailed for you in the manuals and the gatherings.   They have worked for many, many churches as tools for vitality and growth. 

Sometimes God does have to ‘recalculate’ our directions because we’re working with a faulty map.  But very often we have a good map, but we fail to trust that map, a map that—if we continue to follow it, in spite of how it looks or how we feel or how difficult the route—will get us to where God wants us to go.

So take the adventure God has for you!  And trust the directions.  They will lead to vitality and renewal and new possibilities in your church and community.

Wishing you JOY for the journey!

Kathi Busch

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Building One Another - Vol. 10, No. 29 
Dear Friend,
When is the last time something so moved you that you simply felt “wonder?”

A month ago I looked into the eyes of my then six-week old granddaughter.  It was wonderful. She is wonderful.  I was simply full of wonder!

After the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds who went to Bethlehem to see Joseph, Mary and the baby, “they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:17-19

The people were amazed and Mary treasured and pondered the shepherd’s words.  All of them were wonder-full.

I urge you this Christmas week to take a time-out from your busy life.  Simply reflect on the story of the birth of Jesus and allow yourself to get in touch with the wonder of the moment.

May you be wonder-full of this Lord who loves you!
Merry Christmas - E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2011 E. Stanley Ott
*Scripture from the NRSV
To view archived issues and to subscribe:

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Do you know that LOL is now an official word?!  It’s true: as of March of this year, LOL can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary.  We use it all the time in our texts and emails and social media:  we’re ‘laughing out loud.’  But of course, the person to whom we are writing it can’t hear us laughing or share our laughter with us, because we’re not actually together.

I’d like to propose another meaning for LOL, a way to describe the Defining Practice we call the With-Me Principle.  LOL means Life on Life.  Our lives as followers of Jesus are not meant to take place in isolation or even in the artificial kind of community we experience on Facebook.  Our lives as disciples are meant to be lived Life on Life.  Jesus' life on my life, my life on your life, your life on my life, and our lives on the lives of those in our communities and even the world.  Our God is the ‘with us’ God, and He created us to live a ‘with me’ life:  to experience deep communion with God and deep community with one another.  It’s LOL:  Life on Life.

So who are the people you have invited to be with you?  Who do you LOL with?  Are you in a small group or a one on one or two accountability group?  Maybe the Ministry Team in which you serve is intentionally working the ‘with me’ principle into what they do.  Whatever you do and in whatever setting—home, work, neighborhood, or church—make sure you LOL a lot!  Invite someone to be with you, to share life on life experiences together.  Not only will you grow and learn together, but I’m sure there will be lots of LOL, too!

With joy,

Kathi Busch

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Open Heart Open Door

 Building One Another - Vol. 10, No. 28

Dear Friend,
December is often a time of more social gatherings in the life of the church and in our worlds of work, local neighborhoods, friends, and families.

Our normal tendency is to gravitate to those we know and to include those with whom we are familiar.

Indeed much of the joy of the season is gathering with those we know and love.

At the same time, this is an ideal time to open our circles a little. Thus we enjoy the dear one and include the new one.  The open heart leads to the open door.

As a matter of fact, this is often the practical key to including people who are newer to us because that very newness may make us a little uncomfortable in reaching out to them.

Invite those we don’t know so well to join us with those we do know well.

Remember the two friends on the road to Emmaus? “But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.” Luke 24:29*

They had no idea it was Jesus, the sovereign Lord of the universe.  Secure in their relationship, the two friends who knew each other well invited the one they didn’t know so well.

It only changed their lives.
With joy - E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2011 E. Stanley Ott
*Scripture from the NRSV
To view archived issues and to subscribe:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Vision for Music in Worship

Music is essential and intrinsic to a congregation’s corporate worship experience.  All those who lead music focus on three goals:

1. Bringing glory to God
2. Assisting the Congregation to Encounter the Living Lord          
3. Making music to the best of their ability     

Bringing Glory to God
Glorifying God in music, calls for forethought and prayer. Selected music should reflect creativity by using a variety of music styles and tempos. Lyrics should reflect a theology compatible with our reformed heritage. God’s majesty, power, and grace should be constant themes echoing from our music. In fact, next to the Person of Jesus Christ and Scriptures, there is no greater way to express the nature of God, then through music.

There should be a close correlation between the music performed and the Word preached. Hymns, anthems, preludes, service music- should be tied into the theme of the sermon or the liturgical season of the year.

Assisting the Congregation to Encounter the Living Lord  
Musicians, through prayer and talent, lead a congregation to the throne of God. To accomplish this task, it is essential that musicians and those who lead them seek God’s direction and anointing. As a preacher must pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in selecting text and composing a message, so it is incumbent upon musicians to seek the Spirit’s empowerment and wisdom. The success of any preacher or church musician lays not so much in their skill as in the Holy Spirit’s presence in their efforts.

The drama of the gospel message finds a present day stage in music. Therefore, the music ministry must bring passion to congregational worship. Creative use of instruments, voices, spoken word, space, time and even silence moves the congregation to experience the profound presence of God in our midst.  It is not enough for musicians to experience this “God in our midst moment”, they are called out to bring the whole congregation into this Holy moment and place.
Making Music to the Best of Our Ability
Paid staff and volunteers shall take advantage of educational opportunities to enhance their musical abilities: for example a vocal clinic or using local professionals to train choir members. (Perhaps Waynesburg College would assist for little or no fee.)

Selected music should reflect the level of volunteer musical abilities. The best methods for rehearsing should be utilized.

Long Term Vision
A church offers musical training for instrumentalist, especially organ and piano lessons. Members are encouraged to write original music and lyrics that bring glory to God.

To facilitate the above vision, music ministry leaders will need to be energetic, flexible, creative and able to work well in collaboration with others.  They must be focused not only on the quality of music but also on transforming lives for Jesus Christ through music.  

In Christ,

Linda Jaberg

Monday, December 5, 2011

Recommendations for Church Transformation

The 90 Days of Prayer adventure really works in a small church. We began in our 36 member church on January 30. 13 members participated from age 13-90. Instead of the prayer trios meeting by themselves each week, we met as a group during the Sunday School hour and the result was been heartwarming. Everyone participated-from age 13 to 90 all speaking and praying together. One 18 year old even began bringing his friend. We took time at the conclusion for the trios to meet for a few minutes to share prayer concerns and to pray together. What an amazing experience, and it is so easy to get started and to do. God really works with us through this study. Praise him!  Judy Mayer,  CLP Washington Presbytery
Is your congregation looking ahead to 2012?

What a wonderful time to begin a transformation experience of prayer.  Please see Vital Churches Resources page for more details.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sunday Morning "Serving"

I recently spoke with some of our church leaders about how we might serve the family of God on Sunday mornings.  In other words, we talked about how we can be an encouragement to others before, during and after worship each week.  We came up with a lengthy list of ideas.  Here’s a sampling:

  • Arrive a few minutes early (even as few as five minutes) for the purpose of greeting others before worship.
  • If you see people coming into the building who look like they don’t know where to go, help them find their way.
  • Pray during worship—for those sitting around you and for those leading up front.
  • Make it a point to speak to people you don’t know.  Aim to meet one new person or family a week.
  • Learn the names of our children and young people so that you can greet them by name on Sunday.
  • Sing joyfully!
  • Thank those who serve us on Sundays, e.g., nursery workers, church school teachers, ushers, and musicians. 

Of course, our primary purpose on Sunday morning is to worship Jesus Christ.  But as we come each week to re-center ourselves in Him, through the simple ways listed above, we can encourage others to encounter Christ, too.  What a wonderful gift!

With joy,

Steve Ebling

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drawing People to Your Church and Ministry

In his book, Sticky Church, Pastor Larry Osborne (Zondervan, 2008) says that the best way to “Velcro” people to your church is to “Velcro” them to the two things they need most to grow as disciples:  the Bible and other Christians.  We have found VCI’s Pray Daily devotional booklet to be a simple yet significant way to Velcro people to the Word of God and to each other.  Which has the added bonus of Velcro-ing them to our church’s mission and ministry.

It’s simple:  groups of three people commit to the 90-day adventure in prayer, reading a short passage of Scripture each day, reflecting on some aspect of their life in the light of that passage, and then lifting to God whatever is on their heart that day.  Each day’s reading, reflection, and prayer can be completed in about 15 minutes, but can fill as much time as one wishes to devote.  Sounds like any other devotional book we might recommend, right?  But here’s the difference:  once a week, the triads commit to meeting face-to-face for one hour.  In that hour they:

·       share which was the most meaningful Scripture from that week’s readings and why
·       share one blessing they experienced that week and one prayer request; and
·       have the opportunity to pray aloud for each other, though no one is required to pray out loud.

It is these face-to-face meetings that have been so significant.  Here are just a few comments I’ve received from our folks: 

“I have found the weekly meetings to be so special as I get to know my partners a little bit better and we get to pray for one another.  When one tells you that they almost didn’t come the week before because they were feeling down and then come back and tell you that after that get-together their whole week fell into place and they feel so much better it makes it so worthwhile.  It’s amazing how many of the Scriptures are just what you need on a particular day!”

“Pray Daily has been good for me, as I am doing a much better job at being disciplined.  It probably would not have happened otherwise.  Plus, it is wonderful getting to know your partners better and having them specifically pray with and for you.  All in all, it is terrific!”

“This 90 day adventure has been most meaningful because of the sharing and praying with each other and discussing the scripture passages as they relate to our relationship with God and one another. We also act as accountability partners in our faith journey as a result of being together each week.”

We used Pray Daily coming out of our annual Leadership Retreat with our elders, deacons, and staff.  We just had people count off by threes and put them together in groups. The only rule was that they must not be related to each other or already in another face-to-face group, like a LIFE Group or ministry team.  Some of the groups include people who might never interact with each other on this level in any other way in our church.  What a simple way to get people reading and reflecting on Scripture, discussing it with one another, and praying with and for each other.  This 90-day adventure in prayer engages our folks in the principles of Witness-Prayer-Care-Word and With-Me.  Then each week, they Send one another into their families, workplaces, and neighborhoods with prayer and blessing.  Simple, but oh so catalytic for spiritual growth.

In Christ, 

Kathi Busch