Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Lives

Building One Another - Vol. 11, No. 3 

Dear Friend,

One of the loveliest comments in the writings of the Apostle Paul is his word to the Christians in the town of Thessalonica:
“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”  I Thessalonians 2:8

You immediately see these people were people to Paul and not merely objects, students, customers, patients, or parishioners to whom he had something to offer but with whom he had no relationship.

Indeed he had a very deep and personal friendship with them and makes it clear they were so dear that he and his team not only shared the good news about Jesus but entered into the complexities that come of shared personal lives.

It’s a joy and a calling for each of us to teach and share the truth and wonders of God’s Word to people. Never forget, however, that they are people who long to be known personally.  Enter into their complex lives as you come alongside and share your own personal life with them.

One joyful way to read what the apostle wrote is to re-read it and ask yourself if Jesus would say the same words, “So deeply do I care for you that I am determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also my own self, because you have become very dear to me.”

You see immediately that is exactly what Jesus would say, exactly what he did do, and precisely what you and I are invited to do as well.

With joy- E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2012 E. Stanley Ott
*Scripture from the NRSV
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Turn Serve Wait

Building One Another - Vol. 11, No. 2 
Dear Friend,
Occasionally while reading Scripture for the shear pleasure of opening ourselves to a word from the Lord who loves us we come across a wonderful pithy summary of the life of faith.

I Thessalonians 1:9-10 is just such a succinct word:
“For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.”I Thessalonians 1:9-10*

The apostle Paul was explaining how the people of Macedonia summarized the response of the people of the town of Thessalonica to the good news about the person of Jesus.

They turned – from idols.
          They served – a living and true God (that is to say the
           real God).

                    They waited – for Jesus (the Jesus whom the real
                    God raised from the dead).
What a wonderful summary of the entire Christian life. In your life – make the “turn” from that which is less than the God who loves you – choose to “serve” the God who loves you – and between now and the time you are face to face with Jesus – “wait” for him in trust in him.

May the one who rescues us from the wrath to come encourage your heart this day.
With joy- E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2012 E. Stanley Ott
*Scripture from the NRSV
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Church Leadership Idea

In the Acts 16:5 Initiative, we often speak about developing church leaders.  One simple way we develop leaders in the church I serve is through a one-hour, monthly meeting we call, “Council.”  On the first Tuesday of every month our elders, deacons, ministry team leaders, and staff gather in the same room.  The Council agenda each month has two parts.

For the first 30 minutes, we talk about leadership.  The discussion may come from a book excerpt, a magazine piece I give them, a You Tube video I show them, or a leadership-related question I pose to them.  For 30 minutes we talk about leadership as it applies to our role as leaders in our congregation. 

These conversations are always engaging and fruitful. 

For the second 30 minutes, I work through a list of current church topics I want our leaders to know about or about which I want to receive their feedback.  This list might include everything from a review of the Christmas Eve services; to information about an upcoming sermon series; a monthly update on youth ministry; or a reminder to get their annual team goals submitted by the end of the month.  In other words, it’s a time to keep us all on the “same page” of church life.

Just this month, I included a new piece to our Council meeting.  Last Tuesday, with about ten minutes left in the hour-long meeting, I directed them to the back page of the agenda on which I had printed about 25 church-related items for prayer.  I then asked them to spread out in the room in groups of two or three and spend the final few minutes in prayer for our congregation using the listed topics as a guide.  It was moving to participate in and listen to the many prayers of our leaders being lifted up in those final minutes of Council. 

So moving, we’ll do it again next month!

By the way, I encourage our ministry teams to meet the same night as Council.  So, Council meets from 7-8 pm, and then, ministry teams meet from 8-9 pm.  In this model, then, our leaders come out one night for two meetings.  They (and I!) appreciate this more efficient use of time.  Our monthly meeting schedule also allows me to easily touch-in with all of our teams on a regular basis.  I rotate from team meeting to team meeting from 8-9 pm offering support and input.

A Council meeting night like I just described will take some time to introduce and become part of the fabric of church life.  But after many years of practicing this simple monthly pattern of meeting with our leaders, it has become the best ongoing opportunity I have to encourage their growth in church leadership.   

With joy,

Steve Ebling

Friday, January 6, 2012

We Are Chosen, And...

The other day I was going through my morning devotion and one of the texts for reading and prayer was John 15:12-17.  This chapter of the Gospel of John contains Jesus’ commandment to love one another.  Verse 16 jumped out at me, and with this being a new year, I thought it would be a good memory verse to undergird the year.

You did not choose me but I chose you.
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit,
fruit that will last,
so that the Father will give you
whatever you ask in my name.

We are chosen and loved.  The love is of God.  Because we know God first loved us, we are invited to be in relationship with God in Christ and also with the human race.  In relationship we are called to bear fruit that is not the throw away kind that our society often espouses.  It is fruit that will match the deep and abiding love of God.  On top of that, when we pray for fruit that will last, God will give it graciously in Jesus’ name.

The fact that we are chosen is only the beginning.  It’s the part about the relationships and tasks to which we are asked to engage that the going gets harder.  Jesus says we will never be alone when we have to love the unlovely and when we are asked to endure something difficult for his sake.

I am going to be more intentional this year about praying to God so that the fruit I bear, by God’s grace, will be of the lasting kind.  Perhaps you could join me in that endeavor.  Someone once told me that when you meditate on a verse like this and say it slowly in your mind, it drops like pearls into your deepest being.  May it be so for you and for me.

In Christ,

Anne Clifton H