Thoughts About 100 Years of Ministry in Kinston

The following column appeared in the Kinston Free Press one week after Queen Street United Methodist Church celebrated 100 years of ministry at the corner of Queen Street and Peyton Avenue in what is now downtown Kinston, North Carolina. I love being in ministry with saints and sinners of Queen Street and look forward to the challenges of another 100 years of ministry in Kinston.

Column: After 100 Years, Looking Forward or Reminiscing

This past Sunday, Queen Street United Methodist Church marked 100 years since our foremothers and forefathers walked from the corner of Caswell and Independence to the corner of Queen and Peyton to launch a new ministry.

While the move was only two blocks west and four blocks north, it represented a move in keeping with Kinston’s growth. I have been contemplating that move and remembering two heroes of scripture who made a much longer journey — Abraham and Sarah.

Abraham was called by God to leave the comfort of kin and homeland at the age of 90 and invited to “Go West” until God told him to stop. When he “arrived” at God’s spot some years later, God further promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars.

We have to remember that Abraham and Sarah were an ancient (Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89) and childless couple when this promise was made. Abraham must have felt like a fool. It’s one thing to travel to literally “God only knows where”; it’s quite another to start a family at the age of 100!

The writer of Hebrews sensed that Abraham understood what it was to be a part of the larger human quest. The writer says that as Abraham traveled west he “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

As several institutions in our town turn 100 this year, what would “looking forward to the city” look like in our time? As Kinston rebounds from watching one industry after another leave town and even get dealt the blow of losing our Kinston Indians, are we “looking forward to the city” or just reminiscing? Are we dreaming God-sized dreams of what could be or languishing in stories of what used to be?

As I get older, I find myself leaning into the future with my kids.

I choose indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over oscillating fans, iTunes over 45s, the Internet over chain-letters, and pesky mobile phones over shared party lines.

I choose a city that looks to what can be instead of what used to be.

I choose a city where God is the builder and architect and where the citizens seek the prosperity and peace of the city as a whole.

That kind of place will prosper, and my hunch is that her descendants will be like the stars.

James Bryan Smith on Becoming an Apprentice to Jesus

James Bryan Smith offered insights into becoming an apprentice to Jesus at The Renovare Conference in 2010. Take a listen to how one “Makes the Jesus Way My Way.”

  1. Deconstructing/Reconstructing Discipleship as Apprenticeship to Jesus
  2. Apprentice Principles
  3. Apprentice Practices
  4. Applying Apprentice: Implementing in Personal and Congregational Life

I am now reading with my Sunday School class Smith’s three book series (The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community) that describes this apprenticeship. I commend the series that will help you learn a new life story, develop truly life giving practices, and develop a community of like-minded and practiced souls empowered by the Holy Spirit to become citizens of God’s soon-coming and already-arriving kingdom.

what scripture teaches us about fasting

Fasting is a spiritual discipline mentioned in the Old Testament:

” … and they fasted that day, …” 1 Sam 7:6
” … and they mourned and wept and fasted until evening.” 2 Sam 1:12
” … and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” 2 Chron 20:3
” … Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava.” Ezra 8:21
” … I was fasting and…

Fasting is mentioned in scripture … (via Simply Orthodox)

This Easter join a spiritual adventure with Gabe Lyons and the NEXT CHRISTIANS.

Gabe Lyons begins his new book, Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America (2010), with the startling confession that several years ago that he was “embarrassed to call myself Christian” (3). He and Dave Kinneman described the source of this embarrassment in their groundbreaking book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity (2007). Next Christians is Lyons attempt to offer a compelling vision for how the church can reform itself as it learns from the next generations of Christians. This book seeks to answer three questions that Lyons has been chewing on in subsequent years: what does mission look like in America in the twenty-first century, how should the message of the Gospel go forward, and what does it mean to be a Christian in a world disenchanted with our movement (4)?

Continue reading “This Easter join a spiritual adventure with Gabe Lyons and the NEXT CHRISTIANS.”

Samuel Chand’s CRACKING YOUR CHURCH’S CULTURE CODE reminds us of what we already know (and often forget) about organizations

One of my mentors encouraged me to launch my ministry in every church with a study of John’s letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. I baulked at opening ministry with I percieved as a can of worms and then something hit me. These letters were written to the angels of the seven churches! Intuitively I knew that every organization I had worked with had a sense, an ethos, that was often hard to get a handle on and yet crucial to its function (or dysfunction!). My mentor was inviting me to pay attention to that ethos as I envisioned ministry in a new setting.

Samuel Chand’s recent book, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration (Jossey-Bass, 2011), has brought greater clarity to my intuitive hunches about a church’s ethos. Chand quickly challenges the reader to understand that culture is king when it comes to leading an organization. Your leadership has less sway than the inspiring or toxic culture that you swim in within your church. The unnoticed and unexamined cultural code will rise up to challenge every change needed by the organization, so pay attention to Chand’s discerning exercises for revealing and changing the code for multiplied benefits. He uses the acronym CULTURE (control, undersanding, leadership, trust, unafraid, responsive, and execution) to help the reader think broadly about the cultural ethos of their organization.

The heart of the book centers on the chapters “Vocabulary Defines Culture” and “Change Starts with Me.” Our vocabulary shapes the environment which we lead. If we describe everything in negative terms, then we find negative results. I have learned that the opposite is true as well. Chand helped me understand that I have to examine every piece and source of communication for the words that hold an organization from realizing its potential. The culture code is strong and must be addressed on multiple fronts honest communication, deep listening, naming the unknown in “some people say,” and offering real affirmations as the church moves forward. The challenging reminder that I can only change myself is braced by a helpful section on how to leave gracefully when your gifts and strengths are not aligned with that of the organization’s cultural code. This section of the book is pure gold and I wish I had read it sooner!

Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code should be required reading for every pastor. And pastors should pass their copy on to other leaders in their congregations. Every community, business, enterprise, and organization has a “culture code” and not paying attention to the code inevitably leads to ruin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thanks for the reminder of “Six Things That Will Take You Out of Ministry” (via Case Bankord).

I was reminded recently of a 6 item checklist that Mike Breaux (@mikebreaux) walked our staff at Heartland Community Church through to determine whether or not we are in danger of some pitfalls that come with being in ministry.

Here are 6 things that will take you out of ministry (via Mike Breaux):

1. Life without boundaries
2. Calendars without Sabbath
3. Words without practice
4. Giftedness without humility
5. Relationships without discernment
6. Letting your identity get tied up in our title

This list is posted in my office. It should be in yours too!

A leader looks for the hard stuff and does not hide from it. Check out “Sure, but what’s the hard part?” (via Seth Godin)

Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete.

Don’t tell me you want to launch a line of spices but don’t want to make sales calls to supermarket buyers. That’s the hard part.

Don’t tell me you are a great chef but can’t deal with cranky customers. That’s the hard part.

Don’t tell me you have a good heart but don’t want to raise money. That’s the hard part.

Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts. They frighten us.

The opening items on the list of the “50 Things the Holy Spirit Does” via Frank Viola @ Reimagining Church

1.      He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

2.      He guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

3.      He regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).

4.      He glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).

5.      He reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).

6.      He leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).

7.      He sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).

8.      He empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).

9.      He fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).

10.   He teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).

11.    He bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

12.    He produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).

13.    He distributes spiritual gifts and manifestations (the outshining) of His presence to and through the body (1 Cor.     12:4, 8-10; Heb. 2:4).

14.    He anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).

15.    He washes and renews us (1 Tim. 3:5).

16.    He brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18). Here He plays the same role that He plays in the Godhead. The Spirit is the life that unites Father and Son. He plays the same role in the church. When He is operating in a group of people, He unites them in love. Therefore, a sure evidence of the Holy Spirit working in a group is Love and Unity. Not signs and wonders (those are seasonal and can be counterfeited).

Scot McKnight suggests we stop “Secularizing the Kingdom” that is to take place within the community of faith(via Jesus Creed)

Sit down some afternoon — maybe today — and look up all the “kingdom” references in the New Testament and you will see the following major ideas:

First, kingdom refers to a redemptive society. Second, one must “enter” this redemptive kingdom society by repentance and faith and obedience to Jesus. Third, kingdom society and Jesus are so closely connected one has to say that there is no such thing as “kingdom” apart from relationship to Jesus. Fourth, no one uses the word “kingdom” in the NT for “social” justice that is not connected to kingdom people of Jesus or connected to the fellowship of his followers — the Church.

The best example of “kingdom” work in the entire Bible is Acts 2:42-47, and there the kingdom people, in the context of a local fellowship (church), were making the kingdom manifest. The place to begin with kingdom work is to take care of the society of Jesus’ followers.