Last summer I traveled to Washington, DC to visit my birthplace with my family and take my children to explore the sites that broadened my historical and scientific view of the world. Personally, I was looking forward to a Saturday evening stroll up to Union Station and then a few block jog over to Ebenezer's Coffee House. I looked forward to worshiping with the folks at National Community Church and meeting their pastor Mark Batterson. What a powerful time I had as the oldest person in the room ...
I had been introduced to Mark Batterson through the books In the Pit with Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase. Mark's preaching that Saturday evening was just as powerful as his books and fleshed out in his experiences as Christian walking through the world. The opportunity came recently to participate in blog tour for Mark's new book PRIMAL: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. I jumped at the chance!
Mark opens the book with a journey to Rome and a chance visit to the Church San Clemente, named for the fourth bishop of Rome. This 12th century church was built on the ruins of its 4th century predecessor which covered the catacombs where first century Christians had gathered for worship, fellowship, and study. He then observed the following:
I’ll never forget my descent down that flight of stairs. The air became damp and we could hear underground springs. We carefully navigated each step as we lost some of our light. And our voices echoed off the low ceiling and narrow walkway. Almost like the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia, that flight of stairs was like a portal to a different time, a different place. It was as if those stairs took us back two thousand years in time. With each step, a layer of history was stripped away until all that was left was Christianity in all of its primal glory.
As I tried to absorb the significance of where I was, I couldn’t help but wonder if our generation has conveniently forgotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have diluted the truths of Christianity and settled for superficialities. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.
Over the last two thousand years, Christianity has evolved in lots of ways. We’ve come out of the catacombs and built majestic cathedrals with all the bells and steeples. Theologians have given us creeds and canons. Churches have added pews and pulpits, hymnals and organs, committees and liturgies. And the IRS has given us 501(c)(3) status. And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things. But none of those things is primal. And almost like the Roman effect of building things on top of things, I wonder if the accumulated layers of Christian traditions and institutions have unintentionally obscured what lies beneath.
Each great reformation of God's church began in part by rediscovering the passion of Jesus' first followers. Mark invites us to reconsider our assumptions about what the church's authenic role in history is to be. Along the way the reader rediscovers the primal heart, soul, mind, and strength of the Great Commandment for themselves. I can't help but be committed to living with compassion, wonder, curiosity, and power among the band of sisters and brothers that are reforming the church for passionate service to God's world.
Check out last week's interview with Mark Batterson at the release of PRIMAL.
Click on the following links to purchase PRIMAL, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, or Wild Goose Chase:
|Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity |
By Mark Batterson / Random House, Inc What would your faith look like if it were stripped down to the simplest elements possible? Storyteller and pastor Mark Batterson explores the four foundational principles of Great Commandment Christianity: compassion (heart), wonder (soul), curiosity (mind), and power (strength)---and supplies a new reformation beginning for your generation, your church, and your life!
|In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day |
By Mark Batterson / Multnomah Ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time...several times? These memories leave you with an ill taste in your mouth, and nothing good seems to come from them. But what if the seemingly messy pieces of your life were actually strategically positioned by God? What if you've actually been in the right place at the right time every time? In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day will help you make sense of your past. You'll begin to connect the dots to see clearly how God has been preparing you for future opportunities. With a God's-eye perspective, you'll soon be thanking Him - even for lions, pits, and snowy days.
|Wild Goose Chase |
By Mark Batterson / Multnomah Does seeking to know God's will with certainty sometimes seem like, well, a wild goose chase? Author of the bestseller In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Batterson unmasks our misconceptions concerning discipleship and decision-making and urges us to dare to take risks. Topics include: playing offense, surviving shipwrecks, pursuing passions, challenging giants, and more.
Ed Stetzer works as a director of research for Lifeway, the Southern Baptist Book concern.
Richard Stearns and Lamar Vest comment in "Christians losing their way" ... let's pay better attention to poverty and justice
Rick Warren, perhaps the nation's best-known pastor, was stunned. "I went to Bible College, two seminaries and I got a doctorate. How did I miss this?" "This" is not some deep, hidden biblical code predicting the end of the world. It isn't a cipher that further elucidates the truth of the Trinity. It isn't even the formula for turning water into wine.
No, the thing that stunned Rick Warren was when he was struck for the first time by the sheer volume of verses in the Bible that express God's compassion for the poor and oppressed. Unfortunately, Warren isn't the only person of faith to be surprised by just how much God has to say about poverty and justice. Despite the fact that God's heart for the poor is mentioned in some 2,100 verses of Scripture, many of us simply miss it. In a recent survey of adults in America conducted by Harris Interactive, although 80 percent of adults claimed to be familiar with the Bible -- the best-selling book in history -- 46 percent think the Bible offers the most teachings on heaven, hell, adultery, pride or jealousy. In fact, there are more teachings on poverty than on any of those topics.
That's why when our organizations joined to create the new Poverty and Justice Bible, we made sure to select an unusual color -- orange -- for highlighting passages relating to poverty and justice. We wanted to stop people in their tracks. We wanted this simply highlighted Bible to act as God's megaphone revealing a heart for the poor, concern for the marginalized and compassion for the oppressed.
Richard Stearns' book, The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of us ... The answer that changed my life and might just change the world, is a challenge from a corporate CEO transformed by the opportunity to be transformed and in turn to transform the world. Take a read ...
Seth Godin asks 8 questions that are appropriate in every season, especially as we approach the new year.
Who are you trying to please?
What are you promising?
How much money are you trying to make?
How much freedom are you willing to trade for opportunity?
What are you trying to change?
What do you want people to say about you?
Do we care about you?
(and after each answer, ask 'why?')
In the church world these days everyone is saying "you gotta have small groups" as if the mantra itself provides the energy to turn-around every church on the planet. As a United Methodist, I confess that we just lost it ... this was easily one of Wesley's key innovations to building the people called Methodist into a revitalizing force in England and the United States. Andy Stanley & Bill Willets, in Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture (North Point Resources: Multnomah, 2004) provide a comprehensive vision and strategy that North Point Community Church used to launch their adult education plan. Their sense of the five keys to building and sustaining a small group culture are:
- People Need Community (see chapters 1-3)
- Leaders Need Clarity (see chapters 4-6)
- Church Need a Strategy (see chapters 7-9)
- Connections Need Simplicity (see chapters 10-12)
- Process Need Reality (see chapters 13-15)
- A Culture Craving Relationship. "Our goal is to avoid people at all costs - and costs us it does" (p. 22). "Americans are among the loneliest people on earth" - George Gallup (p.24).
- It's Not All Good. "Living life alone does not accurately reflect the One whose image we bear" (p. 34).
- The Divine Community. "One of God's biggest dreams for us in authentic community" (p.40). "God has called the church to create environments where authentic community can take place" (p. 46).
- Clarify the Goal. "What is the point of your church?" (p. 53). "Clarifying what you want people to become will ultimately define your church's mission (p. 56). The BIG THREE #1: What do we want people to become? (e.g. Bible Knowledge or Skills-Based churches). NP's answer: "We want people growing in their relationship with God" (i.e. spiritual mature, see p. 57). "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19).
- Define Spiritual Maturity. "Saying spiritual maturity is a point in time is like saying physical fitness is a point in time" (p. 65). The BIG THREE #2: What do we want people to do? (e.g. worship, Sunday school, sub-groups, ministry teams, spiritual gifts, etc.). NP's answer: "We want people growing in three vital relationships: a person's relationship with God, with other believers, and with unbelievers. We want people to grow in their intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders" (p. 65). "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).
- Decide Where People Go. "Have you decided what home plate looks like for your church" (p. 73). "For children to adults, we want people's destination to be the same" (p. 76). The BIG THREE #3: Where do we want people to go? (e.g. Sunday school class, ministry team, or doctrinal seminars). NP's answer: a small group.
- The BIG THREE #1: What do we want people to become?
- The BIG THREE #2: What do we want people to do?
- The BIG THREE #3: Where do we want people to go?
- Principle: You must develop, be able to personal articulate, and live by personal standards.
- Critical Question: Are you developing and living by standards that you can clearly articulate to others?
- Key Passage: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge (1 Peter 2:11-12).
(2) The Priorities Principle - Putting Your Own Spiritual Health First:
- Principle: You must establish your own spiritual health as a priority over the spiritual health of the friends you are attempting to influence.
- Critical Question: Are you prioritizing your relationship with Christ over your relationships with friends?
- Key Passage: But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).
(3) The Accountability Principle - Making Sure Someone Has Your Back:
- Principle: You must maintain effective accountability relationships with other Christian students.
- Critical Question: Are you accountable to other Christians.
- Key Passage: My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2).
(4) The Unconditional-Acceptance Principle - Out-Loving the World:
- Principle: You must love and accept your unbelieving peers unconditionally.
- Critical Question: Do you unconditionally accept your lost friends?
- Key Passage: Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).
(5) The Sustained-Influence Principle - Sustaining the Influence You've Gained:
- Principle: You must sustain the influence you gain with your unbelieving peers.
- Critical Question: Are you sustaining your influence with your lost friends?
- Key Passage: You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
(6) The Leverage Principle - Using Your Influence Wisely:
- Principle: You must properly put into practice the leverage you gain.
- Critical Question: Are you using your wisdom to leverage your influence for the sake of the gospel?
- Key Passage: Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ-whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
BEING AN INFLUENCE WITHOUT BEING INFLUENCED
- Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, MAX Q: Developing Students of Influence, (West Monroe, LA: Howard Books, 2004).
- Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, MAX Q Student Journal: How to Be an Influence without Being Influenced, (New York: Howard Books, 2004).
- Principle: God can be trusted. God will do all that he has promised to do.
- Crucial Question: Are you trusting God with every area of your life.
- Key passage: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Checkpoint #2 - Spiritual Disciplines:
- Principle: When you see as God sees, you will do as God says.
- Crucial Question: Are you developing a consistent devotional and prayer life?
- Key Passage: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
Checkpoint #3 - Moral Boundaries:
- Principle: Purity paves the way to intimacy.
- Crucial Question: Are you establishing and maintaining godly boundaries?
- Key Passage: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).
Checkpoint #4 - Healthy Friendships:
- Principle: Your friends will determine the direction and quality of your life.
- Crucial Question: Are you establishing healthy friendships and avoiding unhealthy ones?
- Key Passage: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20).
Checkpoint #5 - Wise Choices:
- Principle: Walk wisely.
- Crucial Question: Are you making wise choices in every area of your life?
- Key Passage: Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Checkpoint #6 - Ultimate Authority:
- Principle: Maximum freedom is found under God's authority.
- Crucial Question: Are you submitting to the authorities that God is placing over you?
- Key Passage: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Romans 13:1-2).
Checkpoint #7 - Others First:
- Principle: Consider others before yourself.
- Crucial Question: Are you putting the needs of others ahead of your own?
- Key Passage: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:3-11).
SEVEN PRINCIPLES EVERY TEENAGER NEEDS TO KNOW:
- Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know, (New York: Howard Books, 2001).
- Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, The Seven Checkpoints Student Journal: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know, (New York: Howard Books, 2001).
As in the national election last fall, health care is now emerging as an issue that divides us to the left and to the right. Many of us find ourselves in the middle on this an other divisive issues. When we stand in the middle we are often accused of being soft, muddle-headed, wishy-washy, etc. Adam Hamilton, author of Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White (Abingdon Press, 2008), suggests that the middle with its gray is often exactly where we ought to be. As pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, Hamilton became increasingly uncomfortable with trying to align himself and his congregants with one particular side of the political aisle. He writes: "Each has valuable perspectives to offer, but each seems to see the world only in black and white terms. The problem is that sometimes things are gray, and we must train our eyes to spot them." To address his concerns, Hamilton preached a five-week series on matters that most only hear about on Capital Hill. The outline of his book detailing this sermon series is listed below:
Introduction: Are Jerry Falwell and John Shelby Spong Our Only Options?
Part I: Seeing the Gray in a Black and White World
- 01. Are you Liberal or Conservative?
- 02. Straining Gnats
- 03. "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."
- 04. Stage Five: Spiritual Maturity
- 05. Finding the Sweet Spot
- 06. Shhh! Just Listen!
- 07. Being Pentacostal without Losing Your Mind
Part II: The Bible, Beliefs, and the Spiritual Journey
- 08. The Battle Over the Bible
- 09. The Galileo Affair
- 10. Apes, Evolution, Adam and Eve
- 11. Is Your Jesus Too Small?
- 12. Will There Be Hindus in Heaven?
- 13. The Logic of Hell
- 14. Where Is God When Bad Things Happen
- 15. In Praise of Honest Doubts
- 16. The Messy Truth about Spirituality
Part III: Politics and Ethics in the Center
- 17. Ethics and WWJD
- 18. Abortion: Finding Common Ground
- 19. Homosexuality at the Center
- 20. The Question of War
- 21. Faith and the Presidential Elections
- 22. A Worthy Vision of America
- 23. The Radical Center
Bishop Job suggests Three Simple Rules (adapted from John Wesley's General Rules):
- Do No Harm,
- Do Good, and
- Stay in Love with God.
- (In youth ministry I used the slogan "avoid evil, do good, and pay attention to God" to help my kids come to understand Wesley's general rules.)
Introduction: We begin our conversation with a "duh!" Our world is broken. Our nations, our families, our tribes, even our denominiations are broken. This brokenness hinders our witness to the world and Jesus anticipated this challenge when saying: "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one" (John 17:11b). Wesley's General Rules follow in the tradition of Paul who offered several sets of rules:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14).
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22-26).
If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).
If I can do no harm, I can no longer gossip about the conflict. I can no longer speak disparagingly about those involved in the conflict. I can no longer manipulate the facts of the conflict. I can no longer diminish those who do not agree with me and must honor each as a child of God (Simple Rules, 22).The hardest part of this rule may be relenting from our ideological and theological positions and "bind ourselves to Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord of all (Simple Rules, 24). Because I may have to give up my "position" we often avoid this rule because the consequences are scary. Yet even "a casual reading of the gospels suggests that Jesus taught and practiced a way of living that did no harm" (Simple Rules, 27).
Do Good (or as Wesley says, "by doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men").
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good ... (Acts 10:38).
You owe your conscience to God; to one another you nothing but mutual love (St. Augustine).
There is scarce any possible way of doing good, for which there is not daily occasion .... Here are poor families to be relieved: Here are children to be educated: Here are workhouses, wherein both young and old gladly receive the word of exhortation: Here are the prisons, and therein a complication of humans wants (John Wesley's Journal, March 28, 1739).To do good is not easy, despite it being a direct command from Jesus and a strong suggestion from John Wesley. We complicate the command with questions like what is it mean to 'do good,' where do I begin, or what are the limits to doing good (Simple Rules, 36)? Job takes time to deal with the thorny issue of control and challenges his reader to know that doing good is precisely in our control and that our questions do not allow us to abdicate the responsibility to do good.
Stay in Love with God (or according to Wesley, "By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such are: the public worship of God, the ministry of the Word, either read or expounded, the Supper of the Lord, family and private prayer, searching the Scriptures, and fasting or abstinence").
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually (Psalm 105.4)
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).Ordinances, or spiritual disciplines, are the practices that keep "the relationship between God and humans vital, alive, and growing" (Simple Rules, 53). Job takes time to explore Peter and his response to Jesus' questions "do you love me?" In these moments we are also invited to answer the question individually. Do you love me? If yes, then Jesus says "feed my sheep," care for my children, do no harm, do good ...
Current Economic Situation:
- Unemployment @ 12.5% (May 2009, NC @ 11.1%)
- Poverty Rate @ 24% (2007, NC @ 15%)
- Median Household Income @ $31,304 (2007, NC @ $43,867)
- Labor Force Participation @ 60% (2007, NC @ 65%)
- Health Care & Social Assistance - 23.0% (up 7.3% over the last two years)
- Manufacturing - 14.7% (down 19.9% over the last two years)
- Retail Trade - 11.7% (up 4.2% over the last two years)
- Educational Services - 7.7% (up 3.4% over the last two years)
- Accommodation & Food Services - 6.5% (down 7.6% over the last two years)
- Construction - 6.5% (up 5.6% over the last two years)
- Administration & Waste Services - 5.8% (down 27.1% over the last two years)
- Public Adminstration - 5.8% (up 1.0% over the last two years)
The discerned community assets from the Golden Leaf include:
- Strong and active local institutions
- Neuse River waterfront and historic downtown
- Kinston Indians
- Innovative Education Partnerships
- Healthcare Infrastructure
- Global Transpark
- CROSSROADS Project
- City of Kinston / Lenoir County Strategic Economic Development Plan
- Riverfront - Now!: Redesign of Kinston Waterfront
- Kinston Vision and Redevelopment Plan
- Kinston Comprehensive Economic Development Plan
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education
- Economic Development
- Workforce Competitiveness
- Downtown revitalization in Kinston (including waterfront)
- Public Education
- Aging population and leadership
- Infrastructure and Connectivity
David fact-checked my quote and called me back to say I had left out part of the verse, the part that describes "being sent into exile." The follow-up question was easy enough: "do you feel like you were sent into exile?" with the implication that maybe Kinston was a step back from other cities. My immediate response was, "I am not in exile! However many of the folks I run into often sound like they are in exile.” Many Kinstonians either wistfully remember the Kinston that is "no longer" or passionately long for the Kinston that is "not yet." When you live in either the "no longer" or the "not yet" you live in exile from the "here and now."
Jeremiah’s letter is explicit about here and now living. He wrote: "build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters ... multiply there and do not decrease" (Jeremiah 29:5-6). The Lord is not saying we can’t dream about another place or time, but you can only live in the here and now. Essentially Jeremiah was saying "bloom where you are planted." So I invite you to join those seeking Kinston’s greater welfare and prosperity starting with the street you live on. Let’s bloom where we are planted.
Greetings in the Name of the One Who Gives Freedom – Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!
I remember the moments when the walls of our parsonage in Swansboro rattled as the big guns aboard Camp LeJeune sounded their call. I remember the officers and enlisted personnel who were members of Swansboro United Methodist Church reminding me that was “the sound of freedom” – and to an extent they were right. The sacrifice of our military personnel across over two centuries of our country’s history have provided us with the ability to gather to worship in complete freedom. As we come to moments of national celebration like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, we do well to pause and give thanks to those who provided this freedom.
But Christians have gathered to worship for over two-thousand years – sometimes in the open light of day and other times underground in the darkness. Each time they gathered to worship they gathered in freedom. Why? Because the author of our freedom ultimately is Jesus Christ. Jesus said it this way, “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Across the world there have been and are movements that tried to tie together the freedom we find in Christ various political movements that promised freedom. Each movement provided a bit of the truth about our freedom, but ultimately each fell short of providing full freedom because they lacked loyalty to Jesus – the author of our salvation and the source of our freedom. I invite you this Fourth of July to remember the sacrifice of those who defend our ability to gather freely in worship. I also invite you to listen for the sounds of the nails being hammered into a cross through the hands and feet of the One who is our source of freedom. That sound may not rattle the walls of your house, but that ringing is the true “sound of freedom.”
This summer brings opportunities to gather for a baseball game on July 12th to engage in fellowship together with our church. We also are working to pull together our education space as we provide several opportunities for our community to be introduced to our Queen Street Academy after-school program. We also need your help on some Wednesdays as we continue working to clean and paint other parts of our education building. Join us for a day of work and fellowship.
I close with a reminder that many in our community are experiencing economic shortfalls because of the recent economic downturn. If you are able to make a financial gift to assist others in their season of shortfall you can make your checks payable to Queen Street Church and designate it for “family support.”
I thank each of you for how you use your freedom to serve our Lord in this community and within our church. See you on Sunday!
Grace and Peace, Allen
- Why do people need JESUS CHRIST?
- Why do people need the CHURCH?
- Why do people need A UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
- Jesus is the answer to the deepest longing of every human heart.
- The church is the physical embodiment of Jesus in the world. The church is a community that loves and accepts me, helps me grow, and then go out in service to the world.
- Adam turns the final question to us: "What is special about your congregation?"
- Saddleback' s model: Invite - Disciple - Equip - Mission
- COR's adaptation: Invite folks to change the world, introduce them to who Jesus is, invite them into deeper discipleship, and equip disciples for service.
- Mind and Heart
- Evangelical Gospel and Social Gospel
- Grace and Personal Holiness
- Conservative and Liberal
- The discernment question for the congregation is "are we a 1 or 5 star restaurant? Are we serving a fresh, hot, tasty meal or warmed-over leftovers?"
- The reality is that a majoirity people do not expect to have an experience of God or have their lives changed in worship.
- People must be "led" in worship.
- Effective worship requires intentional design and effort (half of the hymns are sung about God and half of the hymns are sung to God - which hymn do you need and when?).
- Five hours a week should be devoted to worship planning (theme, expectation, experience) and ten hours should be devoted to sermon preparation. Pastors need time to meditate on and research the sermon - guard this time at all costs.
- The aim of preaching is to fulfill the mission of the church.
- You must discern the mission of the church in order to do direct your preaching (DUH).
- Preachers must teach people something they did not know before.
- Preachers must inspire people and touch the heart.
- Preachers must issue a call to action.
- Movement from the BIBLE to EXEGESIS to APPLICATION to ILLUSTRATION.
- Movement from HUMAN CONDITION to EXEGETE to BIBLE to ILLUSTRATE.
- Adam alternates between these two patterns usually with the first pattern moving toward Christmas and Easter and the second pattern as a follow-up to Christmas and Easter.
- Adam spends one week a year planning his sermons for the next two years.
- Adam asks his congregation before he leaves to plan his sermons this question: "Please tell me what sermon topics would help you grow?"
What Leaders DO, part 1:
- Set the TONE of the organization.
- REPRESENT the organization in the community.
- Hold the organization ACCOUNTABLE to accomplish the mission.
- Own ultimate responsibility for the organization's SUCCESS.
- Responsible for preparing the organization for the FUTURE.
- Clarify and champion the MISSION.
- Discern and cast the VISION.
- Ensure PLANS are developed to accomplish the mission.
- MOTIVATE and INSPIRE (the body) to pursue the mission.
- Evaluate, celebrate victories and honestly address shortcomings.
- One thing leaders don't do ... they DON'T GIVE UP!
- It's all about PEOPLE.
- Healthy organizations have a clear MVP (Mission, Vision, and Plan).
- Change, innovate, improve or DIE.
- The DISCIPLESHIP pyramid. (10% are going on to perfection, 10% are tithers and leaders, 30% are regular attenders and givers, and 50% give only when they are in worship). Most sermons and worship celebrations are geared to the top two tiers of the pyramid, but you must have a strategy to reach not only those at the bottom of the pyramid, but those who are not yet on the grid.
- Discernment by NAUSEA. Successful churches / pastors / leaders are willing to do what unsuccessful churches / pastors / leaders are unwilling to do.
- 1:48 PM: AllenBingham Adam is on stage now and hoping to inspire and encourage us.
- 1:52 PM: AllenBingham I believe in the church and do not want to devote my life to a dying institution.
- 1:55 PM: AllenBingham There is no future with a hope given our current realities: from 2001-2007 membership is down 4%, UMW down 14%, professions of faith down 18%, confirmations down 21%, worship attendance down 8.4%. We can continue to do this for another 44 years.
- 1:58 PM: mfmcclure The UMC will die in 44 years @ current rates of decline....what are we going to do about it? #nccumc
- 1:59 PM: AllenBingham So let's do three things better: (1) leadership, (2) worship and preaching, and (3) living out our witness in the community. Adam tells us the story of a two-point charge (Drake's Chapel & Calhoun) in central Missouri (7 and 30) now (worship 30 and 60). A district lay leader kicked in to help out -- that doubled the worship attendance in two years. We could double our denomination if every church did this.
- 2:01 PM: chadmfoster Adam Hamilton..."We can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results." #NCCUMC
- 2:01 PM: NCCUMC Adam Hamilton is currently speaking. Check it out at nccumc.org! #nccumc
- 2:01 PM: mfmcclure The UMC will die in 44 years @ current rates of decline....what are we going to do about it? #nccumc
- 2:01 PM: chadmfoster Praying for boldness and inspiration for Pastor Adam as he prepares to teach us at #NCCUMC
- 2:02 PM: AllenBingham So let's talk about leaders. What are the qualities of an ineffective leader and an effective leader. Adam is using audience aparticipation.
- 2:09 PM: chadmfoster AH "don't do the stuff from the bad leader list." #NCCUMC
- 2:10 PM: AllenBingham Effective leaders are authentic (I respect those who are respected by their team), encourages, humble, passionate (I light myself on fire and people come to watch me burn), courageous risk-takers, love people, visionary. Take a clue - stop doing those things on your ineffective list and start doing those things that are effective.
- 2:10 PM: chadmfoster AH "don't do the stuff from the bad leader list." #NCCUMC
- 2:11 PM: AllenBingham Leaders can laugh at themselves ... check out the video.
- 2:14 PM: AllenBingham Leaders set the tone of the organization, they represent the organization in the community, hold the organization accountable to accomplish the mission, owns ultimate responsibility for the organization's success, and are responsible for preparing the organization for the future.
- 2:16 PM: AllenBingham Adam sets the tone by parking his car the farthest away. The other servants are starting to pick up the pace. Are we willing to become servants? Are members willing to become servants?
- 2:16 PM: AllenBingham Check out my live blogging notes on Adam Hamilton's talk on leadership at scribble live bit.ly #nccumc
- 2:19 PM: AllenBingham Accountability is the key for leaders. We must own the organization's success.
- 2:19 PM: AllenBingham Managers plan and budget, develop processes and policies, problem solve, create predictability and order.
- 2:22 PM: AllenBingham Leaders establish direction and cast vision, align people and resources to the vision, motivate and inspire, produce chaos and change.
- 2:24 PM: AllenBingham Change looks like: records, eight-track tapes, cassette tapes, compact disc, ipod all have been our music sources over the last four decades. Is your church more like a record or an ipod. You have no future without paying attention to the digital age.
- 2:30 PM: mfmcclure At Church of the Resurection they have two people who are under 30 years of age on every committee of the church.... #nccumc
- 2:34 PM: chadmfoster AH "Your mission allows you to say goodbye to some people"...so you can reach others. #NCCUMC
- 2:40 PM: chadmfoster "What is your Disneyworld?" #NCCUMC
- 2:45 PM: chadmfoster How do you get to your Disneyworld? #NCCUMC
- 2:50 PM: AllenBingham Leaders clarify and champion the mission (why we are here), discern and cast the vision, ensure plans are developed to accomplish the vision, motivate and inspire to pursue the vision, and evaluate, celebrate victories, and honestly address shortcomings. Leaders don't give up. The mission of Hallmark is to "enrich lives" (cards, ecards, an movies). Is our mission clear and are people willing to die to see it through. The mission is why we are here, the vision is where we are going.
- 2:57 PM: AllenBingham Its all about people. People are impressed that you love them, that your relationship is growing. Read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People ... that is key to leadership.
- 2:58 PM: AllenBingham Healthy organizations have a clear MVP (mission, vision, plan).
- 2:59 PM: AllenBingham Change, innovate, improve, or die.
- 3:02 PM: AllenBingham We tend to preach and teach most to the top 10-120% of the people. We need to focus on those at the bottom of the discipleship pyramid and those not on the pyramid. Where do I want my people to be in two years. If you don't know, you will not get there.
- 3:06 PM: AllenBingham Discernment by nausea. When facing a fork choose the one that makes you feel sick thinking about how you can make it happen. (Or as Robert Frost wrote: two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one less traveled by ..."
- 3:16 PM: AllenBingham Adam closes by sharing a story about two staff persons who crossed a moral boundaries. At the moment of the "maybe" we have to be willing to be say NO. Lord help me be the person or the leader you want me to be. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me ...
- 8:48 PM: binaryflow Adam Hamilton - Session One video is now available online: tinyurl.com #nccumc
Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ – the One who prayed that the church might be one.
This month our early worship celebration will gather in the Fellowship Hall and join other churches around the country in living into Jesus’ prayer that the church might be one. Last year over 2 million people joined in the One Prayer campaign and more are expected join this year. The theme for this year invited preachers from around the world to complete the sentence “GOD IS … .” Below is our schedule of messages … come join us on Sunday morning as we learn more about who God is.
Our children’s space is now nearly renovated and in the coming months we will want to dress up our new adult spaces. In the coming weeks we will be putting together a summer work schedule to include workdays during the work week and on several Saturdays. I encourage you to find a place to commit several hours to helping us paint, clean, and organize our education spaces.
We will also need to keep our eyes focused on our city. As I mentioned this past week we congratulate Agnes Ho (Neuse Regional Library), Herbert and Cathy Lewis (Sweet’s Coffee Shop), Darlene Brown (Brown’s Sweet Treats), and Alison Merritt (Alison and Company)for their awards from the Kinston-Lenoir Chamber of Commerce. Let us continue to seek and pray for the welfare and prosperity of the city where we live.
Grace and Peace, ALLEN
- Why would God love someone as BAD as me? Job reflects upon his encounter with God and says "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6). Paul said to the church in Corinth "for I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9).
- Why would God love someone as INSIGNIFICANT as me (among six billion people on planet earth)? Moses said to God when he was being called to liberate the children of Israel “who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11). David said to God as he led worship with his people "but who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you" (1 Chronicles 29:14).
- God's love COVERS your sins. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). When Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden, God covered them with the skin of an innocent animal (see Genesis 3:21). When a son rebelled against his father and squandered his fortune, the father welcomed him home and covered him with a new robe (see Luke 15:22). Paul said to Titus "when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy" (Titus 3:4-5).
- God's love makes you SIGNIFICANT. "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jeremiah 31:3). See Luke 15 for the stories of the widow looking for a lost coin, a father with two sons, and a shepherd with 100 sheep left 99 to find the one lost sheep.
- Donald Shriver taught a course at N.C. State with my dad three decades ago. His "Thinking Beyond Ourselves in Hard Times" is a look at the recent book Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Do Not Give Away More Money.
- Charles Ensminger takes us into Augustine's classic The City of God in his piece "The City of God: Standing Strong When the World Crumbles."
- Jenna Hart helps empowers us with "Disabling DEBT /DISABLING Debt" using the acronym DEBT = D - Depersonalize + E - Empty Yourself + B - Become a Giver + T - Trust God.
- Sondra Wheeler reminds us that we are United Methodists with her article "Wesley on Money."
- "God Is ... Love" from Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv in Edmund, OK.
- "God Is ... Here and Anything Can Happen" from Dino Rizzo of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA.
- "God Is ... in Control" from Greg Surratt of Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, SC.
- "God Is ... Incomparable" from Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC.
- "God Is ... Strength" from Francis Chan of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA.
- "God Is ... Waiting on You" from Mark Beeson of Granger Community Church in South Bend, IN.
- "God Is ... " from Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.
- "Make Us ... One" from Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv in Edmund, OK.
- "Make Us ... Courageous" from Mark Beeson of Granger Community Church in Southbend, IN.
- "Make Us ... Dreamers" from Mark Batterson pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC.
- "Make Us ... Obedient" from Greg Surratt of Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, SC.
- "Make Us ... Wise" from Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, HI.
- "Make Us ... Generous" from Dino Rizzo of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA.
- During difficult economic times, it's tough not to focus on getting by with less and waiting for the next bit of bad news. But, as Christians, how do we to respond to what's happening on Wall Street? In Upside Living in a Downside Economy, Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, offers insight into seeking God's perspective in our daily money concerns. With clarity and a servant's heart, Slaughter addresses vital topics such as money and marriage, financial and spiritual investments, personal motivation and God's will, and determining priorities. (There is also a four-session DVD and Leader's Guide for Upside Living in a Downside Economy that can assist participants in strengthening their spiritual connection while making economic corrections and, most importantly, responding according to God's plan).
- Enough is an invitation by Adam Hamilton, pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, to rediscover the Bible’s wisdom when it comes to prudent financial practices. In these pages are found the keys to experiencing contentment, overcoming fear, and discovering joy through simplicity and generosity. This book could change your life, by changing your relationship with money. (Also available is a five session video study with leader guide. Adam Hamilton presents such topics as Introduction: Faith in the Midst of Financial Crisis, When Dreams Become Nightmares, Wisdom and Finance, Cultivating Contentment, Defined By Generosity plus a Bonus video: To Be A Blessing).
- Finally, Bishop Robert Schnase, offers us a devotion titled The Balancing Act. Our lives are filled to capacity with routines, habits, conversations, surprises, and disappointments. With all that's going on in life, it's easy to miss those quiet moments of grace which come more often than we realize. But they are there. A collection of thirty short and insightful devotional readings originally written for his blog, Bishop Robert Schnase invites readers to take a daily look at how to watch for and include God in their lives. The Balancing Act is written to inspire prayer, conversation, questions, and change. Feel free to use it as a personal daily devotional or in small groups.
Greetings in the Name of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I am spending times these days wondering and praying and dreaming and pondering about our life together. I celebrated with God our hospitality as we welcomed the Association of Congregations for Holy Week worship here – I am ready to do that again tomorrow! I marveled at Jacob Mewborn’s creativity as he led his time in preparing worship celebrations for us throughout Lent and Easter. I prayed for Sammy Hudson as he has led us in worship for the past 2 years and now prepares for a full summer of ministry at The Refuge. I keep being surprised by Bridges Baker and our kids … we had 11 children in the nursery the Sunday after Easter! I prayed for the communion of saints as their number was increased by the addition of our brother David Callaway and sister Louise Burkett. I prayed for the continued ministry of our Congregational Care team after we dedicated them for ministry among us last month. I dreamed of our kids at Southeast Elementary School becoming the best of who God intends them to be and live according to God’s purposes for their lives. And I wondered … and I prayed … and I dreamt … and I pondered …
Father God, what are you up to on Queen Street? I am convinced that we are the people to lead this community into God’s preferred future. I am clear that God’s vision for us is to seek the welfare of the city where we live and trust that God will provide for our welfare as part of that broader prosperity. I am committed to seeing that the next steps are taken to lead God’s people forward, even if it is a land filled with giants as well as milk and honey. Yet I come back to that question, “Father God, what are you up to on Queen Street?”
This summer we will need to spend some time reorganizing our lives. When we move back into in our renovated spaces we will need to spend several days together moving equipment from one space to another. We have things scattered about the church that need to be reorganized and stored in new spaces. We have spaces that were formerly children’s spaces that now need to be repainted as adult and/or dual use spaces. For me all of this is a sign that God is also inviting us this summer to relook, rethink, reevaluate, reorganize, and retool ourselves for ministry together on Queen Street. So I come back to the question, “Father God, what are you up to on Queen Street?”
So I ask you to join with me in praying, “Father God, what are you up to on Queen Street?” I know that God is at work on Queen Street and in the midst of the servants I have come to hold so dear in our life together. Our leadership team is working on ways for us to spend this summer in wondering, praying, dreaming and pondering together as we seek to answer this question. My hope for you is that you will join us in this prayerful work and find your place for ministry among the saints and sinners who worship together on Queen Street.
Grace and Peace, Allen
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Greetings in the Name of the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ our Lord!
In the coming week we will pause to remember the most important week of our Lord's life, the week of his passion or death. It is easy for us to forget the dizzying effect this week had on Jesus' first disciples. One moment they were looking out over the holy city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, then they scrambled to find a donkey and led Jesus through the city in a victorious parade and later he shared a special meal with his closest followers that reinterpreted the meaning of the ancient ritual of Passover. Then Jesus was arrested by the Jewish authorities, prosecuted before the Roman governor, and crucified and left for dead outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Some of his closest and bravest followers recovered his body and prepared it for a proper burial. Then the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob intervened in a way never anticipated by his followers - God raised Jesus from the dead!
As you prepare to join Christians around the world in celebrating this Holy Week, I encourage you not to leap to the resurrection without first passing through the joy of the palms, the breaking of the bread, sharing in the cup, and the pain of the nails. To do so misses the experience of Jesus being fully alive in our midst, even in his "obedience unto death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). When we remember his life among and "the baptism of suffering, death and resurrection "we come to realize how much God loves us. This is the hope in which we stand unto this day: "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, that proves God's love toward us" (see Romans 5:8).
During Holy Week we are hosting the Association of Congregations of Kinston and Lenoir County worship services during the lunch hour on Monday through Thursday. Each day we will worship from 12:00 to 12:30 PM and then have lunch together from 12:30 to 1:00 PM. I trust you will present to extend hospitality to our community as together we remember the week of Jesus' passion. As we do this, let us hold fast to these words from the writer of Hebrews:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 11:23-25).In the week after Easter our contractor will be making a big push to complete several portions of our renovation project. I know you join me in praying for their continued good work and safety as they work on our behalf to prepare a great space for our children. Thanks for all you do to support the ministry of the people called Methodist on Queen Street.
Grace and Peace, Allen
The new year continues to reveal itself for us at Queen Street Church. This month I invite you to attend the choir’s musical dinner theatre event
This month we will also be focusing on the gift of Christian fellowship. We invite you to join us on Wednesday evenings for a meal and table conversation. Often times we feel rushed to push the plates aside for an evening program, but for this month we just want to enjoy each other’s company. In the coming months we will add opportunities for bible study or small group devotion in addition to the fellowship. If you are ready to join a small group right now, I encourage you to join Jeff and Shannon Nelson in their home on Tuesdays evenings. I am sure that the flame of Christian relationships will burn warmly in their home.
In our youth ministry we are working with Betty Blaine Worthington on Sunday mornings and with our youth team on Sunday evenings on opportunities to grow in our connections with each other and with Jesus. I will begin a confirmation class for the middle school youth on Sunday evenings at 5:00 PM beginning on February 8.
We anticipate seeing signs of construction in February, so begin your urgent prayers for our patience, perseverance, and safety during this time. As always, join me in praying and seeking for the welfare and prosperity of Kinston.
Grace and Peace, Allen
As I start the new year I am resolved to return to a different rhythm in my life. The melody to this rhythm is found in a hymn written by Joseph Brackett, an eighteenth century elder of the Shaker community in Maine, who penned these words in 1848:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,At some point along the way, the word was that this was a melody to work by, but other historians suggest that this was a dancing tune. This latter theme was picked up when Sidney Carter wrote the words of “The Lord of the Dance” found in our most recent hymnal. Let me suggest that in this melody is the primary work of this new year for Queen Street Church, the work of finding true simplicity.
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
We love to make life difficult. Have you noticed that we seem to enjoy complexity. When you ask me to do something I come up with a list of why I cannot respond at this time. When I ask you to do something the list is different, but the outcome is the same. Yet Jesus said “let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no‘ be ‘no.’” When we look at the calendar for the new year we immediately pencil in everything we did last year and then start adding new events to the schedule. Pretty soon I will have our staff in charge of producing 104 special Sundays a year and wondering why they can only accomplish 52! So let’s stop being complicated and seeking true simplicity this year.
I suggest first that we consider simplifying the way we talk about our faith. I want you to have you personal connection to Jesus Christ, but I want you to understand that following Jesus among the tribe called United Methodists is pretty simple! Bishop Rueben Job suggests that John Wesley’s rules for living together in Christian community can be reduced to three challenges:
- Do No Harm,
- Do Good,
- Stay in Love with God
Grace and Peace, Allen