Saturday, June 30, 2007

Worried Sick

A pastor was visiting a 96 year old parishioner in the nursing home.

When he asked how she was doing, the elderly lady replied, "I'm worried sick!"

"What's the problem?" the pastor inquired.

"Well, all my friends have already died and gone to heaven. I'm afraid they're all wondering where I went!"

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Firing of the Missionary

She was a good worker alright. Nobody would dispute that. In fact, she worked her fingers to the bone from early morn to late at night -- helping the sick at the African mission hospital.

No one doubted her commitment. Through thick and thin, she was always there -- without apology or excuse. She fought valiantly in the grim cause of human justice.

She was a good thinker alright., with an uncanny gift of administrtion and organization. Many missionaries can't administrate their way out of a paper bag. If she wanted to, with her organizational abilities, she could launch a paper bag factory. She ran a "tight ship."

She was passionate alright -- and felt the urgency of mission every day. Men and women came to the clinic for miles to receive help for their many diseases. Mothers brought their languishing children with hopes of a miracle cure. Providing comfort for the sick was her foremost thought every day. This was her top priority. "Whatever it takes" was the motto she lived by.

But, unfortunately, she was asked to leave. They told her to pack her bags and head back home to America. Her services were not needed any longer.

This wasn't merely the workings of some screwy headed supervisor, either. No, the problem went far deeper than that. The decision was pretty much unanimous by all the parties concerned -- the nationals at the clinic, the doctors, the administrators back in the home office, the co-workers who served beside her every single day, and even the patients. All of them said it was a good idea for her to go.

Why would somebody with such gifting, ability and passion be expelled from a place of such desperate need? What was the bottom line reason? What drove the nail into her vocational coffin?

Simply this: She couldn't get along with other people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hitchens vs Hitchens

Are we SURE these guys are brothers?

On Meager Results

Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.

–Hudson Taylor

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One of the Top 25

I was delighted to see that Grace Fellowship, pastored by my buddy, Dave Reno, made the list of the top 25 Multiplying Churches in America.

I've never seen anybody more excited about the idea of church planting. I think Dave's ultimate goal is to give away his people!

Blankety Blank Sermons

Here's a great post from Pastor Rod on "Fill in the Blank" Sermons. I agree with what my good brother from the windy city -- although I wouldn't go so far as to call the practice foolish.

I've always had an aversion to that kind of preaching, but have never been able to put my finger on it. Tried it three or four times -- but always felt like I was teaching kindergarten.

One thing that drives me nuts is to get one of those sermon "fill in the blank" sheets where all the missing words are obvious. For goodness sakes, if you're going to resort to blankety blank sermons, at least be creative and stick in a few unusual words nobody would ever expect

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Doubting Thomas




















How often do we, like Thomas, rather than simply trusting, stubbornly insist on poking our doubting fingers into Christ's side.


The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dad and Daughter

My daughter Hannah and I spent a beautiful day together in Duluth. We spent an hour at the Duluth Library and picked up a few classics for "read alouds."

Then, we lunched at the Top of the Harbor restaurant, which revolves on the 16th floor of the Radisson.

After that, we spent a few hours at the Lake Superior Zoo. As we headed to the primate house, she joked that we were visiting MY relatives. I reminded her that since I'm her dad -- they're HER relatives too!

I love Mondays!

Reasons and Excuses

Most organizations need a good reason to do something new.

All they need is a flimsy excuse to not do something for the first time.

And they often need a lawsuit to stop doing something they're used to.

-- Seth Godin

A Note to My Congregation

Recently, we celebrated Vision Sunday, which was a tremendous blessing to all who attended. We invited anyone who had had experienced a significant spiritual breakthrough to come forward and light a candle. Tears filled my eyes as dozens of people streamed to the front of the sanctuary. Each one represented a special story of God's redeeming grace.

God has certainly been doing significant and wonderfull things here at Hayward Wesleyan Church.

But we must never be content with "what IS". If we merely stay where we are, "What Is" will become "What Was."

Rather, our challenge is to move forward in fatih to become ALL that God wants us to be.

With this in mind, I believe God is leading us in the following direction: In the coming months, I sense that God is calling us to. . .

1) Worship Deeper:
This, of course, relates to our services on Sunday morning -- but also to our personal lives throughout the week. How can we help families worship deeper at home? How can we help people live more in step with the Holy Spirit?

2) Pray Higher:
We need to strengthen our prayer base. This is the life-blood of our congregation. We will never be any stronger than our prayers. Let's believe boldly, have faith and trust God for great things.

3) Love Stronger:
We must strengthen the bonds of love we have for each other. As our church grows, this becomes even more important. We do not want anybody to "fall through the cracks." We must make sure we are really caring for people -- just like Jesus. My prayer is that our congregation will be known as the people who love.

4) Build Bigger:
Eventually, we are going to have to expand our building. When we began planning our present facility, we hardly had one hundred people in our church. Our building was designed for 250-300 people. Today, we're bursting at the seams, with multiple services and a congregation of 650. We have space challenges with nurseries, children's ministries and youth ministries. Our adult class rooms are often jammed full. With a woeful lack of office space, we have Pastor Tim stashed away in a classroom. Pastor Heath is in the meeting room. Pastor Jeremy is sharing a closet with our intern, Brad -- and Pastor Ben is stuck in a storage room.

Obviously, something needs to be done to rememdy this situation. For several years, we have discussed the options -- but the time for action is coming soon. Our building committee has been working with a local architect to provide some possible solutions for our space challenges.

Let's pray together for God's wisdom and direction as we embark upon this journey. Of course, the congregation will be brought along and consulted before any official action is taken.

5. Reach Wider:
God is calling us to open our hearts wide and reach out to our whole community. Let's love our neighbors and friends to Jesus! Let's reach out beyond the Hayward city limits. Let's make a difference at LCO. Let's lift our eyes to the entire northwoods of Wisconsin. Let's reach our arms around the whole world! Together, we can touch the world from Hayward! Together, we can make a difference!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Church Today

Church today was a real blessing to me. We did everything backwards.

After my son, Ryan, sang an original composition as a "Call to Worship" and a couple of brief announcements, I got up right away and preached a message on worship (from Isaiah 6) -- we didn't sing ANY songs before the sermon.

Then, after I'd finished preaching, our praise team lead us in an extended time of praise and worship. It was powerful -- especially at the first two services.

I had the opportunity to pray with a young man after church to get right with God. That was a joy. Another young man in his 20's came up to me - - tears in his eyes -- hugged me tight and walked away without saying a word. I think God's at work in him.

Wow -- come to think of it, we sure sang a lot: seven songs at each of our three services, that's 21 songs in all. Not even the pentecostals sing that much!! No wonder I'm tired.

I guess this should be expected when one goes to worship. After all, the word "liturgy" literally means WORK.

Our Town Hayward


WEAU featured our town, Hayward, on their news broadcast recently. You can read/see it here.
Both Andi and John, the historians interviewd in this segment, attend Hayward Wesleyan Church.
My goal is to switch the slogan to, "Hayward, Hurley and Heaven!"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Yikes!!

I returned from a couple of delightful and inspiring days of District Conference to find that the comment section on my "What Wesleyans Do Well" post morphed into it's own incredible life form!!

OK gang -- here's the scoop:

1. I deeply appreciate the many regular readers of this blog. Hundreds of different people from all over the world come by each week. I have several daily readers. Some weekly. Some are hit and miss -- but I am grateful for each one. The vast majority has never commented. I'd love to hear from ya!

2. I appreciate all those who leave comments. The negative and controversial ones are fine with me. (I've deleted a few that I thought were totally inappropriate -- but not very many.) I want people to have freedom in this forum to say what's on their hearts. Anonymous comments are ok with me too, but I'd like for them to steer clear from personal attacks.

3. Those who speak negatively of their church experience are helpful to me. They help me remember how important it is to love and take care of my people. I hope other pastors reading this blog feel that way too. It's an eye opener. When I read Walt's comment about his deeply painful experience, my heart broke. I prayed for him, as well as all the others who have been wounded by the church, and/or "slipped through the cracks." Those who speak positively of their church experience are even more helpful -- as they point out how to do it right!

4. My primary reason for creating this blog in the first place was to encourage and bless small town and rural pastors. I hope to be a ray of sunshine and hope for them. Of course, I want to remind them to stay on track spiritually and relationally -- but my intent has never been to beat anybody up or to smack 'em down. Pastors get beat up enough as it is. (Note -- I recall reading some research a few years ago, saying that the three most difficult jobs are: the president of a university, the ceo of a major medical center and a pastor. Once, by chance, I ended up in a meeting with a university president and a hospital ceo. We compared notes and sympathized with each other!)

5. I would like to encourage Justin to keep blogging. I'm sorry you received such negative reactions, Justin. I feel badly about pointing your post out -- as it seems to have caused difficulty and pain for you. That certainly wasn't my intent. I thought your post was insightful and thought provoking. If you decide to bail out of blogdom until you've been duly ordained -- I understand. However, you have many gifts and insights that are needed by your church. I appreciate your humble spirit. God has great plans for you. Congratulations on the upcoming ordination.

6. On another note -- I thoroughly enjoyed District Conference. Our speaker, the dynamic Mick Veach, knocked our socks off! I also marveled at the graceful way Dr. Jerry Pence led the business meetings. He explained everything clearly, made sure that the majority won, the minority was respected and heard, and that everybody had the right to participate. He's a good General.

7. My dear friend and assistant pastor, Heath Davis, was ordained last night. I was honored to stand behind him, as a mentor, to pray over him during the act of ordination.

8. The District elected me as one of their three ministerial delegates to General Conference, which will be held in Orlando in June 2008. I am honored to be chosen by my peers to represent them at these important meetings. Maybe I'll go to Disneyworld.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

District Conference

Headed to LaCrosse for a couple of days for District Conference. The highlight will be Friday night, when Heath, our Spiritual Formation Pastor, will be ordained along with five others.

Congratulations, Heath, on this sacred milestone.

For a preacher, going to an ordination service is like attending a wedding with your spouse -- you do it all over again!

Plywood Coffins


My friend, Ruth Tucker, recently launched a site to encourage people to choose a plywood coffin for burial.

"The inspiration for this site came from reading that Ruth Bell Graham was buried (as Billy will be) in an inexpensive plywood coffin made by prisoners. Just imagine the good deeds that could be done with the money saved by not buying an expensive casket."

"This is hopefully the beginning of a plywood coffin movement." Tucker declares.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Christians in Gaza


Please pray for Pastor Hanna Massad, his family, and his congregation, Gaza Baptist Church.

Pastor Massad and I have communicated via e-mail several times since December. I am overwhelmed at the tragedy and carnage this dear man of God and his people face regularly. For him, following Jesus comes at a very high price.

We must not forget them. Every time I see something on the news about Gaza, I always pray for these precious brothers and sisters.

Between What Is and What Ought to Be

Tommy Mitchell pastors a thriving church in southeast Mississippi. Recently, left this outstanding post on his blog, Rurban Church. It's about navigating the tension between "What Is" and "What Ought to Be.

"Lord, help me rejoice in the blessings of "what is!" Help me to avoid letting "what is" become "what was!" And most of all - help me do my part to bring "what ought to be" to reality."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Do Wesleyans Do Well?

At the recent Wesleyan Doctrinal Symposium one of the presenters, Dr. Ken Schenck, asked this thought provoking question: "What do Wesleyans do well?"

Justin Neirer, in response, posted a few things Wesleyans DON'T do well:

He noted that we Wesleyans. . .
1. Don't Communicate Well
2. Don't Evangelize Well
3. Don't Multiply Well
4. Don't Define Well
5. Don't Do Accountability Well

I appreciate Justin's candor, and stand challenged to do my part in improving the situation. However, Justin didn't get around to answering the big question.

In fact, at the end of his post, he asked it again: What do Wesleyans DO well?

From the vantage point of a lifelong Wesleyan, I'd like to take a shot at answering that question.

1. Wesleyans do Stewardship Well.
The Wesleyan Church always ranks in the top three or four denominations in per capita giving each year.

2. Wesleyans do College Well.
Our colleges foster a climate of spiritual commitment. I have visited four of our five campuses, and have found each one to be in the "spiritual formation" business. With one son at Bethany, and another on his way to Indiana Wesleyan, I feel secure, knowing that they will receive strong academic training from professors who are devoted followers of Jesus.

3. Wesleyans do Latin America Well.
La Iglesia Wesleyana in Central and South America is thriving and growing at an unprecedented rate. New countries are opening every year, and many new churches are being planted.

4. Wesleyans do Children's Homes Well.
Actually, I should say Children's Home -- because I am speaking of Hephzibah in Macon, Georgia. Due to the kind generosity of countless Wesleyans, we have established a world class caring place for children without parents.

5. Wesleyans do Non-Traditional Ministerial Education Well.
There is not another church anywhere that provides our kind of ministerial training for those who are called later in life. FLAME, under the direction of Wayne Richards, has made ordination possible for many. These "second half" ministers are passionately devoted to Jesus, and ready to go forth and conquor the world!

6. Wesleyans do Youth Conventions Well.
There is nothing like an International Wesleyan Youth Convention, where thousands of our kids rally together, are challenged to a deeper walk, and are called into the ministry.

7. Wesleyans do "The In-Between" Well.
We're not stodgy like the mainliners and we're not hyper like the pentecostals -- we're at a good place in between the two extremes.

8. Wesleyans do "Safe Haven" Well.
I recall several years ago, when the Fuller Institute did a study of various denominations. It tagged the Wesleyans the "Safe Haven". They said the Wesleyan Church is a good place to find healing, love and strength when going through the painful struggles of life. I cannot speak for every Wesleyan congregation, but I have found that to be true in Hayward.

9. Wesleyans do "Autonomy" Well.
As a pastor, I have tremendous freedom to do ministry my own way. There is no "ecclesiastical gestapo" looking over my shoulder. This freedom allows me to effectively serve my community without having to jump through a bunch of hoops. The autonomy applies to freedom of belief and practice in such areas as baptism, worship style, programming, preaching, military service, and eschatology.

10. Wesleyans do Mix Well.
Over the years, I have gained many dear friends throughout the Wesleyan Church. I know most of the leaders fairly well, and find them to be good hearted men and women of God, full of faith and devoted to prayer. Whenever I attend a Wesleyan gathering, it is like a family reunion for me -- and I'm proud of my family. Wesleyans mix well with folks from other traditions, too. We are not obliged to draw from a small pool of only "Wesleyan approved" resources. Instead, I am free to fish in a wide variety of holes: John Piper, N. T. Wright, Saddleback, Willow Creek, the Charismatics. They have all enriched my ministry. (Of course, when eating fish, you have to be careful not to swallow the bones.)

11. Wesleyans do Max-well.
I think it's pretty cool that the greatest leadership guru in the whole world is an ordained Wesleyan pastor, and it is a joy to count him as my friend. (I understand that there are Wesleyans who DON'T do Maxwell. For a few years, it seemed like we didn't do Maxwell very well. He was so much bigger than our little denomination, we didn't know what to do with him. Nevertheless, he has become the most influential Wesleyan in history. He has inspired millions to be better leaders -- and God knows we need better leadership everywhere. It was good to see the church do well by honoring Maxwell last January -- and for one evening, we even got his good friend, Bill Hybels, to boot!)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

I love Father's Day -- although I miss Dad quite a lot. It's easier now, that 16 years have passed. He died on the Thursday before Father's Day in 1991. All through the week, I've been thinking of him, and thankful for his godly example.

Yesterday was great. We had beautiful church services. Andy, a young dad in our congregation, tearfully shared about his recent journey to faith from a latent, non-verbalized agnosticism. Some very difficult experiences in his life left him doubting the existence of a loving heavenly Father. However, through attending Alpha at our church, significant spiritual conversations, and his faithful "Band of Brothers" Andy's faith has bloomed like a beautiful flower.

"I still have some questions," he admitted, "but my fear is gone. Now, when I pray with my children, I really mean it." Everybody choked back tears, and at one of the services he (or, I should say HE -- meaning God) received a heartfelt standing ovation.

Then, the four Heyworth children surprised their dad and sang a special Father's Day song just for him. We made him sit in the front row. It was absolutely precious. We all wiped tears again.

I preached on living as "Sons of the Second Adam" using the last verse of the Old Testament as my springboard and I Corinthians 13:7 as my text: . . . Always Protects, Always Trusts, Always Hopes, Always Perseveres."

We closed the service by having all the dads and grandpas stand, and then we prayed a blessing over them.

After church, one dear lady came up to me and said, "If you guys don't quit ruining my mascara, I might just have to go back to the boring church.

We also had several reqests for Kleenex in the pews.

In the aftenoon, my family grilled brats (with strawberry shortcake for dessert), went fishing (caught ten between us), played a game, and watched Perry Mason.

Adam called from Iowa, and Ryan phoned in from Texas. Cathy called her dad in Illinois, and I called Mom in Ohio. Thank God for Alexander Graham Bell.

I'm a Happy Pappy.

There's Another Side to It


My grandmother used to make quilts. As a little boy, I couldn’t figure out by looking at the underside what the quilt would look like without looking on the top side to see the pattern that she was making.

Sometimes when I board an airplane there are dark clouds and it is raining. But in a few minutes the plane is above the clouds and the sun is shining. I can assure you that above the clouds in your life the sun is shining. God is still there despite any tragedy that you may be experiencing.

-- Billy Graham

Sunday, June 17, 2007

So, Where is the Jordan River?


Sometimes, for baptisms, I use my stash of Jordan River water that I brought home from my trips to Israel.
I usually make a big deal about it, saying, "Folks, I think it might impress you to know this water is straight from the River Jordan!"
A few months ago, in the foyer, after one of those baptisms, I overheard a puzzled guy ask, "So, where is the Jordan River, anyway?"
To this, his friend replied, "I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's somewhere in Missouri."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Proud of Linda

Congratulations to my sister-in-law, Linda Weaver Wilson, who often leaves insightful comments here at Revitalize Your Church.

She is an Ohio State University mathematics professor, and last week, was honored with the Griffin Society Teaching Award.

The Wisconsin Wilson's are all extremely proud to say we're related!

Behold the Power of Cheeseburgers!



Kudos to Greg Westgard and the other Northwestern College students who launched a Cheeseburger Ministry to homeless people.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Four Stages of Fatherhood

1. They call you "Da-Da."
2. They call you "Daddy."
3. They call you "Dad."
4. They call you Collect!

Leadership Guru

Just learned today that my friend (and Wesleyan pastor) John Maxwell was named the World's Top Leadership Guru, by Leadership Gurus International. Now, that's quite impressive.
This is NOT John's picture -- but I couldn't find one of him in a turban.

Thrill of Giving

Interesting research on the thrill of giving.

I just didn't realize that giving was THAT exciting, and will have to remember it next time I take an offering.

The data, I fear, is bit skewed however:

1) The research is based on 19 women. It would probably come out differently if conducted with 19 men. (particularly the part that equates charitable giving with food and sex.)

2) It is also conducted with OTHER PEOPLE'S money. I can understand that part. It's much more exciting to spend other people's money than your own. (i.e. observe the politicians.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Win A Soul Contest

Win A Soul Contest? Doesn't that strike you as a bit contrived?

Effective Leadership

My friend, Mark Gorveatte, pointed me to this fascinating article on effective leadership.

Researchers from MIT broke down leadership into four capabilities:

1. Sensemaking (understanding the context in which an organization and its people operate)
2. Relating (building relationships within and across organizations)
3. Visioning (creating a compelling picture of the future)
4. Inventing (developing new ways to achieve the vision)

Few people excel in all four areas -- but effective leaders bring other members onto the team, who bring their complementing strengths to the bigger picture.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Heading Home


Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

What I Learned from Dad

When I was 16, my dad didn't know very much. He was old fashioned and too strict. He always wanted to know where I was going and what I planned to do.

Dad simply didn't understand. He made me work when I wanted to be lazy. He forced me to clean up my messes. Sometimes, he would even put me on restriction.

"Unfair!" I would protest, but my cries would fall on deaf ears.

Since Dad was a preacher I had to go to church every Sunday, even if I stayed up late on Saturday night. Not only did I hear sermons on Sunday morning, I would also hear them throughout the week:

"Be kind to people-- especially the grouchy ones. There's a reason they are acting that way."

"Work hard son. You'll never get the job done by quitting when you feel like it."

"I trust you to do the right thing."

"Don't be silly."

"Do you love God, son? Do you really love Him with all your heart? That's the only way to live, you know!"


I shrugged my shoulders and wished Dad didn't preach so much.

In the following years, I graduated from high school, went off to college, got married, had kids, attended seminary, and became a pastor myself.

During those years, Dad must have learned a lot, because within a decade, he became the wisest person I ever knew. I was amazing at how his intelligence increased so rapidly.

I discovered that I could call him with almost any problem, and he would have a good way of figuring things out. Dad became my hero.

Even today, nearly two decades after his death, I still pause when facing a difficult decison, and ask, "What would Dad say?"

Now that's pretty amazing, considering he didn't know much when I was 16 -- or did he?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Night on the Chippewa Flowage


Yesterday, I took my sons, Luke and Wes on an overnight canoe camping trip on the Chippewa Flowage. The Flowage is Wisconsin's largest wilderness lake, with a maze of over 200 islands. Campsites are available at about eighteen of them.

After getting lost, and meandering for miles, with a boatload that resembled the Beverly Hillbillies, a kind fisherman pointed us in the right direction. Actually, he pointed us in the right direction about four different times. I think he got a kick out of watching us flail and zig zag. We had been totally turned around and disoriented, and were, indeed, grateful for his help.

Later, Luke said, "We didn't even get the guy's name." To this I replied, "I wouldn't be surprised if his name is Gabriel."

By late afternoon, we'd found our way to Cedar Tops, where we set up camp, and for a delightful evening, we were kings of our very own island! Went fishing and caught a few. Went swimming twice. Cooked over the fire. Told stories in our tent late into the night.

We saw several loons, blue herons, bald eagles, mother ducks with little ducklings trailing behind, and an otter.

Exhausted and happy, we just arrived home just a few minutes ago. My arms feel like they're going to fall off. My legs are sunburned. My back hurts. My neck is stiff --- and I feel great!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Scandal

It was so un-deaconlike
for him to have a tawdry fling.

It was so un-christianlike
the way they gossipped
and went about the shunning.

It was so un-ladylike
of his mistress to show on sunday morning
for a tense and loud denouncing.

It was so un-pastorlike
for the rattled reverend to continue with his sermon
as if nothing had occurred.

It was so Jesus-like
to see the deacon's faithful wife, though blushing,
bear such disgrace with grace.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On The Body

A fabulous post by my friend and ministry partner, Heath Davis. I encourage you to leave a comment for him.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sing to Beat the Devil


“I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people happy;they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.”
-- Martin Luther

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Vision Sunday

The church services this week were powerful. Instead of the normal (whatever that is) format, we held our annual Vision Sunday.

There are two kinds of vision: Near Sight and Far Sight. Usually, when people speak of vision in an organizational (church) setting, they are referring to Far Sight: a long look into the future. It's a matter of motivation, goals and direction. Martin Luther King captured this kind of vision with his speech, "I have a dream. . ."

Yesterday, however, we focused on Near Sight: celebrating what God has done, and what He IS doing right now. Indeed, that's vision too! Sometimes, leaders can be so caught up with "where we need to go" in the futre that they fail to see what God is doing in the present. We can't understand where we need to head tomorrow, if we don't know where we are today!

Henry Blackaby, talking of church leadership, says the key is to "find out what God is doing and then join Him." I like that!

Yesterday's worship services were divided into three parts, based on Matthew 28:19-20 (our marching orders, the Great Commission):

Bring 'Em In
Build "Em Up
Send 'Em Out.

In the Bring 'Em In Section, we showed a touching video of last year's baptism, crafted by our children's pastor, Jeremy. Last summer, we baptized 44 people.

We emphasized the Faith Candle, which we light each Sunday when somebody has come to Christ the previous week. It has been lit 51 of the past 52 weeks.

Heath, our spiritual formation pastor, invited people to come forward and light a small candle off the Faith Candle if they had personally experienced a significant spiritual breakthrough over the past twelve months. About 200 people came forward and lit candles. Many of them were wiping tears away, as they recalled God's transformational work in their own lives. Just watching this scene unfold made me cry.

One visitor approached me after the middle service, and said, "You can light that Faith Candle for me next week. I gave my heart to Jesus today." We joyfully celebrated his new life. I also prayed with a young Native American man, as he made things right with God (or better said, God made things right in him!) Another young Native American man in his mid-20's approached me, and said, "I want to be baptized this summer." He came to faith about six months ago.

In the Build Em Up Section, we heard some wonderful testimonies. Dennis, a fairly new believer, shared how his faith has grown, and the importance of reading the Bible personally, as well as connecting with others in a small group. His wife, Linda, stood beside him, and shared the story of how Dennis came to Christ, in answer to her prayers. It was moving, and a definite lifeline for other wives with husbands who "aren't there yet."

Finally, in the Send 'Em Out section, we focused on the global outreach of the church. We introduced Michael and Heather, missionaries with Mercy Ships, who shared how pennies from our Vacation Bible School offerings over the past years have paid for a dozen life changing surgeries.

I also introduced Becky and Bob, who are our Missionaries on the LCO Reservation. They serve quietly, behind the scenes, bringing God's love and grace to one person at a time. We prayed over them, and I encouraged our people to get involved and support this noble effort.

Then, in our closing prayer, we commissioned a mission team of a dozen teenagers heading out to Mexico this week (we also included people who are planning to go in upcoming months to such places as Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Guatemala.)

As I drove home, I thanked God for allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful church.

Next week, we'll focus on Far Sight. I hope it's equally inspiring.

Monday, June 04, 2007

WNAM

I'm flying out this afternoon to Rapid City for a Wesleyan Native American Ministries Board Meeting.

Native American ministry is perhaps, the most difficult ministry field in North America. There is a huge suspicion of "white man's gospel." We've given them good reason to be skeptical.

Down through the years, Native Americans have been oppressed by white people, often in the name of Christianity. For instance, many of the "boarding schools" were run by churches. Native Americans don't have much good to say about that experiment.

Effective "leadership paradigms" from other contexts, often fall woefully short when applied to Native American ministry. I think it's a mistake to try to force it. If we do, it's much like when the 19th Century missionaries dressed the Lakota up in suits.

So far, after 400 years of bad haircuts, it's still not working. But, there has to be SOME key to their hearts. There has to be SOME means of effective leadership for Native American ministry.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dandelion People

I love dandelions!
Call me crazy.
Call me lazy.
Call me a weed lover all you want --I Iove dandelions.
I used to hate 'em, but now I love 'em.
Why in the world would I have an affinity for such pesky plants? Because they are a splendid illustration of how we ought to live!

1. You can't keep a good dandelion down.
Try all you want, those little yellow flowers keep popping up all over the place.
Weed eaters, lawn mowers, and even poisons don't seem to phase them. They just keep coming back. Dandelion people are like that too.

When the setbacks and disappointments come, they refuse to cave into discouragement. They do not allow the circumstance to get the best of them. These folks figure out a way through the problem.

Instead of complaining about how bad the situation is, they figure out ways to make things better. Whatever comes -- they will always find a way to bounce back. You can count on it!

2. Dandelions add color to the landscape.
Isn't it boring to have a lawn of only one color? Just think -- dandelions are God's tools to brighten our day.

Think of those little yellow flowers as gifts! Dandelion People color the landscape too. Their enthusiasm adds "spice" to life.

Dandelion people draw out the best in others. They bring joy wherever they go (others bring joy when they go!)

3. Dandelions don't play favorites.
They show up everywhere! I've seen them in gardens, sidewalk cracks, country roads, city streets, pastures, mansion lawns, and humble dwellings.

They don't seem to mind whose yard they inhabit. They're not "too good" for anybody. Dandelion people are like that too. They're not cliquish, and are willing to relate with people from all walks of life.

Will Rogers, a classic dandelion guy, said, "I never met a man I didn't like." You can find some good in everybody!

4. Dandelions are genuine.
Just recently, my daughter, Hannah, brought me a beautiful gift -- a dandelion!

It was a gesture of genuine love on her part. Nothing plastic or fake about this. She found a pretty flower and wanted to share it with her daddy.

I wore it behind my ear for the rest of the afternoon. Every parent can relate to the little glass of dandelions which sits on the window sill in our kitchen -- a bouquet representing the sincere love of a child.

5. Dandelions rise above it.
Perhaps the thing I like most about dandelions is how they keep reaching new heights!

They know how to rise above the situation. Regardless of how tall the grass is -- the dandelions grow taller! You can pound them, cut them, and even steam roll them, but they keep popping back up.

Dandelion people rise above it as well. Their positive "can-do" spirit empowers them to move beyond any obstacle. Attitude, indeed, makes a terrific difference. Your attitude determines your outlook on life.

In once sense, dandelions are better than roses. I shared this thought with my friend Pastor Ben Drown, and he responded with an impromptu poem:

"Roses bloom, then fade away. Dandelions come back every day."