Thursday, May 31, 2007

Retreat Leads to Advance!

Thinking back to 2003, Pastor Bill Thompkins readily admits that both he and his church—the Fellowship of Christian Believers in Racine, Wis.—were struggling.

The members of the multi-racial congregation had a great love for each other but not much idea how to fit into or serve their community. Over the years, their hometown had become an increasingly urban and in some senses blighted community. Yet, the church was essentially an island with little impact on its neighbors.

As for himself, Bill was feeling the strains of 23 straight years of pastoring. He was tired. Drained. Drifting along with a great sense of duty, but less of the fire and passion he had known in his early days of ministry.

But everything—everything—began to change in the spring of 2003 when Bill first visited Cedarly ...

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Before You Quit . . .

Before You Quit

The best laugh I've had in a while came from one of our pastors who wanted to resign and the Lord put a stop to it. He sat in my office this week and told us what happened.

Under the stress of the church situation--every church has its situation--the pastor felt he had taken all he could stand. So, he sat down and wrote a letter to every member of his congregation. He didn't exactly resign, but came close to it. "Perhaps my work here is finished," he confessed.

He printed out the letter and, against her better judgement, his wife helped him stuff the envelopes and apply the stamps. He dropped them off at the post office and drove home.

Now, we old-timers could have told him not to act rashly, that these things often look different after a good night's sleep, and that at the very least he should have let that letter "set" overnight and read it more dispassionately the next morning. But, he had done it and that was that.

Or so he thought.

The next day, every single one of those letters was back in his mail box. The cost of postage had gone up that week and he had not put enough stamps on them.

The pastor stood there glaring at all those returned letters and recognized God had sent him a message. "It ain't funny, Lord," he called out, just before breaking into laughter.

This is probably a good place to drop in a few words of counsel we give pastors in stressful, high-pressure situations who are thinking of throwing in the towel.

1) Stay on your knees. Get alone with the Lord and don't leave until you've said everything on your mind and have remained in that position long enough to hear everything the Lord has to say.

Tell him something like this: "Lord, you brought me here. You knew about this church. You knew these leaders. And yet you chose me and sent me here. But it's now out of my hands, Father. If you want it fixed, you're going to have to do it because I can't."

The next Sunday my pastor friend--who had spent much of that week on his knees in prayer--stood in the pulpit and reaffirmed to the congregation that God had brought him there as pastor and he was committed to staying until He said otherwise. "You're stuck with me," he said to the joy of some and the befuddlement of some others.

I was been in that very situation just a dozen years ago. When you make that announcement to the congregation, your supporters rejoice, the nay-sayers become angry, the devil rages, and the Lord Jesus Christ who alone is the Head of the Church is blessed and honored.

2) "It's not about you, pastor," is the second bit of counsel we pass along. "I know you think they're not following you and that feels like you have failed. But keep saying to yourself, 'It's not about me. It's about the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only.'" In the words of John the Baptist: "He must increase; I must decrease." ===>Click headline for complete article . . .

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Praying Toward A Mission Statement

How to Write Your Own Personal Mission Statement

Written by Jeff Iorg

This article is adapted from pages 122-126 of Jeff Iorg's new book The Character of Leadership: Nine Qualities That Define Great Leaders (2007 B&H Publishing Group). A 26-page sample of the book is available here...

A personal mission statement is a one-sentence statement of God’s unique assignment for you.

  • Jesus’ personal mission was “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
  • Paul summarized his mission by claiming “I have become its [the church’s] minister ... so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:25, 28).
  • My personal mission statement is “God has called and equipped me to provide visionary leadership and train others to be effective leaders.”

What are the Benefits of a Personal Mission Statement?

  • Your personal mission puts limits on your ministry.
    When you lead within the limits of your personal mission, your motives and attitude will usually be good. You will serve more easily and effectively.
  • Your personal mission also gives you a sense of security.
    You know you are pleasing God so you can relax. You are not trying to please people and are not stressed by demands you cannot meet. You have a sense of purpose and intentionality. You know you are working from your strengths.
  • Focusing on your personal mission helps alleviate jealousy and competition in ministry.
    You know your mission and by implication know others have different missions. You are not competing with anyone. Your only competition is with your own God-produced personal standards, expectations, and potentialities.

A Spiritual Process for Writing Your Personal Mission Statement

Writing a personal mission statement is more than an exercise in personalized corporate planning. It must be a spiritual process. [Note from Phil: Which is why I suggest you begin with focused, listening prayer before embarking on the steps that follow.]===>Click headline to access the complete article . . .

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Are You Also Praying in Community?

It’s all about connection.

The theme of the whole Bible – the focal point of the work of Christ – what God had in mind from the beginning . . . is connection.

It’s our place of strength. Wealth flows primarily from connections. Although money is the currency of the world; connection is the currency of the Kingdom.

Connecting – with God and others – is our place of biggest reward.

Connection is also the greatest leadership test. It’s what the enemy is most focused on to destroy – especially with pastors.

As a pastor, you are the leader of the most powerful organization on the planet.

A leader doesn’t just tell the way – he primarily shows the way. Having true, deep, authentic relationships are what pastors should be specialists in.

Connection is the distinguishing characteristic of the active citizens in this Kingdom.

Yet, a recent article in Ministries Today, “Counterfeit Community,” reveals startling statistics:

  • H.B. London Jr., VP at Focus on the Family, disclosed that at least 70 percent of pastors in America claim they have no true friends.
  • 73 percent of evangelical Christians believe it is becoming more difficult to make lasting friendships. “It would appear that the stronger the alleged commitment to scriptural authority, the more severe the problem of our relationships.”
  • Author William D. Hendricks stated that 53,000 people per week who remain committed to Christ are leaving through the “back door” of America's churches. Many of those Hendricks interviewed cited a lack of fellowship and community in the church as a key reason for their departure.

A dear pastor friend of mine, Dr. Karl Barancik of Faith City Church recently commented, “Many pastors suffer from insecurity and therefore put up walls that keep them from being real with other pastors and with the leaders of their church. When we care more for helping our people grow than for our own reputation, we will open ourselves up for deep and genuine friendships.”

I love what Pastor Karl is doing in his church.

At 8:30pm Thursday nights – after dinner and key family time – he meets with a small group of men. He created an open, vulnerable environment by “showing the way.” The men laugh, cry and openly share issues in a safe, confidential environment. Sometimes they will journey through powerful “connection” books such as those written by the late Dr. Edwin Louis Cole.

Karl’s group has quickly multiplied to several groups of men – opening up, growing, connecting. Their strength of connection is felt by all in the church . . .and as a result, the church has grown significantly.

If you would like to email Pastor Karl (or call 810-750-2200) and discuss the details of what and how he did with connecting with his men, he would love to help you in any way he can.

As challenging, potentially hurtful and damaging as relationships may have been in the past, I want to encourage you to further develop close relationships with others. It’s the currency of the kingdom.

The essence of leadership is relationships.

Leadership frequently demands that you step through discomfort and pain (especially with relationships) to bring the healing, reconciliation, and abundance in the lives of those you lead and love. I encourage you to take that step towards deeper, heart-felt friendships.

Please consider reading the Ministry Today article, "Conterfeit Community" in its entirety.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Maturity in Prayer

Maturity in Prayer
By Eddie Smith
God has delegated dominion of the earth to us and invites us to be His partners in prayer. (See Genesis 1:27-28 and Psalm 115:16.) It's time that we mature in prayer and become intentional, trained allies with God in extending His kingdom on the earth.
Once we become kingdom-oriented, we graduate from problem-centered praying to purpose-driven prayer. We discover that prayer's higher purpose is to accomplish God's eternal agenda. When we begin to "tune our prayers into that frequency," self begins to fade, and Christ becomes the focus of our prayers. Then God will be honored to hear them.
Zachary, one of our grandsons (who was three years old at the time), was spending the night with us. He was having difficulty going to sleep, and because of it, I was having difficulty going to sleep! After warning him several times to stop sneaking out of his bed, making noises, and whatever else he could think to do to stay awake, I heard him talking. That was it! I climbed out of bed again, lumbered down the hall to his room, turned on his light, and said sternly, "Zachary Myles Smith, who are you talking to?!"
He sat upright, looked at me with his big brown eyes, and said angelically, "I talkin' to my room."
How about you? Like Zachary, have you felt like you've been talkin' to your room? Have you elevated yourself and your needs above God's agenda? As you grow to maturity, you'll come to understand that prayer is not primarily about you; it's about your heavenly Father and His kingdom.
Prayer's prime purpose has to do with the heart of God. In fact, He promised us that if we'd focus on His kingdom, He'd focus on those things we need. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 68:33, emphasis added).
He has called us to a joint venture with Him in the family business, which is building His kingdom! Great communication skills are required to build any effective family business. Prayer is the ultimate wireless communication. May ours always be more than "talkin' to our room."
By "prayer coach", Eddie Smith, from his soon-to-be-released book, How To Be Heard in Heaven. Eddie and his wife Alice offer a free 52-week school of prayer at:

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Prayer in the Palm of your Hand

'Electronic Common Prayer' for Palm handhelds aids personal devotions, portable prayer
November 2006

With the First Sunday of Advent marking the start of the new church year December 3 and the beginning of the new cycle of Daily Office readings, people of faith don't have to wait for New Year's or Lent to take on a new practice of personal devotion.

A new software product from Church Publishing Inc. helps busy people keep up with personal devotions—even when they're on the move.

"eCP: electronic Common Prayer" offers users of PalmOS mobile devices a downloadable, interactive, calendar-based tool that highlights the designated liturgical celebration of the day and provides links to the full text of the appointed Daily Office readings and the Eucharistic lectionary, according to a news release from Church Publishing.

eCP also features all daily Office texts – Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline – all canticles, psalms, collects, proper prefaces, prayers, and frequently used services from the Book of Common Prayer, including Baptism, Holy Eucharist Rite I and II, the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, Ministration at the Time of Death, Burial of the Dead, and the services of Holy Week.

Launching eCP and tapping on the Calendar button takes users to the day's display, where they see, for example, that Thursday, November 30, 2006, is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle in Eucharistic Lectionary Year B and Daily Office Year II; the liturgical color for the day is red; and that the Daily Office readings are Zechariah 13:1-9, Ephesians, 1:15-23, and Luke 19:11-27, with Psalms 131, 132, and 133 appointed for Morning Prayer and Psalms 134 and 135 appointed for Evening Prayer. Tapping on the readings links takes users to the full text of each reading from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and the Prayer Book psalter. ===>Click headline for complete article .

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RESOURCE ~Pray Without Ceasing: Revitalizing Pastoral Care

From page 190: "This book has argued for the centrality of prayer in the work of pastoral care. When pastoral care begins in prayer and leads back to prayer, God is glorified, and God's people are drawn into rich spiritual communion."

Click for larger image

From the website:

Taking seriously Paul�s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing," Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger challenges pastors and congregations to put prayer at the center of their Christian practice and theological reflection. In this thought-provoking book Hunsinger reclaims spiritual practices from token use and unites them in a dynamic network of interdependent caring traditions.

The book begins with the three foundational disciplines of spiritual reading, careful listening, and self-reflection. Hunsinger then explores prayers of petition, intercession, confession, lament, and thanksgiving. Finally she offers practical, workable suggestions for developing pastoral care groups and teaching care-giving skills at the congregational level.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

E-letter for Praying Pastors

[ NOTE... A resource for praying pastors ===>Click headline for more information ... Click here to subscribe . . . ]

Encouraing Pastors to Pray
May/June 2007 Vol. 3, No. 3

In This Issue
Let Fire Ignite Your Church
How Much Prayer Is Enough?
Ten Benefits of Praying Together
Restoring a Vision for the Small Prayer Meeting
Quick Links

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

No time...

I knelt to pray but not for long I had too much to do.
Must hurry up and get to work to for bills would soon be due.

And so I said a hurried prayer
jumped up from on my knees.
No time to speak a word of cheer No time for those in need.

No time No time to meditate that was my constant cry.
No time No time minutes are few At last twas time to die.

And when before the Lord I came I stood with downcast eyes -
within his hands he held a book it was the book of life.

And when he looked into his book he said your name I cannot find.
I once was going to write it down but never found the time.

Rebecca Hatfield

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