Thursday, July 24, 2008

Untapped Potential

I find few things in the world as aggravating as people who do not use their full potential. It is so sad to see smart, gifted and capable people settle for less than they can be. How many times I have looked at someone's situation and thought "what a shame because they are no dummy." Or, "they are so gifted and could be doing so much more with their lives."

I think it grieves God's heart when we do not live out to the best of our abilities with his help our God given potential. Like everything else, our potential (our intellect, our giftedness, our capabilities) are God's gift to us. We are accountable for how we use our potential just as we are accountable for how we use our money or how we care for our children.

I like to think I live out my full potential. Perhaps I deceive myself. The question I wrestle with is who am I seeking to live out my full potential for? For me? For others (to receive their praise) or for God who has given me all that I have and will share glory with no other? Perhaps the motive for living out potential is just as important as whether we live up to potential at all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Not" To Do List

I am a list guy. I love "to do" lists. It keeps me organized and focused to have a to do list and gives me great joy to cross things off. I guess most type "a" personalities use to do lists.

The challenge though is not always to make more to do lists but to make "not" to do lists. This is especially true for leaders. I have found myself asking what am I doing that I do not need to be doing because it is either counter-productive or because somebody else could do it and probably do it better than me?

This gets to the struggle of many leaders of letting go of the good things in order to focus on THE thing and the struggle to give away ministry and give up control. One of the leadership gurus, I forget which one, has said if someone can do what you are doing at at least 80% of the level you are doing then give that to do away.

Creating not to dos is an area of growth for me where I have seem some success and hope to continue. Are you making a not to do list?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Converts versus Disciples

I am reading Bob Robert's book The Multiplying Church and wrestling with his helpful distinction between converts and disciples.

Robert's notes that the church is called to make disciples- not just converts. While persons coming to faith, praying the sinners prayer, coming to the altar or checking a box are important, the ultimate mission of the church is not only to join in God's converting work but to join in God's work of then growing that person so they can join the greater mission of the church to transform the world.

This resonates with me as I see folks note how many "decisions were made for Christ" the past Sunday- how many people raised their hand, checked a box or came forward. All that is great and so important. But I wonder if we could share the less glamorous number of people who served in a soup kitchen the past week, had a conversation with some who was pre-Christian, brought a meal to a grieving family, sacrificed a "want" to help someone else with a "need", or were involved in daily prayer.

Conversion and discipleship are not either or. They are not antithetical to each other. In the best of Wesleyan theology they are part of the whole of the way of salvation.

Praying for Other Churches

One of the values of New Season Church is that we seek to be kingdom minded in our thinking and in our actions. Part of what this means is that we recognize that we are not in "competition" with other local churches in our area for members or recognition but instead we like them are trying to advance the kingdom of God in the Massaponax and Greater Fredericksburg area. Simply put- we all have the same goal and are on the same team of Jesus Christ!

With an estimated population of 60%-70% of unchurched people in our area there are plenty of people to be reached for Jesus. Instead of seeking to build our own fiefdoms or little kingdoms, Jesus calls followers of Christ to join him in building the Kingdom of God. To that end, followers of Christ at New Season are not only invited to pray for New Season Church to be effective in its mission "to make and empower radical followers of Jesus Christ" but to pray for other area churches with a similar mission.

We will seek to pray for a different church each week of the year. This week we want to pray for Spotsy Presbyterian Church off of Leavells Road.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference

The Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church is holding its quadrennial conference this week in Lake Junaluska.

It's primary objective is to elect new bishops. This year I understand there was only one vacancy. The Virginia delegation in an act of grace did not nominate anyone this year. You can check out the news about what is happening the conference here.

Paul Leeland from the North Caroline Annual Conference has been elected to the Episcopacy.

For those that do not know here is the basic structure of the United Methodist Church.

The local church- it holds a yearly charge conference.

The District- a geographic locality overseen by a Superintendent and holds a yearly District Conference. New Season is in the Ashland District. It is one of 18 Districts in the Virginia Annual Conference. Our Superintendent is the Rev. Mark Ogren.

The Annual Conference- made up of all 18 Districts and the churches within them. Each church sends their pastor and a lay person. It meets once a year. New Season is in the Virginia Annual Conference which is basically the whole state of Virginia except extreme Southwest Virginia. In United Methodism Annual Conference refers both to an annual meeting and to a geographic entity.

The Jurisdictional Conference- made up of proportional delegations of each Annual Conference in the jurisdiction that are elected by their respective Annual Conferences. New Season is in the South Eastern Jurisdiction. This group meets every four years and its primary order is to elect bishops.

The General Conference- the worldwide meeting of United Methodist that meets every four years. It is the only body that can officially speak for the church. It sets the agenda for the church as a whole and is charged with making changes to church law and polity as contained in the Book of Discipline.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Invest and Invite

Here is the third message in the Stingy With My Faith No More series we aer doing. It is called Invest and Invite. Listen here.

Living in the Moment

One thing that has always been a struggle for me has been to live in the moment. I suspect it is a trouble for others as well. I have found as I look back that I have always lived for the next thing. As a child I lived to be a teenager, as a teenager to be 18, as a high schooler to be in college, as a boyfriend to be married, as a husband to be a dad- you get the idea.

As hair grows out my ears and hair on top of my head begins to show some gray strands and as I grow in faith, God is teaching me to live more in the moment- in there here and now. I am learning that while looking to the future is not bad, if we do it too much we miss the present. I am learning that my current ministry is what is right in front of me.

I don't ever want to stop looking to the hope of the future- but I do not want to miss the present.

Monday, July 14, 2008

University of the Automobile

I came across a reminder from Zig Ziglar via Nelson Searcy's blog about making your car into a learning center by listening to CDs that teach. Ziglar calls it making your car the "University of the Automobile."

If your car doesn't have a CD player use tapes. They now even have gadgets where you can connect your ipod through your radio if you have a talk on your ipod you want to listen to.

I remember too J. Conrad Levinson in Guerrilla Marketing saying that if you are not using your time in the car to make and return calls you are wasting your time.

I also like to pray in the car as well.

John Wesley would call this "redeeming the time." It is an issue of stewardship. Even our time is God's gift to us. How will we use it for his glory?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stingy with My Faith No More

Tomorrow we are continuing the "Stingy with my Faith No More" series with the message Invest and Invite. Here are the first two messages of the series. You can also get the transcripts at the message vault on the New Season website.

9 Years

Diana and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary earlier this week with a nice dinner. A young couple from our church babysat for us. We had a great dinner.

During the day it was a little surreal however as people wished me a happy anniversary who would not ordinarily know it was our anniversary. And then I remembered Diana had done a half day sponsorship on the local Christian radio station in honor of our anniversary. She also got me a really great civil war print.

God has blessed me with a great fellow follower of Jesus, wife, mother to our kids, and best friend.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Jesus is Not Your Dr. Phil or Suzie Orman

We get it wrong in the church a lot- especially in the West when we view Jesus as our personal psychotherapist and financial consultant. Don't get me wrong, following Jesus will improve our emotional and financial health most of the time if we follow principles laid out in scripture. But, Jesus did not shed his blood on Calvary for us, only to be our therapist when we are having emotional trouble. He didn't shed his blood to be our good luck charm, our spiritual guru, or our best friend. Yes, he is our very present help in time of need, he is our comfort and our joy, but he is also the one who calls us to take up our crosses, to die to ourselves, and to serve others. When we make Jesus into no more than our personal pop psychologists we make it all about ourselves.

The same is true when it comes to money. Jesus did not take on flesh as Emmanuel to be our personal financial advisor that somehow if we just believe enough than we will be rich. We may become rich in following Jesus, but not rich in material possessions. Even those in this life God allows to be rich in material possessions are not rich if they are not rich in spirit.

I am having trouble putting all this into words but there is something that revolts within me that we have sometimes made Jesus into an impotent counselor or financial consultant. I will be the first to say I have been guilty of it.

In the end, he is the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the one who will return to create a new heaven and a new earth. He is the one who was whipped and beaten because of my sin and shed his precious blood to redeem my pitiful soul. To somehow make him ONLY into a psychotherapist and financial guru seems to demean him.