We have much to celebrate as we move forward into the future God has prepared for our church. As much as participation in Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) has been a challenge, it has been a tremendous help to us. We are approaching the first anniversary of working on our five “prescriptions” and what I hear from many in our church is that we are more focused, confident, motivated, and positive than we were last year at this time. As we hold ourselves accountable to the vision of Loving God, Sharing Faith, and Serving Neighbors, we can count on God accomplishing incredible ministry through us.
Our annual charge conference is this Wednesday, October 7, at 6:30 p.m. This meeting will last about 45 minutes and our district superintendent, Rev. Marlin Fenn, will preside. A few administrative duties are required to happen at this meeting but most important is the celebration of local church ministry. Our church council will vote on our 2016 church budget, the new slate of officers, and written reports from the administrative committees of the church. While it is the responsibility of the council to vote, every member of the church is encouraged to attend charge conference.
Here are some reasons we have to celebrate:
Our church membership has increased by 19 since October 2014!
40% of our church leadership for 2016 was not in leadership in the past year!
-Six leaders for 2016 are new church members!
-Eight families indicated an interest in the church when they registered children
or HIS Kids!
-Our financial health is great!
-It is unusual if we don’t have first-time worship guests on a Sunday!
-Our average worship attendance has continued to increase!
-We have over 100 children participating in HIS Kids this fall!
And there isn’t enough room to list all the opportunities for ministry we now have…that we didn’t even go looking for! The Holy Spirit is leading people to us and thankfully we’re in the people business. The future is amazing and it’s bright. Dream and imagine with me… What would it be like if our church was the place for kids after school? What if families could come to us for food to feed their families? What if our facilities were available to small businesses for office space? What if the number of licensed foster families increased because classes were offered through our church? What if people who are looking for “something” found Jesus Christ because they helped our church build a wheelchair ramp or clean up a neighborhood park or plant a community garden?
Grace & Peace,
The definition of “Blueprint”, according to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a photographic print that shows how something (such as a building) will be made.” The second definition of the same word is this: “a detailed plan of how to do something.” Blueprints are invaluable. If a builder needs to know where the walls are supposed to go, he consults the blueprint. When the electrician shows up at the jobsite and asks, “Where do you want these outlets?” she’s directed to the blueprint. A recipe is a blueprint. The instructions for assembling a swing set for the backyard…a blueprint. The blueprint is the answer to, “What’s next?” The blueprint is informative, structured, logical, practical, and linear. Presumably, if one follows a blueprint one will end up with a finished product that functions the way the designer intended.
Now, plug in these factors. The designer is God. The anticipated product is a Christian disciple. Each of us is the anticipated product under construction.
It’s really rather ridiculous that we have such high expectations of ourselves that we might entertain the idea that discipleship growth happens because we own a Bible, or listen to the right music, or rub shoulders with correct Christians, or by osmosis, or because we give lots of money, or commit hours of our time to serving in the church. All those things might be part of the Christian blueprint (although I’m not too sure about giving lots of money), it’s important to follow a blueprint for discipleship that is informative, structured, logical, practical, and linear.
What I’m getting at is this: we need to develop a discipleship blueprint, also known as a pathway to discipleship. Our blueprint should include steps to growth in basic areas such as Christian education, practice of spiritual disciplines, and Christian service to the church and neighbor. I imagine our discipleship blueprint should be simple, easy to follow and personalized.
So far, three people have offered to help develop a discipleship blueprint. I’m very excited about starting the process and would like to invite others to join us either by praying for the folks who will be developing the process or by joining the team. Please contact me by calling the church office or emailing me: email@example.com if you have questions, suggestions or want to help.
Grace & Peace,
Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-time Guests*
If you attend church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches. Here are the top ten responses, in order of frequency, that First Time Worship Guests don’t return to worship with a church a second time.
1.Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.
2.Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church member were faking it.
3.Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend.
4.No place to get information. If your church does not have a clear and obvious place to get information, you probably have lowered the chances of a return visit by half. There should also be someone to greet and assist guests at that information center as well.
5.Bad church website. Most of the church guests went to the church website before they attended a worship service. Even if they attended the service after visiting a bad website, they attended with a prejudicial perspective. The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s just that basic.
6.Poor signage. If you have been attending a church for a few weeks, you forget all about the signage. You don’t need it any more. But guests do. And they are frustrated when it’s not there.
7.Insider church language. Most of the respondents were not referring to theological language as much as language that only the members know. My favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.”
8.Boring or bad service. My surprise was not the presence of this item. The surprise was that it was not ranked higher.
9.Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew. Yes, this obviously still takes place in some churches.
10.Dirty facilities. Some of the comments: “Didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a week.” “No trash cans anywhere.” “Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.”
There you have it. The top ten reasons first-time guests said they did not return to a church. I can’t wait to hear from you readers. You always have such good additions and insights.
Grace & Peace,
What’s the difference between individual and corporate? It seems obvious, right? But when the question has to do with worship, the answer becomes more complicated. Worship is both individual and corporate.
Worship is individual because worship is our opportunity to offer ourselves – mind, body, and spirit – to God as a living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us. (UMH, p 14) As individuals we prepare our hearts for worship before worship begins. As individuals we “do” worship – we sing, pray, listen, confess, profess, and respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit during worship. Worship is about God; paying attention and responding to God.
Worship is also corporate because in the midst of other Christians we remember our shared identity in Jesus Christ and seek direction as a people from the Holy Spirit. Worship is the impetus for our vision and ministry; it is the point at which we encounter the Holy Spirit as a congregation and discover the direction God has for us. While we are worshiping as individuals, we are also worshiping corporately through song, prayer, confession, profession and response. We profess our faith through creeds and affirmations in “we” language. We pray prayers to open our worship, to confess our sins, and through intercessory in “we” language because we are professing, confessing, and inviting God’s intervention as the whole of the Body of Christ.
The worship committee at our church is really wonderful in service to Christ and to our church. They are so sensitive to doing everything possible to create our worship services to be an environment where people individually and corporately encounter God. That’s where worship differs from entertainment. Worship is participatory; entertainment is observed. Worshipers offer themselves to God; audiences expect to receive a bang for their buck.
Invite yourself to worship this week. Prayerfully prepare your heart, make an effort to look for God in every aspect of worship, and expect God to change you. And if you still want to be entertained on Sunday, I understand the matinee at the theater is great!
Grace & Peace,
Greetings Friends –
I’ve been so blessed by the home visits I’ve been doing the past few
weeks. For those of you who haven’t heard, I’ve set aside some of the time I would be in committee meetings or doing administrative tasks so that I could visit people (church members and not) in their home or at their businesses. I’ve learned so much and enjoyed it so much that I definitely plan to continue. To those of you I’ve already visited, thank you for your hospitality and for those of you I’ve not yet visited, let me know that you’re willing to welcome me and I’ll be honored to schedule a time with you. What’s the purpose? I’ve found it humorous that when contacted to schedule a time with me, some families have been worried that I’m coming to bring bad news or ask them to do something or donate money. Here’s the scoop – I just want to get to know you! I appreciate the opportunity to hear your family stories
and struggles and plans for the future. I’ve seen your collections and learned where you work, how you spend your time, tips for landscaping and I’ve met your pets.
As a younger pastor I confess I often thought of visiting with people in their homes as time I could have better spent in sermon preparation, getting involved in the work of various committees or administrative work of the church. As a more… experienced pastor, I’ve come to realize the value of growing relationship with the people in my ministry context, both inside and outside FUMC Mineola.
All of this is to say that after consulting with the leaders of our
administrative committees and Staff Parish Relations Committee, I’ve allowed myself to be absent from meetings in order to spend time visiting people. This shift in the way I spend my time will require more intentional communication with our lay leadership. I’m glad to say that so far, everyone has offered me encouragement and blessing.
Oh, and one other thing I’ve learned – visiting with people in their homes, among family, sharing stories, etc., has actually informed my preaching and helped me relate more effectively to the work of committees! God is good…all the time!
Grace & Peace,
August 2nd, 2015
I trust you’ve had an opportunity to take some time away from your routine this summer. Quite frequently the Bible tells us that Jesus went off or took his disciples to a deserted place for prayer (Matthew 4:13, Mark 1:35, 6:31, Luke 4:42, 5:16, 9:12) and I believe his purpose was to reconnect with the Father through prayer, to gain insight and perspective, and be refreshed. The good news is that you don’t have to wait for summer to take time away! You can schedule 15 minutes, a morning or even a full day to reconnect with God through prayer. You’ll be blessed!
Starting today you’ll notice some changes in our orders of worship and I hope you find them helpful. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the “Joy Jar” isn’t going to be a weekly activity for a while. It hasn’t gone away completely; it will happen once a month for a few months. I hope that on the third Sunday of every month when we do pass around the Joy Jar, we’ll be focused on sharing answered prayers and celebrations of what God is doing in our lives. It’s a good thing for us to celebrate together!
Another thing you’ll notice is that the gift bags we give to first time worship guests are being given to guests as they come into worship rather than at the beginning of worship. Why? We’ve received feedback from first-time guests that, while the effort is appreciated, our guests feel uncomfortable having the spotlight shone upon them in a crowd of strangers. The cookies are awesome but having all those people looking at them is not so awesome. No problem! We’ll all pay attention to folks carrying our first time worship guest gift bags and make sure they feel welcome, know what’s going on in worship, where to find restrooms/nursery/hymnals, etc. and continue being the friendly church that we already are.
We have an exciting season of ministry ahead and I pray God’s blessings upon it. Please take the time to read your newsletter each week and note the many, many opportunities you have to grow spiritually.
Grace & Peace,
Missions / Community Ministries
June 14th, 2015
I’m pleased to let you know that the official appointment season is now past and I’ve been reappointed to First UMC of Mineola for another year. People, whether they are long-time Methodists or newer members of the family, are often misinformed about the itinerant system of moving United Methodist pastors from one appointment to another. It seems like a good time to stir that muddy water.
The United Methodist Church is a connectional church. That is to say that local congregations, United Methodist institutions, boards, agencies, and extension ministries are connected in our Wesleyan heritage through (but not exclusively through) our Book of Discipline and our Book of Worship. As you can probably surmise, the Book of Discipline dictates the administrative and policy arm of the church and the Book of Worship provides guidance of worship, regardless of style.
When people are commissioned or ordained in the United Methodist Church we agree to participate in the itinerant system whereby the Bishop of a given conference appoints us to local churches or extension ministries. Appointments are “good” for one year at a time; in our conference July 1 – June 30 annually. Ideally appointments are made on the basis of the gifts and graces of the pastor and how they fit the needs of the mission field to which they will be appointed. (Notice that we are no longer appointed to a “congregation,” but rather to a “mission field,” or community.)
Before the close of each calendar year, each clergyperson completes a self-assessment and is also assessed by their Staff/Parish Relations Committee or other supervisory group. The assessments are given to the district superintendent for review. District superintendents begin individual meetings with pastors by January and the results of those assessments are discussed. At any time during this process, the church or extension ministry committee or the pastor may express the desire to keep the appointment active or to request that a change of appointment be considered. All that information is brought to the bishop and cabinet for discussion.
To make a complicated process brief, the cabinet spends months doing their best to prayerfully discern the needs of the mission fields, congregations, clergy and the conference at large. To some, the process seems difficult, especially for local churches and pastors who form strong bonds of love and respect. For many years it seemed like pastors were moved for no apparent reason about every 3-4 years but the trend is now toward fewer moves. In the Texas Annual Conference we’re in what’s called a Retirement Tsunami. In the next few years there will be more retirements than we’ve seen in a very long time and those will result in necessary pastoral changes.
Now the important part. Pray for our local church, our Northwest District, the Texas Annual Conference, and the United Methodist Church worldwide.
Grace & Peace,
June 7th, 2015
Help me spread a rumor! Okay, actually this story is all factual but it reads like I’m exaggerating but I promise I’m not! When I went home on Sunday evening I was exhausted and elated all at the same time. I had lost my voice by that point (no, that wasn’t the part I was elated about) and I was so proud of our church, our community, our graduates, our high school principal, and our school superintendent. Oh, and of course I was so proud of our high school graduates.
For several weeks I worried because in April I volunteered our church to host the Ministerial Alliance-sponsored Baccalaureate Service this year. I thought to myself, how hard can it be? Ha! Little did I know! When I told Gwen, my administrative assistant, she said, “You did what?!?” That’s when the worry set in. There was so much to do but out of the kindness of her heart, Gwen guided me through the tasks (truthfully, she did many of them) and I had help from my brothers on the Alliance.
As the day got closer, people told me not to be offended if the Baccalaureate participation wasn’t what I was hoping for because “people just don’t do that kind of thing anymore.” Boy, did we put an end to that impression!
On Sunday evening, families and the community, members of the school board and friends watched 59 high school graduates march down the aisle of our Sanctuary. Following the graduates came our high school principle, Mr. David Sauer, and our interim school superintendent, Dr. John Fuller. The processional was complete with several members of our Mineola Ministerial Alliance.
Our sanctuary was full! It was incredible! It was exciting! It was beautiful! The graduates looked so wonderful, obviously honored by the opportunity to participate in the event.
Our guest preacher, Rev. David Bethel, of New Life Church, made us laugh. The soloist and graduating senior, Vanessa Stanley, made us cry with her rendition of Amazing Grace. And we were treated to heart-felt spiritual messages from Mr. Sauer and our own John Fuller.
Thank you doesn’t begin to express my gratitude to all who worked together to make last Sunday night’s Baccalaureate a wonderful success. As well as for those listed above, please say a prayer of thanks to Jean Mabe and Barbara Morgan for providing music, Jeff Hurley for working sound, and Jim Phillips, David Sauer and John Fuller who assisted in lining up the graduates, and all the representatives from the Mineola Ministerial Alliance.
The celebration continued at a reception provided by our Fellowship Committee, complete with yummy goodies and such imaginative decorations. Thank you to Elaine Johnson and her amazing entourage of helpers.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
May 31, 2015
In a group discussion with colleagues the topic made its way around to the various and surprising ways that pastors and congregations navigate seasons of change. I was surprised when one of the pastors said, “Hurricane Ike turned out to be a really great thing for my church.” Upon further explanation, the positive side of things definitely wasn’t the hurricane itself or the devastation it caused. What the pastor meant was that because their church buildings were completely destroyed, it forced the congregation to relocate.
The destroyed facility had become outdated, expensive, cramped, and unusable. The neighborhood around the church had changed significantly in the years since the church had been established and the congregation was ill-equipped to connect and evangelize the residents. Discussions had happened for years about what to do but in the end it was easier to put up with the discomfort and remain disconnected from the unchurched than to sever the emotional attachments to the location and buildings. Then Ike hit.
As painful as it was to lose their buildings and virtually everything in them, they had been given a fresh start, a new beginning. The laity and their pastor didn’t have time to worry about questions like, “What if something goes wrong?” and, “What if so-and-so gets mad?” They could no longer luxuriate in phrases like, “But we’ve never done it like that before!” or “That committee doesn’t have the authority to make that decision.”
The congregation started to get excited about the possibilities. They enjoyed working with the architect in designing what would be needed in each classroom and meeting space. They planned everything to be accessible to the mobility/hearing/sight impaired. They designed their church to be attractive and safe. Their new facility was merely blocks from their original location, but as the newcomers to the neighborhood, they discovered more connections with the unchurched than they had ever imagined.
This example is what Rev. Bill Easum was talking about when he said, “Sacred cows make gourmet hamburgers” in his book by the same title. Bill is retired now but he was my pastor when I joined the United Methodist Church. So here’s my question to you. Church: What advice would Bill give me today? Call me, text me, email me or bless me with your company in person, but please tell me what you think he would say.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
May 17, 2015
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-10,
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
By God’s grace we are saved. Period. We long so badly to add to that statement. For example, it sounds much more logical to say, “By God’s grace and by doing good things we are saved.” Or, “By God’s grace and being baptized we are saved.” “By God’s grace and giving lots of money to the church we are saved.” But it’s simple: By God’s grace we are saved. It’s amazingly simple and incredibly complicated when you really stop and think about it. Our salvation is a gift that must be accepted but it can never, ever, ever, ever, ever be earned. That’s illogical, right? We all know that you get what you pay for. Rewards are earned.
Alas, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts so we might as well wrap our heads around God’s thoughts on grace and get over ourselves.
May 24 is the 275th anniversary of John Wesley’s conversion experience at Aldersgate. It wasn’t a conversion from no faith to faith in Jesus Christ but rather a conversion in his thinking about God’s grace. Wesley was a Christian all his life but had just come through a particularly difficult time in his life prior to this experience. Prior to the Aldersgate experience, Wesley believed that one must be made holy before Christ would reconcile them to God. This conversion was so profound it changed the way he viewed himself and God. Here are his words:
“In the afternoon I was asked to go to St Paul’s. The anthem was, ‘Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice. O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint. If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? But there is mercy with thee; therefore thou slalt be feared. …. O Israel, trust in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.’
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Grace & Peace,
May 10, 2015
Women have been called to preach in the United Methodist Church and its predecessor bodies since Methodism's earliest days. In 1749, Sarah Crosby was converted under the preaching of George Whitefield and John Wesley. By 1761, Crosby was publicly exhorting before nearly two hundred people. She consulted Wesley about her exhorting, because some complained that her exhortation looked and sounded like actual preaching. Wesley told her "...I don't see that you have broken any law. Go on calmly and steadily."
It would be another 207 years from the time Sarah Crosby’s conversion experience in 1749 to 1956, the year our General Conference voted to ordain women as clergy in full connection to the annual conference. That is an example of the kind of work that happens at the General Conference of The United Methodist Church.
General Conference is a gathering of an equal number of elected clergy and laity from around the world. It is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which meets once every four years. The conference can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs.
In preparation for General Conference, our annual conference (consisting of 700 local congregations in our corner of Texas) will be reviewing 13 proposed resolutions for our Book of Discipline. The resolutions range from a rewording of our statement on human sexuality to a resolution on parsonage standards. The resolutions that will come before our annual conference in May of this year are seeking endorsement from the Texas Annual Conference body before sending them forward to General Conference.
As your pastor, I will be attending annual conference in Houston, May 24-27, as will our lay delegate, Charlie Wright. John Fuller, our Finance Committee Chairperson as well as our District Lay Leader, will attend as a district lay delegate.
Please pray for our annual conference and all the delegates for a spirit of unity, respect and the practice of holy conferencing.
If you’d like to read the proposed resolutions, go to www.txcumc.org/tac2015.
Grace & Peace,
May 3, 2015
I believe one of the highest priorities of the church must be ministry to and for children. The Christian faith is a gift to us from God and it is our responsibility and privilege to nurture that gift in our children. (And you’ve probably already figured out that by “our children” I always mean all children.) The statistics indicate that fewer and fewer people check off “Christian” when asked about religious preferences. That, in itself, is a good reason to teach our faith to the young…but that’s not a good enough reason. Let’s not teach our faith to the young because we’re afraid we’re not going to be in the majority. Let’s teach our faith to the young because we want for them the blessing that faith has been to us: the assurance of eternal life, the joy that comes from using our spiritual gifts for God, the encouragement we receive from a community of faith, and opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others by imitating Christ.
A children’s ministry of the church is not simple or inexpensive or one-size-fits-all. An effective children’s ministry creates the conditions where children are nurtured into a relationship with God. It is purposeful, practical, and impactful. Important characteristics of an effective children’s ministry include:
-A commitment to children through adequate funding, personnel, child-friendly worship, planning and policies that protect and empower children
-An approach to Christian education that nurtures the mind, body, and soul of children with appropriate cognitive and practical learning opportunities
-Support for parents in their primary role as spiritual guides for their children
-A deliberate approach to identifying, calling, and developing strong adult leaders through training and adequate preparation
-Careful selection of curriculum and study materials
-Openness to the community, particularly the unchurched, so that children’s ministry becomes a tool of outreach
-Fruitfulness in terms of programmatic vitality, the observable spiritual growth of children, and the nurturance of healthy intergenerational relationships. These characteristics are drawn from the Children’s Ministry Effectiveness Model developed by The LOGOS Ministry.
The fact that we have a children’s ministry that is already well on its way to meeting these criteria is a direct result of our children’s coordinator, Gayle Fuller and the faithful HIS Kids volunteers, Children’s Church helpers, Sunday school teachers, and Vacation Bible School volunteers.
Thanks be to all of them and thanks be to God for giving us the ongoing opportunities to teach our faith to the young and nurture their relationship with Him!
Grace & Peace,
On this Blue Sunday I’d like you to consider the “other side” of an overworked, under-funded system of child protective services. Take a moment to pray for these common but often unnoticed situations…
Please pray for:
-Foster parents who spend hundreds of their own dollars in preparation to be licensed.
-Foster children who are teased and bullied because of situations that exist at no fault of their own.
-Social workers who have impossible numbers of case loads.
-Foster parents who consistently love, teach, and cheer for the children in their care when others give up, get frustrated or ignore.
-Children who love their parents unconditionally.
-Families who are successfully reunited and healthy.
-Teachers who help foster children integrate into a classroom in the middle of the year.
-Therapists, medical personnel, physicians, law enforcement officers, first responders, attorneys, and a host of others who bear the burden of children’s pain by intervening on the children’s behalf.
-Volunteers who make a difference through CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Rainbow Room, Child Advocates, and many other satellite child advocate agencies.
-Churches who minister to the specific needs of children who are abused and neglected, their families and foster families.
-Foster children who are separated from extended family, toys, pets, clothes, friends, teachers, church families, and extra-curricular activities.
Grace & Peace,
Do you ever hear the statement that a person can be a good, ethical, productive member of society without having to be Christian? There’s no argument, really, because basically the statement is true. The information the question is really digging for is: “What difference does it make if I’m a Christian?” This is my answer. I chose to be a good, ethical, productive member of society because I want to be a servant of the living God, not just a volunteer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing volunteerism; lots of great work is done by volunteers. The difference for me as a Christian is that not only do I volunteer, I include Christian witness as part of my work. No, I don’t hit people over the head with the Bible, so to speak, but I also don’t hesitate to let people know that I’m working as a loving response for what God has already done for me. I serve because Christ came to serve and I want to be just like him.
What got me thinking about this is that I’ve learned about a new event called, “Openly Secular Day.” Evidently some people who are “secular,” self-defined as atheist, agnostic, humanists, and free thinkers, feel discriminated against and not fully accepted because they are non-religious. As I listened to several of their testimonials, I was saddened to learn that as a result of a person’s decision to reject religion, they were, in turn, rejected by family, friends and people in their communities. It also made me sad that several of the individuals had been raised in the church, professed to love God at some point, had become disillusioned with religion, and decided to leave the church and abandoned their faith. The purpose of an Openly Secular Day is to recover a sense of community among like-minded people.
How do we, as Christians, walk alongside the non-religious in such a way that we are able to witness to our faith without pushing people away? How can we be zealous about our love for Christ and our genuine desire for others to have the same zeal without being pushy or judgmental? It’s just been on my mind. Now maybe it’s going to be on yours too.
Grace & Peace,
April 12, 2015
Recently I’ve been forced to think a great deal about balance. After my knee scope a couple of weeks ago, I was particularly annoyed at how completely powerless I felt without the use of one leg. Who knew that leg was so important to my mobility? I had to consider every time I sat down, “Is this chair too low? Will I be able to get back up?” And I had to think ahead. If I went to another room what did I have to take with me for any possible situation? Will I need my pain meds? Will I want my Nook? Where should I sit so I can get up to let Klondike out? For a day or so I started wearing a reusable shopping bag around my neck which contained all the stuff I could possibly want or need as I went from room to room. I learned how to manage the crutches and the bag – what a pitiful sight I must have been.
Let me say also, for the sake of transparency, I have only myself to blame for my situation. I had the option of staying with friends where I would have been waited on hand and foot. I had friends offer to come and stay with me too. I declined those offers. Shame on me.
All this gave me a wake-up call, a reminder, a connection that perhaps all of us have been taking for granted. In I Corinthians the Apostle Paul refers to the church as a body with many parts working cooperatively to give an effective witness to the world. He goes on to explain that in the church when one member suffers, all suffer and when one is honored, all are honored. We belong to one another.
One of the foundations of United Methodism is balance, part of which is a balance between clergy and laity. We are all baptized into ministry, clergy to specialized ministry and laity into generalized ministry, and we belong to one another. I’m so very grateful for the high level of commitment and active involvement shown by the laity of this church every day. You never cease to amaze me with your love for Christ, His Church and all people. Being shoulder to shoulder with you in ministry is exciting because God is accomplishing so much through us. We are welcoming more worship guests on Sundays, running out of room for the youth group, increasing in numbers and involvement in UMW and UMM, and anticipating a summer full of ministry and mission opportunities for all ages.
Remain faithful to Christ. Remain faithful for the right reason – to glorify Christ. Remain joyful!
Grace & Peace,
March 22, 2015
At the beginning of the year my automobile insurance company offered to give me a discount on my premium if I participated in a research project about driving habits. Only because they promised that my rates wouldn’t be affected by participating, I agreed. They sent me this nifty device that I plugged into my car and within a week I could look at my driving habits.
If you knew your driving habits were being monitored for harsh stops and starts, speeding, idling, and the distances of every trip made in your car, would your driving habits improve? I admit it; mine did. What I expected to happen did indeed happen, however. I eventually forgot that the device was attached to my car and quit wondering things like “How harsh, exactly, is a harsh stop or start?” And, “Surely I can’t be blamed for setting the cruise control just one or two miles per hour above the speed limit – nobody can get it exactly on the little line, right?”
Then I became even more relaxed. I quit checking the website for my driving reports and within a month I went from forgetting to check to avoiding it altogether. I didn’t want to know how well I was driving, now that starts and stops and speed, etc. weren’t at the front of my thoughts. I was expecting the worst. Finally today I went to the website and was pleasantly surprised that I’ve received 5 out of 5 stars in almost every category. And no, I’m not going to tell you which category I received 2 out of 5 stars.
Accountability is in the DNA of United Methodism but sometimes we’d prefer not to know just how well – or not so well – we’re doing as faithful, close followers of Jesus Christ. He does set the bar pretty high! But if we don’t consistently and honestly share our discipleship challenges and successes with other trusted Christian friends, we can really miss out on needed growth and joy in the journey.
Those handy little “WWJD” bracelets are great but if we’re only asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?” in a particular situation we may not know the right answer and even if we do know what Jesus would do, it doesn’t mean we would! We need the Christian community for many reasons, but to hold one another accountable is one of the top ones.
The Thursday night Bible study, Renegade Gospel, has turned out to be a source of accountability for the class and the leader. We’re asking tough questions, sharing struggles and advice.
Who holds you accountable for your Christian discipleship? If you’ve been to Emmaus, consider joining one of the reunion groups. If you’re in a Sunday school, ask someone to be your accountability partner. If you’re not sure how or where to begin, contact me through the church office. I’d be glad to help you get started.
Grace & Peace,
March 15, 2015
Greetings Friends,True story. In the summer heat of 1947, three young boys were bored.
So they decided to prank some of the folks in their small town just outside
Wichita Falls. They took two burlap bags, filled them with cotton seed and tin
cans and then tied the whole thing up with baling wire so that it looked like a
snake. They figured they would startle a few people and get some laughs but
their project did much more than that.
The boys practiced trailing the “snake” behind them so that their
footprints were destroyed and after they mastered its use they decided it was
time to try out their idea. They placed the snake along the side of a quiet sandy road and waited in the bushes. As luck would have it (for the boys, anyway), a family travelling by became stuck in the sand and upon seeing the snake the mother screamed, the children started crying and everyone pitched in to get the car out of the sand. The family’s report resulted in two Texas Highway patrolmen and a newspaper reporter going to the location in search of this monster snake.
The boys were thrilled and from that point on, news spread. The snake
was sighted in back yards, inside a church, and slithering through fields and
across roads. Some of the sightings were staged by the boys….and others were not. One person reported that the snake was 40 feet in length. A man reported that on a dark night, the snake reared its head as high as the driver’s side window of his truck. Amazingly, the snake was reported seen at the same exact time in two different locations! Fear struck throughout the county and into the next; parents made their children stay inside the house and a reward of $2,000 was offered for the snake’s capture. There were searches for the snake on horseback, in vehicles and even by air. Eventually, suspicion pointed to the boys and the day came when the Sheriff arrived at one of the boys’ homes. No, the boys never were caught but only because one of their older brothers found the snake and burned it.
What a great story, right? You can read more about it at www.thestoryoftexas.com if you want. I heard the story from our district
superintendent, Rev. Sandra Smith. Great big, terrifying, deadly, imaginary snakes are everywhere. They are the harmful misunderstandings and hurtful consequences that result from uninformed and incorrect gossip. They are decisions made (or not made) based on the fear that something might or might not happen. Sometimes a great big, terrifying, deadly snake is really a snake. But sometimes a great big, terrifying, deadly snake is imaginary. Something to think about.
Grace & Peace,
Two significant events in the life of Jesus Christ are remembered and observed during Holy Week. One of those events is the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior and we will observe that sacrifice on Friday, April 3, with a Good Friday service. This will be a powerful service of music, Scripture, prayer, and reflection. It will also include the practice of “Stripping the Church,” during which all sacramental cloths on the Lord’s table, pulpit and lectern, as well as all ornamental or sacramental objects are removed from the Sanctuary. Done in silence, this is a dramatic recognition of the abandonment and rejection of Jesus on the night he went to Gethsemane. You can read the account in the Gospel of John, chapters 18 and 19.
The night before that, however, is a less recognized holy day, Maundy, or Holy Thursday. On Thursday, April 2, we will gather as a community for Maundy Thursday but a very special, very customized service is being planned for our congregation. In chapter 13 of John’s Gospel, we read how Jesus demonstrated how to serve through loving one another. The biblical text tells us that Jesus used water and his own garments to wash the feet of the disciples as a loving act of service toward them. He concludes the act by saying to them, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
Our Maundy Thursday Service will be, rather than a foot-washing, a service of Worship, Prayer, Purification and Healing. We will begin our time together in the Sanctuary with music, Scripture and prayer but then we will all move to various areas of our Pacific Avenue location and pray for cleansing and healing for our church. When prayers have been completed we’ll travel together as one people to the Newsom Avenue location of our church and pray for cleansing and healing in every area of that building as well. We’ll come back together as one large group in the Court of Praise to close our time together with Scripture and music. The hope is that we will worship together as one community of faith, believing and trusting that God is drawing us closer to Him while leading us into the preferred future He has prepared for us.
Our participation in Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) was and is our choice. The “prescriptions” were presented to us as a congregation, we discussed the pro’s and con’s of each one, and in the end voted to accept and begin working on them. The final task in the first prescription is to have a “Service of Prayer and Repentance” led by a someone designated by the annual conference. After much prayer, I told our VCI coach that I feel called by God to lead that service and furthermore, I believe this idea of a service of worship, prayer, purification and healing will be very meaningful for our congregation.
As your pastor, I covet your prayers as the plans for this special service continue to solidify. If the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart and you would like to help me, please contact me.
I continue to be honored to be in ministry with you.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
March 1st, 2015
Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) Update
The mission of our church – of all United Methodist churches, in fact – is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As with any mission, it can be advanced in a number of ways, some more effective than others. Unfocused ministry efforts, however, are costly in time, morale and money.
An alternative is to approach ministry in a way that capitalizes on a church’s unique passions, resources and abilities and prioritizes ministry efforts. To take that a step further, the church must then match herself to the ministry needs of her members and the community in which she serves. This is the process of discovering a vision for the church.
The vision answers the question, “How can we be most fruitful in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” Our answer won’t be the same as any other church! God expects us to be the best First United Methodist Church in Mineola that we can possibly be.
Everyone is invited to participate in the process of discovering our church vision. The first step is to attend a VISIONING WORKSHOP led by our congregational coach, Steve Stutz, on Saturday, April 11 from 9:00 a.m. – Noon. It’s important that there be a good representation from all of the various groups in our congregation including men’s and women’s groups, Sunday school classes, and Bible studies. There should be representation of all ages and stations of life as well.
Date: Saturday, April 11th
Time: 9:00 a.m. – Noon
Location: Ministry Center’s Court of Praise
*All are invited *Snacks will be served
*Child care is available upon request
February 22, 2015
People occasionally ask me how I choose what I’m going to preach about and how do I know which scripture passage to use. Fortunately I can answer, “I don’t have to choose either.” Let me explain. Planning and leading worship are two of the most important responsibilities I have. They are also two of the most enjoyable and rewarding responsibilities I have. I was taught and I believe that the sermon itself is not the central or climax of worship. Instead I believe that the sermon is one component of an entire worship experience for God’s people.
So, as we move through the liturgical seasons of the church (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost/Kingdomtide), I follow the Revised Common Lectionary. The RCL is a calendar and table of suggested scripture readings for a three-year cycle. The readings for each Sunday and holy day – typically one each from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels – are meant for the weekly service of worship on the Lord’s Day. It provides a systematic approach to the use of Scripture in worship. The RCL is not uniquely United Methodist; it’s used by many denominations. Its use is voluntary and I like it because I’m never tempted to use only those scriptural passages that I like, am comfortable with, or fit my personal take on things.
Once I’ve read and prayed over the lectionary readings for a particular Sunday or holy day, I select one of them as the focal point of the sermon. I typically spend 6-8 hours in sermon preparation including prayer, study, review of a wide range of biblical commentaries, and consideration of the season and state of the church. I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide my thoughts, writing, and delivery of the sermon. My goal is to follow the Spirit and not my own agenda.
With the help of the worship committee, the worship services are designed to create an atmosphere for worship where the hearts of the people connect with the heart of God. The calls to worship, prayers, music, children’s sermon, and sermon are all integrated by that chosen lectionary selection from the Bible.
Worship is the work of the people. If you want to connect at a deeper level with God, here are some suggestions: 1) Be prayed up before you come to worship, 2) Resist the temptation to “check out” of worship, and 3) Decide ahead of time that God has something special just for you every time you open your heart for worship.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
February 15, 2015
I invite you to observe a holy season of Lent. Our United Methodist Book of Worship describes it like this: “Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penitence by all Christians.
From Holy Thursday through sunset Easter Day are the climax of Lent (and of the whole Christian year) and a bridge into the Easter Season. These days proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. During these days, the community journeys with Jesus from the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the garden.”
During the season of Lent, Christians are invited to observe this forty-day season as a serious time of spiritual preparation by practicing a spiritual discipline. I invite you, then, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. Keep in mind that all of these practices are more than just “giving up” something that doesn’t really matter to us anyway. The practice of these particular spiritual disciplines are about reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for each one of us on the cross. Do more than read about it in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; really meditate on the account of the crucifixion. Do more than pray a laundry list of things for God to do; spend time in quiet, listening to God. Fast from one meal each day and donate that meal time for volunteer service or the money you might have spent on food to buy food to donate to the hungry.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and we’ll observe Ash Wednesday by worshiping together at 6:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary on N. Pacific.
Grace & Peace,
February 8, 2015
The mission of the church is to reach out to those within the community, receive them as they are, relate them to God, nurture and equip them, and send them back into the community in order to make the community a more loving and just place in which to live. With that in mind, the United Methodist Men’s Foundation established an Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting Ministries. The purpose of this office is to promote the use of programs across the Church and to help local congregations understand how they might use civic youth-serving agencies as an outreach ministry within their community.