November 22, 2015
Today is Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. We observe Christ the King on the last Sunday after Pentecost, which is also the last Sunday of the Christian year and the Sunday before the new year begins with Advent. According to our Book of Worship (page 419), traditionally Christ the King is set aside as a celebration of the coming reign of Jesus Christ and the completion of creation.
It is a good day to remind ourselves of the difference between the kings we know on earth and the heavenly king we worship and expect to rule one day in the future. The “in-between” time, until the return of Jesus, is an odd time for Christians because we are called to live in the kingdom God has established in the church, where God’s will is done, and at the same time to anticipate the kingdom to come when Christ will rule over all.
I challenge you to consider what our world would look like now if Christ reigned over it. We may be tempted to say, “Well, if Jesus were completely in charge right now, those people would be in deep trouble!” Or, “If God’s kingdom was fully known right here and now, things would be much easier for Christians!” I suppose those are two ways of looking at it.
Another way to look at it is that when Christ comes in final victory we will all be held accountable for what we have done and what we have left undone. Nobody is exempt. There will be no such thing as those people because we will all be them. So what are Christians to do?
We are called to cooperate with God in expanding the kingdom God has already begun here on earth. We can work with each other rather than against one another. We can discover opportunities to be in ministry with those who are not yet in a relationship with Jesus Christ and tell them, show them, invite them to enjoy that blessing.
We quite often say, “God is good…All the time! And all the time…God is good!” If we believe that, truly believe that, it is our proclamation that God is able and standing ready to bring good out of every single situation. When we lose hope for our society, doubt the integrity of our elected leaders, wonder if the economy is ever going to be strong, or have no confidence in the future…that’s when Christians look around and say, “Well, God. I can’t wait to see what good you’re going to bring about out of this!” We have to trust that God is doing grace-work behind the scenes of our lives and in human history.
But it doesn’t end there. We are also called, as Christians who have committed our lives to the rule of Christ and to the anticipation of Christ’s return, to help God make “good” happen all the time. What can you do today to point out grace to the nay-sayers? How can you be the one to remind your family or your Sunday school or anyone else that God is good all the time?
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! May your holiday be laced together with a grateful heart. We’ll celebrate the first Sunday of Advent next week with dressing our worship areas for the season. Advent lasts for four weeks until Christmas Eve/Day when finally we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Decide today that your Christmas will be holy rather than secular.
Grace & Peace,
November 15, 2015
I’m so thankful to the acolytes who bless us with their ministry every Sunday at both worship services. Have you noticed how reverent and attentive to detail they are?
Their role in worship may be for only a few minutes at the beginning and end but their role is incredibly important. The word acolyte is taken from an ancient Greek word that meant companion, attendant, or helper. In some churches, acolytes are called servers. The responsibility of an acolyte is to light and extinguish the candles on or near the communion table. When the acolytes bring the light (fire) into the worship space, they are bringing in the light of Christ. Since ancient times, light and fire have reminded people that God is here with us
The acolyte’s tool is a candlelighter which is long-handled with a wick running the length of the lighter. The wick is exposed at the end of the lighter and the lighter is topped with a bell-shaped extinguisher. The acolyte brings the light of Christ into the worship space before any official act of worship has begun. The candles on the communion table represent the dual nature of Christ: human and God. If there are two acolytes, the candles are lighted at the same time; if one acolyte, the candle on the right is lighted first. Any other candles are lighted after the two main candles. Once lighted, the candlelighter flame should be extinguished because the symbolism is that Christ is present in worship at the front of the peoples’ worship space.
Following the formal acts of worship, the acolyte brings an unlighted candlelighter to the communion table, retrieves the light of Christ in reverse order as they were lighted, and takes the light out of the worship space and symbolically into the world.
On special occasions, acolytes may be part of a larger processional for worship. In those instances, an acolyte might carry the first of the procession as a crucifer (cross carrier), holding a processional cross on a long pole called a staff. Second in order of procession would be torchbearers carrying large lighted candles on a staff. Next is the flag bearer who brings in a worship banner and the last acolytes would bring in the light of Christ. Following the acolytes are lay worship leaders, then clergy and finally (if present) the bishop.
We are blessed to have such wonderful acolytes! Thank you for adding such beauty and meaning to our worship!
Grace & Peace,
November 8, 2015
This past fall has been the most busy I can remember having in my years of service to the Church. We have made great progress in Vibrant Church Initiative and people occasionally ask me, “Are we done with that yet?” The answer is no, we’re not “done” with it and in the broader sense we never will be done with it. And that’s a very, very good thing.
We don’t want the VCI to come to an end because the adoption of our prescriptions and the works of ministry they represent were meant to be a starting point, not a destination. The enthusiasm that has erupted amongst us is not of human origin, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit guiding, correcting, teaching, and leading us into the beautiful future God has prepared for us to enjoy. Indulge me if you already know the accomplishments we have made in the past year and allow me to recap:
-We introduced ourselves to hundreds of households in our community through the Christmas Neighborhood Walks,
- We offered a safe place to grieve at our Blue Christmas Service,
- We took advantage of opportunities for lay leadership training and development, Bible studies, and fellowship events,
- We prayed over every inch of both campuses when we came together for the prayer and healing service on Maundy Thursday,
- We hosted the Baccalaureate Service for the Mineola high school graduating seniors and their families,
- We have shared our resources (facilities, financial, presence) so that community service groups could enjoy great success in ministry,
- We have begun the process of staff assessments so that all church employees have a greater understanding of the expectations of ministry and a sense of appreciation,
- We have enjoyed holy successes in the areas of the placement of lay leadership and faithful stewardship of our financial resources,
- We have grown in number and discipleship in ways that defy explanation but for the work of God.
Giving kudos to our participation in VCI is only part of it, a big part of it, certainly. But that’s not to say the prayers of faithful church members, the willingness on the part of many to embrace necessary changes, and the perseverance of our church leadership was in any way insignificant!
So, thank you, Church! Thank you for your faithfulness to Christ through the First United Methodist Church in Mineola. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are a light to the community and beyond. We are a source of compassion, support, community action, God’s mercy and grace. Thank you. Good holy work. Now, let’s continue!
Grace & Peace,
November 1, 2015
What a beautiful Sunday it is today! Even as I write this article on the Monday before All Saints Day Communion Sunday, I know our time together on November 1, will be a time of remembering, sadness and celebration. This special day is a time set apart for the entire community – in our congregation, that means both of our worshiping bodies coming together – to honor those members of our church who have gone on to glory in the past year. Our immediate focus will be on celebrating how our loved ones influenced us in our faith while they were with us here on earth. Their names will be called, the bell will be tolled and a rose will be presented in their memory and honor, and all of this in the midst of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The promise of our Lord, Jesus, is that he has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in the home of God the Father. In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:18-19 NRSV) We have a place in the presence of God!
And now for us, as we remain here in this part of our lives, we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The example we give to others, whether we are in a time of trial or of celebration, our true selves come out in our language and deeds. Who do people see when they watch you? Do others hear words of grace when you speak or something else? When you boast, do you boast in what God has done for you, how God has blessed you or do you boast in your own accomplishments? Think for just a moment about how the saints who have gone before you have formed your faith…was it done in such a way that you want to emulate it? It makes a difference, doesn’t it? Live your life now so that when you are honored as a saint someday people will find a good example of Christian discipleship and faith.
In our communion liturgy it says, “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” There is room at the table for everyone and in my vision, the table is round so that there is no place of human honor, only honor to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
God bless you, especially if you are a family member or friend of one of the saints whose name we call today during communion. May God give you peace. Amen.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
October 28, 2015
Why do we have stewardship emphasis month?
There are several good reasons. One reason is because it raises awareness. Some folks weren’t
raised in the church or have recently returned to church and aren’t familiar with the spiritual discipline of
financially supporting the church. Others don’t realize that the ministries and activities of the church operate
solely on the financial support of its members. Most importantly, Stewardship Emphasis Month is the time
when we all learn and re-learn that financial giving to the church is an act of worship. Christian disciples are
given the responsibility of being stewards over everything God has given us and our tithes and offerings are
tangible expressions of thanksgiving to God.
What is a tithe?
Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, God instructs the people to give a “tithe,” or a tenth of their
first fruits. Tithes were expected to be the best, off-of-the-top 10% of their grain, oil, livestock or goods.
(See Numbers 18, Deuteronomy 14)
Today, a tithe is a financial gift of 10% of the disciple’s income. Although there is debate among some
as to whether we should tithe on our gross or adjusted income, a biblical tithe is on our “first fruits,” which
would be our gross income.
What does Jesus Christ teach about giving to God?
Actually, Jesus talks more about money than anything else! In fact, he instructs people to give
everything to God. (Jesus) said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21b) The key is, however, that Jesus instructed us to
give joyfully! We’re not to “give until it hurts” – this isn’t a financial work-out. But we are to give with the
belief and trust that giving our financial resources to Christ through the Church leads to joy.
Why do I need to give financially?
We believe that all things are from God, including our ability to earn money. We believe that all our
blessings are merely “on loan” to us from God, whether that is the ability we have, the money we earn, the
children we raise, or the bodies for which we care. Our tithes and offerings are concrete expressions of
thankfulness to and trust of God. We need to give financially because it causes us to make God our number
one priority. Think of this: every decision you make is a financial decision and every financial decision is a
spiritual decision. When you look at your bank statement and your credit card statement, what does it say
about your priorities?
I hope this article helps answer some of the common questions about stewardship. For those who have
never made a financial commitment to Christ through the church, I hope you’ll do so for 2016. The blessings
Grace & Peace,
Have you noticed the wellspring of excitement around this year’s Iron Horse Festival? Our church has chosen the Iron Horse Festival to be our “Bridge to Community” event this fall because it’s an incredible opportunity to get our church’s name out to people, to show off the great stuff God is doing in and through our church, and to connect with people who we may not otherwise have an opportunity to connect with. This will be an intentional effort to share the love of God, our faith, and our desire to serve our neighbors.
We will have four booths at the festival, providing us plenty of room for children’s games, a cake walk, door prizes, space to pray with the community and share with people about the ministries of our church. Everybody knows that for most people it’s really hard to walk into a room or event when you don’t know anyone. It’s our sincere hope that we’ll have conversations that are personal enough that moms and dads and grandparents and foster parents, etc. feel comfortable joining us for worship, Sunday school and service projects in Mineola.
Already there are over 40 of us wearing the church’s Iron Horse Festival t-shirts. Over 50 of our church members and friends have volunteered to be present in our booths, doing the ministry of Jesus Christ. Imagine! We’ll be in the center of town meeting hundreds of people! This is an amazing opportunity. So don’t be left out. If you haven’t already, sign up to help with games or praying or face painting, etc. It’ll be so much fun.
Let me remind you: IT TAKES A CONGREGATION TO MAKE A DISCIPLE
One way congregations make disciples is by developing an atmosphere is welcoming, inviting, encouraging, and empowering. Two major factors this process are attentiveness to God and faith development of every person
Evangelism is, at its heart, sharing faith with others, particularly with who are unchurched or disconnected, and inviting them to follow Jesus Christ as Christian disciples. Effective congregations develop a disciple-making system that welcomes and invites, equips, and sends disciples in ministry. Growing congregations receive new persons on profession their faith, not just transfers from other churches.
Volunteering to be with other church members at the Iron Horse Festival booth will take a couple hours out of your day. It could change the life of someone who meets you there.
Grace & Peace,
In a sluggish economy many of us are living paycheck (or Social Security check or retirement funds) to paycheck. The mailbox is full of credit cards offers that promise to give us power over our future happiness. Our culture inundates us with messages about debts and deficits – it’s no wonder we’re anxious about money. Our anxiety causes us to operate out of a sense of scarcity, as though there won’t be enough to do everything we want to do as soon as we want to do it. Has your blood pressure gone up yet?
Anxiety. Scarcity. Fear. In response to that, II Timothy says, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardIce (fear), but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (II Timothy 1: 7) When thinking about personal or church finances, I try to keep that verse at the forefront of my mind because it’s all too easy to be anxious and worry about the “what if’s.” What if my car breaks down? What if my health goes downhill? The questions are endless. But if I keep God’s word in front of it all, the questions don’t out-number the instances God has provided more than enough. The “what if something bad happens” becomes “what if I trusted God with…?” If my car breaks down, what if I trust God to help me figure out alternative transportation or find a mechanic who will allow me to make payments? What if I trust God?
We can be strong and secure in God’s promises to provide for us in all aspects of our lives. Sometimes it takes some reconditioning on our part, either by rearranging our priorities or changing the way we think about things, but God can be counted on to provide.
Begin to reflect, pray about and consider the resources God has given you: time, financial, emotional, spiritual, material, etc. What kind of a steward are you?
Three years ago I realized I was being irresponsible with my financial resources and I came to the point where I was ready to practice some of the self-discipline referred to in the writings of Timothy. I was tired of ending every month with the majority of my expendable income, such as it was, going to credit cards, restaurants and impulse buys (some of you know what those are…) So I contacted my credit card companies and worked out a plan to pay them off. I started cooking instead of eating fast food. And I made myself hold onto every single receipt, sharing them with a trusted friend who kept me accountable for my purchases. It’s been a long road and I’ve had some difficult lessons in money management but I can honestly say that I’m a better steward. I can also say that I feel in control of my money instead of feeling that my money controls me.
I have tithed for a number of years now, occasionally falling short but for the most part staying on track with my giving to whichever church I have been appointed. I share that, not as a point of bragging because it’s all because God has taught me and led me in that direction. I share that because the benefit I wasn’t expecting to have as a result of tithing is the increased love I have for each church I have served and the increased feeling of genuine interest I have for the well-being and vitality of each of the churches. Why was I surprised? God promised a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 o