The End of the Beginning?

Last week the Fanning the Flame team had our last face-to-face meeting with our coach, Joe Weatherly.  He will still be available to us, by email and phone, and all the resources available from the ministry will be ours as well.  However, He will no longer be reaching out to us — we must reach out to him.  Like baby chicks we’re spreading our wings and going out on our own to apply what we’ve learned.

Joe explained that although our meetings are over, this is not the end of Fanning the Flame as St.  Paul’s.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  It is possibly, the end of the beginning of our efforts to revitalize our church.

Where will we go from here?  Well, our team will keep meeting.  We’ll go back to the beginning and choose another strategy for improving the health of our congregation, and we’ll decide how to work on it.  Our first strategy, small groups, is already up and running.  We’ll keep praying.  We’ll keep reading books and learning.  We’ll grow in faith, and hopefully, what we’ve learned and done, will spread out through the congregation and even into the community.

Has it been worth it?  I think so.  I’ve grown in my faith as an individual, and I’m sure other team members have as well.  I’ve learned some practical things about running a meeting, starting a new ministry or mission and persevering in spiritual disciplines.  There has been an impact on our congregation as well.  The pot is bubbling.  What will rise up?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Keep praying of St. Paul’s dear readers.  God is not done with us yet!

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Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper–Book Review

This book review was written by Barbara M., one of our Fanning the Flame team members and presented at our last meeting.

Part 1 discusses making God supreme in missions through worship, prayer and suffering.  He discusses missions not being the ultimate goal of the church — worship is because God is ultimate, not man. When the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity, but worship abides forever. He uses a lot of Biblical texts to “back up” his statements and he uses many statements to make his point.

Part 2 discusses making God supreme in missions — the necessity and nature of the task.  The supremacy of Christ as the conscious focus of all saving faith and the supremacy of God among all the nations is the focus of this section, which also has many Biblical texts to back up his statements.  Emphasis is made regarding reaching all the nations.

Part 3 discusses making God supreme in missions –the practical outworking of compassion and worship.  Piper says that Jonathan Edwards (18th century pastor and theologian) impacted his thinking regarding worship and missions “so much it is incalculable.”  He says if by the mercy of God, Christ becomes the treasure of the nations and God becomes their delight, then He is honored and we are saved — the goal of missions.  Therefore the twofold motive of missions, mercy for man and glory for God, is one coherent goal.  Also discussed was the inner simplicity and outer freedom of world wide worship.

There is a four page conclusion and then an “afterword” by Tom Sellar, Pastor for Leadership Development, Bethlehem Baptist and Dean of Bethlehem College and Seminary.  Some of the above descriptions of the book are taken in part of whole from the book itself.

 

Missions at the Local Church Level–Fanning the Flame CD

This past weekend, our Fanning the Flame team listened to a talk on CD given by Tom Cheely of Briarwood Church on the topic of missions at the local church level.

In the 12th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is told,

“all the people on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen 12:3

and in Matthew 28, Jesus instructs the disciples:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:18

The key is that the Good News is for “all nations” — it is not right to eliminate anyone in our efforts to spread the Gospel.

Here are the points Mr. Cheely made in his presentation on missions.

  1. The Pastor and lay leaders must publicly and vocally support missions in the church.  They must teach and live the work of God in the community, nation and the world.
  2. Ministry needs to be done by the church members.  If it is only the job of the Pastor, when he leaves, he will take the mission ministry of the congregation with him.
  3. There should be written policies and guidelines for ministry:  i.e. what types, times and locations of ministry will the congregation be involved in?  Without proper research and prayer, ministry will fail.  This is also a teaching tool to assist lay leaders in administering the program.
  4. There should be aggressive prayer ministry for missions.  God responds to us when we pray for his guidance.
  5. Ministry has a cost.  This can be a line item in the budget, a specific percentage of collections (both of these approaches are limiting) or it can be faith promised giving, leaving the results in the hands of God.  It may mean an adjustment in lifestyle for individuals:   for example, examining whether the things we do are always essential or necessary, or it may mean taking a second job to earn more to give away.  Ministry also takes people.  We need to be willing to give up people in our congregation so that they can be bearers of the Word in other places.
  6. We must be conscious of the world around us, and reach out to those who are not like us.  This might involve short term mission work, across town or in another country.
  7. We must share what we’ve learned with others in order to help other congregations with ministry development and discipleship in ministry.

Above all, remember this:  MISSION OUTREACH IS NOT AN OPTION.  It is what we have been commanded to do as the Body of Christ.

 

 

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer–Book Review #2

If you’re paying attention you may have noticed that Michele already reviewed this book a while back.  Her review piqued my interest, so I asked to borrow the book.  It did not disappoint, and I wanted to add my impressions to hers.

Many small churches these days are struggling.  They find themselves in competition with the “megachurches” who have far more programs, people and resources.  They become discouraged.  Some give in and give up.

Thom Rainer gives churches in this situation hope.  He tells them, “God is not done with you yet.”  His examples show that small churches can thrive and grow when they develop “scrappy” attributes.  He believes there is a resurgence of the neighborhood church.

First of all, a congregation cannot be defensive.  They must take ownership, correcting problems within the church and poor attitudes.  They must be tenacious.  They must love other churches and see them as partners, not competitors.  They must turn first to prayer, then to an outward focus toward ministry in the community around them and to becoming a welcoming church in the best sense of the word.  They must work at assimilating new and existing members into church ministries.

He emphasizes the benefits of small group ministry and new member classes.  He also suggests having a “secret visitor” attend services and fill out a survey to help the church evaluate their success in welcoming visitors and making them comfortable.

VERDICT:  5 stars.  I’m recommending my husband and our church council read this one!  This book contains many of the same ideas we’ve discussed in our Fanning the Flame process and gives me real hope for St. Paul’s.  I think we’re on the right track. If you want to purchase your own copy, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/scrappy-church-P005812466

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

Talk To Me by Dean Nelson — Book Review

The subtitle of this book is:  How to ask better questions, Get better answers and Interview anyone lie a pro.  At this point you may be wondering, “why is Joan reviewing this book for the blog?”  Stay tuned while I explain, as there are several reasons.

My job on our Fanning the Flame team is Spiritual Gifts Coordinator.  That means I “interview” our members about their spiritual gifts, passions and hobbies.  All of this information is then recorded in a database for use by the Pastor, church leaders and committees so that people are able to use their abilities in ministry.  I actually wish I had come across this book earlier in the process.  Although Dean Nelson is a journalist, and that is his focus, it is chock full of useful information including:

  • How to get people to talk to you in the first place
  • How to make people comfortable during the interview
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • How to take notes
  • How to interview people you like and people you don’t like

Above all, he encourages interviews to know and remember the why of a particular interview, and to stay focused.  Here’s an important quote:

“Keep in mind that you’re interviewing the person to reveal what the person is about and to get information about a particular topic.  You want their perspective, their insight, their unique point of view, their anecdotes,  their expertise their wisdom, their personality, their ability to point you to a greater understanding.  So get out of the way, and let the person talk to you.”

He makes the point, and it’s a good one, that we all interview others every day.

One of the things I’ve learned from the Fanning the Flame process is to take advantage of secular wisdom when it’s appropriate, and this is a good example.  It’s also Biblical.  Remember the parable of the shrewd manager?

“For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The shrewd manager was commended for his diligence and cleverness in dealing with a problem.  As Christians, we can also use worldly knowledge for heavenly purposes, when it’s appropriate.  Our Fanning the Flame coach has recommended other secular books, and maybe he’ll add this one to the list.

I can even make a case for fitting Talk to Me into our monthly theme, since we are instructed to “speak with one another.”  That speaking should be without letting our ego get in the way (as Dean Nelson recommends) and with an earnest desire to know and to understand a brother or sister in Christ.

VERDICT:  I give this book five stars.  If you are involved in interviewing others in any way, you’ll find it quite readable and a good resource!

Mercy Ministry & Evangelism — Fanning the Flame CD

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38

I gathered with some other Fanning the Flame team members recently to listen to a CD lecture by Pastor Harry Reeder on the topic of mercy ministries.

Pastor Reeder called mercy ministries “the gateway to the kingdom of God” and the preeminent strategy for evangelism.  Unfortunately in our churches we often regard such ministries as simply a drain on our resources.  The greatest mission field is those who are in need of mercy.  Most of our evangelism efforts center around gospel words, but some won’t listen to those words until they see our gospel deeds —  deeds of love mercy and justice.

Here’s what will happen when we undertake mercy ministries:

  • God will be glorified because the world will see a full picture of authentic Christianity
  • People will be influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Our own members will be encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they are incorporated into ministry

He did have a word of warning.  It is important to ensure that the ministries undertaken are constructive.  They should take time to teach that God has a purpose for pain and suffering and that He can take our brokenness and use it.  Those who are suffering are not victims, and we must love them, not tolerate them, building on improving self respect rather than guilt and shame.

Here are some of the steps Pastor Reeder’s recommends:

  • Make mercy and mercy ministry a part of the congregational culture
  • Do Bible study and preaching that will lead members to develop a theology of mercy
  • Equip people to be involved in mercy ministry as part of discipleship training
  • Pray for a champion for this ministry
  •  Ask God to reveal a starting point for the ministry
  • Make sure mercy ministry is gospel-driven, Christ-centered and has evangelism embedded in it
  • Create a project/s that allow a low level of commitment and an ending date to encourage people to give it a try
  • Make sure leaders take responsibility for the project
  • Be strategic–impel and compel others to get involved

For me, the real eye opener is the idea that mercy ministry should be the 1ST strategy for evangelism.  As spiritual gifts coordinator, I have discoved that we have few people with the gift of evangelism, but many with the gift of mercy.  We can do this.

Have You Seen Jesus?

One of the questions our Fanning the Flame coach asks us at each meeting is, “Where have you seen God at work this month?”  A friend on the team said to me, “I don’t understand why we’re doing this.  God is at work all the time, it isn’t a rarity we need to point out.”  Well, yes and no.  God is always at work, the problem is we become distracted and fail to notice what’s right in front of us.  The question is really just a reminder to open our eyes and pay attention.  This isn’t something new, the disciples had the same tendency.

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” John 21:4

There’s a song we use of Via de Cristo weekends that expresses the same thought.  It’s called, “Have You Seen Jesus, My Lord?”  Listen to it and look for Jesus in the events and people around you today.