How it Works–The Fanning the Flame process, Part 3

Continued from yesterday …..

A thought dawned on me:  for years our congregation had bemoaned our lack of young people.  In years past, large Sunday School classes filled the church each week.  “Where are all the children now?”  we asked.  I felt God answering, “Here are some of my children who need you.  Will you help them?”

We’re starting small.  The plan is to host some of the children two evenings each month.  We’ll have snacks, library books to choose, and a program which will include Bible study, games or a movie.  Our first meeting in mid-May was a success.  The girls especially loved my peanut butter chocolate chip bars and they are interested in baking classes to learn to bake for themselves.  Some have come to church on Sundays.  God is definitely at work.  We don’t know exactly where we’re going or what will happen next, but we know who’s leading the way.

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How It Works–The Fanning the Flame Process, Part 2

Continued from yesterday …..

We were already serving meals at a local mission in partnership with another AFLC congregation.  A hospitality team formed to continue that ministry and begin adding monthly collections to help other caring ministries —everything from the local crisis pregnancy center to a women’s ministry in India.  Some of us began making “blessing bags” of supplies for the homeless and carrying them in our cars to hand out.  We were on the right track, but we still didn’t have a congregational ministry that was uniquely ours.

About this time, our daughter, Beth, went to work at Brook Lane, a nonprofit organization that offers mental heal services.  Beth has the gift of mercy, and a passion for children.  At Brook Lane she began working as a direct caregiver to adolescent girls in their residential facility.  Many of these girls are wards of the state and live at Brook Lane due to a history of neglect or abuse.  Some leave fairly quickly to live with foster families, some return to their own homes, but many are there for quite a while.

The education program includes certified special education teachers, behavioral specialists, clinical social workers and nurses.  Related services offered are psychiatry, psychology, art therapy, addictions counseling, family therapy and speech/language therapy.  Part of Beth’s job was to take the teens in her care to activities in the area — the YMCA, the local park, the movies and so on.  Our church had started a Little Free Library and we are just a few miles from Brook Lane.  I suggested that she bring her charges over for books.

stay tuned for the final section tomorrow ……

How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1

This article was published in The Lutheran Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine.  It gives you a look at how the whole Fanning the Flame Process is working at St. Paul’s.  

I’m a member of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Md.. Located in a small village, the congregation has grown smaller and the membership older over the years.  In an effort to become healthier, we embarked this year on a program of revitalization called “Fanning the Flame.”  Our ten-member team has been meeting, studying, and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts.  During this time of spiritual introspection, God has revealed our need to change our focus.  We must look outside of ourselves into our neighborhood, community and even the world.  We are small, but God still has a purpose for us.

Many member participated in a spiritual gift assessment to learn how we, as individuals and as a group, are best suited to serve God.  As Romans 12:6-8 says.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve;  if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;  if it is giving, then give generously;  if it is to lead, do it diligently;  if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

One of the most prominent gifts in our congregation is the gift of mercy.  This gift is the special ability God gives to some members of His body to feel empathy and compassion for other people who are dealing with physical, mental or emotional problems, and to translate their empathy into deeds that reflect the love of Christ.  (For a listing of all the spiritual gifts see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4).

People with the gift of mercy are naturally attracted to caring ministries, ministries that help people meet all sorts of needs.  Caring ministries are also a great way to evangelize.  Why?  According to Pastor Harry Reeder, who developed Fanning the Flame, here’s what can happen when a congregation undertakes mercy ministry:

  • First, God is glorified because others see the gospel in action
  • Then, people are influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Last, church members are encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they participate in ministry

Since more than 50 percent of our members have the gift of mercy, it seemed like a no-brainer.  St. Paul’s needed to invest in mercy ministry.  Where would we start?

…… to be continued

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!

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