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

ThoughtFull by Dorena Williamson–Book Review

I reviewed Dorena Williamson’s book ColorFull a while back and loved it, so I was eager to take a look at ThoughtFull.  This second book does not disappoint — the story is just as engaging and beautifully illustrated as the first.  Subtitled “Discovering the Unique Gifts in Each of Us” it encourages young children to appreciate the differing personalities and gifts of others.

ThoughtFull: Discovering the Unique Gifts in…

Ahana Robinson, a young Down’s Syndrome boy receives an award for being a good friend.  He has the spiritual gift of encouragement.  His friend, Joshua notices that some kids tease Ahana because he is different.  This empathy reveals Joshua’s own spiritual gift –mercy.

Joshua’s dad comments:

“If kids and adults worked at discovering the unique gifts in other people, we could all be all be thoughtFull.”

On the last page parents and teachers will find a Bible verse to help children remember the main point of the story, as well as some “thoughtful” questions to reinforce the lesson.

VERDICT:  Highly recommended.  I give this book five stars!

Time to Confess

“Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

I hate to admit it, but I’m not a cheerful giver.  I always want to hang on to things and people tightly.  Now this can be good — it makes me loyal and persevering in relationships, for example;  but when it comes to being generous, it’s a bad thing.  I could make excuses and tell you I have an anxious personality, so I get worried that I may not be able to take care of myself if I give away too much.  Or I could explain that my grandparents grew up during the depression and they taught me to be excessively frugal and worried about money.  None of this gets me off the hook, however.  God wants me to give cheerfully to others, and often I don’t.

What do I do about this?  Well, as with other spiritual disciplines (and giving is a spiritual discipline), I start where I am, and try to grow.  When I’m asked to give financially, I give an amount I am comfortable with, and then I give some more.  When I’m asked to give of my time ( and I find my problems with this often come about because I don’t want to disrupt my plans or routine), I remind myself that I’m retired now, and my plans can usually be postponed or changed without causing a problem.  I also have the advantage of having a generous, godly husband and two daughters with the gift of mercy.  When it comes to matters of giving, I try to let one of them take the lead and I follow their example.

Has it worked?  Well, I still don’t always give cheerfully.  I’m seldom spontaneously generous.  It will never be my gift.  But I have grown.  I’m not where I ought to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either.  As our author, Michele says, I’m a work in progress, both saint and sinner.

I’m open to other suggestions.  Readers and authors, how do you practice generosity?  Have you grown in this discipline?

Image result for saint and sinner image and ok with it