Thursday, October 30, 2008

Going Public?

I’ve asked the Session for permission to put a link to this blog on Faith’s website!

A far cry from “Hugging Introverts” back in February 2007, those of you that have supported me know this is a big step. But I feel that the blog entries I have been moved to write are individually helpful and encouraging to individuals struggling with some faith questions like I have. Taken as a collection I feel they are illustrative of, at least some aspects, of a Christian journey. I have tried to keep the entries objective and balanced and usually approach controversial points through questions rather than statements.

This is a big step for the Session too! This is more than simply approving an article for the website. It is approving a blogger and a continuing series of entries. It is approving the openness of comments to those entries and the dialog that will result. It is establishing a precedent that could lead to other blog links. The decision must be a deliberate one.

For the Session it is an issue of control, trust, and being open enough to allow God’s story to be told in many voices. For those of you that have read the Emerging Culture report, this decision will directly address recommendation 6a; “Define guidelines and boundaries for publicly viewable information and blogs. Foster open group and team communication.” And I hope my recent entries on the West Huntsville Elementary activity illustrate the “connection between our responsibility of witness and the emerging culture’s need for experience through the use of blogs. Combining cold information and personal witness by blogging mission and other activities [that] will spur personal involvement.”

So I don’t expect approval soon or without discussion but that’s OK. I am not a routine blogger and generally don’t write unless I feel the Spirit move me. I don’t want to write just to get something out there. So I also want the Session to hear out the Holy Spirit on this decision.

In the mean time, forward the blog address to whomever you wish and please pray for the right decision, whatever that may be.

Peace, Dave

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Building Trust

I attended the breakfast and work session at West Huntsville Elementary School (WHES) yesterday morning. Along with about 60 other folks from Faith, Principal Johnson, and several of her teachers! Madison County Commission Chairman Mike Gillespie also attended. After breakfast and opening comments, prayer, and singing we fanned out to do some hands on work. There was some landscaping cleanup in the front of the school, some library work, and some assessment of needs for the “Parent Portable”. With that many hands, the work went quickly. It was a very good morning!

In the opening comments, Frank, Ms. Johnson, and Mr. Gillespie emphasized the partnering aspects of this new relationship between Faith and WHES. This partnering relationship is something Faith needs to consider carefully and understand.

More than a few folks seemed disappointed that we couldn’t accomplish more yesterday morning. Everybody saw needs and wanted to run out and get this, or do that, right then. Those urges are good, showing that hearts are in the right place, but we need to keep in mind the broader purpose of God’s plan in this partnership. In these very early stages it’s about building trust between the partners!

As someone said, WHES is Ms. Johnson’s house! You wouldn’t want someone coming into your house telling you what you need to do. We need to build the dialog and trust to determine together how we can help most. As an example, the portable needs some interior painting. I suspect WHES parents are hard strapped to find time to contribute a lot of help to WHES. Perhaps we need to go that extra mile to meet with the parents responsible for the portable to pick a color, on their terms? Now picking a color isn’t a huge thing and maybe they would simply be happy to have it painted, but it is an opportunity to build some of that trust between partners. Gain that bit of trust and there might be a parent or two that show up to help?

Mr. Gillespie has a small budget to help out in this effort. But it isn’t a blank check. It’s just good stewardship to coordinate efforts to best prioritize and allocate those resources. Again, that’s part of building trust in this partnership. Gain that bit of trust and next year may have a bigger budget?

It’s also about building trust at Faith. Trust between each other and our trust in God’s plan. We all get impatient and start to exercise our own wills. We need to keep in mind whose work we are doing!

Now I’m not suggesting we slow this down to a Presbyterian crawl! I am suggesting that in this early phase we work carefully to build trust between all four partners; Faith, WHES, the County Commission, and God. It is through those trusting relationships that the Holy Spirit works and God’s plan is unveiled. It is also through those trusting relationships that God’s story is shared!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

“What’s this ‘Missional’ thing again?”

In my last post about partnering with West Huntsville Elementary School (WHES) I used the term “missional” several times without explaining it. We’ve been using that word at Faith for a several years now and Dr. Stager has explained it numerous times. But if you’re like me it’s still having a tough time sinking in. What is the difference between being “missional” and the core values of missions, outreach, and benevolence that Faith was founded on and still has at its roots today?

First and foremost, mission goes hand-in-hand with witness. God wants us to reach out and tell others about Him. Mission is following Jesus’ example in delivering that witness message. We are called to help the poor. But more importantly we are called to reach out to the poor-in-spirit and deliver God’s message of hope and salvation. A Fortune 500 CEO, a soccer mom, or a homeless family could be equally poor (or rich) in the Spirit. Mission is about building relationships that allow us to witness. We build relationships with those we serve. We also build relationships with those we serve with. And we build relationship with God when we pursue His work. All of these relationships allow us to nourish and be nourished by the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Often we forget, or are just learning, the relational nature of witness and mission. The world we live in is increasing in a benevolent attitude. The result of faster news, increased wealth, and the example set by many churches. But the world is also extremely fickle! Today’s effort is lost in tomorrow’s news. The world uses benevolence as leverage; expecting this or that in return. The world uses benevolence to further power or class distinctions; “We need to help those people.” To the Christian, this drives home the point that what we physically do has little and fleeting impact on this fallen world. Anyone who has been personally involved in mission work will tell you it’s the personal and emotional connection between individuals that provide fertile ground for the Spirit to act and change lives; both lives! For all of you who have experienced this connection I am eternally grateful for your blessings and, frankly, somewhat jealous.

To me the largest difference between being missional and doing mission is that we are working with people rather than simply ministering to people. Faith has practiced being missional to varying degrees over its 50 years. I think the recent emphasis has been because we do have those core values we may be ready to embrace this newer missional church movement more fully and take our mission to a new level. To more deliberately pursue this witness-mission partnership, not just for small groups but for the Faith family as a whole! I hope and pray that this will lead us to better training and mentoring, better discernment, better matching of activities with individuals in different stages of spiritual growth, better discipleship, more real witnessing. One first step in this direction is the “Mission 101” class that will be offered by University of Faith, led by Frank Broyles and others, the first three Sunday’s in November! I’ll be there, will you?

We have such a wealth of physical and spiritual resources at Faith. Much of it is untapped, waiting for the vision of our part in His Kingdom on earth to come into focus. If we let Him, where will He lead us?

West Huntsville Elementary School (WHES) Partners

I attended a luncheon meeting at Faith last Friday (9/12/2008). The purpose of the meeting was for a number of folks from Faith to get to know Barbara Johnson, the Principal at WHES, and also a chance for her to get to know some of us. It was a time to coordinate some details of an exciting opportunity coming up in our life at Faith. But first, here is some of what I learned.

We’ve been sending a small group of folks over to WHES to read with the kids for 5 years now; time flies! At one point some of the women at Faith went to WHES to hold a tea party. WHES has a program in place to teach kids manners, and social skills and the tea party was a great way to reinforce those skills through practice. I learned that back in May of 2008 Faith made a decision to move our work with WHES in a “missional” direction. Since then you may remember the summer book drive we held that was very successful. And even more recently we have been collecting health clinic supplies.

Ms. Johnson is a pretty amazing woman! She’s been in the Huntsville City School system for 30 some years. She has taught a number of years at WHES, moved on as assistant principal at another school and returned to WHES as principal a few years back. She said she would not want to be anywhere else at this point in her career. Ms. Johnson is openly Christian, full of love for the kids and full of energy. She is a powerful advocate!

WHES has some tough and encouraging statistics. The neighborhood is very transitory. WHES starts out each year with about 260 students and ends with about 260 students; they are not the same students. They have a staff of seasoned as well as young teachers. Less than 5% of their students have a traditional family background, although that number is growing with an increase in the Hispanic population. WHES operates an “Even Start” preschool program for 3, 4, and 5 year olds. The WHES parents send the kids to school with “the very best that they have” but they often need a bit of help. And each Kindergarten class holds graduation in the Butler High auditorium as a tangible sign of the goal desired for each child! WHES has a number of strong community partners that provide support in many ways. Check out WHES and its newsletter at their webpage: .
And don’t miss Keenan providing an excellent introduction in the school video at .

On October 25th, as part of Faith’s 50th Anniversary weekend we will be spending Saturday morning at WHES. It will start out at a breakfast at 8:30. There will be a short time of celebration for both our 50th anniversaries. And then we’ll have the opportunity to work alongside WHES on a number of tasks that will help the school grounds and a “Parent Portable” that serves as a center and meeting area for parent involvement. Watch for more details and check out Faith’s website, , for anniversary details and contacts. This is a great opportunity to jump into a budding missional relationship with the WHES community. I’m going to give it a try, how about you?