Saturday, January 31, 2009


Early Saturday morning Faith’s Fellowship hall caught fire. Fire Inspectors have determined it was caused by an electrical short in the attic.

We have much to be thankful for!
No one was injured.
Damage is restricted to the Fellowship Hall.
Structural damage appears to be restricted to the roof.
Insurance will take care of it all.

So much for worldly matters, now how do we put this in a Kingdom perspective?

Just so we're clear on the basics, this is not a punishment or judgment on anything or anybody. As Pastor Steve said just last Sunday, God hasn’t been in the “smiting” business since the Old Testament. Jesus is the new deal or covenant, remember?

The real question is what good will God turn this into, as He always offers. How do we sync up with God on discerning that good? Will this remind us of our many communal blessings? Will this be the catalyst to help bring us past our current difficulties and back into unison again? Can we see this as a unique opportunity for reconciliation and seek God’s will together? Is it pure coincidence this is the same weekend we hear from our consultant on our congregational health?

Frankly in awe and praying hard!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Steppin’ Out Summary; Dave

The previous 5 blog entries show an email conversation that I had started. It’s shown in “blog order”, i.e. start at the bottom. (They’re numbered.) I’ve included edited versions of them here because I feel it has been a very important conversation. Important not just in terms of our WHES mission but also for Faith's mission as a whole, for discernment, and for Faith’s leadership development. (I’m defining leadership here beyond our ministers and officers to include any member that takes an active leadership roll in the mission of the church.)

The thing that strikes me the most from this conversation is not about the form or shape of the WHES mission but what form of mission leadership will develop at Faith?

The traditional leadership model has come from the corporate world. It takes one strong leader to spearhead a project through to success. In the church we’ve replaced the name “manager” with “committee chair” and we’ve wrapped words like “call” and “vision” around it. Even the corporate world is now using those terms. But the bottom line is that it all falls onto one strong leader to make a project successful.

One of the problems with this model is that it can easily lead to overwork and burnout for those few leaders. This is particularly true in a church setting because, like it or not, church is largely a part time job for most of us. Another problem is the potential narrowing of the vision to one person’s.

But times are changing and I believe many young leaders are not engaging simply because of the level of commitment required; real or perceived. Young leaders of today do not want the full responsibility of leadership to rest entirely on their shoulders. They are much more comfortable with a team approach. Much of this comes from a more balanced perspective on life. It is no longer acceptable for one’s life to be entirely consumed by one job. Yes, it still takes vision and leadership to get things done but it is more of a team leadership that is shared and shifts from person to person as needed. This can actually be more efficient, balanced, and rewarding. It enriches the vision because it encourages individuals to contribute to the vision. It fosters a people through which the Spirit can act. An outline of this model can be found in Faith’s own “A Covenant for Shaping Our Future”. (A copy is at the end of the Emerging Culture Report; )

I recently saw an interesting blog, , asking the question, do we want to be successful or fruitful? The point being that the goal of church leadership isn’t necessarily the same as corporate leadership.

So the question is, which kind of leadership will Faith adopt? In actuality both forms of leadership will be needed. For short term urgent goals a point person is required. But for long term, sustainable, Spirit led leadership the team approach should win out. Members would grow, in both faith and experience, from showing up for a work day, to becoming part of a leadership team, to identifying visions and kicking off new initiatives.

So maybe my calling is not a particular WHES mission? Maybe it’s more a calling to get Faith members to look at calling, vision, and leadership differently than the world around them dictates?

Discernment is a tough job. Again, though, isn’t it the journey that brings the fruit?

Still listening for the Spirit,

Steppin’ Out 5; Person A

[Person B], thank you for your sensitive, insightful, and compassionate observations about the WHES community. Dave, since I answered your initial question of me about whether Dave Ramsey or Crown has a suitable material, part of me says I should sit back and listen to you two prophets hammer it out. (And that is said as a compliment, not cynically.)

The other part of me needs to observe that something happening always takes someone with a vision and a commitment to try to make it happen. […] Yes, Dave, in my day, a person would go to the missions committee and ask permission to set up a task force, ask for a budget, and develop a schedule to present to the session. Today, if you care enough, you can ask Frank and others to help you identify people to call together to see if they want to be part of a team to make it happen and go from there, hopefully led by the Spirit.

And it is not just missional projects. Repeatedly, we have had young couples join the church when someone cared enough to recruit some and train them to recruit others and then also make the church friendly to them; we have had college classes when someone cared enough to get others involved with them. The session has repeatedly declared we need those things to happen, so a person with a vision is not lacking. A person with a passion and the persistence to make it happen is too often lacking.

Steppin’ Out 4; Person B & Dave

[The below is a response from Person B with my answers highlighted in italics within the body. – Dave]

Dave,I have three comments to make...

1) What is it that WHES needs? There is a diverse cross section of people who are zoned for WHES...those that sell food stamps to get unregulated cash, those that live sparsely but within their means, those that have their house paid for and are managing their money just fine. [This description of the WHES district is something I did not have an understanding of. My ignorance could be a symptom of a general communication problem?] Who is it that we should reach, how, and why? [Good questions that I believe we are just beginning to explore with an initial focus on WHES itself?] What I see in your response is the desire to be in community with a population that is different from ours. To fellowship and seek Christ through the diversity and commonality. [These are less desires than natural responses to a "missional" call as I understand it; if I understand it correctly?] This takes a great deal of trust and understanding...a great deal of relationship. [I agree and building that trust has to start somewhere and will take a lot of effort to develop.]

2) We currently do not have that kind of relationship with West Huntsville. I am not saying that we can't, but at the moment we do not. It will take someone with a passion and a calling, that feels the importance of this to establish that relationship and help FPC and West Huntsville find ways to come together. Without a point person, who will foster and formulate, cajole, kick, and pray, the larger relationship will not materialize. This is the way of it...someone must be called to be the light and for a time guide us into a fuller relationship. [This HAS been the way of it. If our study of the emerging culture has any merit then the most likely future of such efforts are through a team approach. A team of folks must catch the vision to move it forward. A single champion is not sustainable and as such has a greater chance to disappoint and have negative impacts. (Throughout the recent study of the emerging culture I've often wondered if this actual call to team action is really calling a bluff?)]

3) From my reading of the past few emails, I have to ask if you are being called to such a relationship and to such a leadership role. [I do not feel called to a traditional champion role. I do not feel the call to quit my job to devote myself to be such a champion and I'm still a few years away from retirement for that to happen soon. I do feel I am called to continue to explore this whole idea of being missional, and WHES in particular, in a public way. Both to promote dialog and understanding as well as painting a vision in hopes that a team of Faith folks might catch it in a team manner. I do not feel I have the people skills (or the correct work hours) to be on the front line of communication with WHES persons.] Please pray about one else seems to have the same conviction as you at this point in time and so no one else can (or probably will) put your vision into action at this time. I will be praying for you and how we can help you as you seek to fulfill this ministry. [Thank you! I and Faith can use all the prayers we can get!]

Steppin’ Out 3; Dave

I agree, in our broken world, there is only so much we can do. In engineering or physical terms there is always a question of benefits vs costs. And if that were the only reason we tried to do this, it would be frustrating and disappointing. And this is exactly what I have been struggling with for the last couple of years. If I'm starting to get the whole missional and even Presbyterian thing straight, are we not supposed to offer the good news of the Gospel and do it in a way that connects with people's lives? We get no guarantees that we'll see the benefits. As Houston has pointed out; plow, plant, pray. This is very tough for the engineering minds you and I have!

I could make the argument that having the mindset to plan, budget, and save is even dwindling in the middle class, particularly the younger generations. The bottom line is that no hope (or a "whatever" attitude) leads to no planning.

If we did this the traditional way, we would try to teach Crown or Ramsey to the WHES folks. In the missional approach we should realize we're all on this journey together and have different experiences to bring to the table. With economic coaching, peer sharing, a lot of spiritual leadership, and an immense involvement of the Holy Spirit, we would all benefit greatly! Even if our physical conditions don't improve much. The objective is to "Explore together how God wants us to think about money", not, "We need to show you how to handle your money." The second is doomed to failure because no one should be casting stones.

If we should decide to venture down this path, I suspect we Faith members that participate will also need a great deal of spiritual leadership to help us change our views, expectations, and motives. It's likely we would need additional sessions where we meet as Faith, without WHES. Dare I say counseling sessions? This is not for the faint of heart and not to be entered into lightly.

Whoa, I never know where He is going to take me!?

Struggling in prayer,

Steppin’ Out 2; Person A

Dave, Crown Ministries has a version called "Urban Crown Ministries" which is designed to appeal to urban blacks. It was produced in conjunction with the Urban League, a fine-old civil rights organization. As I reviewed it, it would appeal to middle class and wealthy blacks, who are the foundation of the Urban League.

My opinion of both Crown and Dave Ramsey is that they require a middle-class mindset. With some justification, poorer members of the American society, no matter their race, live from crisis to crisis and do not have the mindset to plan, budget, save.

It would not take much effort to put together a financial primer. Based on my experience trying to help poor people develop some financial stability even in the best of times (for them) […], I am not sure it is worth the effort. In my opinion, the best triage you can provide is to collect a listing of the all the resources available in Madison county for people in economic crisis and present it in a community forum at WHES.

Person B, you have some experience working with poorer members of society, also. Do you have an opinion or suggestion?

Steppin’ Out 1; Dave

I saw [the Discipleship Group] page in the newsletter. I've been having some thoughts about the Dave Ramsey or Crown Ministries class.

Is there a version of either of these classes that has a primer or, for lack of a better word, a triage scope? I keep thinking about the continually souring economic news as well as the economic status of the folks that generally make up West Huntsville Elementary. (See first link below.) Is there a class that would be appropriate to hold at WHES for Faith members as well as WHES parents? Something that focuses on basic money management (scriptural of course) that spans the economic gap? Something that can bring both sets of folks together to share experiences?

It looks like Asbury is offering something this January. (See second link.) But the outline strikes me as something exclusively for Asbury "class" members that are basically well off, like Faith. If we remain inwardly focused I would expect our class to look similar.

Food for thought…


Monday, January 5, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Prayer – It’s a Wrap!

The 12 Days of Christmas Prayer was a success! 20 people responded with attendance at some point during the 12 days, with a handful of faithful regulars! It was a time of spiritual calm, nourishment, and renewal during a holiday season that sometimes has other overtones and a wonderful way to celebrate our unity in the Christ child with prayer for the mission and ministry of Faith Church. Thanks to all who supported this effort through prayer, leadership, and attendance!

As previous entries have talked about, it was a walk with the Lord to get this whole idea off the ground. Thank you especially to those that felt the call to lead a session! The Holy Spirit was present throughout; from the preparation and decisions, to the wonderful prayer time, to the overwhelming sense of unity in Jesus, to the quieting of the errant fire alarm! (I might also point out the preparation was done completely by email without the need for another meeting to attend in a busy time of year.)

The secular festivities of the season are over. Time for a short respite for those folks that are task driven and will soon be working on the next thing. But it’s also a low time for many, with families dispersed again and the dreary winter weather. What have we learned from this experience?

A new blog friend had this to say about the post holiday time:
I’ll keep praying that in the post-christmastide haze, the clouds of today shall not keep me from following yonder star.
“star of wonder
star of night
star with royal, beauty bright.
westward leading, still proceeding
guide us to thy perfect light. “

Isn’t that what this whole experience has been about? Whether we are consumed with hustle and bustle or prone to melancholy, we’ve reconnected with the true light of the world, Jesus our Christ.

As Steve points out in the Epiphany session:
Isaiah 60:1-3: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Carry on in the Light and carry forward the Light to others!