Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Spirit just keeps on showing up...

I think this prayer is going to become a personal thing with me...

"Lord, it is so easy for us to lose sight of your vision for us in the world. You have required that we do justice, but we are more comfortable when it’s “just us.” You have required of us a kindness, but we are most at peace with our “own kind.” You have asked us to walk humbly beside you, but our self-centeredness refuses to keep the pace. Forgive us. Amen."


The Spirit just keeps on showing a guided missile...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Studying the Word of God

My thoughts have been turning to bible study lately. Bible study will play a pivotal role in reestablishing Faith’s identity. Without studying the Word of God we can’t know the Will of God. Without knowing the Will of God how can we expect to form an identity that seeks to follow and glorify God?

Now I will admit right here that my knowledge of the bible and my skill and diligence of studying it are seriously lacking. My knowledge has come in fits and starts along the way, being mostly driven by third party commentaries or books that essentially tell you what the bible says. Actual study of the Word itself has mostly been prompted by mentors from Church for which I am grateful. And I honestly must say it has improved with the use of online study tools and search engines that help me find the connections needed between the various parts of the bible. Adding a prayer that the Holy Spirit guide me on seeing what I need to see has been the most important addition to my process!

I believe the older generations in the church take for granted that the younger generations have the same knowledge and understanding of the bible that they do. And they over estimate the degree of understanding that the younger generation, as a whole, have of the bible. I believe that leading and/or participating in bible study with the younger generations is a key gift and responsibility the biblically mature hold within the church.

While I’m in a confessional mode, I also regret the way that the University of Faith Sunday School concept panned out. Sunday school classes were seriously flagging already at that time and it was an honest attempt to restructure in a way to provide the variety of options that the current enrollment seemed to desire. The team understood that it was ignoring the social aspects of Sunday school but was not staffed to address them. It turns out those social aspects were the driving force of the Sunday school hour. The following discipleship groups were an attempt, I believe, to re-gather and re-mix the membership into groups around a common study. This effort had mixed success but has lacked staying power also. Both of these efforts should be considered constructive attempts, with successes and failures, which should inform future efforts to get a handle on the social/study dynamic within our congregation.

Just like in worship, one size does not fit all when it comes to bible study; probably even less so. Here is a metaphor. Think of the Word of God as rain that falls on the Earth. Just like rain it falls on every individual at some point. Everybody enjoys a rainy day sometime and when an individual responds to the rain it is like a personal bible study. As people collect the rain they gather together in little tributaries or small groups; you can’t help but share the Good News. The groups then gather together into brooks, creeks, small rivers or congregations and worship together. As these creeks and rivers join they form larger rivers or denominations. And finally these large rivers flow into the ocean which is Jesus’ Church Universal on Earth. The Word of God runs through a cycle of Living Water! So each of those groups (individuals, small groups, congregations, denominations, and the Church Universal) responding to the Word are each of different character and an important part of the whole cycle.

So as a church we should be encouraging this flow of Living Water. We should be encouraging personal bible study, particularly for those that are new to it, or even afraid of it. We should be encouraging group studies. Sometimes this means channeling them as in studies among elders, or deacons, or mission teams so these groups can come into communion with the Word and each other enabling their ministries. Sometimes this means encouraging groups to form on their own seeking their own level. And as a congregation we encourage by sharing the Word in our worship.

Personally I feel the Sunday school hour should lean toward introduction to different levels of bible study, a welcoming nurturing approach to usher folks into both the study of the Word itself and the community of Faith and eventually some small group. Small group studies of more committed folks can better handle the difficulty of supporting alternate meeting times.

I personally feel it is important for the different leadership teams within Faith to have bible study time in addition to committee meeting time. How can we lead if we aren’t connected as a group to the Word?

And finally, I also believe that varied styles of worship usher different folks into the Word. I feel these different worship styles should flow together regularly as a whole. Perhaps that should be on Communion Sunday rather than every Sunday or a fifth Sunday?

All of these different tributaries work together culminating in a church community that is reflecting the Kingdom of God. How do we nurture and encourage meaningful bible study? We’ll have to study on that…


Sunday, October 11, 2009


I went to the informational meeting held by the Interim Pastor Search Committee (IPSC) today. They are recommending that we call the candidate they have selected as the “Designated Pastor”! The congregational meeting is next week, October 18th.

There are two primary differences between an Interim and a Designated Pastor.
  • An Interim may only serve 1-2 years; a Designee may serve 2-4 years
  • An Interim cannot be called as the permanent pastor; the Designee may
The primary reason for the recommendation is the time factor. The possibility of becoming permanent was a distant second. The difficult work required of us during this transition encompasses three major areas.
  • Coming to terms with our history
  • Discovering a new identity
  • Developing new leadership
During the time of discernment and interviews the IPSC along with the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry (COM) concluded that Faith’s transitional work could take two years or more. The Designated Pastor option provides the time, stability, and continuity of trained leadership required for this work before us.

We are now a short time away from being able to start in earnest the difficult work of healing that Faith has been praying for! Praise God! And praise the presence of the Holy Spirit during this process!

Watch for today’s meeting notes to be made available on Faith’s website. A letter detailing the candidate and nature of next week’s meeting will be mailed this Wednesday.


Friday, October 9, 2009

More Questions than Answers 1

Who are Our Neighbors?

Who are Faith's neighbors? Who are our neighbors? Some brainstormed questions to stir...

  1. Who are the people that live to our south, north, west, east?
    1. Are they elderly?
    2. Are they young families?
    3. Are they single?
    4. Do they believe in God?
    5. Are they active spiritually?
    6. Are they lonely?
    7. Are they comfortable? Or struggling?
    8. Where do they fit economically in Huntsville?
    9. Hunters ridge?
    10. Johnson Road?
    11. Walton’s Mountain?
    12. Etc.?
  2. Who are the people that regularly commute or drive by Faith?
    1. Where do they come from?
    2. Where do they go?
    3. What do they think about Faith when stopped at the intersection?
  3. Who are the people that patronize the business district around Faith?
    1. Do they live locally?
    2. Do they work locally?
    3. Do they travel farther to shop or dine?
  4. Who are the people that work in the business district around Faith?
  5. Who works in the Crestwood medical district?
  6. Who uses the Crestwood medical district services?
  7. What would it be like to hold a bible study in one of the restaurants in the area?
  8. Or a prayer service in the hospital chapel?
  9. What are the needs of our neighbors?
  10. How do we get to know our neighbors better?
  11. What could we offer commuters during the morning rush? Evening rush?
  12. What could we offer our neighbors during lunch hours?
  13. Car wash and prayer circle?
  14. Fair Trade coffee and news of PC(USA)'s self development and justice efforts?
  15. How is God already working in the lives of our neighbors?
  16. How do we join in with what God is doing?
  17. What would it be like to offer a worship service on Sunday afternoons for all those resturant workers that serve all us church goers at 11:30? With invitation card left with a tip?
  18. Do the businesses around Faith have an association? Do we participate, have a presence?
  19. Are you aware of our Faith@School efforts?
  20. Are we present in our PTAs?
  21. ...
What are your questions? Where will God lead us?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm not going to say the M-word...

The following are some very good conversations by some "notables" in the M-word area. A bit high-brow at times but the speakers do try to identify jargon when they can’t avoid it. I think these are particularly appropriate for Faith right now. Not because we are at one end of the spectrum or the other. Actually we're probably nowhere right now. But we are in a phase where we are trying to reestablish our identity and are being pulled by these forces. And at the same time trying to find a pastor that will help us achieve ... what?

The key to listening to these is not to side with one idea or the other. The key is to also remember our circumstances (history, people, place, and present) and to try and discern what combination of bits and pieces of these ideas is God trying to put together in a unique way at Faith?

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The last part is where the rubber hits the road; how do we allow ourselves to experiment with actual examples without tearing ourselves apart?

(Of course the answer to that is easy to say but hard to do. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to imitate Jesus and keep God's Kingdom first.)

Watch, Listen, and pray...