June 29, 2011

Church Renewal

I was asked by my twitter friend Ben Simpson (@bsimpson) to share a guest post on his blog. Feel free to check it out and join the conversation. Hope to see you over there!

June 19, 2011

Thoughts from a Noob Dad

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there. This happens to be my 1st Father's Day as an actual father. Our son is now 6 1/2 months old, which makes me still very much a noob (newbie) but I thought I would share 3 perspectives I have gained since becoming a father.

Me as a father.
Becoming a dad has been, without a doubt, the most emotional thing that has ever happened to me. I use to look at other dads and think to myself, "I won't be like that, I'll be pretty chill as a dad." I think I'm still somewhat chill (though certainly not as much) but find myself having to "be chill" while wiping away tears looking at pictures or hearing a story about some child or dad on NPR.

My dad as a father.
I am beginning to see that parenting isn't easy. I am extremely grateful for my dad and the example he continues to be for me. Of course, he's not perfect but being a dad myself has given me a better appreciation of all the ways my dad has cared for me and made me realize there were plenty of times when I was punk. Thanks dad for putting up with me.

God as Father.
The amount of love I feel for my son is really sort of bizarre. One minute he wasn't here and the next he changed everything. There is absolutely nothing he has done in his short life to earn my love and yet... I am just now starting to catch a glimpse of the significance of God as Father. Unfortunately, I am not and will never be, a perfect father. Neither was or is my dad. One way or another we have or will fail to love our children perfectly but not God. God's ability and willingness to love us, His children, so perfectly leaves me humbled, grateful, and speechless.

Give thanks for your dad today. Know that if you can't count on your father, you can always count on the perfect Father.

I'm curious, what has your father or fatherhood taught you?

June 14, 2011

3 Proven Ways to Waste Your Time: Worry

A recent 3-part sermon series. This is part 1.

"3 Proven Ways to Waste Your Time: Worry"

How many of you would consider yourself to be a “worry wart”? How many of the things that cause you to worry are things you can’t actually do anything about?

Read Matthew 6:25-34. Notice that immediately preceding this passage Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth (6:19-24). There are a few things we can pull from Jesus' words teaching us not to worry...

Worrying is a waste (vs. 27)
-Worry does no good & changes nothing
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” ~Glenn Turner
-Worry as anti-faith; worry is the opposite of trusting God, which creates a lack of faith
-vs. 30: unwillingness or inability to trust God; faithless
I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” ~Mark Twain
-Peter tells us to cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)

Life consists of “more” (vs. 25)
-Things like food & clothing are not the end in themselves, life consists of “much more”
-The assumption that God’s people are more important to Him than the rest of His creation provides the basis for a parent/child type of trust
-Worry about tomorrow and sensible planning for tomorrow are not the same
-God provides food for the birds but He doesn’t drop it in their mouths
-The promise is for survival, not affluence
-We are reminded the life of a disciple is not a picnic

Look expecting to find (vs. 33)
-vs. 26: “look” in order to learn, not simply see
-Make it your priority to find
-Philippians 4:6-7 says we can know a peace that doesn't make sense
-God’s people should be different when it comes to dealing with worry

June 12, 2011


The 2011 Annual Conference of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church took place from 6/8-6/11 on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, IN. There were nearly 2,000 lay and clergy members representing the roughly 1,187 UMC churches in the state that participated in the 4 day conference of meetings, worship sessions, voting, etc.

I had the opportunity to attend as a clergy member and thought I would share some of my experience with you.

-#inumconf11 was the Twitter hashtag used for the conference. You can see a list of the #inconf11 tweets here. I am a big fan of Twitter and was excited when our conference publications talked about it being used a source of sharing information and connecting with others, though I was disappointed to see the small number of us who actually used it.

-I thought Marcia McFee did a very nice job of providing practical ways to create and practice passionate worship. She reminded us to expect that God will show up in our worship and allow His Spirit to lead. I would have enjoyed hearing more of her teaching on worship.

-I believe there should be more "teaching" and provided opportunity for workshops or breakout groups. If it weren't for the connection I made with others via Twitter, it would have been easy to get lost in the crowd.

-We talk a lot about being a "connectional" church but I'm not sure I saw much of that outside of a few conference reports. Imagine what we could do if we didn't care who, or which church, got the credit.

-This was the 3rd Annual Conference I have been to and my most enjoyable so far. Not sure if it was because I knew what to expect or knew more people or maybe both but I found it to be alright.

-The "dashboard" for Vital Congregations was previewed in our clergy session. Roughly 72% (803) of our churches in Indiana have an average weekly worship attendance of 99 or less. I pray the average weekly worship number doesn't carry too much weight in defining vitality.

-There are a lot of churches within our conference that have a ton of potential, this makes the idea of revitalization really exciting to me. How are we intentionally bringing up leaders and providing them opportunities to make this happen?

-God is big and God is present. This provides all the hope needed to be about the work of creating disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. This is the first time in over 30yrs that our conference has seen growth in membership and average weekly attendance, let's make sure we maintain this momentum by staying out of our own way and keeping our eyes focused on the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. If you attended, what did you think? If you didn't, what do you think?

June 2, 2011

Growing Pains: Part II

Growing Pains is a 2-part blog series dealing with church growth within a smaller congregational setting. This is part 2, sorry it has taken so long to get posted.

Come One, Come All?
Something happens when your small church family experiences growth, new people show up and want to get involved. When new people get involved, things begin to change. It's not so much that the new people are wanting or trying to change anything, it simply happens because they are new and aren't familiar with "the way things have been."

People react to change in different ways, so do small churches. I am going to suggest a couple ways smaller congregations can react to growth and change: die, survive, or thrive.

Die: When a small congregation fights to maintain the various levels of membership, the new person feels not only unwelcome but incapable of finding ways to engage in the life of the church. This inevitably leads to frustration and confusion on the part of the new person, causing him or her to search for another church family. The congregation is left without new people or ideas and minus these things, the life of the congregation quickly (sometimes painfully slowly) fades away. Change is feared and avoided in a dying congregation.

Survive: This tends to be a more passive approach to maintaining membership levels. New people are allowed in just enough to keep them involved but only a few end up sticking around. It's not so much that the church is growing, it is simply replacing those who have left or passed away so that it continues to survive. Change is viewed with skepticism and needs to be controlled in a surviving congregation.

Thrive: When a congregation is willing to fully welcome, accept, and include new people, significant growth can occur. This requires all levels of membership to have open access, so much so that membership levels practically cease to exist. This is a church family that desires to see their family grow by bringing new people into the life of the church. A congregation like this recognizes the energy and ideas new people can bring to their church but doesn't stop at welcoming those individuals, they intentionally seek them out and look for ways to get them involved. Change is embraced but not forced, it is seen as necessary for growth in order to engage the lives of new people in a thriving congregation.

Have you witnessed a dying, surviving, or thriving church? What do you believe made the difference? Are there other ways growth impacts a congregation?