Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ministry- "The Local Pastor"

A Licensed Local Pastor in the United Methodist Church has answered a call from God to serve in the local congregation as pastor.  "The local pastor has the authority of pastor only within the setting and during the time of the appointment and shall not extend beyond the local setting."  That would be word, sacrament and service.  The local pastor is licensed, not ordained.  As part of the licensing process, the local pastor completes the candidacy process, is recommended by the district Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM), completes licensing school, and is subsequently approved by the clergy session of the Annual Conference.  They are assigned to a particular congregation to engage in ministry as local pastor.  The local pastor is a different path (ordination path) for those pursuing to follow a call into ministry.  Part of the role of every pastor is religious education.  For the Elder and Deacon, that involves an MDIV and or equivalent.  The local pastor attends Course of Study.  COS is a basic 5 year theological education program. After completion of COS, a local pastor may apply for associate membership in the Annual Conference, provided they have 60 hours of undergraduate credit and served four years as full-time local pastor.
If desired, a local pastor may apply for probationary membership and ordination if they have finished COS, have completed Advance Course of Study.
Local pastors serve in a variety of ministry settings.  In the Missouri Annual Conference, local pastors serve as pastors of small and large congregations, associate pastors in our larger churches and we have seen two local pastors start new churches.  The role of local pastor will inevitably chance in the next few years as financial expense of an Elder goes up, full-time and part local pastor will be in high demand.
In our district (Heartland South), for the past six years we have provided a day of fellowship and education for our local pastors known as the Local Pastor Connection.  Our discussions have included preaching, leadership, conflict management, evangelism and turnaround churches.  Our speakers have been most local pastors and a few other invited guests who are relevant to the conversation.
This next year local pastors will play a new role in the life of the Annual Conference.  For the first year, per Amendment 19- local pastors will have the opportunity to vote for the clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference.  Now, there are a few requirements, not all local pastors can vote.  Here is the breakdown.
"This amendment would extend voting privileges to associate members, provisional members who have completed all of their educational requirements and local pastors who have completed course of study or a Master of Divinity degree and have served a minimum of two consecutive years under appointment immediately preceding the election." 
The local pastor is vital to the future health and vitality of the United Methodist Church.  May God continue to bless all those who seek after Him and pursue a call to ministry.
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Equipping For Ministry

Pastors are not the only Christians in the church engaged in ministry.  So are the laity.  Here is a great quote from Thomas Oden- "The pastor is accountable for seeing that things are done, not for unilaterally doing them".  Some of my brothers and sisters in ministry should remember this, as should some churches.  The laity and pastor are partners in ministry.  They work together to further the kingdom of God.  So the church (both laity and clergy) are called to build up the body of Christ.  In the United Methodist Church through Cokesbury and the General Board of Discipleship, numerous opportunities and resources are offered to help us all better understand and engage in ministry.  Our United Methodist Book of Discipline says it this way, "The heart of Christian ministry is Christ's ministry of outreaching love...a common life of gratitude and devotion, witness and service, celebration and discipleship."  And the lay members "are by history and calling, active advocates of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every lay person is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matt. 28-18-20); every layperson is called to be missional."  It is a primary way in which people come to Christ.  
The role of the pastor among many is to help equip the laity for ministry.  Clergy also help equip other clergy for ministry through covenant discipleship groups and many other opportunities known as conferencing.
If you are a member of the church then you probably know the vows of membership in your local church.  We couch them in pledging loyalty to Christ through the United Methodist Church with prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  So, are you effectively engaged in ministry?  Are you living up to your membership vows?  Simple and yet tough questions.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ministry- Ordination

Currently in the United Methodist Church, we have two ordained groups.  They are Elder and Deacon.
The Elder has a fourfold ministry focus- Word, Order, Sacrament, Service
The Deacon has a twofold ministry focus- Word, Service.
Elders, like local pastors, preach the word, order the life of the church, administer the sacraments and live out their calling in servant leadership.
Deacons live out their calling in specialized ministries sharing the Word and living a life of servant leadership.
Each one of these Orders have a specific path to ordination.  It begins with an inward call, then shared through and outward call.  After consultation with their local pastor and District Superintendent (and a few other steps), the person following a call is assigned a mentor to help them discern their call.  The process to ordination can last a few years, or a decade, if not more.  Some might feel the desire to rush this, but the United Methodist Church has done an excellent job of helping us spend time in prayer and discernment.  The educational requirements of Course of Study and Theological degrees help the searching Christian continue to understand their call and the history, theology and life of the church.  There are numerous other criteria that have to be met before moving forward.  Just going to seminary does not mean you will be ordained.  Seminary is but one step in a process of discernment and faithful leadership.  Finally, moving into the hands of the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the person following the path to ordination spends a few years serving full-time in a local church or ministry setting, under the appointment of the Bishop, and supervision of the Board and District Superintendent.  For a better understand of these paths, please check out the General Board website.  It is a long process to ordination.  But, it is not arbitrary or capricious.  It is a well thought out process to help those who seek ordination to find the best path in ministry for them and the Body of Christ.  We continue to tweak the process as allow ourselves to be hope to the leading of the Spirit and discover new options and opportunities that Christ affords us.  The ministry of Elder, Deacon and Local Pastor are vital to the future health and vitality of the church.  Although they are not the only ones that are to carry out the ministry of the local church, as the laity are to carry out general ministry as well.  For those ordained we know what the other side of it looks like.  It is a privilege and honor to serve how and where we serve.   There is a lot more that could be said about ordination and I encourage anyone who has questions to talk to their pastor.  Search your heart and find any and every resource you can to help you discern your call. Ordination is for life.  It's not just part of your life, it's a life choice and must be affirmed by others.  I hope that helps make sense of a sometimes mistaken view of the path to ordination.
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ministry- "Being Called- Inward and Outward"

Today I would like to begin a conversation about ministry.  Over the next few weeks I would like to share my thoughts on numerous and different aspects of ministry in the life of the church.  This blog is not specifically addressing any one situation or person.  Over the past few weeks I have talked with church members and other clergy, several questions about call continue to rise in how we encourage and how we discover new clergy.  Our summer camp this year is all about call to ministry.  Step one is talking about call to ministry.  Throughout the Bible God calls people into ministry.  Whether it be Moses, Jeremiah or John, people are called.  Being called by God to ministry is a powerful and emotional experience.  For me, a call to ministry is humbling, but also, inspiring.  When called, we have to remember that it's not about us.  It is about what God will do through us.  Is everyone called to ordained ministry? No.  If you feel called I encourage you to ask yourself a few questions-- Have you learned to pray?  Are worship, the sacraments and Scripture deeply ingrained in your life today?  There are numerous other questions that arise as well, but those are few that begin the conversation.  Another would center around how I react to situations.  Specifically, how do I deal with adversity or frustrating situations?  If anger is the first place you go, then maybe you should reconsider where you are being called.  As you look at your life and what could be, the inward call is then moved to what is known as the outward call.  Outward call would be how others confirm or receive your understanding of call.
If you feel called it is difficult to keep it in.  We have a strong desire to share it.  Some fight their call for YEARS.  Only after someone else recognizes something in them do they respond.  The outward call is confirmed by the church, the Body of Christ.  In the United Methodist Church to confirm an outward call, we have several excellent layers of leadership that help.  We find those leaders in the local church, the district, the conference and ultimately, with our Bishops.  Both clergy and laity are deeply involved in this process.  The process of moving forward with an outward call is clearly outlined by our General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.  A call to ministry is inwardly experienced, and outwardly confirmed.  For the United Methodist Church, both are needed to move forward toward clergy service.  For more answers about inward and outward call, I recommend reading Thomas Oden's book Pastoral Theology.
If you feel called to ministry and have done nothing with it, what are you waiting for?  God calls leaders for a reason.  God needs faithful and loving people to lead the church.  Prayerfully consider taking the next step if you are called.  Let others around you know what you are considering in.  Don't keep it in.  Let love and faith be your guides.  Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Standing On the Edge

Yesterday we talked about Moses, the People of God, the Red Sea and the army of Egypt.  Imagine standing up against the impassable Red Sea, the army of Egypt chasing you down and some guy named Moses leading you to what seems like an impossible situation.  But, God provides a path.  Not only that, the path has dry ground.  The water parts and the path is dry.
For some of us, we feel like we are in a situation with no way out.  We are lost.  We are hurt.  We are suffering. God always provides a path.  The tough part, the path is not always the path we want to take.  Imagine walking through the Red Sea, water on both sides.  Do you think anyone questioned how long that water would stay up?  Did anyone get halfway through and then decide to turn around?
While hiking in Yosemite a few weeks ago we were following a pretty clearly marked path.  A couple passed us walking the same path.  About 20 minutes later, they came back by and asked us, "Is this the right path?"
We said yes.
Funny thing, we were on the way back, as were they.  They had already walked it and yet, they were lost.  They did not trust they were going the right way.
Trust in the Lord.  Follow the path.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Read- Digest- Act

I like to read.  Ok, I love to read.  I read tons of books.  I probably own over 1000 books split between the office and home.  It's a collection I started while in college.  I continue to read.  I like to read new ideas and hear about others ways of doing things.  I rarely read fiction, but I do have my small vices (vince flynn novels).  Anyway, most pastors have lots of books.  Many of them actually read the books.  I know lots of pastors who have read the most brilliant books on ministry.  Right now, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before and yet, we still don't all get it right.  I know people who own every John Maxwell leadership book.  Are they great leaders because they own the books?  Because they read the books?  I don't think so.  Just owning a book does not make you an author or authority on any subject.  Reading the book means hopefully that you have learned something.  It all comes down to practices.  If you can learn something, digest/ponder/think about and figure out how to put it into useful practice, then maybe you can become a great leader or whatever you aspire.  Larry Bossidy would call that "Execution".  David Allen would call that "Getting Things Done".  Adam Hamilton would call that "Leading Beyond the Walls."  Yes, I am staring at all three of those books on my shelf.  I have read them all.  So, just because you have a book or read a book doesn't change anything.  You have to put what you learned into practice.  What about your Bible?  If we read and do nothing, why read?  Read to lead.  Read to learn.  Read to grow.
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Opportunities to Share the Gospel

When I started on this journey toward ordained ministry, a wise person once told me, "Whenever asked to share or preach the Gospel, if you can make the time, do so."
Now you would think that we would all jump at the opportunity to preach or share the Gospel, but there are days when it feels like you've worked for 20 days straight with no break.  Self care is something that all, I mean all my pastor friends and I always struggle with, especially in regard to new opportunities.  Some of us just don't know how to say no.
A few years ago, a local group was desperate for someone to come share a devotion at their local meeting.  It was on a Monday, and well, Monday mornings are tough for me.  It's the beginning of the new week and Monday's can indicate how Sunday's will go.
After some back and forth I said yes.  So over the past four years I have been sharing a devotion whenever asked by this group.  If I am in town, I am there.
I have a chance to preach next week at Institute in Kansas at Baker University.  It's a spiritual life growth week for teens.
When I started this journey I would not have listened to that advice given to me because it was way outside my comfort zone.  We are constantly bombarded by struggle, tragedy and grief.  If we can't offer ourselves daily to God and to others then what are we doing?  There are days when all the bad stuff gets to us.  But there are also days when we see the good.  Joy and love are around us always and yet, it's tough to see.  When given the opportunity and if someone asks, go.  Go therefore and make disciples of all people.
Go in peace and go with God.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Moses- Reluctant Leader

Today we commenced on a several week journey through Biblical stories that might be found on Page 6 of the New York Post.  Our study starts with Moses.  We find Moses learning how to be a man of action in the face of great adversity.  In Exodus 2-4 Moses reluctantly jumps into action as he sees a fellow Hebrew being beaten to death.  He pauses and looks both ways before helping him.  He then kills the person beating the Hebrew.
Later, he tries to become the peacemaker and dispense with a dispute between two Hebrews and they ask if he will kill them too as he did the Egyptian.
He flees.  Pharaoh wants him dead because of it.
Later, God calls him into ministry to free his fellow Hebrews.  He provides several excellent excuses for why he should not go and save the Hebrews.
1. Who am I?
2. What is they don't believe me?
3. What is they listen and call me a liar?
4. I am not a good public speaker.
5. Oh Lord, please send someone else.
Not the leader you think of when considering Moses leading the Hebrews from slavery.
Think of your own spiritual life.  How many times have you made excuses when called into ministry or given particular opportunities to serve God?  Today, please open your heart, mind and soul.  Be available and open to the leading of the Spirit.  May God speak to you in a profound and deep way and may you listen and act.
Go in peace and go with God.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Slow Down and Listen

A few weeks ago I slowed down. My phone was off for nearly a week. I was on vacation. I essentially unplugged for the week. No connection or communication. I just was. Sometimes to find perspective we don't need more conversation or more communication, we need less. To slow down and listen means we pause and wait on the Lord. As the usual paths of communication are shut off, new paths open. We see new ways and find a different view. We can see other sides of the same issue. It is refreshing. It sometimes even brings renewal.
After a week I reentered life and my normal paths of communication came back on. It's comforting to reconnect, but that doesn't mean that change has not happened. Our hearts, minds and souls can forever be deeply and profoundly impacted by a change in perspective. Today or sometime soon, turn off and unplug. Wait upon the Lord. You will see the road you are on and the destination are not the only way to go. There are multiple paths. Don't feel locked in to just one. Go in peace and go with God.
Psalm 85-
8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints— but let them not return to folly.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Youth Fundraiser- Concessions

Today our youth group begins a 10 day fundraiser. We will be helping with the concessions at a soccer tournament here in Lee's Summit. We will be at Legacy Park running two concession stands. Youth and adults from Grace are welcome to help out with any of the time slots. Contact Lee and Stephanie if you would like to help.
This event will help provide more scholarships for summer camp. It will also provide our youth an opportunity to be out in the community serving and connecting.
Prayers today for our youth and adults as they step out in servant evangelism and raising funds for scholarships.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Annual Conference Reflections 2010

So people of Grace, if you were wondering where your pastor was last week, well, I was attending Annual Conference in Springfield.
Annual Conference is the annual business meeting of The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church. We gather together to resource ministries, hear of the goings on of others and put forth a vision for the next year as laity and clergy. The Conference is made up of 1 clergy person and 1 lay person from each church/charge. And to compensate for the retired clergy, at large lay members come as well.
We spend the weekend in worship hearing sermons, listening to our leadership and committees, voting on new clergy and celebrating highly successful ministries.
I missed Annual Conference last year due to surgery. Yes, it's been a year.
I deeply enjoyed Annual Conference this year. It was full of great preaching, excellent and concise reports from our committees, a great clergy session with lots of new ordinands, informal and formal discussion times, lunches with great friends, new connections and time to rest.
Some have discussed making the weekend shorter due to cost and actual business to be done. Honestly, I used to be one of them. But this year I encountered a long time friend and colleague who mentioned that he needed the time away. Conference is not just a business meeting. It's a time to be inspired and recharge your batteries to be redeployed back into the local church. So thank you to our Conference leadership who put on a great weekend. Thanks to all who shared the Word with us. It's fine the way it is and hopefully will be just as great if not better next year. Go in peace and go with God.

Look below to see a better definition of Annual Conference-

An Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a regional body that governs much of the life of the "Connectional Church." Annual conferences are composed primarily of the clergy members and a lay member or members from each charge (a charge is one or more churches served by a minister under appointment by the bishop). Each conference is a geographical division. In general, the smaller states in the United States hold one conference each, while larger states often include two or more conferences. Several annual conferences are held in other nations as well.

The Annual Conference is the primary unit of denominational government. Regional groups of conferences make up the Jurisdictional Conferences, and the entire group of all annual conferences makes up the General Conference which meets every four years. Only the General Conference can speak officially for the church.

The Annual Conference is composed of an equal number of clergy and laity. Each charge conference elects as many lay members to the Annual Conference as they have ministers appointed to that charge. In most cases that is one. The Lay Member must be a Professing Member of the United Methodist Church. The Annual Conference also consists of a number of "at-large" members, the number of at-large members being the number necessary (after the members elected by charge conferences are seated) so that the laity and the clergy are equal in number. First seated among at-large members are lay persons holding certain lay positions or offices desiginated by the Discipline or by the Annual Conference itself. When there are multiple congregations in a charge conference, members from each congregation in that charge are encouraged to become at-large members.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Concrete Moments

Our lives are full of big and small moments. Big moments- weddings, births, graduation days, milestone birthdays, etc. Small moments- stopping to hear the birds, taking a walk, choosing to have a conversation. The big moments are easy to remember and usually, lots of work or thinking go into those moments. It's the small moments that actually change our course without us knowing. Over a few weeks we can completely change the course of our life and future options or destinations. The decisions we make today really do change the course of our lives.
That being said, not every decision changes our destination.
These concrete moments come every now and then. Sometimes they go by unnoticed. Fortunately, there are days when we take time to pause. In the moments pause we stand on a firm foundation and see clearly. The blizzard of stuff around us slows down and our paths become clear....well, clearer. In those concrete moments courses can be corrected and your whole future can be changed. These moments might be a few seconds or weeks. When we are in those moments make sure you talk to your trusted friends. The people you can share with and that will be completely honest with you. And resist the negative. Resist negative attitudes and the funk we find ourselves in sometimes. Feeling sorry for ourselves or worrying about things gets us NO where. Put your trust and faith in God.
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Don't Go It Alone

Most people who go it alone in ministry do not last. They burnout. Why? We need connection. We need conversation. We need perspective. I do not have all the answers. I do not know everything. Friends and colleagues in ministry are a great resource for keeping me accountable and helping me find my way. It's a reflective relationship because I too can help others. It's not just about me. I've often heard that going to a church you have never been to before is like going to someone else's family reunion. And for those new to Annual Conference, that too might feel like going to a family reunion where you don't know everyone. Each one of us should take note of radical hospitality that has been in the culture of our conversations these past few years. John Wesley was someone who helped make connections between God and neighbor. Every day we are making connections. It's tough to make connections if you go it alone. Open your hearts and minds and seek God's leading in your life today. Be a person that makes connections. Today is a day you might meet someone who needs to know that God loves them. Will you be too busy hanging with your own family (close personal connections) or can you be that person that lights up the darkness?
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Loud Noise

Ever notice how a really loud noise gets your attention? Sometimes is just causes you to turn your head. Other times, those loud noises cause us to startle, or even awaken from a deep sleep. Our hearts race and our senses come to life for a few moments.
Over the past few weeks we traveled up into the mountains between 4000-7000 ft. Storms move in and out all the time. Rain. Ice. Snow. Below is us driving into a cloud.

I heard thunder one night crack through the woods. It sounded like 1000 trees exploding at the same time for about ten seconds. It is a very unnerving worrisome sound. The next morning, no damage. The clouds were gone and there were blue skies.
The storms of life come and go. Sometimes they sneak up on us, other times, loud noises (signs) signal their coming. So be prepared. Trust in the Lord and hopefully most of the storms are just loud with little impact. Fear not. Go in peace and go with God.