Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,
September 30 – Mutual Respect Deadline – One of the first steps towards understanding those with whom we differ is to establish relationship. This year we would like every rostered leader to pair up with a clergy from another denomination or religious tradition. This may involve simply meeting one another. Or it could involve speaking at each other’s place of worship. You choose. Please fill out this form by September 30. You’ll receive a list of participating area clergy. You indicate your top three choices. You’ll be paired up. Sometime between January and May you have an exchange of some kind. Everyone learns and grows. Will you participate?
October 24 – Global Mission Festival. Living Word, Katy.
October 28-November 2 – Proclaiming the Christmas Cycle with Dr. Craig Satterlee, LSTC Homiletics Prof will present a method for preaching, using the Advent/Christmas A cycle. 9:30-3:30. $30. Order the Proclamation Series A.
- Thursday, October 28 at Salem, Houston, TX
- Friday, October 29 in Brenham, TX
- Tuesday, November 2 at Peace, Slidell, LA
November 4 – Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialog. Sign up now.
January 24-26 – 2011 Tri-Synodical Theological Conference, at Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center in Galveston, TX. Marcus Borg, presenter:Then and Now: What the First Century Can Teach the 21st Century Church. REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN:http://www.gulfcoastsynod.org/Theologicalconference2011.html
Two books to read in preparation:
- The Heart of Christianity – Rediscovering a Life of Faith
- Toward A Hopeful Future – Why the Emergent Church Is Good News for Mainline Congregations
40 Days of Love
X 9/12 Luke 15:1-10 Lost coin/sheep (heaven rejoices more over 1 lost than 99 found)
X 9/19 Luke 16:1-13 Shrewd Manager (make friends by means of unrighteous mammon)
X 9/26 Luke 16:19-31 Rich Man and Lazarus (flip flop of rich and poor in the next life)
10/3 Luke 17:5-10 Mustard Seed/Undeserving Slaves
10/10 Luke 17:11-19 10 Lepers (say thank you)
10/17 Luke 18:1-8 Judge and Widow (pray/don’t lose heart)
10/24 Luke 18:9-14 Publican and Pharisee (humility/warning against hypocrisy)
Next Sunday is October 3 which highlights several key passages. In the second lesson we are reminded that the faith is passed on most effectively through families. Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice are commended for their faith. A lot could be done with this homiletically to teach families the importance of passing on the faith in the home.
The gospel text leaves us these nuggets:
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’"
Would that we all had congregations begging us: "Increase our faith!"
But we do. They are. In each of us is a spiritual hunger. People that come on Sunday are hungry for spiritual food. Give them more than law. Give them more than pious platitudes. Give them something spiritual that will last. Give them gospel.
October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Congregations like Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Beaumont will do a blessing of the pets around this day. Resources can be found at http://www.textweek.com/festivals/francis.htm for those interested in giving it a go.
The congregation where my family and I are members are increasing their faith by doing40 Days of Love. If you haven’t been planning on something like this, it’s too late for this fall, but next month is about the time to start working on it for January/February. Check out www.saddlebackresources.com.
The theology of this stuff is pretty vanilla, but the advantages of doing a spiritual growth campaign far outweigh the homiletical maneuvering that will need to be done.
Participants commit to:
1. Listening to all seven sermons, which are podcast for those who are out of town on a given weekend.
2. Reading a daily chapter of a 40-chapter book. Each chapter includes a Scripture passage and a few questions/points to ponder.
3. Participate in a small group.
4. Memorize some Scripture passages.
5. Try out the action steps the pastor proposes.
For six weeks the pastor will preach on six relationship principles of Jesus. It’s pretty basic stuff. After all, Jesus taught the two most important things in life were to love God and love neighbor. During this time, there are specific practices that are suggested to try out to learn how to better love with our words, love our families, love our coworkers and so on.
During this time, a dozen small groups of ten will meet in homes (some at the church). Sign ups began last Sunday. Susan and I were asked to host a small group as well, so on Thursdays, we’ll be in Bible study with a willing group of victims. Nine so far. We’ll have wine (just like Jesus), and conversation. The studies I’ve read through teach love as commitment, rather than sentiment. I’m reading strong theology of the cross. For example, anyone who has been married 50 years or more, was it always easy?
"It’s not real love unless it’s eternal." – Euripides
"You don’t really understand perfect love until you’ve been married at least a quarter of a century." – Mark Twain
One of the best things about this is it gets people into the habit of a daily devotional time. It’s hard to grow spiritually without taking time for prayer. How can a congregation encourage people to give daily prayer and Bible reading a try, short of harping? This six week campaign gives them a chance to do just that, knowing that they’ll have a chance to talk about it in their small group, and hear about it in Sunday’s sermon.
Are you growing spiritually? Are you a more loving person than you were last year? What’s your plan to grow? How will you know if you’re growing. Jesus said, "You’ll know them by their fruit." Paul said the fruit of the Spirit was love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How can you recognize an apple tree? You’ll see apples. How do know if someone is growing spiritually? You’ll see these nine fruits.
As spiritual leaders, our job is not just to ask, "Am I growing spiritually?" it is to ask, "Are the people I’ve been called to lead growing spiritually?" Leaders sometimes say that people are always leaving in this transient society. People come and go. Some leaders ask: "What if I grow them, and they leave?" To this I would respond, "What if you don’t grow them and they stay?"
The good news is God has given us all the resources we need to do what we’ve been called to do. A treasure of spiritual gifts await us. Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint. The joy of the Lord is our strength. We have not yet given to the point of shedding blood, but when that time comes, we can rest on the promise that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. For most congregations, spiritual gifts are like a fortune lying untouched on the shelf. If you grow people spiritually, watch out. Things will happen. The Spirit will work. You won’t have to push. You’ll just have to get out of the way.
So, how are you encouraging people to grow spiritually through prayer, worship, study, serving, giving and so on? Is it working? Are you happy with the results you are getting?
A spiritual growth campaign like 40 Days may not be your strategy. If not, tell me then, what is?