Wednesday, August 27, 2014
My current church is the first church I have had a significant role in that had a Stewardship campaign, and that thought about having a stewardship plan. Most of the churches I have served have had some sort of Stewardship Team, but that team basically managed money. It did not seek to set a vision, have a plan, or address issues.
When we were first discussing such matters as church, I was asked about what training I had about such matters. What were the trade magazines saying? What conferences have I went to on such matters. Well, I had attended a few workshops on best practices for collection and disbursement of funds, and had a few discussions, and some mentoring on the issue. I knew of no workshops on the issue, and knew of no big programs that get old, declining mainline churches quick infusions of cash. So I was stumped and frustrated. So I began to learn about stewardship.
Since that point, I have done a little study, and learned more about church finance. One thing that one begins to learn rather quickly, however, is that across denominations there are different cultures of giving. In my experience in different denominations, Methodists like getting a high overhead going back to the denomination, and then they want you to give more to missions. The Presbyterians in Hot Springs are well funded, but like to hoard their money in endowments. Baptists in each of my churches feel good if they can make budget and give 10 percent to missions related activities, including denominational support.
Much of the literature I have comes from Methodism, which challenges a lot of my Baptist thinking. Especially different in Methodist life is the prominent role of the pastor in being aware of individual giving, and tracking issues in that regard.
Recently, a ministry colleague asked what resources people were using in stewardship. Here are the ones that are on my shelf. No reviews. Just a bibliography.
Here are a few of the resources I have on church stewardship
Robert Schnase--Practicing Extravagant Generosity, The Five Practices of Fruitful Living, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (the advantage of this stuff is that there is so much in the way of resources to support the program and philosophy)
Adam Hamilton: Enough--Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity
J. Clif Christopher--Not Your Parents Offering Plate, Whose Offering Plate is It?
Christian Smith et. al--Passing the Plate: Why Americans Don't Give Away More Money
Kelly Kapic and Justin Borger--God So Loved, He Gave
The Rev. Charles Cloughen Jr.--One Minute Stewardship Sermons
Randy Alcorn--The Treasure Principle
Andy Stanley--Fields of Gold
Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie--Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving
Margaret Marcuson--Money and Your Minstry
Brad Formsma-- I Like Giving
I have also found being involved in non-profits to be helpful. For instance, seeing the way the United Way approached fundraising I thought was insightful and helpful in many ways.
What resources have you found?
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
The following are reviews I wrote on Amazon through their Vine reviewer program. I more skimmed these books than read them, but I thought some of you might find these reviews interesting:
This review is from: When God Becomes Small (Paperback)
Our culture is preoccupied with, as the workout routine I did in high school was entitled, "bigger, faster, and stronger". Our churches have adopted this motto as a measure of church health. In this fine little book, Phil Needham challenges his readers to rethink the power of small, and what that might mean for what God is doing in the church. What if God was in the small stuff, and not just the big stuff? What if the baby steps mattered as much as the leaps of faith? What if God calls us to small acts of service with great love (to borrow a phrase from Mother Theresa?). It is these kinds of things that WHEN GOD BECOMES SMALL challenges us to consider.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church of the Long Run
by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I have been reading about and discussing ideas about what it means to be "missional" for years. Our church was even rewarded for being externally focused and reaching our community through going out and connecting with the people, civic organizations, and government we worked with by our Regional Leadership. Missional Leadership gets me excited about being a part of the church, and a part of the vision Jesus had for his kingdom (as opposed to mine or our kingdom).
Unfortunately, to be honest, much like terms such as emergent and community, I think the term is quickly bordering on being overused in church circles. I remember my denomination (ABC/USA) doing this big nationwide tour from my denominational headquarters to teach us what it meant to be missional. What we learned is that they liked missional slogans and lingo, but they really did not know that much about what the "missional church" conversation was all about. Instead they were seeking to re-brand the denomination a little to get more money for traditional missions and the United Mission funds of the denomination while really changing nothing about how they see and do church. My experience was much the same with other denominations I deal with these days in the federated church I serve.
Don't let the overuse of the missional nomenclature keep you from exploring what people who are really practicing and living missional church life have to say. Lance Ford and Brad Brisco are leaders in what the "missional church" conversation is really all about. And the Missional Quest is a fantastic book that balances church vision and philosophy with clear practical steps to grow one's church from a self-serving consumer business model to truly living the kingdom of God in their community, neighborhood, and world.
The Missional Quest is very much a how-to book, but a how-to book that is more descriptive than prescriptive. Early on in the book, it takes on the importance of spiritual formation in the missional church. After all, if we are going to bring Jesus into the world, it kind of helps to know him and be connected with him intimately.For this reason, rhythms of spiritual development and mission, outreach, and connecting with our communities need to be paired.
It also takes on the importance of equipping people for ministry, of ministering to people's real tangible needs, and of really connecting with people where they are at, out in the world, and continuing to bring the church to the world instead of expecting the world to come to the church.
I enjoyed the discussion of place in relationship to missional living. Included in the discussion of place are missional practices that help grow us and help us at the same time bring Christ to others. The small group material was very helpful as well.
Much of what I have read in missional church conversations as well as similar outreach efforts focus on church planters. This book, although supportive of church planting, believes that by God's grace it is possible to transition churches to a missional focus. That was very encouraging to me.
I look forward to reading more books by the rest of the Forge Ministries folks, as well as these two specifically.
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
by Mark Batterson
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Each year our D.S. gifts each of the ministers under his supervision with a book to think about and read for the upcoming year. This was the book we received a couple of years ago. I am just now getting it finished.
The guiding story that launches this book comes from the Hebrew book "The Book of Legends". It is about a man that lived a century before Jesus named Honi, and Honi prayed boldly enough that God answered his prayer and ended a drought that afflicted the whole nation of Israel. Part of what he did was to draw a circle, and tell God he was not going to leave the circle he drew until God brought the land rain. And, as Honi's prayer was answered, people were moved to renew their faith and to understand the true power of bold, big prayers.
Batterson then draws from Honi, from Scripture, and from his own personal experience to describe for people the power and importance of intercessory and petitionary prayer. There are many helpful slogans and prayer practices that Batterson shares, such as "praying through" instead of just "praying to", praying for big things, making your prayers specific, keeping a prayer journal, establishing a regular prayer habits, about having goals brought to the Lord in prayer and so on.
For people who like specifics, this book has plenty, both from Batterson and his friends in his church and around the world. The Circle Maker is nothing if not practical.
My biggest challenge in reading this book is that many of the examples, instead of changed lives, had to do with wealth, personal achievement, and real estate purchases. And, while that is more helpful than hearing about biological prayer requests all of the time, I also would like to hear more about how prayer changes lives and not just bank accounts.
Monday, August 04, 2014
Frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament
by Eric Larson
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Frameworks is a nice book. It feels nice when the reader holds it. It has beautiful pictures, and it has a nice cover. It also has a nice concept. Larson goes book by book through the New Testament, and really digs into the main themes and the point of each book of the New Testament. The visual aids are really well done, as well as some of the questions that lead the reader to go deeper in their knowledge of the Bible.
The perplexing thing about Frameworks is that it does not fit easily into a certain mold or type of book for a certain type of reader. The way the book is organized and put together, it could almost be a coffee table book--yet in many ways it is too deep to be just that. It would also be an excellent text for a Bible survey class in a church, although in my church it would be much too spendy for that kind of thing. When I will probably use this is when I am in a mentoring relationship where I am trying to help someone get a better biblical foundation. Larson does a great job of helping the reader go deeper, without overwhelming them. And the visual presentation will make it less intimidating for people do not feel comfortable with a different kind of book.
Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations
by Jonathan McKee
Reviewed by Clint Walker
This book is a good book with a relatively simple idea. In Get Your Teenager Talking Jonathan McKee has offered a very practical discussion guide to get adults visiting with young people.
The guide begins with some general tips about starting conversations with teenagers. I don't think it is awful hard, but I am aware than many people do.
Then there are 180 conversation starters. These conversation starters begin with an open question designed to get conversation and dialogue started. Most of the questions are pretty interesting, and would even be good questions to ask at a dinner with friends.
In each conversation the reader is also given an insight to guide their listening with each conversation. After that, there are also some follow up questions, as well as as some more questions that push the conversation to a deeper and more personal and intimate level.
I would think this book would be an excellent resource in a number of settings. It might be helpful in a family devotion time with teenagers. It might also be very helpful in a small group, or as an icebreaker conversation in a fairly inactive youth group. However, I think its original design is just to get parents and kids talking with each other about issues and situations that matter in their lives. I will both keep this book and share it with others. Not very many books are quite so practical.
6:50am Wake up. Stayed up later after going to watch "Tammy" with my wife the night before. Last week increased our movie date nights by double for the year, since we usually only do that around our anniversary.
7:00am Help get the kids breakfast started.
7:10am Shower time. Shaved on Friday, so need this Sunday. Yipee
7:30am Iron clothes, get dressed etc. What? No shirts ripping? No spills? No struggle to find my stuff? This day is going well!
8:00 Grab a G2 and head out the door. Get to the church. Unlock the back door. Check the church parking situation with the motorcycle fiesta/travelling wall. Everything seems to look good. Walk in the church and see that Tracy has delivered on the sign for the Under Construction theme. I put the sign in front of the pulpit. Rock on!
8:10 Settle in. Pray. Review message. Plan children's message. Realize I am going to have to run home to pick up a plant.
8:40 Run home and pick up a plant.
8:45 Begin to observe who is coming to church. Each week I send out postcards to people I see that have been gone. This ministry seems to have shown fruit, as I see several folks coming in that I had sent cards to because they had been missed in worship.I hear people questioning the appearance of the sanctuary as they walk in. This is what I want. To grab people's attention and shake them up a little bit. Caution tape is hung on the pillars. Road Work Ahead Signs and under construction signs around the church. A big ROAD WORK AHEAD construction sign leaning on the pulpit. And now a flower. People start asking, what does a flower have to do with all of this? PERFECT.
9:00 Start out worship.
9:10 First hymn sounds ok, but not great. Such is the case when it is a new hymn with an old tune. I am picking mostly Psalms. Again, as we face the under construction theme, I want people to try some different things.
9:20 Prayer time is fairly brief. Thank God. Sometimes there are folks in our church that have prayer request tirets, spouting requests as nervous ticks from out of nowhere. It makes the service drag on
9:30 Get into the pulpit. I preach with a limited outline. I am excited about the UNDER CONSTRUCTION SERIES, and do well. People seem to connect with my preaching. I get good non verbal feedback. I am less precise, there are more filler words, but I am also less note bound.
9:52 I finish sermon and feel good. Now it is a race to see if we can get done in an hour
9:59 Closing hymn and benediction are all that is left. Then, from out of nowhere another prayer request is shared by someone with prayer terretts about praying for first responders during rally week. I handle that request while deftly moving us to the sending song. Well played on my part I thought
10:02 Service is finished. Two minutes long. People can live with that, although there are some rushing out the door during the final hymn.
10:15 Visit with people for a while
11:15 Drop in on the end of the missions meeting. Some folks seem a little grumpy. Wonder why,
11:30 Everyone leaves, I lock up.
11:45 I get home
12:12 I help with lunch. Then get distracted while Jen finishes up what I start.
1:00 Put kids to bed. I do powerpoint for evening
2:30 Powerpoint finished
2:45 Girls get up from naps
3:15 Run to store with family
3:30 Let kids play while I read and visit with Jen and watch kids. The way Sunday afternoons in the summer are supposed to be. Lots of laughs, a few cries, and a peaceful hour or so.
5:00 Go back to work to prep for the evening service
5:15 Get evening powerpoint on flash drive
5:35 Finish setting up worship space for evening.
5:45 Visit with folks. Remember to go get pens
6:00 Begin worship. I preach the same service as the morning
7:30 Worship ends
7:45 Talk with gentleman who is a leader in the recovery movement in our town that comes to our evening service. Good conversation about life, spiritual growth, and reaching out to folks in need of a clear direction in their life. He brought two friends. They are both excited to come back. My wife knows one of the visitors from working at Social Service. Conflicts of interest like this abound when your wife is a social worker in a town of 4000 people.
8:15 Get home from work
9:00 Put Karis to bed. About a 20 minute ritual.
9:30 Head out in a quest to find Jennifer a pizza. She saw and ad. Now she is hungry. Neither of us have had dinner yet.
10:00 Get home from running all over town. Pizza from Subway. Ice from Fresh Start. Drinks from Dakotamart Gas. Arghhh. Poor customer service all the way around.
10:15-MIDNIGHT Jennifer and I watch Catfish TV. I say that Cashfishers are either fat people who are ashamed of how they look or homosexuals. There is one of each in these two episodes. Called it!
MIDNIGHT-1 I can't sleep without alone time. I spend an hour doing nothing after Jen goes to bed. Then I go to bed as well.
Friday, August 01, 2014
16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. (2 Cor. 4:16 CEB)
Every once in a while I get in a conversation with someone about church and matters of faith. Usually somewhat isolated and from out of nowhere, I suppose because I am a preacher-creature, they say something like, “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites”.
I don’t often try and mount an argument at this point. One reason I do not argue is because I suspect that when people say something like this one of two things is happening. Either the person is speaking from a place of genuine pain coming from a difficult experience, or they are trying to pick a fight or be defensive, or all of the above. In any of these cases, trying to forcefully advocate faith and argue for being a part of a community of faith won’t get me very far.
Another reason I do not argue about this is because there is a ring of truth to the statement. No church will ever live up to the image of the ideal church that others place upon it, or the hopes that those that are a part of the church place on themselves.
Let me explain. If I am a believer in Jesus Christ in a biblical sense, I acknowledge that I am a sinful, broken person seeking to serve a perfect Savior that I believe is the only hope to make me whole, and in fact the only hope for the whole world. And I also acknowledge that although I am growing to be more like Jesus (I John 3:2), I am still a work in progress. I will be until the day I die.
As a Christian pastor, I see amazing things every day that God does in and through his people by the power of the Holy Spirit. I also see how truly messed up people can be, even people who say that they are believers in Christ. This does not surprise me. I know that as believers we are not even what we want to be, for even when we want to do right, we end up doing the wrong thing (Romans 7). I know that like unfinished works of art, God is still working upon each of us. And I know deep down in my heart that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—and I am compelled to follow him, and to participate in a community of faith because Christ draws me, and I know that even through the difficult moments in community God is making me into the person, and making you into the person, that he created us to be.
I have often issued a humorous invitation or threat, depending on how you look at it, to my congregation. I have often said that I am tempted to have a banner printed and placed on the front of our church building that says this, “No Perfect People Allowed, All Others Welcome”.
There is no such thing as a perfect person, other than Jesus. There is also no such thing as a perfect congregation of Jesus. The Church around the world is, I believe, the hope of the world. It is also continuing to be under construction. God is still working on his people, still working with his people. Seeking to make them whole. Seeking to work through his people to mend the world. God is still building his people, with Jesus Christ as the foundation stone or cornerstone. Thank God for his patience with me. Thank God for his patience with us. And thank God for the beauty and truth we find in the middle of the mess of life, and the light we find through the church in the darkness of this world. Thank God for the unearned gifts we received, including our own salvation. Thank God for his grace. Amen.