Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review of Making Friends, Making Disciples by Lee Spitzer

Making Friends, Making Disciples: Growing Your Church through Authentic Relationships
by Lee B. Spitzer
ISBN 978-0-8170-1645-6
Judson Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Making Friends, Making Disciples is a book written as part of the Living Church series by my denomination (ABC/USA) designed to support and encourage effective congregational leadership. This book is the first book in the series, and after reading it, it sounds like the Living Church collection will be insightful and helpful for many pastors and lay leaders in churches.

Making Friends, Making Disciples draws on resources from philosophy, literature, as well as social science and scripture to make an argument for placing the formation and care for friendships as the foundation of powerful and effective ministry. In doing so he asses our need for friendships, especially in our current cultural context,

This book is full of great insight, It also has assessment tools in the back of the book to help individuals understand their history and circles of friendships.

This book is also challenging. As I read this book and considered the contents I asked myself, "Am I really that good at making friends? Am I capable of being the kind of minister this book describes? How do I as a pastor maintain healthy boundaries and still become close friends with people in the congregation I serve?"

In addition to these questions I was challenged to ask questions about our church, "When people enter worship, do they find a place where they can form friendships? Do our facilities make space for friendship?"

There is a lot to think about in this book. And a lot to grow with too.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Big Offering

Most churches, in one way or another, incorporate a collection of financial contributions into their worship services. For more liturgical churches, this happens after the message. The logic being that giving is a response to God’s action through answering our prayers and giving us his word. In the churches I grew up in and was a part of until I came to Hot Springs, an offering took place somewhere in the middle of the service, because we wanted to leave time for responding to the Word through seeking prayer and making commitments of faith during an invitation, or what others term an “altar call”. In either tradition, the bringing of tithes and offerings is considered an important part of worship, not simply because what we do with our resources is part of our worship, but because the presentation of tithes and offerings is an act where we not only offer our money but a time where we offer our very selves in worship to God.
One of my favorite verses is this, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship,” (Romans 12:1) or as it is stated in the Message, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
One Christian music group in the 1980’s had a slogan, “He died for me, I’ll live for him”. That slogan has always rang true and sounded biblically sound to me. I think that sentence hits home because it summarizes Romans 12:1. We are to bring our lives before God as a “living sacrifice”. The term “living sacrifice” implies both a complete commitment, and a commitment that needs to continue to be renewed. It is not an offering, like you put in a plate at church, that is given and received at one point and then you are finished with. It is an offering that begins at a specific time, but continues through repeated resolve and commitment through God’s assistance and grace into the eternal future.

It also, as the Message reminds us, is an offering that takes place in the mundane and gritty details of everyday life, and not in the enclosed space of a sanctuary or the narrow window of time of a Sunday worship service. Worship services are important, not because we need to give an hour to God a week, but because that hour equips us to give our 24/7 to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is important to give of your resources to others and to the church. It is even more important to make that giving a portion of giving your life in service of the Master.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Overcoming the Puppy Dog Syndrome

I quote the movie "Up" more than I care to admit. And when I say "quote", I mean that I mostly quote the dog in the movie. When I put Jake's cone on his head I often say, "I do not want to wear the cone of shame". And when I notice either myself or someone else is being easily distracted I say, "Squirrel!" and turn my head.

It is easy to have the puppy dog syndrome. Puppy-dog syndrome is want to get going with some project or with life in a certain direction, and then to see something else that looks interesting that diverts your attention for a moment, that then leads to another diversion, and then another. You get the point. You have a plan to start a career in one direction, but then another job comes along that sounds really neat and you take it. Pretty soon you have worked for a church, been a social worker, managed a retail store, and taught a few community college classes in the last ten years with no forward movement vocationally. Or, you decide to clean the kitchen, but pretty soon you are doing dishes, doing laundry, while you are shredding documents and your desk is a mess, you kitchen is only slightly cleaner, and there is a wet load of laundry in the dryer that you forgot to put in the washer and you have to run to pick up the kids. This is puppy dog syndrome.

There are certain parts of my life where I suffer from puppy dog syndrome. I am hoping in the next year to recover from them.

Use of organizational tools--I have an unhealthy interest in planners. I work best with Microsoft Outlook. One problem with my Outlook is that I have not been able to link it to my phone, which is my dream.  Another challenge is that I really need to write things down and have them on my computer to remember them best. So I buy planners. I have several cheap 2016 calendars.

My plan with several calendars is to use them like journals of sorts. One that records what I have done at work. One that has blogging plans. One with reading plans. One that has a journal for exercise. You get the point.

In addition to this I want a Franklin-Covey insert set that is on a really good sale right now as well. I already have the leather folder for it. It has always worked well as a planner that covers everything in the past. It allows me to do a to list, to record what I have gotten done, and to put together a schedule all in one place. I love Franklin Covey.

See what I mean..."Squirrel!"

Reading Plans--I have several books. I think I am close to around 2000 books in my library. About this time of year, I try to set some learning goals, which include a number of books I want to read to get me on my way to really growing personally, theologically, and in some practical skills and insight. My challenge is, I am always overly ambitious on these things.

Here is the draft list of topics I want to delve into in my study time next year:

  • Preaching
  • Spiritual Formation
  • Leadership 
  • Pastoral Ministry
  • Theology (non-current)
    • Continue Institutes
    • Read Barth's Dogmatics
    • NT Wright
  • Pauline studies (especially NT Wright's stuff)
  • Psalms in depth study
  • Contemporary Issues and Trends in Ministry
    • Church organization
    • Church growth
    • Small group development
  • Theology of the Holy Spirit
Devotional Plans--I would like some mix of the following. I have most of them on my phone
  • Praying the daily office
    • PCUSA version, book of common prayer, The Divine Hours,Seeking God's Face, Common Prayer, or other? Or just do whatever feels right that day?
  • Daily Devotionals
    • Tim Keller's new devotional, Hearing God's voice by Tiegren, or something else, as well as seasonal devotions during Lent, Advent, etc
  • Read through the Bible in a Year
See what I mean? Do I really have time for all of this?

I would also like to train for a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon as I lose at least 50 more pounds.

And I would like to be completely devoted to the church, wholeheartedly invested in my kids and wife's life, be more involved in my community, make more friends, etc etc.

See what I mean....SQUIRREL


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