Monday, October 16, 2017

Newsletter Article for November, 2017


The Maple in our front yard always looses its leaves early and is doing it once again. I’ve already been having to sweep leaves out of our garage.  We are in that season of change from Summer to Winter!  Paul speaks about change; in Romans 12:1&2 (NRSV), he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Be transformed; that is to be changed!  It is a process of change like the caterpillar goes through to become a beautiful butterfly!  As Christians, we are in that process of change!  God is not finished with us yet!  We are becoming the beautiful person that God wants us to be!  We are learning to love fully as God has loved us, not as the world loves, but as God loves!  That is what John Wesley was talking about when he spoke of moving on to perfection.  He was speaking of being perfected in God’s love, to learn to love as God loves.  Being a Christian is not so much a set of does and don’ts as it is learning to love as God loves and to live the way we do because of that love.  Methodist people are known as people of grace and love.  Let’s embrace that identity and make the best of it as we reach out in our community in love; therein, we will find our greatest success in ministry in Marble Hill and in our world.  The world needs to see the Love of God more than ever; the world longs to see the Love of God!  It is a beautiful season, and it is a beautiful thing that God is doing in each of our lives!  Share the love so that others will know that God loves them too!   People want to be a part of something where they can feel this kind of love!

November is the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is more and more getting lost in the secularization of Christmas.  It is a very special time of giving thanks!  As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to say thank you to the one from whom all good things come!  Let’s thank God by word and deed!  My prayer is that you will Catch the Spirit and invite others to come and join us as we experience the Grace and Love of God together at Marble Hill UMC!

                                                                                                            God Bless you!

                                                                                                            Pastor Mike

Risk-Taking Mission and Service!

Series: AFive Practices of Fruitful
Sermon: Risk-Taking Mission and Service!

Luke 10:30-37 & Matt. 25:40
     A.   Overview of series thus far:
Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship,
     and Intentional Faith Development;
     Some won=t be involved in small group Bible Studies: some will
develop their faith during worship etc., others will find their place  in Mission and Service, which is the goal of discipleship and faith development anyway!

B.   Some service will be more risk-taking than others.  Leading a Bible Study among Christians is not too risk-taking, but it is needed.  It comes more under the faith-building we talked about last week.

C.   We are going to be talking about a particular kind of service today: “Risk-Taking Mission and Service.”

I.   A look at the Scripture:

A.   The Story of the Good Samaritan.

B.   The Priest and the Levite walked around obvious suffering, ignoring it or denying it, and went on their merry way.

C.   As Christians, we can=t do that:

II.  AVibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Risk-Taking Mission  and Service. Risk-Taking Mission and Service includes the projects, the efforts, and work people do to make a positive difference in the lives of others for the purposes of Christ, whether or not they will ever be part of the community of faith.@

A.   Some will be in service in the church among those who are already in the church such as teaching etc., which is a necessary service but is not what this practice is talking about. It is more what the Intentional Faith Development is about.

B.   Risk-Taking Mission and Service is talking about things like:
1.   VIM teams to Porta Rico or Texas for Hurricane relief.
2.   Allowing our church to be used for the PEPP program, “Positive Educational Parenting Program.”
3.   Food Pantry.
4.   Working on people’s homes in the community.
5.   Gideon=s International.
6.   Our benevolence fund where we help people with gas, and etc.
7.   Cutting firewood for people.
8.   Clean up along the highway.
9.   Some of these are more Risk-Taking than others, but this is talking about the ways we get our hands dirty serving those outside the church, whether or not they ever come into the church.  It is the way we are Jesus’ hands and feet to show God’s love in our world and community.

C.   Churches should be permission-giving instead of approval-seeking!

     1.   Let’s say Tom has an idea of having a yard sale on the church property to raise money for buying devotionals for prisoners in the local prison.
     2.   He goes to the pastor with his idea.  The pastor says, “You’ll have to check with the Trustees to see if it is okay to have a yard sale on the church property.”  They won’t meet until next month.
     3.   Next month, Tom goes to the Trustee meeting to ask them about having the yard sale.  They tell him they will have to do some research about insurance and etc. and get back to him next month. 
     4.   The next month, they tell him there are no insurance problems, but now he will have to take his request to the mission team to make sure his request is in line with the mission of the church.  Next month he does that.
     5.   They approve it, but they say he will have to take his idea to the Church Council next month for final approval. 
     6.   He finally gets permission, but now it is December and too cold for a yard sale this year.
     7.   You get the idea.  We need to be structured so that when people have a heart for mission and a plan they can be released to do so.

A.              Instead, the plan should be developed by those who have a heart for it.

B.              ANot everyone has the spiritual gifts, the personal temperament, or the physical stamina to step beyond the edge of ordinary service.@
1.              That is okay!  In the body of Christ there are many members, and we do not all have the same function.
2.              But the church should be permission giving and supportive of those who do have a heart for the ministry.
3.              Lyle Schaller was quoted as saying, when it comes to initiating new ministries, Awe should only count the yes votes.@  If there are people wanting to do it, we should turn them loose to serve.
a.   This isn’t to say we should say yes to every idea that someone has that they think someone should do!
b.   This isn’t to say we should pass the offering plate for every idea someone has.
c.   This is saying, if someone is wanting to do a ministry, we should be open to them doing it.
d.   If they have a plan, are willing to implement it, and have a way to fund it, we should say go for it without all the red tape!
e.   Actually, the church is pretty good at this.  Each year, Sue pays for the mobile food pantry to be set up at the back to school fair, and people from the church support it as volunteers to distribute the food. 
     1.   She had an idea and provided a way to fund it.
     2.   We said yes!

III. Churches should be supportive of those who do Risk-Taking Mission and Service.
A.   That is how we can all be a part of it.

B.   We can be supportive by being permission giving.

C.   We can also be supportive by helping fund it.
VIM teams.  We could help with expense.  Some who have a heart for this may not actually be able to afford the expense.
Food Pantry.  We do fund the mobile food pantry during serve!

AVibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Risk-Taking Mission and Service.@
Are you being called to serve?
Are you being called to be permission giving?
Are you being called to support in some other way?


Anointing in biblical times was a public
act of selection or setting apart,
invoking the Lord=s blessing for a
specific calling or task.  In our times,
the anointing of the hands serves as an
acknowledgment that as Christians, whose
lives are open to the the leadership of
God, all of the tasks of our lives are
the Lord=s work.

Anointing of hands:

ASpirit of God, use

these hands as your own.@

Monday, October 9, 2017

Intentional Faith Development!

Series: AFive Practices of Fruitful
Sermon: Intentional Faith Development!


A.   What is a small group?  (a small group is a group of people who meet for an indefinite time or for a short time for a particular purpose; small groups are not positions that you are elected to.  You may be elected to lead a small group, but the attendees are usually voluntary. The purpose may be to study, or the purpose may be to serve in some way.)

B.   Name some small groups that we have:  choir, EPIC, JAMS, Sunday School classes, short term Bible Studies, UMM, mission teams, Methodist 101, Confirmation, Prayer meeting folks, Benevolent meals workers, etc.

C.   These are the types of things we are talking about today.  These are all ways in which people develop their faith either by learning or serving,

Acts 2:42 & Heb. 5:12-14

I.   AVibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Intentional Faith Development.@

A.   AChrist=s gracious invitation through Radical Hospitality invites and welcomes us@

B.   AGod=s transforming presence in Passionate Worship opens our hearts to Christ=s pardon, love, and grace, creating in us a desire to follow.@

C.   While I want to believe that there is some part that worship and preaching plays in our continued Sanctification and growth in Christ (I hope some of you are challenged to growth through the message today), real growth in our Christian lives comes through Intentional Faith Development.

D.   A church that doesn=t practice Intentional Faith Development will fail at getting people past the milk of the word!

A2 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.[i]A  Heb. 5:14

II.  Let me illustrate by again looking at a couple people=s stories.  These are not real people in particular, but I believe their stories are real.

A.   Bob is invited to church by a friend.  He comes and he is met with Radical Hospitality: he is greeted at the door by a greeter and handed a bulletin; the greeter shows him where the bathrooms are, where the worship will take place, and introduces him to the pastor and a couple other members. Worship begins, and during the hand of fellowship, several other people come to welcome him.  Bob is really feeling good about this.  Worship is very Passionate, so much so, that Bob leaves feeling that he really wants to follow God, so he plans to start coming to church here.  The next week Bob comes back.  He is Radically welcomed again!  Several people come by to tell him they are really glad he is coming.  He continues to be touched by worship and feels that he should do something.  This goes on for several weeks.  Finally, Bob stops coming. What happened?

B.   Let=s look at another persons story and see if we can see a difference: John also is invited by a friend.  He also comes and is Radically greeted and welcomed.  He is shown around and introduced to the pastor and others in the church.  Worship begins, several greet him during the hand of fellowship, and the worship is very Passionate.  John also leaves feeling that he will start coming to this church, that he really wants to follow God. The next week John comes back and is again greeted radically and worship again is very passionate, leaving him feeling he really does want to know more about this God the church worships.  A couple things happen different though this week: during the gathering before worship, a lady approaches him and invites him to a Bible Study she is leading where they are going through the Bible and introduces him to some of the participants; after worship, one of the choir members approaches him and asks him if he would like to be a part of the choir (telling him that they meet for prayer and practice on Wednesday night and before service on Sunday morning); also, a person catches him just before he leaves to tell about a small group he is a part of for single parents.  Bob decides to come to choir practice and to the small group for single parents because it has been real difficult for him since his wife died.  Bob grows in his relationship with the choir and finds a place he can serve as well.  He finds in his small group support, relationship, and faith in a God who can help him.  He later attends many other small groups during his time at the church.  He builds many relationships, faith, and later feels that God is calling him to lead a small group.  John is even thinking of the possibility that God may be calling him into the ministry.  John has really found a place where he can grow in his relationship with God!

III. What was the difference?

A.   Intentional Faith Development where people are intentionally given groups to be a part of for their faith to grow!

B.   Radical Hospitality extended from these groups!
     1.   People will not by and large just come and show up for these  groups because they have seen it announced in the bulletin or because it was announced to the church in worship!
     2.   They need a personal invite. 
          a.   Don’t bug them about it.
          b.   But make sure they know they are invited and let them know what the small group does.
          c.   This is something I have experienced as a pastor.
          People don’t very often just volunteer.  They need to know that you think this might be a place they  can serve.
3.   Jesus modeled small groups with the 12:
     a.   He preached to the multitudes.
     b.   He personally asked the 12 to come follow him.
     c.   He concentrated on faith building with the 12.

C.   Bis. Schnase calls it closing the middle door!
1.   People can become overwhelmed in a large group and feel disconnected
2.   In a small group (a small church within a church) they can connect, they can build relationships, and build faith!

D.   Don=t ever think that I don=t think what you do in small groups is important! I can’t attend every small group as the pastor.  When small groups are working at their best, it would be impossible to do so.  I hope these stories illustrate how important it really is!  It is a very important part of the process of making disciples for Jesus Christ!

Invitation to Prayer

[i] The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Heb 5:12

Monday, October 2, 2017

Passionate Worship!

Series: AFive Practices of Fruitful
Sermon: Passionate Worship!

     How many of you remember waiting for Christmas when you were a kid?       I do!  We put the tree up right after Thanksgiving!  We decorated to get everything just right.  We shopped for gifts!  There was more shopping for gifts going on than I even realized!  We planned what we going to do!  We were intentional.  The stockings were    hung!  Everything was done at the right time!  I waited with great     expectation, and I wasn’t usually disappointed.  Santa showed up   just at the right time and brought gifts! December was a long    month, but it was worth the planning and the waiting!

     Trans:  Worship is a lot like that!

Psalm 84:1-2

I.   AVibrant, fruitful, growing churches offer Passionate Worship that connects people to God and to one another.@

A.   AWorship describes those times we gather deliberately seeking to encounter God in Christ.@
     1.   We encounter Christ to Praise and say Thank You!
     2.   We encounter Christ for Christ to speak to us!

B.   AThrough Passionate Worship, God draws people to Christ (many for the first time), deepens understanding and relationship with Christ, and over time transforms lives as disciples of Christ.@

C.   AWithout passion, worship becomes dry, routine, boring, and predictable, keeping the form while lacking the spirit.@

II.  What is Passionate Worship and how do we have it?  Let=s look at a couple of families; we will call them family A and family B.  They are not meant to represent anyone in particular.

A.   Family A: Family A is the typical family (if there is a typical family) where both husband and wife work to make a living for 2 2 kids.  They have the typical two-car garage and a picket fence.  They live the American Dream.  Mom and dad both work hard; when they are not working late, they attend the kid=s games at the school.  This week has been particularly tough. One of the kids broke an arm at school and dad had to take off from work to take her to the doctor.  He got chewed out at work for missing an important interview at work as a result.  Because of this, he was very moody at home.  They are a very busy family with their days filled with activity from the time they get up until they go to bed. They can=t seem to find time for daily Bible ready and prayer.  Sunday morning comes, and everybody is tired.  Mom and dad hit the snooze two or three times before getting up.  When they get up, everybody is running late, the kids haven=t gotten up either, so everybody makes a mad dash to get ready for church at the same time.  They fuss over the bathroom; they fuss over whose fault it is that they are running late; they fuss over who will fix breakfast.  They finally get ready and have to drive a little faster than posted to get to the church on time.  They arrive at church one minute before worship starts.  They shake hands with the greeters and pastor who have been there for 15 minutes, and the service begins. It takes a while for the pastor to get going too because she too has had to rush around to get there. They go through all the elements of worship.  The singing is good.  The message is okay, but it is just hard to get into worship.  Worship is not very passionate.

B.   Family B: Family B is a typical one parent family (if there is a typical one parent family).  Mom works very hard to support her two kids who she has become the soul provider for after her husband walked out on her.  She works very hard and tries to make all the games for her kids that she can.  It is hard to get it all done, but the kids have been taught to help and do their part.  Mom rises early to spend time with God, reading a devotion and in prayer.  She teaches the kids to also make time for personal prayer and Bible reading.  She finds that the day just goes better when she starts it with God.  Sunday morning comes, the alarm goes off, and mom and the kids roll out of bed, each taking time to start their day with God, just like any other day.  They get ready and arrive at church with plenty of time to gather and greet other Christians before service time. The pastor and worship leaders have been there for over an hour already and have also taken time for personal Bible readings and prayer throughout the week.  They have gathered early to pray for the service this day and to discuss and fine tune exactly how the service will go.  They have time to discuss any last minute feelings they have toward changing the service etc.  They know what they are going to do and why.  They expect God to do something in the service and they want to be ready.  The entire church is filled with expectation that God will move among them today; you can feel it as you move among the people before service.  Service time comes; the announcements are quickly made; worship begins; the songs are great and well planned, everything is coordinated together; the worship leaders convey excitement and expectation; the message is great; the pastor feels that God has really given her something for the people today; the people are touched by the Spirit of God and filled up to go out and serve God through the week.  This worship is very passionate!

II.         What is the difference?  Passionate worship is a lot like getting ready for Christmas.  It takes:

A.              Advance prep; worship is an outflow of a heart in relationship with God.
     1.   We need to be prayed up and ready!
     2.   We need to read the bible more than just at church!
     3.   It means practicing and preparing to offer our very best!

B.   Intentionality!  Good worship doesn’t just happen.
     1.   We need to be intentional with our flow.  We shouldn’t  leave a lot of dead time between things.  People who are going to be on next should be on spot and going with it.     
  a.   Ushers should be moving to their place so that there is no wait time for them to be in place.
          b.   Musicians should be ready to go right into their next thing, unless there is a call for a pause.
          c.   People singing specials should be moving to do so even before being called upon so that people don’t have to wait for them to take their place.
          d.   Everything should flow with that intentionality!
     2.   We need to be intentional that our songs go with the      theme of the day, that our children’s time goes with the      theme, so that the people go away with the intended message and encounter.
     3.   We need to be intentionally positive and upbeat!
     4.   Pastor has to be intentional and think about what to  preach and why.

B.              Expectation!  We need to come expecting God to do something, and just like I was never disappointed at Christmas, we will never be disappointed in worship!  Everything we do needs to convey that expectation!

     Thanks be to God!  Amen!

Prayer & Invitation to communion

Monday, September 25, 2017

Radical Hospitality!

Series: AFive Practices of Fruitful Congregations!@
Sermon: Radical Hospitality!

A.              Bishop Schnase once told the story of going around visiting churches when he first became bishop and nobody knew him.

     B.   He went to a certain church and sat down.

     C.   In a little while, an elderly lady came up and kind of looked him over from head to toe and finally said, “You are sitting in my seat!”

     D.   He kind of chuckled thinking she was joking!  She says, “No really!  My family has been sitting in this pew for 50 years!”

     E.   He gets up and moves. 

     F.   During the service, he is introduced, so after the service, the little old lady comes up to him and says, “If I’d known  who you were, I wouldn’t have had you move!”

     G.   The bishop said to that and his point was, “Should it have  made any difference?”
          1.   He was a stranger in their mist.
          2.   She did one of the most unwelcoming things she could have  down to a visitor!
          3.   She made him feel that there wasn’t really a place for  him here!

     Trans:    She was anything but radically hospitable to a stranger!   Today we will look at the second sermon in the series,  “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations,” which is the first practice, “Radical Hospitality.”

Romans 15:7

I.              Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Radical Hospitality.

A.              Members focus on those on the outside with as much passion as they attend to the nurture and growth of those already here.
     1.   When I go on vacation, sometimes we try to go to a church in the area.  Such was the case one year.
     2.   We looked online before we went and found one of our sister UMC churches in a town near where we would go  camping.
     3.   We went to church that Sunday.  We arrived in our clothes dressed for camping, shorts etc.
     4.   We were greeted at the door by the greeter and given a bulletin.  They kind of had that in place.  But we  weren’t asked for names or anything like that.
     5.   We went in and sat on the left side a couple seats from the back.
     6.  The pastor was making his rounds visiting with people,  but he never spoke to us.  He got as close as a couple  pews ahead of us.
     7.   Nobody else spoke to us before church.
     8.   Church started and they had their hand of fellowship as many of our churches do. I expected, being visitors, we’d  be flogged during this time, but not really the case.
          a.   Donna was on the end of the pew, and one guy came up  and slapped her on the shoulder rather hard and said  something that seemed a little off the wall for  someone you were just meeting.
          b.   I saw a lot of visiting among themselves.
          c.   Finally, the people directly behind us spoke to us and asked us if we were visiting, and we told them  we were camping at the nearby park.
     9.   Church ended, and we walked out to the lobby.  Nobody  else really spoke to us.  Donna went to the bathroom,   Amanda and I stood around in the lobby.  I tried my best      deer in the headlight look.  Nobody came around and spoke to us.  The pastor again, didn’t even come around.
     10.  When we got home, I looked up online and found the  pastor’s email and told him I was a pastor and had  visited his church last Sunday on vacation.  His reply was, “I wish you had told me who you were so I could greet you!”
     11.  Like the bishop said earlier, I thought, “should it have made a difference?”  It seemed to me it would be more  important to greet a stranger in your mist who was not a pastor.

B.              Extravagant Hospitality describes a genuine love for those not yet a part of the community of faith.

C.              The Extravagantly Hospitable Church sees themselves as a part of the community to serve and not be served.
Ajust as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.@
Matt. 20:28

D.              They realize they were once strangers and were welcomed to the community of faith by someone.

E.              They realize that Jesus takes welcoming seriously: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,[i] Matt. 25:35  (read vs. 34-35)

F.   John Wesley practiced Radical Hospitality by going out into the streets to preach to people who were not welcome in the  church of his time!

II.         Radical Hospitality requires seeking a culture of hospitality that extends into our Sunday School classes, mission teams, choirs, and youth ministry.

A.              It means coming to grips with the questions: Why do people need Christ?  Why do people need the church?  Why do people need this particular congregation? (Adam Hamilton, ALeading Beyond the Walls.@)

B.              Importantly, it means becoming a school of love where people learn from one another how to love every time the church gathers.

C.              The majority of our neighbors do not know the name of a pastor to call when they face an unexpected grief; it is reaching out in love to them.

III.    Why Radical?

A.              Radical intensifies.

B.              Those who exhibit Radical Hospitality are restless because they realize so many people do not have a relationship with a faith community and with God!  They want to do something about it!

C.              Radical Hospitality shapes all we do; Aall pray, plan, work so that their specific ministries with children , missions, the facility, worship, music, and study are done with excellence and with special attention to inviting others in and helping them feel welcome.@
     1.   Are our children’s ministries done with excellence; do we  insure a safe place for their children.  Do we go the  second mile to be sure our workers are safe; that is what  Safe Sanctuaries is all about.
     2.   Do we have a nursery for children who might visit with small children?  Is it kept clean or does it smell?  This sends an unintentional message as to whether we want to  be a church for people with small children.  I know right  now we don’t have a room for this, but this is something  we need to be aware of and thinking about how to fix. 
          a.   We formed a study committee during our last Church Council to look at what we might need to add to the physical building of the church to accomplish our mission! 
          b.   This would definitely need to be a part of that  discussion!
     3.   Do we have something for all ages: older adults, younger adults, all ages of children, singles, etc?
     4.   Does the grounds look inviting and kept, but yet, it is evident that we are willing for it to be used for  ministry?  Do we jump on someone who brings food or drink in the sanctuary?  That is again one of the most  uninviting things we can do to outsiders!
     5.   Do we single visitors out in front of everyone?  This is done many places with good intentions, but as a visitor,  when you just want to blend in for that first visit, it is very uncomfortable for the pastor or someone else to  point at you and say it is good to have so and so!  Don’t  get their name with the intent of calling them out.
     6.   Is our service positive, well planned, and the music done with excellence and with in mind the folks who are not here?  Or do we just do it like we like it?
          a.   At one of my previous pastorates, an older woman who played the piano and did it with excellence was  quoted as saying when they were considering whether  or not to go to more contemporary music in worship,  “it isn’t what I grew up with, it isn’t what I like,               but it is the right thing to do if we want to reach  those on the outside.”
          b.   She got it and hit the nail right on the head!
     7.   So is the music such that people who are unchurched can  relate to it?
     8.   Do we explain things so that they know what we are doing?
     9.   Is there signage so that people can find their way around; if someone seems to be looking around, will people stop and help them, show them around, sit with them, or invite them out to lunch?
     10. Do we tell them when to stand and when not to stand? Is the Lord’s prayer written in case they do not know it?
     11.  Is there parking left up close, or do visitors have to walk a clear across the parking lot to get to the doors  of the church?
     12.  Are there seats left open in the back so that they can walk in relatively unnoticed, or do they have to walk up in front of everyone?
     13.  All these things are about Radical Hospitality!

D.              Members work with a heightened awareness of the person who is not present!

IV.         Radical Hospitality stretches us, challenges us, and pulls out of us our utmost creativity and hard work to offer the welcome of Christ.

A.              Churches that practice Radical Hospitality don=t just have ushers and greeters but they have ...
1.              Ushers that don=t just point, but they escort.
2.              They don=t just pass out papers, but they make people feel at ease.
3.              They take note of names and introduce them to the pastor and to others.

B.              Churches that practice Radical Hospitality do not just communicate with their members but they send out Newsletters, brochures, and flyers to everyone.

C.              Churches that practice Radical Hospitality realize it takes us all extending the welcome and everyone gets on board to offer Radical Hospitality.  The pastor will be a part of this, but they realize it isn’t just the pastor.

A.              A church changes its culture one person at a time.

B.              Radical Hospitality begins with a single heart, a growing openness, a prayerful desire for the highest good of a stranger.

D.              It begins when one person treats another respectfully and loves the stranger enough to overcome the internal hesitations to invite that person into the life of Christ=s church.

E.              It calls for personal responsibility!
1.   We tend to think if we could just get the right program or strategy.
2.   We think if the pastor would just do this.  If the staff would just do this.  If only they didn=t do this.
3.   But Radical Hospitality calls us to move from AIf they@ to "If I.@
4.   It invites us to ask ourselves, AWhat if I really began to extend Radical Hospitality?@

D.   Bishop Schnase’s book asks,
AEvery member of the Body of Christ is the fruit of someone=s ministry and faithfulness.  Who is the fruit of yours?@

E.   People are searching for churches that make them feel welcome and loved, needed and accepted.  What can we do together to be that kind of congregation?  What can we do individually to be that kind of congregation?


[i]The Holy Bible  : New Revised Standard Version. 1996, c1989 . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

Monday, September 18, 2017

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations: Introduction!

Mark 10:46-52

     A.   I can remember the church I grew up in from age 6 through almost 16.  It was about the same size when we moved as it was when we started attending there.  A few folks passed away.  I  few others came and joined but not that many.  We just maintained.  Maybe decreased!  We tried different programs!   We had revivals!  We did everything we thought we were suppose  to do, but we did not grow.

          Then we moved.  We started to a church that was growing.  It  grew to the place we were putting chairs out in the isles.  They had to start talking about building.  I don’t remember that church doing any revivals!  I don’t remember them doing any programs in particular!

          What was the difference?

A.              As I think back, I think it probably had to do with practices!       What is a practice?

B.              Pastors come and go, and they all have these programs they want to try.  Isn=t this just another program that will come and go?

C.              How is this different?

As we start a series on AThe Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations@ these are just some of the questions will look at this morning!

I.              Let=s look at the scripture:

A.              Scripture Bis. Bruce Ough used to identify four qualities of healthy congregational life.

B.              I haven=t read that sermon, but as I look at the text, I can see the four qualities he cited emerge.

C.              Radical Hospitality - The blind man was a nobody, but Jesus Radically accepted him! 
     1.   It is easy for us to be hospitable to people who are like us or who we see value in.
     2.   It is radical hospitality for us to be hospitable to people who by all earthly stardards are nobodies. 
     3.   That is what Jesus did here!

D.              Passionate Worship - Look how passionately the blind man addresses Jesus and with what expectation he had that Jesus would do something!
     1.   We all rely heavily on God!
     2.   We all are blessed much by God in our everyday lives!
     3.   Do we expect God to do something in our lives?
     4.   How passionately do we address God?
     5.   How much expectation do we bring to worship?

E.              Faith-Forming Relationships - Jesus models this with his disciples!
     1.   Jesus had 12 disciples that he spent most of his time with.
     2.   He believed in faith forming relationships!

F.              Risk-Taking Service - This is just one time that Jesus reaches out to the outcast and down-trodden.

G.              From those original thoughts, Bis Schnase added one more: Extravagant generosity.

H.              We will look at these more fully and how they effect our ability to be a fruitful congregation in the weeks ahead.

II.         The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations emerge:

A.              What is a practice?
1.              I can remember my years as a lay person in the church.
2.              The new pastor arrives; what new program will they want to try?
3.              Here we go again.

B.              A practice is not a program.
1.              Revivals are programs.
2.              When I was a layperson, we had Friend day!  Friend day is a program!
3.              Ice Cream socials are programs!
4.              The V.B.S. picnic is a program!
5.              Valentine’s dinners are programs!
6.              Wild game dinner is a program!

C.              A program is only effective if the practices of the church are effective.
     1.   Most obviously, if we have a program and we only talk to each other, it will fail in its ability to bring new  people in to the church.
     2.   If we have the practices in place, everything we do as we  gather as the church will draw people to Christ!

D.              Practices are those things we do every day and everywhere we are as a church; they are a part of our make-up.  They are, in some cases, a part of our DNA, but in others, they can be learned. 
E.              Our practices, affect everything we do.

F.              Programs come and go, but our practices should be with us whenever we gather as a church.

III.    The adjectives used to describe the practice intensify the practice in the Bishop Schnase’s book. 

A.              Only when these practices are done to excellence do they really make us a fruitful congregation!

B.              So So, on any of these, leaves room for growth.

IV.         So what are the AFive Practices@ the Bishop names:

A.              Radical Hospitality: when people encounter the church for worship, S.S., small groups, Ice Cream Socials, V.B.S., etc. they must be met with Radical Hospitality.  What is that and how can we do that?  We will look at that.

B.              Passionate Worship: how can our worship be passionate, not only for us, but also for the visitor who walks through the door? How can our worship be more than just going through the motions?

C.              Intentional Faith Development: how can we organize what we do so that people encounter Christ in worship, are really discipled in faith Aintentionally?@

D.              Risk-taking mission and service: this should be an outcome of being discipled in faith, finding our place to serve.

E.              Extravagant generosity: what is this talking about?  How do we go about it?

V.              What difference will it make for us as a church? 

     A.   It will make the difference whether or not we continue to  grow!

     B.   It will make the difference whether or not we are able to make  disciples for Christ in an effective, fruitful way!


So are you ready to take and honest look at ourselves?
Let=s determine to grow as we look at ourselves in the weeks ahead.