Sermon: John 14:15-21

Today’s sermon is up on my sermon blog. It’s the fifth in my series for the Easter Season this year — based on John 14:15-21 and entitled “An ‘Easter Church’ Makes A Difference”.

Here’s a portion of it:

A set of twin girls were born 12 weeks premature, each about two pounds. They were placed in separate bassinets. One started to do just fine – but the other one began slowly to fade. Her heart beat was rapid — she was visibly anxious — and nothing the nurses could do seemed to be able to stop what seemed like her inevitable death. Then one of the nurses remembered something she’d read about treatment of preemies elsewhere in the world. As a sort of last resort the nurses put the weaker twin into the bassinet with her sister. The results were immediate and dramatic. The smaller twin snuggled up to her sister, and her heart rate immediately slowed to normal. Her color came back. The baby visibly relaxed, almost with a sigh of relief. She accepted nourishment. The crisis was over. She would survive. That tiny baby did not know who she was, or where she was. But somehow she knew where she belonged. And she knew when she was where she belonged.
Our souls are like that.
Deeper than words, back behind all conscious thought, our souls know what they need.
Sometimes all a person needs is to know that they are not alone – that someone – maybe you – are there to walk with them through whatever it is they are facing. Walking as a companion, not a judge, not a guide, not as someone with all the answers. But simply as a loving and caring companion. As their friend and – and a friend of Jesus who lets them know they are not alone.
I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
Loving Jesus.
Obeying His command.
Making a difference.
Making a difference to God.
Making a difference to Jesus.
Making a difference to each other.
Making a difference to others.

You can read the sermon here.

Got Young Adults? (Learning 5 from the Pew Foundation U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 2008)

Several weeks ago I began posting about the Pew Foundation’s US Religious Landscape Survey 2008. The 5th “learning” from this survey is that:

“More than six-in-ten Americans age 70 and older (62%) are Protestant but . . . this number is only about four-in-ten (43%) among American ages 18-29.” [p. 7]

To me, this comes as no real surprsie — every Church I have served had few young adults — but it shows that we are not doing a very good job at addressing the spiritual needs of young adults. You can blame the “young people” all you want, but until mainline Protestant churches are willing to make some changes it is going to be difficult to reach the next generation of believers.

What types of changes need to be made?

That depends on the congregation and what they are doing now — but letting the young adults know you are interested in them and welcoming them is vital — for a church and for the young adults!

George Bullard posted today about what he calls “low threshold community cultivation events” — events that are not a lot of work on the part of the congregation and not threatening to those you are trying to reach — like recruiting non churched folks for Crop Walk Teams, Cancer Society Walk Teams, and the like. These could get young adults around your church folks, and let them see that they are fun to be with!

What are some other ways churches might reach the young adults in their community? Leave some ideas as comments!

You can read my other posts on the Pew Foundation U. S. Religious Landscape survey here and hereread George Bullard’s ideas on on this particular learning here — and read the survey from the Pew Foundation here.

Sermon: John 14:1-14

I’ve posted my sermon for today on my sermon blog. It’s the fifth in my Easter series on “An Easter Church” — based on John 14:1-14 and entitled “An ‘Easter Church’ Has Comfort”.

Here’s a portion of it:

In the “bad days” – the hardest days – the worst days of our lives – we can be “Easter Christians” – taking comfort in Christ.
We can be an “Easter Church” – taking comfort in Christ.
An “Easter Church” takes comfort.
An “Easter Church” takes comfort.
An “Easter Church” takes comfort in Christ.
The first step is to trust in His presence.
The second step is to trust in His promises.
The third step is to trust His person.
Trust in His presence —
Trust in His promises –
Trust His person –
Take comfort.
Whatever your burdens are this morning, the solution to a troubled heart is still the same — to trust Jesus, to trust in His, to trust in His promises, and to trust in His person.
We can trust Jesus.
We can trust in His presence with us – always.
We can trust in His promises – always.
We can trust in His person – always.
We can take comfort – always.
An “Easter Church” takes comfort.
An “Easter Church” takes comfort.


You can read the sermon here
.

Full Kingdom Potential: It’s A Spiritual Strategic Journey

Yesterday I began a series of posts on my thoughts as I read George Bullard’s book Pursing The Full Kingdom Potential Of Your Congregation. I mentioned that Bullard sees this as a journey a congregation enters into — what he calls a Spiritual Strategic Journey.

That term sounds impressive — but what does it mean? What — exactly — is a Spiritual Strategic Journey?

Here’s how Bullard defines it:

A Spiritual Strategic Journey is spiritual in that it assumes total reliance on God as individual and as congregations. It assumes that unless the journey is of God, it is for nothing.

A Spiritual Strategic Journey is strategic in that it focuses on those goals and actions that will make the most significant difference in a congregation’s ability to serve in the midst of God’s kingdom. It focuses on effective touch points.

A Spiritual Strategic Journey is a journey in that it is ongoing. …. We always press forward to God’s high calling. (Bullard, Pursing The Full Kingdom Potential Of Your Congregation, page 17).

The benefit I see in this approach is that it involves God — in a conversation with the congregation — in a journey to reach the congregation’s full potential for God’s glory. It’s not a pre – packaged program that someone else brings to a congregation, but a program where the congregation seeks God’s will and leadership for their particular situation — then sets out on it’s own particular journey to be the Church God calls it to be.

What do you think about this? Use the comments section to start a conversation!

You can read Bullard’s blog hereread about The Columbia Partnership here read more about a Spiritual Strategic journey here — and order your own copy of Pursuing The Full Kingdom Potential Of Your Congregation here.

Full Kingdom Potential: It’s The Congregations’s Journey

I’m reading a great book by George Bullard of the Columbia Partnership entitled Pursuing The Full Kingdom Potential Of Your Congregation. I have not finished the book, but have decided to share some thoughts about it as I read it.

The first thought I’d like to share is that pursuing the Kingdom potential is not a “quick fix” and is not a “program” that a congregation can complete and be done with.

Bullard stresses that this is a journey — he calls it a Spiritual Strategic Journey (I’ll explain the term more in another post) – that is never fully completed, but always sought for.

A few things that I like about this idea are:

1. It is a journey that involves the congregation. The congregation prays for a vision of the Church God would have them be and the things God would have them do, and then the steps they take in pursuing their potential are steps that they feel lead to undertake. It’s not a situation where a Pastor or a Consultant comes in and says “this is what we are going to do” — but a case where a Pastor or a Consultant (Bullard prefers the term “Coach” — but I’ll deal with that in another post) helps the congregation decide what they feel God is calling them to do — and helps them plan how they are going to do it.

2. The potential for the congregation to have more ownership for the journey, more commitment to the journey, and become more excited about the journey is greater because it came from God’s vision to them — not from someone else.

3. The fact that it is a journey that is never fully completed but always sought for makes it something that lasts — and can change as the needs and vision of the congregation changes.

I’ll be sharing more ideas as I have them — and I’d love to discuss these ideas with others. Use the comment section to share your ideas!

You can read Bullard’s blog hereread about The Columbia Partnership here — and order your own copy of Pursuing The Full Kingdom Potential Of Your Congregation here.

Imagine That!

George Bullard of The Columbia Partnership has a wonderful post today about visioning — or imagining — the future of a church or an organization. I love the way this quote emphasizes how we can imagine — and even create — a new reality:

What they think is far away may actually be much closer. Goals that appear to be a long distance into the future may actually start happening much sooner. Part of this is the phenomena of experiencing what can be a positive, self-fulfilling prophecy. If you imagine something can happen. If you believe it is of God. If you act in a way that could empower it to happen. If you talk about it with multiple people. If you pray earnestly for God’s will to be done. Then often that which seemed both impossible and far away begins to happen.

If we will dare to imagine and communicate a new reality — we can create a new reality — and God’s will will be closer to being done.

You can read Bullard’s post here
.

Sermon: John 10:1-10

I have posted yesterday’s sermon on my sermon blog. It’s the third in my Easter series of sermons — based on John 10:1-10 — and entitled “An Easter Church Follows The Leader”.

Here’s a portion of it:

A popular idea – or popular trend — these days is having a “personal trainer” – or a “life coach” — someone who helps people get their lives in order and be more productive – or happier – or whatever they are trying to be.
I recently read an article where the TV Talk Show host Oprah Winfrey said that her personal trainer gives her the help she needs to make the best of life she can.
She says that her trainer helps her with meal plans – helps her take off the weight she needs to lose – and suggests exercises that can strengthen her heart.
On the surface, having a personal trainer – or a life coach – sounds like a pretty good thing to have.
We all know that what we eat is important –
“You are what you eat”
they say.
Some of us – and I add myself to this list — also know that losing weight might be a good thing for us to do.
We also know that exercise – especially exercise that strengthens our heart – is a good thing – something that many of us don’t get enough of.
So – maybe a “personal trainer” – or a “life coach” – would not be that bad of a thing to have.
The problem is that they are expensive, and we may not know whether they know more about what they are talking about than we do!
So – life coaches – or personal trainers – for our physical lives might be good – if you can afford it and can find one that you can trust. If not, you may need to just buckle down and do it yourself instead of following someone else’s plan or have someone you are accountable to.
But – what about a personal trainer – a life coach – for our spiritual lives?
O – you can find them also.
Spiritual Directors – Counselors – whatever you want to call them – are readily available – and some have great advice – but again most of the time you have to pay — and you have to be sure you can trust them.
But – you know what?
We are called to be God’s people – and – as God’s people – don’t we already have a life coach – a personal trainer – a spiritual director – a counselor?
Sure we do!
It’s Jesus!

You can read the sermon here.

Sermon: Luke 24:13-35

I have posted today’s sermon on my sermon blog. It’s the second in my Easter series of sermons on “An Easter Church” — based on Luke 24:13-35 and entitled “An Easter Church Is On Fire”!

Here’s a portion of it:

Friends – one of the marks of an “Easter Church” – a Church that is filled with the joy and power of the resurrection of Christ – and that boldly does the work of Christ in the world – is that it is “on fire”!
“On fire” for Christ!
“On fire” for God!
“On fire” for doing God’s work and sharing the joy of the risen Christ with each other and the world.
An “Easter Church” is on fire!
An “Easter Church” is on fire!
“On fire” for Christ!
“On fire” for God!
“On fire” for doing God’s work and sharing the joy of the risen Christ with each other and the world.
There is a report of a fire in the Church
There is a report of a fire in the Church
But – is it a false alarm?
Like Cleopas and his friend after recognizing Christ —
We can let the risen Christ touch our lives —
You can let the risen Christ touch your life – and you can be an “Easter Christian” — filled with the joy of the risen Christ and sharing that joy with everyone you know and in everything you say and do.
You can let the risen Christ make a difference in how you live.
You don’t have to live without a commitment to God.
You don’t have to live in the old ways – you can live in new and exciting ways.
You can be “on fire” for the risen Christ – and doing His work with joy and enthusiasm.
We can all be “on fire” for Christ!
This Church can be “on fire” for Christ!

You can read the sermon here.