Monday, October 25, 2010

Celebrating 40 Days of Community

40 days is a sacred time period for Christians. We look back and recognize that Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai when he received the 10 Commandments from God. Jesus took 40 days for prayer and fasting before he began his ministry to the world. Jesus also spent 40 days after his resurrection with his followers. So God seems to do amazing things in 40 days.
I believe God has done it again. As we gave 40 days focusing on what it means to live in community, we learned that we are better together. Not only did we learn that lesson, but we lived it.
Yesterday in worship we had a time for people to share what God did in 40 days. It was a powerful time of hearing testimonies of what God was doing. I want to do the same with my blog this week. I want to invite anyone who reads it to share what God did in your life the last 40 days. So please comment on this blog and just share a sentence or a story praising God for what He did.

I praise God for all of the servants I have seen. Hearing all of the ideas that the 40 Days small groups are coming up with to reach out and serve our community is amazing. And then seeing results from some of those ministries already encourages me that God has plenty more for us to do to show his love to this world.
Our 40 Days of Community focus has ended, but I believe it is just the beginning of the next step for St. Paul's UMC to become the Body of Christ God has called us to be.

Monday, October 18, 2010

40 Days of Community: We Worship

Day 37. The final purpose we have as a community during this 40 day focus is worship. We worship together. We worship as we are reminded of God's love for us and as we give love back to God. I think worship can be a personal experience, but it also is an amazing experience in community.
One of the most powerful worship experiences I have had in my life was going to Promise Keeper's in Minneapolis. Promise Keeper's is a ministry for men. We had 40,000-50,000 men in the Metrodome singing praise to God. Many times I see men sing shyly in church. But in the dome we were belting it out. And to hear that many men singing praises to God was powerful.
Worshiping with a huge group of people is powerful, but not necessary for wonderful worship. I have experienced mighty worship will small groups as well. I remember an Ash Wednesday service held a few years ago when our old parsonage was our Church Center. We had about a foot of snow that day and only 6 or 8 of us gathered. Yet the worship was wonderful. God was gathered there with us in that cozy setting.
Jesus says, "Whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you" (Matthew 18:20). When we gather together for worship God is present with us, whether it is 3 of us or 3,000. We need to keep meeting together to receive God's love and to give love back to him.
I would love to hear your wonderful worship experiences in community if you would like to share them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

40 Days of Community: Made for Ministry Together

Day 30. You were made for ministry. We were made for ministry together. God has given each of us gifts and talents to use to serve other people. Sometimes we may think that ministry should be left to the "professionals," but Scripture clearly calls everyone into ministry.
In Luke 5:17-26 there is a powerful incident in Jesus' life that shares with us many lessons about being in ministry together. In this passage we hear about four men who carry a paralyzed man onto the roof of a home because they cannot get their friend through the crowd that has gathered around Jesus. They dig a hole in the roof and lower him down in front of Jesus. Because of their faith Jesus forgives this man's sins and heals him. He stands up and walks out of the house.
I think it would be interesting to know how this all started. Who took the initiative to go on this mission to get the paralyzed man to Jesus? It could have been the paralyzed man himself that thought up this plan and invited some friends to help. Or maybe he even convinced some strangers to help. The idea could have possibly come from these four guys. Maybe they decided to serve the paralyzed man, and didn't even tell him what they were doing. They just picked him up and took him to Jesus.
We will probably never know how this all started, but it made me think about how ministry starts in the church today. There are several ways people get involved in ministry. Some people are initiators and will jump right in and participate in ministry. Other people need to be asked or invited to serve in ministry. Personally I prefer the initiators, but I know most people need to be asked.
So I need to be sure we are able to help both groups get into ministry. We need to have a system that will encourage and support the initiators and help them get going in ministry. We also need to find ways to invite people to join in the ministry that is ongoing. We need to be ready to help everyone get connected in ministry because God has ministry for all of us.
Take time to think about how you get connected in ministry. If you are an initiator then keep jumping in and serving others. Sometimes ministries may not move fast enough for you, but keep pressing on. If you are one that waits for the invitation, just recognize that and be ready to respond when the request comes.
If you have ideas to help any of us get into ministry, I would love to hear them. We were made for ministry together.

Monday, October 4, 2010

40 Days of Community: Designed For Discipleship

Day 23. You were designed for discipleship. God put us together in such a way that we need to grow in our faith as disciples in a group. Being a part of a discipling group is essential to growing in our faith. It is essential to have other people with us on our faith journey. And not just people that will cheer us on (although we need that), but people who will ask us hard questions and hold us accountable in our faith.
The two most popular excuses I hear for not being in a discipling small group are fear of not knowing the Bible well enough and because the other people might hurt them.
To the first excuse I try to remind people that the point of the group is to get to know the Bible better. Everyone else in the group is there to learn also. Some may know a little more, but chances are someone will know less. I don't know it all and I need help from others to understand the Scriptures. That is okay. The point of the group is not to show off your biblical knowledge, it is to grow in your faith and grow in your knowledge of the love of God. (You may have someone who "knows it all" but they need your presence as well.)
I know the other concern about being hurt by other people is a real concern. When we are open and honest with other people we become vulnerable to being hurt by them. And if we are honest we have hurt people as well. This is part of being in relationship with imperfect people. The best way to handle this is to be open about it. Share those concerns with the people in your group. Let them know how important it is to you that confidences are kept. Also remember you do not have to bare your soul at the first meeting. Take your time. Get to know the people in the group and when you are ready you can share.
My best advice is to try a small group and if that one does not work try another. And keep trying until you find the right group. If a child gave up trying to walk because they fell once or twice, we would all be crawling around ruining our pants. So keep looking for the right people and the right group for you to be growing in discipleship with others around you. You will truly be blessed by those relationships and God will fill your life with amazing blessings.