Tag Archives: Mozambique initiative

Let’s do something: Let’s build a legacy

given on Sunday, June 14, 2015

Annual Conference is over. In many churches, the pastor will be absent because in two weeks, they have to have their homes packed, move to a new spot in Missouri, and unpack into a new house. On top of that, they have to prepare that first, all-so-important sermon for the new church.

Fortunately, many are continuing in their current assignment, so they have planning in order to continue their ministry. Each pastor steps into an assignment with goals, and the outcome(s) is/are reflected in the church’s legacy. Ultimately the legacy should align to the Great Commission, which is to make believers in Christ for the transformation of the world.

So here I am. I did quite a bit of thinking during annual conference. I kept thinking about what we have done, what we have not done; what goals did I have and whether they were well communicated. I even wondered if I should review all seven years of notes and sermons. What I found was one conclusion that echoed in my head—I have gone soft!

When I introduced the Matthew West song, Do Something, I felt I had found a key to trigger an action. And action in the form of serving or in intentional faith development or working together in a ministry is how churches create their legacy.

Of course, a legacy is not the goal. Legacy is often a term used when something comes to an end, but legacy is also a record of what has been done. The concern at this point is just what way does the church see the term legacy. Is the church’s ministry over or is it ongoing?

If we see no forward movement, then are we serving God? If we see promise and are working to do more, then we are doing something. The legacy we are creating is either an epitaph or a catalog of on-going ministries that demonstrates God in action.

Annual conference’s theme for 2015-16 is “Discipleship: Growing in Grace.” The call, or maybe cry, is that churches focus on outward ministry rather than inward. Churches that see ways to serve outside the church are the churches currently seeing the most growth.

Methods are presented, examples shared, and suggestions are made for how churches can develop discipleship. Intentional faith development is so important for the individual discipleship; but church discipleship grows when the local church becomes engaged in ministries within the local area, in an outreach mission, or work on a global initiative.

God called each and every one of us to discipleship. He wants us to see the world through God’s eyes. He does not want us to hand over the responsibility to someone else; he needs us to remember that our discipleship is needed right here, right now. It takes personal discipleship to move the local church into discipleship.

The lectionary reading from Mark includes two proverbs that provide guidance with this practice. The first parable is the growing seed,

26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

Understanding the parable is developing personal discipleship. Read, study, pray and discuss with others the meaning of the parable is the same way that Jesus taught the earliest disciples.   For those of us in a rural area, the seed analogy is much easier to understand than many other ones.

Moving the lesson into outward action within the community or as the reason to involve the local church in other mission fields shows how personal discipleship turns into action for the benefit of others.

Just imagine if the Clean Water for Haiti initiative is felt to be so personal that giving a dollar a week to that fund can turn into four individuals with clean water for a full year. Multiply that amount by four more families, and the size of the initiative begins to grow exponentially—more funds, better buying power, more lives affected.

That is what happened with the mosquito net initiative. The overwhelming response has led now to preventive measures and research funding. The Missouri Methodists demonstrated discipleship at a conference level, but it took personal discipleship that pushed local churches to turn to outward ministry an ocean away.

Did I go soft over the past few years in the effort to improve personal and local discipleship? I think I did, and I apologize. The truth is that I have not taken pastoral authority as full time pastors tend to do. I wanted to honor your church, your ownership of the church; but the church that is focused on Sunday worship only, will find its legacy is an epitaph.

Taking pastoral authority means being honest. Over the past seven years, a variety of ideas were offered, but few could survive the trial run partly due to a lack of honest communication or commitment. The first stumbling block was scheduling, the second was vocational, the third was location, and finally low involvement.

During conference one presenter was from the conference office in Ohio. Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey authored the book Ultimately Responsible that introduces the “breakthrough prayer initiative.” Her presentation was compelling, and I found myself wanting to race back to church and begin implementing the techniques immediately. But, I cannot do it alone.

Taking pastoral authority, I could use the book as a sermon series; but that does not allow members to become involved in the initiative. Also, jumping into the process without proper training could lead to failure.

Using the book as a study to intentionally develop one’s faith is the goal. Are you committed enough to join such a study? Are you willing to make the time investment? Are you flexible enough to work with others to find the right time and place to meet because the breakthrough prayer initiative is worth it?

The small rural churches are struggling in a world that has changed dramatically since they opened their doors. No one thinks a thing about driving an hour to the city for shopping or entertainment. The rural church was established because the distance had to be short enough for the different modes of transportation. The rural church often became the family church. Now the family is spread throughout the county, the state, the country, why even around the globe. The reason to maintain a small rural church depends on whether or not it is actively ministering to its community.

The small rural church must provide for the needs of those in the near vinicity, but it can also reach out to others who find that the Holy Spirit is alive in the church and meets their spiritual needs. Prayer and outward-focused ministries will fill the church with the Holy Spirit and a church on fire with the Holy Spirit will continue to create a catalog of its legacy and not an epitaph.

I went soft as a pastor, and now I must implement pastoral authority in an effort to improve personal discipleship, to develop more outwardly active ministries. The Holy Spirit is within each and every believer, but we must listen for God, we must talk with God, and we must act to grow in discipleship. Are you willing to grow with me? Let’s do something!

Closing prayer

Oh, Father, Son & Holy Spirit,

Thank you for opportunities to be in worship together.

Thank you for listening to us even when we complain.

Thank you for speaking to us through your Spirit.

As we look around our church, outside of the doors,

Show us what you want us to do here and beyond.

As we consider discipleship as a believer and as a church,

Teach us all the ways we can grow in grace.

Open our hearts and our minds to ministries

You call us to do with the gifts you have given us.

We know we must do something now

To assure family, friends, neighbors and more

Life everlasting through Christ, our savior.  –Amen

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How does this church continue its legacy? God said: Do something!

Just a reminder:  Every time I re-read the sermons, I find different ways of wording things.  The story of Joseph from Genesis needed fuller explanation, so I added it extemporaneously.  There may be times that I have to make a quick adjustment while presenting the sermon.  Thank you for reading and especially a thank you to Matthew West for such an important song.

given on Trinity Sunday, May 31, 2015

God created this world to meet the needs of all living things that exist. No one or no thing should ever have had to worry, but mistakes were made and the Garden of Eden was lost.

All is not lost, though! God never gave up hope in his creation and all he asked is that we humans take responsibility. We were told to “do something!”

Genesis 1:26, 28– 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[a] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[b] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” . . . 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

The words of the creation story are so familiar that we can recite it from memory. We know that God was pleased with his creation and after six days of creating this delightful setting, he took one day of rest. Remember those final words:

1:31Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day. 2:1So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[a] from all his work.

God created, but he also left the responsibility for this creation to Adam or [a dam], the Hebrew word for humanity. Humans were not to just sit around and enjoy what God created; humans were to be responsible for maintaining this creation.

Humanity’s legacy is the well being of God’s creation. Each individual has a personal responsibility not only for the care of self, but for others, for the soil, the air, and the water, too. That responsibility expands, too, to all regions of this earth. Our legacy depends on how well we respond to God’s direction to care for his creation.

How does one do that? Certainly not alone! One can indeed make a difference, but working with one another to do all that we can for all we can. Obviously we cannot imagine that responsibility alone, we know it takes the church.

When I first heard Matthew West’s song, “Do Something,” I could only agree with that first statement:

I woke up this morning

Saw a world full of trouble now

Thought, how’d we ever get so far down

How’s it ever gonna turn around

Our world today does seem such a mess, but reading the Bible, the same can be said about the world over 5,000 years ago. The world is a mess, and that mess is evident right here in our communities.

The song continues:

I thought, “God, why don’t you do something?”

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of

People living in poverty

Children sold into slavery.

So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

How easy it is to say to God, “Why don’t you do something?” All too often we even add that to our prayers. We want someone else to fix the problem. We want someone to stop the poverty. We want God to fix the natural disasters. We want the police to stop crime—all kinds. The lyrics speaks the painful truth:

So I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

He said, “ I did, I created you”

As God’s children, we have a responsibility.

In Genesis 43, the story of Joseph revealing himself to his own brothers who had sold him into slavery in Egypt, includes another reminder of our responsibility. Jacob took his brother Benjamin back to ask for more supplies to survive the famine. He had to accept responsibility for his brother:

I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever.

A study note for this verse adds the deeper meaning to this simple promise:

Accepting responsibilities is difficult, but it builds character and confidence, earns others’ respect and motivates us to complete our work. When you have been given an assignment to complete or a responsibility to fulfill, commit yourself to seeing it through.

The Old Testament repeats this theme in stories throughout the books of The Law and of the judges. Scriptural references to our responsibility continue in the New Testament, too.

How does this church leave a legacy? We simply must do something. That is what God has tasked us to do, and what we do establishes the legacy of this church. Stop and think about what the church last became totally invested. Was there a specific project that members felt it was up to them to do? Did the reach of a project stay only inside the church, or did it involve serving beyond the walls of the church? Was the outreach even beyond the geographic boundaries of this church?

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus did not define any limits. Instead. . .

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Apostles didn’t get mad and say to God, “Why don’t you do something?” They did it.   Reading the letters in the New Testament, we learn that there was no boundary prohibiting the work of the newest disciples. The word was spread, and new disciples carried the message around the world.

John Wesley, too, did not ask God why he did not do something; he just found ways to meet all the problems he identified in his community. He saw poverty, and he found ways to fight it. He saw poor health, and he found ways to teach about healthy practices. He believed that he had a responsibility to do all the he could for all he could in any way he could. Do we?

Returning to Matthew West’s lyrics:

Right now, it’s time for us to do something

If not now, then when

Will we see an end

To all this pain

It’s not enough to do nothing

It’s time for us to do something . . .

A church that does not do something is a church that dies. A church that can no longer do something as disciples, then there is no legacy for that church, there is no responsibility for the well being of God’s creation.

Today, we must do something. The decision has to be what do we do at this church. Is there a local ministry that has gone untouched? Is there a conference initiative that needs this church’s help? What can this church do?

Locally, there are the food pantries and the clothes closets. Maybe they need workers more than they need items donated. Should the money sitting in the bank be allocated to special needs in the area?

The Missouri conference has identified three ministries for the UM churches to receive conference special offerings: the Church in Ferguson, the Mozambique Imitative, and the Haiti Clean Water Project. Does this church feel called to send a donation for one or all of these projects?

Maybe this church decides to buy a heifer for the Heifer Project. Another possibility is to find ways to help the local schools who are battling low funding, large populations of low income families, or even special needs that cannot be provided for the students such as counseling for non-school related issues.

As the lyrics say:

It’s not enough to do nothing

It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking

About how we are God’s hands and feet

But it’s easier to say than to be

Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves

It’s alright, “somebody else will do something.”

A legacy does not come from somebody else doing something; it comes from accepting our Christian responsibility and doing whatever we can for whomever we can in whatever way we can.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for words that express

how Christians accept responsibility

caring for this world you created.

Thank you for the stories how others

manage life’s various challenges

to serve one another.

Guide us in accepting responsibility

to do whatever we can to care for each other.

Guide us in working rather than bickering

to find the ways to minister to others.

Guide us to think beyond the problem

finding solutions that spread your love.

Guide us to simply do something

continuing the legacy of your son Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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