Several years ago, I attended a training workshop in which noted author Alan Hirsch said the following, “Your system is perfectly designed for the results that you are getting.” This statement has challenged me in the years since, for a variety of reasons. It has caused me to spend more time evaluating my programs and processes to see if they are functioning effectively. It has forced me to think about the results I hope to see happen. And perhaps, most importantly, it has provoked me to ask why we do what we do, the purpose and reason behind our efforts.
Stepping out of the Johnson and Wales’ vans, our students arrived excited for Fusion. They anticipated an enjoyable weekend at the Cape with peers, forging new friendships across New England and being freshly encouraged that they are not alone in their faith. They entered the hotel and conference center with high expectations for Word-saturated teaching and fun times. Amid games in the lobby, mealtimes and World Series watching, students had their fill of living out relationships and learning how to invest in them.
Safety and security continues to be a very important trend in children’s ministry today. This is true for both small and large churches. Keeping our kids safe and secure needs to be a priority in every church. Safety and security is important to parents and it certainly needs to be important to us! As our churches think about the implications of safety and security in their ministry, use the following assessment questions to begin the conversation with your church leaders:
Last Sunday my wife and I were out for an afternoon drive. We were enjoying the fall foliage when we happened upon a lovely scene near a campground. At the entrance to the campground there was a river that emptied into a pond, a lovely covered bridge, and several historical items on display. But what caught our eye the most was the lovely mannequin of an old man fishing. It was meticulously set up beside the covered bridge and looked like it had been there many years. We pulled into the small parking lot and took in the whole scene. It was amazing.
Revitalization. Seems there is always a new buzz word that’s coming down the pike, but this one is long overdue. Revival is a word that may be worn out by time and history, so revitalization is taking its place.
Maybe it’s for good reason. With so much mission drift, churches today know that it’s going to take more than a week of meetings to fix the systemic problems that plague us. Some estimate 1000 days and major course adjustments are required to truly turn a church around.
Not long ago my wife and I took our grandchildren to an amusement park in New Hampshire. We had a great time. Without question, our granddaughter’s favorite ride was the log ride. She had this love/hate feeling going on about the steep drop into the water where she got all wet. She said “I loved it, expect the part I didn’t like very much.” Whether you are 4 or 40, such rides can be a lot of fun. Perhaps they are so much fun because they scare us, even though deep inside we know we are safe. It is almost like seeing just how far we can go into danger, without actually getting hurt.
More than three dozen people responded to an invitation to follow Christ at a Sportsmen’s Banquet and Wild Game Dinner hosted by New City Church in Bath, Maine, on Oct. 1.
“Hunting is huge here, and the great thing about it is that … a lot of the folks who would find themselves out in the woods or spending time with a community of hunters would probably not be the ones who would be taking their families to church or coming to spiritual things,” said pastor Joel Littlefield.
New England is a mission field, and it’s important that we not forget it. We rank at the top or national surveys for the least churched and most biblically illiterate region in the nation. I tell people often that we must think like missionaries because the prevalent culture around us is post-Christian. That’s why one of our primary objectives is to reintroduce this culture to the Gospel. As with any mission work with an unreached people group, you need missionaries (either homegrown or transplanted) to go and share Christ in faithfully. Praying, sending and funding missionaries is an ancient practice of the church and is vital to any mission endeavor. Why give to New England Missions Emphasis? Because missions is God’s means of making Christ known to this generation.
I have long been passionate about our region of the country. From my first missions experience here forty years ago while a college student from the South to my current position of service in church planting, those who are a part of our family of churches in this region have always recognized the difference New England represents. It is a place of spiritual heritage in our land. It is a place of cultural influence across the nation. And it is a place of significant impact upon every life touched by our economy and our education.
I did not grow up Southern Baptist. I can hear the gasps in the Deep South ringing in my ears as I make my confession, but it’s the truth. I had great Christian parents who raised me in a Baptist church, but it was a church that was anti-denominational. Not only were we not Southern Baptists, but we thought Southern Baptists were the enemy!
When I stepped off the plane, the wave of heat hit me! Wow, it is hot in Dallas. But the breeze of the Spirit was blowing across the city as over 9,000 Baptists from around the nation gathered for worship, preaching, reports of God’s work and decision-making for America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. That included at least 31 people from New England who traveled to Dallas to represent our churches and voice the New England perspective.
We regularly hear opposing voices regarding singleness and marriage. Culture tends to dismiss marriage—usually to promote carefree living characterized by cohabitation, non-commitment and selfishness. Conversely, the Church tends to promote marriage over singleness to the point where anyone is inferior if he or she is not married by the end of college.
Now more than ever grandparents are being called upon to rear their grandchildren. According to a recent nationwide study, there are 2.7 million grandparents raising their grandchildren here in the U.S.Although there are countless reasons and scenarios in which a grandchild may need to live with their grandparents, the most common situations (68%) are related to substance abuse, abandonment, abuse and neglect. The number of grandparents raising their grandchildren is steadily increasing, and I believe, both as a pastor and someone who lived with his grandparents, it is time that we, the Church, take notice of this growing population within our congregations, seek to understand their unique struggles and start considering how we work together to support and reach out to them.
When we read the Bible we hear about Jesus loving the outcasts of society. When we think of outcasts today, we often think of those outside the church: the homeless, drug addicted or poor people. But I want to talk to you today about the outcasts inside the church – those in the Christian community that feel judged, unwelcomed and looked down upon. I have all too often felt this way as soon as I mention that I am divorced.
I was speaking to a large group of middle schoolers. Knowing that few of them came from what my generation would consider the “traditional” family, I was trying to get them to discuss what it was like when their parents got divorced and how they could move beyond the pain of that experience. Clearly, I was not connecting well to the group. One young man, Kyle*, was sitting on the front row. He spoke up, saying, “Terry, my parents are not divorced. They were never married. I’ve only met my father once when I was little, and I don’t really remember him.”
This past year I had the opportunity to be a part of the Quest program. Quest is a leadership development program for high school juniors that provides opportunities to grow in faith, leadership skills, service and team building in order to better equip us as godly leaders in our churches and communities. The culmination of this advantageous program is an overseas mission trip. Students were sent to four different locations: South Africa, Hawaii, Scotland and the Dominican Republic. I was chosen along with eleven other students to go to the Dominican Republic. When I was told who would be on my team I have to say I was slightly confused. Everyone on my team seemingly had extremely different personalities and interests, and I was under the impression that none of us had anything in common.
Plainfield, VT, sits along a stretch of road called Route 2. While small and typical for a Vermont village, it boasts of great influence for this specific area. Goddard College, the alma mater for William H. Macy and the fruition of Unitarian/Transcendentalist educational ideals has its main campus on the edge of Plainfield. Tuesday evenings in the summertime becomes a vibrant nightlife for Plainfield. You can walk through the downtown streets, crisscrossing the Winooski River to the sounds of rushing water, a guitarist playing along the rock walls that line the street and yoga participants crossing the street to enjoy the Tuesday pizza special at Positive Pie.
I grew up in a church that did not believe in denominations. We were our own independent church separate from any other group. Though I appreciate the great spiritual training I got in that church, I regret the fact that we did not fellowship with a network of other churches in our area. I believe my spiritual growth was stunted because we were all alone as a church.