Transitions and Passages

This image (source unknown) sums up what both pastors and people have to remember during any transitions.  In some groups the clergy itinerate moving from one charge (church) to another as placed by superiors.  I some groups a clergy is called by the congregation to come and assume the leadership in a location.  Whatever the model, this principle from 1 Corinthians 3:7 is a reminder.  
Churches need leaders in the pews who participate in seeking God's will, who pray for God's guidance and who involve themselves in fulfilling the mission of the Christian life in community. Churches need pastors who will teach, guide, direct, inspire and encourage in a loving and grace filled manner.  One person in agriculture put it this way, "Church people are like a herd of sheep. I am their shepherd and I care for them, keep them safe, plan good for their future and teach them.  I leave the making  more sheep to them."
It is a good thing to remember that no one person can go into any situation and "fix" it.  Major consultants indicate they, for all the thousands they are paid, are seldom listened to and less than a quarter of their clients actually implement the solutions suggested.  The desire to be active in ministry, mission, and discipleship has to be born in the hearts of the people on the pew, they have to be released to follow that vision, trained as needed and then feed regularly a diet of good spiritual food.
Don't wait for the Rev. Bandage Who Will Fix All Our Problems to unload in your town, stir up the gift God has already placed in the hearts of his people, and make it possible for God to work in your heart, in your town and in your church.
---Marilyn A. Hudson, dedicated to all those moving to minister in new settings.



Three Keys to the Future from Dr. Hudson

As a church engages itself in the process of re-thinking church, there is an awareness of many ideas, obstacles and dead ends. It is not an easy task.  It is akin to pausing at the edge of a vast wasteland with mountains in the distance.  You know you want to be ‘there’, but it is not clear just how to get from ‘here’ to there.  

There are always leaders and hopers who will be hard at work trying to deal with such realities.  There will always be those who resist change.  No matter what master plans from other churches are reviewed, there always seems to be three common elements.  These three keys spell the successful future for a congregation if they have the courage.

Key One: Spiritual Direction 
A church has to have a clear understanding of what their foundational ideology is or they will be like a lifeboat adrift on a turbulent sea of societal change.  The Bible calls it being blown here and there by the contrary or competing wind of doctrine.  No matter how we choose to act out that spiritual conviction, having it firmly enmeshed in our lives as the yardstick we measure success on is crucial.  We have to believe in something, know what we believe and what it means to live out what we believe.  There must be clear spiritual direction and vitality in a church if it is to grow and be in mission and service.

Key Two:  Unity of Purpose
There has to be a group of people who stand united behind the identified purpose of the church.  The Bible expresses repeatedly that unity of spirit, mind, and vision are part of the work of God among a people.  The pronounced presence of disunity, fracture, and fragmentation is evidence that the ‘mind of Christ’ is not at work among His people.  As children, we learned that we could express our views in a class election, but then we had to unite behind the decision made and act as a cohesive whole.  I heard a children’s story one time about a small town trying to pick a giant turnip. One person tried and failed.  Another person tried and failed.  The solution came when EVERYONE got involved and pulled the giant turnip out of the ground.  Sometimes it is true; everything we need to know we really did learn in Kindergarten.  Unity of purpose is a must for a church to achieve its true purpose.

Key Three: Committed Achievement
Perhaps you have witnessed a group make a decision in a meeting, shake hands and then leave, and never return to the subject of the decision.  A major key to success is a two-part step.  There must be the act of decision-making but then there must be the intentional follow through to accomplish the goal contained within the decision. 

Many churches across the country go into each New Year with unfulfilled goals of action plans never achieved through committed work.  Those goals and plans are like the ponderous chains of Marley that Dickens wrote about and rattle in the background of every meeting and event.  A church and its people must be committed to achieving what they plan.

These questions (among others) should guide us as we think about what we do, how we do it and why we do what we do.  Do we see the spiritual signposts on our journey and follow their direction?  Do we strive to find and keep unity of purpose in all we do as a church?  Are we committed to not merely planning but achieving what we plan?

Dr. Marvin

I pray that as you contemplate these ideas, that you ask God to guide and direct everyone as they work to find the future of your church.

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The Original Optimist Club

Most of us grew up hearing about the various civic service organizations of our American communities. Jaycees, Lions, Rotary, and others were all familiar names on signage at the entrance to many of the towns we grew up in. Often, we were not fully certain what these groups did, but they were a part of the fabric of our lives and somehow a reassuring part of the normal order. One of the groups that I was always fascinated with was the “Optimists” civic group.
I confess that I knew little about them, but what a great name. It suggested to me in early years a group of individuals who got together on a regular basis to share their optimism with one another. Could it be better than that? I suspect that there is more to it than that rather naive thought. I do however still imagine that in their choice of a name, they reflect a creedal commitment to a philosophical viewpoint. They are committed to approaching the issues of community from an optimistic stance. Someone may correct me on that, but that is somewhat beside the point. I really want to point to what I think was the original optimist club. 
The attitude of the early church was that Christ had provided for something wonderful as a response to the reality of life. Through Christ, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, and freedom were now a present reality for “Whosoever will”. This optimism radiated within every message shared by the Apostles. Peter offered the hope of salvation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit to anyone who wished it on the day of Pentecost.

Paul and Silas were so optimistic that they could sing hymns at midnight while chained in a jail cell. Paul could optimistically declare that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” He could also affirm that “Whatever may be the promises of God to us, in Jesus they already have their yes.” I am thinking that we could use a dose of that kind of optimism in this time when it seems that we are surrounded by so much negativity in our society.

What a gift to be optimistic when we are tempted to believe that everything is in some kind of mortal decline. Is it possible that in such a time as this, we may benefit from hearing the assurance of our faith once again that no matter what; our Lord will never “Leave us nor forsake us?” I suspect so. I encourage you to be of good cheer. God is faithful!

Be an Optimist!

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