Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Difference a Couple Years Makes

I have been to two national ABC USA gatherings since becoming American Baptist.  We gather every two years and up until this year it was simply called the Biennial.  Fun Fact: In the early days when American Baptists and Southern Baptists were simply Baptists we met every three years in Philadelphia and it was aptly named the Triennial. 

Anyway, two years ago we met in Puerto Rico and if that is your first ever Biennial it was a good way to start.  During that event I was an Associate Pastor in a church.  I only got to go to the Biennial because a friend and I auditioned to play music during an evening "cafe lounge" event.  Prior to this event I had met parts of our ABC family at other functions, meetings, and events, but never had I been to a Biennial that brought us all together at once.  It was amazing.  Puerto Rico is beautiful, the Baptist Community there were amazing hosts, and the worship was powerful.   In Puerto Rico I didn't have much responsibility, I even (dare I write it), skipped portions of the event for Old San Juan and the beach.  When not playing hooky I mostly just stared in awe like a calf looking at a new gate, at all the lights, colors, music, break out sessions, voting times, and the leadership who seemed larger than life.  I would point to my friend who was with me and say..."Look that's so and so and they lead this thing or that church." As though they were super human or super spiritual. I would feel honored when I was introduced to them and realize they were just people too! Or I would watch the worship and listen to speakers on the stage and think, "Wow, they had a really great message.  I could never do that. I am not charismatic enough.  I am not a pulpit rock star."

Fast forward two years.  The Biennial is now called the Mission Summit and we met in Overland Park, KS.  No beaches here but Central Region was also a great host.  We changed our structure in Puerto Rico.  This year we focused not on break out sessions but on Mission Summit Conversations that allowed us to address issues facing our local churches and regions.  In Puerto Rico I was an Associate Pastor of a local church, at Mission Summit in Overland Park I am the Associate Executive Minister of Nebraska, a region within ABC USA.  In Puerto Rico I didn't know many people within the larger ABC USA family.  In Overland Park, it felt like a true family reunion.  Everywhere I went, I saw somebody I knew from all across ABC USA.  I saw friends and colleagues from New York, Oregon, California, Kansas, the Dakotas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Michigan, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and others.  It was amazing.

In Puerto Rico, I was overwhelmed by the lights and music and leadership.  In Overland Park, I was still moved by the shear enormity of the size of our convention center and the 2,400 people present.  The difference this time is that I was a region staff member and a leader. I had the opportunity to facilitate one of our Mission Summit Conversations on next generation leadership.  I went to every meal I could that was hosted by our many societies and partners.  Oh and remember how I felt I could never stand on a stage like the one in Puerto Rico?  I was invited to share a 7 minute testimony about the work the Spirit is doing in our Nebraska Region during the Sunday morning worship.  I stole 3 minutes, (sorry Brad Berguland) and shared for 10 minutes the amazing things God is doing in our region.  I am still not a pulpit rock star, but I think I learned nobody who goes up there to speak is.  One of our callings as pastors is simply to share what God is doing, and sometimes that means we get to speak in front of a few thousand people in a convention center and sometimes it means we get to share in front of ten senior citizens at an ABWM lunch in a church basement.

I had a great time in Overland Park and the Mission Summit.  Several things changed in my life between Puerto Rico and Mission Summit.  I changed ministry settings, I moved across a state,  I met lots of new people, I got invited to a couple national meetings, I bought my first home, and I have grown as a minister and person.  Thanks be to God for the past weekend and the past two years. I can't wait to see how Gods Spirit moves during the next two years in me, my family, ABC Nebraska, and ABC USA.  As our closing speaker Matt Stutervant shared, "the wind [spirit] is only beginning to blow."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ottawa Mission Day 3-4

Day 3:
Nebraska Mission Team continues to work with North Baptist Church, Ottawa University, and the community of Ottawa.  For the last few days our team has been split into two working groups.  The first team finished up a project at the Buffalo Ridge Retreat Center mentioned in my last post.  The completed the framing of the play equipment and now all that needs done is putting on the swings and slides and other toys themselves.  Team two continued to work with NBC and their VBS program.

It has been so much fun watching our team engage the children of NBC and the surrounding community.  The kids are so energetic! They have had great attitudes and have really been learning their Bible points and Scripture verses.  My team is made up of 6 girls ages 7-10!  We were given the mascot of a goat...every team has an animal mascot and a number.  Ours is a goat and we are #3
, we even have a coat of arms, which fits into the middle ages theme of knights, kings, and princess.  So we decided we needed a nickname.  First we came up with Team Trinity because of our number three, but we settled on the Gorgeous Goats!  These girls have been a lot of fun to be around.  They really are learning lots and are very interested in meeting my children!  I have been especially blessed by the presence of a girl we will call Mary (not her real name) who has down syndrome.  She is so much fun and loves playing games and learning the bible stories.  So ask me about Mary when I get home so I can tell you all about how amazing she is. The other group leaders from Nebraska are also having lots of fun with their groups.

Scraping old paint
We finished the afternoon by gathering our whole team together to paint a home of a long time North Baptist member.  Darleen used to be the host of mothers day out when Robin and Kathy were students at Ottawa!  She still has the birthdays in her cradle role book of their two youngest children!  Her home was in major need of some TLC so the team spent the afternoon scraping and painting and doing basic yard maintenance.

Fredrickson Chapel Ottawa Universtity

We ended this day by meeting with some representatives of Ottawa University.  They provided us with a very nice meal.  OU is an ABC USA Christian liberal arts university with about 600 students on campus but almost 7,000 total in their other campuses and online program.  They have 31 degree programs that fall under three categories of the School of Art and Science, Angell Snyder School of Business, and Education.  They have a beautiful campus with great dorms.  They are building a new Library with a generous donation from Nebraska ABC members from Kearney.

Day 4:
Singing at the Cross
Our team divided into two teams again.  Team one continued with VBS.  It was the salvation presentation day!  Lots of kids already knew the gospel story but it was cool to see them engage the story.  In the Bible adventure where they act out the stories, they had an empty tomb even.  It was pretty cool.  The songs continue to be a great celebration moment and teaching moment.

Team two went back out to Darleens to finish painting her house.  It looks amazing now.  it is a white house with black trim.  It looks very nice.  Darleen is very grateful for our being there to help.

ABC NE Team with home owner Darleen

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ottawa Mission Day 1 and 2

American Baptists from Nebraska and Kansas teamed up this week to share the love Christ with one another and the community in and around Ottawa Kansas.  Fourteen short term missionaries from Nebraska will spend a few days in Ottawa helping the community of North Baptist Church minister to Ottawa.  They are also helping them serve ministries that North Baptist is affiliated with like His Way Ministries Buffalo Ridge Hospitatlity and Retreat Center and a local Christian school.

ABC/NE first serves as an extra set of hands to the church as they put on a Vacation Bible School for their neighborhood.   Kids from all over the north Ottawa area have been attending the first few days of VBS.  The ABC/NE crew has served as station leader assistants and crew leaders taking kids from station to station. 

In the afternoons we have been participating in hands on projects.  Today we spent time at two locations aside from the church.  Some of our team went to Christian school to help with summer maintenance and cleaning.  After lunch our entire crew gathered at Buffalo Ridge.   Buffalo Ridge is a retreat center for clergy, missionaries, and others in ministry.  Founded in 1977 in San Francisco California, it was relocated to Kansas in 1992.  This isolated and beautiful site offers great facilities and great views.  It is a place for ministers and missionaries to find spiritual renewal, teach Christians how to share their faith, provide counseling and practical help for those in need, and compliment the work of churches.   It was our honor to serve Buffalo Ridge by doing general cleaning, gardening, building a playground, and reading other equipment for future building projects.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prodigal Christianity Application

I have broken my promise.  I have failed to write a weekly post regarding "Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier"  I apologize to both anyone who actually reads this blog as well as the authors David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw who invited me to do so.  Like anyone who does not do what they promise I am full of excuses related to time constraints,that hardly seem like a get out of jail free card since we are all busy.

With that being said I would like to instead shift gears completely.  Instead of reviewing the content itself I will share simple outline and how I applied this book into my ministry over the past month and I hope to do so in the future. 

I have now read Prodigal Christianity twice.  Even though Fitch and Holsclaw break down their concepts into helpful chapters based on signposts I find the book to be essentially three sections.  Signposts 1-3 are the theological and religious sociological background chapters necessary to start their discussion.  These chapters discuss Post-Christendom, Missio Dei, and the Incarnation of Christ into our world and how we live into these realities.  Section two includes signposts 4-7 which puts these foundation thoughts into focus by showing how they play out in our own personal witness, how we read scripture, what is the Gospel and how do we share it, and how the Church is the gathered body of Christ with seven purposes (Holsclaws favorite chapter).  Chapters 8-10 discuss how to apply all this new teaching into three specific areas of relationships (sexual identity, Fitches favorite chapter), justice and cultural diversity.

My very favorite section is section 2.  It seems the most helpful to my current ministry setting in the Midwest. I work with churches across an entire state and the chapter on Church is extremely helpful.  Like any book you can pull this one chapter out and use it, however, the preceding chapters are necessary to gain its full impact, especially chapters 3-6.  The chapter on Church discusses seven practices that are required to be the Kingdom present in a community.  Communion is foundational for these authors.  It is the purpose of gathering as Church and it tells the Gospel message.  Second proclaiming the whole Gospel, not just a message of salvation is important.  See Scott McKnight's "King Jesus Gospel" for more on this concept.  They practice reconciliation with one another and teach those who visit their church to exercise it as well.  The church should be "with" the people on the fringes.  The church should be "with" children.  This is powerful. I wish there was more than just a paragraph or two on each of these.  They emphasize the five fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.  To learn more about this see J.R. Woodwards "Creating a Missional Culture."  They practice the Kingdom prayer (Lords Prayer) because it "opens space for the Kingdom to break in as Christ enters in power, presence, and healing."

This book has put language to ministry concepts I have been working with and towards for several years now.  It is comforting to know someone is able to synthesize and give meaning to various concepts floating around in the "Missioal Church" concept.  I have used this book already in ministry.  It has helped me be able to give language to churches looking to participate in missional church concepts.  It has also helped me organize a "Missional Immersion" process for young adults for the state I work with.  This book has motivated me to keep on pursuing the Missional God into my neighborhood and into the churches I serve.  

I hope you check this book out at some point.  My apologies again for not producing the 5 week study I promised but hopefully this quick summary is useful to others and motivates you to read and apply these concepts.

David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw Bio's:
"Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier" by David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw.  David Fitch is a copastor and founder of Life on the Vine Christian Community in Chicago.  He serves as the B.R. Lidner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.  He has authored six other books as well including "The End of Evangelicalism?" and "The Great Giveaway"  He has a strong web presence as a contributor to websites and blogs regularly at his own siteReclaiming the Mission.  Geoff Holsclaw is also copastor ofLife on the Vine Christian Community in Chicago and also serves as an adjunct professor at Northern Seminary.  Geoff also serves as the Midwest Coordinator for the Eccelsia Network and is regularly seen on the web as well including his blog For Time Being.