New Starts

New things are brewing in my midst. I wish each of you could see them from where I'm sitting. God is at work in powerful ways and he has been faithful to provide the people and the resources necessary for fulfilling his vision at Mt. Bethel.

We are in a period of great transition. As I type, the members of the Lay Leadership Committee of the church are praying for, planning with, and contacting various servants that will comprise our leadership team for 2009 - some of which will serve in these positions through 2011. In addition, we are sending off our beloved choir director, Rachel Nichols. Rachel will be missed by the people of Mt. Bethel and the choir will definitely be affected by the loss of her gifts. I'll miss the opportunity to prepare for worship with her and bounce ideas off of her. Despite her departure, we move forward and look ahead to what God has planned next.

2009 will bring with it a core leadership team that is committing to meet regularly outside of doing business to pray together, study the word together, and support one another in the challenges that we will face. We will also find ourselves with a new choir director to bring a new set of gifts to our worship experiences and "potentially" an additional staff person to help us reach younger families.

Charge Conference is scheduled for early next month and once the new leadership has been affirmed by the congregation and all things are final, we look forward to beginning these next steps. I can hardly wait.

In many of my monthly pastors meetings, the standard practice before getting down to business is to have one pastor share a devotion/word of encouragement. In my meeting today, which I gleaned alot of good information from, the most poignant influence came from the devotion that wasn't an official part of the business.

The scripture shared came from Exodus 16. The Israelites, following God's vision and the leadership of Moses found themselves in the wilderness with no means for sustenance. They began to turn on Moses in their desperation, but after hearing from God, Moses told them of how God would provide - HE RAINED BREAD FROM HEAVEN!

How true is this in following the Spirit of God? God calls us out to the wilderness where all seems lost by our efforts and success seems bleak and then, miraculously, what and who we need is made available. That's why we rely on FAITH in God and not just understanding of God.

My prayer is that we continue to follow God into the wilderness of Henry County - that we faithfully and obediently do what he calls us to do and without hesitation. If we stick to the plan, God will provide.

What is God calling you to do? Where is he sending you? Don't think you've got to have all the answers before proceeding - you'll never get moving. Answer the call, count on God, celebrate what God is doing for us and through us.


Lesson To Pastors

For all the pastors out there that read my blog, here's a lesson for you from a colleague:

When things seem to be rolling in ministry, when you can see progress on the vision God has given you, and everybody's happy, be prepared. In addition, don't preach on unity in the church and brag to your spouse about how great things are and how optimistic you feel unless you're ready for what will be coming your way. Satan likes those moments most to try to derail you.

That's basically what's happened over the last two days. First, I preached on unity. I believe it was a timely message and I'm praying hard for the unity that Jesus prayed for after his last supper with his disciples. That evening, after the regular meetings and spending some time with some of my staff, I went home and told my wife how excited I was that things seemed to be coming together and how I could see the vision God has given me unfold in the midst of this church. I went to bed with a smile on my face, looking forward to what I thought would come next.

Then came Monday morning...

Sunday night, one of my leaders (who was present for the whole sermon on unity) decided to make some phone calls to individuals in order to create disunity. I know this because that leader managed to call the wrong person, who in turn left me a message about what was going on. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time, but I thought we were past this in this church.

It's been said that I don't care and I'm going to screw things up just like every other pastor that's come through the church. It's been said that "they'll" put up with me for a couple more years until I get moved and then "they" can fix things back to the way "they" want them. I find myself praying for this leader and for my patience. Fortunately, many of the people that have been exposed to this behavior recognize that I'm very rarely full of crap and my heart is in my work. God is going to win this battle for unity - of that I'm sure.

Monday got even better (facetiously) though...

Yesterday afternoon, another leader of mine resigned his position with less than four months to go. My heart breaks for him - he has immense amounts of issues to deal with in his family and he's been mercilessly drug into the aforementioned struggle against unity in the church. I've watched one of our young, up and coming leaders become jaded by a group within the church that will intentionally and carelessly use someone else to create that disunity.

I didn't post this yesterday for one simple reason - the barbarian in me was on full alert. What I wanted to write yesterday was not defined by my love for the offenders or would have, in any way, reflected grace.

As pastors, we walk a tightrope in ministry. We are called to love and to act out of grace, but even Christ got angry enough at one point to overturn some tables in the temple and even had to tell Peter to get out of his way after calling him Satan. What is the defining line, that when crossed, justifies us, as ministers, to go into a holy rage? At what point do we take the gloves off and begin telling people to either fall in line or find another church? It's ridiculous and uncalled for when people, especially those who are supposed to be setting the example, behave so immaturely and without any concern for the welfare of others.

Tuesday is here. It's 9am and I've already been to the hospital and the elementary school. Today is a new day and a new opportunity to adapt, overcome, and move forward - with or without those around us, but certainly and absolutely with God.



I hope you've been following the speeches on TV from our political candidates over the last few weeks. Now that the candidates have officially been nominated, attention turns to the first Tuesday of November.

I haven't decided who I'll vote for yet (and I won't post it when I do decide - that's my prerogative). I'm registered Republican, simply for the fact that the state of Georgia won't let you register independent. I'm a firm believer in voting on issues and NOT on a party line. You've got a brain, USE IT!

I've been frustrated with the people who have publicly announced that they would or would not vote for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Sarah Palin simply on account of gender, race, or lineage. C'mon people, we're better than that! Are you really not going to vote for Obama because he's part black? Are you really going to vote for Clinton or Palin because they're women? Are you really not going to vote for McCain because he's older than the rest?

Listen to the things they all have to say. Please.

Look beyond their professions of faith, beyond their "God bless America"'s, beyond their tear-jerking stories. Stop being concerned with what they wear or don't wear and how they travel and how perfect their families are. Both sides are claiming to have God on their side and to be the best for America - go figure. I would encourage you to look for them to set the example.

I've been harping on church leadership for weeks and months now. It's important to realize that problems in the church almost always stem from problems in leadership. It's important to realize that the same is true with our nation.

Rudy Giuliani spoke before Sarah Palin last night. He started down a road of wise advice before steering the speech into a political ditch. He asked that his listeners look at the impending elections as if we were an employer looking at hiring a new employee. Smart. What qualities would you look for in hiring the person to do the best work for you? Would it be race, gender, age, or some other superficial characteristic? Or would you look at experience, optimism, the ability to play well with others, the vision for leadership, and the ability to inspire?

Would you hire someone with big dreams that can't tell you how they'll accomplish it?
Would you hire someone that sat in your office and bashed your other applicants?
Would you hire someone that was arrogant enough to tell you they could solve all the world's problems?
Would you hire someone that wanted to eliminate violence through violence?
Would you hire someone that professed to be godly and spoke as if he or she had never met Christ or read anything Jesus taught?

I'm not happy with our candidates right now, even though the ones nominated are likely the best in their primaries. My concerns fall on both sides of the aisle and also amongst those of us who will vote without using our brains. Maybe McCain can change that for me tonight - I'm not holding my breath though.


Answered Prayers

I know it's been a little while since I posted last. I've come to the conclusion that I'll probably never be that pastor that posts every day. I admire those guys for several reasons - mainly because they can find the time to post every day, but also because they can find something worth posting about every day (in most cases). Today I have something worth writing about: answered prayer.

In my prayer time over the last several days I've begun to see God answer prayers begun months ago. I want to share them with you so you can celebrate with me. (Romans 12:15)

Charge Conference is coming up 35 days from now (but who's counting?). For those of you who haven't been a part of a United Methodist Church, this is our annual meeting of the congregation for officially approving the leadership for the next year, the pastor's salary, any candidates we have for ministry, and our lay speakers. That means that in the next 35 days, Mt. Bethel's Lay Leadership Committee will assemble and coordinate the list of 2009 leaders.

Now, you may remember that earlier this year, I posted about the vision I have for Mt. Bethel and that it all begins with leadership. You can read that post -->here<--. Basically, we need to unload the bus and reseat everybody with a new arrangement. Some of our past leadership has been non-edifying and in some cases a hindrance to ministry. In some areas, the leadership has been altogether ineffective and inadequate. Now, that's not the whole picture of Mt. Bethel's leadership - some areas of administration have been under superior, immaculate leadership.

My prayer since last October has been for God to place the right people into leadership. Last year, being my first year at this appointment, was not the most opportune time to shake up the leadership, hence my being here a second year. Now that we are into that second year, having heard God speak time and time again, it's time to do what needs to be done. Honestly, this task has been a little daunting for me and I've been no less than intimidated by some of the conversations I've had. I knew going in that some people wouldn't be happy with the changes that had to be made and some might actually be angry about them, but they still had to be done.

Well, I have completed each one of those conversations and haven't had the first bad encounter. Even the long-time leaders that I've asked to take a less-authoritative, more-developmental role have accepted those changes with grace. Praise God!

(I am aware, however, that some of those folks that are stepping aside will be watching me closely for mistakes, ready to point out that I'm too inexperienced to know better - they've done these things with other pastors prior to my arrival).

I'm just as excited about WHO God has called to these leadership positions. We have one prominent leader that will be taking a front-seat position next year that may be the best the United Methodist Church has ever seen. In conversation, his hopes for 2009 are the same that I've prayed over and written about in this blog. He and I are very much on the same wavelength and we should be able to make some large strides toward achieving the current vision of the church.

The two biggest things I'm excited about, he's excited about. The first is the establishment of what I'd call a core team. We will work to get our top 8-10 leaders involved in a group to study, pray, and talk together. My prayer is that this will be a prelude to establishing a church-wide shared vision and a sure way to establish unity, beginning with top leadership.

The second opportunity I see on the horizon has to do with the establishing of collective vision that is also a part of the vision I posted about several months ago. I began the process of establishing this vision last year, but quickly learned that there wasn't enough support in the leadership to work toward this collective vision. Not only is the support there now, but the leaders that will take place in January are insisting on it.

I go back to Jeremiah 1:17-19. This is where I hear what God has called me to do in the early stages of my appointment to Mt. Bethel. I have to admit that there have been times that I've wanted to give up, step aside, or accept things for they way they were, but I haven't given in to those feelings yet - and God has been sufficient because I counted on him being there.

If you're in the midst of facing a challenge and you know God has called you to face it, take these words to heart. Keep praying, keep working, and keep getting up when the world knocks you down - God will be faithful if you are.

In your prayer time this week, pray especially for these people and how they will be a blessing to Mt. Bethel: Bill, Beverly, Helen, Jason, Janice, and Bobby. You don't know them, but add them and Mt. Bethel to your prayer list.