Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's the plan after Pastor Chris leaves?

First, let me be clear that what I'm proposing will first have to be approved by the elected leaders of the congregation on the Board of Spiritual Oversight, of which Pastor Chris and I are both members.

Because Chris and I are so close, I've been in on his discernment process from the beginning and have therefore been able to devote a lot of prayer and thought to this plan. At this stage of Zion's development, I wouldn't want to work with someone whom I didn't know. This is a moot point anyway, as our current financial situation really won't allow us to hire a seasoned professional. So what could God be up to? I think that his answer is this: we are being given the perfect opportunity to promote from within. We have two of our current staff involved in getting their M.Div degrees. Brent Osborne, our youth guy, and Tina Rasmussen, our director of adult discipleship. So what I propose is a two part plan:

First, Brent and Tina begin pastoral internships at Zion. Some of you will be familiar with this concept that is part of the education process within the Lutheran church. A seminary student serves at least a year under the supervision of a pastor in order to experience real ministry situations in the congregation. Some interns are given programming responsibilities and others are basically given churches to lead and their supervising pastor might be in another town. Each intern has an internship committee made up of members of the congregation who provide feedback and evaluation to the intern. I would like to see Tina and Brent moved into official roles of Intern Pastors and proceed toward their ordinations in 2010 and 2011 respectfully. Each would continue in their present responsibilities as well as taking on some additional pastoral responsibilities such as visiting and occasional preaching. Interns are compensated at a set rate that is within our ability to afford and this would allow us to actually pay Tina for what she has been doing at Zion for the last year already.

In the summers of 2010 and 2011, respectively, after having graduated from their programs and received their degrees, Tina and Brent will be ordained and able to fulfill full pastoral responsibilities as well as oversight of staff and programming to be determined. Each will be given the title: “Teaching Pastor.” I realize that some people will question why we need three pastors. I think it's important that everyone understand that it is not unusual for churches of Zion's size to have several pastors on staff, each one charged with responsibilities in different areas of programming. Their titles are usually something similar to "Missions Pastor" or "Children's Pastor" for example. They are on the church staff and serve as program directors but can also do pastoral acts like weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. I've had many titles over the years I spent at Hope. Over my tenure there I was: Teaching Pastor for Discipleship, Teaching Pastor for Adult Discipleship and Prayer and Missions, and Teaching Pastor for Care. It's a worthy model to follow and utilized by many churches.

Brent has a pastor's heart. He is incredibly gifted and is developing to be a great preacher. He preached almost every weekend last year at the Veritas service on Sunday nights. His abiding passion is in the care of souls, which we desperately need. I believe he is the right one to one day lead a ministry at Zion that offers care to people through a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Tina is a gifted teacher who as a staff member at Hope had a 100 people attending her Bible study. She has just finished as a long time board member of Crossways International where she has been a protege of Harry Wendt, the founder of the Crossways curriculum, the best Bible survey material I have ever used. She has a background in leadership training and small groups. She has a lot to offer as a gifted teacher and preacher.

Pastor Chris' current duties will be distributed as follows:  teaching:  between Pastor John and Tina and Brent.  Pastoral Care:  between Brent and Tina.  Missions: to BreeAnn Williams, our director of childrens discipleship who has a deep passion for missions and experience as well.  

Tina will be tasked with the following: adult discipleship; leadership development; hospitality (which will include evangelism, coffee hour, transportation, information center, ushers); she will teach and preach; she will have some care responsibilities.

Brent will be tasked with the following: youth discipleship; supervision of Carli; continued development and oversight of our cradle to grave discipleship plan; preaching and teaching; care responsibilities.

BreeAnn will be tasked with the following: kids discipleship; oversight of nursery; missions.

I will be tasked with the following: vision, staff, preaching and teaching, leadership development, and care.

In addition, Stephen Ministers will come on board this spring and will be tasked to help with visitation to hospitals and the home bound as well as being assigned one on one relationships. We'll ask the Prayer Team to step up efforts to meet and pray with people on Sundays and Wednesdays before surgeries and so on.

My inspiration several years ago was to find a strong preacher and teacher who would help me address our greatest need: to get into the Word. We’ve really been blessed to have Chris with us. I estimated Christ would be here 3-5 years but obviously God had other plans and so basically shy of 2 years, he’ll be leaving us. But I know that this is the right move for Chris and his family and for the kingdom of God. Brent and Tina will make excellent preachers and will grow into their roles. It will take practice, which means they need time and opportunity. Zion will be raising up and equipping new leaders for the whole Church and not just our congregation.

The second part of this plan has to do with finding someone to begin to take over our youth ministry program in the fall of 2010. I'd like to find a young candidate in need of formation and opportunity who will meet our immediate needs with the intent of raising him/her up through the ranks. More about this second step in my next blog. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Becoming a Church that Disciples

What would it be like to be a church that had as it’s primary focus making disciples? Oh, I know most churches think that’s what they do but I’m not convinced that’s what is actually happening. A disciple of Jesus is one who follows Jesus and learns from him and in whom Jesus has complete control of the daily agenda and life. I think most of us in church-world think that if people come to church they must be disciples. But I haven’t experienced that to be the case ever.

How would we go about “making disciples” and not just members?

Jesus’ method was to take 12 men and pour his life and teaching into them for about three years. He also kept them on the move. Interesting. Not sure what to do about the “on the move part.” Part of being church today is to have a facility. Facilities don’t move. But I’m not ready to engage in a discussion about whether or not buildings help or hurt discipleship. We’ll tackle that one another day.

Jesus’ didactic style was to say: Follow me. Now watch. Now you try. Now go and do likewise. The style would be fun to try. Not sure how it works in the “classroom” settings we have. We usually just lecture. Sometimes we give homework. But we never really get around to “go and do.” Oh, sure, we like to think that people will apply what we’ve lectured on, but will they? Another discussion for another day.

What would be the curriculum? A series of questions?
#1: Who is Jesus? Seems important if we are to be making his disciples.
Who are you? The work of Jesus on the cross gives you the opportunity to be a child of God, a disciple, a new creation in Christ.
What are you good at? What spiritual gifts has the Holy Spirit graced you with? How can they be employed in the Body of Christ?
Who are you discipling/training/mentoring? In other words, as you have been taught, now teach. Sort of that go and do thing applied for the multiplication of leader/disciples.

I suppose that additional work would need to be done on “how to minister to others” and then something about how to minister to yourself - that is, how to keep yourself hardwired to Jesus; the practice of spiritual disciplines and so on. How to develop a personal devotional life, in other words.

After three years, the disciples would be released to disciple - well, sort of, as with #4 they ought to have been doing it as we go along...

This certainly is a different way of learning. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned. God bless.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Spiritual State of Zion

In a couple weeks we’ll spend some time talking about how we’re doing as a church. Are we following Jesus together? Are there things we should be doing differently? It’s called “The Spiritual State of Zion” message and here is a preview:

There are four priorities which need to be addressed and addressing them will require some resources. They are: Scripture, Leadership Development, Communication, and Love.

Scripture: As a congregation, Zion is incredibly hungry for the Word of God. And we need more of it. We need our people to be immersed in it. Not just at church on Sunday or Wednesday, but every day in time spent in the Word. The most recent and comprehensive study of spiritual growth in churches indicates that at every stage of spiritual growth, Scripture is critical. We have done a good job of beginning, but we need to continue and build upon what we’ve done and move now from teaching and preaching into application. We also need others to help us teach and challenge others to get into the Word. Which is why leadership development in critical for us.

Leadership Development: To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a leader. All of us are called to follow him. And all of us are called to “make” disciples. That is a leadership role. We need leaders on every level: teachers of the Bible, small group leaders, Godly leaders of various ministries, leaders who are called by God to start new ministries and inspire others to follow them. We also need to be sure that Christian parents understand their leadership role in bringing their children to faith. We need new elders and board members. We need mentors and disciplers.

Communication: In order to share the vision we have across three services and to those who don’t attend every single week, we need to develop new and improve existing methods of communication. It is also necessary that we customize communication to fit specific groups within the church like visitors, youth and children. We have been given a developing vision of the church to communicate and we need to spend time and resources developing and improving our style and methods.

Love: Scripture tells us that God loved the world so much he gave us Jesus. We need to learn to love the world the way God does. Not the way the world wants to be loved (unqualified acceptance and license), but in a godly way. Our failure to be able to do a better job reaching out beyond our own walls is less about organization or structure or resources then it is about our hearts. Our hearts, as a congregation, aren’t soft enough yet. How do we get the very heart of God within us? Jesus tells us: Love one another. So I understand this to mean that love starts at home and moves outward. We love the ones right here first and somehow that begins a heart transformation process that leads us into the lives of our neighbors and to those we meet along the way. My analysis is that the staff has come a long way in truly loving each other. Now it’s time for the boards to love each other, and then the congregation as a whole. Then, I think, the Holy
Ghost will invite us to leave this place and go out into the world and share the love of Christ and it won’t be compelled or guilt ridden, it will be freeing and joyful and exuberant and we will surpass everything we can imagine as our hearts and lives are opened up to this kingdom work.

Thanks for reading. Come to Zion on May 17 for the rest of the story. God bless you.