Questioning God (Part One)

Questioning God (Part One)

"Questioning God" (Part One)

As the joke goes, we catch ourselves talking out loud to ourselves in someone's hearing. We laugh and say we aren't too worried because we haven't started talking back to ourselves. At least, not yet.

Talking to ourselves is a reality, whether we are conscious of it or not. Much of what we say to ourselves comes through filters created by our past. It comes because we live in a time of information overload; there is a lot of "telling" going on. Instead of just talking to ourselves, are we asking any questions? More importantly, do we make room for questions?

When we intentionally ask ourselves questions, we make room for more than the same patterns of thought we easily fall into because they are comfortable or because they protect us from having to face our own flawed natures. Asking questions makes room for the Lord to get a word in edgewise.

So what kinds of questions should we ask ourselves before the Lord? What will open us up to more of the Lord's desires? There are questions that are concerned with personal needs and discipleship. Those should be asked. However, let me suggest here the first of several questions, which will sharpen an understanding of what the Lord wants for our ministry life as God's shepherd-leaders.

Question 1:  What am I striving for in the ministry God has given me? In other words, what do I hope will be the outcomes of my ministry?

This question is really much more difficult to answer than it seems. If the answer is an automatic "more people, more baptisms, more ministry funds," I would suggest we are giving a Sunday school answer and not a "God's dream in our heart" answer. True, seeing people transformed by Jesus is the goal. But the Lord has given every disciple and every church that mission. The "hoped for outcomes" deal with the specifics of what the goal looks like or feels like in our particular ministry.

Let me offer an example. Dwight Spencer came to Utah in 1881 as an ABHMS missionary among the Mormons. God's dream in Dwight's heart was preaching Jesus in such a way that, though suspicious, Mormons would send their children to the Baptist Sunday Schools and "day" or grade school, first in Odgen, and then in Salt Lake City. The more he worked at it, the more he realized the there weren't enough resources available among the people to do this work.

Dwight then worked to bring other missionary pastors and teachers to continue and expand the work started. In late 1886 and 1887, he then traveled back to the mid-west and the east to raise funds for home mission work in Utah and the west. He raised $100,000 (over $2.7 million in current dollars) so congregations could afford buildings for ministry. The money was not the dream; neither were church buildings. God's dream in Dwight's heart was that congregations would be Christ's vital witness in their communities and "not leave this darkness alone" (The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, February 1885).

Question 2: What is God's dream in your heart?

Please let me assure you I don't mean if you ask the question, you will have an instant answer. In fact, if the answer comes quickly, it may not be God's answer.

To explore what God's dream in your heart is, let me suggest this activity. Go to your church's sanctuary when it is quiet. Be still before the Lord. Sit in one place for a while. Move to another place for a while. If you are an active person or find sitting in one place a distraction in itself, you may want to move around. Listen to your memories of what has happened there. What do you see in your mind's eye? Don't dwell on the past too long, but move to considering the future. Ask in faith, "Lord, what could happen here? What would it look like? How would it sound? What would people experience?"

Additionally, you might want to walk through your church’s neighborhood, looking at the people, the places, and any activity. Again, ask, "Lord, what could happen here?" Please note: the question is what COULD happen, not what SHOULD happen. "Could" and "should" are two very different ideas, both of which are important. Be willing to concentrate on the "could" because that is where God's dream in your heart can emerge.

It is important to try to find a few words or an image to express this to yourself. From my own and others' experience, it is important to know several of these encounters may be needed before there is some clarity and something we have that confidently comes from the Lord.

What are the some of the results of engaging in this exercise? God's dream in our heart releases us from unfair standards and unrealistic expectations. It sets us free from ourselves and our tendencies toward self-absorbed dreams fellow Christians may chafe at. It brings stamina for the ministry and capacity to withstand the difficulties encountered. It keeps us accountable to God.

In part two, we'll look at questions that deal with both the freedom and accountability in these dreams.

What is God's dream in your heart? One of the God dreams I have is that we will have courage to talk together about the God dreams in our hearts because, in part, we will be strengthened in knowing these dreams are part of God's great whole and we are not alone in them.

Always in Beta

Always in Beta

"A church committed to being on mission would always be in the development stage where adaptation is normative. Maintaining status quo would be considered unhealthy and abnormal." 

Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning

Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning

Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning

March 20, 2016, marked the celebration and culmination of years of prayer, obedience and preparation by Sun Kim and many other people in his life. That day, First Baptist Church of Des Moines, WA ordained Sun Kim to the gospel ministry. It was an inspiring service that included participation by Sun’s father (Yoan Kim) and brother (Woun Kim) as well as many others, including Worth Wilson and Charles Revis of Mission Northwest, who came alongside during his journey.

November 8, 2015 was the last major event on the road of preparation that led to ordination. That day FBC called an ordination council for Sun who had worked through the required steps with the guidance of the WA/N. ID Ministerial Concerns and Standards Department. Sun did an excellent job responding to a vigorous examination by the members of Mission Northwest churches in attendance. At the conclusion, the council voted unanimously to recommend that FBC of Des Moines proceed with the ordination and that Mission Northwest recognize Sun’s ordination.

Those were some of the markers on the path to ordination. What is not always known and seldom seen by most people are the years of preparation, education, mentoring and internships. A pastor who has a standard ordination has nearly as much formal education as a physician entering residency training. In the midst of all the training are the hours of prayer and Bible study, searching for God’s continued leading. There are deep conversations with other pastors and mentors, also seeking to confirm God’s guidance.

Sun Kim’s ordination was a culmination of prayer and preparation. It also marked a beginning of a lifetime of ministry of leading others to faith and obedience. Sun’s major role now is to lead any congregation he serves to bring the good news of Jesus to our broken world, to develop life-long followers of Jesus, and to shepherd others among these disciples who might be called by the Lord for ministerial servie.

Where does it all begin? With a response of obedience to God’s moving in many hearts and minds with the conviction God is saying, “Set apart for me [these] for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

Pictured above from left to right: Mike Zieman, Sun Kim, and Paul Caughey.

Pictured above from left to right: Mike Zieman, Sun Kim, and Paul Caughey.

The Pastor’s Salary Package and Business Expenses

The Pastor’s Salary Package and Business Expenses

I was recently asked for advice in negotiating a pastor’s salary package for 2017. That request reminded me of an excellent, free resource that MMBB publishes, the title of which is “Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation.” I have uploaded a copy on our web site for easy access at www.abcnw.org/pastors-compensation-guide.

Often there is confusion as to what constitutes the pastor’s salary and what is a benefits package, and what is simply business expense and is not considered compensation. This MMBB guide helps in sorting out these details.

For example, the “Cash Compensation” aspects of a pastors salary includes “cash salary, “housing allowance” as well as “social security offset” and “equity allowance”.

Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows ordained ministers to exclude from federally taxed income some or all of the cost of providing their principal residence. A church that fails to establish a portion of pastoral compensation as housing allowance is penalizing the pastor by increasing his, or her, tax burden. The amount designated as housing allowance needs to be established and recorded in the board’s business meetings prior to the start of the new year. Consult the Compensation Guide for more details.

Some churches confuse Pastor’s Benefits with Cash Compensation. These cover expenses that are essential for maintaining employee health and morale. Typically these fall in four categories and pastors do not pay taxes on them: 1) Retirement savings, 2) Life insurance, 3) Disability insurance and 4) Health insurance.

Then there are a good number or expenses that pastors incur through simply carrying out the duties of their ministry. These should be reimbursed through an “Accountable Plan” as the pastor submits receipts for each expense. Typically these fall into several categories: 1) Business-related travel and auto use, 2) Hospitality 3) Conference attendance 4) Continuing education 5) Subscriptions/books/periodicals 6) Fees and dues for professional associations, and 6) Work-related cellphone use.

Unfortunately, there are times when churches, usually under financial duress, lump these last items under compensation when they are not. Yes, they are part of the cost of having a pastor, but they should not be considered as part of the salary package.

I commend this resource to our pastors and churches as you make financial plans for 2017. Our region accountant, Cherie’ Vidovich, is also available to answer additional questions that you may have in this arena.

2017 Leadership Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders

2017 Leadership Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders

A chief value of Mission Northwest is resourcing and developing church leaders. This is why we encourage pastors to involve themselves in a Leadership Learning Community. Each year a uniform selection of books and resources are selected for study by the various groups around the region. These are recommended for church leaders and staff as well. Some church boards take 3 to 6 months to cover a particular book to hone their skills and gain fresh insights for ministering in today’s world. A follow-up action plan is helpful for implementing what has been learned. The following list represent the recommended resources for 2017. Prior year selections may be found at the region’s website under the LLC tab (www.abcnw.org or www.missionnorthwest.org)

January and February

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod BolsingerTopic: Adaptive church leadership for a post-modern, post-Christian world in which there is no roadmap for leading through uncharted territory.

March and April

Growing Young by Kara Powell  Topic: Understanding millennials with a view towards changing the church’s approach in reaching out to this unchurched generational cohort. Based on exhaustive research conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute.

May and September

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times by Peter Senske Topic: Wisdom and practical advice for remaining calm while leading changes that result in improved church health and effectiveness.

October and November (choose one of two selections, or study both)

The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us by Karl Vaters   Topic: Churches of all sizes matter and therefore maximizing the effectiveness of the small church should be more important to us than nursing an inferiority complex.

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart  Topic: Responding to the challenge of racism by considering the insights of an evangelical African-American theologian.

December  (choose one of two selections)

Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri Nouwen

Organic Outreach for Everyday People: Sharing Good News Naturally by Kevin Harney (chapters 6 – 9)

 

New Region Learning Networks: Children, Youth and Young Pastors

New Region Learning Networks: Children, Youth and Young Pastors

Mission Northwest is proceeding with exciting plans to develop three new learning networks aimed at providing crucial support for workers among young leaders in our congregations.

We all know how critically important it is to have vibrant children and youth ministries as well as a growing cadre of young, innovative pastors if our churches are to continue into the future. Even more important than mere survival is the fact that we are put here to impact the Northwest with the good news of Jesus Christ, a daunting task to say the least!

Building connections among those working in these areas that will provide collaboration, training, coaching, and support becomes a high priority for our Region, especially given the stress and challenges facing those in our local congregations who have answered the call!

Funds from a recently awarded ABC-USA Palmer Grant for Mission Northwest will allow us to provide resources for three new learning networks. These will be formed in the coming weeks and will focus on the following areas:

       1.   Children and young families

       2.   Youth (Jr. High, Sr. High, College and Young Singles)

       3.   Younger, innovative pastors, leading in ministry settings that need transformation

Recognizing that our churches are spread out over a large and diverse area, these networks will convene monthly using video conferencing technology. Each will be led by a region-appointed facilitator. They will schedule input from experienced resource people. Collaborative discussions for the purpose of sharing best practices will take place among all the participants.

An annual retreat for these young leaders is also envisioned for developing face-to-face relationships and celebrating ministry successes.

What we need most right now is to identify who are the people working with children or youth in our congregations, and to develop a working roster of possible participants in each of the children’s and youth networks. Region staff will recruit participants in the young pastors network. They can be people who are on your staff in full or part time capacities, paid or volunteer, or maybe someone who you think has a heart for stepping into a youth ministry position but needs training and support. Please send their contact information to the Region Office. Provide their name, area of ministry (children or youth) and contact information (email address, mailing address and phone number).

With their permission we will send them more information on the program and how they can be a participant.

This is an exciting time to be engaging together in ministry and this new venture holds great promise and possibility for our churches and communities!  

 

A Great Gift for God’s Kingdom

A Great Gift for God’s Kingdom

This time of year a lot of attention is given to gifts – giving them, getting them, and guessing what they are or should be. Expensive? Thoughtful? Unique? Or maybe trendy, techy AND tasteful all at the same time! And don’t forget the sales – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and both sales extended for “just one more day!” in case you didn’t spend enough or feel like you (and only you) were dumb enough to miss out the first time around. The whole thing can be enough to bring out the Scrooge-e-ness in just about anybody.

Those of us seeking to be Christ followers find ourselves caught between participating in all that Christmas offers and avoiding the excesses. In our own ways, each of us reclaims and proclaims the truth of Jesus during this season, as we should. But it isn’t easy. Do too little, and you feel worse than Scrooge. Do too much, and you feel like you’ve sold out. No doubt, someone you know will agree with you either way.

Amidst the attention about giving, there is one vitally needed gift we can give the Lord. It doesn’t cost any money, initially, but it could be priceless. You might not have any immediate satisfaction from it, but it could have eternal ramifications. It lies within anyone’s ability to give. It is at once both simple and profoundly complex.

That one priceless, eternally significant, especially needed thing you can give to God’s kingdom work is asking someone to consider becoming a pastor-leader in Christ’s body.

Why should we do this rather bold thing? First, in inviting someone to consider becoming a pastor-leader, we have the opportunity to take “ego” out of a call to ministry. While a person needs to have a clear sense of God’s call on his/her life in order to pursue the ministry, it is immensely helpful if that same person isn’t the initiator of the conversation. To say, “I have a call to ministry” can seem arrogant and presumptuous, even when there is no pretext of self-centeredness in that person. Second, we can help awaken something God is doing in someone’s life, helping him/her name a spiritual restlessness that really comes from the Lord.

How would we go about asking someone to seriously consider God’s call? We need to pray at length, asking the Lord to help us be sure it is the Spirit’s idea and not our own. One significant indicator would be the ability to name concrete reasons why this person would be a good pastor-leader. Leaders in the New Testament had experienced a conversion to Christ, were people of character, and were competent in ministry. By competence, Scriptures show these people’s ministries produced fruit. (See Acts 5:12-16; 6:1-7; 9:36-43; 18:24-28; Romans 16:1-5.) If the person is not actively engaged in some kind of ministry in the church, encourage him/her to get involved. Continue to pray for and with that person as he/she tests the waters to see if there is any fruit.

If the Lord is calling this person to full-time ministry, what happens next? Even the most talented and gifted person needs the benefit of preparation and training along with mentoring and support from a local church. Our role is to encourage the person to avail him/herself of this training. Churches in today’s world need pastors who are as prepared as possible. There are several excellent part-time and online programs available if a person is not able to pursue education at a school full-time. In the meantime, the leadership of the church and the congregation can publicly recognize their understanding that the Lord is leading a person into pastoral leadership by the process of licensing. (For a full explanation of the process, which is intended to lead to ordination, see Mission Northwest’s process at this link.)

One of the most recently ordained people among Mission Northwest churches is Sun Kim, pastor at First Baptist Church of Des Moines, WA. One of the most recently licensed people in Mission Northwest happened in October. Andy Paz – pastor at First Baptist Church of Filer, ID – was licensed for ministry in anticipation of ordination in the next year. Filer First Baptist will also be taking steps to license Teresa Hardin and Thomas Klein in January 2017. There are several others in different parts of the region also working toward ordination.

Why do we make such a big deal out of this? One answer is practical: without skilled and called pastors, churches do not thrive and they struggle to reach out. History has shown clearly in the northwest that without a pastor and without a place of its own, a congregation generally flounders and dies. The other answer is Biblical: pastoral leadership is the Lord’s pattern for shepherding a congregation as found in the New Testament. It is the local church that embodies and carries the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus to a broken, lost world. Pastors are those specially charged with leading congregations and training disciples for the fulfillment of that mission and work.

You are in a position to give an extra special gift to the Lord’s kingdom in this next year. Consider those you know and prayerfully consider asking one or more of them, “Have you ever thought the Lord might want you to be a pastor?”

THE SAME OL' THING (NOT!)

THE SAME OL' THING (NOT!)

A number of years ago (I won’t say how many!), John and I went to the community nursing home during the Christmas season to lead some singing and bring them a word about God’s love for them. We sang some familiar Christmas songs with the less familiar accompaniment of my guitar. Then John read one of the New Testament passages about the birth of Jesus to be followed by a short devotional thought. After the singing and the Bible reading, one of the elderly men got up and shuffled out with the aid of his walker. As he left, we heard him say out loud to no one in particular, “I’m leaving; I’ve heard this all before.”

There is some truth, minus the cynicism, to what the old gentleman said. What we say and do at Christmas has been said and celebrated before. We often use the same decorations, sometimes passing them to the next generation. We sing many of the same songs. After all, what is Christmas without _____? (Pick your favorite song.) When we think about it, this God-with-us event isn’t even a new idea. It was in God’s heart long before it actually happened. And the Lord made sure we knew it was going to happen. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph though the action of God’s Spirit, the Lord made it clear He was at work doing something new. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared,

 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem, many people were looking and longing for the event. Some of the people were like Anna and Simeon, already faithful people of the Lord’s community (Luke 2:25-30). Some were outside of community of faith, but were looking for this special event in order to be a part of it (Matt. 2: 1-2). The old message of God’s things to come repeated down through the years was a really a new thing. Though expected, it came in an unexpected way.

About the time I think I’ve heard it or seen it all, something happens. A new song. Someone who has just begun to experience that Christmas is more than an excuse for consumerism, that the real God of the universe has taken an intimate and eternal interest in every single person on the face of the planet in every time and every place. A warmth in a familiar event. A reconnection with an old friend.

In the same way, the Lord is taking this same Christmas message of God’s love in Christ for people and doing a new thing today. I am convinced that the Lord is doing a new thing among people in the northwest. More than that, God has a vital part for our people in Mission Northwest to play in God’s new thing.

So what may seem like “the same ol’ thing” also has the features of a new thing. One of the best parts of Christmas for me is this: in the middle of events that may look like and sound like what we did last year, and probably many years before that, God continues to break in. Then as now, God keeps on say to us, “I’m doing a new thing. Don’t you recognize it?”

This Christmas season, may you recognize the eternal newness of God in the midst of all that is dear and familiar to you. My prayer for you is that you will recognize the part Christ has for you in bringing His new life to those He has put in your life for exactly that reason.

Mystery! What Christmas Means to Me

Mystery! What Christmas Means to Me

As I reflect on the meaning of Christmas my thoughts take me back to past Christmases. Intermingled with those old memories are mysterious touches of God’s presence. I distinctly remember as a sixth grade boy walking through ice-cold air from our church’s Christmas Eve service down to the parsonage where we lived. A church member had given me a gift and I was in a hurry to unwrap it. It was a plastic model kit for a 1939 Ford hard top roadster. I was so thrilled. My first model car. That gift now lodges in my memory as a token of what it means to be on the receiving end of grace.

Many years later that boyhood experience would return to my consciousness as I would leave my own church’s candle-lit Christmas Eve service and walk out into the wintery, star-filled nightscape. My heart would be full from the echoes of carols, the moment when I kneeled at the communion table with my family, and the whispered “Merry Christmas” blessings at the exit as people scurried off to their own homes. Distant memories and current experiences all mingled together to evoke wonder at the gift of salvation embodied in the Christ child born so many years ago.

So the wonder of Christmas and all that it means for me personally is encapsulated in the word “mystery.” Not as in a “who-done-it” novel where the protagonist’s identity is revealed upon the story’s denouement. Rather, for me “mystery” points to the revelation and appearance of the Messiah who redeemed humanity from the dark shadow of the curse that rested upon it.

I am convinced that the significance of those subtle numinous experiences in my past emanate from that first mystery that trumps all mysteries: a baby born to a virgin, asleep in a feeding trough, who was and is God in the flesh—this infant who would live His life in perfect obedience to the Father who sent Him. And when the fullness of time had come He died in my place at Calvary. He did this because He is the very embodiment of love and grace, rescuing that which is un-deserving of rescue. No wonder the Apostle Paul in pointing back to the first Advent wrote: Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory” (1 Tim 3: 16 NLT) This is the revealed mystery, Jesus, the hope of the world, who has come to redeem us. And it is this mystery that means all the world to me, which for me is the very meaning of Christmas.

ABCUSA SEEK NEW GENERAL SECRETARY

ABCUSA SEEK NEW GENERAL SECRETARY

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/17/16)—The General Secretary Search Committee for American Baptist Churches has met face to face and by conference call to prayerfully discern the way forward in the search for our next General Secretary. The committee seeks the best qualified candidate who will serve ABCUSA with a sense of deep faith and love of Christ, engage in collaboration with denominational and ecumenical partners, offer both a pastoral and prophetic presence, and be the harmonizer who calls all American Baptists into unity. Executive recruitment firm, National Executive Service Corps, has been retained to assist with the search.

The General Secretary position profile is now posted on the ABCUSA website, here. To apply, please see the instructions document “How to Apply.” To make a recommendation for the position, please use the “Recommendations” form. Submit all recommendations and applications to National Executive Service Corps as indicated on the “How to Apply” document. The application deadline is January 6, 2017. The deadline for recommending prospective candidates is December 6, 2016.

All American Baptist entities are asked to share this news release through social media outlets and other sources of communication.

General Secretary Search Committee members include: Judy Fackenthal, chair; Wesley Roberts, vice-chair; Kelly Legg, chaplain; Robert Crouch; Shirley Fair; Charity Matic; Donald Robinson; Tom Ross; Don Ng; Marcia Patton; Charles Revis; John Williams; Doris Garcia-Rivera; and Marilyn Tyson, support staff.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

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Joe Medicine Crow, Longtime Member of First Crow Indian Baptist Church Dies at the Age of 102

Joe Medicine Crow has passed away at the age of 102 on Sunday, April 3. What you may not know, or hear from the news, is that he was a long-time member of the First Crow Indian Baptist Church in Lodge Grass, MT. His pastor of many years, David Lopez, told me that when he first came to the church Joe was the church moderator. Joe held other leadership positions in the congregation and was active until more recent years as his failing health slowed down his involvement. Not only has a national treasure passed from the scene, our brother in Christ, who has left his mark on the living with his faith and life, is now in the presence of his Master receiving his award. The funeral honoring his life takes place on Wednesday, April 5, at the church. ~ Charles Revis

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River Valley Church and Pastor Dave Lodwig in the News in Missoula, MT

River Valley Church and Pastor Dave Lodwig in the News in Missoula, MT

Check out this excellent television story on our very own River Valley Church in Missoula, MT with pastor Dave Lodwig. It features their name change from First Baptist to their new name. As Pastor Dave explains they felt--and was later confirmed through on-the-streeet interviews--that the name "Baptist" was a barrier to reaching younger adults and people with no church background. So, the church changed it's name. This is just one piece of a multi-layered strategy River Valley church is employing to better reach its community and kick start growth. The story also features Scott Klaudt, founding pastor of Zootown Church. Pastor Scott was one of our speakers at the 2015 Leadership Tune-Up.

"More often than not, the reason people come to church week in and week out if they're looking for a place they can find hope -- hope for a life better than what they have today," Missoula First Baptist Church Pastor Dave Lodwig.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO CLIP

The Call to Prayer in the Church Transformation Process

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The Call to Prayer in the Church Transformation Process

Pastor Jason Bowker FBC Bozeman 

I’m currently working my way through a really great and challenging book called The U-Turn Church, where the authors address how churches in decline might turn around and begin traveling the path toward health, vitality, and sustainability. I’m loving it so far and plan to actually preach through the first four chapters of the book in April when we finish our journey through Luke. But the chapter I most recently finished was about the necessity of prayer in turning a church around….and it was terribly and wonderfully convicting.

The author declares that “desperate needs require desperate preayers,” and I couldn’t agree more. We find ourselves at a crossroads in the life of our church, desperately needing to turn the corner and head in a new direction toward healthy and faithful ministry—and desperate prayer seems like a vital aspect of this change. So I’m committing to becoming a man and pastor of fervent prayer. I’m committing to praying for you all and our church and our community. I’m committing to praying for our future and that God would faithfully provide. I’m committing to boldly praying that God would use us to save the lost, heal the hurting, and comfort the brokenhearted. And I’m strongly inviting—compelling—you to join me in this prayer journey. 

[Reprinted by permission from the March 2016 issue of FBC Bozeman's church newsletter.]

[Mission Northwest Note: The book U-Turn Church: New Direction for Health and Growth by Kevin Harney and Bob Brouwer was the LLC book of the month for February]

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A Thank You Note to ABC Northwest from Becky Sullivan, Church Moderator for FBC Puyallup

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A Thank You Note to ABC Northwest from Becky Sullivan, Church Moderator for FBC Puyallup

Thank you for the access to Missioninsite you provided to the Region's churches a while back, Charles.  I spent probably 25-30 hours creating reports that were pertinent.  This past week Pastor Rick Siemens went through them all and today, at a Council retreat, presented the information most pertinent to helping direct our future outreach efforts. So, thank you for providing access to Missioninsite. 

 Most churches look to grow by seeking out families with children.  Although this would seem to make sense, what we found with our custom Missioninsite reports is that the biggest group of people in the service area around our church are the over-55’s without children in the home. And, as you might expect in Washington State, most of them do not attend church. Other reports gave us some of the characteristics of this group, including their beliefs about churches.  This doesn’t mean that we would not like to have that family with children, but it does mean, like that old cliché, we need to grow where God has planted us.    

God has been sending people to our church and we are seeing our congregation grow. It is an exciting time, as we are beginning to see a turnaround that began with the church assessment that the Region provided.  Your leadership has given us invaluable resources, Charles. May God continue to bless you and your efforts on behalf of the churches of Mission Northwest.

 

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Does Your Church Have a LLC? The Lost Art of Developing Church Leaders

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Does Your Church Have a LLC? The Lost Art of Developing Church Leaders

Increasingly churches are discovering that the strength of their congregation is directly related to the skill and maturity of their leaders. Simply filling open slots from the membership list based on regular attendance is insufficient for producing good leadership.

Several churches are discovering the value of training future leaders by developing their own Leadership Learning Community (LLC). The idea is based on the region’s LLC ministry among pastors. Core church leadership concepts are taught through a monthly gathering of potential leaders. The invitation to participate may be opened to all who are interested in developing their leadership skills. The leader chooses a book, or curriculum, on an important church issue.

Everyone agrees to study the resource in advance. During the gathering the participants review the content, wrestle with questions that arise, and make concrete plans for applying the concepts learned. The local LLC serves as a pool from which ministry leaders and board members are recruited.

Recommended books for lay leader LLCs include these selections from 2016’s Reading List for pastors:

  • Organic Outreach for Churches: Infusing Evangelistic Passion Into Your Congregation by Kevin Harney
  • U-Turn Church: New Direction for Health and Growth by Kevin Harney and Bob Bouwer
  • Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton
  • Emotionally Healthy Leaders: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero

More books and resources from previous years may be found at http://www.abcnw.org/llc. Click on the “Reading List” links.

 

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Thoughts on Death and the Resurrection

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Thoughts on Death and the Resurrection

Pastor Bob Sievers, Olympia First Baptist Church

There is nothing more important for us to discuss in terms of Jesus “humanness” than his death! We are all going to die someday! We live in a society that likes to deny death. It makes us uncomfortable—we don’t like it—many fear it. We are even uncomfortable to talk about it. Yet Jesus’ life and death bring the topic to its apex.

It was important that Jesus lived but even more important that He died! (When He was young—and under tragic and unfair circumstances.) His resurrection becomes the only thing that can bring hope into dying. One of the most powerful statements in this regard comes from Paul in Philippians 3:10-11: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Because Jesus died and now lives and has promised the same to us is our only hope! Nobody besides Him ever permanently and forever came back from the dead! It is at the core of the Christian Gospel (good news) that we preach. Paul puts it all on the line when He says in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised; our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” It is good to be called back to Jesus’ life and death each Easter. It is a yearly reminder of the hope that is ours in Christ! It invites us to consider the new life that will be ours.

[This article originally was published in a longer form in the March 2016 issue of "Windows", the newsletter of FBC Olympia. Used by permission. Edited by Charles Revis.]

Comment

America For Christ Offering Supports Local Missions Such As Friendship House in Billings, MT

America For Christ Offering Supports Local Missions Such As Friendship House in Billings, MT

We are in the season of receiving the America for Christ Offering. As a home mission organization the Region receives 1/3rd of this special offering which helps to undergird the Region’s budget. We greatly appreciate the financial assistance this offering provides.

In addition to supporting the Region, the offering provides resources used for many home mission efforts. One of these is our very own Friendship House in Billings, MT. This ministry is located in the depressed area of South Bilings where many children are in need of clothing, food, family stability, education enrichment and spiritual guidance.

Rev. Matt Lundgren is the current director and has led this ministry in the last several years in tripling its budget, upgrading the facility and broadening its partnership with the churches in Billings.

The Mission of Friendship House is: Reflecting the love of Jesus Christ by fostering renewal, stability and transformation in the lives of youth and families in South Billings.

When your church gives to the America for Christ Offering you are supporting ministries such as Friendship House. Back in the fall Patti Duckworth and I had the opportunity check out all the wonderful changes that have taken place through Matt's leadership. I was impressed and moved by this ministry that is touching so many lives with the love of Jesus Christ.

Learn more about this vital ministry at www.friendshipmt.org/

Montana's New Tax-Exempt Property Legislation

Montana's New Tax-Exempt Property Legislation

Apparently Montana has passed new legislation requiring each non-profit corporation to verify that the property it owns is being occupied and used for non-profit purposes. This requirement is in addition to the annual report required of all non-profit corporations. Most churches have received notices of this new requirement in the mail. If your church has not received a notice it would be a smart move to check out what is required at the following links:

http://revenue.mt.gov/exemptions#Real-Property-890

http://svc.mt.gov/dor/property/Home

Here is the notice as it appears on the Montana State web site:

New! All nonprofit organizations and other tax exempt property owners need to reapply for property tax exemption. A new state law requires owners of tax exempt real property in exempt status before 2014 to submit an application by March 1, 2016.

The new law affects about 10,000 tax exempt properties in Montana. The reapplication requirement includes property owned by most nonprofit organizations, private schools and colleges, churches, parsonages, low income housing, veterans’ clubhouses, community service and fraternal organizations, cemeteries, and land leased from a railroad by a nonprofit organization.

The department is mailing letters and applications in early December to organizations with tax exempt properties in the state system.

By March 1, 2016, tax exempt property owners need to submit the real property tax exemption application, (AB-30R), all required documentation, and a small application fee. The fee is $15 for a vacant land parcel, $25 for a land parcel with structures. There is no application fee for nonprofits with total gross receipts less than $5,000. Applicants should mail the application materials to Montana Department of Revenue, PO Box 8018, Helena, MT 59624-8018.

 

Chinese Baptist Church Seattle Celebrates 120 Years!

Chinese Baptist Church of Seattle celebrated their 120th year anniversary on Sunday, January 31st. Paul Burham, Sr., former pastor of Newport Hills Community Church and church planting leader with ABC Northwest, and his wife Leona represented the Region’s congregations at this event. Paul reports: “What a blessing to see and hear CBC’s history and heritage from their beginning to the present.

CBC is alive and flourishing, making a difference in the Seattle and surrounding areas representing Jesus Christ to the Asian community as well as others.

Their theme for the whole year is ‘Running with Perseverance.’ They have set some events spaced out through the year to help them accomplish their goal to run the race of following Jesus that has been marked out for them.”

Congratulations to the staff, church leaders and congregational members of Chinese Baptist Church. We celebrate with you God’s faithfulness in sustaining you through these last 120 years. We pray that our Lord will continue to sustain you, strengthen you and bless your ministries, all for the Glory of God!