Warning: ​Transformation May Occur

 

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My name is Keith Haney.  The writer and architect of this blog journey. Candidly I am a pastor, but you will find no judgment, only encouragement at this site.  I am not sure how you stumbled upon this blog. Maybe you were seeking ways to help your congregation better reach its neighborhood.  Or you were looking to grow as a leader.  It’s conceivable the system and culture are crushing you, and you need consolation.  If inspiration is what you are pursuing you will find it here,  if you want to grow as a leader, I will challenge you to do that.  If you want your church to just improve and add people in the pew, this blog may not be suitable for you. The world is changing and our old ways of connecting isn’t working. This blog it will test your traditional views of church and ministry, it may stretch you beyond your comfort zone.  So, if you read, follow and share its contents with your leadership I hold no personal responsibility for the metamorphosis you may experience or the stress and transformation you may thrust upon your leadership.

Some categories to avoid if you want to read this blog safely.  Avoid the section on Millennials.  It is based on actual research and verified by my Millennials friends.  It will ultimately alter your misconceptions about this passionate, missional generation.  You will discover why they are just passing on the local church in alarmingly large numbers. The post entitled, “A Worship Style That Connects With Millennials”  will cause you to abandon many of your Millennial worship initiatives.

You will also want to stay away from the posts on missional communities.  It is the wave of the present for connecting with the unconnected.  This section will make you angry and uncomfortable if you love the Sunday morning gathering time because this movement is not centered on worship in the traditional sense. You will get a sense of this with the post entitled, “Are Missional Communities a Threat to the Local Chuch?”

And, you will want to not click on any of the leadership sections.  There is one there entitled, “Leadership 101: You Can’t Stop Stupid, and trying to fix Stupid Hurts.”  Leadership is a passion of this pastor.  I believe it is the one thing holding the church back from entirely being what God created Her to be, a dominant force for change of hearts and culture.

This blog also tackles the difficult often ignored issue of racial division in America.  The writing on this topic led to a Bible Study, published in 2015 by Concordia Publishing House, entitled “Healing One Nation Under God: Healing Racial Divides.”  It will challenge your conventional ideas about race while providing Biblical solutions to a complex issue.

There are safer places to surf while visiting this site.  The devotions and sermon starters while challenging and insightful dangerous in that the Word of God itself points out our sins put also leads us into the arms of God’s grace and forgiveness.

Read, inwardly digest at your own risk.  It is all based on the Word of God so blame the spirit for any transformation.

This content was created to share.  Every day is a share-a-thon.  Share away. We can help shape the future of the church together.

Jesus Offers The Bread of Life for Pot-Luck Christians

 

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If you stop and think about it for a moment the term Pot-Luck is disturbing. You are not sure what you are receiving at the church feeding trough. There are people who seem to show up at the church only when a meal is offered. They are at the church picnic, the fall festival, the pig-roast, the Ladies Christmas tea, you never see them when free food is not offered. You see those people hanging around Jesus in John 6 even though a huge storm has occurred. “22 The next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the lake realized that only one boat had been there. They knew Jesus hadn’t gone with his disciples, but that the disciples had gone alone.”

The sermon on “the bread of life” is a dialogue between Christ and the people, the Jewish religious leaders

The Crowd is Seeking Earthly Relief (vv. 22–40).

Upon first glance, the disciples may have been impressed that so many people stayed through a storm to seek their Master, but Jesus was not impressed. Jesus knew their hearts. “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” He knew people followed Him for what they thought he could do for them, for the miracles, for the free food, not because they believed He could rescue their souls.

Sadly, they were not alone in this narrow view of the church. The early missionaries to India used to talk about “rice Christians”: people who would show up without fail, eagerly professing their love for Jesus — whenever rice was being distributed — but who never darkened the church door at any other time. Jesus in response challenges the crowd to seek the food that does not perish.

Two Different Kinds of Food
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is needed to live on this earth and that is important but not the most important. The one thing that is needed is food for the soul, which is essential. This Soul Food offered by Jesus gives eternal life. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” Isa. 55:2

Theological Clarification

Just to make sure you don’t think Jesus is proposing works righteousness when He tells the people “don’t work for the food that perishes.” Read the verse in its entirety, “27 Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”

The people steeped in legalism deeply believe salvation was something to be earned, something their good deeds merited, but Jesus flips that switch and says, salvation is freely given. The only work you have to do is believe and even this work is a work of grace.

Live a Life that Matters.

What Jesus offered the crowd was a life that had meaning, a life dedicated to sharing the message of hope to an unconnected and disengaged world. Many in the crowd fit that description, Jesus referred to them as sheep without a shepherd. They came seeking meaning in their lives, and found bread, and were distracted by the Rabbi who met their physical needs. Jesus presented a real and tangential threat. His enemies believed by nailing Jesus to a cross they would end his little movement. Instead, they only unleashed unstoppable power on Calvary’s hill. Jesus would make an improbable comeback on the third day, and news of his victory will spread like wildfire into every nook and cranny of the world. The bread of life will not perish.

What Jesus offered the crowd was a life that had meaning, a life dedicated to sharing the message of hope to an unconnected and disengaged world. Many in the crowd fit that description, Jesus referred to them as sheep without a shepherd. They came seeking meaning in their lives and found bread and were distracted by the Rabbi who met their physical needs Jesus presented a real and tangential threat. His enemies believed by nailing Jesus to a cross they will end his little movement. Instead, they only unleashed unstoppable power there on Calvary’s hill. Jesus would make an improbable comeback on the third day, and news of his victory will spread like wildfire into every nook and cranny of the world. The bread of life will not perish.

Joseph Stalin thought he could brush Christianity off, deriding it as an idea whose time had come and gone. When his advisors urged him to maintain good relations with the Vatican, the absolute ruler of all Russia asked in derision, “How many divisions has the pope?” When Pope Pius XII heard of this, he issued his own curt response to Stalin: “You can tell my son Joseph he will meet my divisions in heaven!”[1]

It was the 16th-century reformer Theodore Beza who once remarked of the church that it is “an anvil that has worn out many a hammer.”[2]

    “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

[1] “Religion: Urbi et Orbi,” Time, December 14, 1953.

[2]David Smith, The Covenanter: Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Volume 13 (1858), 257.

 

How Do You Get Your Leadership Mojo Back?

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It has just been one of those seasons in my life. Not being a person who ever lacks confidence this is a unique place to go through. Maybe you can relate. You may have gone through a season of close calls, several job opportunities that went to others else. It shakes you the first time, the sixth time you wonder didn’t I shower, what the heck is going on? I wish I had some inspiring words of wisdom to share with you, but I don’t. Things happen for a reason. Doors close for a purpose. Nothing in life happens in a vacuum. If you doubt your gifts, wondering if you have lost your leadership edge, feeling stuck in neutral as the world speeds by I pray this post will help you regain that mojo. This will be a different approach.  Today I will share quotes from other leaders. These helped me, it is possible they will inspire you.

  1. Take a Step back and Reconnect with God.

One of my favorite Biblical accounts is the story of Elijah, the prophet. What sometimes gets lost in his story is after a major victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah had a leadership meltdown maybe even a major bout with depression. He is held up in a cave when God comes looking for him. Here is a portion of that interaction.

The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you  here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” 1 Kings 19

 

As a leader, there are times when you may seem to lose your way after all things, a major win. No matter why you are feeling off-kilter or lost, the first step in your recovery is to reconnect with God. Listen to His still small voice. It is possible the reason you are experiencing what you are is you have gone down the wrong path, or your path is about to change.

 

  1. Do Not Let Your Feelings Betray You.  

Confidence is  a feeling. You cannot be measured by it, but when you lack it, others can perceive this emotion. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. My mom always told me “fake it till you make it”. Sometimes as a leader, you just need to fake confidence, until you get it back. The qualities God endowed you with to lead have not vanished. Reconnect with the Almighty and figure out how and where He wants to use you next. It is possible you are looking and serving in the wrong place. As one great leader points out, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams

Don’t allow your situation or circumstances to stop you from being what you were created to do for the kingdom. Be patient your time and opportunity will come. Until then keep inspiring others to dream.

 

  1. Adjust Your Sails to Pick up where the Wind Leads You.

 

If you are feeling stuck and unproductive, it is possible you have set your sails in the wrong direction. For Elijah, he had to hear God’s voice in the quiet. He was being reassigned. Listen.

But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as  prophet. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

 

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” -John Maxwell

If you are feeling like you have lost your way maybe it is just God adjusting your sails.

 

Hurtful Labels Are Being Thrown Around Like Candy

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Enough already, stop labeling people with whom you disagree. Being a Black American I can tell you I have seen my fair share of racism. I have seen it overtly expressed in words and actions and I have seen it subtly displayed in opportunities given to people who appear to get positions because of who they know not what they are capable of doing. What is getting lost in the continuous claims of racism is that true discrimination goes unnoticed. Racism is a dangerous label to attach to someone. It is impossible to defend and only serves to further divide people. Like all labels, they are the most damaging when they limit a person’s ability to live out their God-given potential.

1. Dispelling some commonly held erroneous facts.

In a recent Pew Research article. Here are some interesting trends in America in relation to Black Americans:

• For the first time in U.S. history, 90% of Americans ages 25 and older have completed high school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – and the share of blacks who have done so is also at the highest level on record. In 2017, 87% of blacks ages 25 and older had a high school diploma or equivalent. The share of blacks ages 25 and older who have completed four years of college or more has also roughly doubled during that span, from 12% in 1993 to 24% in 2017.

• Immigrants are making up a growing number of the overall U.S. population – but the black immigrant population is growing twice as fast. There were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, up from 816,000 in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Since 2000 alone, the number of black immigrants in the U.S. has risen 71%.

• The wealth gap increased between middle-income black and white families but shrank between lower-income black and white families from 2007 to 2016. Much of the reduction in the wealth gap among lower-income families was driven by a sharp decrease in wealth for whites.

With all this progress in the black community that old ugly “R” word racism still keeps popping up.

• In 2017, about eight-in-ten blacks (81%) said racism is a big problem in society today, up from 44% eight years prior. By comparison, about half of whites (52%) said racism is a big problem in our society, up from 22% in 2009.

2. When Racism hurts.

An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. This includes nearly seven-in-ten blacks (68%) who say whites benefit a great deal. By comparison, 46% of whites say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages in society that blacks don’t have, with just 16% saying whites benefit a great deal.

This research revelation is one that hits home. When, because of the color of your skin and not based on your gifts and abilities, you rarely get the chance to be what God created you to be, that destroys the human spirit. At its core, racism is about assigning a value to people using labels. They base those labels on impressions of what they believe a certain race of individuals are lacking. They do not design labels to build up and unite, they are in place to hold people down and limit what God designs. How to end racism? Change the narrative, change how we see people. As Paul says “regard no one according to the flesh.” Instead, see people through the eyes of God.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, , that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.“ 1 Peter 2:9

Defeat the labels placed on you by the world and remember God left a royal priesthood behind to be a light that shines brightly in the darkness. Be what God has chosen and redeemed you to be.

Lecrae- I’ll Find You

 

We won’t stop! Donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital here: http://smarturl.it/IllFindYouStJudes

Four Steps Needed to Create A Volunteer Pipeline

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If I could transport myself back in time to the early years of my ministry, the first change I would have made in my thought process would be to develop leaders. Not developing leaders put a ceiling on our ministry potential. Asking people to wear multiple hats proved to be detrimental not only to the ministry but to my few, overworked and over-committed saints. Burnout was common. Ministry was inconsistent. New ministry opportunity was missed or not taken advantage of because we didn’t have the people or the energy to try new things. Have you been there? Are you there now as a church? If this is your story let me share with you how to change your volunteer culture.

  1. Develop an apprenticeship model of development.

You are thinking is that a business term. Here we go trying to turn the house of God into a corporation. No, but there is something to be learned from how others train and equip people for service. In an apprenticeship model, the essential foundation of the program includes structured on-the-job training. Your apprentices get hands-on training and equipping from an experienced mentor involved in the particular ministry. This hands-on training would last typically a minimum of one year. This training comprises providing the skills and knowledge the apprentice must learn over the program to be fully proficient at the job. Imagine how this would transform your leadership potential and open opportunities for further ministry possibilities.

  1. Create a safe environment for new leaders to experience leading.

Before you embark on this volunteer development culture shift you must be ready to allow these new apprentice-level volunteers to spread their wings and fly. Provide a safe environment up-front to put their gifts to use. In other words, give them the main stage. If they falter, encourage them, give them useful input to improve and send them out time and time again until they are ready to lead on the weight of their own ability. You will never develop the next generation of leaders if you never allow them to lead.

  1. Provide Feedback

As you are developing these new leaders, give them feedback. However, a word of caution.  If your organization has people of different backgrounds from different nationalities realize they process feedback differently.

Andy Molinsky uses this example “…in Germany in terms of tough, critical, to-the-point negative feedback was actually demotivating to Jens’s new Chinese employees, who were used to a far gentler feedback style. In Germany, you don’t single out specific accomplishments or offer praise unless the accomplishment is truly extraordinary. From a German point of view, these positive work behaviors are normal, rather than extraordinary. Employees are expected to do a particular job, and when they do that job, they do not need to be recognized. In China — at least at this particular plant — the culture was quite different. Employees expected more positive reinforcement than pure critique. These positive comments motivated them to increase productivity and put forth that extra, discretionary effort.”[1]

Take the time to learn what motivates your volunteers and which feedback style will produce the results you are seeking.

  1. Celebrate your volunteers

They often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Many little kids respond, “A firefighter!” There is something attractive about being heroic… and driving a big red truck! But did you know of the over 1 million firefighters in the United States serving families and businesses as some of the most anxious times in a person’s life, that only 31% get paid? That’s right, 69% of firefighters are volunteers. 98.3% of fire departments in the state of Delaware are comprised of volunteers or mostly volunteers. So why do they do put their lives at risk? Because they love their neighbors.[2]

Faith calls every Christian to sacrifice to serve others. It is not just the role of the paid minister. How can we as a church serve our community at the time when it is most at risk?

You are raising up volunteers to take part in the most important mission ever conceived. It is difficult to work and in some places; it is dangerous work. While God calls us to do it, celebrating how God is using His people is crucial. Take time like Jesus did to encourage your faithful servants, lift before the congregation how God is using His people to carry out His mission. It will encourage the entire body of Christ and the ones called to serve.

[1]https://hbr.org/2013/02/giving-feedback-across-cultures

[2] https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/registry/summary

Forgiveness: Do You Need A Reboot?

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When you visit someone’s home or office, it’s not uncommon to see certain symbols of success on display: plaques, certificates, diplomas, pictures, trophies, ribbons—it’s only natural for people to show these symbols of their greatest achievements. In my office hangs my two first place bowling trophies. If you have an hour, I can walk you through the frame by frame account of how we brought home the gold.

You won’t find plaques of failures in my office, and there are many I could display. Like, the time I missed that 7-10 split, and we lost the Pastor’s bowling championship game. Or during the championship Intramural Basketball final where I was supposedly called for a phantom foul that cost us the title. Seldom will you find reminders of people’s past failures? Don’t get me started on sermons that bombed. Those are my favorite, you have this great idea, and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t connect with people. These failures are usually hidden away in the back of the top shelf of the closet or a box in the attic.

In one of those places, there might be wedding pictures, painful reminders of a failed marriage; you might find old stationery containing a love letter from a failed relationship or business cards from a venture that went sour; there might be photos and letters from a lost loved one. Those are not the kind of things we keep on public display. We do our best to keep those reminders out of sight, and that’s the way it should be.

In this blog, we’re talking about the forgiveness of God. Admitting we are in need of God’s forgiveness implies that we have failed. We don’t display that failure either or try and pretend it never happened. The failure remains, the pain is still real, the need for reconciliation all the more evident. We need God’s forgiveness because we’ve all sinned and failed God.

Today we will look at a passage from Scripture where Jesus addresses this issue.

THE SETTING

To understand the parable that Jesus would use to teach this valuable lesson, we need to know the context of Luke 7.

Jesus had been invited by a Pharisee named Simon over to his house for dinner. In biblical times, it was virtuous to ask a teacher over for dinner, if they were from out of town, or had just taught in the synagogue. The homes were built around central courtyards in which the formal meals were held. The guests would recline on their left elbows while sitting on low-lying couches. They would eat with their right hands. Their feet would extend away from the table in keeping with the belief that the feet were unclean and offensive by nature.

Religious individuals often opened their homes for the poor. In banquets where unwanted people could enter, they were to remain quiet and away from the couches. They were just permitted to observe the discussion of the host and the guests. After the meal was complete, the poor might receive some of the leftovers.

In the midst of the meal, something shocking happened. The Bible uses the phrase, “When a woman,” the literal translation is, “And look, a woman!” It wasn’t worded that way because there was a lady present, but rather because of the type of woman she was. The Bible describes her as having “lived a sinful life.” A sinful life would mean that either she was married to a known sinner or she was a prostitute.

At some point, this lady must have had a remarkable encounter with Jesus. The account makes it clear that she is a broken woman, weeping because of the grace she had found from this rabbi from Nazareth. As she goes to pour perfume on his feet, her tears fall from her face and onto his dust-covered feet, streaking them. She was embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. She didn’t have a towel. So, she used what she had; she used her hair. This action, like many of her actions, was socially unacceptable because a woman was to loosen her hair only in the presence of her husband. The Talmud says that a woman could be divorced for letting down her hair in the presence of another man. The offense is severe, so much so that the rabbis put a woman undoing her hair in the same category as taking off her blouse and baring all. The guests and onlookers were in intense shock as they saw the events unfold before them.

The Pharisee was speechless. He doesn’t say anything, but he thinks it. The Pharisee’s thoughts betray him. Jesus picks up on what is running through his mind. “Does this ‘prophet’ not know who this woman is? Does he not realize that she’s a prostitute? Well, I’d never even talk to her, let alone let her grope me like that. I must be more righteous than he.”

Jesus calmly looks across the table at the Pharisee and says, “Simon, let me tell you something.” Then he begins to tell the Pharisee a short story with a valuable lesson about dealing with the mistakes of our past and moving on, about forgiving and forgetting.

THE STORY
The story is not long. In fact, it only takes two verses to tell the whole thing. In these two verses, a fundamental principle is proclaimed. Jesus said:

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debt of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”
The denarii were equivalent to a day’s wage. So, one man owed 500 days worth of work and another 50 days. Since individuals did not work on the Sabbath, it was going to take the one 20 months to work off the debt and the other two months. Both of these men were in a bad place financially. Both owed a large sum of money, and neither was going to be able to repay it.

The banker had several options. He could force them into his service. He could have them thrown into the debtor’s prison. Or he could choose to forgive the debt. Now, I recognize that my banking aptitude is pretty small. But it would seem that forgiving the debt would be the worst decision financially for him. Others might hear about what he did and try and take advantage of him. Some of his fellow moneylenders might make fun of him. Despite the risk it was, he forgave them.

THE STINGER

The stinger to the parable was simple: We are indebted to God at a price that we cannot repay, and He wants to forgive us. The parable did not deal with the amount of sin in the heart, but rather the acknowledgment of the fact that there was a sin.

Jesus recognized that we are each coming from different life experiences. Some of us have tried to live a good life for our entire lives. We’ve always sought to conduct ourselves properly. We still make mistakes. We fail to meet the mark all the time. Others of us have lived a hard life. We’ve made glaring errors. Everybody knows it. We can’t hide it from anybody. The Bible tells us that everybody sins, that nobody’s perfect.

“For all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

However, we don’t have to end there. God wants to forgive us, and if we come to Him and admit our failures, the Bible promises that He will not only forgive, but He’ll forget.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-13

Jesus has a message for you today. Go to that closet where you are hiding those boxes of failures, guilt, unforgiven sins, and regret. There are probably dusty. Blow the dust off of them and open the boxes. Look deep inside. The trophies of your broken past pains are gone. Reach inside. Take out the object that is inside. It is a cross and attached to that cross is a note.

Read it. “You are looking for the symbols of your hurtful past. The things you are holding on to that are holding you back from receiving the love God has to offer unconditionally. Jesus took your trophies of regret, your tokens of guilt and replaced them with this cross. It is a reminder that you are forgiven. Your debt paid. Signed Jesus.” Know that God loves you. God has forgiven you. Live in the peace of that relationship with God.

Others probably are only understanding this for the first time, and you still struggle with why would God care so much. Wherever we stand in the process, God wants us to not only rejoice in that forgiven relationship with him but to take that a step further and share a similar relationship with those around us. To those who have hurt us, or who have made mistakes and failed us in life, it is time to give them the same gift God has given us, Forgiveness. I love the quote of E. H. Chapin, “Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.”

The Key to Doing Intergenerational Worship

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On that morning the dew was heavy as we became this journey to the Magic Kingdom. The young people could hardly contain their emotions. The adults were bracing themselves for a long trip, deciding who would be the navigator, the driver, the entertainer of the young enthusiastic people in the back. As the trip got underway we began with a prayer, for safe travels, a fun vacation, and an opportunity to create lasting memories and give thanks for the three generations trapped for ten hours together on this family getaway. Once the prayer for a safe journey is over the key starts the engine and off we go.

Everything was going along swimmingly until some genius puts on some music to make time fly. And the generational war begins. Grandma wants to hear her favorite hip swinger, Tom Jones. Mom reliving her teen years wants to hear the Four Tops. Being sensitive to their lack of coolness, I want to bring them into the present and hear from a not yet discovered musical genius, Prince. No one wanted to expand their horizons and so this ten-hour trip is marked by everyone being unhappy during this trip. Welcome to Sunday morning at the intergenerational worship service.

This quote hits the nail on the head.

“The challenge of an intergenerational church is often reduced to worship style, and it is honestly difficult to plan and lead a worship service that appeals to the tastes of 5 generations all at once. But that misses the point. The biggest challenge is not appealing to everyone at once — Jesus wants disciples, not fans. Instead, the challenge is finding ways for every generation to participate in the mission and vision of our churches.”[1]

 

Avoid Reducing Worship to Likes and Dislikes

 

To move beyond making worship about likes and dislikes we have to focus on the mission of the church. It calls us to baptize, teach, and make disciples by our Lord in the Great Commission. You will also notice that the phrase “all generations can be found 91 times in the Bible, yet we divide generations up into subgroups.”

Howard Vanderwell, who’s editing a book about intergenerational worship says,“God does not form our character all at once or all by himself. Nor does he expect us to unilaterally form our own character. God acts on us through others. Interaction among generations is necessary for forming faith and character. Each age learns from another.”[2]

Steve Burger agrees. “Who or what we choose to exclude from our worship gatherings says as much about our community of faith as who or what we choose to include. And, really, does exclude anyone makes sense when you realize we’re spending an eternity together?”[3]

If we are serious about doing intergenerational worship it will take an attitude shift on the part of leaders, it will require humility as well as intentionality. The founders and builder generation can’t hold the other generations captive with a “this is how we’ve always done it” attitude. Nor can current generations use a “fresh and new is better” attitude. Worship leaders who focus on one or two age-groups and ignore others will kill this opportunity to bring people together for the good of the kingdom.

Everyone takes part.



I got the chance to preach at a congregation. And I noticed that it involved no lay people. Now I preach to a lot of congregations in a year and everyone does things a little differently. I missed having more people working alongside me leading people in worship. It is not my ministry, first, it is God’s and we are serving God’s people. For intergenerational worship to work I think you need to have all generations engaged in worship. This is our act of worship, we bring our praises to God and He is offering us His grace, forgiveness, and strength to live out our lives as Children of Light.

Questions to keep the conversation going, you can add your responses in the comment section.

  1. If intergenerational ministry is a priority for your church what have you done that is producing fruit?
  2. If your church focused more on some generations than others what steps will you take to reverse this trend?
  3. If your congregation provides opportunities to worship with people older or younger than you, what blessings has that experience in your faith formation? If your church doesn’t provide that opportunity, what could you add or adopt in your worship schedule to provide this opportunity to your members?

 

More posts on the topic of intergenerational ministry.

https://revheadpin.org/2018/07/24/is-intergenerally-ministry-even-possible/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/02/god-aint-done-with-me-yet/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/09/26/it-not-retirement-it-is-repositioning/

 

[1]http://defininggrace.com/worship/the-challenge-of-the-inter-generational-church-is-only-growing/

[2]https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/all-ages-needed-for-intergenerational-worship/

[3]https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/all-ages-needed-for-intergenerational-worship/

 

TED Talk: A Summer School Kids Actually Want to Attend

In the US, most kids have a very long summer break, during which they forget an awful lot of what they learned during the school year. This “summer slump” affects kids from low-income neighborhoods most, setting them back almost three months. TED Fellow Karim Abouelnaga has a plan to reverse this learning loss. Learn how he’s helping kids improve their chances for a brighter future.

Has the 21st Century Church Lost Sight of the Heart of God and Lost Sight of His Mission?

 

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Henry Martyn (1781-1812)

Following a brilliant student career at Cambridge, rejected several opportunities to go to the mission field. He prayed, “Here am I, Lord; send me to the ends of the earth, send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort in earth; send me even to death itself if it be but in Thy service and in Thy kingdom.” – Donald Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge, Victor Books, 1979, p. 13.

The sentiment expressed by Henry develops as we study and learn of the heart of God. Our mission zeal, our desire to lay it all on the line for the sake of the gospel comes from our sending God. The church over time struggles to keep that missional zeal on the forefront of its daily activity. Mission gets lost in the structure. Mission gets lost in meetings. The Great Commission gets put on the back burner as the church fights over rites, rituals, and religion. How do we get back to the main thing, to the one thing which connects us to the heart of God? Maybe the answer is starting our missional movements with Christ, instead of starting the mission by gathering people together for worship.

In the book I am reading on missional communities the opening statement for week 8 is formative. It reflects an image of God we sometimes forget but is crucial to understanding the church’s role in the world.

“God Is missional. The mission dei is a Latin phrase that classically refers to God’s “mission” of “sending” – the Father sending the Son, and the Father and Son sending the Spirit. As a missional God, the Father, Son, and Spirit create and send a missional people and churches.

The result of the church being sent is that we live as a community of disciples who are not only devoted to Jesus and to one another, but we are also to our neighbors and our city.”[1]

What Happens when we get the order reversed?





In the book, The Shaping of Things to Come, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch deal with Bounded vs. Centered Sets.  These brothers add further insightful to this discussion.

“Our Christology informs our missiology, which in turn determines our ecclesiology. If we get this the wrong way around and allow our notions of the church to qualify our sense of purpose and mission, we can never be disciples of Jesus, and we will never be an authentic missional church. Churches that have got this basic formula wrong never really engage in mission and so lose touch with Jesus. These churches spend all their time discussing (or arguing) about the forms of worship, the church furniture, and the timing of services and programs, and fail to recognize that our ecclesiology flows more naturally out of our sense of mission. These churches become closed sets as a result, and their experience of Jesus at the center fades into a memory of the time when they were really doing something. It becomes a matter of history rather than an experience of mission now. It is important to recover the idea that the church connects with Jesus through mission, not through getting church meetings right!

”But another advantage of the centered set is that it allows for massive diversity and for a deeper underlying unity based on Jesus and filtered through our distinctive organizational values. The hard at the center, soft at the edges paradigm allows for a wide variety of people to gather around Jesus through the church.” (pg. 209)

You may recognize your congregation in the paragraph above. If you follow my blog you will get the chance to journey with me as we unpack ways to reconnect the church to the mission. We may disagree on the order, and even on the premise laid out but we can agree that we have a sending God. And if we have a sending God then shouldn’t we be a sending church? If are a sending church we need to prepare those we send to be ready to defend and proclaim the faith we hold so dear, to a world is like sheep without a shepherd.

[1]Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities, Dobson, J, and Watson, B p.52

With Our Moral Divides Is Intergenerally Ministry Even Possible?

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Working Intergenerationally sounds hip and trendy. It is the dream of many congregations. Let’s get the old fogies and the young people together. The old wiser folks can teach and impart wisdom to the future leaders. And who knows maybe the young-ins can teach an old dog new tricks. This even excites me typing this on my iPad. Here is the problem. Each generation is miles apart in their beliefs, their view of the world and their understanding of truth and authority.

The Moral Compass Gap

Just some differences. As to not distract you trying to figure out which age group you fit into. Here is the breakdown of the categories.

  • 

 Elders- The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)
  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)
  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)
  • Generation Z – Post-Millennials: Born 1997-Present (0-21 years old)

Let’s start with an easy one before we progress too far.

Is lying morally wrong (percentage who say “yes”)?

  • Elders – 61%
  • 
Boomers – 54%
  • 
Gen X – 50%
  • 
Millennials – 42%
  • 
Gen – Z 34%

Among engaged Christians the numbers are much higher – 77%
Among churched Christians not much difference between them and those not connected to a church – 38%, unchurched – 37%.

Social media has created a culture that creative storytelling is more acceptable. We know people have created Twitter burner accounts to spread untruths, people don’t expect the media to research stories for accuracy, it is more important to get the story out than get the story right.

Even if it were legal, Christians should not use Marijuana recreationally?

  • Elder – 44%
  • Boomers – 23%
  • Gen X – 22%
  • Millennials – 19%
  • Gen Z – 21%

Among engaged Christians the numbers are much higher – 63%
Among churched Christians not much difference between them and those not connected to a church – 26%, unchurched – 18%.

Enough softball stuff, taking a deeper moral dive.

Is abortion wrong?

  • Elders – 40%
  • Boomers – 33%
  • Gen X – 38%
  • Millennials – 33%
  • Gen Z- 29%

Among engaged Christians the numbers are much higher – 80%
Among churched Christians not much difference between them and those not connected to a church – 37%, unchurched – 26%.

No matter what side you fall in the abortion issue, I think we can agree it is not an easy decision for a woman and we need to find a better way to minister to people dealing with the pain and shame.

 Sex before marriage is morally wrong?

  • Elders – 22%
  • Boomers – 22%
  • Gen X – 26%
  • Millennials – 19%
  • Gen Z – 21%

Among engaged Christians the numbers are much higher – 76%
Among churched Christians not much difference between them and those not connected to a church – 25% unchurched – 14%.

Now for moral elephants in the room:

 Is homosexual behavior morally wrong?

  • Elders – 41%
  • Boomers – 29%
  • Gen X – 32%
  • Millennials – 25%
  • Gen Z – 20%

Among engaged Christians the numbers are much higher – 77%
Among churched Christians not much difference between them and those not connected to a church – 24%, unchurched – 13%.

(All of the statistics above come from Gen Z and the Barna Research group.[1])

Just looking at a common set of moral principles there is a clear and rapid decline generationally in our nation’s moral compass. These numbers clarify we have to tread carefully when leading Bible Studies across generations because we are not starting from a point of agreement. While engaged Christians as Barna Research calls them, do appear to align more closely, how many people in our congregations would fall into the engaged category? Many see regular church attendance as once a month. If you intend to reach across generational lines you have to be prepared for major push back on moral issues. Leading these discussions requires tact and sensitivity, but the opportunity for vital spiritual growth across generations is worth the risk.  Do not lose heart God’s word never void but will accomplish its task.  While the research seems to make our task a daunting one it is well worth the effort.

Let me give you a preview of what is coming next in this series.

 Up Next week: The Challenge of Doing Intergenerational Ministry

“The challenge of an intergenerational church is often reduced to worship style, and it is honestly difficult to plan and lead a worship service that appeals to the tastes of 5 generations all at once. But that misses the point. The biggest challenge is not appealing to everyone at once — Jesus wants disciples, not fans. Instead, the challenge is finding ways for every generation to participate in the mission and vision of our churches.”[2]

[1]Barna Research Group, “Gen Z, The Culture, Beliefs, and Motivation Shaping the Next Generation,” 2018

[2]http://defininggrace.com/worship/the-challenge-of-the-inter-generational-church-is-only-growing/

 

Carmela Snelbaker

Author of "Thank You For Your Service, Sheep!"

"But there is a God in Heaven who reveals secrets . . ."

"For God can speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds."

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