Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit

There’s something amazing growing in the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit’s decay actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity and hope. “These aren’t plots of land where we’re just growing tomatoes and carrots,” Davison says. “We’re building social cohesion as well as providing healthy, fresh food.”

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The Week in Review

The Kingdom Impact for the Week of December 11th

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The Week Ahead:

St. Nicholas, otherwise known as Santa Claus, has been abolished by Roman Catholic officials with one majestic sweep of forty-one saints that “may never have existed,” according to an announcement from Vatican City.

The announcement said that some of the abolished saints had attained their standing more through legend than truth and the decree was to set the record straight.

Included among the scratched-out names was St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers.

—Moody Monthly[1]

Reflect on that notice this week.  Looking ahead.

 

Monday: TED Talk: How Urban Agriculture is Transforming Detroit

There’s something amazing growing in the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit’s decay actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity and hope. “These aren’t plots of land where we’re just growing tomatoes and carrots,” Davison says. “We’re building social cohesion as well as providing healthy, fresh food.”

 

Tuesday:  The Light in the Dark Days of Depression

Everybody has dark days.  You know those days you don’t want or can’t get out of bed. You’re afraid to face the world.  You are so scared to face your anxiety, your depression, your grief, your demons.  You don’t feel like it’s worth the effort.  You just want to throw in the towel.  You don’t want to see anybody nor do you want anybody to see you.  Holidays make those days seem even blacker.   We all go through dark days, a season like this.

In this series of post leading up to Christmas I want us to look today at the light of Christmas for our dark days.

 

Wednesday: How to Cultivate a Welcoming Heart at Christmas

The story of the Bethlehem Inn reminds us once again about preoccupation, about being unaware, and about inhospitality to the highest. And the innkeeper calls to our attention the importance of opening the door when the knock comes.

 

Thursday: How to Create a Church Multiplication Culture

Over the next three months, this series of posts will lay out the critical components needed to launch a culture of multiplication.  It comes not from me but from years of study and observation.  It is my prayer that it will help the church regain its missional sea legs.

 Looking back on the week that was on: The Light Breaks Through.

 

Monday:  TED Talk: Courage is Contagious

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/04/ted-talk-courage-is-contagious

When artist Damon Davis went to join the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after police killed Michael Brown in 2014, he found not only anger but also a sense of love for self and community. His documentary “Whose Streets?” tells the story of the protests from the perspective of the activists who showed up to challenge those who use power to spread fear and hate.

Tuesday: Taking a Closer Look at Generation Z

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/05/taking-a-deeper-look-at-generation-z

Take a look at this generation that is making Millennials nervous and the church hopeful. 

Wednesday: The question of the Ages: Was Jesus the One

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/06/was-jesus-the-one

It is a question that John the Baptist posed as he faced execution.  He needs reassurance his life and ministry was not sacrificed in vain.

Thursday: Five Ways to Expand Your Leadership Capacity

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/07/five-ways-to-expand-your-ministry-capacity

What this post will provide for leaders are the Five C’s to expand your leadership capacity.  Craig Groeschel shared these five points at Willow Creeks Leadership Summit in 2015.  He also shared this quote, “You are the leadership lid on your organization.”

A bonus Read: How Facebook Could Ruin My Relationships

https://revheadpin.org/2016/05/24/how-facebook-ruined-my-life

Disclaimer

The information in this weblog is provided “AS IS” with no warranties and confers no rights.

This weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of the Northern Illinois District. It is solely my opinion, and if you know me or follow this blog long enough, you will learn I have many. Some profoundly insightful some may be the result of too much Cajun spice in my diet.

Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts you would not be the first to do so. In the comments section of each blog entry, but I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (abusive, profane, rude, or anonymous comments) – so keep it polite, please. It’s just a blog. It is designed to be a place for people to come and be encouraged. And don’t we all need a little more sunshine in our lives?

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1168). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

Leadership, Lesson From The Global Leadership Summit

Five Ways to Expand Your Ministry Capacity

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Looking back in time I remember vividly embarking on my professional career.  Newly armed from all the training to debate theology with my younger counterparts I thought I was prepared.  But when I attended that first leadership meeting I realized just how ill-prepared I was to lead this seasoned leadership team. All eyes turned to me as the new young rookie out of Seminary to solve the church’s problems of declining school enrollment, revitalize a Sunday School program that had more teachers than students, and a church with six years of declining worship attendance.  At that point, I knew that the churches future depended in some small part on my leadership capacity along with the Holy Spirit who plays the dominant role in actual congregational growth.

What this post will provide for leaders are the Five C’s to expand your leadership capacity.  Craig Groeschel shared these five points at Willow Creeks Leadership Summit in 2015.  He also shared this quote, “You are the leadership lid on your organization.” I felt that weight as I sat in that first meeting facing those three ministry challenges, armed with a Master’s level theological education but an elementary level leadership capacity.  So, let’s dive into this discussion.

  1. Build Your Confidence.

The first lesson I had to learn is to change my self-talk.  The journey to reaching your greatest potential is through your greatest fear.  To avoid getting stuck as a leader you have to turn the volume to mute on those who attempt to define who God has made you and created you to be and do. You are who God says you are, not the critics.  Think of Job responding to his critics in Job 12:1-5:

 Job said to his friends:

You think you are so great,
with all the answers.
But I know as much as you do,
and so does everyone else.
I have always lived right,
and God answered my prayers;
now friends make fun of me.
It’s easy to condemn
those who are suffering,
when you have no troubles.

2.   Expand your Connections.

In 1269 Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking to Rome for “a hundred wise men of the Christian religion…And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christian here than there are in your parts.” The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed.

But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So, passed the greatest missionary opportunity in the history of the church. -Dunkerly, inResource, No. 2.

You may be one connection away from changing your destiny.

3.   Improve Your Competence.

 

As I sat in that first meeting, I had to make a tough choice.  Do I let the fear of working to improve hinder my ministry from that day forward or do I do the hard work of improving my competency and raise my leadership lid?  Here is a great illustration. “Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. “Good enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course — downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.” Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, p. 15.

4.    Strengthen Your Character.

When faced with leading an organization character is a central quality that can easily be sacrificed on the altar of success.  I love this quote. “Character is much better kept than recovered.”  Thomas Paine.  When leading do so with a strong sense of right and wrong.  The character is forged on the rocks of adversity.  Paul has two insight verses on that in Romans.

 “God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuse.” Romans 1:20

But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

5.  Increase Your Commitment.

The final “C” is commitment.  How willing are you to give your all to the ministry?   That is a question that only you can answer.  You can do an adequate job without ever being wholly committed to the Great Commission.  But imagine if this illustration was placed before you.

Forget about the concept of a town hall meeting to decide public policy. How about this instead? In Ancient Greece, to prevent idiotic statesmen from passing idiotic laws upon the people, lawmakers–legend has it–were asked to introduce all new laws while standing on a platform with a rope around their neck. If the law passed, the rope was removed. If it failed, the platform was removed.  Quality Press, August 1992.

37 If you love your father or mother or even your sons and daughters more than me, you are not fit to be my disciples. 38 And unless you are willing to take up your cross and come with me, you are not fit to be my disciples. 39 If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it. – Matthew 10:37-39

Leadership is not an easy thing, but the rewards in God’s kingdom are well worth the risk.

Devotional Message

The Question of the Ages: Was Jesus the One?

 

Bright lights with manger
A manger at night with bright glowing lights.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:2-6

 There are countless times throughout life that we are asked questions.  Some of these issues are easy to answer.  Like when you visit your favorite restaurant, and the waiter/waitress asks coffee or tea?  Or when your spouse wants to know if you want to go out for Mexican or Asian for dinner?

Then there are those questions that will require a bit more thought to come to a decision.  Like when you are trying to decide where to spend your college years.  Do I pick a major university or a smaller college that may better fit my personality?  When you are picking out, Christmas presents for that special someone.  Do I go with jewelry or a gift card?

At some points in our life, the questions we must answer are life-changing.  Remember when you were about to the ask the love of your life this question, “Will you marry me?”  And yes, it would forever change your life, or it could be a heart-breaking, devastating, life-altering event.  Or think about that moment in life when a wife asks her husband, “Do I look fat in this dress?”  The answer to that question could also be life altering or at least life shortening.  Then we have the question John the Baptist’s disciples posed to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” The answer to this question is one that every person will wrestle with at some point in their life.  Was Jesus indeed the Messiah, the one promised by God to come and save the world from the consequences of sin?  Can we put our hope, our faith, our eternal destiny in the hands of this man from Nazareth?  We will get back to the answers to those questions later.  For now, I will leave you to ponder those questions.

Historical context:  Why was John, the Baptist asking this question?

At the beginning of the Gospel of John, we are introduced to John, the Baptist.  He was this strange prophet, the herald of God sent to prepare the people’s hearts to welcome the new King, Jesus Christ.  But he had some odd behaviors.  He would never make the cover of GQ magazine. He wore camel’s hair and a leather belt.  His diet is not one I would recommend since he ate locusts and wild honey.  He was the prophet that Isaiah referred to as, “The Voice of One Crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”  John, the Baptist, is also the one who when he saw Jesus approaching boldly proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

So, how can this same John, the Baptist, the prophet who paved the way be the same man who now questions the authenticity of Jesus?  He sends his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one?”

What Happened? 

Let’s look, at all that has happened to John.  It is possible that his recent struggles have led to a crisis of faith.

1)    John is about to be executed.

John sent a group of disciples to question Jesus because he was currently sitting in a prison cell.  John had the nerve to confront King Herod and his wife Herodias, whose complicated, sinful relationship could be the stuff of movies.  For the curious minds: Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great. Her first husband was Philip I, son of Herod the Great, so she married her uncle, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, whom her mother used to destroy John the Baptist.  Because, John, the Baptist, confronted this sinful arrangement, Herodias along with her daughter Salome concocted this scheme to dance before Herod.  Because he was so intoxicated by her dancing, he offered her up to half his kingdom.  She instead settled for the head of John, the Baptist, on a platter.  John, in doing God’s work will now end up in prison about to face death.  I would imagine that could shake his faith a bit.

2)    John is having his doubts about the mission and work of Jesus.

Is John suffering from a case of spiritual failure?  Would this fall into the category of faithlessness?  Is it possible the one sent to prepare the way is backsliding? Jesus doesn’t judge John. Instead, he responds to him where he is at, at this moment in his faith journey.  Now that John is at this point in his life, you can imagine Jesus is saying “Great, now that you are willing to let go of all the preconceived notions of who you think I am, now that you are prepared to let go of your expectations, come, discover the real me. Allow me to take your faith to a deeper level.”

Jesus tells the disciple “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Tell him that “…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.  Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

What Jesus is saying is “give John a living testimony to all that you hear and see.”  Lives are being transformed.  The broken restored, the hopeless encouraged, those who have lost community reunited.  The lifeless given a new lease literally on life.   Go back to John and tell him your stories.  Tell him my stories.  There is so much more to the Messiah if only you are willing to open your spiritual eyes and ears and see what God is doing in your midst.

 Christians have questions also.

It is possible that our questions revolve around this: Has your life radically changed for the better because of Jesus?

As a Christian maybe, you have felt this way.  Have you wondered if this all there is? It is possible you expected more.  You expected life to be more comfortable.  You had big dreams, and maybe those hopes have been met with only disappointment, yet the evil around you prosper.  You understand John’s point of view.  There may come a time in your faith journey where you need some assurances.  Where you have questions, that need to be answered.  John sends word to Jesus through his disciples asking “Are you the one?”

Jesus Hears You, and He Responds!

When you are searching for some answers at that point in your life this same Savior, Jesus Christ reaches out to you with compassion and love.  He reaches down to find you wherever you are in your situation and reminds you He is real.  His promises are true; He has come back to assure you eternal life is yours.

These signs give us the confidence to continue living in hope.  Jesus says to look at the signs; they are evidence of my faithfulness.  Who else loves you so much that they would offer their very life to save you.  That is how important you are to Jesus; that is how real His promises are because those promises are sealed with His blood shed for you.

Generation Z

Taking A Deeper Look at Generation Z

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Let’s start this discussion by clarifying what constitutes Generation Z and how they differ from Millennials: Generation Z are people born in the late ’90s and early 2000s. While Millennials were born in the 1980s and 1990s.

How they are Viewed by Employers.

“What these generational representatives will probably tell you is that kids these days are nothing like their immediate elders. Where Millennials were searching for meaningful toil, Gen Z are money-minded. The former like working together; the latter believe it’s every entry-level drone for themselves. Raised on participation trophies and gold stars, Millennials would rather focus on what they’re good at; having seen how cutthroat the economy can be during the most recent downturn, Gen Z are more open to working on their faults. (Those bon mots come courtesy of the SmartTribes Institute, a leadership consultancy.)”[1]

What is Generation Z’s view of religion?

Generation Zers in America have been homeschooled more than the last several generations, and most are close to their parents.

  • According to a Goldman Sachs study, they have more conservative ideas than the previous Generation X; and according to a Harvard Business Review study nearly 70% were ‘self-employed (teaching piano lessons, selling goods on eBay, etc.)’.
  • According to Dr. Joan Hope (editor of Dean & Provost), in her article, Get your campus ready for Generation Z (September 2016; The Successful Registrar, Volume 16), this generation started attending college in 2013.
  • The article reported that “Gen Zers’ participation in religion is up compared with previous generations. When asked about spirituality, 47 percent said they were religious, and an additional 31 percent said they were spiritual but not religious.  Church attendance is also up during young adulthood, with 41 percent saying they attend weekly religious services, compared with 18 percent of millennials at the same ages, 21 percent of Generation X, and 26 percent of baby boomers.”[2]

 But All is not Rosy.

This generation has grown up with a new cultural sense of ordinary.  One study by Joan Hope pointed out that there is a significant spike in church attendance by Gen Z. It is too early in their development to see if this trend holds accurate long term.  Studies also show that this will be the most significant non-white generation in history in America.  With Hispanics as the fastest-growing group among Gen Z. It is all about fertility rates. Hispanic mothers have an average of 2.4 children, compared to black mothers (2.1), and Asian and white mothers (1.8) Tom Rainer points out.  And due to this large number of non-white population growth more, Gen Z will be interracially married. Estimates that at least one of ten of this generation will marry across ethnic and racial lines.

The Social Challenges of this Generation.

 Tom Rainer also points out that, “homosexual marriage will be embraced as normative. But we cannot tell yet what percentage of Gen Z will be in a homosexual marriage. Two historic events have shaped Gen Z. Most of them were not born when 9/11 took place, but their parents and others have made the event a part of their lives and insecurities. The second event, the Great Recession, is still a reality through the recession is officially over. Gen Z parents, and thus, their children still feel the impact of a weak jobs economy.”[3]

This information paints a much more hopeful picture for the church, but it is not without its challenges.  Generation Z is a highly tech-savvy generation growing up with the internet and Smartphones as a part of their very existence.  But unlike Millennials they do tend to crave more personal contact.  More to come on this, I just wanted to whet your appetite.

[1] http://www.macleans.ca/society/generation-z-millennials/

[2] https://thetruthsource.org/why-the-generation-z-population-will-be-non-religious/

 

[3] http://thomrainer.com/2016/05/ten-things-you-should-know-about-generation-z/

 

 

Other posts on Generation Z:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/05/09/a-simple-outreach-strategy-for-teenagers/

Racial Healing

TED Talk: Courage is Contagious

When artist Damon Davis went to join the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after police killed Michael Brown in 2014, he found not only anger but also a sense of love for self and community. His documentary “Whose Streets?” tells the story of the protests from the perspective of the activists who showed up to challenge those who use power to spread fear and hate.

The Week in Review

The Kingdom Impact for the Week of December 4

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The Week Ahead and in review.

Danger Inside!

Could it be that we should put a sign on the doors of our churches: Danger Inside!? Then the worship folder might have a heading that says, “This is a warning. In this service, you may actually encounter the holy God who has awesome power, and an intense interest in a relationship with you. You may be totally changed here. You may have to leave your worries and anxieties here. (Then what will occupy your time?) You may be emboldened to live a courageous, victorious life, fearful of nothing, able for anything.

You may also find the most loyal of friends who wear you out with their concern and love, who seem to want to have a steadfast relationship with you to the point where you may say ‘Enough already!’

Finally, in this place, you may receive so much joy you simply won’t know what to do with it except to share it with others wherever you go. What a dangerous bore you may become! This is indeed a hazardous place and we have warned you.” -author unknown

 

It is my prayer that this week as you read this blog you have that same sense of danger inside.  God’s word may touch you in some surprising and powerful ways. And isn’t that the way God’s Word should operate?  It should change us.  The word should transform us, our minds, our lives our attitudes.  God’s word should make us more like Jesus a bit more every day.

 

Monday: TED Talk: Courage is Contagious

When artist Damon Davis went to join the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after police killed Michael Brown in 2014, he found not only anger but also a sense of love for self and community. His documentary “Whose Streets?” tells the story of the protests from the perspective of the activists who showed up to challenge those who use power to spread fear and hate.

Tuesday:  What Generation Z Wants in a Church?

“Gen Z was born between 1999 and 2015, making the oldest of them 18 this year. Most of them are in their teens and childhood years. Gen Z is the second largest generation alive today. In the U.S. there are 69 million of them, compared to 66 million Millennials, 55 million Gen Xers and 76 million Boomers. The parents of Gen Z are Gen X and Millennials. They are most ethnically diverse generation alive today, and they have, for better and worse, grown up with technology at their fingertips. The smartphone was invented before most of them were even born.” – Barna Research Group

Wednesday: Three Barriers to Move your Ministry from Addition to Multiplication

Every congregation wants to see growth.  However, there are some simple yet powerful barriers holding you back.  In this post, we will examine three: 1. fear, 2. scarcity of resources, and a 3. flawed understanding of the role of church planting.

 

Thursday:  Four Ways to Expand your Ministry Capacity

You are the leadership lid on your congregation’s capacity.  How do you expand and better leverage your God-given abilities?

The Week in Review on The Light Breaks Through.

Many have wondered why Revheadpin?  I am a bowler at my core.  To be successful at it you have to consistently hit the headpin. The blog underwent a major redesign this week check it out and give me your feedback.

 

Monday: TED Talk: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Manipulate our Emotions.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/27/ted-talk-how-amazon-apple-facebook-google-manipulate-our-emotions/

 

The combined market capitalization of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google is now equivalent to the GDP of India. How did these four companies come to infiltrate our lives so completely? In a spectacular rant, Scott Galloway shares insights and eye-opening stats about their dominance and motivation — and what happens when a society prizes shareholder value over everything else. Followed by a Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson.

Tuesday: Three Essential Qualities Every Leader Must Have

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/28/three-essential-stages-every-leader-must-travel/

The role of the leader is not to do it all but instead to equip others to share in the ministry.  Every leader goes through three growth moments in leading his ministry. In this post, we will examine each.

 

Wednesday: How the Resurrection Impacts our Grief

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/29/how-the-resurrection-impacts-our-grief/

 God does not intend for us to weep continuously.

“If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”- Jesus

 Thursday: In Rural Ministry Relationships Are Critical.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/30/in-rural-ministry-relationships-are-your-lifeline/

 

With that distance and lack of proximity, relationships take on a new level of significance. To effectively minister in this setting, you need to shift your attitude and mindset. It can be very tempting since people are not always around to interact even check in with you that think there is not a real ministry to do in these smaller communities.

A bonus read about how God is moving in my life today:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/19/our-time-is-now/

 

Disclaimer

The information in this weblog is provided “AS IS” with no warranties and confers no rights.

This weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of the Northern Illinois District. It is solely my opinion and if you know me or follow this blog long enough you will learn I have many. Some deeply insightful some may be the result of too much Cajun spice in my diet.

Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts you would not be the first to do so. In the comments section of each blog entry, but I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (abusive, profane, rude, or anonymous comments) – so keep it polite, please. It’s just a blog. It is designed to be a place for people to come and be encouraged. And don’t we all need a little more sunshine in our lives?

Community Outreach, Rural Ministry

In Rural Ministry Relationships Are A Pastors Life-line

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After spending nearly fifteen years working is high-density urban areas the shift to rural America was a culture shock.  In the city, everything you need is a short drive away.  You are surrounded by people and you are packed into small spaces like sardines. Not so in rural areas.  You neighbors could be miles apart, and the excitement you may seek could be a two-hour drive away.  With that distance and lack of proximity, relationships take on a new level of significance. To minister efficiently in this setting, you need to shift your attitude and mindset. It can be very tempting since people are not always around to interact with or even check in on you. Consequently, they may think there is no real ministry to do in these smaller communities.  The ministry of nothing is a real danger to avoid.  It reminds me of this letter sent from a farmer to the federal government.

From the Desk of Don Genereaux

Honorable Secretary of Agriculture 
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir,

My friend, Dan Hansen, over at Honey Creek, Iowa, received a check for $1,000.00 from the government for not raising hogs. So, I want to go into the “NOT RAISING HOGS” business next year. What I want to know is, in your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to raise hogs on? And what is the best breed of hogs not to raise? I want to be sure that I approach this endeavor in keeping with all government policies.

As I see it, the hardest part of the “NOT RAISING HOGS’ program is keeping an accurate inventory of how many hogs I haven’t raised. My friend Hansen is very joyful about the future of the business. He has been raising hogs for twenty years or so, and the best he has ever made on them was $422.90 in 1968, until this year when he got your check for the $1000.00 for not raising 50 hogs. If I get $1000.00 for not raising 50 hogs, then would I get $2000.00 for not raising 100 hogs? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself to about 4,000 hogs not raised the first year, which would bring in about $80,000.00; then I can afford an airplane.

Now another thing – these hogs I will not raise will not eat 100,000 bushels of corn. I understand that the government also pays people not to raise corn and wheat. Would I qualify for payments for not raising these crops not to feed my hogs I will not be raising?

I want to get started as soon as possible as this seems to be a good time of the year for the “NOT RAISING HOGS” and “NOT PLANTING CROPS” business. Also, I am giving serious consideration to the “NOT MILKING COWS” business and any information you would have on the endeavor would be greatly appreciated. In view of the fact that I will be totally unemployed, I will be filing for unemployment and food stamps and was wondering how long that process takes.

Be assured, Mr. Secretary, you will have my vote in the upcoming election.

Patriotically yours, 
Don Genereaux

P.S. Would you please notify me when you plan to give out the free cheese again?

 

Overcoming the “There is Nothing to Do Mentality”

However, there is a real ministry to do, and it is based on developing and cultivating relationships.  I will explore two in this post.

  1. Make Mentoring young people a priority
In every congregation we are keenly aware that young people are essential to the vitality of any community. Sadly, however, in rural communities, they hold a place of higher significance because many of them will leave after their high school years are complete. Churches have their attention for such a relatively short period of time making the need to connect them to the life of the church and equip them early in life so vitally important. Too often pastors hesitate to invest the necessary time and energy in these young disciples because they know that most will not stay long-term in the local church.  This lack of investment in their future is a severe miscalculation of the vital role a pastor plays in their spiritual formation. Rural churches need to see their role as a church that prepares, equips and sends out missionaries into the world.  Don’t ignore those influential Christian young people in your congregations, they are the future leaders of our church. Take the time to make them a priority.
  2. Pastoral care is your lifeline. 
As I mentioned at the start of this post for country people, it’s all about relationships.  And one of the most crucial relationships a pastor can develop and nurture is the care for the sick and elderly.  Your relationships must extend beyond Sunday morning.  Learn to relate to each member of your small community. Keep in mind these folks meet regularly and often socialize, so bad pastoral care will spread quickly.  While a pastor who is good at caring for his people news of that will spread as well. In a small community, people know everything that is happening in each other’s lives, so a pastor who is out of touch with this will appear cold and uncaring to his members.

Excellent pastoral care is what connects the pastor to the lives of his flock.  It allows the pastor to be there in tough times and times of celebration.  Pastoral care engrains the pastor into the heart and fabric of the community. Like everything else, I advise leaders don’t do this alone.  Develop and train a caring team of people to join you in providing care for your members.  Rural people are looking for a church that cares and can be a family for them, teach your members how to be that welcoming community. People notice who turns up and who stays away when the chips are down. Helping at these times breeds a broad sense of loyalty from country people. Crises are powerful ways to connect right into the core of rural families in a way country people understand and appreciate.

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/14/rural-ministry-has-unique-challenges-and-opportunities/

 

Devotional Message, Sermon Prompts

How the Resurrection Impacts Our Grief

Empty tomb
Empty tomb with three crosses on a hillside.

 

There are some chapters in the Bible that have no rival for the level of importance they play.  John 3 is one.  In that chapter, we have what many have called the message of salvation in a nutshell. In John 3:16, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Another critical chapter is 1 Corinthians 15. Paul defends the truth of the resurrection in this chapter.  There were some in Corinth that questioned the validity of Christ rising from the dead.  So, Paul now is charged with dealing with the subject of the resurrection of the dead.  In doing so, Paul builds the foundation for what the theological point he is going to explain in detail. His underlying defense is clear.   The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the gospel and at the heart of our faith.

There are two essential elements in Paul’s argument.

  1. If Jesus Christ did not rise that casts doubt on the truth of God’s word and His promises especially as we deal with the death of loved ones.

 

Never is this more evident when the eternal fate of the one we love is in question.  This doubt is apparent in this story. As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.  – Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.

It is at the grave that the reality of the resurrection has its most significant hold on us or provides us with its greatest comfort.  This widow felt the full weight of this truth as she said her final goodbyes.  What is the more profound question of “is the resurrection real?”  Underlining that questions for Christians are what the fate of our loved ones is?  Can we have a confident hope that those who have died and gone before us are safe and sound in heaven? If they are then our mourning is tempered and temporary.    This is the deep theological dive Paul is plunging into in I Corinthians 15.  Without Jesus’ resurrection, the witness of the apostles is both useless and false.  For the believer our faith futile.  And the entire world is lost because of our unforgiven sins.  As we say our final goodbyes, we must weep like everyone else because our Christian dead lost.  And the cruelest trick of all is that we are all left without hope if the resurrection is not real,  then Christianity is a farce and none of this matters if Christ has not risen from the dead.  Our life, our faith, our hope is worthless.

Yet, in Jesus’s own words He refutes the claims that the resurrection is something made up by men to calm the masses.  Jesus tells Mary at the tomb of Lazarus as that family is dealing with unmeasurable grief.   25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 

  1. The Resurrection is Real!

Paul points out that just the opposite is true that indeed the resurrection is true.  And to prove his point Paul points out that this is not some new, fangled idea.  But that this was God’s plan from the beginning.

 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21 Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. 22 In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of that of believers, and an essential part of God’s plan to reverse the consequences of Adam’s sin. Due to one mans sin the entire world was plunged into darkness, through the sacrifice of the next Adam, Jesus Christ the entire world is redeemed and rescued.  The word at the beginning of v. 20 indicates that this redemption is happening ‘now, at this very moment’!

The world needed a savior.  We needed someone to take upon themselves the weight of sin and be our substitute, and Jesus was that Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins.  Isaiah describes this so poetically.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isa. 53:5-6

There is a Time for Weeping

So, there is a time and a place for mourning and sadness.

A psychotherapist tells about one of her patients who had been taught not to cry. The patient said, “My intellect tells me it is healthy to cry, but I have been brought up to be ashamed of my own tears. I feel weak, out of control and unstable when others see me cry, and I sometimes give in to depression if I allow tears to come.”[1]

That is a sad statement. But as a man, I have been guilty of buying into this philosophy and even at times teaching my boys that.  I was taught if you fall down and hurt yourself don’t you dare cry to get up rub some dirt on it and move on.  Today, God gives us permission to weep.  The Almighty says it is ok to mourn.  When we live our lives without mourning and sadness, we are hindering healing and help our souls need. We are meant to cry. Without grieving, we can’t get to joy.

No doubt Charles Dickens was right when he had Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist say this about crying: “It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes and softens the temper. So, cry away.”[2]

You may experience pain that is greater than any joy you have experienced in the past. It is possible you are holding in grief now.  Let it go. Know that one day you will be comforted.  The pain will be replaced with rejoicing. 

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.  Hope for us Christians is grounded in the belief in the resurrection.  This is why the resurrection matters.   Mourning like the widow in the earlier illustration can only be replaced by hope if the person dies, dies in the Lord, with their eyes looking forward toward the resurrection of all flesh.

[1] “Why Do We Cry?” by Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., Reader’s Digest, February 1987, 141.

 

[2] Schreiner, 144.