Congregational Life and Ministry

Meet and Greet: 11/16/17

Dream Big, Dream Often

 

Evelina and I are presently en route to Florida so I’m going to run the Meet N Greet through next Wednesday!!  Be sure to share this post with your readers to get more people involved and more links shared!

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend everyone!!  Strap on your party shoes and join the fun!  

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find…

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Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: Lessons I learn In Prison​

In 2011, Teresa Njoroge was convicted of a financial crime she didn’t commit — the result of a long string of false accusations, increasing bribe attempts and the corrupt justice system in her home in Kenya. Once incarcerated, she discovered that most of the women and girls locked up with her were also victims of the same broken system, caught in a revolving door of life in and out of prison due to poor education and lack of economic opportunity. Now free and cleared by the courts of appeal, Njoroge shares how she’s giving women in prison the skills, tools and support they need to break the cycle of poverty and crime and build a better life.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/teresa_njoroge_what_i_learned_serving_time_for_a_crime_i_didn_t_commit

 

The Week in Review

The Kingdom Impact for the Week of November 20th

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The Week Ahead:

German pastor Martin Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine. At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two.
As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day–some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services. Yet, while living in a world dominated by death, Rinkart wrote this timeless prayer of thanksgiving for his children.  It has become a Thanksgiving classic hymn.
Now thank we all our God

With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done,

In whom this world rejoices.
Who, from our mother’s arms,

Hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,

And still is ours today.

 

Monday: TED Talk: What I Learned While in Prison

In 2011, Teresa Njoroge was convicted of a financial crime she didn’t commit — the result of a long string of false accusations, increasing bribe attempts and the corrupt justice system in her home in Kenya. Once incarcerated, she discovered that most of the women and girls locked up with her were also victims of the same broken system, caught in a revolving door of life in and out of prison due to poor education and lack of economic opportunity.

 

Tuesday:  What Millennial Parents Want in a Christian School

The challenge Christians schools will need to address is how do you reconnect faith to character development?

 

Wednesday: Which Leper are you this Thanksgiving?

 

 

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.

 

Monday: https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/13/ted-talk-dare-to-disagree

 

Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren’t echo chambers — and how great research teams, relationships, and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.

 

Tuesday: Rural Ministry has unique Challenges and opportunities

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

So, far this year, we have written about millennials, racism, urban ministry, and heaven.  My next test is to start a conversation on doing ministry in a rural context.

 

 

Wednesday: Leaders Need a Spirit of Humility

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/15/leaders-need-a-spirit-of-humility

 

When leaders are armed with enough humility they are in a position to learn from others; the young leaders in their midst, the seasoned believers, the saints in the pew, even non-believers.

 

Thursday: Is Hip-hop the Key to Reaching Today’s Teen?

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/16/is-hip-hop-the-key-for-todays-teens

Every generation has music that their parents dislike or just don’t understand.  It is the allure of that something new.  The question for the church is how do you use that musical medium to connect with the heart language of that generation.

 

 

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

Is Hip-Hop the Key to Connect with Today’s Teens?

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An Interview with A Christian Hip Hop Artist?

A Brief History of Hip Hop

Becky Blanchard writes this about Hip Hops beginnings.

“Hip-hop music is generally considered to have been pioneered in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 by Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc. At a Halloween dance party thrown by his younger sister, Herc used an innovative turntable technique to stretch a song’s drum break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively. The popularity of the extended break lent its name to “breakdancing”–a style specific to hip-hop culture, which was facilitated by extended drum breaks played by DJs at New York dance parties. By the mid-1970s, New York’s hip-hop scene was dominated by seminal turntablists DJ Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Herc. The rappers of Sugarhill Gang produced hip-hop’s first commercially successful hit, “Rapper’s Delight,” in 1979′.”[1]

Hip-hop has since evolved into a multi-million dollar industry.  It has an influence on teens of all races and economic backgrounds.  I may later delve into the influence or dangers of hip-hop on the psyche of young impressionable minds.  In this post, I want to focus on how one young white Lutheran teacher is using this music to connect teens to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Below is an edited transcript of my meeting and interview with Josh Atkinson, a teacher at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.

Keith:  So, Josh, when we talked you told me what motivated you to introduce hip-hop to chapel, was that the mostly black population at Milwaukee Lutheran was falling asleep and bored in chapel.  As we know any change in an institution comes with much difficulty.  So, how did you go about making a change to the way chapel was being conducted?

Josh: Different cultures have different languages. Sounds obvious, but what we don’t realize sometimes is that these different cultures could be right around the corner, or in our own backyards. I wanted to speak the language of teens through music, and that genre today is hip-hop. So, then the challenge was combining Jesus and hip hop. As a Lutheran school leader, sharing Jesus is our mission. So that is always the number one focus. And really it should be that in all that we do in ministry. But we must connect to get the message across. So, I did a few things to make Jesus the center. First, I found a cross that I wanted to use as the backdrop for the stage. This same cross is now a staple for all our chapel services. (I’ll put a picture of it at the bottom, it was covered in an inch of dust in our storage at school.)

I always have the lyrics of the song displayed on our screens. The message is number one and in rap music, it can be tough to understand or keep up with the lyrics. So, I always introduce songs by describing the lessons or teaching of the song.

I also wanted to create a concert type atmosphere. Lights, shows, and smoke machines are a major part of each performance.

Finally, I intentionally work to stay current with the lingo and language of hip-hop. It truly is an entirely different language. And if you can speak it, the kids will listen.

Keith: Why is hip-hop so popular with teens?

Josh: I could go on and on about this, but it’s extremely catchy and creates a ton of internal feelings. It creates adrenaline and excitement! It’s also cool! Hip-hop artists are some of the most famous people in the world. So, our youth look up these people as special. The problem with that is teens are exposed to extremely inappropriate lyrics and themes. Christian hip-hop is just as catchy and adrenaline boosting, but with the message of the Gospel!

Keith: You mention that hip-hop has some very inappropriate lyrics and themes how do those negative things effect our youth?

Josh:  Hip-hop is cool and most kids are listing to it, of all backgrounds. It has transcended race and has become the voice of younger generations. But there are 4 themes of the majority of mainstream hip hop. Drugs, sex, money, and self. Listen to any mainstream hip-hop radio station and that’s what you will hear. So, these messages are numbing the souls of those that listen to it over and over again. And to the minds of teens, it can easily become reality. Causing them to dress like them, talk like them, and act like these stars of hip-hop who only care about their bank accounts, not the souls of their listeners.

Keith: Now that you are producing and performing hip-hop what do you hope to accomplish with a positive message through your music?

Josh: Engage, engage, engage! If you can engage your audience, they will be listening with more intent. Focusing on your words and message way more than a traditional hymn or praise song. It’s your classic attention grabber. Leads perfectly into sharing the gospel with my students.

The other objective is to give my students who perform with me a positive outlet for their gifts. I have found students who are extremely talented rappers and singers who otherwise would be singing or rapping about sex, drugs, or money without this outlet. I have a crew of students that perform with me every show.

Every generation has music that their parents dislike or just don’t understand.  It is the allure of that something new.  The question for the church is how do you use that musical medium to connect with the heart language of that generation.  Josh is doing that by taking what can be negative and adapting it to a Christ-centered alternative.  A lesson for the church possibly?

 

[1]

https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

You can follow Josh on his youtube channel.  Here is a link that will lead you the page.

 

 

Leadership

Leaders Need a Spirit of Humility

 

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A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.- Our Daily Bread.

A Leaders Greatest Gift

“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord is wealth, honor, and life.” Proverbs 22:4

As a leader, you learn early on that pride can put up a wall between you and your people.  Servant leaders understand that humility is their greatest gift.  I love the example in the story above.  Booker T. Washington could have puffed up his chest and put this lady in her place.  “Don’t you realize who I am?”  However, his humble spirit led to a lasting relationship and helped to advance his ministry.

Humility Allows for Growth

“When pride comes, so does shame, but wisdom brings humility.” Proverbs 11:2

Tim Hansel tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn’t know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.”

Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.” Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing, 1988, pp. 33-34.

When leaders are armed with enough humility they are in a position to learn from others; the young leaders in their midst, the seasoned believers, the saints in the pew, even non-believers. To move your church from here to God’s preferred future, you have to listen to the wisdom and ideas of others.  It is challenging when the mantle of leadership falls on your shoulders to realize you don’t have to nor should you shoulder that burden alone.  The journey is much more enjoyable if you share it with the gifted people God has surrounded you within your ministry.  Humility allows you to see those gifts and utilize them. It is not about you anyway, it has been and always will be about God and His will for His Church.

 

Rural Ministry

Rural Ministry Has Unique Challenges and Opportunities

 

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So, far this year, we have written about millennials, racism, urban ministry, and heaven.  My next test is to start a conversation on doing ministry in a rural context.  I have spent most of my ministry in big metropolises, but have not lived in a community of under 4,000.  You know you live in a small town when the closest grocery store is 20 miles away, there is no Walmart in your city, and there are more cows than cars.  Doing ministry in this context is very different than the concrete jungle I left ten years ago.  There is just not the population density; I had to learn to adapt to living around.    Over the course of the next few weeks, I pray that we can begin a discussion on useful models for rural and small-town ministries.  As we enter this discussion, some essential and unique factors determine how fruitful your ministry will be.

Study the Church System

Rural churches frequently have a broad sense of community and are generally led by several principal families.  You can upset this delicate church system easily.   Take time to master the unwritten policies that guide the system. Usually, a small group of individuals oversees the ministry direction.  They are the permission givers. They will either permit or limit what can and cannot be done. While every parish has a written set of rules, these permission-givers are the real decision makers.

The pastor seeking to make change needs to plan to sit down with the decision-makers and get their buy-in before launching into any new ideas.  You cannot make any change and survive it until you carefully define the rules, roles, rituals, and goals, which make up the system.

Skipping this critical step could result in the only change taking place is you.

Take the Time to Learn the Unique Story of the Community

As you are learning how your church system works you must also learn the community you have been called to serve. Every town has its own stories. It’s unique heritage.  You need to take the time to become a cultural detective.  Learn how the town’s past, present, and future have shaped this town’s character.  It is in this discovery phase that you may learn to love this community as much as its life-long members do.  These stories are their identity, they have formed their self-esteem.  Don’t minimize those stories.  Honor their past, help them discover the future direction God may be leading them into.  Steady continuity is particularly important for rural churches. Change is expected, even anticipated in the urban areas.  But people live in rural areas for its slow, steady, dependable pace of change.

John Mark said, “The most important connection an incoming pastor can make is to sit with storytellers and understand the history and identity of the congregation they are called to. A congregation will only journey somewhere new when it is confident that its leaders know its story and stand in line with its history. Sometimes the gentle embracing of these stories may bring healing to a painful past.”

This true account proves that very point.

Carl Geary died a month ago from a heart attack as he campaigned in a small country town. Despite his sudden death he still polled over three times as many votes as his rival in the election in Tracy City, Tennessee.

His widow, Susan Geary, was not surprised by the election results.  “The day he passed away, people were calling with condolences and saying, ‘We’re still voting for him,’” she said.

Geary was known for telling the truth and served on the city council. He received 285 votes to his rival’s 85.

I will end this post with these simple words.  Ministry in rural America is about relationships and patience.

 

Congregational Life and Ministry

Are You Pushing God Away?

The Light Breaks Through

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The story has been told of a believer, Frederick Nolan, who was fleeing from his enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley with no place to hide, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting his enemies to find him soon.

Awaiting his death, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little bug had spun a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken and unmangled piece of art, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave without dismantling the web. And so, they went on. Having escaped, Nolan burst out and exclaimed:

“Where God is, a spider’s web is like a wall,

Where God is not, a wall is like a spider’s web.”

Where God is not, a wall is…

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Congregational Life and Ministry, The Week in Review

Kingdom Impact for the Week of November 13th

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The Week Ahead:

On Sunday our country was hit with another shockwave.  A man with a gun and a history of mental issues in his life went into a church in a small Texas town and killed or wounded nearly 50 of the members of that church.  The fallout from that event has the church considering tearing down the building and relocating.  How can you enter that building again with all the pain and sorrow attack to what once was a place of peace and comfort?  God will heal their wounds, but healing takes time and loss leaves a hole in the human heart.  I ran across these words that struck me in this time of grief.

 

Out of the dark forbidding soil

The pure white lilies grow.

Out of the black and murky clouds,

Descends the stainless snow.

Out of the crawling earth-bound worm

A butterfly is born.

Out of the somber shrouded night,

Behold! A golden morn!

Out of the pain and stress of life,

The peace of God pours down.

Out of the nails — the spear — the cross,

Redemption — and a crown!

 

Monday: “Dare to Disagree” A very insightful TED Talk.  Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress.

Tuesday:Rural Ministry Has Unique Challenges and Opportunities”

Ministry in rural America is about relationships and patience.

Wednesday:  “Leaders Need to Humility”

One of our greatest gifts as a leader is humility.  If we are armed with enough humility a leader is open and willing to learn from others.  This post examines this in more detail.

Thursday:  “Using Rap and Hip Hop Music to Connect with Today’s Teens”

Rap music is not just genera for African American teens.  It is widely popular with many teens.  I will share an interview with a Christian teacher who is using it to connect with young people.

 

The Week in Review on The Light Breaks Through.

Monday: “The Danger of Silence”

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/06/finding-your-courage/

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Tuesday: “Creating a Family-based Ministry Environment in your Church”

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/07/creating-a-family-based-ministry-environment/

 The Family-based model is the last model left to explore. What makes this approach unique is that Family-based ministry isn’t a program, it’s a mindset. It returns the church back to its biblical foundation and the Deuteronomy understanding of the role of parents.

Wednesday: “How We Handle Grief is a Reflection of our Understanding of Heaven.”

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/08/12308

The devotional theme for today is “Blessed are they.”  I am not here to glorify their accomplishments or lift them up because these saints are especially kind and good people. This was by far the most popular post in the wake of the Texas massacre.  Our prayers go out the family and that community.

Thursday: “Three Key Components of Leadership”

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/09/three-key-components-of-leadership/

A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.”–M. D. Arnold

 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?

Leadership

Three Key Components of Leadership

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It was July 25th, 1993. The day after I had been installed at my first congregation in Berea Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI.  I remember sitting behind my desk thinking “OK now I am pastor of this congregation.  What do I do now?” It was obvious this congregation expected me to lead them back to their former glory days but, how? What does leadership from a 24-year old look like?  My previous experiences in different organizations and groups made it clear that I was born with some leadership ability, but this was different.  It became obvious quickly I need some additional skills and also some failures and successes.  Leadership in my mind has three components.

  1. Good Leaders Can Be Trained.

Understanding my shortcomings as a leader, I spent four-years going through an intensive leadership development process.  Learning how to lead with compassion.  Developing the skills to manage a school and church staff.  Understanding that a good leader identifies where God is leading his congregation and trusting God to get the congregation where He wants it to be in the end.  This came with a lot of trial, error, and personal pain.  George Barna said this about leadership.

“Leadership is the ability to put the plans into practice and to accomplish the specified objectives through the skillful management of people, time, and tangible resources. A good leader is one who is able to motivate people; one who is capable of making good decisions, even under pressure or in conditions of uncertainty; one who can guide people through actions as well as words.”  How to Find Your Church, pp. 104-105.

2. Good Leaders are Developed with Experience.

Pete Seeger said, “Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.  Pete Seeger, folk singer, quoted in Rolling Stone.

A great natural born leader, Jed Clampett of the 1960’s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies once said, “Book learning only goes so fur.”  You can read it, study it, and go to workshops, but at some point, you have to put all that learning into practice.  And leadership rarely is as easy as it looks in the books.  One factor that can mess up all that fancy book learning is, people.  Each group of people are different.  There is a better than average chance they will not respond as your test groups in the examples used.  This is where experience guided by intelligence allows you to adapt.  Leadership is about learning from past experiences how to lead your unique group.

3.  Great Leaders are born with something that can’t be taught.

For years I believed that leaders where born, not taught.  But over time I have softened that stance.  I believe some aspects of leadership can be taught and you can raise up effective leaders through training.  But leadership at the highest level contains other key components.

There is something deeper that top leaders have, that something extra.  For example, I am a huge football fan.  I was blessed to spend time in Wisconsin and watch the remarkable play of Brett Farve and then Aaron Rodgers.  Then I moved to the Chicago area and got a chance to watch Jay Cutler quarterback the Chicago Bears.  All those players named above have the physical ability to play quarterback in the NFL at a very high level.  But Farve and Rodgers have that something extra that made them potential Hall of Fame players.  Great leaders have that something extra.  They have intangibles that can’t be taught, it is just instinctive.  Some leaders know just when to take risks others would shy away from.  Those leaders know how to say just the right words in the midst of crisis.  I would say they are maybe more in tune with God, maybe it is the spiritual gift of discernment.  Whatever it is you recognize it when you are around those kinds of leaders.

No matter where you are in life you can be a better leader.  You can take the time to get training on leadership skills or find a coach to help develop your God-given skills.  And you have experiences that if you take time to process past mistakes and dissect why certain things went well, those events could prove invaluable.  I will leave you with this quote, “A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.”–M. D. Arnold