Calling Congregational Resources, Guest Blogger

Devotions for Congregations Preparing to Call A Pastor

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For Guidance in the Pastoral Call Process By Phil Bandy

 Samuel 16:6-13- Monday

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”  7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”  Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”  12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.  Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”  13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Do we choose a pastor because he has great experience?  Or because we liked the sermon that was posted online?  Or because he is the oldest or the youngest?  Or because like David he is “…glowing with health and…a fine appearance…”.  All those elements might play into our decision-making, but will they show us God’s will?

Unlike Samuel, we don’t hear God’s voice as the prophet did, but like Samuel, we can be in daily conversation with God through prayer asking for wisdom and inspiration so that we choose the man God has already chosen.

Heavenly Father, we praise you for the wisdom, mercy, grace, and forgiveness you give us each day.  We thank you for the patience you have with us and for the blessings you shower upon us as individuals and as your people here at St. Matthew.

As we have just celebrated our earthly fathers, we celebrate you as our heavenly Father.  A father who showers us with love, love so deep that You sent Your only-begotten Son to die for us and rescue us from our own sins.  We praise You for Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Now we pray that you send your Holy Spirit upon your people at St. Matthew so that as we consider the men who have been proposed as our temporal good shepherd, the leader of your flock here in Barrington, that we choose the man you have already picked.  Like Samuel, many times we will be taken by their looks, their experience, their age, or other elements that strike us as important.  But let us remember your words that “The Lord does not look at the things people look at…but the Lord looks at the heart.”  Though we as men and women may not be able to discern the heart of the man you have already chosen for this congregation, you know his heart.  We pray that we do your will and call the man you have chosen to lead your flock here in Barrington.

We know that the man called by St. Matthew will be blessed by you and we will be blessed by him as he preaches and teaches your word, administers your own body and blood, visits the sick and leads our congregation in this community.  Give us the wisdom to help us make the right choice.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus, the Christ, your Son, and our Savior as we thank you for your Holy Spirit who guides us in these decisions.

For the next 4 days, you will receive a daily prayer/devotion to help you converse with God regarding His will for choosing our next shepherd.  Then on Saturday, June 24 from 9-11 AM, there will be a Prayer Vigil at church so we as a congregation can pray that His will be done.

Devotions for Tuesday

Acts 1:15-26

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.” 18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

 20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;

    let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and,

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’

 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” 23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Like Samuel in yesterday’s reading and in our prayer, the apostles depended on the Lord to show them which person they should choose because “Lord, you know everyone’s, heart.”  Again, their prayer was not that they should choose the man they liked best.  Nor the one they thought best qualified (both men had the same qualifications).  They asked for God’s guidance.

Their method of choosing was based on the Urmin and Thummin from the Old Testament.  The old Testament priests used the Urmin and Thummin very much like dice to determine God’s direction while making a decision.  We will also be dependent upon God’s direction, but not using dice (though some have suggested that because all the candidates are qualified, we could, like the apostles in Acts, put their names in a hat and pull them out).  Instead, we will bathe this week and next Sunday in prayer to allow God to work in our hearts.

We give you praise and adoration Father God for the beauty of your creation, for the love you have shown us, and for salvation which is a free gift for us, but a supreme sacrifice for you.  As you filled your apostles on Pentecost and us at our Baptism, we ask that your Holy Spirit work in us this week as we consider the specially trained men who love you and want to serve you by serving others.

We come before you dear Lord with contrite hearts knowing that we have transgressed your will many times in our lives.  We have not lived up to our calling from you.  We have gone our own way according to our own desires.  But this week we pray that you work in our hearts so that next Sunday we will bend our will to yours and that out of the men under consideration and called by you to the pastorate we will choose the one you have already selected.

As we think and pray about the men you have placed before us, we ask that you allow us to trust you as the apostles trusted you when choosing Matthias.  We know the methodology will be different, but as you know the hearts of the men who are being considered for this call, you also know our hearts.  Move in our hearts according to your will and give us wisdom as we consider each man for this position. 

We again ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our prayers and deliberations so that we will do your will in ways that will give your name honor and glory.  We pray these things in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Tomorrow through Friday check your mailbox for daily devotional prayers for this pastoral call process.  Then on Saturday, June 24, join us at the church from 9 AM to 11 Am for a Prayer Vigil.

Devotions for Wednesday

Samuel 3:2-11

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.  Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.  6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”  7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.

 In the call process, we may think that the majority of the burden for the call is on us as a congregation – did we choose the right men to put before the congregation?  Have we done our due diligence?  Have we listened to enough sermons, or read enough writings, or whatever we think is necessary to make the right decision?

But the burden is on both sides of the call.  The man we issue a call to should also be praying that he is listening to the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is nudging him to make a decision that fulfills God’s will.  He may not be hearing the direct voice of God like the boy Samuel, but we pray he is saying “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Lord God, this is such a draining process.  Men and women from our congregation have worked on this call for over a year.  They have read countless biographies and writings, talked to numerous pastors serving patiently in their current congregations, all in an effort to determine your will.  Then another large group of people from the congregation were called in to talk to the men on the list.  We pray that within the names in front of this congregation that there is the one man whom you have already chosen to serve St. Matthew and that he is open to follow God’s will.  We also pray that your Spirit descends upon us to show us the man to whom we should issue the call.

Be with that man dear Lord, fill him with your spirit now and in whatever situation he is in.  We want each one of those men to find that the decisions they have made on their call (whether it be a new call or one from years ago) is one that fulfills your desire for them and for the people they serve.  Bless their ministry whether it is with St. Matthew or another congregation.  Allow your Word to flow from their mouths as Peter’s words flowed to those gathered at the first Christian Pentecost.  Allow him to serve and bless your people.

We do know that as a congregation we need to continue to pray for ourselves as a Christian community.  So we pray that the Holy Spirit guides us as we prepare to issue a call to the man you have chosen so he can grow our knowledge of you, our love for you, and turn that knowledge and love to service to others who need to know you more.

We pray these things in the name of our triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit so that your name is glorified.

Tomorrow through Friday check your mailbox for daily devotional prayers for this pastoral call process.  Then on Saturday, June 24, join us at the church from 9 AM to 11 AM for a Prayer Vigil.

Thursday’s Devotion

Genesis 12:2-5

“I will make you into a great nation,

    and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

    and you will be a blessing.[a]

3 I will bless those who bless you,

    and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

    will be blessed through you.”[b]

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

 Hebrews 11: 8-10

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised landlike a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

The call process is not simply a new job opportunity for the pastor, it is a divine call for him and his entire family and many times for the rest of his life.  Abraham left Harran, with his wife Sarah, his nephew, all their possessions and their “people” which would have been servants, sheepherders, and many others.  It was transformative.  It was truly a “divine call”.

It is a call that Bobbi and I relate to.  Twenty-five years ago, I received an offer from a Christian radio station group to leave Grand Rapids and come to Chicago to run their radio station.  We struggled with the decision.  We had come to truly love Grand Rapids and the people at Our Savior, but I needed to respond.  Yes? Or No?  The Sunday before I had to give an answer, I was the elder on duty and one responsibility was to read the Epistle lesson for the day.  That Sunday it was Hebrews 11.  At the conclusion of the service, Bobbi left the pew with our 5 kids and with tears streaming down her face and said, “We’re going to Chicago.”

Dear Lord, who knows all our needs, all our strengths (and our weaknesses), our past and future, please be with the pastor who you have chosen for St. Matthew.  Bless, him, his wife, his family, and his ministry.  Give them the solidarity of mind necessary for a peace-filled, loving transition from their present home to their new home here in Barrington.  Allow us to be blessed by his answer to the divine call as Abraham was blessed “I will bless those who bless you…”.

 To achieve that blessing, help us as a congregation depend upon you as we determine who we will call.  Let us not make the judgement based on external elements (for who would have thought “…all people on earth would be blessed…” by a 75 year-old man), but let us make that decision with the inspiration of your Holy Spirit depending on His guidance to allow us to make the right decision.  A decision that gives you honor and glory.

 As individuals and as a congregation we know that in the past some of our decisions have been flawed.  We pray dear Lord, that this Sunday you will fill us with your presence and guide us to make the right decision.  Father, we pray all these things in the name of your son Jesus Christ, with the direction of your Holy Spirit.

Tomorrow check your mailbox for the last devotional prayer for this pastoral call process.  Then this Saturday, join us at the church from 9 AM to 11 AM for a Prayer Vigil.

 

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Guest Blogger

Are You All In?

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“But she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:44b 
The story of the widow’s mite reminds me of some teachers who are serving in Church schools I have known. Despite salaries that make it tough to thrive on, they still quietly buy supplies, classroom prizes, curriculum, and sometimes even coats and clothes for their students. Beyond money, teachers often give sacrificially of their time and talents, faithfully serving where many others will not. You’ve probably experienced teachers who are “all in” to their vocation of serving God’s children.

Yet, on our own merits of giving, we cannot raise our head before the Lord and declare righteousness. No quantity of classroom supplies will earn the approval of God. The reason to serve with the kind of commitment role modeled by widow is not that we can be proud of our pious service. That would be like those Sadducee’s earlier in the story. No, we serve because One gave much more than money or time to help others. Jesus Christ gave His very life to save sinners like you, me, the widow and your children and families.

As you serve where God has planted you, may you be regularly refreshed in the Grace He has provided in the body and blood of His very Son? May you serve the children with the same willingness and joy that the widow had as she quietly brought forward her mite. And may you look upon the children and families you serve with the same love that God has for you.

God’s peace,
Mike Zimmer, Mission Facilitator for Schools for the Northern Illinois District

 

Discussion Questions
What are the qualities of someone who serves God by being “all in?”
How does Christ’s death and resurrection affect your understanding of Grace?
Who around you is hurting, lowly or seemingly outcast yet still needs encouragement?

Guest Blogger

A Story of Transformation

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Friendship House MSU predominantly serves International visiting scholars, graduate students, Ph.D. students, post-­‐doctoral students and their family members. One who arrived from China about a year ago was a student with an intense curiosity about Christianity. She attended all of our Bible studies, as well as many of our English As A Second Language (ESL) classes, and held in-depth discussions with several of our teachers about the who, what, where, when and why of their Christian faith. She began attending what is called the “Chinese church” that serves Chinese Internationals on campus. She also visited the worship services of many of our Lutheran congregational partners. She excitedly came into my office one day and announced with an emphatic, revelatory tone, “I am Christian!” As she poured out her zeal and joy, I was nearly overcome myself, a witness to her amazing declaration and transformation. She was later baptized and apparently thirsting for more and more about scripture, faith, and her personal evangelical responsibility. I asked her to attend ISM, Inc’s

She and In-Depth Seminar readily agreed. Right after she returned from what she felt was a mountaintop experience at In Depth, she learned that her husband’s oldest brother had passed away. As the family Skyped in the days following his death, our student shared the Good News, urging them to consider Jesus as the best and only source of comfort to them. Initially, the new eldest brother rejected her entreaties, calling such talk dangerous and subversive. Still, as the family gathered at weekly internet chats seeking some form of mutual solace, our student would continue to urge their attentions on Jesus. The eldest brother continued to reject her suggestions. Then, a few weeks later, the eldest brother called our student on her cell. He said, “What do I need to do to know more about Jesus?”

Our student felt called by God to return to her country for the rest of the summer to witness among her extended family and share God’s peace and joy to all who would listen. She spent many hours with the eldest brother. She returned to MSU and Friendship House for the fall semester. When she called me in my office, her smile was as broad as a summer’s day. “My brother-­‐in-­‐law is starting to believe,” she said. “This is important because the family follows his lead.” Along with her courses and research at MSU, our student returned to our Bible classes. Late in the semester, she and I met to talk about her continued desire to be a witness for Jesus. What came out of our discussions was a new class, which started last Sunday afternoon at one of our partner churches. The church pastor agreed to lead our student as his assistant. Incredibly, our student personally recruited 29 other Chinese Internationals from MSU to attend this class. She arranged for transportation so they could safely arrive and return home afterward. They all came. They all stayed. They are all coming back. He said to them,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15)

By Rich Bearup, Executive Director of the Friendship House at Michigan State University

For more information on the ministry of MSU click here: http://www.schoolius.com/school/112819728824007/Friendship+House+MSU

Guest Blogger

The Power of Building Relationships

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Boot Camp By Phil Bandy

Two weeks ago I took a trip to the Cook County boot camp to join Derek Polansky, YFC’s Director of Juvenile Justice Ministry.  Boot camp was in a collection of buildings about a mile square – courthouses, minimum security, maximum security and more.  To get into the boot camp, you pass through metal detectors, show your ID, go through 3 or 4 doors where you are buzzed in and at each door you wait.

We met ten young men in the barracks and Derek told them today’s lesson would be a little different.

He chose four men and me, then assigned us roles.  I was the father, a smaller man was the mother, another was a 17-year-old, a third was a 12-year-old, and the tallest (about 6’ 3”) was the 5-year-old.  The guys in the barracks loved the last choice.

Derek took out a pad of Post-It notes and asked all the young men what the responsibilities were for a father in the family, which he wrote on the Post-It notes.  The first responsibility suggested was “protection” which struck me since some of the guys had joined gangs for the protection they should have received from their fathers.  Each Post-It note was put on my chest – provider, teacher, decision-maker, leader, lover – the list grew until the 10th note was placed on my chest “Be There.”

Derek did the same for the mother (who ended up with more than my list), then the young men posing as the other family members.

When the four of us had all of our responsibilities on our chests, Derek said “…the situation just changed…Dad has had it.  He’s sick of the kids, doesn’t love his wife anymore.  He just walked out.”  Then taking the notes off my chest, he asked who gets these now?  It was unanimous “mom”.  But mom already had 15 notes on “her” chest how can she handle all of hers and all of the father’s responsibilities?  The guys thought some could be passed on to the kids, but not many.  So what could be done?  They all agreed things are going to fall through the cracks; responsibilities were not going to be done.  One man mentioned that mom probably also lost the income the father was bringing in, so she takes a second job.  More things fall through the cracks.

Derek sat down, pulled out his Bible and read the story of God’s creation of man and woman, then the fall.  He asked if they saw any parallel between the fall of man and the loss of a father from the family.  A couple of guys did and agreed both decisions destroyed the future.  Three of the young men asked questions, made comments about their families and I felt maybe, just maybe the spirit was starting to work on them.

On our way back to the cars, Derek mentioned that he would be coming back to boot camp next week and was hoping that the man most verbal about the Bible reading and families would not be there, but be home…with his two kids.

Guest Blogger

Learning to Manage A Crisis

National 911 Pentegon Memorial[3]Tuesday guest blogger Keith Haney, a long-time friend and colleague, posted about how not to lead through a crisis. This is the response to his post, addressing how to lead through a crisis.

Last week I visited with a pastor about how a tragedy in his church thirty years ago still influences his congregation. The conversation brought to mind other churches I have served or worked with during a crisis:

A congregation whose facilities were reduced to glowing embers by fire.
A church with members who were shocked and angry over moral failure by trusted leaders.
A congregation caught in the economic collapse of a community when the largest employer suddenly relocated.
A church grieving the sudden deaths of a family with young children.
A congregation caught in the vortex of a natural disaster.

It is my conviction that, if a church is well led the first day of a crisis, the congregation is more likely to successfully navigate the crisis. There are two vital steps to dealing with the crisis the initial 24 hours:

Do whatever it takes to calm yourself in the eye of the storm.
A crisis triggers the “fight or flight” response. Some leaders want to immediately dive into damage control. Others desire to quickly retreat a safe distance from the turmoil. Do neither. Instead, stop and gather yourself. Ask God for clarity and guidance. Take deep, cleansing breaths for three or four minutes. Quiet your thoughts. Act once you start to calm down, think through what you know about the crisis.

You want to become a “non-anxious presence” as a leader. The greater the anxiety in leaders, the greater the anxiety in an organization. While it is vital to reach this calm state the initial 24 hours, being the non-anxious presence benefits the congregation throughout the crisis.

Gather a team to deal with the crisis.
Even if your leadership style is very individualistic, create a team to lead through the crisis. Whether you realize it or not, you are emotionally affected by the crisis. Team members help one another see personal blind spots. A team can piece together a clearer picture of the crisis than individuals. On a whole, a team collaborating on solutions is more effective than an individual coming up with solutions.

During the “9-11” terrorist attacks on the United States I was serving a church in a military town. We didn’t know for certain which members or former members were in the Pentagon that day. We didn’t know where some members were being deployed in defense of our country. As I write this post I can see the face of each member of the team we pulled together to deal with the crisis as a church. There is absolutely no doubt we served our congregation and community better as a team than we could have individually.

While the team may cover a number of topics its initial meeting, the following three must be addressed:

The team prays.

Just as individual leaders are tempted to immediately act during a crisis, so the team usually wants to act. The first “act” is prayer. The first step is to acknowledge that your combined experience and skill is insufficient to meet the task at hand. Ask God to provide what is needed.

The team names the crisis.
The initial shock of a crisis is often surreal for church members. Naming the crisis helps members accept the reality of the situation. As members reach acceptance, they start participating in crisis management. A crisis such as a natural disaster is relatively easy to name. The public fall from grace of a staff member is more difficult. Nevertheless, within the guidelines of Scripture and legal statutes, leaders must name a crisis.

The team determines the initial steps.
The team should not try to create a plan to manage the entire crisis at the first meeting. It should determine the initial steps. These steps should address the greatest concern of members and the greatest need of the congregation. It is important for team members to leave with specific tasks with deadlines. If possible, send two members to implement steps of plans together. Ensure communication is one of the action steps.

What other vital actions can leaders of churches take the initial 24 hours of a crisis? Share your thoughts via social media or send me an email.
Rev. Dr. Kevin Wilson, Ohio District Executive Director of Mission

http://www.kevinwilson360.com