Devotional Message

How We Handle Grief Is a Reflection of Our Understanding of Heaven

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A woman carries a cross shaped key to gates of heaven

On November 1st every year the church stops to give thanks to God for all the Saints who have gone before us.  It is a time to remember all those special people that He put in our lives, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren and friends.  All these special saints that were witnesses to us.  I want to take time in this post to honor them for their walk with God and to thank God for sending us such a great cloud of witnesses.

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.  We give thanks to God for them because they have finished their race, they have fought the good fight, they ran with perseverance the course laid out for them and now they have received their reward. No more struggle with the flesh, no more pain and tears for these people, they are in our Father’s house, they are at peace.  So “Blessed are they” because they have obtained an inheritance that will not fade, one that no robber can break in and steal. They have received eternal life.  They have crossed over from death to life.  Their struggle is over, they won their crown of righteousness, and we thank God for them.

Today we will look at one of the most famous sermons ever written, the Sermon on the Mount.  We will look at the opening section of this sermon, a section called the Beatitudes.

The church of the Middle Ages gathered together a list of attitudes that not checked could led believers away from God.  They called this list the seven deadly sins.  The sins were: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.
The first destructive attitude was pride.  We see the pride of sin on display daily, in politics, Hollywood, in our families, and even surprisingly in the church.  And if we are not excluded.  Simply hold up a mirror I am sure you will discover another culprit, you as well.  The church defined pride as “excessive egotism, being so self-centered that a person had no room in their spirit for God.” [1] It is easy to allow our ego to get puffed up, or as my mom would say, “became too full of yourself.”  When our pride goes unchecked that condition affects our relationship with God.  Pride pushes the need for God out of our spirit.  Making it easy to ignore the need for God altogether. Pride is very dangerous not only to one’s spiritual health but to one’s physical life as well.

During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. “Nonsense,” snapped the general. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—-.” A moment later Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.

Today in the Word, August 30, 1993.
Martin Luther said, “Before God, everyone is compelled to lower his plumes.”

The Poor in Spirit

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

 This verse is communicating that the Christ follower who realizes he needs a Savior is blessed.  “Poor in spirit” does not indicate that your faith is inadequate or lacking something.  “Poor in spirit” is the condition that our spirit finds itself in because of our original sin.

There was this patient who went into the doctor’s office and sat down and said, “Okay, Doc here I am, help me.”  The doctor responded, “Well what is wrong with you?” The patient said, “How should I know you are the doctor?”  To which the doctor responded, “You have to help me help you. And believe you me, you do need help!”

The believer like this patient needs help.  The human soul is “poor in spirit” because we are sinners.  Sin separates us from God. Paul helps destroy any illusions we have that somehow, we are excluded from that claim in Romans 3, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’” Romans 3:10-11.  Armed with this firm understanding, we realize that we need help.

As Christians, we are well aware of the spiritual truth that we can’t save ourselves.  We are spiritually unable to stand before a just and holy God.  Thus, Christ comes to the rescue.  Christ stands in the gap for us.  He takes the full weight of our sins upon Himself.  And Christ gave His life as a ransom for a spiritually poor world.

Those Who Mourn

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Grief is never a blessed experience. Grief and sorrow are painful.  They test our faith and can rock our trust in God.  Yet, Jesus in this section says, “Blessed are those who mourn.”  But not because they are mourning, or they have endured a loss but blessed are they for they shall be comforted.  The blessing is in the fact that our faith in Jesus can help us work our way through even the most devastating losses.  Missionary John G. Paton shares this account.

Not long after arriving in New Hebrides as a pioneer missionary, John G. Paton and his wife rejoiced in the coming of a baby son to gladden their home. But the joy was short-lived. Soon death took both his wife and child, and Dr. Paton had to dig their graves and bury his loved ones with his own hands. In writing of this experience, he testified, “If it had not been for Jesus and the fellowship and grace He afforded me, I am certain I would have gone mad or died of grief beside their lonely graves.” Marvelously strengthened from above, the bereaved servant of God found that the promises of the Word were able to sustain him through the heartache and sorrow of his tragic loss. Our Daily Bread, August 6, 1992

In the original Greek, the word used for mourning is the strongest of those related to grief. It describes mourning the death of a person who is dearly loved.  Many reading this today are feeling the full weight of grief. You may be experiencing pain that is greater than any joy you have experienced in the past. Know that one day you too 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.

Know that mourning is not the end but a transition point.  A transition for your loved one from death to life.  A transition for you from mourning to laughter.  A transition to a great reunion in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Blessed are we who fight the good fight and persevere for the kingdom of heaven awaits.

[1] Parish Publishing, LLC

 

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Congregational Life and Ministry

Creating a Family-based Ministry Environment

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It is common for Orthodox Jews to recite every morning and evening of every day Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This section of the Torah is written on the door frames of their homes. There isn’t a practicing Jew today who can’t quote it from memory. It is popular as John 3:16 is for the Christian. The core of the Old Testament is summed up in these few sentences.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

We have discussed in previous posts three modern Sunday School alternative models. 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. It is the responsibility of the parents to take their calling back and to “impress upon their children” the Word of God. Parents are the best examples to talk with their children about faith and then to live out that faith walk daily. Back in olden days, each child knew his or her place in the family and in their faith journey.

The Foundation of the Model.

Family-Based Ministry described by Brandon Shields.

Most closely resembles the age-segregated ministries common in the 20th century.
Rather than completely revamping the existing ministries and starting over, this approach builds on it, using the ministry platform to equip parents and encourage intergenerational discipleship within its framework.

Family-based ministry finds its strength in its intentionality to take formerly age-segregated events and make them intergenerational or family oriented and the style is more easily achieved with the existing models and culture

Because it does look similar to what currently in place, sometimes it can be challenging to change the underlying culture of the church towards family and transition to a family-focused church.1

The Downside of this Model.

As much as I love giving ministry back to parents because it is biblical, this model can become internally focused. Parents have a greater lasting impact on their children than a youth pastor or church volunteer. Equipping, encouraging and ultimately empowering parents to live out their calling as the primary faith influencers in their children’s lives is really important. I don’t want to in any way minimize that. My question is where in this model is there room for the outsider? That family that does not have a relationship with the Risen Lord? In my experience, those who are not already believers have little interest in being connected to Jesus. Connecting them to Jesus and the church comes over time, it is something that the Holy Spirit has to nurture over time. The church that adapts this model must find intentional ways to build outside relationships into the system.

[1] https://refocusministry.org/resources-for-ministers/family-ministry/types-of-family-ministry/

 

If you have been following this series here are all the models of family ministry.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/07/18/four-modern-sunday-school-strategies/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/31/is-a-family-equipping-model-right-for-your-church/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/08/15/how-do-you-implement-the-family-sensitive-model/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/07/13/have-sunday-schools-lost-their-missional-focus/

 

The Week in Review

Kingdom Impact -November 6th

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The Week Ahead:

This weekend many congregations we will celebrate All Saints Day on Sunday.  One this day Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), and the living (the “Church Militant”). Take time this week to stop and give thanks to God for the Great cloud of witnesses He placed in your life.

 

Monday: A TED: Talk: The Danger of Silence. “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:  The post on Modern Family ministry options continues.

Wednesday: A devotional message on the Power of the Ressurection in our daily lives.

Thursday: Three Key Components for Leaders. Good leaders can be developed and refined with experience. Great leaders are born with that extra something.

 

The Week in Review on Revheadpin.org.

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/2017/10/30/ted-talk-why-arent-people-more-compassionate/

A TED Talk. Daniel Goleman, the author of “Emotional Intelligence,” asks why we aren’t more compassionate more of the time.

Tuesday: 

https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/31/is-a-family-equipping-model-right-for-your-church/

What is the one thing the church can never have too much of?  Answer.  Young families! How do you go about making this wish a reality?

 

Wednesday:  

https://revheadpin.org/2017/11/01/the-500th-reformation-500-years-later-is-still-about-grace/

This week we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was a world-shattering movement that began with Dr. Martin Luther and his 1517 work The Ninety-Five Theses. Here is a reminder of what the movement was all about at its core.

Thursday:  

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

I am writing this to encourage each of us regardless of age, stage, or situation to run your race.  Persevere because God ain’t done with you yet!

Most Popular Post for October:

The posts on What Millennials want in a Church? Those were a big hit in October.  If you want to catch up on what you missed here they are for review.

Millennials Want a Courageous Church.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/17/millennials-want-a-courageous-church/

Millennials Want a Community Church.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/10/millennials-want-an-engaged-church/

Millennials Want a Mentoring and Discipling Church.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/24/millennials-want-a-mentoring-and-discipling-church/

 

Every week I meet someone who has been touched by what God has placed on my heart to write.  It such a humbling experience.  Thank you all for being a source of encouragement to me.  I pray this blog a source of encouragement to you.  I pray it inspires you and moves you to desire a deeper relationship with a God and Savior Jesus Christ who both love you with an everlasting love.

 

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?

Discipleship, Leadership

God Ain’t Done with Me Yet!

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“God ain’t done with me yet” was my grandmother’s favorite saying as she got older.  She lived her life like the old man in this illustration.

The great evangelist George Whitefield was relating the difficulties of the gospel ministry to some friends. He said that he was weary of the burdens and was glad that his work would soon be over and that he would depart this earthly scene to be with Christ. The others admitted having similar feelings — all except one, a Mr. Tennant. Noting this, Whitefield tapped him on the knee and said, “Well, Brother Tennant, you are the oldest among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called Home?”

The old man answered bluntly that he had no wish about it. When pressed for something more definite, he added, “I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Savior as faithfully as I can, until He thinks it’s time to call me Home.” Whitefield accepted that word as a gentle rebuke from the Lord, and it helped him go on with his work calmly and patiently.  – Our Daily Bread.

For my older, wiser readers, don’t give up being a blessing to the kingdom.  The church needs you.  The mission of God needs you.  Young believers need you.  Finish the race marked out for you.

How Will You Finish Your Race?

In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this, officials had to go out and place flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”

That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.

In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey.  The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out.  Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God who knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”

Each race is unique.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the life of faith.  The Christian life at times seems unfair.  There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?”  You want to feel sorry for yourself.  It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere.  What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race?   For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.

When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal.  Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok, just quit.” Have you ever felt that way?  I know I have.  When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.

But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.”  I am writing this to encourage each of us regardless of age, stage, or situation to run your race.  Persevere because God ain’t done with you yet!

Devotional Message

The 500th Anniversary of Reformation: It’s All About Grace!

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Today, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was a world-shattering movement that began with Dr. Martin Luther and his 1517 work The Ninety-Five Theses.

Here is the reformation summarized by former Synod President Gerald Kieschnick.

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
    • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
    • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
    • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
    • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
    • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
    • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
    • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
    • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
    • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
    • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for a debate on topics of faith and church practice.
    • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
    • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
    • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot, and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
    • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

Luther began by criticizing the selling of indulgences. That transaction on the surface sounds like an excellent idea for the sinner. You get to buy forgiveness for an act you are going to commit or have committed. Luther was also insisting that the Pope had no authority over purgatory, which I would describe as a spiritual waiting room. The Catholic Catechism teaches that in purgatory one “undergoes purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven”[1]

The Catholic doctrine of the merits of the saints was another major sticking point as it had no foundation in the gospel. The Protestant position, yet, would come to incorporate other critical doctrinal changes such as sola scriptura (scripture alone). Scripture alone is the belief that God’s word as contained in the Bible has supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. Every other writing is secondary.

And Sola Fide (faith alone). Faith alone is the key to the foundation of our Christian faith. We believe and confess that God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted and received through faith alone, and not based on good works.

The movement started by this monk is still a vital change today. God continues to bring new people to faith and transform the lives of His followers.  Today I want to cover two major points with you. God used this colossal shift in Luther’s understanding of how God operates to transform Luther and thus transform God’s Church.

The Weight of God vs. the Grace of God.

You can hear in Luther’s words just how deeply Luther felt the weight of God. How deeply he was tormented by his sins, and how that sin weighs on the heart of the sinner.

“Though I lived as a religious leader without reproach, I felt, with the most disturbed conscience imaginable, that I was a sinner before God. I did not love. Indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.” Dr. Martin Luther

The quote points to just how deeply Luther felt conflicted with God. How Luther was keenly aware of his sinfulness and the impact of God’s judgment on him for his sins. According to the Roman Catholic Church, Christians had to earn the merits of Jesus’ forgiveness. Nothing was free. Christ’s death for them was only a starting point; there was much more the sinner needed to do to achieve salvation. That need to earn forgiveness that idea that Christ is not enough left many good faithful Christians feeling the weight of being inadequate.

You can hear Paul’s frustration with the Galatians who were so readily abandoning the biblical foundation of grace. The Galatians like Luther was falling prey to the trap of looking to be saved based on their good deeds.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” Gal 3:1-4

When we approach the throne of God with only our good works to offer as a sacrifice, we quickly realize just how inadequate that appears before a perfect God. To offer our pitiful gifts to the God who created the Universe seems quite small. So, Christians were never confident they ever could work off all their sins.

Deep down the human heart knows that we are born in sin and have no legitimate way to earn the forgiveness of those sins. The frustration that humanity has when attempting to obtain favor with God through works is the feeling of being mistreated. Unfair treatment angers a lot of people, especially people like Luther who desperately want to play by the rules.

The Roman Catholic teaching struck a much more profound chord in Luther. It is part of human nature to long for the attention and praise of our fathers. This same desire extends to our Heavenly Father as well. According to the Church, Luther could never be sure he would receive that acceptance and love of the Heavenly Father.

The Grace of God.

The weight of God leads Luther to discover the grace of God. When Luther was hopeless, God opened the Scriptures to show him he was saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Luther came to understand, Jesus restored him to a right relationship with God. In this connection, Luther was unconditionally accepted by the Father. And the beauty of the message of Jesus is so are we.

Hear Paul’s words to the Ephesians,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.[1] Eph 2:4-9

Here is a moving illustration to explain God’s grace. An old Indian, after living many years in sin, was led to Christ by a missionary. Friends asked him to explain the change in his life. Reaching down, he picked up a little worm and placed it on a pile of leaves. Then, touching a match to the leaves, he watched them smolder and burst into flames. As the flames worked their way up to the center where the worm lay, the old chief suddenly plunged his hand into the center of the burning pile and snatched out the worm. Holding the worm gently in his hand, he gave this testimony to the grace of God: “Me. . . that worm.”[2]

Forgiveness should be a straightforward concept, but it wages war against all mortal reason.  Why would anyone give us anything for free?  Something we didn’t earn, or buy or barter?  God offers us forgiveness before we ask for it.  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he lays out this grand image of the nature of God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…”  Ephesians 2:4-6

God has an everlasting desire to keep us with Him for all eternity. The Almighty, knowing our weakness created a plan to rescue us from sin that was entirely independent of any efforts on our part.  Thank God, we are not saved by the good things we do and fall from grace by the bad things we do.  If that was the merit system, we were working under we would all be lost. God’s grace means salvation is completely apart from any virtue we may think we have garnered. Grace says that Jesus did it all for our sakes! Our salvation is a free gift of God.

So, if the Father of Lies, Satan, is trying to convince you that you are not worthy of God’s love, well you are not, and neither am I.  But we are worthy of God’s grace, not because of what we may do but because of what Jesus DID for us on the cross.  Jesus gave up His life so that God “…might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7

God loves us so genuinely that He sent His son Jesus Christ to reach into the fires of hell and pull us out. He values our relationship so much that God will not be satisfied with a surface connection. God desires to draw all people to himself for eternity. God sent Jesus to bring back all the lost sheep into the Fathers sheepfold.  People matter to God. You matter to God!

If you are feeling lost or are experiencing a sense of confusion and “disconnectedness” in life, Jesus the Good Shepherd is seeking you. Jesus will not stop searching and with relentless grace won’t end until He finds you.

If your spirits are down, if you are feeling a sense of hopelessness, or if you are searching for joy, the God of comfort and life wants to connect with you. You can stop running away from Him and instead return to Him. He is waiting there for you with open and forgiving arms. Move into the waiting arms of your Savior the Good Shepherd. It is there that you will find the desires of your heart.

All people matter to God. All people are equally important to God. We have not only been found, but we are also redeemed. We are loved!

If you, like Luther, are feeling the full weight of God in your life, know that Jesus took that pressure to Calvary’s cross on your behalf. If you still think that something in your past is too big even for Jesus to forgive, know that nothing is too big that the blood of Jesus will not cover.

Here is an interesting Reformation you may not know about Luther’s dream church and it’s not European.  Read the link below:

http://religionnews.com/2017/10/28/martin-luthers-dream-church-it-wasnt-in-europe/

 

Congregational Life and Ministry, Parenting, Sunday School

Is A Family-Equipping Model Right For Your Church?

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What is the one thing the church can never have too much of?  Answer.  Young families!

How do you go about making this wish a reality?  Well, probably not by using the approach below:

It started with Rent-A-Wife, a small Petaluma, California, company created by Karen Donovan to help clients decorate their homes, balance checkbooks, run errands, etc. Donovan, who launched her business through a small ad in the local newspaper, is already thinking big after four months of operation. She wants to hire her father to initiate Rent-A-Husband and her two teens to start Rent-A-Family. “We can do what any family does,” the newfangled entrepreneur joked. “We can come over and eat all the food, turn on all the lights, put handprints on the walls, take showers and leave the towels on the floor. When clients are finished with Rent-A-Family, they’ll have to call Rent-A-Wife. – Campus Life, October 1980.

 Family-Equipping Ministry Model

A Family-Equipping church begins with the mindset that we will intentionally equip parents to be the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.  The idea of having parents take responsibility for the instruction and discipleship of their own family is not some new-fangled concept but a time-honored tradition.  Martin Luther in writing the Small Catechism in his introduction said, “The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! Many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent of teaching [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it].”

The Origins of this Model

 Timothy Paul Jones coined the term family-equipping ministry to describe the family ministry paradigm that he and Randy Stinson developed for the School of Church Ministries at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Soon afterward, Randy Stinson located and brought together an informal coalition of ministers who were doing in practice precisely what he and Jones had sketched out in theory. Leading early practitioners of the family-equipping model included Jay Strother at Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee, Brian Haynes at Kingsland Baptist Church in Texas, and Steve Wright at Providence Baptist Church in North Carolina [1]

In many ways, the family-equipping model represents a middle route between the family-integrated and family-based models. [2]Semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact in family-equipping contexts. Many family-equipping churches even retain youth ministers and children’s ministers. Yet every practice at every level of ministry is reworked to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. Because parents are primary disciple-makers and vital partners in family-equipping ministry, every activity for children or youth must resource, train, or directly involve parents. [3]

Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational activities within existing segmented-programmatic structures and add family activities to current calendars, family-equipping churches redevelop the congregation’s structure to cultivate a renewed culture wherein parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as the primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives. As in family-integrated churches, children whose parents are unbelievers are connected with mature believers in the types of relationships that Paul described in his letter to Titus (Titus 2:1-8). Every level of the congregation’s life is consciously recultured to “co-champion” the church’s ministry and the parent’s responsibility.[4]

 

In a future post, I will lay out the benefits of this model in supporting families while also strengthening the spiritual formation of our young people. Below are some of the benefits I will explore in depth.

Steve Wright, who’s making the transition to church planting missionary in South Florida but who for years served as a family minister at Providence Baptist in Raleigh NC notes:

  • Family-equipping ministry seeks to make Christ above all else beautiful and declares an uncompromising Gospel to those who do not know Christ (Galatians 1:6-9).
  • Family-equipping ministry is measured by lasting disciples rather than attendance campaigns and focuses on the glory of our matchless Savior (John 15:1-15).
  • Family-equipping ministry truly partners with parents and prioritizes the task of resourcing, training, and involving parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
  • Family-equipping ministry prioritizes and champions equally the two institutions that are God-given: the Family and the Church (Acts 2:42-47).
  • Family-equipping ministry seeks men who are biblically qualified pastors rather than charming activity directors (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
  • Family-equipping ministry develops a ministry environment that is healthy for a student pastor and his family; an environment where pastors will desire to stay long past today’s destructive, brief tenures (Matthew 10:10).
  • Family-equipping ministry seeks to mentor students for adulthood, marriage, and family rather than seeking to develop lifelong youth group attendees (1 Corinthians 13:11).
  • Family-equipping ministry invites, teaches, and expects older generations to invest in those younger in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2).

[1] For the model as practiced by these ministers, see Jay Strother, “Family-Equipping Ministry: Co-champions with a Single Goal,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville: B&H, 2009); Brian Haynes, Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2009); Steve Wright with Chris Graves, reThink: Is Student Ministry Working? (Raleigh: InQuest, 2007).

[2]Much that is found in Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2009) fits in the overlap between the family-based and family-equipping paradigms, at least from an organizational and programmatic perspective; many of the associated publications may be helpful in resourcing the development of family-based and family-equipping ministries. The content and approach of materials from The reThink Group seem in many cases to be driven more by ecclesial pragmatism than by substantive theological or biblical considerations.

[3] (3) For the “resource, train, involve” principle as well as the term “co-champion,” see Steve Wright with Chris Graves, reThink: Is Student Ministry Working? (Raleigh: InQuest, 2007).

[4] http://www.sbts.edu/family/2011/10/14/the-family-equipping-model-for-family-ministry-transforming-age-organized-ministries-to-co-champion-the-family-and-the-community-of-faith/

Other blogs on Sunday School:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/07/18/four-modern-sunday-school-strategies/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/08/15/how-do-you-implement-the-family-sensitive-model/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/07/13/have-sunday-schools-lost-their-missional-focus/

 

 

 

 

Blog Promotion Events

Kingdom Impact For the Week

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The Week Ahead:

On Tuesday, October 31st we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

It was a world-shattering movement that began, with Dr. Martin Luther and his 1517 work The Ninety-Five Theses. Luther started by criticizing the selling of indulgences. That transaction on the surface sounds like an excellent idea for the sinner. You get to buy forgiveness for an act you are going to commit or have committed. Luther was also insisting that the Pope had no authority over purgatory, which I would describe as a spiritual waiting room. The Catholic Catechism defines purgatory one “undergoes purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

 

Monday: A very insightful TED Talk on what are the factors that determine whether we show compassion or not.  The information will surprise you.

Tuesday:  Churches today are looking for ways to revamp their old Sunday School models to better reach children and families. This post is designed to give you a new model to consider.  I will over the next three weeks give you the benefits of this for equipping parents to be the spiritual leaders in their families.

Wednesday: A devotional message on the impact the Reformation had on the church Thursday: Will be a post geared toward older adults.  You are so valuable to the church we need you to finish the race strong.  This is based on Hebrews 12. “God ain’t done with you yet!”

The Week in Review on Revheadpin.org.

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/2017/10/23/ted-talk-how-to-overcome-our-biases

This is an exciting TED talk on how our biases can impact how we think, behave and treat others.  Those same preferences, if we are not careful, can be dangerous.

Tuesday: https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/24/millennials-want-a-mentoring-and-discipling-church

The series on reaching this elusive Millennial generation continued.  This post while not intending to seemed to create quite a bit of controversy. I am not sure why we struggle to understand that each generation receives God’s word differently.  That does not mean we alter God’s word, but we need to adapt the way we communicate that world.  Paul did that in Athens in Acts 17.

Wednesday: https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/25/this-love-story-is-better-than-any-on-the-hallmark-channel

 

On Wednesday we took a deep dive into a well-known verse John 3:16. Looking at the Gospel in a nutshell verse as a love story between God and humanity.  The title, “This Love Story is Better Than Any one on the Hallmark Channel.”

Thursday: https://revheadpin.org/2017/10/26/do-you-need-an-equipper-in-your-life-2

Each of us has been uniquely created by God.  We have been wired with spiritual gifts to be used to expand the Kingdom and mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I wanted to share with my readers how God has wired me.

Every week I meet someone who has been touched by what God has placed on my heart to write.  It is such a humbling experience.  Thank you all for being a source of encouragement to me.  I pray this blog a source of encouragement to you.  I pray it inspires you and moves you to desire a deeper relationship with a God and Savior Jesus Christ who both love you with an everlasting love.

 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?

 

Congregational Life and Ministry

Do You Need an Equipper In Your Life?

The Light Breaks Through

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The church is not a gallery where we exhibit the finest of Christians. No, it is a school where we educate and encourage imperfect Christians. Source Unknown

A few months ago, at a ministry conference, I was challenged to define my personal core values.  I struggled with that for several hours.  At first, I came up with, “I am fearfully made and sent out.”  That sounded good but seemed to miss the mark.  Upon further reflection, I settled on three critical foundational words, “Equip, Encourage and Empower.”  So, I thought I would share with you what those three words mean to me and how they play out in my life.  My prayer is that this may inspire you to summarize who you are and how you have been called to live out your calling as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible backdrop for this discussion will be…

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