Saturday, April 24, 2010

Words from Reggie McNeal

I just got back from the Purposeful and Missional Presbyterians conference in Satellite Beach, FL. On Wednesday, Reggie McNeal spoke. He was not only insightful about the church's need to move from inward to outward, church to kingdom and program to people focus, but he was also entertaining to hear.

Here is a summary of my tweets from Reggie.
  • One of the keys to the leadership of a movement is you go first. Your church will never go missional until you do.
  • Its better to eat Twinkies with a friend than broccoli by yourself. It's all about relationships.
  • The third shift needed to be missional is the move from church-centric to kingdom focus.
  • Our people who go on mission trips ought to be coached on how to turn life into a mission trip.
  • Reggie McNeal is hilarious. If you get a chance to hear him speak, go! Insightful, faithful and hilarious.
  • One person created a Friday night "Wine study and Bible tasting." They are not coming to your church! Get them into your home.
  • The goal of program churches is participation, not spiritual formation. Being busy in the church works against formation.
  • The second shift churches must make to be missional - move from program-driven to people development culture.
  • God loves to show up and show off. God is a glory hog. If you don't know that you don't know God
  • Reggie McNeal's prayer before our meal: "Dear Lord, thank you for the cows and chickens who gave it up for us. Amen."
  • If you put it up for a vote, your church will never vote to be missional. They will vote to go back to Egypt.
  • Key question to ask: "How can I be a blessing to you?" Our job is to bless others.
  • The local church is not the hope of the world, Jesus is. Offer people Jesus, not church.
  • Three movements to get toward missional church. First, make the move from being internally focused to externally focused.
  • The Spirit has jumped out of the Church and is running wild in the world again.
  • Church in New Testament is not a destination; it is the people of God. We have got to get that right.
  • "Missional Church" is "the people of God partnering with Him in His redemptive mission in the world."
  • My hope is to see Pentecost in the Church in America in my lifetime
  • With all of the benefits we have as American churches, we are losing. We are losing.
  • One out of five goes to church today. That's 22% per week of American population.
  • There's a Pentecost going on every hour somewhere in the world.
  • China is double India's growth in conversions.
  • 80 million new believers in India. Christianity is fastest growing religion.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Time to Write

A note sent to the congregation recently. It's time to write...

Grace and peace to you.

You may know that I have been working on my doctor of ministry degree for years. Four of those years were coursework and two were working on my dissertation, the final project. You may recall that I spent some time working on the dissertation last spring. That effort helped get my dissertation moving. However, I officially reached the end of my time allotted to get the degree in December 2009. If you know anything at all about last year for me personally and as your pastor, you know that I was working on many projects that demanded my attention. Attention to my dissertation suffered and I did not complete it by December.

I filed for a deadline extension and got the classic good news and bad news as a result. The good news was that I got the extension for one year. The other good news was I finally got an official response on the work already submitted—preface, introduction and first two chapters of the seven in the project. The exact response was, Your content reader, Dr. Kurt Fredrickson, has approved your [preface,] introduction and first chapter. He thought it was well written, and only requires one minor change… He didn’t read the second chapter, but it was all I needed to be inspired. It is game on!

However, the extension was not one year from the date of extension approval. It was one year from my original December 2009 deadline. The reason it is bad news is that when you back out the one month needed to bind the final dissertation, four months needed for revisions, it means that my first full draft is due this July 15. Factor in one retreat, one conference at which I am scheduled to speak, a condo booked months ago for vacation in June and a trip to General Assembly as a commissioner from this Presbytery and it leaves about 10 weeks to finish my work. I have half of chapter three, almost all of chapter four written and chapter five looks straightforward. But still, it is a pressure cooker.

Here’s the thing: it’s now or never. If I don’t do it now, I must start over. If I hunker down and get it done now, I’m done.

I tell you all of that to tell you this: I want to get it done now. But in order to do this, I have to make some serious changes for the next few months.
• Ministry leadership. I have asked the directors to include me only on essential conversations or decisions and carry the rest of the load themselves in these weeks ahead. If I know about it, I’m committed to it and want to be a part. If I’m ignorant of it, I will let it go. If I am to finish my dissertation, I have to let it go.
• Pastoral care. I will be working with others to help here. I will, of course, be there in crisis circumstances. This dissertation will never be above my loved ones, including my spiritual family. This is more of a challenge with Pastor Norm’s retirement. Even Pastor Laurent can’t help. He has returned to Madagascar until July (pray for him and help take care of Diamondra).
• Family life. I will be making dissertation writing base camp at my home. I have taken over Christina’s bedroom as a writing space. She is away at college. Lauren is away in Ohio. Madison and Cile have promised to help in this big push. In fact, I’ve challenged Madison that I’ll finish this if she’ll finish her German. I think we’ll make it a competition somehow.
• Limiting other activities. This is the hard part. I’m going to try to clear as many things I’m involved in away for these weeks ahead.

The bottom line is that I am going to be around, I’m going to be in the pulpit, I’m going to be there in crisis care, but as for everything else I will be scarce. I understand how one PhD candidate once told me in his final push, “My dissertation is all I’m thinking about. I’ve thrown out all unnecessary information. I don’t even know my own name right now. It’s not essential.”

Here’s what I will ask of you.
• Pray for me. Pray that I have clarity of thought and my mind focuses and the words flow well. Pray that what I write helps further Christ’s causes for the Church. Pray specifically that I get done. Pray for my family and for this church.
• Protect my time. If you want me to be part of an event, please ask me later. Let me have these weeks. It’s going to be close.
• Understand my immersion into this project. If I look dazed or out of it, I’m probably thinking of the next chapter. If I look lost, just point me in the right direction.
• Read my stuff. Attached is my preface and introduction. I’ll attach sections as I go. I hope you will journey with me that way.

Here’s what I will do for you.
• Keep my covenantal promises. I will pray for you, stay close to Jesus, not forget my purpose in life, stay in the Word, conduct myself beyond reproach, take care of my family and self.
• Keep you informed. I spoke with Ron Marston this morning about this. He suggested I sent out missives like I do on mission trips. I don’t know if that will be the format. But it would do me well to have you join me like that on this journey ahead. Keeping you informed helps motivate, inspire and hold me accountable in a way. Good stuff!
• Remind you God has me here. I was surprised to hear the chatter that I was leaving after my project work last summer. I, of course, wanted to know if this made the persons happy or sad! I still feel that God is asking me to serve here in these prime years of my ministry. If God says for me to leave right now, I would do it. But I am not feeling that. “Build my church” God has said to me about St. Andrews.
• Love well. I love being your pastor because I flat out love you. I don’t think I say that enough to you. And I love loving Jesus with you. Nothing better than that.

God willing, sometime this year I will be saying to you, “I’m done.” We’ll celebrate then. But for now, it’s time to hunker down.

In Christ,
Pastor John