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Measuring a Church’s (and Its Pastor’s) Effectiveness

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

41 Many more Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they heard him say. 42 They told the woman, “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!” John 4:41–42 (CEV) — 

1. Liturgy is for all. It must be “catholic”, i.e., communicable to all the faithful without distinction of place, origin and education. Thus it must be “simple”. But that is not the same as being cheap. There is a banal simplism, and there is the simplicity which is the expression of maturity. It is this second, true simplicity which applies in the Church

I often hear church leaders talking about how effective a church is, and I hear some trying to measure churches to determine whether this church is viable, whether it is still worth the “investment” of talent and treasure made in it over the years.

A lot of these studies are based on numerical analysis – has the church grown, have their offerings been stable, what kind of turnover has occurred among staff and other leadership. Consultants will come in and do surveys for larger churches and denominations.  They, in turn, pass this information on to smaller churches, which but into the theories and lose morale, and eventually close. (That larger churches often benefit statistically from this is another story)

After all, numbers are important, and statistics tell a story that might be hard to refute without knowing the true story of the faithful. In fact, we often do not hear the stories, because the statistics seem so conclusive.

No one would have believed that a church community would have been viable in a remote Samaritan Village. Never mind that the person that got the ball rolling would have been a woman with a past. No one except Jesus.

But look at the statement they make to her!  They had moved from believing in God because she had told them, to believe in God because they had experienced Him. What an amazing statement this is!  One that every pastor should desire to hear! To know our people are experiencing the incredible, immeasurable love of Christ  – not just hearing about it second hand!

I am not saying they go past needing the guidance of spiritual shepherds and prophets, that is part of our role, but they resonate with the teachings of Christ – they realize that God is speaking to them, especially during sacramental times, or when God is silent. Or they recognize that it is the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin, and comforting them as the Spirit cleanses and heals them.

This level of maturity makes a huge difference in a church. And it will see the church do things that go beyond logic, as they serve those around them. People will care, (and struggle when care is difficult) they will give beyond what is reasonable, they will be there when no one else would.

So how does a pastor do this?  I think Pope Benedict wrote about it well. To present the gospel in a simple yet mature way. To not cheapen the masses, worship services, and Bible Studies that we give. Rather  – we need to make them communicate the incredible love that God has for His people – so that they know it – so that they experience it, so that worship is full of the joy that comes, even in the midst of trauma and lament.

The more they know, the more they experience, the more mature they get, the more they can echo what the lady was told  – “we are certain that He is the Savior of the World.

Therefore… out savior.

If our people know this, then we’ve done our job… and the work of the Holy Spirit through us has been effective.

Let us rejoice when we see God working hits way through our churches.  And may e find a way to support it, whether it is 25 people working together in Southgate or 150 in Cerritos, or 5000 in some other place.

AMEN!

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 122.

God, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14 The LORD says, “The time is coming when people will no longer swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. 15 Instead, they will swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of a northern land and out of all the other countries where I had scattered them. I will bring them back to their own country, to the land that I gave their ancestors. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jer. 16:14-15 GNT

Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. Col. 4:2 GNT

How would our magnificent castles, houses, silk, satin, purple, golden jewelry, precious stones, all our pomp and glitter and show help us if we had to do without air for the length of one Lord’s Prayer?
These are the greatest gifts from God and also the ones that we deride most, and, because they are so common, we do not give thanks for them. We take them and use them each day so thoughtlessly, as if it had to be so and we were entitled to them; thus, we do not need to thank God for them even once. In the meantime, we tear off and care only to worry, quarrel, wrangle, strive, and storm after unnecessary money and goods, honor and luxury—in short, after something that cannot hold a candle to the blessings mentioned above. Worse, it hinders our joyful and serene use of the common gifts, such that we do not recognize them as such, nor do we thank God for them. Behind all of this is the devil, who does not want us to use and acknowledge all of God’s gifts to us and thus be happy.

When Luther explains the passage from the Lord’s Prayer about “give us our daily bread” he gets passionately pragmatic! We see that in the words above as he talks about our concerns that things that cannot hold a candle to the real gifts God has given us.

And yet, we let those things rob us of our peace, of our serenity, and our ability to use those things that God has given us!

I think it starts before that though.

In the passage of Jeremiah, he notes that there will be a point where Israel now longer looks back to God’s deliverance in the past, but rather, looks at their deliverance, the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. God’s presence, God’s work is no longer something He did for someone else, in a far distant time. It is something that presently affects them, that proves He is not some distant God, but a God who will allow us to be disciplined, and yet, restore us.

It is one thing to appreciate what God has done in the past, to those whose steps we walk in. We should appreciate these things and learn from them, for they reveal to us the character of God. It is another thing to realize He is here now. Delivering us from the bondage of sin, delivering us from guilt and shame, healing u of the brokenness that is all to common now, just as it was during the captivity. He is here! Providing for us all the things we need! Yes, life and daily food, Oxygen and gravity, To thank Him for giving us a new life, and walking with us through it, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

For all this, it is a simple thing to stand back in awe, and to Thank God.

We need to thank Him and that includes knowing we can ask Him to help us when we don’t understand, trusting Him to ensure all things work for good, for those called according to His purposes. Giving thanks for what He has and will do for us, now and until the day we join before His throne, there for eternity.

Lord, help us, when we are struggling, to remember and be thankful for the thousands of thing You have given and done for us, from the air we breathe to the food and drink, houses and homes, even the jobs that can stress us out. Lord, help us be most thank for your deliverance of us from our enemy, sin. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 206.

God did it again! Grrrrrr! Can He frustrate me!

Devotional Thought of the day

23 Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.   Proverbs 4:23 GNT

Be open to the night…
Pray with open hand, not with clenched fist…
Shapes loom out of the darkness, uncertain and unclear: but the hooded stranger on horseback emerging from the mist need not be assumed to be the bearer of ill…
The night is large and full of wonders…

Lord Dunsany from Morning Prayer: 12/15 Northumbriacommunity.org

For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important beings to him; even if we are sinners we are the closest to his heart.

Again I find myself sitting in my office, upset at another injustice I see.

Something that seems dark and ominous, something that I’ve got to watch someone deal with, something that just isn’t right, or in my humble opinion, Godly.

I want to react, some might accuse me of wanting to overreact.  I want to step in and make things right, to bring light to the darkness, to bring healing where there was only division and repression…. and brokenness.

Even as I go to pray about it, I want to vent my anger to God and pray that He gets angry as well, angry enough to leave His throne and come done and do something about it.  As I tried to pray, I found my anger too strong, and I tried to ask God to bless all involved. and then I moved onto my readings for the day… 

You see some of these readings above…. and I my anger shifts a little, changes a little as I realize that God did it too me again.  He frustrated my anger, my agenda, my coming to Him with clench hands by pointing these readings right at my weakness, at my brokenness, at my lack of trusting, in Him. 

I need to guard these thoughts of mine, I need to be careful of how I think, of how I respond, of how I resent injustice. I need to realize that God could work through this dark time for my friend (actually friends – I am dealing with at least three such situations.. just one more appeared this mornign) and I need ot pray that God determines how this situation should go. 

And I need to realize the people involved in causing the injustice, they too are just mindless numbers, that they too are people that God cares about, even as they are broken sinners as much as I am. I need to pray for them, not just that their hearts are convicted, but that they know God would bless them, and work in their lives.

Of course, I don’t appreciate God pointing this out, arranging these readings in such a strong and powerful way.  It’s more than a little frustrating, not to mention I feel like he’s spying on me and playing with me a little.

Then again, I am incredibly grateful that He loves me that much, that He calls me on my anger when giving into it and when I forget His goal of revealing His mercy and love.  I am grateful He makes me wrestle with Him, and He allows me to see the Holy Spirit at work.  I am grateful He shares with us His love…and mercy…and enables us to (eventually) reach out in real prayer for those who antagonize and hurt us.

This is God…who knows and cares about us.

and I am thankful for His work in our lives.   AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Decision Christians Need to Make!

Thought of the Day:

As I peruse my fb page, and I see the “soundbites” that proliferate it, many include a call to make a choice.

Some call to make a political choice.

Some call us to make a purchase – making a choice to spend money so that our life will be perfect.  ( I tend to block MLM posts quickly)

Many call us to make a moral choice, or urge others to make a choice, or even to force them to make a choice.

These are choices that fellow believers would have us make – stating how critical they are.  These choices are not critical! For a believer, for one in a relationship with God, there is only  one decision.

All three readings today talk of it – and why we make the one we do:

Joshua said this “choose this day whom you will serve,”

Are you going to choose to walk with God, or will you continue to follow some other god, made in an image you find palatable.  Remember – he is talking to people who have seen God at work, who know His love.  He’s not speaking to unbelievers, those unfamiliar with His love and power.  Yet we, like those who heard these words, struggle with listening to God, to following His call, to giving up all the things that burden and distract and enslave us.  Until we realize what the apostles did, when they too were faced with the decision.  Here is that account.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

You’ve come to know He is God, that His words bring life….that’s what you need to know, as a believer, how to live.

Choose wisely…and know His love and mercy never will fail you.

 

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