Sunday, March 13, 2011

Timely Opportunity

As I watch the devastation of Japan with the earthquakes, the tsunami, the unbelievable speed at which normal life was destroyed in a matter of minutes for hundreds of thousands of people I reflect on the incredible life God has given us and how fragile our lives and world really are. In an instant life can be over. In an instant life as we know it can be changed for ever. Truly, the only constant in our lives is God, the Alpha and the Omega. The only source of hope is the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us in times of dramatic challenge such as these. We have the power to manifest the love of God through our response to others who are going through crisis. Those of us who are blessed with more than we could possibly ever need have a responsibiity to give to those who are suffering. And there is always suffering in our very backyards. Every time we support those in need out of our gratitude to God we are drawn closer to Christ. And when we turn away from the opportunity to care by not reaching out with our time, talent or treasure, we distance ourselves from Christ.

Those of us in positions of leadership have the responsibility to guide others toward opportunities to give. God calls us to help others understand how imporant giving is to personal transformation. We should step out fearlessly in this regard. People will be changed when they engage in the sorrow and need of others. As leaders we need to model giving beyond what might be expected by those we lead. This is a time of extraordinary opportunity. How will you draw others toward giving to others in need?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting off the Wheel

I have a unique perspective. Serving on a diocesan staff I am invited into alot of congregations to consult, do a bit of work, celebrate, and challenge. This is a privilege that I do not take for granted. It is also an opportunity to observe. And alot of what I am observing is a total consumption into busyness. All the activities of a church seem important when they fit nicely into their liturgical calendar correctness and congregational expectations of predictable activities. But they are a bit like a hamster's wheel. You know, the kind that are in their cages in order to provide a tool to keep them physically active and distracted. Please don't hear that I think all of a congregation's activity isn't important or necessary. It is just obvious to me that they are very distracting and time consuming. Racing around on a wheel keeps us internally focused and unable to get off very easily. They consume our energy to the point that we get exhausted and have to step off occasionally just to catch our breath. That leaves us unable to step back and really spend time and energy evaluating the effectiveness of our activity or putting energy into creative endeavors that truly take us out of our comfort zone.

Evangelism can take that kind of energy. One of our congregations in the Diocese of Texas recently decided to take its church into homes on a Sunday morning. It had an objective of getting into neighborhoods, into parishioners' homes which would be a comfortable place to invite 'guests' who were unchurched for fellowship, a brief worship experience, food and fun. They met in 12 venues across a broad geographic area. Almost 100 'guests' attended with many demonstrating a desire to know more about the church. I spoke to the rector and he said this event has changed his church. The benefits were many, not to mention introducing their congregation to many new people. It truly was an evangelical event that took the church into the community in a creative way and made an impact far beyond the metrics.

This sort of activity took months of planning and a willing spirit, believing that risking to do such a thing on a Sunday morning with most of the parishioners was a risky endeavor. But isn't having faith and being willing to do the extraordinary for God risky? Indeed it is. This sort of activity meant falling off the hamster cage wheel of predictability and diverting that energy into an opportunity that would enrich the life and mission of a congregation in extraordinary ways.

When was the last time your congregation took a major risk for God? What is stopping you from getting off the wheel?