Harvest Time Again

Harvest Time Again

Years ago I wrote an article on harvesting plums, and today I find myself drawn once more to the analogies that same old tree of mine continues to offer. It’s harvest time again in the world of plums, and I’m most thankful for a tree that has been so very generous to share its bounty with me.

This season seemed to bring an acceleration of growth and copious amounts of fruit, way before I was ready and prepared for any jam making. Then true to form for Scottish weather, it suddenly changed in an instant, as a strong wind rose one night while we slept. The branches of the tree were given a right good shaking, and in the morning the grass was carpeted with fruit. What a waste. I rescued what I could but the birds and insects were up long before me and started harvesting for themselves. Thankfully the tree continues to flourish, and the branches are weighed down with even more glorious pink plums.

Before God, my heart has been breaking with the spiritual connotations. The harvest is all around us. There is a lost world literally dying to hear the good news of Jesus. There is no putting off for a more opportune time. The harvest is here.

As I’ve been pondering these things, I wonder, what is our personal and collective responsibility? That may feel like a weighty question when perhaps we ourselves are struggling with different burdens. However, when we change perspective to see through the eyes and words of Jesus, we remember the foundational reality that we were never meant to go to heaven alone. So many people are looking for hope, for faith, for unconditional love, and ultimately for Jesus. And we can all be sign posts. ‘Weighty’ can suddenly become an ‘exciting opportunity’! Especially as we don’t rely on our own strength or feelings, but utterly lean on the strength, courage, wisdom, and grace of God.

As God’s people may we get a fresh kingdom perspective of the times that we are in. A kingdom perspective to walk in faith and not fear. A kingdom perspective to practise wisdom in pandemic protocols, whilst still using our little areas of influence to share the love of Jesus with our families, friends, and communities.

The seasons don’t change. They will roll on in the order of creation regardless of other factors. Storms and predators are ever ready to sabotage harvest, even as we still ponder our response. This may be the simplest of stories today, but let’s pray the words of Jesus for ourselves and for others, and by faith, be prepared to be utterly amazed as He answers!

Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4v35)

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9v38)

Donna MacNeil

SHELTERING IN GOD

SHELTERING IN GOD

Lots of people are trying to make sense of the days we’re living in. For some this is a reset for life; for others it’s a wilderness and desert season that we’re just trying to survive through; still for others it’s a time of preparation for greater days to come. Whatever others or your or my thoughts, I think this is a season where we simply need to allow God to be God. That we acknowledge we’re really not sure about the days we’re living in, but we’re sure about the God whom we worship. That we need to look to Him, trust in Him, listen for His voice, and follow Him.

This is what David Jeremiah encourages us to do in the YouTube clip below. David Jeremiah has been the pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church since 1981. In 1982, Jeremiah founded Turning Point Ministries which focuses on multi-media Bible instruction. Turning Point can  be heard worldwide on more than 2000 stations, as well as online. Turning Point Ministries also developed a national television program in 2000. The programme features a 30-minute Bible study followed by an hour of preaching and worship music. Turning Point Television can reach a total of 2.7 billion households worldwide.

In 1994 and again in 1998, Jeremiah was diagnosed with lymphoma. During that season and since he’s learnt more and more what it means to ‘Shelter In God!’ May you take comfort and encouragement from his wisdom and his words today.

 

Preparing To Lead The Post Covid Church

Preparing To Lead The Post Covid Church

How will we lead in the post-COVID era? Is it possible that we are all becoming church planters with buildings? Perhaps that’s exaggerated, but not by much. If you adopt a church planter’s mental, emotional, and spiritual disposition, it’s an exciting time to lead right now.

Church planters: Live in the realm of the unknown; Have no guarantees;

Are not sure how many people they will have when the dust settles;  Have a clear and passionate vision; Possess unbounding faith and hope;

Hmmm… sounds a lot like most of us.

Yes, we have buildings, some resources, and a number of people.

However, most church leaders admit they don’t really know how many people are still part of the congregation, their buildings are not full, and many of their best leaders are not ready to come back. In this post, I want to talk about leadership in this transition period and in the post-coronavirus era to come.

Perhaps the term church planter is not accurate. Something like a “new start” or a “second launch” might be better. The term doesn’t matter near as much as how you think about your church and how you lead into the future. Understanding the season we are in and focusing on who we become as leaders will be far more important than our specific church leadership methodology.

(There have always been lots of ways to build a healthy church.)

5 Helpful Thoughts on leading in transition and preparing for the future:

1) We can no longer lean on the past to help us navigate the future.

We are taught the principle that we must learn from the past so as not to repeat our mistakes in the future. That is still true. However, the playing field is not the same, and while we may learn from the recent past, it is no longer the same guide it once was. No leader has ever been able to fully predict the future, but there were a number of predictable factors, or at least had a relative degree of predictability. That has now changed.

For example, attendance patterns had a certain predictability, and that is no longer true. Not for a while, at least. The availability and dependability of your volunteer leaders had a degree of predictability, that is also no longer the case, and understandably so. COVID has disrupted people’s lives to a staggering degree.

This means we are in a hyper-learning curve, which requires us to learn in the moment rather than counting on the past. It’s a different kind of learning and requires faster adaptation and change.

2) This season of transition is critical in setting trajectory.

Let me state the obvious. We are not yet in the post-COVID era.

Since the past is gone and the new is not yet here, that means we are in a transition season. In this transition from pre-COVID to post-COVID:

We are anticipating, discerning, and sometimes guessing. We are learning, changing, and moving rapidly. We are preparing, adapting, and praying… lots of praying. If you try to lock in right now, (in this season of transition,) to what your church will eventually be and how you will lead in the post-COVID era, you will become frustrated now and perhaps discouraged then. We lead differently in transition than we lead when we understand the cultural landscape. Transition is about letting go (of the past), adapting in the moment, and preparing to build again in the future. Trying to hold on to what was or build the new right now will likely be very frustrating. That does not mean we are all stuck; it means we are leading through transition. The two are very different.

We are making progress, people are getting saved, and lives are still being changed!

3) A spirit of optimism and hope is essential. 

No church was ever planted by pessimistic leaders.

A pessimistic view of the future never redesigned a new start or launched a new church. As leaders, we must never be guilty of sticking our heads in the sand and avoiding reality, but a perspective of doom and gloom never built anything.

A small measure of strategic defence helps protect what must be protected, but it’s important to be at least 51% or more in strategic offense, or you’ll never gain ground. Since thinking more offense than defence is difficult in transition, then each decision made now must set you up to build for growth in the future.

That means keep taking the next right step toward what will eventually be a new era, rather than trying to establish it right now. Genuine optimism and hope are what will take you church through this difficult season.

4) This season of transition and coming new church era requires more effort and energy.

More energy? That sounds daunting. How can we do more?

The main reason that many leaders are exhausted and discouraged is that in comparison to all the work, the amount of measurable results is relatively small.

We are all willing to work hard, but don’t be too hard on yourself, progress puts wind in your sails, and without it, the work is daunting.

Keep reminding yourself; this season will pass. (It will.) Transitions never last forever. Rather than focus or get stuck on how it could be possible to expend more energy, it’s better to remind yourself why you are expending more energy.

The following truths describe why more effort and energy is required now:

Regaining momentum always requires more energy. The more culture shifts in moral disposition and drifts from biblical truth, the more resistance you face. Building something new into a new era will always require more energy than during more peaceful and common times. (You are leading change during change.)

The name of Jesus will define and declare each church as never before. The name of Jesus has always marked the delineation and definition of a biblically evangelical church. So what is different?

As I inferred in the last point, culture is shifting how it defines what is good, right, and moral. It is drifting from long-standing biblical truth.

In fact, truth has become individualized and personalized rather than what God declared as a standard. The more each person defines their own truth, the greater we experience division.

The greater the cultural division, polarization and resulting tension, the more the name of Jesus will stand out as its own definition. (Even there, the temptation will be to personalize the message of Jesus and the truth connected.) For example, in John 14:6, “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The idea that Jesus is the only way to heaven is already greatly challenged. This brings us back to who we are and how we lead.

We may be challenged by culture to stand by what we believe at a cost, that’s part of our preparation in this time of transition. Your leadership is needed now more than ever. What a great time to get to lead!

This article first appeared here –

https://danreiland.com/preparing-to-lead-the-post-covid-church/

Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

How to Provide Pastoral Care Without Burning Yourself Out

How to Provide Pastoral Care Without Burning Yourself Out

I still remember the time I was snared by an article written by Carey Nieuwhof, How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches’.  Carey writes, “If pastors could better handle the issue of pastoral care, many more churches would grow. Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not. Many pastors burn out trying.”

In my 43 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve served in small churches and mega churches, and I’m convinced that how we structure care in our churches matters. A church’s care model can be shaped by many things. Beliefs as to who is responsible for care, the beliefs of the congregation, the pastor, or a mix of both can influence a care model.

The size of a church can significantly drive its care model. There are always a number of congregants who determine how good a pastor you are by how available you are to care for them. They want a pastor who will personally visit or contact them every time a need arises. What’s a pastor, especially in a larger church, to do?

Must he or she be driven by a zeal to please the people and personally care for everyone? If so, burnout is inevitable. I don’t believe this is what Paul had in mind for the church. In Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV) he writes, ‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’. 

Our responsibility as pastors is to ensure that our body is actively participating as ministers to one another. If we can build a care model where everyone is being cared for but no one is caring for too many, caring for people will not contribute to pastoral burnout.

I would like to suggest a model that builds around the involvement of care throughout the entire congregation, a model that starts in the hallways and builds through the congregation, church staff, and beyond.

At Lancaster Evangelical Free Church, we are calling this model the ‘Spinal Cord of Care’. The spine is the central support column of the body and its primary role is to protect the spinal cord. You could say it is like the foundational frame of a house which holds everything together. If the frame becomes dysfunctional, cracks begin to show. If care is not being done well throughout the church, the cracks will show somewhere.

Building a Spinal Cord of Care begins with helping everyone embrace the concept that care is everyone’s responsibility, from the congregant and staff to the pastors.

At LEFC, we use the term Informal Care to describe the first level of care. This is when anyone personally extends care of any kind to someone else, either family, friends, neighbours, or co-workers.

The next level of care within the church family, Formal Care, is provided through communities – small groups, Adult Bible Fellowships, men’s/women’s ministries. Mid to larger sized churches could even develop sectional communities in their worship space. By designating section leaders, those who are not connected to formal groups could at least be personally known by someone who would ensure that they are cared for.

Focused Care is a more specialized care. At LEFC, we have a Care Wheel that identifies four specific areas of care:

personal care for crisis or health related issues

physical care which is provide through our helps ministry

recovery care for those struggling with mental health issues or trauma

relational care for those struggling in relationships and ministry for special needs individuals.

The Care wheel then points to a ministry or group within the church that can provide the specific type of care needed.

Extended Care is provided through a team of Navigators. When someone enters a season of ongoing care, a Navigator is assigned to each individual to ensure that there is follow through with ongoing care. In other words, we are trying to avoid the “out-of-sight out-of-mind” effect that can easily occur when someone is in an extended season of care.

Staff/Elder Care begins when there is a crisis or when a situation occurs that requires a higher level of intervention and staff involvement. At this point, an Elder or church staff member will begin to provide care. This may or may not be the senior pastor or pastor of congregational care, but regardless, the pastor is made aware of the care need at this level.

With the spinal cord of care functioning properly and care needs being met within the body, the pastor is freed from the pressure of meeting every need personally. Imagine the joy we can experience as pastors when we are not expected to be the only one providing care for the congregation!

Sometimes needs do arise that the church is not prepared to meet, even within a fully functioning care model. Helping your congregants find professional counsellors or other critical care assistance will help your church family feel cared for, even when help comes from outside the church.  At LEFC, we call this Referred Care.

This is a brief introduction to the care model we use, but I hope you can see the possibility of a model where care is provided throughout your church without your constant involvement; the possibility of everyone being cared for with no one caring for too many; the possibility that a church can provide care without the pastor burning himself out!

(Randy Hunt)

Randy and LeAnn Hunt have served 43 years in pastoral ministry. Thirty years as a youth pastor, ten years as an associate pastor, and the last seven years as a senior pastor. Randy also serves part-time at Lancaster Evangelical Free Church (In the U.S.) as Pastoral Care Coordinator.

(This article originally appeared here - https://edamove.com/how-to-provide-pastoral-care-without-burning-yourself-out/)

 

God IS In Control

God IS In Control

I remember the feeling well. The thrill, the delight, the puffed up pride and inflated confidence of at long last being able to drive my Dads wee blue Bedford work van. Nothing was too hard for me, each bend to crawl round, obstacle to be avoided, testing the wipers and the occasional tooting of the horn. What an adventure! I was 7 years old.

Because my father made it look so easy, I would plead to have a turn at driving, and so when we would be heading along old stone roads or open moorland, he would let me sit on his knee and steer the wheel. Oh the joy! I was actually driving and in control of the wee van.

Except of course I wasn’t. I had no comprehension that there were pedals on the floor, a gear stick, hand break, and dash board of gauges. I was even oblivious to the fact that my father ‘resting’ his hand on the base of the steering wheel was actually affording him the control and not me. The innocence of youth. He never once ‘burst my bubble’ but let me enjoy the moment and the exuberant bragging about it to whoever was kind enough to listen.

Perhaps we need a fresh reminder today that our Heavenly Father and indeed the whole of heaven is very much with us and for us on this journey of life. God remains completely in control, not in a tyrannical domineering way, but as our sure and certain loving Lord. He hasn’t gone anywhere! He is as true to His promises now as the first time we accepted him as Saviour. In all the ups and downs, highs and lows, He is with us and for us, possibly far more than we even realize. I’m confident eternity will reveal how God guided, protected, equipped, healed, and blessed us in immeasurable ways without us even being aware of his presence or many interventions.

At its most simplistic, my little story reminds us that we are to rest in God, lean on God, and trust God. Implicitly. With our all and our everything. Always.

When we surrender our will and our ways to him, He promises to guide us and make the way clear for each step through life.

Maybe we need to consider today where we can lay down the busyness, fears, uncertainties, lack of faith, control, and independence, that blight our focus and journey? Let’s choose instead to rest into God’s all-encompassing great and glorious love for us. Sink into His grace, inhale His peace, accept His beautiful words of kindness and affirmation. Trust Him with every moment of every day, trust him with your call and your destiny. Trust Him with yourself, your family, and your congregation.

Even right this moment, may heaven reveal to you wherever you are today that “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” ( Deuteronomy33v27)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3v5&6

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Donna MacNeil