Why we’re stuck with people we don’t like… and what to do about it!

By Michael Martin

The capacity to separate ourselves unto God and have an intimate, powerful, regulating, transforming relationship with Him, and not with those that he brings with Him is wrong.

If you love Christ, and He loves the Church, that means the Church is part of the package.

You may be saying, well, I love my church. But, are we loving THE Church?

It says that “they will know by the way we love one another,” and we don’t get to pick who the one another is. That’s part of our challenge!

You marry in to a family and you’re marrying him or her, but you get the rest of those jokers, too. You know you don’t like that third brother-in-law, but he’s part of the package. He’ll be there at Thanksgiving. He will be there at Christmas. He will be there at the family reunion. Unless you know people in New Jersey who will cause him to disappear, he’s going to keep on showing up!

We are stuck with that third brother-in-law. He isn’t going anywhere. He’s is part of the plan. God planned to use that joker of a third brother-in-law to demonstrate to the world our capacity to love like He loved.

We have a responsibility to be assertive and aggressive about loving the Church.

That they have personally connected with Him, puts them in the family. You cannot ignore them. And that takes all ages.

To the leaders over 50:

I want to bless you. I want to acknowledge your work. I want to acknowledge the craft that you have developed in the name of Christ. I want to acknowledge your sacrifice. I want the rest of them to know that that’s who we are. We’ve made sacrifices, we’ve done things for the name of Jesus.

I want to honor your family and bless you for your investment. I know some of you have been parents to people you didn’t have anything to do with them coming into the world. But just your mindset about ministry has allowed your heart to open up and be available.

I want to bless you for the tears you’ve wept in your office. I want to bless you for being willing to be misunderstood.

But, you’re not finished. You finally know stuff. We need to pass it on. We need to release and engage, but we don’t need to pass off the scene.

We need to engage. You’re not done. You have immense value in the Kingdom.

We honor you. We need you. We expect you to be around.

You know, some things in ministry now are – you need to get younger, we need to get blacker, we need to get this that and the other thing.

We need you. We don’t need for you to go anywhere. We just need for you to see us. That’s all. Ask us questions. Realize that we are partners, not projects.

You’re why we joined this. There wasn’t anyone here but you when we got here. These young dudes weren’t here. It was all old heads. We joined on the basis of your testimony.

Find us. Who is us? All the rest of us. Black, yellow, brown, whatever I missed or left out.

Find us. Ask questions. Give answers. Stand beside.

One other thing – I’m 61. I’m committed to finishing well. You must too.

To the leaders under 50:

Knowledge is not the same as wisdom. Some of those old dudes encapsulate wisdom and insight and understanding and discernment. They may not understand everything about you, but they understand enough about life to be beneficial to you.

Do not allow the coolness of your vision statement, do not allow the hippity-hoppityness of your mission statement, do not allow any of that stuff and don’t let your big brain fool you into thinking that tired white haired men and women are not God’s gift to you.

You need to make investments in relationships with people who have learned through good and bad how to have good relationships. They need to be in your life.

Ministry has become more complicated over the last quarter century. It’s not supposed to be complicated. It’s just supposed to be hard. That’s from the fall. It’s hard. But it’s become complicated.

My opinion is that complicated means there’s sin somewhere – either by omission or commission. And many times it is the omission sin – that is, not being in healthy relationships. It’s being by yourself – that’s sin. It’s using your brain and no others. Be relationship oriented.

Being autonomous doesn’t allow us to get anywhere near the vision and the mission that we have as a denomination.

Maybe our time has come to allow something special to go on. Maybe people should be around Christians and see stuff that they didn’t plan on seeing. Maybe it’s time for people to be around Christians and have their perceived notions get squashed.

We are letting people tell us who we are, we are letting people describe us. We need to think about doing stuff that’s special.

~~~

Michael S. Martin serves in the Christian community as a pastor, counselor, and mentor to pastors. He is known as a personal, marriage/family counselor and as a retreat speaker. He is the lead pastor at Stillmeadow EFC in Baltimore, MD.

How to be better, stronger together.

We can’t be in the church a divided group. In John 17, Jesus says “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.”

It’s important that we know we’re all on the same team. There is beauty in all the different groups that are on this one team.

What grabs me from Jesus’ interaction with His disciples in John 13-17 is this picture of leaders serving leaders in order to strengthen one another for the task of gospel mission.

Jesus washed their feet, showing them what they were going to need to do with one another to prepare and to strengthen and sustain themselves for the gospel mission ahead.

What Jesus did is he said, we need to be together as leaders. We need to wash one another’s feet, before we go to work. Some of us are workers, workers, workers; but sometimes we just need to be with Jesus and be with one another before we start trying to tackle the world. 

We need to walk together and get to know one another before we start trying to do too much work together.

If we have unity of mission and humility in our hearts we can believe that God will use us to accomplish some great things for his purposes.

We’ve got 43 million people in this district. I would love to see the third great awakening and revival just sweep the land. I’d love to see some crazy awesome stuff – but first, can we just commit ourselves to saying I’m just going to do my little piece?

I’m just going to do my little piece with the people around me right now, until Jesus comes back or until he calls me home.

And if I can look at the ALL People crowd and say they’re important and I need them in my life; and I can look at the missional guys and say they’re important and I need them in my life; and if I can look at all the other people and say they’re important and I need them in my life and in my ministry – if we can do that, we are better, we are stronger together.

That is what Jesus did and that’s what He built in His church. Let it be so for us in the Eastern District.

3 Meaningful Ways to Launch Seniors

By Tim Gardner

We’re in the midst of move-up season, and there seems to be a celebration for everything from preschool closing programs to senior proms. For many, this season is both exciting and difficult as people enter new grades and new phases.

For high school seniors, this marks one of the most critical transitions for them and their faith, since studies show that nearly half of graduating seniors struggle with their faith (Fuller Youth Institute’s Sticky Faith project has great insights on this trend). As the church, we are in a unique position to both celebrate our graduating seniors and launch them well into this next phase of life.

There are many churches approaching this transition in unique and innovative ways. Here are three things that I have found to be meaningful for high school seniors and their families:

SENIOR TRIP

In their final semester of high school, invite seniors and their small group leaders to Senior Trip, an overnight retreat away from home. Whether you go to a mountain lake or the big city, this retreat is a meaningful way to deepen connections between the students and the adults who have walked alongside them throughout high school (our small group leaders stay with their students all four years).

While away, celebrate well. Go to a fancy restaurant, book a nice hotel, and have fun together. At the same time, build in purposeful conversations about the upcoming transition.

During our weekend in Historic Philadelphia, we had conversations about what it looks like to engage in deeper freedom after high school, how to navigate making wise choices, and why and how to engage in a local church after graduation. To close out the retreat, attend a church service or simply visit a local church in the area of the retreat. Ask their pastor ahead of time if you can sit down with him or her to discuss their church and their thoughts on launching well.

Fuller Youth Institute has a great resource for some of the crucial conversations to have before graduation.

SENIORS OWN THE NIGHT

Toward the end of their high school career, release 100% control of your weekly program to your seniors for Seniors Own the Night. Let them plan everything from games and food to worship and teaching. Yes, you’ll have the final say (“You know, it might be a better idea to play a game that doesn’t involve a fire extinguisher…”), but seniors are released to work as a team to plan, execute, and evaluate the entire program.

This provides the seniors an opportunity to give back to the ministry that has given so much to them. It’s a great way to give them some ownership in the ministry (something I believe we should be doing all four years with our students). And it also brings back those students with marginal attendance in the spring due to sports, studying, and the like. Students don’t want to miss what their peers have to say!

For more ideas about how students’ can own the night, check out Download Youth Ministry’s You Own The Weekend.

SENIOR CELEBRATION NIGHT

One of the most important things you can do for your seniors is to point them back to their families. In four years, when Sally is graduating from college, you are (most likely) not going to be there. Her high school small group leaders might be there. But her family will be there.

In a Senior Celebration Night, invite students, families, friends, and small group leaders to celebrate their graduation together. Decorate with pictures you’ve gathered from past ministry trips and retreats, enjoy good food or dessert, and create a meaningful environment for everyone to enjoy.

At this strategic launch into their next phase, point students back to their parents, family, and community who have been walking alongside them for 18 years and will be cheering them on for years to come.

Orange and Fuller Youth Institute have partnered together to create a meaningful event package for ministries to use. Or feel free to email me about what we do at Faith.

One of the ways we can help develop a lasting faith in our students is to be intentional about how we celebrate milestones and how we launch them into the next phase of their life. These are three simple ways to make this critical transition more meaningful.

~~

Tim Gardner joined Faith Church staff in 2014. He loves working with a team of leaders who enjoy deepening relationships with students and helping them find hope in Jesus. His interests include playing with his two kiddos, running through the Lehigh Parkway, and exploring bookstores with his wife.

Twitter | Instagram | tgardner@faithchurchlv.com

You’re not enough. And that’s okay!

Have you ever had one of those days in ministry where you’ve had someone, or multitudes of people, come to you and tell you what the church needs more of…

More discipleship.

More teaching.

More prayer.

More evangelism.

More peace.

More prophecy.

More pastoral care.

It’s one thing after the next. Everyone is telling you all these messages and you wonder what they are actually trying to tell you.

What I’ve learned is that every one of us could go down that list and say, “That’s right. That’s what the church needs.” Every one of us has a list of what the church needs more of.

You get the sense somehow that what you’re doing is not enough. Well here’s news… It’s not. And that’s okay. 

Because that is the beauty of being part of something so much bigger.

There are things that we can draw so much strength from as leaders simply because we don’t see everything. The greatness of being part of the Evangelical Free Church is that one church doesn’t have to do, literally, everything. 

We cannot do everything. No pastor can do everything. No church can do everything.

It takes everyone. It takes all hands on deck. Men and women. Every generation. All people.

To accomplish the purpose and mission of God in this District it’s going to take ALL of us. And it’s going to take us coming together with unity of mission and humility in our hearts.

And if we have unity in mission and we have humility in our hearts, I believe that God just might do some crazy, awesome stuff with us, don’t you?

5 CHARACTERISTICS TO DEVELOP IN YOUNG LEADERS (AND YOURSELF!)

Can we tawk about the… minor leagues?

Yup, I’m a Yankees fan! –  Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me talk about Ben Heller and life in Scranton, PA. Last month, Heller was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after making just one appearance for the Yankees. He recorded one out while allowing a walk and a hit – not so good.  Meanwhile, Ronald Herrera was recalled to take his place in the bullpen.

Did you ever think of how cool it would be if the Church had a minor league “farm system?” When we need a pastor, youth leader, wise elder, smart strategist, organized manager … it would be so easy if we could send a scout to the minor leagues.

Not many years ago I was standing with about 10 significant Christian Community Development leaders at a conference and we noted that we were all aging. As we looked around the room of maybe 2000 other leaders at the conference, I suddenly blurted out, “Oh man, who, in this next generation, is coming up behind me to replace me?!” Frankly, that was the day we all agreed that we had not been intentional in leadership reproduction, much less multiplication

The response to that conversation, as the EFCA Urban Ministry Director, was to recruit, coach, resource and deploy leaders out of an EDA ministry called UTOPIA. When I became the president of Center for Student Missions, the first thing I did was design an apprenticeship program. Today I am still coaching young leaders, very mindful that it was exactly what Jesus was teaching his disciples to do in John 4:35.

Reid Carpenter, who founded the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation and was a Young Life worker, says that a leader has five basic characteristics. He calls them the Five Charismata.

5 Characteristics to Develop in Young Leaders – and Yourself!

  1. VISION: I can see. The most important element of which is to bestow love, dignity and respect on others.
  2. SERVANTHOODI am willing to place myself underneath. Others must become bigger and better.
  3. ENGAGEMENTI am willing to cross the lines and go where I sometimes don’t belong…to meet among the poor, rich, black, white, etc.
  4. BELIEF: I know where I came from, who I am and where I am going.  My actions are based on uncompromised truth.
  5. GROWTH: I desire to change, to deepen, to widen, to ascend.

These characteristics must be developed in all of us, whether we are elders in a church, teach Sunday School, lead a youth ministry, serve as a missionary, work as a Christian business person in the market place, or raise children in our family.

Apprenticing is the way that we pass on our leadership to the next generation.  Bill Hull, author and my former boss, says, “apprenticing happens when you watch me and I show you how; we do it together; you do it and I watch you; you do it and someone else watches you.”  

The Language of a Good Leader Apprentice:

  • “Watch me, I’ll show you.”
  • “Listen to me, I’ll talk you through it.”
  • “Talk to me, tell me where you are going and how you will get there.”
  • “Report to me, tell me you did it.”
  • “Here’s what’s happened, what I did right, what I did wrong.”
  • “Rejoice with me, weep with me and we’ll share the triumphs and defeats together.”

Consider who you are influencing through an apprentice/mentoring relationship. If people are watching you and learning anyway, why not be intentional about it and reproduce yourself? Young leaders need to watch and participate in strategic planning, evangelism, teaching and so many other disciplines that make up a leader.

Turn around brothers and sisters and ask, “who will replace me in what I’m doing?”  If no one’s there, look for someone and be intentional in following the apprenticeship model prescribed by the Apostle Paul, when he made Timothy an apprentice and said, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

Together we’ll build a “minor league farm system for Christ’s sake and the expansion of His Church where God sends us.

~~~

Dan Reeve has been engaged in ministry for decades. He has served as pastor, urban mission director for the EFCA, President of the Center for Student Missions and as a Church Re-start consultant.

Dan and his wife Kimberly recently moved from Brooklyn NY to Newark NJ where they have become the stewards of the John Sydenham House. They have three married daughters and six small grand kids. Dan’s passion is the Church, preaching and leadership development. He believes that community and personal transformation happen best when the Church, the people of God are present to make Christ Followers.

You can follow Dan on his email newsletter, “Can We Tawk” by emailing Dan at danreeve0212@gmail.com.