Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Thank You" to Servants

Pastors and deacons, with their spouses, are often overlooked when appreciation is being expressed. Perhaps it is assumed that in serving, they are only doing what is expected of their office. I am convinced that we should avail ourselves of every opportunity to express gratitude for the faithful ministry of these congregational servants.

Ernie McCoulsky
, Director of Kauf-Van Baptist Association, east of Dallas knows the stress under which church leaders often serve. The association in which he ministers hosts an annual banquet to honor pastors, deacons and their spouses. I was privileged to speak as more than 300 of these servants gathered Monday night in Terrell, Texas.

Their geographical area is special to me. My father and mother were born and raised in the East Texas area now served by Kauf-Van Association. Although much of the area is experiencing transition due to the urban sprawl of the DFW metroplex, I remember the unique cultural experience of growing up in rural east Texas. So while I reminded pastors, deacons and their spouses that they are special people with a special purpose (using references from the epistle of Peter) I also shared remembrances from my formative years.

It was humorous to reflect on unique things like telephone party lines, television service limited to one channel that operated only part of the day, pulling in to a service station an asking for a “dollar’s worth of regular” (which while being pumped allowed enough time for the attendant to check the oil and clean the windshield), listening to the “swap-shop” on the radio (where people obtained things they wanted or needed from others who were looking to rid themselves of the same items). It was a time when the world was dramatically different.

While the world has changed, the caring ministry of pastors, deacons and their spouses remains the same. It is still about lives investing in the lives of others to the glory of God. It is being part of a caring community doing life together in the Spirit of the greatest Servant. That is not an easy role, but it is a blessed one.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sharing About a Recent Trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

No, I did not fall off the earth, but I have not been at the keyboard much during the recent weeks, which has been a busy season of ministry. Saturday night in the midst of the major storms (those that destroyed the Dallas Cowboys practice facility), I returned from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where I keynoted the Disciple 2009 event for Evangelical Congregational Churches. The event was jointly sponsored by the denomination and Navigators.

It was a joy to reconnect with my friend, Don Graybill national co-director of The Navigators Church Discipleship Ministry. While most know Navigators for their collegiate or military contexts of ministry, they are seeking to be effective in helping churches develop effective systems of disciple-making that reproduces disciple-makers. I was also privileged to meet John Radcliff, who serves on the Church Discipleship Ministry team of Navigators. John was the very capable point person for the jointly sponsored Disciple 2009 event.

Bishop Kevin Leibensperger extended an invitation some months ago to join their denomination in this event designed to help churches ensure their intentional disciple making processes are effectively missional in posture. Workshops throughout the day were designed to address congregations that were at different places in the process:

Track 1 – Launching Life-to-Life Discipling
Track 2 – Become Decidedly Missional
Track 3 – Enhancing Your Disciplemaking
Track 4 – Coach for Multiple Generations of Disciples

One of the workshop sessions in Track 2 was led by Rev. Mike Sigman, President of Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. Having formerly served as Bishop prior to moving into his role as President of the seminary, Rev. Sigman has become a strong advocate of a missional posture. Sharing that vision with Bishop Leibensperger, it is with great hope that I watch the activity of God among this denomination of churches.

As serendipity, Bishop Leibensperger shared in the final session a closing phrase that is almost always repeated as calls conclude with his personal coach, who turns out to be my friend, Tom Clegg. The Kingdom of God is huge in one sense, but still small enough that I wanted to sing “It’s a small world after all.”