Neighborhood Improvement

Discipleship, Personal Growth

Inspired by a movie…

The family is all home for Thanksgiving break. This is a new season for us with a son now away at college. With some time to have fun together, we selected a movie to see at the theater – choosing a movie about Mr. Rogers over a race-car movie. My expectation was rather low for either, simply happy to be with my family! But, to my surprise, the movie about Mr. Rogers was moving, and inspirational. This movie is literally thought provoking, or perhaps better said emotion provoking. As I walked away from that movie and disposed of an empty bucket of popcorn and teary napkins, I am better for being reminded of the following things as I work on my own Neighborhood Improvement:

People are valuable

The value of all people, right where they are, just as they are, permeates the movie. Rom 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus focused the majority of His passionate anger toward the religious elite, the self-righteous. The elite looking to the outside – prestige, power, “success” – those who make those as connection points. But Jesus dialed into the heart. Most often He shared his ministry of connection with the broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. As we all know, regardless of our outward trappings each of us are broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. Ephesians says it more strongly as being “dead in our sins.” As Jesus accepts us as we are, I am not saying Jesus leaves us as we are, but he takes us as we are and shapes us and makes us ultimately to be like Him.

Be present

Often Mr. Rogers would avail himself to be available with people, or rather individuals. He did not multitask. Mr. Rogers did not speak so much to groups in conversation, but often zeroed in on one person even in those groups. He was present, and that person would know they were heard, understood, and accepted. It is fascinating that the premise of his television program was to speak into the camera as if it were to one person. Just as Nicodemas came to Jesus in the night to ask soul searching questions, or just as the woman at the well explored her life with the Master – both of these and many many more experienced the Truth personally.

No one is perfect

As shared by Mr. Rogers, while seemingly saintly, he was a jar of clay like us all. He met people where they were because he was also very familiar with his own shortcomings, in the past and present. But, he did work at it. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says,

“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

and Paul declared in Philippians 3:12,

[ Straining Toward the Goal ] “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Impacting your own neighborhood

It is not uncommon for Neighborhoods to band together for clean-up, safety teams, and overall neighborhood improvement. What if we also took time to restore our neighborhoods relationally. Building and maintaining relationships today is tough. Our culture seemingly stokes and pits us against one another creating sides and divisions. Not to mention the fact that there is an enemy who prowls about seeking those he can destroy; individually, in marriages, families and communities. Chaos and anarchy are his MO, for all time.

Book – The Art of Neighboring

The staff where I serve recently walked through the book The Art of Neighboring. This great read gives some straightforward context and descriptors of neighborly life today, or rather the lack thereof. And then it turns to ways to combat our isolation. Obviously there is a goal of permeating our relationship with the Gospel, while living authentically and transparently with those nearest us, even if we live in ways that do not align. I confess I am not a perfect neighbor. I get tired of other’s Christmas lights being up too long, barking dogs, and cars going too fast with stereos too loud and the like. But, I’m guilty of not being present, not looking for ways to connect and help in my own neighborhood improvement. This is where the Lord planted me. The need to be a neighbor who cares is my responsibility.

It’s Thanksgiving, how will you connect with your neighbor?

Recommended Church Assessment

Discipleship, Leadership, Personal Growth

It is just about time for my annual check-up at the doctor. I know, not real fun stuff to blog about. But attempting to eat right and trying to exercise is only one part of being healthy. Check-ups, wellness checks, and assessments are part of a healthy journey. I can think I am fine, but it helps to know to what degree I am okay.

Have you ever wondered how healthy your church is? Would you know how people in your church rate their own spiritual growth and health? What would the results of some key metrics tell you about their personal maturation, relationship with God and others, heart for the Gospel, their own worship of God individually and corporately? You see, it is one thing to guess how we are doing. It is entirely another to actually investigate it.

Assessment Tool: Transformational Church

In 2018 the ministry staff at my home church began exploring a way to assess our spiritual health and maturity. We wanted to find a tool that would help us dive into some key metrics of overall spiritual health. One of the lead staff found Transformational Church Assessment Tool. By the developers’ own admission, they know no assessment is flawless. However, it is powerful and incredibly well-rounded in its exploration of key areas of growth and maturity.

Personal Impact

This tool is being used by our church to seek out how we are really doing as a group/body (confidential individual results). We wanted to get past some overly simplistic metrics like “how many attend.” It also has another powerful component. I am now readily aware of how I am doing personally. The assessment explored areas of maturity in my life about my personal discipleship, sharing the Gospel, private and corporate worship, giving, my gifts and serving others. But here’s another bonus. Many of you are likely aware of the “Hawthorne Effect.” I do not mean to refer to this effect being used in some manipulative way. The reality is I am now more conscious and aware of what I would call “accountability.” What was unknown in my life or a guess before is now known.

Church Impact

We have developed this year’s entire Theme around being aware of our growth and pursuit of following Jesus. In college I had a class called “Concepts in Fitness.” We had to do a pre-test and post-test that involved max sit-ups, push-ups, mile run time, etc. Part of the grade was to track improvement of our health through the semester by the post-test. Hence, that is our goal this year: at the end of 2019 our church is more aware of our strength level of our discipleship and key areas of improvement. And more importantly, our goal individually. We are challenging each other to grow in key areas. I want to and need to grow in key areas. Areas that I am now aware of clearly. We are providing resources to enhance growth in those aspects of discipleship, and encouraging each other in the journey!

Please share any insights you’ve discovered on a path such as this. For you!

Change

Discipleship, Leadership, Personal Growth

Change is rapid. This past spring, a group of my buddies and I headed out to Arkansas to kayak Mulberry Creek. The scenery is incredible, the river is a beautiful blue and the kayaking a thrill. The guys on the trip made the trip a blast, and we did not hurt for great laughs and amazing food! One of the guys, Kevin, was our fearless leader. He knew the area well. But more importantly, he had been on the river and knew its twist and bends, and dangerous spots. The journey was a thrill and enjoyable, but it had plenty of moments that took insight and care. There were changes at every corner.

Change can be risky

As I floated the river, I couldn’t help but consider the thrill, but also the peril that could be involved in change. We have been in a transition at the church where I currently serve. Our Pastor of 15 years left for another great ministry leadership position. That meant we embarked on a journey in search of a new Senior Pastor. Here are some resources that have made this journey successful.

A Key Guide

Ready for change

One resource came in the form of a person. Having someone come and lead the organization/staff through a time to consider change and all that it means was a blessing. One of our friends in ministry is a leader and consultant with our state church convention, Brett Selby. We invited him to a day retreat at a facility in the Oklahoma River Parks area. He helped us process some early days of change – changes that at that time were happening more about our former pastor leaving. But, he also helped us consider what it will be like now, with a new pastor coming. He recommended the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.

A Key Book

A journey that I have been on is with another resource, the book, Leading Major Change in Your Ministry by Jeff Iorg. This book chronicles Dr. Iorg’s victories and challenges as he has helped churches, denominational entities, and a seminary to make changes. The seminary changed its name, and moved its entire campus to a new region! Dr. Iorg uses frank but respectful anecdotes from his journey, key biblical passages and clear instruction in the best ways to lead a group through change.

Great book on change

Of the four churches I have served in since Seminary in the 1990’s, 3 have had Senior Pastor changes. Much of what I had experienced in the past was very good and healthy, but these additional resources and insights from Brett, and these two books have helped put into words what I have experienced. These resources have also helped me explore and expand areas that I know need growth and attention in my leadership development.

What resources have you used as you have experienced change?