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Twelve Keys to an Effective Church

 

     Save the date for an all-member strategic planning day on Saturday, June 24 at the church. Lunch will be served and more information and sign up opportunities are to come. It’s my dream to see 50 or 60 of us gather together to pray, seek God’s vision and make some important commitments to the future of our ministry here in Highland.
     Where are we headed? What kind of future are we building? What are our strengths, gifts, and competencies? What is God calling us to accomplish in mission? These questions are an invitation to us all as we enter into a process of prayer and long-range planning for our congregation. God says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
     Our mission statement gives us a clear purpose: to make disciples of Jesus Christ through ministries that Connect, Grow and Serve.
     Twelve Keys to an Effective Church is a one day 4-stage planning process for local congregations.
The twelve keys we will be using in stage 3 are these:

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1. Specific, concrete missional objectives                         7. Several competent programs and activities
2. Pastoral/lay visitation in the community                         8. Open accessibility
3. Corporate, dynamic worship                                          9. High visibility
4. Significant relational groups                                         10. Adequate parking, land, landscaping
5. Strong leadership resources                                         11. Adequate space and facilities
6. Solid, participatory decision making                             12. Solid financial resources

     The first six keys are the relational keys and are often the biggest leverage points for growth in any church. The second six keys functional characteristics of a church. Our Administrative Council is aiming to guide an all-congregation planning process using these four stages. You may wish to secure and read a copy of Ken Callahan’s book, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church. The focus will not be on our weaknesses but on identifying our strengths and how we can expand them. I invite your prayers and your participation as the process unfolds in the months ahead. The excitement is building!
In hope and confidence,
Pastor Tom Anderson
 

17 03 21 What is Ordination? Does it matter?

What is Ordination? Does it matter?

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Google says there are 11.6 million websites offering online ordination. Sadly, ordination is a self-appointed, and church-less event in the lives of some Christians. I was approached by a member years ago who said he was going to marry and baptize some members of his family at an upcoming gathering. He wanted my advice and some certificates from the church. I couldn’t help him. Ordination belongs to the church and if you’ve ordained yourself then you are your own church.

Ordination is an act of the church—the body of Christ. One is personally called to ministry by Christ and it is always Christ’s church that ordains. Ordination is not to be treated as if it was no more significant than getting a dog license. Ordination expresses a community of faith—real people bound together in common mission.

Paul’s experience provides an excellent illustration. Paul had an intensely personal encounter with Christ in Acts 9. God entrusted the church to certify Paul’s calling. God recruited Ananias to represent the church, baptize and lay hands upon Paul. God said, “Paul is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles…” (Acts 9:15) Later the church at Antioch ordained Paul to authorize his mission journey (Acts 13:3). Clearly ordination is about real people coming together to solemnly authorize leadership and ministry in Christs’ name. This can’t be translated into a bloodless digital transaction.

United Methodist clergy make these vows:

  • Do you believe that God has called you to the life of ordained ministry?

  • Do you believe in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

  • Are you persuaded that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and are the unique and authoritative standard for the church’s faith and life?

  • Will you be faithful in prayer, in the study of the Holy Scriptures, and with the help of the Holy Spirit continually rekindle the gift of God that is in you?

  • Will you pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ?

  • Will you lead people to faith in Jesus Christ, to participate in the life of the community, and to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people?

  • Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting and upholding its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?

Ordination takes place with these words:

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon __________. Send him/her now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to announce the kingdom of God, and to equip the church for ministry, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (And all assembled say, “Amen.”)

Their job description is summarized in Ep. 4:11, “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” The key word is equippers.

Is God calling you to ordination? You won’t find the answer with a keyboard. Pray with your friends. Talk with me. A call to ordination is a journey we take together. You could be the answer to someone’s prayer!

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 02 10 New Sermon Series

New Sermon Series

40 Days of Prayer

Our goal in this series is to teach, to inspire and to persuade us all to become prayer-devoted church. Prayer is the conversation part of the most important love relationship in your life—your relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We’ll explore together the Biblical teaching on the meaning and the practice of prayer.

 

February 26 How the Spirit Helps Us Pray Romans 8:26-27

March 1 (Ash Wed.) Repentant Prayer 2 Chronicles 7:13-16

March 5 Getting what you ask 1 John 5:14-15

March 12 A Friend in the Middle Luke 11:5-9

March 19 Prayer a way of life Ephesians 6:18

March 26 8 ways to pray for family Colossians 1:9-12

April 2 The Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:9-13

April 9 Prayer made a difference 1 Timothy 2:1-4

 

The book “Love to Pray” will be on sale. This will teach and guide you through exercises to grow your prayer life. Cost is $10. Every member is encouraged to get a copy and read it prayerfully.

Small group studies have been formed which will use a special teaching DVD as well as the devotional book. Sign-up sheets are in the lobby of the church. If you don’t find one at a convenient time, would you consider hosting one yourself? See Pastor Tom. Our goal is to have 100 people engaged with one another and this prayer initiative.

T-shirts will be made available to everyone in the congregation. These are free, thanks to a very generous donor. If one is not available in your size, let us know and we will get one to fit you! Wear it with joy and anticipation on Sundays!

 

I invite you to use the following prayers daily to ignite a “prayer revival” at Highland United Methodist:

 

  • Lord, help us by your Holy Spirit to learn to pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests and, knowing that forces of darkness are constantly coming against us, always to pray for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)

  • Holy Spirit, come upon us with your enabling power so that, though we do not know how to pray as we ought, as you pray for us, we will always be able to intercede in accord with the Father’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)

  • Lord Jesus Christ, now on the throne of the universe, you have promised to do whatever we ask in your name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. Teach us to pray so that great things will happen in our congregation through 40 Days of Prayer—things that you will do for the Father’s glory. (John 14:12-14)

 

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

 

17 1 02 Visioneering

Visioneering

Traveling the winter woods ignites the creative spirit. Trails are unnecessary. Strap on snowshoes and the terrain becomes an empty canvas. All obstacles are beneath a leveling blanket of snow. I took a solo trek north from our cabin in Hartwick pines to intersect the main ski trail. From there I headed west and at some point decided to return to the cabin. Rather than back track, I dug out my compass and holding it forth began to grind my way straight south through meadow and forest. A compass is a wonderful thing. It needs no batteries, no cell tower and no Wi-Fi. It stays fresh and true in your pocket all day. It led me home.

Andy Stanley wrote a book called Visioneering. He coined this term to describe the process of going places on purpose with family, ministry and career. He structures his presentation on 20 building blocks:

  1. A vision begins with a concern.

  2. A vision doesn’t necessarily require immediate action.

  3. Pray for opportunities and plan as if you expect God to answer.

  4. God uses your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish his vision for your life.

  5. What God originates, he orchestrates.

  6. Walk before you talk, investigate before you initiate.

  7. Communicate your vision as a solution to a problem that must be addressed immediately.

  8. Cast your vision to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.

  9. Don’t expect others to take greater risks or sacrifices than you do.

  10. Don’t confuse your plans with God’s vision.

  11. Visions are refined—they don’t change; plans are revised and they rarely stay the same.

  12. Respond to criticism with prayer, remembrance and if necessary a revision of the plan.

  13. Visions thrive in an environment of unity, they die in an environment of division.

  14. Abandon the vision before you abandon your moral authority.

  15. Don’t get distracted.

  16. There is divine potential in all you envision to do.

  17. The end of a God ordained vision is God.

  18. Maintaining a vision requires adherence to a set of core beliefs and behaviors.

  19. Visions require constant attention.

  20. Maintaining a vision requires bold leadership.

 

These form his chapters, richly illustrated by examples from Nehemiah. Along the way he shares experiences from his own family and church life. Each chapter ends with a “project” to carry out. Project 9 is aimed at parents and includes the following questions for reflection:

  • List 3 qualities you envision for your children. (example: honesty, generosity, faith)

  • Champion these characteristics by pointing out positive and negative illustrations as you run across them in stores, videos, and experience.

Stanley has founded and leads the renowned Northpoint Churches in Atlanta, Georgia. His wisdom on leadership is to be carefully considered. Readers will find it well worth their time. If you want to go places on purpose, Stanley can teach you how.

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 1 12 A Prayer-Devoted Church

A Prayer-Devoted Church

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The first church of Jerusalem, planted by Jesus’ disciples was a prayer-devoted church. Three times in the first six chapters of Acts, Luke uses the intense Greek word proskartere—a word that literally means “to occupy oneself diligently with something”—to report on the strength of their commitment to prayer. “Devote” is a good one-word translation for that term. Luke uses this word in Acts 1:14 to describe their first prayer meeting: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Once normal church life had begun they still “devoted themselves to… prayer” (Acts 2:42). A little while later in Acts 6:4 their spiritual leaders are saying, “We will devote ourselves to prayer.” Paul uses the same word when he talks to his churches, “Devote yourselves to prayer…” (Colossians 4:2).

On February 26 we launch an all-church campaign called “Forty Days of Prayer.” The purpose is to move us toward becoming a prayer-devoted church. The pieces of this campaign include: 1) Personal devotional reading of the book Love to Pray by every member, 2) A Biblically-based sermon series on prayer, 3) Small groups: the opportunity to join a group for discussing, sharing and practicing prayer, 4) Prayer evangelism—to cover the unsaved in generous amounts of prayer and 5) Special prayer opportunities including an address on prayer from our District Superintendent Mark Spaw at the Men’s Fellowship breakfast on Saturday, April 1.

Here are my expected outcomes for our church through this campaign: Each of us will grow in our understanding of what prayer is. We will all develop stronger and deeper prayer lives. We will memorize key Bible verses on prayer. We will begin to pray fervently and regularly for unsaved people. We will increase our freedom to pray out loud in small groups. Our children, youth and families will engage in prayer with each other.

A small group leader training and orientation for this campaign is set for Thursday, January 26 at 7 PM. Existing leaders are encouraged to come as well as new people willing to lead an 8 week group using the DVD presentations and discussion materials. The groups will begin the week of February 26 along with the sermon series and conclude Easter week.

Prayer is always the prelude to miracles, healings and conversions. It was while Jesus was praying after his baptism that the heavens were opened and the Father’s voice was heard declaring Jesus to be the Son of God (Luke 3:21-22) It was while the disciples were gathered for prayer in the Upper Room that the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2). This summer we hosted a homeless man in our parking lot. As we began to pray for his needs, three remarkable things happened: 1) his social security payments began to come, 2) his brother was declared cancer-free and 3) he found a place to stay the winter. I can’t say what wonders will occur in this campaign but with great enthusiasm I can say that I want to be a part of whatever God is going to do among us and through us!

I invite you to start praying for this campaign today: “Lord, help us to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful and to make the most of this opportunity.” (Colossians 4:2, 5) Amen!

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 01 How to be a Sick Christian

How to be a Sick Christian

 

Sickness challenges our faith. We may be tempted to self-pity, despair and self-absorption. How can we be faithful when we’re sick? Here’s some things to consider:

Your pastor doesn’t have ESP. Your prayer coordinators at church don’t have ESP either. If information about your sickness hasn’t been given to us, we don’t know about it.

Get yourself on the prayer list. Request the laying on of hands, anointing with oil after the manner of the scriptures (James 5:14) We have a beautiful—and mostly unused—service of healing prayer in our United Methodist book of worship. I’d be honored to bring this experience to anyone who is suffering. Have other people pray with you. Sickness should always be met with prayerfulness. This is not the time to clam up, suffer in silence and withdraw from God and others.

Some people are offended by prayers for healing as if it was selfish or even presumptuous. Remember it is God who invites us to pray and it is God who has the power to heal. To pray for mercy is an act of faith in the Word of God. Jesus once asked a paralyzed man, “Do you want to be healed?” The truth is that some people are not healed because they don’t ask to be healed. These poor souls don’t pray because they really don’t believe in the God who answers.

You can also request Holy Communion. Each communion Sunday we bless the bread and the cup and make them available to be delivered to the sick and home bound by the Pastor or lay visitors. Communion reminds us to live for God in all circumstances.

Sickness can serve to sanctify us. It reminds us of our dependence upon God. Sickness humbles us before him. We may need others to bathe us, change our clothes, stand us up or pay our bills. This is not to be received as a loss of human dignity but a gaining of humble awareness that we depend upon God’s grace for everything in life. In faith we learn to receive that grace with joy and gratitude not stubborn resentment.

Many sick Christians discover that the most important things in life are not their abilities to work and excel in their pursuits. They discover that the really important things are their relationships like marriage, family, and church.

Not every medical treatment has to be taken. God has given us stewardship over our bodies. If there is a reasonable chance that we can survive, we must be brave and suffer whatever therapy our doctors suggest. And yet there is also a time for us to accept that our bodies are dying and prepare ourselves accordingly. This doesn’t contradict our prayers for healing. Even after we’ve judged a medical intervention as futile we can continue to pray for a miracle. In this way we mirror Jesus’ prayer, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Sickness is an excellent time for self-examination. Is there un-resolved conflict in our lives? Is there unconfessed sin? This can be an opportune time to confess and repent of our sins.

Don’t stop praying! Sick time is not wasted or useless. Pray for the church, for the world, and for all those on our prayer list. This is the most important work of the Christian life. As Paul put it: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

 

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

16 11 29 Sent into a Peaceful Advent

Sent into a Peaceful Advent

Advent means “coming.” It is season of anticipation for Christmas but also more deeply for the return of Jesus Christ and the close of the age. The color of Advent is purple or blue. These are the royal colors fit for the coming of King Jesus not only to Bethlehem but also on the last day. We’ll have an advent wreath with four candles representing Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. The candles count out the 4 Sundays of Advent and on Christmas Eve, we light the center candle for Christ the light of the world.

December can be a hectic, stressful and tiresome month jammed with events, shopping and family responsibilities. How can I be joyful in this season? How can I grip firmly the peace of Christ? How can I keep the holiness and sanctify of Advent? How can I be sent as a witness to the true meaning of Christ’s first and second coming?

For me the answer is in checking my attitude and planning for spiritual discipline. Otherwise, I’ll be swept away by the busyness and commercialism.

First I need to remember: It’s not my birthday. Christmas is not about me, my wants, my wishes, my desires or my agenda. It’s about Jesus. It’s about lifting him up and glorifying him. It’s about giving to him, not taking for myself. This month, Karen and I will make a special gift towards the work of the Good Fellows in Highland remembering the words of Act 20:35, “We must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Next, I’m not going to make comparisons between this Christmas and those of the past. I’m not going to set up unrealistic expectations for the people around me to follow. To paraphrase our Lord, “Don’t worry about Christmas, for Christmas will worry about itself. Each day has trouble enough of its own.” Live one day at a time and make the most of the present day that you live in.

Family tensions can be the most pointed in December. There are visual reminders of chairs that have gone empty around the table. There are the obligated gatherings with temperamental relatives. There’s a need for extra cooperation with an estranged or divorced spouse. Self-control is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). This gift can best be employed by considering beforehand what tensions you know you will face and committing yourself not to join in any meaningless bickering. Sometimes the best way to show love is to maintain a respectful silence and “bear and endure all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7)

I’m going to keep my daily discipline of prayer. Karen and I are sharing together each day the Sent devotional. We’re gathering with our church family on Wednesdays for dinner and time together to study the scriptures.

I’m going to invite my neighbors to Christmas Eve worship. There’s no more fruitful time to invite. Christmas is the time of high receptivity to a personal invitation to come to worship. If ever there’s a time to let your light shine, Christmas Eve is it!

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom

 

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