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Blog Inactive. New Site: jimmorrow.net.

morrow_fam_at_weddingThe Greatest Story blog is no longer active.   A special thanks to all who have viewed, commented, and engaged with this blog in the past.  Please feel free to browse the archives and connect with some old friends.

NEW SITE: 

You can continue to connect with me online at jimmorrow.net, where I have current photos, sermons, and information.

Pax, Jim

Advice from Thomas a Kempis: How to Find Time for Holy Meditation

“If you withdraw yourself from unnecessary talking & idle running about, from listening to gossip & rumors, you will find enough time that is suitable for holy meditation.” Thomas a Kempis

“My Church Hates Change!” …No It Doesn’t. 10 Lessons in Leading Change and Transformation

Do established congregations hate change? Do “old” people not like young people? Is your church going to “die?” I know many of my colleagues experience great frustration when they try to “change a church.” Maybe we have skewed expectations of what this should look like, or why it needs to happen.

Over my short time in ministry I have learned some interesting lessons about congregational change. I hope that you can be encouraged by these things as you seek to lead congregations into greater missional effectiveness.

  1. You must respect the established members of the congregation. Though at first glance it may seem that they are opposing you or opposing “change,” remember that 20 years ago they were doing the exact thing you are doing now—seeking to improve the effectiveness of your church. Be careful when you slam the current state of the ministry as ineffective: you may completely devaluing the Spirit-led decisions of those who came before you.
  2. Beware of the “invisible ‘them’.” “We can’t do that because “they” won’t like it.” Or “…people won’t go for that.” Discover immediately who exactly we’re talking about here. Is there even a group that is actively opposing change? Don’t be party to creating factions.
  3. It is healthy to begin with the idea that at the core of most hearts, people would like the church to be effective. Often when people react negatively to an idea, a creative risk, or a change, the issue is not that they don’t want to be an effective congregation. The issue has more to do with having difficulty visualizing how their lives will be different and how they can positively live into a change.
  4. A pastor (especially in the UMC) doesn’t need to be (and probably shouldn’t be) the source, executor, and evaluator of all congregational change. By this I mean that the pastor should lead the congregation into a discerning the call of God in a corporate manner instead of developing a “vision” and trying to get people on board while leaving in the dust those who will not. Remember that every person experiences God differently. Just because one or a few people have more pull than others doesn’t mean that their mode of worship/growth/service, etc need be pushed on the entire congregation. The congregation as a corporate body should respond to God’s call for how a particular church should “make disciples” in their particular community.
  5. “This congregation will die if….” “This church needs….” “If we have nothing but old people, then we are gone in 15 years.” Stop saying these things. The truth of the matter is this: at this particular point in time, God has called this particular group of people, with this particular set of characteristics, to this particular place, in this particular time, for a particular purpose. A pastor is called/appointed to that location. Serve them and help them to discover how God has called them to make disciples of Jesus Christ in their community.
  6. Don’t assume that you know the desires and needs of an entire generation and force things upon a congregation in the name of “attracting young people.” Every group of people is different in every different place. Seek to know the people in your area of service.
  7. Procedure and stylistic changes won’t attract anyone unless there are heart changes first and foremost in the lives of your current people. After all, consuming a product is different than building relationships.
  8. Avoid absolutes. Remember that what you know is conditioned by your experience. Be open to new experiences yourself and you will find that your own understandings of how “church should be done” growing and changing in inspiring ways.
  9. Focus on what people are doing to effectively and celebrate that. Celebrate it a lot. Then watch as they desire to become even more effective.
  10. If you are what you eat, then maybe your attitude is conditioned by the rhetoric you consume. Let the statisticians and the Chicken Little’s tell you that the denomination is dead and that mainline Christianity is a white-washed tomb. That doesn’t change the fact that you are a child of the living God, called to pastor His people who are also God’s children, called to be disciples of Christ. As a spiritual discipline, we should regularly fast from doomsday rhetoric.

Most of all ask yourself this question: does the change I desire to bring recognize that I am only one part of a larger plan that God has for this whole people in this particular community in this time for this community? If so, slow down and allow God to bring people to it.

What do you think?  What would you add?  I know there will be some issues with my outlook.  What would you change?

The Value of Silence

At times prayer becomes silent. Peaceful communion with God can do without words. “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” Like the satisfied child who has stopped crying and is in its mother’s arms, so can “my soul be with me” in the presence of God. Prayer then needs no words, maybe not even thoughts. –The Value of Silence, The Community.

I invite you to read the rest of the essay.

Rhetoric of Crisis

“The church is immersed, in short, in a rhetoric of crisis….  At first I joined fully in the rhetoric of crisis.  I found that it gave me entree to audiences…I began to get uneasy about my zealous viewpoint for three resons….  For one thing I found myself part of a cadre of interpreters who were touring the denomination saying things that seemed to procure more and more invitations to say more and more potent and decisive things.  I began to realize that the rhetoric of crisis is a rhetoric of power.  It gives poiwer to the speaker…the rhetoric of crisis takes power away from the laity and pastors by diminishing the significance of their work….  Second...the rhetoric of crisis profoundly serves U.S. culture’s idol of success.…   Worse, the rhetoric of crisis distracts the church from the gospel it has been entrusted with proclaiming.  It focuses on the institution instead of the messege the institution represents to the world.”

Polity, Practice, and the Mission of the United Methodist Church, 2006 Edition, Thomas Edward Frank

I would have ruined everything.

“Lord God, You have appointed me as a pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word. Use me as Your instrument—but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.”

–Martin Luther’s Sacristy Prayer

h/t:  Fr. Frank Logue

AC Worship: Comments on the Wedding @ Cana

Tonight I will have a small part in helping the SGA UMC Annual Conference celebrate in worship by doing a dramatic reading of the story of the Wedding @ Cana.  As I have prepared, I have been forced to make some interpretive decisions on the passage:

“Jesus must love wine.” “Jesus is obviously a party animal.” “The story proves that Jesus loved to have fun.” Well…maybe.

John 2:1-11 is the story of the Wedding at Cana, the turning of the water into wine.

The text indicates that this is the “first of [Jesus's] signs,” and that Jesus “revealed his glory….” What was the miracle here?

The obvious answer would be that the water was turned into wine. However, the text begs a deeper understanding of what is miraculous here.

Jesus initially did not feel that the lack of wine at the wedding concerned him or his mother, vv. 5. In fact, he felt that his “hour [had] not yet come.” Why, then, does Jesus turn the water into wine? The reason that he does this must be the core of the miracle, possibly the very thing that the writer of the Gospel of John is attempting to communicate to us. In the text, what is in between Jesus denying his mother’s insinuation and Him commanding the servants to fill the jars with water? The statement that in this place there were “six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification….”

It seems that the difference between Jesus’ hour not being at that present time and him revealing his glory concerns the fact that he had the opportunity to almost anonymously transform the Jewish rite of purification! Jesus in a sense re-creates the rite by making the rite a common, desirable, and excellent thing that is to be taken into the body by everyone regularly. In a sense, Jesus seems to be spurned on by the opportunity or call to offer internal purification to every, even the most common, individual by his transforming power.

The steward’s comment to the bridegroom is quite ironic: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now” (vv. 10).

What had previously come out of the jars for the rite of purification was, just as he said, “inferior” to what Jesus’ transforming power offered! Even to the drunk!

Do you know what I have to say about that? Thanks be to God!

See you all tonight at SGAUMC Annual Conference Worship at the St. Luke UMC Ministry Center @ 7:30pm.

What are your thoughts?