Last Post as President

To my brothers and sisters in the ARC,

Recently I met with the MMC (Missions and Ministry Council) in Ohio, The MMC is fundamentally the governing arm of the ARC. Tom Kelby, the incoming president of the ARC was also present. We had fruitful talks especially regarding the upcoming annual conference and the way that Tom’s gift of teaching and writing will lead the way. Really, I think this will be an outstanding time together that will be focused on the book of Revelation. The MMC was sincerely energized by the potential of our time together in April.

We also discussed a few difficult church situations and though I am not at liberty to share a lot of details, I can share some. Tom has been asked to be the interim pastor at St. Paul Fellowship in Minnesota. He has embraced that and I would simply appeal that you join with us to pray for grace and peace and wisdom for Tom, the elders and the congregation at St. Paul Fellowship. Again, without going into a lot of detail, I’d ask you to also include Grace Fellowship Church in Mansfield, Ohio, in your prayers. Both churches are undergoing transitional trials as they head into the next season. Thanks for your prayers.

Finally, as of February 1, I will officially take my leave of the presidency of the ARC. The more formal exchange will occur at the conference in April, but the MMC felt that the February date would be a better time for the transfer as Tom has already assumed a very central place with the conference preparations and with the situation in St. Paul. And I fully concur.

Consequently, this will be the last monthly note that I send out as the ARC “torchbearer”. And I simply wanted to say “thanks” for the privilege of doing this for the past 16 years.

I remember first meeting Ray Nethery in Ypsilanti, Michigan in June of 1985 when both of us and our groups were entering a relationship with the Sword of the Spirit, an ecumenical outfit from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They were largely Roman Catholic and it was a more reassuring feeling that this large evangelical man was on the same path. Neither Ray nor I have had any regrets regarding our relationship with these folks. We have learned an immense amount from these brothers and sisters on worship and community building and leadership development. But that group went through a very difficult time in 1990 and some lines of fellowship had to be redrawn,

I also went through my own time of challenge in 1991 and the man I reached out to for help was Ray Nethery. And it was after that when Ray became my pastor/mentor and I began to visit Ohio and meet the rest of the ARC leaders and learn a bit more about the ARC. That began at the annual conference in 1991. Ray also invited me to sit in with the ARC leaders in the pre-conference leadership meetings.

Here are a few things that caught my attention and watered my spirit during that time.

    *I was quite taken with “The Common Concerns” of the ARC. To me, it simply went beyond the traditional approach to doctrinal statements. Some folks had clearly thought about this and put down a biblical and human expression of how these folks wanted to do church. And as I read it for the first time, I thought, “Me too!” Not terribly profound on my part, but it expressed a clarity that I simply had not seen before. It was far more than a theological litmus test, and much more akin to a very thoughtful path as to how a people would seek to live out the life of Jesus in a broken world. And 26 years later, I am exactly in the same disposition.

    *Secondly, I was deeply encouraged as I heard these ARC pastors sharing at their pre-conference meetings. In a very homely way, completely devoid of all ecclesial braggadocio, these guys rehearsed how they had navigated the past year. And they were both dead honest with the challenges they had faced and genuinely hopeful that they would carry on in the path that Jesus had called them to walk. This was deeply encouraging for a specific reason.

    I had become a pastor in 1975 at the ripe old age of 26 and I was beyond fired up to do the will of God on the face of the earth. But my first pastor gathering in St Paul, Minnesota was disheartening. My only suit (in those days, pastors wore suits, a lot!) was a blue corduroy deal with a vest, a little number that I purchased for a wedding as the best man. The day of my first pastor’s meeting was in mid-July, and though Minnesota can be quite brisk in the winter, it can be brutally hot and humid in mid-July. Such was that day of my “coming out” as an official pastor. So, before anything very spiritual occurred, I was doing a lot of sweating. My blue corduroy suit and vest were utterly oppressive and there was no AC at the location of the meeting. But what could I do? I was learning the basics of true pastoral suffering.

But things got stickier, so to speak.

One of the first pastors to greet me was probably in his 40’s and he had on a much more appropriate suit for the occasion. (but literally everyone wore a suit). And here’s how the conversation unfolded.

Pastor Jones: Well. hello, brother. we’re so delighted to have you on board with us. Pastor Hugo Jones’s my name. And yours?

Me: My name is Pastor Ned Berube (That may have been the first time I ever used that moniker–Pastor. I don’t think it easily rolled off my tongue)

Pastor Jones: Well, praise the Lord, brother, I’ve been doing the Lord’s work for the past 20 years here in the twin cities. How about you?

Me: Uh, (I actually was 26 but I think I looked a bit more like 18) Uh, actually I just started last month, so I guess next week it’ll officially be a month.

Pastor Jones: Well, praise the Lord, brother .How many are you runnin’ so far?

Me: (I have to insert a pause here because I wasn’t really up on official pastor language. How many am I runnin’? But I’m also a pretty sharp tack, so I quickly discerned that he wanted to know how many people came to my church. So, I lied) 60! (The actual number was closer to 15 but I think once 20 people came. But I know that in that split second I justified the lie this way—-though we only had about 15 regular folks presently attending, I knew my family was coming to visit from Connecticut, and we have a big family. And other people said they would be coming to visit and I just knew others would want to come in a short time. So, the number 60 escaped my lips)

Pastor Jones: Well, praise the Lord, brother, we’re runnin’ about 700 in Sunday School and we’re planning to build a new wing on the church.

Me: Oh, well, praise the Lord. (I wasn’t very good at pastor language but I was learning that saying “praise the Lord” a lot was an appropriate insertion to the conversation just about anywhere and for any reason)

But back to these ARC guys, they didn’t say “praise the Lord” very often and it didn’t appear that they were trying very hard to impress each other. They actually talked and acted like they genuinely liked each other. It might even be called “love”.

And I was hooked. I thought, “I could be part of a group like this. In fact, I want to be part of a group like this. No, no, I NEED to be part of a group like this.

And in fact, I have been part of this group for 26 years and actually giving a level of leadership to this group for the past 16. And I hope to be part of this group for the duration in whatever context that might be.

This is my “tribe”. And I am so grateful for the kindness of Jesus to lead me here and allow me to do his ministry with all of you.

Thank you for the grace you have extended me over these years. And I sincerely commend Tom Kelby to you for this next season. He loves Jesus and his Word deeply and he will help all of us to grow in those same paths.

I can’t wait to see all of you in April in Toledo as Tom leads us all deeper into the book of Revelation. I got a sneak preview of this last weekend at the MMC meetings. I am sure you do not want to miss this!

With deep gratitude

Ned

 

Charity

If I were more disciplined, I would obviously write something that would highlight Advent or provide a bit more on the incredible joy signified by this Christmas season. And I really think I should. But I cannot escape the pastoral and leadership intensities that have framed the past 6 months. It would be too much to explain and also inappropriate for some of the churches and individuals involved. But I find myself rather continually drifting back to a famous quote by St Augustine. Here it is: Continue reading “Charity”

It Spoke to Me – This Time!

For the past 25 years or so, I have typically entered each day using a Lutheran prayer book entitled “For All the Saints”. It is in 4 volumes (Year 1 and Year 2) following the church calendar. It has been a huge help to me to get started each day, which consists with 3 readings from the Scriptures, 2 prayers and a reading from church history, or of the many in the communion of the saints, most of whom have gone on before us. But at minimum, Continue reading “It Spoke to Me – This Time!”

Well, the Lord Has Been Kind.

Dear brothers and sisters,

 

This morning I was praying and particularly praying for the future of the ARC. And my prayer landed specifically on Tom Kelby, the next president of the ARC. And I was filled with gratitude that he will in fact take the reins of leadership at our next conference in April. But I simply want to take a few moments of your time to let you know why I am so grateful for this coming reality.

 

Here are a few thing that I have seen in Tom’s leadership and character over the past 8 or 9 years.

Continue reading “Well, the Lord Has Been Kind.”

The Final 9

Dear brothers and sisters,
 
In 9 months, I will yield the presidency of the ARC to Tom Kelby. in agreement with the MMC and the Assembly of senior pastors.Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased than I am with this new path. I just got off the phone with Tom regarding a particularly challenging situation in one of our churches and it was deeply gratifying to hear his heart on that matter. He has done this before in Spooner and elsewhere and he will be excellent, I believe in this new role.

Continue reading “The Final 9”

Join Me In Prayer!

time is running out
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Dear brothers and sisters,

 

Our annual conference at Grace church in Toledo is a mere 11 days away. This year we will complete our 5-year vision of the path to genuine discipleship:

 

Worship
Community
Outreach
Leadership Development
Marriage and Family Life

 

This year Clay McLean from North Carolina will be our guest speaker for the plenary sessions. As usual we will have an outstanding array of workshops built around our theme.

 

This will also be a year when the MMC (Missions and Ministry Council) will be doing some serious discussion regarding the future and trajectory of the ARC, so please stand with us in prayer

 

And in light of that direction for the MMC would you take a few minutes and take a stab at the following questions? It will genuinely help us in our discussions

 

  1. Who are some people outside the ARC that have been influential in your life?
  2. How has the ARC in general been a help to you on your journey of faith?
  3. What are your hopes for the ARC in the years to come?
  4. What are the 2 or 3 most influential books in your life besides the Bible?

 

Don’t spend too much energy on this but we would like to get a general feel from you about these things. And, please fill this out whether or not you will be attending the conference

 

If you could get this done by Monday, April 4, that would be ideal. Send your reflections to me at nedberube@gmail.com

 

Thanks so much for your help and I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at the conference.

 

Peace

 

Ned

 

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Worthy of Honor!

I am presently sitting at a restaurant at JFK airport in NYC, headed in a few hours to São Paulo, Brazil (March 9). But as I sit here, my wife is sitting with her 94 year old mother as she probably lives her last few hours on this earth. (She passed away on March 12.) I sat with Sue’s mom 3 days ago when I went up to Spooner (Cornerstone Church) to preach on Sunday. It was a remarkably sweet time, I would never be anyone’s first choice to go and minister at a nursing home. I’m uncomfortable with the depth of primitive needs and the empathy required to serve in a good way. But Granny (Lorraine St. Peter) was aware that I was there and I helped her to eat breakfast. Small bites, making sure they were delivered as desired (“Make sure you dip the cinnamon roll in the coffee.”) Continue reading “Worthy of Honor!”

Nothing Stands Still

change_ahead_signMy mentor/pastor for 18 years (1991-2009) was Ray Nethery, the founder of the ARC. I talked with Ray on a weekly basis for most of those years and we developed a woderful relationship. He cared for me (and still does) as I sorted through the demands of pastoral ministry and personal growth. Early on in that relationship He shared a very short and very real perspective on a particular frustration I was encountering. And though it was not particularly meaningful at the time, his words have returned multiple times and helped to ground me in the reality of ministry in a broken and challenging world.

He said this in response to my exasperation with whatever was bothering me (I can’t recall the issue): “Ned, nothing stands still.”

Okay. Good enough. I know that. You most likely know that as well. But upon further reflection in the swirl of ministry, I began to see my own heart in the matters that challenge all of us. In truth, I deeply wanted everything to “STAND Still !!” Why? Because then I could control what was going on and make clear headed decisions that would solve problems and help people move on in a fixed environment that would yield to my pristine wisdom. Or something close to that.

But what I was hoping for was a reasonable solution that would help either the church or an individual to “get it” and we could keep moving forward to a good conclusion. And then onto the next problem and so forth. Now, in truth, it has never been like that in all of the 40 years that I have been a leader among my people. And, aah, there was the rub. I was largely acting like all of this belonged to me. I would never say that but more often than not I was acting like that. But, you know, nothing stands still. There are so many moving parts in a church or a human life that demand a very present relationship with Jesus. He continues to believe that He alone is the Head of the church, His people for whom He laid down His life.

So really, living well and fruitfully within the calling bequeated to us by Jesus will mean that we sustain an open ear to the One who has the next move or the next response. He is sovereign and gracious and expects that His leaders will learn Him, and learn His ways. And respond accordingly.

Think with me for a moment of the myriad of moving parts that make up your life and ministry:

    *You grow and change.

         How I thought and acted at the age of 26 is profoundly different than my present stately age of 67. I have gone through multiple seasons and challenges that have pushed me rightly back to my dependence on a Savior to make sense of all of this. And He does.

    *Everone else changes as well

         If you’re married, I perhaps need to say no more! You got married with a very clear but insufficient set of hopes and expectations. And then she changed! And you had to adjust. And she to you as well. It’s a bit of a dance, right? And if you dance properly to the music. you have to learn the steps. With a partner who is also learning and growing. And in so many church situations, people come and go, sometimes with very little sense of the values that you hold so dearly. Nothing stands still

    *The circumstances of life and ministry change

         You get older. You get sick. You get depressed. You feel like you should stretch out to a new path. Or fill in the blank. We need for sure a clear sense of the promises of God that never change but the milieu where we must apply them is always moving. And if we don’t have a living relationship with Jesus through His Spirit, we easily get exhausted. This is Paul’s remedy: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit”. And the Spirit alone sees clearly and knows the next steps, the best approach and how to engage what lies before us. But that will always call for waiting, listening and quietly trusting His wisdom that will frequently push against your own conclusions.

    *We are not called to control anything but to respond like a servant, to do the bidding of a Master

         Just before He went to the cross, Jesus said this: “Whoever serves me must follow me. And where I am , there will my servant be also” (John 12:26). This is how I hear these words. You’re not in charge of anything ultimately. Jesus is and He’s very good at this. His expectation is that your service to Him will be a deliberate following to wherever He is in any circumstance or with any person. He’s someplace, thinking something. And serving will always mean following to where He is. This is walking by the Spirit

And of course there are thousands more things to add. But if nothing stands still, I have to move with Him. He’s always right. And being where He is is our greatest motivation. I love David’s heart in Psalm 23. The shepherd gets him beside still water, feeds him in green pastures and out of that place leades him into paths of righteousness. So often we look for that leading but we’re not very quiet or recptive. More often than not we’re trying to control or figure out the dilemma, whatever it is. But He is so keen on leading us. Calling us to follow and get to where He is. And it’s in that place that His will is done and His fruit ensues

So, yes, nothing stands still. But Jesus remains unconfused and not nervous. He does the right thing and says the right words in every circumstance. And is willing to teach all of us His ways. This is our wonderful lot and will remain such until He returns.

May He grant us abundant grace to follow Him in the swirl of everything moving and changing at increasingly rapid movements

More than French Fries

French FriesLast Sunday I was speaking at my home church (St Paul Fellowship) from the passage in John 4, with some emphasis on how Jesus was revealing himself to his disciples through the way he related to the Samaritan woman at the well. Before I actually delivered the sermon I went down to the basement of the church. And in truth, it’s what I always do before I speakto thoroughly empty my bladder so that I am not “uneasy” with emergencies that are difficult to respond to if one is in the middle of public speaking. You get my drift.

 

Upon returning to the sanctuary, I poked my head into the nursery where most of my grandchildren were being nursery attendees. My youngest grandchild, Cora, spotted me , gave me a big smile and said “French fries?”. It was very charming. Part of my grandfatherly commitments is to drive her 5 year old brother, Finn, to school and often to return him home after his 3 hour stint at preschool. And often , at that noon hour I stop by McDonald’s and pick up some chicken nuggets and french fries for lunch. And Cora is a huge fan of french fries. Consequently, whenever she sees me, “french fries” is the first words out of her mouth. I am THE PROVIDER OF FRENCH FRIES to Cora. From her vantage point , that is the key element of our relationship. And I’m good with that. No major emotional struggles on my part.

 

But I thought about our sweet little encounter as I got back to the sanctuary. And as I preached, I wove that example into the sermon. In the early part of their discipleship, the followers of Jesus had a very truncated view of just who he was and what he was up to on this mission and how they were to be part of it. He was the miracle worker, the one who would restore Israel to the greatness of the Davidic kingdom. But here he was in John 4 breaking the rules, talking to a Samaritan woman who was a BAD Samaritan woman. He was pushing them beyond the comfortable bounds that they had constructed in their heart of how the Messiah would behave and what his priorities would be.

 

So back to Cora and her french fries. This is what I might say to this beautiful little 18 month old that I dearly love. “You know, Cora, I’m glad to give you french fries and it is my pleasure indeed. But there is so much more that I want to give you that you will only perceive if you grow up and stay in relationship with me. I want to give you things that will help you live the very best kind of life that a human being can live. Right now you have no real idea of who I am and what I can bring to you. French fries? Sure. But as you grow up you will find that there are an unending series of things that I will give you that will do nothing but help you to live the very fullest kind of life that you were created for. And hopefully you will see me as so much more than french fries”

 

My oldest grandchild, Claire, is almost 12 and when she sees me she usually says something like “Hi Grandpa. I’ve missed you.” She’s the one who is the beneficiary of all the loose change I collect and periodically pass on to her with the stipulation that she gives 10% to the church or someone in need. And she does it. And she doesn’t love me merely for the loose change. She loves me in a healthy 12 year old way. I love it.

 

And here’s the big matter. So many believers in Jesus see him because he’s good for french fries . Or loose change. And there is so much more that he wants to impart to us. And for sure, this all requires growing up in Jesus and in the faith. But if Cora is 12 and all she sees me as is the french fry guy, that will be sad. And when Claire turns 18 and all she sees is the loose change guy, well, I won’t pout. But I want to give her so much more.

 

The story of the development of the disciples is so remarkable. Even at the Ascension in Luke 1, they were still laboring under a very limited view of who Jesus was. They were about to receive the Holy Spirit and that changed so much for them. I love Peter’s heart in his 2nd epistle where he relates that he is about to pass over into eternity. And he says these very wonderful words: “I think it is right as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Peter 1:13-14 ). This is the expression of a man who had grown up, and was now understanding the deep value of who this Jesus is. And he’s taking a place of imparting to fellow believers the weight and the value of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was more than french fries.

 

Jesus is so much more than the small dimensions that we tend to put on him. There is so much more that he wants to give to us. So much more that he desires to reveal to us. And to that glorious reality, I will continue to pray for you. And I solicit your prayers for me as well, that I don’t reduce this King to someone who just gives me stuff, but rather the one who constantly seeks to give Himself and the riches of his kingdom to such as us.

 

Peace and blessing to all of you,

 

Ned