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One More Time – Titus!!

Over the past few years I have written and spoke at length from Paul’s letter to Titus. I think it is unique. It’s not primarily theological or pastoral or corrective. He is simply but forcibly telling his young protege Titus what a new covenant church looks like and how to establish it. Ultimately, Paul is hoping that through some very specific priorities, Titus will be able to get these Cretan groups (probably 10 or 15 or so) up and running and “on mission”.

His final comments are almost entirely focused on the need for these new believers to “get out of themselves” and use the gifts they have been given to positively affect the culture where they have been planted. Listen to this apostolic repetition:

    “Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for GOOD WORKS” 2:14

    “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any GOOD WORK” 3:1

    “…I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to GOOD WORKS” 3:8

    “And let our people learn to devote themselves to GOOD WORKS” 3:14

And directly to Titus and all leaders Paul states:

    “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of GOOD WORKS” 2:7

Some years ago I got connected to a group called The Gospel and Our Culture Network. They are a group of 7 or 8 theologians who attacked this deficiency in the church—-the constant drift to becoming a group of consumers who were more trying to survive our culture rather than to influence it. Rather than consumers, the GOCN folks called the church, every church naming the name of Christ to be “a people sent on a mission”. This is how Jesus solidified the identity of his followers in His first major sermon. After describing His kingdom disposition in these 8 radical beatitudes He unabashedly says this:

    “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to the whole house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” Matthew 5:14-16

These good works proceed from the impartation of the Holy Spirit given to every believer, everyone who Jesus has rescued from a world culture that ignores God and daily seeks to deceive us into believing that my life is my own to do with what I please, to pursue my own advantage at all costs, to realize the American dream and use the church for my own priorities rather than to submit wholeheartedly to the only mission worth pursuing, following this resurrected and reigning King into the consummation of this age. And in process, to represent Him accurately to a culture hell bent on satisfying every whim and direction opposite to the very clear and direct call of Jesus. And Paul.

There were no established churches on Crete when Paul wrote to Titus. And the Cretan culture was nasty. Perhaps not sacrificing babies on Molech’s altar like the Canaanites but profoundly self absorbed, undisciplined and driven by the unending demands of unredeemed flesh.

Leadership is hard work. But it never means trying to accommodate a consumer orientation, especially within the church that Jesus redeemed for himself, to form a people “zealous for good works”.

We are the light of the world, Jesus said. And this great Identity informs the great mission to which He has called us.

4 Principles for Leading any Church

The two newest church plants of the ARC are Crossroads Church near Webster, WI, and The Table in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Geographically and demographically, these are without a doubt the two most divergent churches in the ARC orbit. Crossroads is 4.5 years old and The Table is 2.5 years old. One is led by an elder who was with me in the church plant in Spooner (Cornerstone Church), back in 1981. His work is, to a large extent, within an older population in rural Wisconsin. The Table is led by Mike Devereaux, who was also a church planter in Minneapolis. His population is incredibly ethnically and philosophically diverse. Both of these guys have challenges that press them to Jesus in a very concrete and daily way. But oh, so different. So very, very different. And yet…the same.

Recently I was asked by the Crossroads folk to help with the transition team as Trygve moves from his 35-year refrigeration business and bi-vocational status at Crossroads to being a full-time pastor. Part of the objective of that team was to construct a job description for the pastor. And I think they did a great job. But having been a pastor for 40 years, it struck me how insufficient any functional job description is. Of course, both Trygve and Mike have to teach, study, care for the needs of the flock, do sufficient administrative work, work within their leadership team, and relate well to the surrounding community. But the work of the Holy Spirit is to precisely engage each leader in their particular demographics and their specific mission with both encouragement and details that will lead to fruit in the Kingdom of God.

So both of these guys have to work well with their leadership team, and also press hard into the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ so that they can lead their flocks into fulfilling the mission of Christ.

Part of my advice to the Crossroads Transitions Team was that however detailed the job description they put together, they would have to pray for the ongoing work of the Spirit within their pastor. My pastor for a long time was Ray Nethery, the founder of the ARC, and I will never forget the day that he stated very simply: “Ned, nothing stands still.” However simple that statement may appear, it was extremely helpful to me because dispositionally I wanted everything to stand still so that I could control I the way I wanted to. Those days are long gone, and those days have never actually existed. Everything keeps moving.

This very morning, I met with a Chinese leader who has been converted for about three years. He is totally receptive to my input (I love people like that!), and yet it’s so striking to me that what he is presently learning is what we all continue to learn. It’s what Trygve Wistad and Mike Devereaux have learned and are continuing to learn. I would break it down into four simple principles:

1. Even though you are a leader in the church, you never actually own anything. It all belongs to Jesus. Your highest title is Servant.

2. If we trust that the epistles of the apostles are accurate, then we can be sure that things don’t always go well. In fact, sometimes they break down completely. But you’re still called, and the help of God is still significant help to you and your people in that predicament.

3. Your attention to the Holy Spirit is crucial, not merely in your sermon preparation, but in the ongoing adjustments that you’ll make day by day to serve the interests of the Lord. Learning to hear the voice of Jesus is a central task of every leader (if you haven’t’ heard this here before, then I’ll say it again – please read Dallas Willard’s “Hearing God.” I think I’ve recommended this book more than any other book.)

4. You will always have to be careful to keep the important things front and center, and deal with the urgent necessities in the light of the overall mission. I’m sure that you can all Google this, but the very short pamphlet “The Tyranny of the Urgent” was one of the best encouragements I read as a young pastor. I certainly didn’t always walk that out, but at least I knew how to get back to the right path once having wandered off.

So it gets down to this, brothers and sisters – whether you are a Trygve Wistad in the middle of rural Wisconsin, or a Mike Devereaux planted smack in the middle of hipster Brooklyn, you will have to pay attention at the very least to the 4 things above. The good news is that Jesus is totally invested in His leaders, His people, and His mission. And it’s with that confidence that we can move on and bear the fruit of Jesus no matter where we are.

In a few weeks I will be off to Poland to share with 50 leaders in an annual conference (actually, it’s 4X/year, but I go every October). My subject matter will be leadership principles derived from the apostle Paul, his trajectory in Acts, and his twelve epistles. This has been a labor of challenge and love – I have spent a lot of time doing character studies throughout the Bible, and rather openly avoided doing Paul because it was such a big undertaking. But in fact, I felt pressed by the Spirit to go that route, and it’s been really wonderful. I feel a bit over my head, but that is a fairly normal feeling for me. We are actually all a bit over our heads, and Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit as a “Helper.” The reality is that His help is a lot more than we think, and so we trust in that. I solicit your prayers for this seminar in Poland. Our guy over there is Marek Kiewra, and he is being used increasingly to influence more and more leaders. Pray for him and the work of the ARC church in Gryfow, and the leadership training center in Karovice.

God bless you,
Ned

Beating the Drum Again for Poland

On October 8th, I’ll be heading over to Poland for the beginning of the second year of training Polish pastors and leaders. Last year, I asked you for funding for these leaders, and you were wonderfully generous.

So, I’M BACK AGAIN! This is another appeal for funding for this 4-day conference in Karowice, Poland.

Let me explain again why I’m asking you for money (and just to be honest, about this time next year, I’ll be asking again). There are lots of worthy causes out there. But this is one that Jesus has put in my lap, and I am completely committed to it. Here’s why. Most of these Polish pastors and leaders are working a regular job either full or part time.  And their capacity to get away for a 4-day conference is less than limited. That is, unless we help them.

But who cares?  Why do these guys need to get away for a 4-day conference? The bald reality is that they have very limited biblical input in their lives. In fact, one of the realities that completely provokes me is the way both the prosperity gospel and legalistic Pentecostalism dominates the Polish evangelical scene. Being able to go over there and preach the grace of God and sound biblical perspective, is one of my great passions. This isn’t just a “they need a break” thing. We’re forming the basis for healthy churches in Poland.

Marek Kiewra, my friend of 18 years, has been given so much grace by God to build this ministry center and adjacent buildings (at this point, they’re able to house over 100 people). He needs a bare minimum of $25/person/day to house and feed and put on this conference. So once a year in the fall, as long as I have breath, I’m going to try to raise $5,000 to get these Polish leaders some much-needed encouragement and Biblical teaching.

Last year was really wonderful. I taught on the life of David, and there was a lot of strength and impartation that came to those leaders. They were incredibly grateful, often tearfully so. So it is one very clear way to engage God’s Kingdom work in Poland and to undergird these leaders, who hammer through a very difficult economy and a very challenging church atmosphere.

This year, I’ll be teaching some hopefully clear directives from the life of Paul, and I’m eager to strengthen the hands of my fellow Polish workers in the kingdom.

 Would you help me do this?  If you would, please send any contributions using this link, and write “Leadership Seminar 2015” in the PayPal memo to designate your funds to this conference.

DONATE HERE

In the love of Christ,
Ned

Thank you to everyone who made the conference great!

Dear brothers and sisters,

I thought our time together at the annual conference in April was great. But rarely do I say otherwise.  But really, this time was great.

For those of you who may not have attended, I especially want to push you toward Scott Pursley’s talk on Saturday morning and the interview I did with Ray Nethery on Saturday morning. Those were both very meaningful and helpful.

Finally, I want to say thanks again to Grace Church of Toledo. These folks really put it out for the ARC, and the venue is perfect for what we want to do. And they’re very good at it.  I especially want to say thanks to Mary Brack, Roxanne Combs, Doug Rumschlag, Andy Holt, Josh & Rachel Spiegel, and the whole Kerrigan family.  And on the ARC side of things, Rick & Renee were stellar as usual.   By the way, I also want you to take a listen to Renee’s talk on “Shaping the Culture of a Congregation.”  It was very helpful.

OK, that’s it – I love being part of this thing that we’re doing together. I’m currently in Ohio for a week (May 18-22) and am connecting with many of our OH churches.  Rick Widener is down in Brazil right now – please pray for God to use him there and bless both him and Joanne at home as well, while he’s gone!

God bless you all!

Peace,
Ned

Glory and the ARC Conference

I love almost everything about the Civil War. And you’re thinking “How weird is this guy?” A half a million people die, the country is almost destroyed, and in some ways we’re still recovering from all of that. But because it was such a cataclysmic time in our history, it also produced great deeds of heroism and sacrifice and one amazing man named Abraham Lincoln. So I don’t love all the blood and destruction, but I do deeply appreciate some of the human responses to such a difficult era.

glory2Besides “Gettysburg”, one of my favorite films about the Civil War is about the Massachusetts 54th regiment, which was an all-black regiment led by a white colonel – Robert Shaw. “Glory” is a true story, although one can’t account for every bit of dialogue in it, except I can’t believe that Morgan Freeman would ever say anything that wasn’t true (Freeman played Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins). This movie also co-starred Denzel Washington, who won an Academy Award for his depiction of Private Trip. A subplot of this movie depicts Trip’s growth from a lost, angry rebel into a man of commitment and sacrifice. And it’s the night before a major battle, in which the Massachusetts 54th has volunteered to storm a confederate fort – Fort Wagner. The whole regiment has a prayer meeting, and Trip is encouraged by Rawlins to “testify.” In a wonderfully awkward way, Denzel Washington depicts Trip’s “conversion” to family. He says “I loves the 54th. It is the onliest family I’ve known.” The next day he dies and is buried in the sand next to his white colonel, Shaw.

Where is this going, you may be asking? Well, in a few weeks the ARC will come together again, and it has become the best and “onliest” kingdom family that I’ve known for the past 25 years. We’re not the biggest. We’re not the flashiest. And we’re probably not even the holiest. But we are a group that God has put together to serve His kingdom interests. And it’s so important that we come together for our own “annual prayer meeting”, otherwise known as our annual spring conference.

Please come. I think it’s going to be genuinely helpful, but even more it’s the reunion of lives that have toiled together over many years and it’s just simply important for us to see one another’s faces again and hear the Word of God together.

Register here!
http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07eagwvulm6f3adeba&llr=pvjjdfcab

Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!
Ned

2015 Annual Conference

Our 2015 conference is the fourth segment on the journey of exploring what it means to make a disciple – a follower of Jesus. In 2012 we looked at “Worship“, in 2013, “Community“, and in 2014, “Outreach“. Our fourth topic is “Leadership Development“, and needless to say, this is a crucial piece for any local church on this journey of disciple-making.

Click here to register!

Although we typically invite an outside speaker in for our conferences, this year we are handling it “in house”.  I will be handling three of the five plenary sessions, as leadership development has been the central focus of my last five years of ministry. During these past five years, I have visited well over 50 churches and almost as many leadership teams. It has been a remarkable school in the diversity of leadership approaches, while always being aware of the primary things that don’t change for anyone.  And that’s what we’ll be trying to address in the five plenary sessions.  I’ll be teaching on the subject of “How Jesus Trained Leaders” that relates to the very first leadership book I ever read (“The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman).  It remains a very pertinent issue that doesn’t draw the attention of many leaders.

I’m very excited about the Friday night plenary session on “Crisis Leadership”.  I’ve presented this four other times, and it’s quite simple.  I use the movie “Gettysburg” to show how for three days, leaders made one crisis decision after another.  And although all our leadership decisions aren’t crisis (most leadership is what I call “maintenance leadership”), crisis occurs often enough and I have found the depictions in this film to be very cogent. During that session, we’ll do a fair amount of interaction. This is going to be great. You’ll love it.

Scott Pursley will get after a crucial element of leadership development to do with a leader’s character.  We can’t ever say too much about this.  Marek Kiewra will talk about the building of a leadership team.  As I’ve observed him in my 17 years of visiting Poland, he’s done a great job in this area and has pertinent things to say.

Finally, our last session will have to do with the nature of the seasons of a leader’s life.  I’ll be drawing in the ARC’s founder, Ray Nethery, to help me discuss this.

I’m eager for all of you to try to figure out which of the great workshops you’re going to attend.  It always produces a wonderful angst when you can’t attend one that you wish you could. They’re all going to be great workshops, having to do with female leadership, personality profiles, discovering gifting, theological formation, and more. We have people with genuine expertise in these areas presenting.

Click here for all the details and registration!

 Please make every effort to come and be with us on this fourth leg of the journey! I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

Peace,

Ned Berube, President

Seven Ways to Make Your Church Healthier

On my most recent trip to Poland (this past October), I was the teacher for a group of 50 Polish leaders at the ministry center established 10 years ago by Marek Kiewra (our ARC guy in Poland).

Before I go any further, let me say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who contributed to that mission. I was able to bring over $6,000, which more than covered the expenses for these 50 leaders and will spill into the next of four annual sessions.

Over the past seventeen years, I have become very good friends with Marek.  And we’ve learned how to communicate with each other without a lot of filters that one needs for more “beginner” relationships. When I’m in Poland, I always want to do more straight theological teaching than Marek wants me to do, and since he’s the main guy, I’ve learned to yield to him, but still try to sneak that theology stuff in where I can.  So, on my last day in Poland, I preached in his church in Gryfow and, in baseball lingo, I hit a home run. Marek loved it, the people were very responsive, and it did strike me that this very simple teaching could have a very significant effect.

Consequently, I’m going to give it to you in a very concise form.

On that Sunday morning, I titled this sermon “Seven Ways to Make This a Healthier Church”. The base scripture I used was Hebrews 5:11-14 – “ About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

At face value, this exhortation does seem a bit edgy, doesn’t it? These folks are being “measured” and found wanting. But the heart of it is simply to call them to grow up so that the mission to which they’re called will be fruitful. So with that backdrop, I gave my dear Polish friends these seven exhortations:

  1. Be alone with God every day for 30 minutes. Blaise Pascal, the famous French theologian and philosopher once said “Most of the ills of the world would be resolve if each man would determine to spend 30 minutes sitting quietly in his room.” And although that may sound very simplistic, every teacher of spiritual disciplines will start out with the two most primary disciplines: silence and solitude. The fact of the matter is that most of us are just not good at this.  But if we’re going to hear from God, it will become necessary. Do you want to make this a healthier church?  You’ll have to get alone, get quiet, and let God make YOU healthier.
  2. Obey your leaders.  Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” This doesn’t fly so easily in a distinctly anti-authority culture, but nonetheless, there it sits and beckons to all of us. We must develop trust in our leaders and leaders must learn to lead well. But, in fact, this is God’s way that He’s decided to put his people together and to form them for His mission in their lives.
  3. Take initiative to serve. When we were raising our six children, we told them almost in mantra style two things: “You are not the center of the universe”, and “You have to learn to get out of yourself.”  And of course, this was Jesus’ exhortation about greatness in the kingdom of God: “You will have to learn to service if you want greatness. There’s simply no way to spin that statement in any other way apart from humbling oneself to “wash the feet” of your brothers and sisters. To learn to do the small things and resist the common modern malady of religious consumerism.
  4. Handle offenses quickly and properly. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, this exhortation was at the center of the prayer and it was the final exhortation after the prayer. “For if you do not forgive men their offenses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.”  Again, how do we spin that in any other way other than what it states? Forgiveness is at the core of the gospel. When I was a pastor of a church in Spooner, WI (a long time ago!), we taught this principle very clearly, and people actually obeyed it.  And the result of the teaching and obedience was that the atmosphere of the church was quite devoid of gossip and lingering bad relationships. It was genuinely delightful.
  5. Give your finances to this work. Jesus said so much about money, and in fact was very plain to say that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. So many believers are profoundly misguided when they “bargain” with God about their money and make up their own rules. Too many people over the years have insisted to me that tithing is not a New Testament principle.  Personally, I find that a rather weak statement. The New Testament principle is EVERYTHING.  Why not start with ten percent?  I won’t belabor it here, but generally I don’t really trust people who are anti-tithing. It feels to me like there’s either a hidden agenda or a deep-rooted fear in the character of God. But regardless of that, the church that you’re in needs finances to do the mission it’s called to. Pastors need to pay their heating bills and buy food, and we need to buy material for the church.  You get the picture.  Be generous in giving your finances to this work.
  6. Prophesy to one another.  I Cor. 14:1 – “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” And what I mean more precisely, apart from the charismatic nature of this gift, Paul is really wanting this body of believers at Cornith to speak the word of the Lord into each other’s lives.  In other words, to encourage each other.  To build each other up.  Interestingly, this exhortation comes after the great chapter on love . And this is one fo the concrete ways that we build the body and bring health into a body. Speaking the truth in love is a way of simply speaking God’s word into each other’s lives.  So when Paul says “especially that you prophesy”, I think he’s ultimately getting after this. Do you remember the times when people have spoken clearly a word of encouragement into your life?  How did that feel? What did that do? Ok, you get the picture.
  7. Ask God for the lost. Identify one or two or three people who you simply pray for.  Who you ask God for.  Who you appeal to heaven for, asking for the inroad of the Gospel into their lives.  And then have them over for dinner, and maybe you get to know them, not as a notch in the belt, but as people who God loves.  Who you learn to love, and perhaps get to see enter the kingdom of God.  There are four conversion stories I love in the Scriptures.  The first is Nicodemus – the long, slow process.  The second is Zacchaeus – the conversion that included hearing and then the deliberate inclusion of Jesus. The third is the Samaritan woman at the well – a conversion that unfolded because Jesus crossed multiple boundaries and spoke a prophetic word into her life.  And fourthly, Saul of Tarsus, where God simply crashed into this primary opponent’s life.  The conversion of the lost happens in multiple ways.  Our job is to ask for them.  To ask God for those whose lives are on a trajectory toward death, and then to be His mouth, His hands, His feet, His love into their lives.

So, what do you think? Would your church be just a bit healthier if a few folks actually took these exhortations seriously?  At the end of my talk in Poland, I encouraged people to stop for about two minutes of silence and pick out one of these seven as a kidn of “next step” – the place where God really wanted to lay hold of something.  And they did.  I’d encourage you to do the same.

In the love of Christ,
Ned

P.S. And by the way, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Everything is Broken!

A few days ago, I returned from a 12-day, 8-church, 6-city tour of Ohio. I travelled from Toledo to Findlay, to Dayton, to Mansfield, to Elyria, to Canton, and back to Toledo.  The eight churches that I related to were so remarkably different in their leadership styles and in their life together.  Remarkably different, yet still similar.  Each pastor and leadership team of course brings their own flavor to the mix, which always makes it interesting and fun to engage. But it also presents challenges as to rightly relating to each individual situation.

My second to last visit was to Elyria, Ohio – Harvest Christian Church, the folks who gave us the Padleys in Brazil and Rick Widener. They’re not a large church, but they’re healthy. And they asked me to speak for a bit regarding the ARC. Many of their folks are newer to the church and are quite unaware of what, in fact, the ARC is or does. I was glad to participate in that, but I was struck by how to do this in a biblical and sermonic way.

So I used the book of Titus as a backdrop, and presented this context to them.

Paul and Titus had been on this Mediterranean island preaching the gospel, and had left pockets of believers all through the island. Titus was delegated to stay there on the island and put everything into order. And the first thing Paul talks about is the need to raise up elders. And this is one of the pieces that I brought to Harvest regarding the ARC. Often, if you’re not a leader or an elder in the church, you may not have much awareness at all regarding the ARC.  Largely because we are most clearly focused on the leaders – their development, integrity, and service to God’s people.  Paul tells Titus that leaders must possess two very important qualities.  The first, of course, is moral character.  And the second has to do with a competency in the Word of God.  Paul says to Titus that an elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9) And of course, this is hard work. The discipline of study and prayer and the practice of exhortation and encouragement in the Word is a crucial piece of not only leading God’s people, but nurturing them through the shoals of a culture that, at best, rejects and mocks what we hold to be true and formative.

During this talk at Harvest, I emphasized the word “renewal”. And of course, this means to “make things new”. My opening line had to do with The Lego Movie. I was hoping that many of these people had seen it, and was crestfallen that only TWO had seen it!  I, in fact, had “seen” it with my two granddaughters and my wife.  We decided to take them to this wonderful movie, and I promptly fell asleep in the movie theater and didn’t really see it.  But sometime later I heard my granddaughter Anja singing “Everything is awesome!” Having not really seen the movie, I had no real understanding of the context.  My daughter Renee filled me in that it’s a delusional mantra from an evil Lego ruler, who was trying to get people to believe that indeed, everything was awesome, when in fact it was a mess. So my rejoinder song to the people of Harvest was “Everything is broken!”  Or, better said, “Everything is in need of renewal.”  And in a very clear sense, that’s why people have banded together in this “Alliance” – to try to bring newness in all the broken areas of our lives.  And churches. Because even if one has been renewed, staying renewed is no passive matter. It requires ongoing faith and commitment and devotion. And “awesome” is more and more potentially our reality. But “broken” is what we live in.

An interesting piece of Paul’s letter to Titus is when he describes the Cretin culture in this way: “One of the Cretins, a prophet of their own, said ‘Cretins are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’. This testimony is true.” (Titus 1:12-13) So think about that for a place where Titus has to find good leaders, and where those good leaders have to lead churches into a continuously renewed state in the face of evil beasts, lazy gluttons and liars. I don’t know if the culture of the US is comparable to Crete, but it certainly is broken in its own unique ways, and it is virulent in its penetrating influence.

You’ve probably heard me say this before (and some people are sick of me saying this very thing), but it fits in this blog: We are all a mixture of giftedness and dysfunction. And the dysfunction only rules us when we consider it to be normal. And when we do consider it to be normal, we judge people around us who are not similarly dysfunctional.  Our lens destroys culture in that way. So the Alliance FOR RENEWAL Churches is fundamentally seeking to undergird the core value of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its renewal of individuals and marriages and families and leadership teams and churches so that the image of God can be seen more and more clearly.

I feel privileged and humbled to be able to do this work for the past 13.5 years. And although I’m not sure how much longer I should be doing this, I’m quite glad to do it as long as I can or until someone else can take the reins and lead us on into a new season. I ain’t quittin – but neither am I trying to hold to something too long.  But quite frankly, I do deeply appreciate this call that God has given to this little band of churches, and I aim to help us on the path of renewal as much as I can in the days to come.

God bless you all,

Ned

Some thoughts on the other side of a merger.

A little over four years ago, Christ Community Church (the church I planted in St. Paul in 1992) merged with St. Paul Fellowship. This was a mutual decision between the CCC and the SPF elders. After my six month sabbatical (July ’09 – December ’09), I returned and entered into this decision with genuine enthusiasm.

For the past four years, I have met weekly with Pat Kahnke (pastor of SPF) in a pastoral role, simply to help in the process of the multiple sharp edges that are part of any merger of two church cultures. And although it’s beyond the capacity of this blog and my own thinking to bring you into every one of the twists and turns of this merger, I am delighted to report that this merger has gone extremely well and I’d like to share a few of the features that I think have been critical in that process. Continue reading “Some thoughts on the other side of a merger.”

Partnering in Poland

THIS IS AN APPEAL FOR MONEY.  So, I just wanted to get that out of the way at the front end.  🙂 For those of you brave enough to read on, I want to present a stellar opportunity to help our ARC folks in Poland engage what I think will be an incredibly fruitful ministry to leaders over there.

I’ve been going to Poland now for 17 years. Our church at that time (Christ Community Church) was deeply affected by Marek Kiewra and the focus he had on helping prisoners, former mafia members, drug and alcohol addicts find Jesus and become fruitful members of this wonderful church in Gryfow. Continue reading “Partnering in Poland”