Tag Archives: people

Accompaniment

accompanimentOur sister company, Twenty-Third Publications, came out with a publication recently called The Art of Accompaniment, a term expressed by Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel. Here is the link to the booklet:

http://www.twentythirdpublications.com/artofacniesc.html

By the term “the art of accompaniment,” Pope Francis is referring to the call of the Church to walk with people in compassion and love in whatever circumstances of life they are given.

The concept of the art of accompaniment can be applied to our journeying with younger generations through their milestones of faith as well (baptism, First Communion, confirmation). Our presence at these events and our encouragement of them in their faith can go a long way in keeping them grounded and confident in their relationship with Christ.

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The Contemplative Pastor

contemplative pastorRenowned theologian Eugene Peterson reminds us in his book, The Contemplative Pastor, that what a church needs most is a pastor immersed both in God’s life and our own lives. For Peterson, the question on a pastor’s mind should be: “Who are these particular people and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”

A daunting and humbling question, to be sure. But it got me to thinking about the massive role we have come to expect from our pastors. We want them to be active yet reserved, a visionary but realistic, an authority and yet a friend.

Pastors are human, too, and, therefore, cannot be all things to all people.

So it takes us back to Peterson’s question. Finding a good match between a people and the unique person that a certain pastor is is key.

Each pastor has a different style and approach that may work in some churches, but not in others. So it is about both a church and a potential pastor being honest about strengths and weaknesses and what is a good fit and what is not.

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Dunbar’s Number

150 membersHave you ever heard of “Dunbar’s Number”? Discovered by British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it is the human norm that the number of genuinely personal relationships a person can actively maintain is 150, give or take. Dunbar and his colleagues note that “150 people is both the approximate size of a typical small-scale human village and about the number of people who can live or work together without needing power structures to enforce cooperation. The group is small enough that social pressures can keep people in line” (“Does Your Pastor Need a Friend?” Christianity Today, October 2017, p. 62).

I find this interesting because at a recent conference I attended, the keynote speaker said that currently a majority of congregations in America have an average weekly attendance of guess what? 150 members.

It occurs to me that this is not simply a coincidence. 150 appears to be the sweet spot for most churches for the very reasons that research for Dumbar’s Number indicates:

It keeps the group manageable. People do not become just a number. People know them by name. Functions can happen without an overflow of people and not in an oversize room.

It keeps the group personal. Everybody knows each other and can keep relationships functioning. People care about one another because they know them well and see them often.

It keeps the group accountable. People notice when others are missing and can follow up with them. People can see when fellow members are straying and can bring them back into the fold. There is a sense that people are expected to be present at certain times and be there for one another in times of need.

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Spiritual Prepping

emergency kitBefore Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit, we witnessed all the preparations people were making to protect their homes and keep themselves safe. This is just one example of a burgeoning business called “prepping.” providing people with supplies to prepare for disasters of many kinds, both natural and man-made.

Janie B. Cheaney in “Ready for the Worst?” in the June 10, 2017 issue of World magazine, ponders this question: “What spiritual resources should you add to your emergency supply list?” (World Magazine, June 10, 2017, p. 14).

Surprisingly, the answer involves similar elements to our earthly emergency kits. Take a look:

Food: Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God in times of trouble and every day.

Water: Drown the old Adam in the waters of your baptism in hard times and be refreshed by the living water that only Christ can give.

Protective clothing: I think here about the armor of God from Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace fitted around your feet.

Back-up power: Be regenerated through prayer and gain new strength through your conversations with your Lord and Savior. i think of this prayer from St. Paul: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:16).

Back-up heat: When you are feeling left out in the cold, draw on the warmth of God’s love from family, friends and your faith community. Listen to the warmth of Paul’s love for his fellow believers in these words: “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 4:1). That same warmth of love is available to you through your brothers and sisters in faith.

Be sure to pull out this prep kit the next time a spiritual emergency of any kind hits. You will be glad you did.

Encouragement

BarnabasJoseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. —Acts 4:36-37

Throughout the Book of Acts, we read about a disciple of Christ named Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” His name indicates the kind of impact he had on those in the early church and those he witnessed to on his many missionary trips with the apostle Paul.

Here are some examples of what Barnabas said and did in his travels:

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. —Acts 11:22 

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. —Acts 11:25-26

This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. —Acts 11:30 Continue reading →

Table Talk

table talk

Take time to talk at the table.

In this year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is good to us to remember some of the practical, everyday components of Martin Luther’s life that we can apply to our lives today.

One of those is the idea of Table Talk. Luther would regularly gather around the dinner table with friends, family and students of his for dinner and for conversation. The topics of these conversations would range from religious doctrine and history to instructions regarding government, church, and the academic university. Many who were there took notes on what Luther and others said at these Table Talks, which were eventually compiled into a book called Table Talk

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Are You Facing Out?

crossOn this Good Friday, when we focus on the cross, I would like to share with you a devotion I wrote a while back for one of our past periodicals Living the Gospel Life. May your observance of this day be faith-strengthening.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. 1 Cor 1:22-23

When my father graduated from the seminary, my mother gave him a ring with a cross at the center. But in his first weeks as a new pastor in Odell, Nebraska, a farmer observed, “You’re wearing that Continue reading →

Palms to Passion

I consider Palm Sunday to be one of the most bipolar days of the Church Year. In fact it is given two titles on the liturgical calendar: Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion.

It begins with a parade of people waving palm branches joyfully praising God for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. Children and adults alike enjoy re-enacting this scene in our churches on this day. I know I enjoy waving a palm frond my church provides each parishioner as I sing “All Glory, Laud and Honor” as much as the next guy. There are usually little kids laughing and people smiling as we do this sort of playful activity as worship leaders process in.

palm branch

Parishioners wave palm branches like these at the start of Palm Sunday worship.

But eventually the tone of the service shifts abruptly (by design) as we turn our faces to the cross that looms before our Savior as he fulfills the purpose for which he came: releasing us from sin, death and the devil through his suffering, death and resurrection.

The church I attend often has various readers speak portions of the passion narratives as parishioners go to Communion toward the close of the service. The mood is somber and reflective and evokes a sense of dread.

As I think about the effect such a shift in tone has on me, it reminds me of how shocking and disconcerting this must have been for the disciples. Here Continue reading →

Everybody Matters

I recently read the book Everybody Matters, in which the authors, Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia, extol the virtues of a new kind of business culture taking hold in more and more pockets of our corporate world today. It is “a culture that puts people first and where true success is measured by the way we touch the lives of people” and a culture in which “all team members can realize their gifts, share those gifts, and go home each day fulfilled” (Everybody Matters, p. 12).

“Everybody matters” is a principle that can be applied to the church as well, of course. It is a principle that should define our mission statements and be at the heart of our strategic planning as a people of God.

hands clap

We need to cheer everyone on.

I am reminded of the description St. Paul gives of the Body of Christ when he says, in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20:

The body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

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