Friday, April 18, 2008

Church membership

A reader of this blog recently e-mailed me a question that I thought would be important to share with you and to ask how you would respond. I did request the pastor's permission before sharing his question in this space, and he gave me permission to do so.

This pastor has a person in the church who has limited capacity to understand some things due to a disease. This individual has professed faith in Jesus Christ and been baptized. The parents are strong members of this pastor's church. The individual has requested to become a member of the church, but the pastor was concerned that the individual might not be able to understand what church membership means. This church is also in the process of re-writing its church documents to specify more clearly what church membership means. The pastor asked for my thoughts on this issue.

I'll share my response in a later blog, but I'm interested in hearing from our readers. Would you allow this person to become a member of your church even if the individual might have a limited understanding of what church membership means? If the church did accept this person as a member, how would that affect the re-writing of the church documents intended to strengthen the meaning of church membership? If someone may not be able to understand the purpose of church membership, can they understand enough about Jesus Christ to accept Him as Lord and Savior? Would you consider this person's acceptance of faith in Christ as valid? Would you baptize someone with developmental challenges?

One reason I was interested in posting this question is because we seldom consider such issues in our bivocational churches. I am very familiar with hundreds of bivocational churches in many parts of the country, and I don't know of any, until now, who have had to consider these types of questions. I believe the best time to consider our responses to these issues is before we are confronted with them, so this can be a time of real learning for many of us. I hope to hear from everyone of our readers on this issue.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Healthy Small Church II

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading another workshop on the Healthy Small Church in Palisade, CO. We had another great meeting with several small church leaders attending. Once again, there were a number of good questions and a lot of sharing between the participants.

My wife and I left western Colorado this morning to drive to Cheyenne, WY for the third workshop which will be held tomorrow. During the night a major winter storm hit the mountains creating some really tough driving conditions, but we made it through just fine. We're hoping things settle down before we start home Saturday morning.

One of the things that excites me about this workshop, and the others I have scheduled for this year, is the growing number of judicatories that are seeing the importance of investing in the well-being of their smaller churches. For many years, denominations and judicatories largely ignored their smaller churches, but some are now beginning to see that their smaller churches have much to offer the Kingdom of God, and they are looking for new ways to assist those churches. I believe this workshop is one way to do that. If you are a judicatory leader feel free to contact me for information about bringing this workshop to your small church leaders. If you are a small church leader and believe a workshop on how to help your church become healthier encourage your judicatory leaders to contact me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Healthy Small Church Workshop

This week I am with the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains leading workshops on the Healthy Small Church. On Monday we were with 20 small church leaders in Colorado Springs, CO for a great day. It is always exciting to see pastors and leaders of smaller churches coming together to learn new ways of leading their churches.

Today my wife and I drove through the mountains to Grand Junction, CO. We took a more scenic route than my GPS recommended which gave us the opportunity to see part of the country we would not have seen otherwise. For a couple of people who grew up on farms in southern Indiana the mountains were amazing. We saw big horned sheep, hundreds of deer, and two dog sled teams riding through the snow.

Tomorrow we will have our second workshop at a church in Palisade, CO. I understand about 15 people are registered, and I am looking forward to spending the day with them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Walking with Jesus

An emphasis in our region this year is called "Walking with Jesus." We are encouraging our churches and individuals within those churches to commit to practices within the areas of leadership, missional, and spirituality that will help draw them closer to God in 2008. One pastor responded that one of the practices he was committed to this year was taking his days off and taking his vacations. He admitted that he was nearing burn-out and needed to take better care of himself.

One of my practices this year is reading through the New Testament. Tomorrow I will read the book of Philemon which won't take long. I've read through it so quickly this year that I may read through it again in a different translation. Another practice I'm doing is praying the Lord's Prayer when I lay down at night and the first thing I do before getting out of bed in the morning. It is a way to make my last and first thoughts of the day center on God. These are simple but effective ways to help me stay focused on God. Some years I've read through the entire Bible; one year I read through several books that studied the book of Romans; one year I read several books that focused on the various spiritual disciplines that we need to practice. The important thing is to choose practices that are meaningful to you and do not get boring over time.

What are you doing this year to help you grow in your relationship with God? I think it would help many of us to hear from one another. Your practice might inspire someone else to begin walking with Jesus in a brand new way in 2008.