Posts Tagged ‘Gifts’

The Cat’s Out

For My Next Trick...

Wilson Valdez won his first professional baseball game as a pitcher on May 26, 2011.  The game began on May 25 and lasted 6 hours and 11 minutes.  His team, the Philidelphia Phillies, used 21 players and had run out of pitchers in the 19 inning game.  19.  That’s more than 2 full games worth of innings.

Everyone was tired.  Fans were literally asleep in their seats until Valdez came to the mound.  It’s a big deal because he’s not a pitcher.  Well, he wasn’t a pitcher, but he showed there was more to him than everyone thought.  He normally plays 2nd base, but now the cat is out of the bag.  Now everyone knows he is capable of doing so much more than they ever thought.

And now, of course, the cat is squirming in everyone else’s bag and going for daylight.  What else is hiding underneath everyone’s facade?  What am I capable of when the innings grow long?  What gifts lie hidden in the church that only come out when they are desperately needed? 

I say, let them loose.  It’s good to have people doing what they do best, but let’s face it: there are a lot of people in our churches who ride the pine and we have no idea what they are capable of because they never step up to the pitcher’s mound and give it a try.  I’m not sure whose fault this is, and I don’t think it’s important.  What I do know is that Valdez, a journeyman infielder, threw a 90 mile per hour fastball and got the win.  What can you do?


Church Secretary

May 30, 2011 5 comments

And you are...?

One day I may be at a place where I need to hire a church secretary.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That’s a whole can of worms that deals with values and such – I’m not going into that right now.  However, I do know what I’m going to look for when I look for a secretary.  Here are my thoughts on the important ministry of church secretary.

Hiring a good church secretary is difficult.  You might have to beg the right person.  You might have to go outside the congregation.  You will probably need to pour money into training the right person.  You’ll especially have to train them on the mission and vision of the church.  But one thing you can’t do is train them in hospitality.

Hospitality is the thing.  If your church secretary doesn’t have the gift of hospitality, you’re sunk.  They are the first person of contact for most people entering or calling the church building.  A grumpy voice is death to any opportunity for ministry.  An attitude that seems to say, “I’ll do this for you, but only because it’s my job, not because I love my job” will leave the inquirer or person needing help feeling like an imposition.

Hospitality from the front desk means making people feel like they are the most important thing in your life and your job at that moment.  Printing the bulletin or stuffing envelopes can wait, and the person coming in from outside or calling from wherever need to feel that.  Because, in fact, they are the most important thing in your life and job.  I realize that it can be a meticulous job that requires a detail-oriented mind and a person who can get on task and complete it in a timely manner, but it must all be hung on a peg for a few minutes to deal with people.

Something else important in hiring a secretary (I’m using that word, but you know I mean whatever the politically correct version is, right?) is treating them like they are actually part of the ministry, and not just a part, but a vital part of the church’s work in the world.  If your secretary doesn’t see that they are, in fact, the most important link in the ministry, they will miss the mark.  He or she needs to see that they are the main supporting ligament in the body of Christ.  They connect, they hold up, they support – and nobody else is going to do that.

They protect the pastor, they keep their mouth shut when they know something that’s none of their business, they advocate for those not noticed, they are the eyes and ears where the pastor can’t go.  They have, without a doubt, the most crucial “job” in the church office.  Church’s run just fine without a pastor, but without a secretary?  Huh uh.  They need to be held in high regard and paid a serious remuneration – not just a minimum.

I wrote a few days ago about Barb the church secretary who said, “yes.”  It shows that the secretary is the doorkeeper.  He sees the mail and throws out the rubbish.  She can put your request on the fast or slow burner.  The secretary wields an enormous amount of “power” in the church, and next to hospitality the most important thing a secretary must have is a humble, teachable, gentle spirit that isn’t looking for power.  I guess what I’m saying is this person must be spiritually mature, and her or his level of maturity will directly correspond to the level of ministry the church is able to accomplish.

Big job.  The right person can make the church flourish.  The wrong one can bring it to a grinding halt.

Categories: Ranting Tags: , ,


November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Tomorrow I’ll be preaching on finding ourselves living out a “kingdom lifestyle” where everything about our lives are under the rule of the King.  We’ll talk primarily of generosity and giving…tithing.

As our church begins to enter the toddler stage of development we find the need to be able to start moving toward self-sustaining.  We have to talk about where we are financially and I need to give an open, honest account of our standing and where we’re heading.  Our funding is, as it should be, beginning to dry up from outside sources.  It is a slowing down of sorts. 

All church plants should hope for it…well, hope for it while the tithes and offerings of the church go up to meet the lessening outside sources.  It’s natural.  It’s expected.  It’s exactly what you want.  It’s terrifying.

So, I’m trying something I’ve never done before: commitment cards.  We’ll be asking people to prayerfully consider their giving for the year 2011 and make a commitment – if they’re in a place to do so (of course, not everyone is, and that’s ok).

It’s a strange thing to do when there are Christians and non-Christians in the room.  You appeal to the Christians out of their desire to grow in faith and following Christ.  You then appeal to the non-Christians out of what?  Some commodity they’re receiving?  A service?  This I haven’t quite figured out.  We’ll just preach it and leave it up to the Spirit.

God’s Will.

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I met with Lee Heerspink for breakfast this morning.  It’s something we’ve done once a week for the last year and a half.  We missed the last few weeks because he’s been with the Air Force on tour through Montana.  We won’t do it again for about 3 months while he’s at basic training.  After that, he’ll move to Nebraska and live the fabulous life of an Air Force Guitarist.

I asked this question, “Why do you think God had you with Embody for the last year and a half?”  The answer isn’t always so easy to see so close to the end of a period of time.  Let’s be honest, sometimes we never quite figure out a question like that.  He wasn’t sure, but I took a guess (maybe I’ll know for sure one day).  I think the answer I gave is a good one.

Could it be that God knew the type of personality He wanted Embody to have – the DNA we started out with that would continue into the future generations?  Lee brought a very unassuming, honest, approachable, humble personality to worship.  There has never been anything showy about Lee (I’m guessing throughout his entire life).  He’s not one who wants the limelight, and doesn’t want people to notice him.

I believe this is what God wants from Embody in worship.  There is only one who deserves the limelight in worship, and it’s God.  I believe Lee was the perfect person to get us off the ground in worship – the kind of worship that points to Jesus; the kind of worship that is honest about who we are and where we’re going, and with Whom we travel and to Whom we travel.  One year…to the date.  That’s what God gave us together.

I think Lee was struggling with the idea that he may have left us in the lurch – nobody to jump in and lead worship on a regular basis.  This explanation, which again I think is a good one, gives permission to Lee to follow a very clear calling without feeling unfair guilt over following God’s movement in his life.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter how long Lee was with us.  What did matter was doing what he was supposed to do while he was with us.  The same is true with me and with you.  Too many people are so worried about, “Am I in the middle of God’s will?” or “How do I know if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing?” or “Should I live here or there, or do this or that job?”  I don’t think it matters as much as like to think it does.  Ultimately it’s this:

It doesn’t matter where we are or for how long; it matters only what we do (and Whose we are) while we’re there.

Into The Wild, Blue Yonder

August 26, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been sitting on this entry for weeks and weeks.  I thought that if I didn’t post it, it wouldn’t come true, but…I have to share it with you because I need your prayers – all you cybercapable friends:

Since day one, I have had a partner in the gospel here at Embody: Lee Heerspink.  He and I have worked from the beginning on starting Embody.  We’ve prayed a lot, and used our machetes to cut through the question marks that are church planting to give birth to a place that is authentic to who God has made us to be.

We’ve been honest with each other and vulnerable with each other.  He’s one of the few I can call a part of my band of brothers…a true friend who would do anything to help me walk in faith and maintain the long obedience in the same direction.  He is the type of guy who’s willing to ask me the hard questions and let me ask them of him.

He told me months ago that he may be leaving…pursuing a dream of his to play music in the Air Force.  That was painful to hear for multiple reasons: he’s a good friend, he’s been with me from the very beginning and we share that history.  We share, also, a united vision for worship.  Then there’s the obvious: he’s awesome at what he does, and there’s no way to replace him.

Since the moment he first told me about the possibility of him leaving, I made a conscious decision: pray for him and don’t try to sway him.  I have my desires, but they are selfish.  I don’t know what God wants, but I can hear in my friend’s voice that he is hopeful.  I would never want to take that away from him.  He’s a loyal friend, too, so I knew that if I were to try to lay on guilt it would sadly work.  I don’t want to be that guy.

He has one more month with us, then…he’ll be playing with the Air Force.  His last Sunday is September 19, which is our one year anniversary as a church.  It will be bittersweet.

When I tell people this they always ask the question: “What are you going to do?”  My answer is always, “Not quite sure, but I’m not worried about it.”  I know that God has a plan, and it will be good.  There is someone either inside or presently outside the body of believers we worship with who will become for us exactly what God intended.  Ephesians says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

There really are two stories here that connect in Christ.  The first is the loss of a musician in our midst…one who has a vision for worship and leads by quiet, humble service.  He has helped to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable.  He’s an authentic person who hates being noticed and is a little shy.  It’s not just part of his charm…it’s God’s gift to Embody.

The other story is also one of loss, and one that is much more accessible to people: losing a friend to distance.  I’ve had friends move away before, and more commonly been the one moving away, but this is a strongly felt loss by me.  I think it is because, besides Dana (my bride), Lee is the one who has been at every step and lifted every stone and painted every wall and sweated and bled and cried with me.  He’s my friend born by challenge. I’ll miss him, but we are connected through Christ and the body of Christ, though separated by distance meets at the heart of God…often in worship and always at the Lord’s Table.

I am planning on this being a great opportunity for God to show up and make something truly awe-inspiring happen.  Here’s the plan: You pray and I’ll keep my eyes open.  That way when God lands something great in our path I’ll see it and you’ll hear about prayers answered.

European Leotards

Sometimes you can just tell your kid is going to be good at something.  Bis can move.  She knows right where her body is, and can jump and land on a dime.  She can spin and dance.  She has tremendous balance and huge amounts of arm strength for lifting her tiny frame.  She’s made for gymnastics.  The kid is just a natural.

There are other kids in the class.  They’re there because their parents think they will enjoy it.  Or they’re there because their parents think that it will help them develop some dexterity or balance or coordination.  Or they’re there because their parents have wads of cash to throw at every opportunity under the sun.  (did you notice how I used the threefold homophone “they’re, there, their”?  Pretty awesome, huh?)

With only 6 kids in her preschool gymnastics class there aren’t many to use in contrast, but I’m fairly confident that my child is destined for the olympics.

The other kids will be awesome at math or art or whatever else non-athletic children end up doing.  And you know something?  Those jobs are important, too.  Someone has to do my taxes after I’m sitting pretty when my daughter gets a sweet endorsement deal with Wheaties or some obscure european leotard company.

I’m not made for that level of athletics.  I’m not made for math.  I’m not made for being anything but me – the very way I was made to be.  Ephesians says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Let’s face it: you can’t compete with the Bis, but you were made for something.  What was the good work you were created for?  Don’t try doing the other thing.  Find the thing you were made to do…and do it.  You’ll never EVER feel more alive and worthwhile and fulfilled as you will when you are doing the thing you were made to do.  For Bis, it might just be sticking the landing.

Of course, she might not want to do that.  In which case, I’ll be happy if she’s happy.  I just won’t get free Wheaties and european leotards.

Snow-headed Saints

I don’t know how many people worshipped with us on Sunday.  250? 300? 350?  I don’t know.  All I  know is that it was beautiful.  There were so many grey heads out there, I thought maybe it had started snowing.  In reality, it was foggy and cool when the forecast had called for a pretty good chance of rainstorms that morning.  So, I’ll take the fog…and I’ll take the snow headed saints.  There were loads of people with brown and black and blond and no hair, pig tails and buzz cuts, but it’s the white hair that most encourages me.

I got a big hug from my friend Betty (plenty old enough to be my grandmother) who said something that absolutely blew my mind.  She said, “This is a big day for me.”  It’s not what I was expecting.  My egocentric mind expected that she would think it was a big day for me (Jim) or for our church, but that’s not what she said.  She said it was a big day for her.  This is proof to me of what I’ve known for a year and a half about Betty – she is praying like crazy for me and for our new church.

She has owned this ministry to such a deep level that all the preparation, all the potluck food, all the weather, all the audio and video, all the songs chosen by Lee, all the games planned, and every person who showed up were weighing on her heart.  I’m confident that Betty prayed far more than I did for our big outdoor service.  It was a big day for her.

The day was great.  I can’t say it large enough to express it here.  The greatness is measured (in my opinion) by the number of smiles, the friendships created, the God worshiped, the good feeling and mojo that covered the whole area.  But I think the greatest thing that happened for me personally was hearing what Betty had to say in the middle of that parking lot hug, “This is abig day for me.”  God, help me pray that hard about things.