Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good Shepherd Update Thursday November 12th, 2009

Dear Good Shepherd,

I hope you are all doing well this week. I am more tired than I have been in a long time now that Murielle is on a more or less regular eating schedule (every two hours night and day). But, thankfully, she's getting nice and plump like a new baby should.

I recorded a video this week addressing the topic of giving--not giving to the church but the church giving to people in need. Christians can sometimes fall prey to the false dichotomy that congregations can "either" help people in need locally "or" help people in other parts of the world.

The New Testament model, found in 1st Corinthians 16 and 2nd Corinthians 8, is that the church does both. Paul, called congregations--poor congregations, not rich ones--in the first century not only to help the poor in their own churches but to send offerings to support impoverished Christians in Jerusalem (which, at the time, was experiencing a famine).

God used other churches not only in Binghamton but across the United States and Canada to support us during our time of need, how can we fail to pass on the grace and generosity we have received?

At the same time some ask: Isn't one of our five year goals to pay off our mortgage? How can we do that when we are giving money away and not doing as many fundraisers?

There are several answers to that question:

1. All of "our" resources are, in reality, God's resources. We are mere stewards or caretakers, charged with spending God's money in accordance with his principles. One of those principles is that when you do what God calls you to do with your finances, God provides. I am not suggesting that we must "give" in order to "get", nor am I suggesting that God will "necessarily" bring prosperity if we give a certain amount to the poor. I am saying that God provides all that is necessary and more so long as we are seeking to honor him with our finances and not hoarding our resources. As we give, God provides so that we can continue to do what God has called us to do (Malachi 3:6-12; Matthew 25:14-28)

2. On a practical level, believing people are drawn to congregations that are mission focused. As we align our priorities with God's priorities, we become an attractive place for those looking to use their gifts in mission and ministry. This is not mechanistic--again we must not "give" in order to "get" this result. Rather, this simply part and parcel of God's economy (or the way he works). God will equip Good Shepherd with the people we need, the funding we need, the people we need so long as we are focused on accomplishing his purposes using the resources he provides.

3. Fundraisers are good. I am not "against" them. I am concerned by the fact that the most corporately energizing things we do, the events that get everyone charged up and ready to sacrifice time talent and treasure, are fundraisers. It's great to get fired up about fundraisers, its better to get fired up about the gospel of Jesus Christ and bringing the knowledge of Christ and the love of Christ to people who do not know him. That must be our consuming ambition and passion. If we put the same effort, teamwork, and cooperation into evangelism and outreach that we put into fundraisers I believe God will bless our efforts work through us to expand his kingdom in this neighborhood.

4. In total in a year we make about $3000.00 to $5000.00 bucks a year on fundraisers, total. That's good. But what this means is that, bottom line, while fundraisers are certainly helpful they are no longer essential to our survival.

5. I think we should continue to do some fundraisers for the church, and we will, but as you can see above, they are not vital to the survival of the church. What is vital to the survival of the church is serving the needy pouring ourselves out for the sake of the gospel and doing what God has called us to do.

It is crucial to think through, corporately, how we spend money and how we collect it. Does our financial life reflect the purposes and principles God has revealed in scripture and do we make manifest the kingdom of God by the use of our resources?

Good Shepherd is such a caring and friendly congregation. I am always so encouraged by the generosity and love you exhibit toward people in need. I think, given our current growth and vitality, God is calling us to do that even more than we have in the past

If we do, if we seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all of these other things we worry about will be added to us (Matt 6:33).

Here is the video discussion I shot yesterday:

Good Shepherd Update Thursday November 5th, 2009

Systematic Theology
  will meet this Saturday. We'll continue our discussion of the "incommunicable attributes of God" picking up with the questions Anna raised last week regarding God's eternity--whether God is present at all times at the same time--and bridge into a related discussion of God's omnipresence. Here is the recording of last week's class. Looking forward to seeing you then.

This Saturday: Anglican Church Women invites all the women of the church to a luncheon on Saturday, November 14th to discuss future plans and mission projects.

Acolyte Practice: This month's practice will be held on Sunday November 29th after the 10:30am service. If you are not an acolyte but have volunteered to acolyte for the Christmas service, please be sure to be there for this practice. Also, if you are a LEM and confused about what to do, then please be there for this practice.

Shepherd's Bowl: Team 3 is scheduled to serve tonight at the Shepherd's Bowl.

A Note from Carmen:
Heartfelt thanks for the concern, love, and sympathy expressed in so many ways to me and my family during my mother's illness and at her passing. I am overwhelmed, and so grateful for my church family.


 To Veterans at Good Shepherd: Thank you to everyone who served and sacrificed in any way in the United States armed forces. May God bless you for your service and may you enjoy the freedom you have helped to defend.

Christmas Acolyting:
So far we have three volunteers and only need two more. I know it is tricky because we want most of our current acolytes to be in the pageant so we are looking for people who are either adults and will not be in the pageant or who are young and are not going to be in the pageant. Christmas Eve service is one of the more important ones of the year so we pull out all the stops. If you are not going to be out of town and are not going to be in the Christmas Pageant which takes place during the service itself, and you are willing to serve as an acolyte please let me know so that I can fill the spaces. We need five acolytes for Christmas Eve.

Mark Galli: Yawning at the Word

"This article first appeared in the November 5th, 2009 issue of Christianity Today. Used by permission of Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, IL 60188."

Again: I do not claim that I have transcended this cultural impatience with the Bible. I'm as irritated as the next person when it comes to the public reading of Scripture. Doesn't this person have anything original to say? I think. Isn't he going to address this issue, or that concern? Get on with it! At least I hope he says something funny soon … .

I try to laugh at myself when I catch myself in such moods: bored with the very revelation of God! We have this extraordinary gift, this miracle book, from the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Mystery of the Universe, the Infinite One whom we (the finite) cannot begin to fathom, the Holy One whom we (blinded by our unholiness) cannot begin to comprehend. The One who can answer our deepest questions but could remain The Question, the One who can restore our broken humanity, but could remain a vague Hypothesis—this One has revealed himself in Law, Prophets, and Gospel—in the words of a collection we now call Holy Scripture.

Whenever the Bible is read, a hush should come over us. We should be inching toward the edge of our seats, leaning forward, turning our best ear toward the speaker, fearful we'll miss a single word—the deeds and words and character of Almighty and Merciful God are being revealed! In a world of suffering and pain, of doubt and despair, of questions about the meaning and purpose of existence, we are about to hear of God's glory, forgiveness, mercy and love, of his intention for the world, of his promise to make it all good in the end, of the way to join his people, of the means to abide with him forever! And there we sit, tapping our feet, mentally telling the preacher to get on with it.

But if we take the trouble to listen, really listen, to that Word, we'll discover something else marvelous: that the One being revealed is as patient with us as we are impatient with his Word, and as enamored with us as we are bored with him. Ah yes, even more enamored.
A Parent Meeting for the Christmas Pageant will be held on November 15th, after the 10:30am service. Please mark your calendars!

Thank you: Bill Woollett has made some cross magnets for your refrigerator in order to raise money for the Anglican Church in the Kwenda slum in Nairobi. You can pick up one of his crosses for a donation of any amount. Thank you to Bill and thank you to everyone who contributed. His crosses will also be available this week.

What are we doing here anyway?
What is the Church supposed to be doing? Alistair Begg deals with the question based on Acts 2. Listen to it all here

Baptism: Siyi will be baptized on December 6th, 2009. Mark your calendars

Stewardship Sunday: is coming up Sunday November 22nd. On that Sunday we will hand out pledge cards and begin to mail out pledge letters. It is important for the budget committee that we have pledges returned by Sunday December 13th in order to plan a budget for the coming year. If you have committed to the three year Capital Campaign, there is no need to recommit so long as you continue contributing in accordance with your commitment. We are jfinally at the point of getting our finances in order after the move. Thank you for your patience with us and

The Fifth Yearly Goal: The fifth goal is: To establish a Hospitality ministry and new member program. We seem to be a good way toward getting our hospitality program organized. Every visitor receives a visitor packet (that is presently being updated to include a newer brochure with up to date information) in the form of a colorful bag with information about the church, a small booklet explaining the gospel, and some small toy or treat depending on the age of the person receives the bag. Visitors also receive a "thank you for visiting hope you come again letter" letter from me during the week with more information about the church and an invitation to check us out. Visitors are also invited down to the parish hall for coffee and from what I have seen they are welcomed very warmly and introduced by our greeters. I think the hospitality part of this is going well... 

What needs a great deal of work is our new member program...the problem is that we don't have one. We have grown by about 30 new people this year who attend regularly but it is difficult for many of them to be integrated into the life of our community and we have not designed a program to facilitate that. In the past it was very easy, people started coming to services and bible studies, they started to help out with various events and programs and eventually they just became a part of the community. We're getting too big for that now. People can get lost much more easily.

It's always a great thing to see so many new faces at bible studies and Christian ed and, of course, in the church service itself, but I regret not having a more organized way to help people feel like they are a part of the community.

One problem has been that we have not defined what membership means. So if someone  decides that he wants to be a member, there is no defined pathway toward that end. In the Episcopal Church, if you breath and are baptized, you are counted on the membership roles. Sometimes even breathing is optional. There are some churches that have not cleaned up their rolls in years and they have a number of departed people still counted as members.

I don't want to duplicate that system. A much better definition of membership I think would look something like the sketch that we drew up at the vestry retreat: A member is someone who: 1. Commits to worship regularly with the body on Sunday morning 2. is both a believer and publicly committed to Jesus Christ either through baptism or confirmation and agreement with basic Christian doctrines 3. commits to serve regularly in some ministry of the church in keeping with his or her gifts and skills. 4. Commits to a tithe or to working toward a tithe.

We would also want to set up periodic "new member" classes--a series of three or four sessions to help orient people to Christianity in general, Anglicanism in particular, and, even more particularly, Good Shepherd.

We will hopefully have this ironed out by the Annual meeting. I welcome and invite your input by email or phone. As always, be sure to sign your name.

Beginner's Bible Study: Beginner's Bible Study is on for tonight. We should move to John 2 this evening.

Women's Bible Study: Meets every Saturday in the parish hall at 10:00am. They are currently studying the book of Isaiah. All women are welcome.

Grace and patience with music: The music ministry at Good Shepherd is going through an interim period while we search for a new director of music. During this period, the choir is taking an extended sabbath (until Christmas) so that when the new director comes he/she will be able to start fresh, with a choir that is rested and ready. Please be patient with those who have so graciously volunteered to use their musical gifts for our sake during that time. We hope and pray to have a new music ministry director in the next two months.

Sermon this Sunday: The sermon this Sunday will focus on the following text from 1st Thessalonians  4:1-8

 1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
 3It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Stewardship Sunday will be November 22nd. How we deal with our money is a good way of assessing our spiritual health and the state of our heart. Personally, I hate talking about money because it plays into all kinds of stereotypes that people have about preachers, but scripture does deal with the topic at length and so if I ignore it or pass over it, I will not only be sinning against God but against you as well. Matt Chandler recently preached a very powerful sermon on the topic that might help to get our brains and hearts readjusted. Here is a link:

Video of Last Sunday's Sermon: Here's the video of last Sunday's Sermon: The Heart of an Apostle:

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: Charles is scheduled to cook...I just don't know who. Breakfast is served at 6:30am and the study starts at the same time. All men are welcome.

Question Box: Someone suggested that we create a question box for people to write down questions for me to answer or to make suggestions. I think that is a good idea especially since not everyone in the congregation has email. We should have a question box up within the next few weeks. Now sometimes these sorts of things cause more problems than they solve so here are some quick guidelines:

1. Please recognize that I may not have time to get to your question right away. I am pretty loaded up at the moment, so I'll do my best but it may be a week or so.

2. Please understand that I may not act on your suggestion--either because we are already overloaded with work or for some other reason. If you have signed your name I'll be able to explain the reasons

3. Please sign your name and speak only for yourself...sometimes question boxes can be used for sniping rather than asking or suggesting, so we ask that if you leave a note, please sign it with your full name. Unsigned notes will be discarded before they are read (that is my general policy anyway).

Christian Education: Science and the Bible/Creation and Evolution.  This Sunday we'll be viewing part of the film Expelled by Ben Stein. Here is the trailer detailing the systematic expulsion of scientists who accept Intelligent Design from the academic community.

Next Sunday we'll deal with the Old Earth position.

Next Education series: Spiritual Disciplines...more information about this series will be coming soon.

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