Monday, November 3, 2014

Strategy Planning Survey

Churchnet is currently in the fifth year of a five-year strategic plan called First Priority 2015.  The plan was focused on helping the network more effectively serve churches.  The Churchnet Board of Directors has approved a strategic planning process designed to allow Churchnet leadership to take a fresh look at our ministry.  We are seeking God's direction for the future of our collaborative ministry, and we are exploring God's will for our work for the next five years.   

During the past several weeks a Strategy Planning Leadership Team has been conducting a series of Congregational Leadership Sessions with staff members and church leaders in congregations across our state.  Bob Dale, author of To Dream Again and a congregational health consultant, is serving as a consultant and resource person for the strategy planning process.

We would appreciate your help.  You may click the link below to complete a brief online Strategy Planning Survey.  The survey is only five questions regarding your church's priorities and ministry, and it will only take a few minutes to complete.  Your input will help our Strategy Planning Leadership Team to have a better understanding of the needs and current reality in the congregations in our state.

Our goal is to discern how we can most effectively serve congregations as they seek to carry out their mission and ministry.  If you have other suggestions or questions you may send them to churchnet@churchnet.org or call us at (888) 420-2426.  We welcome your insights and suggestions.  Please click the link below and complete this brief survey.  Feel free to share this invitation with others who might be interested in sharing about their church.  We are grateful for your help.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Scholarships Offered for the Willow Creek Leadership Summit - August 14-15, 2014

One of the outstanding leadership development opportunities available to church leaders each year is the annual live teleconference of the Leadership Summit offered by the Willow Creek Association.  The dates for this year’s Leadership Summit are Thursday and Friday, August 14-15, 2014, from 9:00am till 5:30pm.  Churchnet is a member of the Willow Creek Association, and we provide our member discount to our congregations.

Missouri sites for the event are: 
  • Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty
  • Salem in Ladue United Methodist Church in St. Louis
  • Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield
  • St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arnold
  • La Croix Church in Cape Girardeau
  • Remingtons’s (Ridgecrest Baptist Church) in Springfield
  • Parkade Baptist Church in Columbia
  • First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City
  • First Baptist Church in Warrensburg

Discounts for First Time Attenders
For several years, Churchnet has offered scholarship assistance for persons wishing to attend, especially targeted toward those who are experiencing the event for the first time.  Again this year these discounted registrations will be offered to Missouri church leaders.  The regular cost for this event is $265.00, but we are prepared to scholarship ministers as first-time attendees of this Willow Creek-sponsored event for a price of ONLY $60.00 if you register by June 24th.  This special price is for those who have not previously attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.  There is a limit of two discounted registrations per church, and after June 24th the discounted rate goes up to $90.00. 

Special Location Discounts
Due to a special partnership with the Parkade Baptist Church site in Columbia and the First United Methodist in Jefferson City Churchnet can offer a price of $99 per registration, and first time attendees (two persons per church) may attend in Columbia or Jefferson City for only $20.00.

General Discounts
For those who have previously attended a Willow Creek Summit, but wish to take advantage of the Churchnet Willow Creek membership and early bird discount, we can register you for the reduced price of $149.00, if you register by June 24th.  After this date the discounted rate goes up to $179.00.  To register for a seat at the Summit, send your name, your address, church name, phone number and email address to:  bperry@thechurchnet.org.  Or you can call Bob Perry at:  888-420-2426, ext. 706, and provide the above information, along with the site which you wish to attend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Protecting the Dignity of Labor

The national battle between conservative groups and labor unions has come to our state.  Outside groups are applying pressure on our Missouri legislature to pass controversial legislation that would strip unions of the power to compel workers in union shops to join.  The legislation is known as Right to Work, would allow employees to decide whether to join a union, and whether to pay union dues. 

In reality the legislation is an effort to break or reduce the power of organized labor.  Unions in the 24 states that have passed Right to Work have seen sharp drop-offs in dues-paying members after the law takes effect.

As a person of faith I believe that if the dignity of work is to remain protected, then the basic rights of workers must be protected.  I believe we must protect workers by providing fair wages, freedom from discrimination, and the right to organize and join unions. I believe in justice and in the common good.

Right-to-work laws go against everything I believe.  Economists tell us that right-to-work laws devastate economic justice. They lower wages for all workers, and they lessen benefits for all workers. They increase poverty in our communities.  “Right to Work” laws drive down wages and make it harder for working families to find jobs with good wages and decent pension plans.  These laws do not have anything to do with “rights” or “freedom,” but instead they make it harder for working families to get by.

If Missouri were to pass this law, wages would go down and our entire community would suffer. As Governor Nixon pointed out recently, last year Missouri ranked in the top 10 nationally in private sector job growth which is better than every single one of our “Right to Work” neighbors.

It is clear that this issue is not really about jobs, rights, or freedom.  It is an out of state, special interest agenda designed to drive down wages for working families.  Instead of trying to fix something that isn’t broken and engaging in such partisan, divisive tactics, the legislature should focus on real issues like Medicaid expansion and improving education.

Right-to-work laws do not help the least among us. Rather, they enrich those who already hold most of the power and wealth. They foster extreme inequality, inequality that can only lead to extreme disparities and extreme division.  In the book of Isaiah, the prophet proclaims, “Woe to those who make unjust laws.”  I encourage you to make your voice heard.  Tell you legislator to vote NO on the “Right to Work” and “Paycheck Deception” bills that come up for a vote this year.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dealing with Our Fears

Excerpts from Matthew 14:1-34 (NIV)
 
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet. 

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 

Lenten Devotional

The fourteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel includes three stories.  To say the least it is an action packed chapter.  Any one of these stories could capture our attention, but maybe we should focus on the common message of all three.

Herod is a vicious ruler who seems afraid of everyone.  When he hears about Jesus he is afraid John the Baptist has risen from the dead.  Matthew tells us the cruel story of how Herod had killed John in response to a request from his wife, Herodius, and her daughter.  The gruesome account reports that John’s head was delivered to them on a platter during the party.  Even after he has executed John, Herod still fears him.

The second portion of the story records the feeding of the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish.  When Jesus is confronted by the desperate crowd his response was compassion.  He healed their sick and taught them about the Kingdom of God.  For many in the crowd the most pressing question everyday was where could they find their next meal.   Jesus was not merely providing a convenient meal.  He was addressing a critical need and one of crowd’s greatest fears.

The final story in the chapter is Jesus walking on the water to meet the disciples in the boat.  Jesus sent the disciples ahead as he dismissed the crowd.  Then he went to be alone and pray.  Later that night he went out to them—walking on the water.  The disciples are terrified.  Peter attempts to join him on the water and is recued by Jesus.

Life is filled with frightening experiences.  The question is how will we deal with them?  Will we react and lash out in fear as Herod did, or will we seek the direction and provision of God.  The Jesus Way was never meant to be without struggles, but our Savior helps us find our way in a frightening world.

This devotional was written for our Lenten Devotion Guide for First Baptist Church in Jefferson City where I am a member and serve part-time as the Church Administrator.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Jesus Way

Charles Sheldon wrote a book in 1896 entitled “In His Steps.” It was subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?"  The book grew out of a series of sermons he delivered in his congregation.  The thrust of his book was that Jesus was not only our Savior, but also a moral example for our daily lives.  Later Walter Rauschenbusch would later acknowledge the impact Sheldon’s novel had on his theology and his understanding of the social implications of the Gospel.

In the novel a minister encounters a homeless man who challenges him to take seriously the life and teachings of Christ. The homeless man has cannot understand why so many Christians seem to be oblivious to the needs of the poor.  He wonders why they do not live the things they sing and teach.

The phrase "What would Jesus do?" became popular in our country again more than twenty years ago among many evangelical Christians.  It was a fresh call to live our lives in a way that would demonstrate the love and values of Jesus.  Many youth groups began promoting wristbands with the initials WWJD—what would Jesus do?  Unfortunately, the question has sometimes become the subject of jokes and the answers at times trite and corny.

Even serious efforts to understand the life and ministry of Christ sometimes degenerate into theological debate and stale legalism.  I find this a sad commentary on the Christian church.  The reality is each generation of believers must find a way live out their faith.  Every believer struggles to answer the same questions.  What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?  How can I know God’s will for my life?  How am I to live?  How am I to treat other people?  What should be the priorities for my church’s ministry?  How am I to interpret the scripture?

Baptists are often fond of saying “Jesus is the way,” but we are not particularly interested in adopting “the Jesus way” for our lives.  If he really is the way, then certainly we should be doing more than merely affirming “he is the way.”  Maybe we are actually to incorporate his “ways” into our daily lives.  Jesus spoke words of comfort to his followers in the John chapter 14:1-4.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas responds that they do not know where he is going, and, therefore, cannot possibly know the way.  Jesus answers with these wonderful words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  We tend to add this statement to our list of propositions to which we must give intellectual assent, but I believe Jesus was providing instructions for our journey.  The only way to find life, to discover truth, and to know God was to adopt his way of life.

We are to interpret scripture as Jesus did.  We are to value people (friends, strangers, and enemies) as Jesus did.  We are to make his life priorities our priorities.  The focus of his ministry is to become the focus of our ministries.  He was not giving us something else to believe.  He was helping us learn how we are to live.  Maybe it is time to take a fresh look at the Gospels to see again the way Jesus lived.  We are to live “the Jesus way.” We are to strive to give him the freedom to live his life in his way through our lives. It is not just what we believe.  It is how our beliefs change our lives.

This article was written for the Churchnet page in this week's issue of Word&Way.