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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

The Blessing Of The Advent Season

Season of Advent

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent and the beginning of the advent season. Perhaps you are not that familiar with Advent, let me have pastor and theologian Mark Roberts explain:

The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word advent us, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come. 

Advent reminds us of our need for a Savior, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasizes, the message of Advent becomes an urgent sermon of repentance to the world.

So the whole of the message of Advent becomes an urgent sermon, calling men and women to repentance. Before Jesus came John the Baptist, and we must not over him. For the whole of the early Christians, Advent was a time for repentance, not for rejoicing. All the hymns that we have sung speak of this and it seems to me that it is right that we should have sung with repentant hearts. But now it is true that in three days, Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us any more, or threaten. The One who helps us is there. He, who never leaves us alone, is there.

As we begin this Advent season, I offer you this Advent Prayer for your devotion and worship:

Gracious God,
Send us your grace this Advent Season,
so that we can prepare for your coming.

Touch our hearts with longing,
so that we can better love and serve you and each other.
Fill us with hope that we can be transformed by your Spirit,
and so help transform the world.

Give us the peace of knowing that you came to share,
our human life and redeem us for the sake of love.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus,
whose kingdom we seek. Amen.

Great readings for your celebration of Advent:

Five Critical Keys To Casting A Clear Vision

Casting Clear Vision
excerpted from Mike Riggins and Support Raising Solutions:

How clear is your ministry vision? Is it 20:20? Or is it closer to 20:200?! The most important piece of our support raising is the crystal clear sharing of our ministry vision with our prospective donors. Here are five keys that will bring much needed clarity to your primary role in support raising—that of being a vision caster:

Results, not strategies, speak to people’s hearts! It is easy to talk about all our grand ministry schemes and ideas, but lose sight of actual results. Changed lives are what really matter to our prospective partners! Yes, vision casting is about painting a picture of a preferred future, but make sure you also include the stories of lives already touched for the sake of eternity. Remember—you don’t take God anywhere. He is already at work touching lives and drawing them to Himself long before you ever arrive on the scene! So make sure you are telling about the work the Lord is already doing. It will validate your vision when you can show your prospective partners it is God Himself who is at work.

Leave the ministry language at home! Most of us hold tightly to our ministry lingo, like: “Unengaged People Groups,” “Missio Dei,” or “Urban Plunge.” Not only do these cool phrases take a lot of time to explain in your support appointments, but they can leave your prospective partner feeling like an alien on another planet, an outsider that just can’t quite connect. Do the difficult work of making your presentation easy to understand and embrace. Vision casting is simply building a verbal bridge that spans from where they live life to where God has you.

Leave room in the vision for them!Make it clear there is need and space for the involvement of others in your ministry. For your prospective partner to truly engage with you, you must mentally and emotionally help them cross the bridge you create for them. Your vision can either give them a clear incentive to make that journey or it can leave them feeling stranded as a spectator on the other side. Invite them in a clear and compelling way to be a part of fulfilling your vision in more ways than just their checkbook.

Don’t talk as if your thing is the only thing!Because of the strength of our calling and the passion God has given us for it, sometimes it is easy to talk as if our vision is the only thing God is doing and the only thing people should be giving to. Shane Bennett, editor of the Mission Catalyst, writes that some missionaries arrogantly describe their ministry as if “God has given up on alternatives and that their thing is it!” He encourages workers to instead communicate that their ministry is “a good one on a table full of good ones.” The Lord is working through others just like you all across the planet to bring people from every tongue and tribe to Himself. Passionately cast a compelling vision for your work in such a way that invites the participation of others, but make sure you don’t convey that the hand of God is solely on you and your ministry!

The focus shouldn’t be on you! The central figure in your vision should be God and his redemptive activity, not you! A natural tendency is to see ourselves right in the middle of everything involved with the vision we are casting. Recently, during my commute home, I had a person tailgating me and I was constantly keeping a view on him in my rear-view mirror. Not only did they stay right on my tail, they were swerving back and forth too. Thus, I had to keep adjusting my viewing angle back and forth to see them. But as I strained to keep them in view, all I saw in my mirror at times…was my fat face! Casting our vision to others can be just like that. We must be careful or we end up seeing too much of ourselves and what we’re doing in the picture and not enough focus on what God is doing to fulfill the vision. Keep in mind it is His ministry and He has graciously invited you to participate—not the other way around!

(ht: Support Raising Solutions)

Happy Thanksgiving

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
Every year, I re-read Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation. It is a great reminder of the heart of the holiday that we come together to observe and celebrate as a country.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation that follows is taken from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Abraham Lincoln