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Thanks for visiting our website! Picture of the Month: sharing the word in Pilanqui, Ibarra, Ecuador; a view of part of the crowd, two baptisms. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Preaching in Pilanqui

Ministry is always a team effort--Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 48+ years! Countless others have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. My favorite breakfast is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of quality coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature in Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!

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Archive for July, 2010

New Beginnings

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I try always to be grateful for the opportunity to find newness and refreshment. I believe God desires us to find in each day its newness–a day we have never seen before, a day we have never experienced before, a day that is a gift from God; a day that will bring new challenges and new opportunities. We seldom experience such renewal–too often our days have a certain sameness and routine, even boredom.

Today I see want to see newness! I will be helped by being in a different place with different activities, new challenges and renewed relationships. In reality, these are only the periphery of life–the center of life is the newness possible in one’s walk with God through Christ–his presence, our communication, our shared commitments, our single purpose, the desire to do only what he wants and only that which brings him glory in the context of life.

Celebrating Each Day

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

It is no easy thing to celebrate each day. Days are filled with challenges, difficulties, and so many little things that they sometimes all run together. It is not easy to take time and relish the full moon illuminating the early morning sky today, the puffy clouds sailing past, the refreshing breeze that says fall will come again this year despite the promise of 100 degree temperatures this week.

Today we will attend the funeral of one of my first cousins in Arkansas. We shared time with most of the cousins and many of the second and third generation cousins at a family reunion earlier this month. There were 21 of us first cousins all together–Sharon was only the second to decease. A reminder that we are growing older should give even more reason to celebrate the day.

I will look today for the little things of life and I will celebrate and rejoice in them–above all because God is the giver of life and the giver of days.

Interim ministry: A microcosm

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Sunday I will begin an interim ministry with the Holmes Road church in Lansing, Michigan. During my years in Christian higher education, I did several interim ministries. Interim ministries are of varying duration, depending on the needs of the local church. The duration of my previous interim ministries has varied from about six weeks (until the new preacher arrived) to almost three years. What will distinguish this interim ministry is that we will spend only four weeks with the church, and that our ministry is not planned to last until the arrival of the next minister.

During those four weeks, we hope to help the church become aware of and process with personal applications what usually occurs in ministerial separation–disenchantment, doubt, identity questions, disengagement, and organizational turmoil. Despite the typical challenges, the absence of a regular, consistent pulpit presence allows a church to ask identity questions focused on the local congregation and the ministry context apart from ministerial influences.

This will be a time of finding future direction. We will facilitate a self-study to help understand how the church system has functioned in the past and to identify systemic strengths and weaknesses. The self-study will include a brief history of the church with special emphasis on system factors, identity questions, and mission (purpose) questions.

The self-study is designed to solidify the commitment of the church to renewal of its identity, purpose, mission and message, and healthy structures. The self-study will also provide a clear direction to the future based on current internal and external factors, thus contextualizing the ministry plans and providing direction for the search and call of the next minister.

If you would like more information about interim ministry dynamics, please contact me or check out my Interim Ministry Page.

It’s Sunday Again: Amazing

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Amazing! No other word says it better! John Newton wrote about “Amazing Grace.” Mark wrote about an amazing man–amazing works and amazing words. Amazing stories!

Who is this amazing man? Who is this “Jesus”? Mark leaves no doubt about his answer: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” With power over evil (unclean spirits), all kinds of diseases, leprosy, paralysis, the Sabbath, even nature–Jesus lives out the claim of Mark 1:1. The disciples marvel as they experience faith and fear (unfaith) side by side: Who is this that even the waves obey his voice?

But the question Mark is most interested in is not “who is Jesus?”, but “who can be a follower of Jesus?” This is the central question of this short gospel. The question resounds across the centuries. It is the question of every human heart that gets a clear view of Jesus. Can I be a follower of Jesus? Will he accept me? To answer the question, Mark fills his gospel with stories of people like us–people whose past is characterized by and even overcome with evil, people who have served in the demonic realm, religious outsiders, people considered unclean, people with doubts, people fearful in the midst of the desire to believe. The outcasts of society can come to Jesus and he will accept them and welcome them–the women, the blind, the children….

All it takes is a commitment to really be a follower! Mark’s third question is a natural follow up: What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? Change, faith, action. Ready, set, go! The good news is that Jesus wants us to become his disciples! We can be like him, which means that we will never be the same again.

Appearance isn’t everything–but it is something!

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

At the risk of being too political, I share an observation I heard recently: “The biggest problem I have with our president is that he just doesn’t appear presidential.” I recognize that some see it differently, but the person making the statement went on to cite perceptions of rushed judgment, broken promises, reversed decisions, too much involvement in the “fray”, and the inability to demonstrate the kind of stability and wisdom that charts one’s course from a position above the crashing waves of the moment.

This is not an article about national politics, it is an article about preachers. I have noted that some preachers have dressed down so far, both in the pulpit and in their work attire, that they communicate something they likely do not want to communicate. Informal attire can communicate lack of competence, lack of confidence, lack of respect, and lack of authoirty. As one distraught husband observed upon entering the church building and seeking counseling, “You mean he is the preacher?” Indeed–it’s hard to imagine a competent, well-trained counselor in shorts and flip-flops.

Perhaps in a casual society there is something to be said for “dressing down” and meeting the people where they are. On the other hand, there is also something to be said for being a person who raises the level of society and reflects a higher standard of excellence in every aspect of life. I have known more than one instance where a potential contact rejected the church because of an appearance too informal. I have never known of a situation where a potential contact walked away because of too formal an appearance. After all, the preacher may have just come from a funeral! I no longer take naps with my tie on (kidding!), but I do attempt to maintain a level of decorum that is above expectation wherever I am.

I know that appearance is more than attire–it is our demeanor, the impressions we make, our friendliness, openness, encouragement, and a host of other factors. On the other hand, attire is a part of our appearance. And while appearance isn’t everything–it is something!

It’s Sunday Again: “Together Time”

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Selective reading! We read verses to support the points we want to make, to reinforce what we already know or what we want to teach. We do not read carefully and openly. We are often too focused and too little aware. There are aspects of well-known verses that we overlook.

The early church spent time together. An important part of that “together” was the assembly on Sunday. They came together to break the bread of remembrance, and also at times to share a common meal in the house setting where they were worshipping. They were together during the week.

We have developed a version of Christianity in which many who claim to be Christians are never together. How much time does the average Christian spend during the week with other Christians?

We have developed a version of Christianity in which when we are together (in the same place) we are not together (in spirit and conversation, in genuine fellowship). We are in the same place, but we are not sharing hearts and hopes, encouragement and expectations.

Today the church will come together. I trust you will be there. Even more, I encourage you to think about the time shared and make a special effort to make everything you do and say and share part of a special “together time.”

Stars to Steer By: Management

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Those of you who know me know that I am interested in leadership, especially from a church and ministry perspective. I share a quote from my friend Bob Smith.

The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work. –Agha Hasan Abedi

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