Archive for June, 2008

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Retentio…Contemplatio…Dilectio…soul food for planters.

June 24, 2008

Planting is hard work…every day a little discouragement threatens to pull the carpet out from under your feet. Someone has decided to try out another church…a key leader just imploded…someone has created an unhelpful conflict…giving is down…your sermon was flat (according to your spouse)…the music bombed…your lunch appointment stood you up…when you describe your vision people don’t get it…the plan is not taking root. I get it.

So if you don’t feed your soul you will die a few deaths every day and the result will be ugly. You get cynical, pessimistic, grumpy. You must feed your soul.

St. Augustine gives us a format for soul feeding in the concept of “meditation”. In short, to meditate is analogous to reading a love letter. You tear it open and weigh every word pulling whatever you can to feed on. He called it “the soul’s ascent into God” and identified three steps.

First, retentio. This is the activity of Bible study and getting at the meaning of the text. In retentio you hold the truth of scripture in your mind with clarity. Second, contemplatio. This is “gazing at God through this truth”. What does this tell me about God and how does this truth impact me in terms of how I am or should be living? Third, dilectio. This is the practice of paying attention to a little spark of joy that comes through the first two steps and fanning that into full flame. Jonathan Edwards preferred the term “religious affections”…having affections for God. Luther said “the Holy Spirit is preaching to you”, John Owen talks about “relishing and savoring the sweetness of spiritual life”. Joy…food for the soul.

Planters must feed their soul lest they die. Planters must feed their soul lest those around them die. Eat.

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PLANTERS…ELI LILLY….and a $1000.00 buck bribe

June 18, 2008

By now most of us are aware of Lilly pastor networks that are popping up around the country (OK…who pays attention to this obscure stuff?).  Really.  Here is the scupe.

Some years ago the folks at Lilly in Indianapolis (after making a lot of cash on prozac sales) decided to study pastoral longevity.   The results were fairly clear.   Pastors who are isolated and who lose their dream are most likely to crash and burn (great for prozac sales).  Not rocket science.

So they got on the solution side and developed the idea of pastor networks.  Not for bull sessions but for three activities…learning, support and accountability.   The idea is to get clergy together to dig into wisdom (say read through a book together) and to hold one another to personal goals and provide support through the tough times.   These groups, if they invest 4 hours a month in that activity and if they are lead by a trained facilitator (so things stay on track), qualify for $1000.00 per attendee in professional dvp. money.

It’s carrot and stick that adds up to healthier and happier pastors with positive things in their lives.  A good thing.

OK….so are there any takers out there?   A few voices have spoken up showing interest in a network for planters that would focus on key planting issues and challenges.   Contact bingebretson@rcagl.org for details.

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WES WHACKS A HOMER FOR THE TEAM…we all “re up” for 5 more years!

June 7, 2008

So I am sitting on the back row of DeVos Fieldhouse listening to Wes (Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary of the RCA) in his general address. It’s General Synod season again and this is fun. Really! Wes is marking year 5 of the 10 year goal to plant 400 churches and revitalize every church and he is stoked! Facts are we are ahead of the projections in planting new churches…we’re seeing thousands of new people spiritually connected through these churches…half of our new starts are diverse racially…the movement is picking up steam such that we are watching a culture change right under our noses!

Wes noted the fact our new congregations are younger and therefore we need to get them more representation in Synod. He noted the tone of ONE THING in San Antonio….young, diverse, creative…”we may not register them in our statistics yet (as their congregations are not organized) but they are our future!” says the Wes man. Wes reminded us that the anxiety that many feel in all this change is not unlike feelings of earlier generations when new churches were planted. Chill! (OK. Wes didn’t say that)

Then he really wacked it…..”OUR CALL is not just about the survival of a dying denomination. Rather it is about the life transforming, community changing, justice bringing Lordship of Jesus Christ”! (did he really say that?!) “This is about giving our lives away for God’s mission to the world!”

THE CHURCH IS NOT THE FINAL DESTINATION FOR GOD’S GRACE…THE WORLD IS! (Wes got big applause for that knock out one liner!)

Wes went on to report great advance in church revitalization through pastoral networks…regularly he drew us back to the mission of God…and our call to participate in it. A strong message…a strong leader…a strong challenge. Thanks Wes for the push!

The evening went on to celebrate new churches organized including THE RIVER, CENTER POINT, NORTH POINT, WITHIN REACH and WAYFARER from the Great Lakes Region. Good job Rob, Dave, Rick, Jason and Josh! That’s 5 newly organized churches in the Great Lakes!!!

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Serial Planting…a career track for some?

June 3, 2008

Recently leaders of the Great Lakes multiplication movement gathered to brainstorm around leadership development issues.  One key thought was a reminder to keep people in their area of greatest strength.  In other words….if a planter, after 4 or more years in a plant, has successfully established a new start and is feeling “bored or itchy” then perhaps they are ready for a new start up opportunity.    Expecting an apostolic-evangelist to thrive as a shepherd-teacher can be a huge frustration out into the 6th, 7th or 15th year of a plant even if that plant is becoming comfortably large!

Some of us are gifted to do what others of us are not.   Still others of us are so strongly gifted that to be forced into the next developmental phase of a plant can feel like pure torture.   The multiplication team in the Great Lakes is here to help us all thrive in the way we are wired!   If you are a serial planter, fess up!