BECOMING MISSIONAL (Part One)

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At the heart of my ministry has been the call to be a missional church.  I hope this reaffirmation by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church doesn’t get lost amid the ‘hot button’ decisions made at this meeting.  The action item approved by this assembly is for the church to:

“join intentionally in God’s mission to transform our world and address root causes of societal injustices by following Christ’s example of service through faith, hope, love, and witness.”

I am wondering:  How are we doing?  Note at the end of this rational a listing of specific action items for churches to consider.

From the report to the General Assembly:

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a historical commitment to joining Christ’s mission in local and global communities and many have discussed and written about the concept of the missional church in recent years. The Presbyterian Mission Agency, in its 2013–2016 Mission Work Plan, has made engaging young adults through mission and volunteer service a priority and believes shaping multigenerational, faith-based relationships dedicated to service in local communities and the world will help the church better follow Christ’s mission.

 

For nearly 200 years, the Presbyterian church has served as one of the greatest forces for mission in the world. The church is called to minister to the immediate needs and hurts of people. The Book of Order states: “In the life of the congregation, individual believers are equipped for the ministry of witness to the love and grace of God in and for the world. The congregation reaches out to people, communities, and the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to gather for worship to offer care and nurture to God’s children, to speak for social justice and righteousness, and to bear witness to the truth and to the reign of God that is coming into the world” (G-1.0101).

 

Presbyterians have sought to be a mission-centered church from their inception and have a strong, unwavering belief that there is no other way truly to be the church. Many have discussed and written about the concept of the missional church in recent years. One Presbyterian scholar, Darrell Guder, has written on this vital topic for the church today. In his book, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Guder and his colleagues provide key insights into the recent missional church movement.

 

Guder and his colleagues discuss three themes that are important to this proposal: the shift the church must make, the purpose of the church, and the role of denominational structures. Guder argues that to be missional the church must “move from church with mission to missional church.”[1] Most churches articulate a commitment to mission and have a mission program. If they are large enough, they likely will have a specific pastor devoted to mission. Many churches support several overseas missionaries and are probably contributing money and service to a local mission, homeless shelter, or food bank. In this construct, mission is seen as one of the many activities and programs of the church. The purpose of the local church is not to be what Guder calls “vendors of religious services and goods,”[2] with mission merely being one of a myriad of programs. Rather, doing mission is central to what it means to be the church. This is the shift that the church must make.

 

The second major theme in Guder’s work challenges the very definition of what it means to be the church. Guder argues that it is “a new understanding of the church as a body of people sent on a mission.[3] The church is thus not only a body that gathers for a worship service. The church is also a group of people organizing together so they can serve the community around them most effectively. The purpose of gathering is to be sent. Guder states, “The public worship of the mission community always leads to the pivotal act of sending. The community that is called together is the community that is sent. Every occasion of public worship is a sending event.”[4] To be a missional church, worship is driven more by what must happen after the service.

 

What it truly means to be the church, according to Guder, is “the people of God who are called and sent to re-present the reign of God. This vocation is rooted in the good news, the gospel: in Jesus Christ the reign of God is at hand and is now breaking in.”[5] For Guder, the focus of the staff and the commitment of the resources are directed toward helping people to re-present Christ to their neighbors in their everyday lives. They do this through normal, day-to-day interactions with friends, family members, and colleagues. The activities of the church should model these forms of everyday interactions. Guder writes: “The ecclesial practices are never esoteric or supernatural but involve ordinary human behavior: joining and sharing, eating and drinking, listening and caring, testing and deciding, welcoming and befriending.”[6] To do this effectively, the church must know its neighbors and understand what things they care about, so as to cultivate authentic, genuine friendships.

 

This initiative seeks to inspire Presbyterian congregations to reach out to their communities through acts of service that lead to connectivity with local communities and demonstrates the love of Christ to their neighbors such as:

 

•      Every congregation would determine a number of volunteers and volunteer hours they would commit to their community and fulfill that commitment for the year.

•      Adopt a community in need of refurbishing in the U.S.

•      Actively engage youth and young adults in volunteer opportunities.

•      Support young adults and others called to serve in God’s mission in the U.S. and abroad.

•      “Re-presenting” Christ in their everyday lives through normal, day-to-day interactions with friends, family members, and colleagues.

•      Support the Living Missionally initiative in prayer.

•      Actively engaging at least 1,000 PC(USA) congregations each year (2014–2016) to focus on becoming “Missional Churches” through acts of service in communities around the world.”

 

[1] Darrell L. Guder, “Missional Church: From Sending to Being Sent,” in Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, ed. Darrell L. Guder (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 6.

[2] George R. Hunsberger, “Missional Vocation: Called and Sent to Represent the Reign of God,” in Missional Church, 108.

[3] Ibid., 81.

[4] Guder, “Missional Structures: The Particular Community,” in Missional Church, 243.

[5] Guder, “Missional Church,” in Missional Church, 15.

[6] Inagrace T. Dietterich, “Missional Community: Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit,” in Missional Church, 181.

 

WHEN JESUS WEEPS

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WHEN JESUS WEEPS

John Buchanan in his blog entry titled “Weep Together”talks of the of the various narratives blocking meaningful negotiations on the part of both Israel and Palestine. http://jmbpastor.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/weep-together/

This is a topic that will require serious and thoughtful prayer and discernment when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly meets in Detroit this coming June.

The hymn, When Jesus Wept, immediately comes to mind: 

 When Jesus Wept, the falling tear

In mercy flowed beyond all bound;

When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear

Seized all the guilty world around.”

Presbyterian Hymnal #312

Do we not all groan and weep for these people longing to live on sacred ground and in God’s Shalom / Peace.  

Prayer:  Let there be peace in our hearts and minds throughout the world God has given us all to share.  AMEN

 

 

 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed.  (Psalm 10:12)

“Human trafficking is a modern-day slave trade. It violates human rights and exploits innocent people” ( Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, president, sixty-first session, U.N. General Assembly.)

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

 The pastor on Sunday, May11th, Rev. Jim Neumann, called for the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church in Saginaw to be engaged in learning more about the 32 billion dollar industry of HUMAN TRAFFICKING.  In light of all recent news about the teenage girls taken in Nigeria, we are called to be aware of the fact this is also an issue for those of us who live in this country and in Michigan.

Over the last decade, numerous human trafficking cases have been prosecuted in Michigan. The court dockets detail the horror stories: Children being sold for sex at truck stops, servants held in captivity and forced to clean for free, and women forced into the sex industry, forfeiting their earnings.[1]   

And this story in this same publication illustrates how close to home this this situation has become:

Jean Claude Toviave, a former University of Michigan janitor and part-time tennis instructor, is federally charged with trying to pass off four African immigrants as his own children, giving them fake names and birth dates to sneak them over in 2006. Documents accuse him of abusing them for years in his Ypsilanti home, which he got through Habitat for Humanity, and forcing them to do housework.

 

His so-called children told authorities they were deprived of food and beaten with broom handles, a plunger, electrical cords and an ice scraper when they didn’t finish chores or homework. They detailed the years of abuse in journals, which police confiscated, and said Toviave threatened them if they tried to leave.

 

The “children” weren’t a big secret. Prosecutors say he enrolled the three youngest — 21, 20 and 15 — in a public middle school.

 

 The students reported the abuse to counselors, triggering an investigation.

 

Toviave, 42, was arrested in May and is behind bars on human trafficking and forced labor charges.

 

What can we do?   We can study and learn all we can about this issue!   We prayerfully discern what we can do as advocates/activists for change.  I would also suggest sharing the stories we hear.  We must pray!   

For those in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) family, I would also commend to your study and reflection numeroius resources—many provided by Presbyterian Women .[2]

Prayer:[3]   Pray Psalm 10 in light of the plight of the millions of modern day slaves.

 

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor– let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. 3 For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, those greedy for gain curse and renounce the LORD. 4 In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”; all their thoughts are, “There is no God.” 5 Their ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of their sight; as for their foes, they scoff at them. 6 They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved; throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.” 7 Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under their tongues are mischief and iniquity. 8 They sit in ambush in the villages; in hiding places they murder the innocent. Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 9 they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert; they lurk that they may seize the poor; they seize the poor and drag them off in their net. 10 They stoop, they crouch, and the helpless fall by their might. 11 They think in their heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” 12 Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. 13 Why do the wicked renounce God, and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”? 14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers; seek out their wickedness until you find none. 16 The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land. 17 O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear 18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

[1] http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2012-01-22-us-human-trafficking_N.htm

[2] http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/theologyandworship/human-trafficking/

[3]   Ibid

 

MINISTRY TIPS: MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE BOARD OF PENSIONS (PCUSA)

Many in our beloved church have a “love/hate” relationship with the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)   With the recent changes announced by the board impacting our health care benefits, it is no wonder there is a high level of frustration. This has not been my experience.

From where I sit, I know that the members of the Board of Pensions agonize over their decisions just as we agonize over decisions in our ministries. I truly trust that the staff is focused on our “Wellbeing” with the decisions they make!

This board has been entrusted the care of our contributions—our livelihood and healthcare and retirement and our families wellbeing! The board and staff are serious stewards in making decisions that will assure all who place their lives in the Board’s hands will have basic benefits backed with real dollars invested and held in trust on behalf of us all.   The Board of Pensions is not going to go bankrupt!

For over forty years, I have had a positive experience in working with the Board of Pensions. A few tips from my perspective as a pastor:

Read the information the Board sends out to all members.  Make sure that church sessions and governing boards also see these materials. 

 1.  Make it a point to get to know your regional representative.   If you are not addressing a specific issue, all you really have to do is pick up the phone or construct and email that asks:  What should I be thinking about at this state of my career? 

 2.  Keep a file of current materials sent by the Board of Pensions or Benefits Connect or Active Health Management.  More important, keep a file on all the special papers the Board sends you giving you updates on where you stand with your benefits.

 3.  Register with BENEFITS CONNECT and ACTIVE HEALTH and CATAMARAN (Prescription Drug benefits).  Look for emails from these providers that support the work of the Board of Pensions

 4.  Personally, I found BENEFITS CONNECT especially helpful. It is easy to register and know exactly where you stand with your Board of Pensions benefits!

 5.  Keep a note book logging all your contacts with the Board of Pensions.  This is something I decided to do several years ago.  It is important to know dates and times and names of people we call for advise and help.

 6.  Be patient:   It takes time to apply for and receive benefits.  It took me more than one phone call to fully understand the nuances in working with multiple agencies all under the umbrella of the Board of Pensions.

I recently applied for disability.   I had a contact persons who was available to help me walk through the entire process of applying for disability.   This is a complex process! My contact person was always available to help me answer my many questions.

When I was approved to receive benefits, referral was made to ALLSUP. INC that is currently helping me work with the Social Security Administration. Another wonderful benefit that didn’t cost me anything and helped me avoid standing in a long line with SSA.

Granted, there are going to be bumps I the road when it comes to our using our benefits. Trust me! Things will be much easier if we are proactive early in our careers in getting to know about the work and benefits we pay for.

My experience has been positive as I have worked through these layers/levels of contact under the umbrella of the Board of Pensions.