Opening Day

Pink Backpacks for Everyone!
Baseball as some strange traditions.

A few years ago an article at mlb.com spoke to this strange tradition saying,

the reliever with the least amount of service time is assigned to tote it to the bullpen.

It’s loaded with gum, candy, sunflower seeds — whatever the pitchers need to get them through a game. Asked if he would be carrying it on Friday, which was when he could make his debut in the ‘pen for the first time since 2002, Zambrano laughed and said, “No.” 

“No chance,” Marmol said, smiling. Russell has the backpack now.

“I’m pretty sure I’m keeping it,” Russell said.

You have to get to the ball park early to see the parade of pink backpacks that nearly every team has for the ‘rookie’ to carry to the bullpen. It is fun to watch as the season progresses and someone new gets to carry the pack.

What joy there is for the one who no longer has to carry it!

There is even joy for the one who is carrying it at the start for it symbolizes having made it.

This long standing tradition in baseball got me to thinking . . . What if as Christian Men we were asked to carry pink backpacks as glaring symbols of our inexperience?

How quickly do you think would we ‘recruit’ someone to become part of the team so they could carry the Pink Backpack?

Perhaps we should issue PINK BACKPACKS to all the men of the church to carry around until they pass it on to the next rookie (disciple).

When is the last time you passed the backpack of faith and service to someone else?

Does Size really matter?

Even pastors fall prey to this age old lie. I recently read an article by Dave Ferguson entitled ‘Winning at any size’ in Outreach Magazine.  I have to be honest I would have blown right past the article except the opening line of the article was: “being a baseball fan all my life” – He had me hooked so I read the article.

Ferguson went on to discuss a study by Economics professor Michael C. Davis regarding the correlation between winning baseball teams and attendance.  I know, exciting stuff.  Davis’ study concluded that high attendance will not produce a winning ball team, but rather a winning team will produce high attendance.  Tell that to the Twins and Reds!

WOW! I hope we didn’t use a lot of Government funding to discover that little gem!

And yet the concept was not lost on Ferguson or me … As churches we have to stop trying to grow our attendance … We need to focus on changing lives because a winning church is changing lives … and changed lives will produce better attendance.

It seems for all that was done to attempt to attract people and draw them into the church – the one thing that was never accounted for was all the transformed lives within the congregation.  It was (in the final analysis) these changed lives that drew others in.

Methodists declare the mission ‘creating disciples to transform the world.’  And while I get that – we have chosen to focus our intention on living our faith in ways that matter as our missional context.

Over the past decade, I have heard countless stories of  transformed lives as a result of the challenge to live your faith.  And the honest challenge to live one’s faith is resulting in people living their faith – and that is growing the church and transforming people, families, and communities.

Lesson Learned: If you want to grow a church, focus on people.

Changing lives one at a time will do more to grow your church than any effort to market or advertise.  In other words, if you build a winning team – the people will come to see what is happening.

Have you helped anyone live their faith lately?

 

3 Simple Rules the World Needs


I am appreciative of social media as an outlet, but I am also concerned by the disregard by which it can be used. I am grateful that our Indiana UMC Conference leadership has chosen to develop a policy for the use of social media based on the teaching of John Wesley and his 3 rules for holy living.

One of the benefits of social media is that it provides the opportunity to share views, thoughts, joys and concerns about all areas of life. Our social media contributions can be very effective tools for ministry if we are careful to apply caution before we post. We will be careful that our posts are not “doing harm” by insulting or damaging the reputation of others. We will make sure our posts are respectful and in good taste. And we remember: Everything we post – status updates, comments, tweets, blogs – becomes public immediately after we click ”send” (even if we’re using a limited access setting). We can’t take it back once it’s out there, so we will use discernment with everything we post.

Rule #1 Do no Harm

TO THINK ABOUT: Is the post “doing harm” to the reputation of the church, Christ or another person or organization? Can the post be interpreted as harmful, offensive, rude or distasteful? If using the post as an outlet to vent, is there a more productive, less public way to do so?

Social media is one of the most effective methods of church networking and communicating today. When used properly, it can have a significant encouraging influence on our readers and become a powerful tool for delivering the Gospel message to a large audience that extends beyond our contact list. It is a great tool for networking and providing the world with news about our church and ministry. It also is a very useful tool for obtaining feedback and ideas from our audience and can be used to gain insight for sermons, Bible study topics, worship times, needs of the community, etc. The “good” and positive uses of social media are endless.

Rule #2 Do Good

TO THINK ABOUT: Can the post be described as “good”? Will it help the Kingdom and fellow believers? How will it be perceived by non-believers? How will the post be received by people with different cultural or faith backgrounds? Are we communicating effectively by asking questions in addition to providing information?

Rule #3 Stay in Love with God

Social media is a great way to find meaningful devotional materials, thought provoking blogs, inspiring worship videos and media resources, and current articles and tools for our ministry. Users have reported that their social media usage helps keep them informed and enthusiastic about their ministry on a daily basis. While it can definitely help us “stay in love with God,” it also can be very distracting. We will make sure our use of social media does not occupy so much of our time that we are no longer participating in meaningful Bible study, devotional times, worship and conversations with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Social media can serve as a tool to aid, promote and conduct discussions, studies and devotional times, but should not be our primary source of interaction with the world.

TO THINK ABOUT: How is/can social media helping me to stay in love with God? How is it hindering me? How am I helping others stay in love with God by my social media contributions?

You can access the full document here.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s prayers for the faithful capture the wonderful spirit that made him Ireland’s patron saint and one of the Church’s most beloved missionaries.  He was born in Britain shortly before the 5th century.  He was taken captive to Ireland by raiders at the age of 16. He lived there for six years as a shepherd under harsh conditions and became intensely devoted to God in prayer, as he puts it, “because the spirit was then fervent within me.” Tradition has it that divine dreams inspired both his escape from captivity in Ireland and his return there later in his life as a bishop.

A Variation of St. Patrick’s Prayer:

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Christ be over all!

May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore
AMEN

Finding our way this Lent

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Perhaps you to have memories of traveling in the loaded down family station wagon to unique points of interest.  Nearly all of the memories I choose to keep are good ones.
I was thinking this week of the number of times I heard Dad say, “We aren’t lost. We’re just taking a more scenic route!”

That comment was often followed by comments like:

“Haven’t we already passed this place?”
“This doesn’t look like (fill in the blank)”
“Daddy, are you sure we aren’t lost?”

I think that scene played out in more than a dozen states during my youth. It made me think about this week and the beginning of the Lent season.

Every year it seems Lent sneaks up on us. With snow on the ground it can’t be Lent! Spring and Easter seem so far off on the calendar. Are you sure it’s time for Lent?

And yet it is time to do this Lent thing all over again.

Lent is time to remind us that although we know where we are going, we aren’t there yet.
It serves as a time to remind us that we are lost. It is a time to experience “deja vu” all over again, as we travel this seemingly familiar path.

So, hear again the words of John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord and make straight the paths!” (Mark 1:3b NIV)

Perhaps your path has become overgrown with the weeds of life.

Perhaps this familiar path seems strangely different this year.
Perhaps life has cluttered this once familiar path.
I invite you to use this season of Lent to discover again the path that leads to Easter and an empty tomb.

We are lost, but the path to being found lies just ahead.

So, Prepare the way . . .

If ever we needed an Ash Wednesday …

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Later a few religion scholars and Pharisees got on him. “Teacher, we want to see your credentials. Give us some hard evidence that God is in this. How about a miracle?” Matthew 12:38 The Message 

So you are the Messiah? Prove it.

A common response seemingly in any generation.

The earth isn’t the center of the universe. Prove it.

The earth is round. Prove it.

All men are created equal. Prove it.

Your team is better than mine. Prove it.

We want evidence. We want proof.

But here is the problem . . . what will we do, when we are given proof ?

“Show us a sign—then we’ll believe you are the Messiah!” That was the challenge the religious leaders of the day issued to Jesus. They wondered if this man was the Messiah, as some were claiming—and they demanded that He prove it!

What did Jesus do?

He gave them a sign, telling them: “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matthew 16:4

Another gospel records these words of Jesus: “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.”Luke 11:29–30 

Christ’s miracles were amazing signs of God’s power and ministry.

John the Baptist wanted a sign – Jesus said tell Him what you have seen.

What was the sign of Jonah and what does it have to do with us today?

The seemingly obvious answer is the three days. Jesus spent 3 days in the grave. Death, burial, and resurrection will be the sign. But there is also another part to the “sign of Jonah.” Jesus’ call for those in His audience to repent was like Jonah’s call to repentance.

The inhabitants of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s call to repentance:
From the least to the greatest, all turned from their sinful lifestyle. And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not. Jonah 3:10 KJV 

A call to each of us to repentance comes as we begin our journey towards Easter.

Tonight, we take on a sign – A sign of the cross taken from the Ashes of our celebration.

It is easy to get caught up in the hype of Lent. Yes, I said hype of Lent as we declare with loud voices, “I gave up this . . . I gave up that . . .”

Hear the hype talking? That is not Lent. Lent is not a period of time where we replace a vice with the declaration that we are doing good.

Lent is an inward journey – a journey of reflection – a journey of choices.

And so today, we make a choice – A choice to believe – A choice to seek – A choice to journey to Easter.  On Our journey to Easter we will see many signs. Our journey will culminate as we witness the one sign Jesus spoke of – the sign of Jonah – resurrection.

Some will see the signs and choose to believe.

Some will see the signs and still question.

It is your choice.

Jonah had a choice – initially he ran.

His second chance (and his response) created a great revival.

Now is your chance.

What will you do?