More Than Counting

Imagine having the opportunity to get to know people in your own community in a non-threatening way. Just think about what you might learn if you could go door-to-door through neighborhoods and ask basic questions of the people who live there. Now envision getting paid while gathering this information that will help you lead your congregation to better minister to the people who live all around you.

 

Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau hires part-time, temporary census workers to work in their own communities. Personally, I can’t think of a better opportunity for Christians to take a fresh look at the people who live around our churches than to participate in the Census. And good news: you can still apply! Schedules are flexible to work around your life, but typically require 20 hours per week of evening and weekend work, May to July. Employees are paid for training and reimbursed for travel in addition to a generous hourly wage. To learn more and apply online, go to 2020census.gov/jobs.



Recipe for Community Ministry: The Left Out

In over four years here in Texas serving as a mission coach, I have often been asked what a church can do to revitalize its ministry and grow? I firmly believe any congregation can by responding to God’s call to engage in the kind of ministry Jesus did and reach out to the least, the lost, and the left out. Jesus gives us this recipe for community ministry in Luke 15 through the stories of the lost coin, the lost son, and the lost sheep.

 

In Luke 15:4-7, Jesus engages his listeners in a little story about sheep: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” Commentators will often note that a shepherd wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine alone, but with other shepherds and often in some sort of safe enclosure or pen. And I believe this points to the scandal in Jesus’ story: that this shepherd leaves the 99 in the open and vulnerable in order to rescue the one who is lost. For me it begs the question, “who would do that?” The answer: Jesus.



Recipe for Community Ministry: The Lost

What can your church do to grow? I believe God is calling every congregation to engage in the kind of ministry Jesus did and reach out to the least, the lost, and the left out in your community. Jesus gives us this recipe for community ministry in Luke 15 through the stories of the lost coin, the lost son, and the lost sheep.

 

In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells a story about a son who does the unthinkable and asks his father for his share of the inheritance while his father is still very much alive! Worse yet, this son goes and squanders all he was given in “foolish living.” He literally financially bankrupted himself pursuing a morally bankrupt life! He hit rock bottom and found himself longing to eat the food he was feeding to pigs. He decides to return home and confess his sin and ask his father for mercy and to hire him. As Jesus tells the story, while the son was still a long way off, the father sees his son, runs to him, throws his arms around him and kissed him! He throws a party to celebrate the return of his lost son and welcomes him back in the family. Oh, the love of the father!



Recipe for Community Ministry: The Least

I am often asked what churches can do to grow. I have found myself repeatedly encouraging congregations to engage in the kind of ministry Jesus did and reach out to the least, the lost, and the left out in your community. I believe Jesus gives us this recipe for community ministry in Luke 15 through the stories of the lost coin, the lost son, and the lost sheep.
 
In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus tells a parable of a woman who loses a single coin and turns her house upside down to find it. When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors to celebrate. Biblical scholars point out that the monetary value of the lost coin was miniscule. Who among us would waste our time searching for a penny?! And who of us would throw a party when we found one?! From our perspective, it is just a coin of low value. But Jesus shares that what we see as insignificant is in fact of great value in God’s economy!
 


Recipe for Community Ministry

Ever since the invention of the written language, people have recorded recipes. Handed down from one generation to another, and from one friend to another, we pass on the secret to culinary delights that have been discovered by or passed on to us. Recipes of old were often a bit vague and assumed a certain familiarity with the baking or cooking process. I saw some of my grandmother’s recipe cards that sometimes were little more than an ingredient list. Measurements might be “a pinch of this” or “a dash of that.” Recipes today have gotten specific with every detail and measurement precisely identified to leave no room for error. If followed to the letter, reliable results can be repeated time and again the world over regardless of the chef or baker.
 
I am often asked what churches can do to grow. People want to know what the secret recipe is to successful ministry today. Ultimately, I believe they are looking for a specific recipe that, if followed to the letter, will produce reliable results. This sort of copy and paste approach to ministry never really works. However, I do believe Jesus gives us a recipe for community ministry that can produce reliably faithful results, but it looks more like some of the recipes I remember my grandmother using: “a pinch of this,” and “a dash of that!”
 


Is God Pruning His Church?

Yesterday morning in two consecutive and unrelated phone calls, the person on the other end of each call made a reference to God pruning the church. I don’t know about you, but the topic of pruning doesn’t typically come up in my conversations: not daily, weekly, or even monthly! So when it was brought up twice in unrelated conversations within an hour, I figured God just might be trying to get my attention!
 
Before yesterday, I remember the last time I had a conversation with someone about pruning. In early August, I went to visit my dad in Iowa and he had just finished cutting the dead branches out of a three-story vine that had been left to grow for several years up the entire side of his house. Apparently, a late freeze had killed more than half of the vine, so my dad cut out only the dead branches, leaving all the branches that still showed signs of life. And the vine now looks terrible, so Dad and I discussed pruning even the living branches to promote new growth and to help revitalize the vine.
 


Training Workers for the Harvest

As a District here in Texas, we believe that God is calling us to multiply disciples and churches. To support our congregations in this mission, we are committed to church planting, church revitalization, and leadership development. In this “Mission Moment,” we explore our work in the area of leadership development.
 
Healthy, disciple-making and multiplying churches need healthy and well-trained leaders. While every congregation is called to develop leaders, we believe that this is a vital area for our District to provide support. Therefore, we host our Annual Gathering and Pre-Gathering Seminars each Summer; regional Reboot | Retool | Refuel workshops in the Spring and Fall; and our Winter Leadership Retreat in Concan. We are grateful that these events help leaders with opportunities for education, inspiration, encouragement, and spiritual renewal.


The Expanding Family

by Guest Author Percy Smerek
 
My family has expanded.
 
My children married. That brought some new members, a daughter and sons into my family. Their children have married and I now have a new granddaughter and new grandsons. This is what happens in a real family: People move out and yet expand the family.
 
What happens in the family of God? We stay in the house and the family grows; maybe or maybe not. Our natural children move out and sometimes return to the community, but often move out, but others are filling in spots around us who may not be in the family ever.


HeBrews 10:24 on the Move in SA

In 2017, I introduced you to Chuck and Azeneth Knudson of New Braunfels who have been called to live on mission and to plant a church in San Antonio. God has given them a great vision to establish a church-owned coffee roasting / coffee shop “business” as a means to engage the Dellview community in ministry while providing sustainable financial support for their new church plant. Unfortunately, this vision has been difficult to live into as more obstacles than we could ever have imagined have interfered and delayed their efforts.
 
But today I have Good News: God is on the move as HeBrews 10:24 has experienced breakthrough in San Antonio! A large, neglected retail space in an old strip center in the heart of Dellview has been offered at a below-market lease rate. This would be an excellent location for a coffee shop and worship space. Located in a redevelopment district, HeBrews 10:24 will have an immediate impact in the community!


Missionary Mandate

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 has served as the church’s marching orders since the very day Jesus ascended to heaven: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
 
The church has long understood its purpose is to make new disciples and to strengthen the disciples we already have. Church leaders have long debated which is more important: making new disciples (mission) or strengthening the faith of disciples (maturity). Most pastors, if forced to choose, I believe fall on the side of maturity even though they believe mission (making new disciples) is also important. Read more…