Tag Archives: Change

Changing the temperature

“You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of opinion; a thermometer just reflects it.” Cornel West

“There are two different types of leader. A person can either be like a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer will tell you what the temperature is. A thermostat will not only tell you what the temperature is, but it’ll move you to the temperature you need to get to.” Kevin McCarthy

What’s the temperature around here? How do you accurately assess the climate in the church. No, I am not talking about how cool or hot it is in a room. I am talking about the personal and corporate perceptions about where we are.

There are clouds of uncertainty that hover over us. We know we have to arrest the decline and fuel forward momentum. We understand that doing the same things without improvement brings about unacceptable results. We grasp that church life by preference alone has not produced the growth we all want to see. We know change is inevitable. But change is uncomfortable.

Those two realities are not easy for a church in her 60’s. We look over our shoulders and think of better days, sometimes ignoring the not-so-good days that also occurred. We look around at spaces where significant events took place and remember life-change experiences. We yearn to gaze ahead and believe that good days, even better days, are before us.

You would have to be completely isolated not to realize we have important work in front of us. Our next step is this Sunday as the church meets in conference. We will be asked not simply to vote on the Mission and Vision initiatives, but to affirm and commit to them. If we are to aggressively and enthusiastically address worship opportunities, small group community formation, ministry/service activities in an Acts 1:8 model, and continue a focus on young adults and families, it will take more than a vote. Each of us must own this proposal by personal involvement and engagement.

The Structural Options ad hoc committee has been working for a year to study our current circumstances and alternatives that exist. They will present a thorough analysis of directions the church may choose to create a new and desired future for our congregation. You will be given a written report that contains their research, conclusions, and considerations.

Other items related to the 2016-7 Ministry Plan, Church Council elections, and the Nominating Committee will be presented. The conference begins immediately after worship in the Peachtree Room. Light refreshments will be served. Childcare is available.

So how do we affect the climate of our church? “The only way to permanently change the temperature in the room is to reset the thermostat” T. Harv Eker. We can choose to be optimistic, positive, and excited about God’s leadership and blessing. We can lift our heads and encourage our hearts with the conviction that He is doing a new thing among us!

 

Signs

Traffic signs are supposed to warn us, inform us, caution us, redirect us, or slow us down. They tell us how fast we are supposed to be going. They help us know where we are and where we are going.

You could preach a series of sermons on traffic signs. I have. If you think about it, life is full of signs. Some of them are relational signs. In a friendship, in a marriage, within a family, with colleagues, with every social interaction, there are signs present to let us know how we are doing. Some relational signs are brightly lit with flashing bulbs warning us that we better pay attention. Some are far more subtle, requiring that we slow down and use all our senses. A man says to his obviously perturbed wife, “What’s wrong dear?” She responds, “Nothing.” Okay, guys. What’s your next step? If you decide on “Well then, everything must be okay,” you just missed a sign and there’s a big speed bump ahead.

Some signs are health-related. Your body is trying to signal you that something’s not right. You can see it or feel it but you choose to ignore it. “Stop” signs usually indicate that a behavior doesn’t just need to be adjusted; it needs to stop. A “Yield” sign might mean that the stress you’re under needs to let up or you’ll have a stroke. A “Road Narrows” sign might mean you really need to focus on changing some habits that are hurting you. The doctor holds up a sign in a check-up to warn a patient to start exercising. He says, “I want you to walk five miles a day for two weeks and then call me so I’ll know how you’re doing.” The man agrees. Two weeks later, the doctor gets a call from the man: “Okay doc, I’ve been walking just like you said, five miles every day.” The doctor congratulates the man and tells him to come in to the office the next day. “I don’t know if I can make it tomorrow,” the man says. When asked why, the man replies, “Well, doc, I’ve been doing like you told me but now I’m 70 miles from home.”

Some signs are a bit confusing, even discouraging, like these actual signs posted side by side:

  • “Cemetery Road” and “Dead End” – People are dying to go down that road
  • “Welcome to First Baptist” and “Do Not Enter” over driveway – friendly folks
  • “Slow Children at Play” and “Hunting with Shotgun Only” – go faster kids
  • “School Zone” and “No Passing” – that’s a tough school
  • “Surgery Parking Only” and “5 Minute Limit” – outpatient surgery on steroids
  • “Touching Wires Causes Instant Death” and “$200 Fine”- when do you pay, before or after?

Some signs are spiritual. When our prayer life grows stale or our time in the Word becomes infrequent, there are indications of distance and disconnection in our faith. I appreciate the sign that should be posted on each of us. Paul wrote to the Philippians that there is a construction sign above every believer: “He who began a good work in you will continue His work until it is finished” (11:6). Some construction projects just seem to go on forever. I’m glad the one God is managing will be complete in His time and in His way.

Change

I love Sundays … usually. There is one Sunday I’m not too wild about, this coming Sunday. It’s the one when we move our clocks ahead and lose an hour of sleep. It throws most of us. People will be late to church. The time difference requires adjusting when everything moves up an hour. With that said, perhaps we should go ahead and adjust our clocks right now – while we are thinking about it. I normally do it early on Saturday just to make sure.

Change isn’t comfortable. We get set in our ways. We like predictable. Change won’t let us be comfortable, whether we are talking about the time or anything else in life. But we know that change is inevitable. We do not stay the same in our personal lives. In just about every pursuit of life, change happens. It happens at church. We can hold on to valued traditions with tenacity but we know if we are going to reach a changing world, we have to be willing to change. The challenge has always been: How to we remain committed to a timeless message while being willing to change our methods?

Here’s an example:

A couple of years ago we changed the title of our Sunday morning Bible study groups. We started calling them Covenant Groups. Why? Our desire was to raise the level of commitment among these groups, to make way for the formation of groups outside the traditional time frame, to ‘covenant’ with each other that we believed these groups were dedicated to the study of God’s Word, ministry to each other and beyond, fellowship, and prayer. When you make a covenant, you take seriously the implications.

We have been forced to live with a change, albeit a temporary one, for worship. The Peachtree Room has been our home for the last several months while renovation work is being done in the sanctuary. Many of our people grasped the value of closer and more intimate fellowship. We have enjoyed the atmosphere. Some haven’t attended because we were not worshiping in the sanctuary. Well, for all of us, we are about to make a change.

Beginning Palm Sunday, we will worship on Sunday mornings in our sanctuary. This would be a great time for you take the initiative to invite someone to join us as we begin Holy Week. This would also be a great opportunity to think about any change you need to make about where you sit and how you interact with fellow worshipers. You should know by now what I would dearly love. Let’s fill that front section of the sanctuary. Let’s continue to create the warm and inviting feel to Wieuca’s worship.

As we welcome Bryan and Robin Brock, their sons Logan and Evan, please pray for this transition. Speaking of change, they will be moving into a new home next week. Evan will be going to a new school. Let’s do what we can to make them feel at home while life is changing for them.

Passages

“Facing our Fears” is more than the title for our sermon series. It captures how many of us feel about the twists and turns life presents to us. We don’t like feeling out of control, uncertain, fearful, or weakened by the possibilities of a shaky present or a dark future. We would rather courageously face current challenges and boldly walk toward the days ahead.

Personal lives, family circumstances, school and work realities, social interactions, church involvement … every corner of our lives present moments to not only face our fears, but to rise above them.

As one of our leaders pointed out in a circle of prayer at our Church Council meeting, Paul gave us the key: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

Come on, Wieuca. Let’s practice what we preach!

At this moment, three groups of lay leaders are serving on teams seeking new leadership for our children, youth, and congregational life ministries. They are working diligently and are relying on the prayer support and encouragement from all of us.

We are moving into the fall with plenty of questions and needs. We turn that around and realize that God will give us the answers and provide all we need, if we trust and expect.

This Sunday we honor Julie and Matt Sapp. A reception will be held in the Peachtree Room immediately after worship. Anne Cross, Personnel Chair, will announce that we encourage people to present a love gift to the Sapps in appreciation of their service her and in blessing for their future ministry at Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton. Our Covenant Groups are sponsoring this important event.

On Sunday, August 17, we hold our annual church conference. A ministry budget will be presented, representing our goals and objectives for the new year. A budget is sheets of paper with lots of numbers. A budget serves as a guide for wise stewardship. But let’s be honest, a budget means nothing if we do not support it with our tithes and offerings.

Please take me seriously. If we practice what we preach, we get involved, we pray, we attend, we give, we serve. Our current levels of attendance and giving should cause every member of this congregation concern. We can do better Wieuca. We can share our faith; we can invite our friends; we can strengthen the atmosphere of caring and compassion. We can do this. By the power of the One who calls us and blesses us, we can be the presence of Christ in our church and community. How about it? Who’s with me?

Transitions

Transition: a passing from one condition, form, activity, place, etc. to another; the period of such passing (Webster’s New World Dictionary). Life is full of transitions. Life changes. Babies are born, kids grow up, young people mature, adults move through seasons of life. The average person will change jobs 5 to 11 times in adulthood, depending on whose statistics you believe. Technology changes at warp speed. Information overload is smothering us. Life happens, ready or not. Death occurs, ready or not.

Life progresses and we worry about different things. You could follow an interesting trail by focusing on something like hair. A baby is born: “He sure doesn’t have much hair.” The toddler has a head full of curls: “When will he get his first haircut?” The teenager displays some attitude: “Is there something living in that mess on top of your head?” The young man readies for an important interview: “What does my hair have to do with making a good impression?” A middle age guy checks out the mirror: “Where did all that gray hair come from?” An old dude walks by: “He sure doesn’t have much hair.”

Having a strong sense of self-worth helps. Hugh O’Brian is a name baby boomers will remember. He played Wyatt Earp on television along with starring in movies and on Broadway. Reminiscing over his career, he made this observation: “You go through at least five stages in my business and in life. First stage – “Who is Hugh O’Brian?” Second stage – “Get me Hugh O’Brian!” Third stage – “Get me a Hugh O’Brian type!” Fourth stage – “Get me a younger Hugh O’Brian!” Fifth stage – “Who is Hugh O’Brian?”

Transitions can be tough. We cope in different ways. You’ve heard the saying: “The older I get, the better I was.” Some of us turn to fantasy. Others of us are trapped in the past by memories that can overwhelm us with regret and pain. Some of us seek to relive the glory days, not wanting to realize the glory days won’t be coming back.

Paul had a definite approach to transitions in his life. He wrote to the Philippians: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (3:13,14).

Today is too important and tomorrow is too promising to live in yesterday. Jesus told us that each day has enough challenge of its own (Matthew 6:34). Carpe Diem! Seize the Day!

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Adjustments

During the school year, a sixth grade boy announced to his father: “I don’t have to do my homework anymore.”

Understandably, dad wanted to know more. The young man explained: “I have adjusted myself to inferior grades.”

Soon after, some additional adjustments were made in that young man’s life.

Adjustments are a part of life. Change of pace, course correction, new approach, renewal, second wind … there are any number of phrases or terms that help describe what happens when we decide a change is necessary, when we realize we cannot continue without making some adjustment.

It could be attitude. Let’s do a reality check. On a scale of one to ten (‘10’ is optimistic, positive, excited – ‘1’ is “Don’t even come close to me; I’ll bite your head off.”), how’s your attitude? Are you a joy to be around? Is your enthusiasm infectious? Or are you spreading other contagions around like doom and gloom? I know our attitudes can be affected by circumstances, both good and bad, but how’s your attitude most of the time? Are you happy with that? Is it time for an adjustment? Our homework assignment is to read Philippians 4. See how Paul’s attitude was impacted, not be circumstance, but by choice.

It could be action. Let’s do another reality check. On a scale of one to ten (‘10’ being “I get it right most of the time.” – ‘1’ being “I can’t get out of my own way” or “My friends call me Attila the Hun.”), how’s it going? Can people match your words and deeds with the faith you claim? They say Christians are the best advertisement for Christianity. They also say Christians are the worst advertisement for Christianity. Our homework assignment is to read Colossians 3:12-17. Paul has fashion advice worth following.

Let’s do one more reality check. Let’s be honest. Let’s be real. None of us is perfect. We all struggle; we all stumble. Thanks be to God; this is not about our perfection. By grace are we saved – that’s a really good thing because it wouldn’t happen any other way!

 

God is still working on us (Philippians 1:6). We should be working on us, too (Philippians 2:12-15). What a partnership! We don’t have to settle for inferior grades!

Changing Habits

I abhor change. I delight in the familiar. Uncertainty drives me crazy. It can take me years to adjust to new circumstances and surroundings. I don’t believe there is any such thing as a new tradition. I’m the kind of guy who never wavers from the one thing on the menu I already know I like. Usually to a fault, I am a creature of habit.

Most of what goes on in church can be described as habit. We follow the familiar rhythms of the calendar week after week, year after year.  We worship on Sunday mornings.  We eat dinner on Wednesday nights. The deacons meet the second Sunday of the month. Church council meets every first Monday. There are four weeks of advent before Christmas, and the children wave palm branches in worship on the Sunday before Easter.

Some habits continue to serve us well. We ought to continue to develop habits like daily prayer, regular Bible study and weekly church attendance. But other habits have the potential to hold us back and limit our individual and corporate effectiveness.

If there have ever been people and churches that had a hard time changing habits, they were in Galatia in the 1st century. When Paul wrote Galatians he was frustrated because the Galatians refused to adapt to a new reality. Like me, it was taking them years to adjust to new circumstances and surroundings.

Changing habits is never easy. In fact, changing habits is downright hard and can often be scary. The trick to giving up old habits is to see that change is required to open ourselves up to a new vision or to fulfill a new calling or to achieve a new purpose or to be more fully who God wants us to be. Change can, and ought to be, an energizing experience, not a painful one. 

Paul told the Galatians they were living in a new reality that required them to interact differently with the wider world. They needed to give up some old habits and be open to a new way of being the church.  Paul encouraged the Galatians to refuse to go back to who they had been (4:9) and told them that they needed to be ready to minister to new kinds of people (3:28).

Paul told the Galatians that it was time to redefine who the church was for, that they needed to embrace a broader audience, and that they might want to develop some new traditions. Paul said, in breaking some old habits, find freedom and opportunity to make some new habits, and resist the temptation to fall back into familiar rhythms (5:1).

He encouraged the Galatians to give up things like discord, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions and envy (5:19-21).  And he asked them to embrace new habits like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (5:22-23).

When we look at the above lists, one thing we can learn is that it’s not only what we do that’s important; how we do it is important, too. The first list should serve as a warning that change, however small or large, has a tendency to bring out the worst in us. And the second list should serve as a reminder that even in the midst of change, Christ has the potential to bring out the best in us.

So what habits do we need to give up?  What new habits do we need to embrace? Those are questions I can only answer for myself. But I do know that a willingness to embrace change provides opportunities for new freedom and energy and excitement.  And a refusal to acknowledge change can only produce frustration and fear.

The God we worship never changes, but the world to which we minister is changing faster than ever. As we wrestle with how to embrace an ever-changing world, one more piece of advice from Paul might remind us that even large challenges have surprisingly simple solutions.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” -Galatians 5:6

AMEN.