Over the past few days, I have continued in prayer for Charleston. I want to share a portion of my response to the Charleston Church Shootings which I preached this morning at First United Methodist Church. I believe it is important and inadequate. You can find the entire sermon and manuscript online here.
Let me be clear:
God never intends us to choose evil.
The Charleston Church Shootings were not part of God’s plan.
Racism, murder and tragedy will never be God’s will.
Evil is never, ever God’s plan.
Each one of us has choices to make every day.
We choose between good and evil.
We choose between forgiveness and resentment.
We choose between light and darkness.
The choices that we make – both big and small lead us closer to God or further away from God.
Choose light and life.
Choose to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God is with us.
On the balcony – getting a big picture perspective removed from day to day responsibilities and
On the dance floor – accomplishing day to day tasks to make progress as an organization.
Spending time in either location can be productive, however you cannot spend your time in one place or another.
As I have entered into a new leadership setting – as pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS – I have found that it has been particular important to make sure that I spend some time on the balcony. The day to day responsibilities of transitioning into a new role can overwhelm the time needed to take a breath and reflect on the big picture of life and ministry. As I prepare to begin my fourth month in this appointment, I have been making progress on spending time in both places.
One month from today, I will begin serving as pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the key leaders and staff from the church. I shared a document with everyone that I met outlined some of my personal priorities as well as top five objectives for the first six months and a few of the questions that I will be asking as I arrive. Here is what I shared:
Personal Priorities and Dates
June 12 – Expecting the birth of our second child
June 25 – Move into parsonage
Care for self and family
Top Five – First Six Months
Be a good guest and allow the congregation to host
Love the people
Learn the history and culture of the congregation
Learn the history and culture of the community
Help discern an appropriate vision
Questions – First Six Months
Who are you as a congregation?
How did the congregation get to where it is today?
Where do challenges and opportunities exist?
What has changed the most / least since you joined the church?
When have you been most proud to be connected with this church?
I will compile these results and publish them in a blog post in the weeks ahead. If you leave your contact information on the form, I will contact you when the post is completed so you can see the results. I look forward to hearing from you!
Yesterday, I traveled with the senior staff from Resurrection to the Lutheran Church of Hope. It was an opportunity to benchmark another church and have conversation about how ministry happens in their setting. I have had the opportunity to take part in several of these trips during my time at Resurrection to visit other congregations both larger and smaller than Resurrection. The bus ride is always a great opportunity to connect with fellow staff members and it was a great time touring Hope’s West Des Moine location and spending time in conversation with some of their staff. Here is some of what I learned:
Mission, vision and values are what holds true across all of their campuses
Senior pastor provides a worship plan six months in advance with the series, sermon title, scripture passage and a sentence or two about direction for the sermon
Rooms all have numbers. No ministry area has claim to a particular room.
A culture of trust in leadership has been developed that has proven beneficial over time.
If you can’t give cheerfully, we don’t want you to give. Giving will bring you freedom.
Success looks different in different contexts
Bigger or smaller isn’t better, better is better.
Who are the people that no one else is going after?
Being in transition to serving as lead pastor at El Dorado First United Methodist Church, I also had some personal reflections:
Touring the buildings of other churches is not worth much. There are little things that can be picked up about facilities, but overall the building that the church has is what it will be. The building at El Dorado First seems to have been kept up well and is an asset for ministry.
There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the staff of our churches – similar worship attendance, programs and ministries and hopes and dreams for the congregations. I am looking forward to finding out which churches are “peers” to El Dorado First.
One of the more common questions that I have received is: What is Nicole going to do?
My wife, Nicole, is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She and I were appointed full time to Resurrection in 2006 and we have both served here since then. After our son was born and taking maternity leave, Nicole transitioned to a part-time, 20 hour / week role.
We will be moving as a family to El Dorado and Nicole has requested a 20 hour / week appointment in the El Dorado area. It would not be at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, but it may be at another church in the area, in Wichita or some other flexible possibility. We have been told that the Bishop and District Superintendents are still in the discernment process for her. (I will write more about how this whole process works in the days ahead.) We hope to know within the next few weeks.
I have been appointed to serve as the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS beginning July 1. The news was announced at El Dorado and Resurrection West on Sunday. El Dorado is a city with a population of about 13,000. It is located just off I-35 about 30 minutes east of Wichita. It is the county seat and most populous city in Butler County. First United Methodist Church was organized in 1869 and is thought to have been the first church in Butler County. The current church building was built in the 1920’s. They have a traditional and contemporary worship service on Sunday morning with a combined average worship attendance of 150 to 175.
I am excited about being the lead pastor at a congregation and using what I have learned at Resurrection to be a part of renewing the church. At the same time, I will miss all the great people on staff and in the congregation at Resurrection. I am looking forward to getting to know the people of the congregation and community in El Dorado and together take the next faithful step.
I plan to write more about the transition in the days ahead, so check back for more updates. If you have specific questions or would like to share a conversation, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.