A Response to the Charleston Church Shootings

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 good.
Choose forgiveness.
Choose light and life.
Choose to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God is with us.

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Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 4

Today was the final day of the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver.  We had the opportunity to hear from two groups presenting on Identifying Critical Issues for General Conference. For each we heard a presentation and had the opportunity to follow up with table conversations on both the Global Discipline and Study of Ministry.

As the presenters were speaking about the questions the teams were facing, tentative recommendations and potential legislative proposals, my brain started to hurt. I am amazed at the complexity and implications that are involved in considering issues.

One of the attenders named a blog post from Bishop Tuell which sums up the issue for me:

The United Methodist Church has undertaken a bold challenge in the way we govern our denomination. We are the only major Christian church in the world that seeks to do two things: (1) Be truly a global church; and (2) be a church that is truly democratically governed by its ordinary lay and clergy members. The Roman Catholic Church is global, but obviously does not pretend to be democratically governed. Other major Protestant churches are all essentially national churches, though some are bound together by loose international ties.

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 2

Yesterday was Day 2 of the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver. The morning was a back and forth between presentation from Bishop Hagiya of The Pacific Northwest Conference and conversation in response at our tables with others from our annual conference. In the afternoon we self-selected into affinity groups for conversation and the evening brought jurisdiction meetings.

I found Bishop Hagiya’s presentations to be the most significant part of Day 2. Here are some of the highlights:

The Changing Context of Ministry – Download full presentation (PDF)

  • The world around us has changed.
  • Our United Methodist Church must change and diversify.
  • Expectations of Clergy
    • To create a culture of growth and outreach for the local church
    • To move from a culture of maintenance to transformation and discipleship making

A Systems Approach to Clergy Effectiveness – Download full presentation (PDF)

  • “Be steady in purpose, but flexible in strategy” – Gil Rendle Adage
  • We must foster a culture of innovation and risk taking.
  • What we must discover through experimentation and innovation are the new strategies that will fulfill our mission
  • Bishop/Cabinet must be aligned with the Board of Ordained Ministry
    • Bishop and Cabinet – Appoints and supervises; How many and what type of clergy are needed
    • Board of Ordained Ministry – Credentials, commissions, ordains; Determination and selection of gifts and graces

Leadership Traits 
of High Effective United Methodist Pastors – Download full presentation (PDF)

  • Research Question: “What traits, qualities, or characteristics, if any, do highly effective and successful United Methodist Church ministers exhibit specifically in regard to growth of their churches when compared to less effective United Methodist Church ministers?”
  • There was significant correlation between high effective clergy and
    • emotional intelligence
    • church size and vitality
    • self-ranking (humility)

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 1

This week I am Denver for the BOM Mid Quad Training Event. The event is designed around the theme of Excellence in Ministry and is designed to help annual conferences make progress on the systems contribute to recruiting, supporting, nurturing, and holding clergy accountable. I am here in my role as Treasurer and member of the Call team of the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry.

I had to put my seminary brain back on to catch up with Randy Maddox as he began his talk yesterday. I appreciated the depth of his presentation about the historical and theological underpinning for excellence in ministry in the United Methodist Church. It is pretty incredible to be in the same room with Bishops, cabinets and BOM teams from across the nation.  I am looking forward to the rest of the event and bringing back new possibilities for sustaining and expanding excellence in ministry in the Great Plains.

A United Methodist Pastor’s Template for Premarital Appointments

As a pastor, I have the great honor of being part of some of the most significant events in the lives of people. One of these is when a couple is joined together in Christian marriage.

Premarital appointments with a couple are crucial as they create the opportunity to:

  • Get to know each other
  • Plan a service of Christian marriage that makes sense for them
  • Offer coaching or help around areas of concern for the couple
  • Share guidance from marrying and counseling couples

I am in my ninth year as an appointed pastor in the United Methodist Church and during that time I have officiated at  thirty-seven services of Christian marriage and currently have four scheduled in the next twelve months.  I have developed this template for four premarital appointments. While I will continue to develop it, I wanted to share my current version with you.

Feel free to use and adapt in whatever ways are helpful for you. I hope that this is helpful for you in ministry.

What have you found to be effective and helpful in meeting with a couple before they are married?

Spending Time on the Balcony and the Dance Floor

As a leader there is value in spending time both:

  • 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.

Is Your Congregation Viable or Vital?

There are at least three different possibilities for the life of a congregation:

  • Vital – A vital congregation that is one that is creating places for new people to love God and love neighbor. The ministry and impact of the congregation is expanding.
  • Viable – A viable congregation is one that continues to exist at the same ministry level and opportunities as years past.
  • Inviable – An inviable congregation is one whose financial and mission reality is not sustainable.

The goal for congregations could be to move from one level to another – inviable to viable and viable to vital. Vital congregations can look for ways to expand their ministry and help move other congregations toward vitality.