Sunday, April 30, 2017

Summer 2017 Reading

There's no way I'll get through  these books, but here are only some of the books sitting on my desks:

Sunday Cultural Contexts
Books I hope at least to skim in relation to Cultural Contexts include:
Trendy
Finish Der Fuerher

Philosophy
  • Gadamer's Truth and Method
Science
Leadership
Hebrews
  • For me to know and you to find out.

Seminary in a Nutshell: Contexts of Ministry 1

"The Person and Contexts of a Pastor"--that was the first unit of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. But I did not finish it. When I realized I would be stepping back into a leadership role, I shifted to the Pastor as Leader series, which took me over a year to finish.

So I had finished the "Person of the Pastor" half of my first unit (see the bottom of this page), but I did not do the "Contexts of a Pastor" half.

Before I move on to Foundations, I thought I would go back and finish that initial series.
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1. We cannot escape context. Without context, our words have no clear meaning. Without context, our actions have no clear meaning. Relationships always take place in a context. Since ministry is intrinsically relational, all ministry takes place at the intersection of multiple contexts.

What are these contexts?

2. I am going to call the first set of contexts, identity contexts. The pastor has a gender, an ethnicity, and perhaps a race. In the last hundred years or so we have spoken of a person having a sexuality. Each person in the church has these as well. Each member in the community has these as well.

There is usually a strong sense in which these identities have a basis in our physicality. However, the meaning ascribed to these identities is a matter of our cultural context and of course our own self-appraisal. The broader dynamics and significance of these identities is not intrinsic but is a function of our context.

3. So a broader set of contexts to which I will refer are socio-cultural contexts. As I said, identity contexts are really socio-cultural in nature, but they seem important enough at present to separate out. So when I refer to socio-cultural contexts here, I am referring to other important cultural contexts like economic contexts (wealthy, middle class, impoverished, blue collar, white collar, etc).

Sometimes we speak in overly generalized terms like "Western" culture or "two-thirds world" culture, "hot cultures" and "cold cultures." Any culture is of course filled with many sub-cultures, but often there are trends of characteristics among, say, Americans or British. When these are stereotyped and pre-imposed on everyone from a place simply because of their point of origin, we call that prejudice.

The ancient world, the world of the Bible, identified people by way of their gender, their geography, and their genealogy. [1] The geography element corresponds closest to what we call ethnicity and race today. But in the Western world, we now might also speak of a national context. Although nationalism and patriotism are fairly recent phenomena in history, they are very significant for pastors in the United States. We sometimes speak also now of a global context, by which we usually mean the interrelationships between us and the world at large.

Genealogy translates into what we might call kinship contexts. What family are you from?  These have blurred into national contexts in the Western world, but in the two-thirds world your identity might be connected to a tribe. Kinship groups can be fictive too. There is a strong sense in which being a Christian involves belonging to a fictive kinship group, a sense of belonging to a family that is not based on genetics.

The older caste system of India was an intersection of kinship and socio-economic status.

Cultures often have a way of conceptualizing age. We might call this a generational context. It has become popular in the United States to stereotype generations of Americans: Builders, Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, etc. As all stereotypes, there may be some trends that ring true, but they are overly simplistic and easily become prejudices.

4. We might finally mention some religious contexts that are particularly of interest for pastors. First, there is the tradition in which the pastor ministers. Sometimes we might call this a denominational context, but even those in a non-denominational church are influenced by distinct Christian traditions. Those who think they are just following the Bible alone are typically those who are least aware of the historic influences on them.

Finally, we might cautiously speak of a kingdom context. The problem with speaking of it is that we are prone to mistake our denominational or traditional context for the kingdom. Nevertheless, we believe that there is an eternal context in which the pastor and indeed all Christians live and work. We are, first of all, citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

The kingdom context is the basis for the church being counter-cultural. One topic in this unit is the exploration of the differing ways in which the church has interacted with the broader cultures in which it is located. Do we accommodate, assimilate, isolate, dominate, or activate?

5. Because it is human nature to want to form herds of similarity--what we might call homogeneous groups--many churches are mono-cultural. A hundred years ago, there were white churches and there were black churches. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America.

In our current American context, if your church does not look like its surrounding community, that should raise a question. In an increasingly diverse society, we should expect our churches and Christian institutions to be increasingly diverse. In the kingdom of God, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free. There is not 'male and female'" (Gal. 3:28). If our churches show ethnic or economic or gender partiality (cf. James 2:1-4), then the kingdom context calls us to change. Ideally, the church would look like the church of heaven looks in Revelation 7:9, with people from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

6. The minister participates in the mission of God at the intersection of all these contexts. If we are not self-aware, we will mistake culture for kingdom. Indeed, we cannot help but do so. On the other hand, kingdom is always incarnated in culture, for none of us can escape context. There is no such thing as a context-less ministry. There is no meaning for anything without context. [2]

Next Sunday: Contexts 2: The Making of Meaning

[1] Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996).

[2] Indeed, the words of the Bible do not exist outside of context. You can either try to read them within their first or original ancient context or by default you are automatically reading them against some other context. But words have no meaning until they are read within some context. And actions have no significance unless they are interpreted within a context.

The Calling of a Minister
The Person of a Pastor

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Paul 3.2

So when Paul convinced Barnabas to go north into Galatia, it was the last straw for Mark. He didn't sign up to go to Anatolia! He signed up to visit his family in Cyprus with his uncle in charge. Now Paul seemed to be calling the shots and Barnabas was letting him. And they were now targeting Gentiles as much as Jews.

Barnabas had the resources to send Mark back on a ship to Antioch. Once their boat from Cyprus landed at Perga, in the south of Asia Minor, Mark headed back alone toward Jerusalem.

Paul knew he would have to face the music when he returned. They would be gone for at least another year, giving Mark a long time to bad mouth him. But Paul hardly gave it another thought for the rest of the mission. He figured God would take care of it in due time.

From Perga they traveled north to another Antioch, this one in the middle of Galatia. The Roman province of Galatia was a fairly young province, only established in its current form less than a hundred years earlier. The original Galatians had long since moved on west even beyond Rome. But the people who lived in the south-middle of Asia Minor liked to think of themselves as Galatians, even though they spoke different languages and belonged to quite different groups.

Paul and Barnabas always went to the synagogue of a new town first. Such synagogues often gave guests like them an opportunity to bring a word of exhortation. So Paul or Barnabas would do their best to share the good news that the king of the Jews, the Messiah, had finally arrived.

However, much to Paul's puzzlement, they often did not get a good reception from their fellow Jews. The idea that the anointed one of Israel had died on a cross was just too big of a stumbling block. Sometimes, the idea so angered their fellow Jews that their own lives were in danger. Often they would ask for miraculous signs to verify that they were sent of God.

And God often performed such miracles through the hands of Paul and Barnabas. But when you are convinced something is wrong, even miracles often don't change your mind.

It was in these days when Paul's sense that he was an apostle primarily to Gentiles was being forged. Peter might have a fruitful mission among the Jews, but God evidently was calling Paul in a different direction. Nor did Paul see himself serving primarily in churches that someone else had planted. No, he was called to be the front line of the mission, to plant where no one else had planted before.

It was usually less than a month that Paul and Barnabas found themselves unwelcome in the local synagogue. So they would set up regular meetings in the house of someone who had believed and they would turn their focus to Gentiles. Paul would set up shop in the forum and sell leather goods like tents and use his business interaction as an opportunity to share the good news.
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continued from last week

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Seminary PL3b: Leadership and the Philippian Hymn

After finishing the series on The Pastor as Leader, Manager, and Administrator, it occurred to me that I missed two posts that I might have made. This is the first, which I will back fill into the series.
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1. Experts on Philippians have long wondered if Paul is quoting something in 2:6-11. [1] There are a number of places in Paul's writings where the word "who" introduces a few verses that seem distinct from the flow of the text and have a somewhat poetic structure (e.g., Col. 1:15-20; Rom. 1:3-4).

There would seem to be three main possibilities: 1) Paul himself goes poetic, 2) Paul is building on something he himself wrote elsewhere, or 3) Paul is building on something someone else wrote at some point. If this is a distinct composition, there is then the debate about whether it is a poem or creed of some sort or whether it was a hymn of some sort that was sung (cf. Col. 3:16).

My personal sense is that Paul is quoting something that someone else wrote at some point. The key reason I and others think so is 1) there seem to be additions to a basic poetic structure and 2) it is just possible that Paul's additions qualify the original composition. In other words, the additions suggest that Paul is quoting something and the qualifications suggest that he was not the original composer.

2. The literary context of the hymn is Paul's plea for the Philippian church to be unified. We know from the end of the book that there were at least two female leaders in the church that were at odds with each other, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2). Unity in the church is all the more important when facing opposition from the outside world (1:27-28).

At the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul tells them to be like-minded, to be in one spirit and one mind (2:2). This unity should naturally result from them being united in Christ, from them sharing the same Spirit, and from them all experiencing Christ's love for them (2:1). So Paul tells them not to act on the basis of selfish ambition or conceit (2:3). They should actually think more about the benefit of others than their own interests (2:4-5).

The so called Philippian hymn fits directly into this train of thought. [2] Paul is asking the Philippians to have the same attitude that Jesus demonstrated throughout his life, from pre-existence to death on the cross. [3] Although he had the highest status, he did not exploit that status, but took the disposition of a servant at every point. So also should they.

3. Numerous different attempts to identify the poetic structure of the underlying poem have been suggested. Those who oppose the idea that it was a pre-existing hymn use this as an argument in their favor. However, it is quite easy to identify the poetic structure of two first stanzas:

In the form of God existing,
     not plunder he considered equality with God,
     but he emptied himself,
Having taken the form of a servant.

In the likeness of mortals having become,
     and in shape having been found as a mortal,
     he humbled himself,
Having become obedient to death [even the death of a cross].

You can see that the first and fourth line of these stanzas have a clear parallelism. The third line of each has a finite verb that is the core of the sentence.

The meaning is arguably that although Jesus was equal to God, he did not exploit that status. By contrast, he emptied himself of the rights and privileges of that status and instead behaved like a servant. Then even as a mortal human being, Jesus humbled himself to die for others.

Many think that the line, "even the death of a cross," is a line that Paul himself added to the hymn. The cross was of course the cruelest and most shame-filled punishment the Romans administered, and it was a key focus of Paul's preaching (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23). Those of us in the church--including leaders--should be willing to take the humblest of roles for the benefit of others.

4. The final stanza is much more difficult to identify, making us wonder if it was added at a second stage of the hymn's history. Here is a stab:

Therefore, God highly exalted him
     and gave him the name above all names [that at the name of Jesus]
     that every knee should bow [in heaven, on earth, below earth] and tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord [to the glory of God the Father].

The material in brackets is material that I am suggesting Paul might have added to the original hymn. The details are not important for this article. What is clear is that those who humble themselves and take the form of a servant now stand to be exalted by God when the kingdom comes.

5. In a previous post in this series, we mentioned "servant leadership" as an approach to leadership. The phrase, "servant leadership," was especially coined by Robert K. Greenleaf who wrote an essay called the Servant as Leader in 1970. Here is a quote from that essay: "The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first."

For Greenleaf, the servant leader is servant first, then leader. This is different from the leader who is leader first, then servant. Good leaders have to be directive sometime, but a servant leader is servant even when he or she is being directive.

There is a tendency for power to go to a leader's head. The less likely the leader is to be removed from a leadership role, the less accountability, the less transparency, the more likely that power will go to the head of the leader. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

By contrast, Jesus says in Matthew 20: "The rulers of the Gentiles act like tyrants over them and their great ones are overbearing over them. It must not be this way among you, but whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant."

Does culture play a role here? No doubt some cultures expect more autocracy than others. But every culture also knows what a servant is, and whatever that might look like for each culture, is what Christian leaders must be. The bottom line is that the leader is working for God and God's people, not for him or herself.

[1] The classic study of this hymn is that of Ralph Martin, A Hymn of Christ: Philippians 2:6-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship (Downer's Grove: IVP Academic, 1997).

[2] Ernst Käsemann's version of Lutheran theology would not let him draw this obvious conclusion. Unable to bring himself to the conclusion that Paul was asking the believers at Philippi to follow the example of Christ, he took this hymn as a celebration of Christ largely unconnected to Paul's train of thought.

[3] James D. G. Dunn gives a minority interpretation when he suggests that the hymn does not pre-suppose the pre-existence of Christ (Christology in the Making). He interprets the first stanza as a contrast with Adam. Although Adam grasped after equality with God, Jesus did not. While some still see a contrast with Adam here, few have followed him on the question of pre-existence. There are other ways to read the hymn that do not involve pre-existence, but that would take us beyond the purpose of this article.

Seminary in a Nutshell: Leadership, Management, Administration

What does a pastor need to know in the areas of leadership, management, and administration to be effective? In my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. Here is an overview of the main topics, with some Bible, theology, and church history integrated into the discussion:

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management
Church Administration
Other topics in this series include:

Seminary PL42: Facilities

This is the eleventh and final post on church administration in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the forty-second and last post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post looked at communications. This final post is about facilities
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1. Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn, in What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church, give several principles for facilities. While these do not all have to do with church administration, here are some that give good background:
  • A facility would ideally be 65 to 80 percent of room capacity to encourage growth. If your worship room is less than 50 percent full, you should do some rearranging. If it is more than 80%, consider structural changes, a building project, or additional services.
  • The lobby capacity should be 60 to 70 percent of the worship room capacity. This is for fellowship.
  • There needs to be a balance in space between: a) parking and seating, b) parking and people (half the parking as the people), c) child care and worship attendance (to accommodate 25% more than worship attendance), d) fellowship space and attendance (also to accommodate 25% more people outside of worship for small groups, Sunday School, etc).
  • One acre of land for every 100 in worship
  • Parking capacity puts a cap on growth
  • A church needs enough restrooms to accommodate everyone in a space of 15 minutes.
  • If the interior of the church is more than 15 years old, it probably is hindering growth.
  • 80 square feet of space for each child on a playground
2. Most churches have individuals who serve as trustees. In some cases they are elected. In others they might be appointed. These are individuals who have the authority to sign checks and are tasked with the maintenance of the church property and facilities. In general, they engage the legal dimensions of the church as concerns property, mortgages, and bequests. My denomination requires that there be at least 3 trustees for a church, but a larger church may have up to seven.

At least one member of the board of trustees should be a member of the larger church board. The trustees should not be empowered to make major decisions apart from the direction of this larger board. However, trustees are usually empowered to make routine decisions and expenditures up to a certain amount. More than that amount, they usually have to get approval from the larger board.

Here is a typical list of areas that are usually are the direct responsibility and are under the supervision of trustees:
  • insurance--does the church have sufficient and proper insurance as it relates to the church property?
  • Does the church have a custodian(s) to clean the property and keep it functional and attractive for its use?
  • Is the church appropriately secure? What steps need to be taken to keep the church safe?
  • Is everything functioning properly in the facilities? What is broken that needs to be fixed? Does the air conditioning/heating work? Is the roof leaking?
  • Is the church up to code with the city and zoning laws?
  • Is the property ready for its use this week?
  • Church vehicles--is the van working well? Is it safe? How are the tires?
  • Restrooms work? water flow? lights working? sidewalks cracked? landscape nice? classrooms functional? ... do we have enough toilet paper? Some of these might more directly fall to a custodian, but the trustees are ultimately responsible that these things are being taken care of.
3. The smaller the church, the more likely that the pastor will absorb some of these functions. Some pastors are quite handy when it comes to practical matters. Others are quite idea oriented and less likely to think of such things.

For example, let's say you are having baptisms on Sunday morning. How long does it take to fill the baptistery, if you have one? How long does it take the water to heat up? A green pastor usually only has to have one major mess up in this area before he or she remembers that it may take half a day's time to fill up and heat the baptistery.

Is the heat or air on sufficiently ahead of service for the temperature to be comfortable by the time people arrive? Are you wasting money by using the air or heat when people are not going to be in the building?

Is the church unlocked for those who arrive early to set up things or practice for the worship service? Does the lawn look good for Sunday morning? Like it or not, a church with an attractive property is more likely to grow and one with an unattractive property is likely to decline.

4. Culture changes and facilities expectations change. As I look back over the last fifty years, expectations have changed for what a good facility would be like. Older folk used to resist any change to the church buildings they grew up with. Meanwhile, younger folk used to mistake the latest fad for the new permanent thing.

We've been through the round churches (that had no direction for expansion) to the multi-purpose facility (that served as a gym when it wasn't being used as a worship space. The key learning is that none of these structures are wrong but neither are they the final structure. Over the next fifty years we will no doubt see varying trends in church structure again and the only ignorant person is the one that assumes there is a permanent answer. Change is a constant when it comes to such things.

5. Major expenditures arise from time to time, and we shift into fundraising mode. Does the church need a new roof? Does the church need a new central air conditioning/heating unit?

With growth, the church may need to expand its facilities or move to a new location. Again, these good situations will call for the engagement of knowledgeable, wise individuals who can help with a host of small but important decisions relating to facilities. Plans will need to be drafted. Contractors will need to be hired. Although trustees are usually volunteers, they are crucial to a well-functioning church.

Next Sunday: Foundations 1: The Law 1 (Content)

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management
Church Administration

Saturday, April 22, 2017

8.3 Inducing Voltage

Here's the third installment of Module 8, Induction, in Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series from the 1970s. The first two units were:

8.1 Electromagnetism
8.2 Inductors and Flux Density

1. From an earlier module, we learned that three factors were necessary to induce an EMF in a conductor:
  • a magnetic field
  • a conductor
  • relative motion between conductor and field
This leads us to Faraday's Law: "The EMF induced or generated in a conductor is directly proportional to the rate at which a conductor is cutting the magnetic lines of flux."

2. As current starts through a conductor, it generates a magnetic field, so two of the three conditions for generating an EMF are satisfied. Motion does actually take place because the lines of electric flux start at the center of the conductor and move to its outer part. As the flux moves on each half toward the outer part of the conductor, the lines are moving in opposite directions, satisfying the third condition until current is flowing through the whole wire.

In the meantime, the expansion of the current to fill the wire creates a "counter EMF" or CEMF. For a moment, the resisting EMF reduces the current briefly. The momentary CEMF is almost equal to the source voltage.

When the current is turned off, the same phenomenon occurs. The field collapses, causing relative motion. This time the generated EMF wants to keep moving in the same direction as the current was flowing.

3. If there is a conductor in another circuit, near the first one, a current will be generated in it by the first circuit. The direction of the induced current will be in the opposite direction. This is called Lenz's Law: "The direction of an induced EMF tends to set up a current whose magnetic field is the opposite of the original current."

A DC circuit will only generate current in the second circuit when it is powering up or down. An AC circuit, on the other hand, because it's value is always alternating, will constantly generate current in the second circuit.

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Testament Theology

Jesus
  • preached the kingdom of God, the coming rule of God on earth as it is in heaven.
  • like John the Baptist, to prepare he urged repentance and faith in the good news (gospel) of God's coming reign.
  • God as abba
  • He saw himself as the Messiah, saw his death as salvific
  • Used "Son of Man" to refer to himself, both has a generic sense (I'm a guy) and an apocalyptic/Daniel 7 sense (I'm going to come on the clouds to judge the world).
  • Cast out demons, understood as part of the arrival of the kingdom of God.
  • Taught love of neighbor and enemy as core ethic.
  • Focused on the "lost sheep" of Israel
Paul
  • Uses language that treats the persons of the Trinity as distinct persons yet unique in association/fellowship.
  • One God, creator, for whom all things (1 Cor 8:6)
  • God is righteous (Rom). God is sovereign (Rom).
  • God should be known by the creation (Rom).
  • God predestined the plan of salvation and future election of his people.
  • In Adam all die. In Adam sin and death entered the world (Rom).
  • All sin. All under power of Sin (Rom). 
  • Flesh/spirit dualism--flesh under power of Sin, Spirit as power of freedom.
  • God offered Jesus as atoning sacrifice, for our redemption.
  • The risen Jesus is enthroned as Lord. "Jesus is Lord."
  • Understood Jesus to be the "Son of God," the king of the cosmos, the "Son of David"
  • Some indications of Jesus' pre-existence (Phil).
  • Jesus is God. (Titus)
  • Holy Spirit is essential to being a child of God. Holy Spirit is seal of God's ownership, an "earnest" of our inheritance.
  • Holy Spirit intercedes for us. (Rom)
  • We are "justified" by faith in God on the basis of the faithfulness of Jesus. We are reconciled to God.
  • We are "sanctified" by the Holy Spirit, cleansed and set apart to God.
  • We are adopted as children of God.
  • Church is built on the trunk of Israel, with Gentiles grafted in.
  • Church is temple, built on the foundation of Christ. Ephesians adds the apostles and prophets.
  • Satan opposes God's people. Later letters like Colossians and Ephesians have more on spiritual powers and battle.
  • We need to live holy and blameless lives; love fulfills the Law.
  • Unity is a core goal of the church and love is the solution to the church's disunity.
  • Lord's supper indicates unity, anticipates Lord's return to eat with us again.
  • Later letters feature cultural structures (household-Ephesians, church-1 Timothy).
  • To be absent from body is to be present with the Lord.
  • All Israel will be saved in the eschaton (Romans).
  • Christ will return and we will be caught up to participate in judgment (1 Thess).
  • We will have a resurrection body (1 Cor).
  • We will appear before judgment seat of Christ to be judged for deeds (2 Cor).
  • The creation will be redeemed (Romans).
  • All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy).
Mark
  • Jesus is the suffering servant, with possible overtones of Isaiah 53
  • Jesus is the Son of God, most shown by Jesus on the cross.
  • Uses "Son of Man" in relation to Jesus' suffering
  • Jesus kept his messianic identity a secret while on earth.
  • Jesus is a ransom for the sins of many.
  • Israel faces great persecution, destruction of temple
  • Jesus will return on the clouds
  • Only those with ears to hear will hear.
Matthew
  • Jesus is the "Son of David," the new Moses
  • Church built on the rock of Peter and his confession of Jesus as the Christ.
  • Not everyone in the church is in the church.
  • Church is an expanded Israel. Israel suffered in part for its rejection of Jesus.
  • Jesus gives the fulfilled understanding of the Law of Moses. Love fulfills the Law. We must love our enemies.
  • All nations need to hear and obey the gospel, church sent
  • Strongest imagery of hell fire and (eternal) apocalyptic judgment in the NT.
Luke
  • Emphasis on Jesus' ministry to the poor and marginalized. Jesus potentially includes everyone into the people of God.
  • Much less focus on atonement dimension of Jesus
  • All those who are lost can repent and return (Prodigal Son)
  • Everyone is my neighbor (Good Samaritan)
  • We are in the "times of the Gentiles"
  • General resurrection of everyone will take place
  • Kingdom of God will be on earth
Acts
  • Jesus enthroned as Lord, Christ, Son of God at the point of his resurrection
  • The Holy Spirit gives birth to the church and is essential to being in the church.
  • The power of the Spirit in Jesus continues into the church to today.
  • Baptism as central to inclusion in the church
Hebrews and General Epistles
  • God the creator of all things (Heb)
  • God is the giver of perfect gifts. (James)
  • Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James)
  • Jesus the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Jesus is the great high priest. (Heb)
  • Christ is greater than the angels and the old covenant (Moses, priests, sacrifices). (Heb)
  • Devil holds the power of death. (Heb)
  • Some angels are bound awaiting final punishment. (2 Peter/Jude).
  • Humanity created to have glory and honor in the creation. (Heb)
  • Humans are created in the image of God. (James)
  • We are justified by works. (James)
  • Those who apostatize cannot find repentance. (Heb)
  • Faith is essential. (Heb)
  • World will be destroyed by fire. (2 Pet)
  • Humanity will rule with Christ. (Heb)
  • Prophecy came by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet)
John
  • God is love. God is light.
  • Jesus the Word who came from heaven
  • The Son and the Father are one. We see the Father through the Son. The Son speaks for the Father.
  • Jesus is the I AM.
  • Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  • The Spirit is our advocate, who leads us into truth.
  • The importance of believing in Jesus. Jesus is the only way to the Father.
  • We all have sin. All have sinned. Those born of God shouldn't sin. (1 John)
  • If we confess sins, he will forgive. (1 John)
  • There are sins to death and sins not to death. (1 John)
  • Strong spirit/flesh dualism
  • Jesus goes to prepare a place for us.
  • There is eternal life and eternal condemnation.
Revelation
  • Holy, holy, holy God
  • Jesus and God are to be worshiped.
  • Lamb of God slain
  • There will be lots of bloody wrath visited upon the earth.
  • A large host of Israel will be saved.
  • Two resurrections and a millennium
  • Hell was created for Devil and angels
  • new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Ode to Philosophy

Philosophy?
Where do we learn to think logically,
     And apply the criteria of truth?
Where do we hold up the mirror
     To expose our hidden assumptions?
Where do we learn about paradigms
     In science, history, religion, art?
Where do we ask about right and wrong,
     Beauty and systems of value?
Where do we unfold the assumptions
     Of politics and social structures?
Where do we reflect on the mechanisms
     Of interpretations of God and the Bible?
Philosophy!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Paul 3.1

I've finished a second chapter of this Paul novel now. In case I want to publish it later, I am removing chapters after I finish them and copy them into a document. So the chapter 2 posts will disappear after I get them copied.

Now on to chapter 3, which is about Paul's first missionary journey. See Acts 13.
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Chapter 3
So Paul was at Antioch just a year or so after the famine, when God called Barnabas and him to go on a missionary journey. The first of several for Paul.

It was a prophetic word. It was early on a Sunday morning, just before dawn. A group of about thirty people were gathered to pray and worship at a certain point along the Orontes River, just outside the city walls of Antioch of Syria. After singing a psalm, Agabas was filled with the Holy Spirit and said, "God is setting aside Saul and Barnabas to take the good news to Cyprus, to Barnabas' own land." [1]

Barnabas was born on the island of Cyprus. However, like Paul, he also had family in Jerusalem. In fact, Jesus ate his last supper in an upper room in his sister Mary's house. The leaders of the Jerusalem church assembled in that unusually large room for worship and a love feast each week. It was the house where Peter stayed when he was in Jerusalem. This Mary was one of those who had followed Jesus to the cross and had been there when they discovered the empty tomb. [2]

Mary had several sons, the youngest of which was named John Mark. Mark was an enthusiastic and curious young man, not to mention somewhat impulsive. The night of Jesus' arrest, he didn't even take time to fully dress, but ran out with only his outer garment on. When one of the high priest's guards noticed him and grabbed his cloak, he ditched it and ran away naked. [3]

Barnabas thought the journey might help him mature. Mark was excited because he admired his uncle Barnabas, who was in charge of the mission. And he had never been to Cyprus before to visit that side of the family.

Paul--who was still going by "Saul" at that time--was not particularly impressed with Mark. What Paul needed was someone to carry stuff and run errands. But Mark came from a wealthy family that even had servants in their house. Let's just say that there weren't any callouses on his hands.

The tension between Paul and Mark seemed to grow every day. Mark did not do enough for Paul's liking. Mark did not have any common sense, at least as far as Paul was concerned. Half the tasks he did, he did wrongly.

Meanwhile, Mark was increasingly annoyed at how Paul seemed to take charge all the time. Wasn't his uncle Barnabas the leader of this mission? Why did Paul end up doing most of the talking?

And Mark was really annoyed at how chummy Paul was with the Roman governor Sergius Paulus. Their mission wasn't to spread the good news to Gentiles but to Jews, Mark thought at the time. And Paul always seemed to rub other Jews the wrong way. If he would just let Barnabas talk, Mark thought, more Jews would believe. In fact, the only reason Paul met Sergius Paulus in the first place was because Paul got thrown in jail at the accusation of provoking a riot in the local synagogue...

[1] We do not know which prophet had this word, nor do we know where all the assemblies of Antioch met. I pictured them meeting next to the river based on where some met at Philippi. See Acts 13 and 16.

[2] It seems reasonable to connect the upper room, Mary, and John Mark together, since Peter goes there in Acts 12. However, we do not know if this Mary is the wife of Clopas and mother of James and Joseph mentioned in the Gospels.

[3] It's an old suggestion that this young man was Mark. Of course we do not know for sure. In fact, the Gospel of Mark itself is technically anonymous.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seminary PL41: Communications

This is the tenth post on church administration in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the forty-first post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post looked fundraising. This post is about church communications.
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1. The communications of churches have evolved as technology has evolved. At one point, communications within and outside the church simply took place by word of mouth. Congregations were relatively small by modern reckoning usually within tight knit communities, so you could get word around just by one person telling another and so on.

Most churches still have oral announcements of some sort within the context of a Sunday or other service. When I was growing up in a relatively small church, announcements were made either right before the offering or right before a special song preceding the sermon.

In my ministerial education, some professors urged that announcements be done before the service actually begins, so that the worship service could be entirely about worship and the focus on God not be interrupted. Now, many churches do not really speak announcements but have them projected in sequence on a screen prior to the service.

Be sure to recognize that in the modern casual church, families will stroll in late and many simply ignore the pre-service screen announcements. From a practical standpoint, the mid-service announcements were probably more effective as communication than either of these.

2. Most churches hand paper to each person who comes into a service. This serves at least two very important functions. First, in an age of large churches, this practice provides one-on-one contact both for newcomers and for those who might otherwise never make any personal contact with anyone else in the service. It is an opportunity for personal interaction, which is an essential element of what the church is.

What is in the "bulletin" or "worship guide" can vary. It often will contain an order of worship. [1] Sometimes it has a place for a person to take notes. These elements can be helpful for those like me who get bored easily. Fill in the blanks give people something to do and help them follow the main ideas of the sermon. In that respect, it can be a helpful tool for discipleship.

The bulletin is also a potential place to give announcements. Bulletins often remind the church of key events taking place that week as well as upcoming events. The bulletin can give key prayer requests. It can report on the finances of the church. Know that as helpful as this information is, many of us won't read the announcements in the bulletin.

Again, you may hate it, but mid-service oral announcements are going to be the most effective from a practical communications standpoint, despite the protests of purists and the "but, but, but, it should be this way" idealists. I am proof. For years I knew precious little of what was going on at my church. Was it my fault? Yes. Was the church effective at communicating with me? No. Each individual church must decide how effective of communication is effective enough. [2]

3. Churches often have "shut-ins" who are not physically able to attend church. Others are either on the road or have trouble getting out of bed on a given Sunday. Technology has increasingly made it possible for churches to extend their ministry to these individuals.

Some churches still have Sunday services at nursing homes. When it became possible to record services, many churches began making cassette tapes to distribute to its shut-ins and to people at a distance. If someone sang a special song or if there was a baptism, the cassette could be kept as a memory or keep sake.

Today, sermons--at least the audio--are usually downloadable from a website. For a while, churches were using iTunes for this service. Now, they are generally available directly from the church website. Larger churches usually video their services and can be broadcast over a local television station.

With the rise of YouTube and Vimeo, it has become increasingly easy to make all previous sermons permanently available and linked to a church website. Facebook Live is now an extremely easy way to livestream your service to those who, for whatever reason, cannot be with you during the service. 12Stone Church in Atlanta has a web version of its church with a dedicated pastor.

4. Another tool that developed over the years was the monthly newsletter. This tool could not only inform the church members of more strategic items and finances, but it became a way to keep in contact with people who were connected to the church in some broader way. For example, I received a monthly newsletter from a church in Wisconsin for years that I had never attended. This kept me informed of what was going on there. I could pray for them. I could give to their causes.

If a church has seasonal members, say individuals who come and go in the summers and winters, such a newsletter can keep these individuals up to date. In this day and age, the paper newsletter has mostly been replaced by email. A church should do its best to have the emails of all its members. Email contact once a month--not too much information but a little--can be a good tool of communication.

Visitor information should be collected in some way without being obtrusive (that is, only if the visitor wishes and gives permission). Often there is a point in the worship where visitors are asked to fill out cards in the pew. Email, phone number, address are crucial if you intend to do follow up. In that way you can at least text the visitor during the week (ask their permission). Calling on the phone is increasingly undesirable and personal visits are increasingly unheard of.

5. In this age of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, most churches will want to have them. Every church should not only have a website, but it should have a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and an Instagram account.

As for Twitter, try to get everyone in the church with a smart phone to follow the church. Just the merest suggestion can inspire certain personalities to tweet key ideas from the sermon during or after the sermon. Someone at the church should then retweet them. This can also be a way of making prayer requests and other information known to the congregation during the week.

In the old days, there were prayer chains. If an emergency happened, so and so called so and so who called so and so. In this way, a chain of prayer went up to heaven almost instantly. Today, this can all be done almost instantly. Small groups can have GroupMe accounts so that they stay connected during the week.

A church should have both a website and a Facebook page. The Facebook page provides basic information on your church and can be used to broadcast a service live. However, official Facebook pages are not good for discussion. If a pastor or key staff member has a Facebook account, discipleship by way of discussion can continue long after Sunday morning. The church can also have one or more open Facebook groups (e.g., a high school Facebook group) to keep conversation going during the week. This is a great tool for discipleship.

Instagram is a way of recording the pictures of the congregation's life. Information can be disseminated very quickly by way of Facebook and Twitter.

I've never seen it done, but it would be interesting to experiment with Twitter as a way of letting the congregation raise questions about a sermon. A pastor of course will hardly be able to address these during the sermon. And if you livestreamed them on a screen to the side, it would distract from the sermon. But you could possibly have a Q and A after each service to discuss them, and certainly Sunday School classes could process them.

6. A church without a website these days is a church that doesn't want anyone to find them. A church website should 1) give the location of the church and contact information, 2) tell about the church--what does this church stand for? What is its ethos and identity? What is its mission and vision, 3) tell about the staff and ministries--who are the pastors, what are the various ways in which I can plug into this church, and 4) perhaps give up to date information and or ways to give.

Many churches now make it possible to give online. There is still something important about physically taking up an offering, it seems. Nevertheless, while the plate is being passed, I am getting on my smart phone to give electronically. Sometimes I will remember that I haven't given yet while I'm driving. When I reach my next destination, I sometimes take out my phone and give. Churches should also have the capability of auto-withdrawals so that church members can tithe automatically.

There are individuals who specialize in creating church websites. However, you can create one for free using wordpress.com and other sites.

Who should people contact in the case of an emergency? This should be known. Many churches have pastors rotate being on call. Of course in the small church, the pastor tends to be on call 24/7. The pastor needs to have a sabbath, though, when he or she just isn't available except in the direst of emergencies.

7. A church should have a good sense of who is attending. It should have the names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers of its regular attenders. Many churches used to create paper directories every few years. These are great for reminding yourself of people whose names you have forgotten.

Certainly such directories could be put online these days. The danger is of course in this age of electronic stalking, you are making the people in your church potentially available to unsavory characters. Great discretion is advised. Perhaps more private and dis-aggregated Facebook directories could be created.

8. The community should know that your church is there. If you are not engaged enough in your community for it to know you are there, something is wrong. Pastors should be involved in prayer breakfasts with other pastors. People should be involved with community events and opportunities for ministry.

In earlier days, churches did door-to-door inviting of people to church. Today, this is often seen as creepy. Nevertheless, it may still be appropriate in some places. Other churches take out billboards or take out advertisements on local television. Certainly having an attractive church campus with good signage is obvious. Many churches put out something funny on their signs to draw the eye.

But nothing communicates the loving invitation of Christ better than your people being the body of Christ in the world.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 41: Facilities

[1] I lead a liturgical service for about ten years. At first, I printed a distinct liturgy for each week. Later on, we provided a generic liturgy but printed the specifics for each week on a single half sheet.

[2] This is a perennial observation in regard to so many things. You can say "it should be this way" until you are blue in the face. But if you can't get people to change, then you are the failure in the end for being unwilling to change yourself. As the crass saying almost goes, "You can wish in one hand and crap in the other, and I'll tell you which one you'll end up with."

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management
Church Administration

Saturday, April 15, 2017

8.2 Inductors and Flux Density

Here's the second installment of Module 8, Induction, in Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series from the 1970s. The first unit was:

8.1 Electromagnetism

1. Flux density is the strength of a magnetic field around something, for example a coil. There are four factors that directly affect flux density and one that inversely affects it.

2. The first factor is the "permeability" or "reluctance" with which magnetic flux can pass through a material. If the core of a coil is an iron rod (more permeable), then there will be a significantly greater flux density of the magnetic field than if the core is simply air (, say with the coil wrapped around a cardboard cylinder.

The symbol for an inductor with either an iron core or an air core is as follows:

iron core conductor                            air-core conductor

3. The second factor that increases flux density is the number of turns in the coil. The more the turns, the greater the magnetic force.

4. The third is the cross-sectional area of the core. The bigger the cross-section, the greater the flux density. This is the opposite of the fifth factor, which is the length of the core. The longer the core, the less the flux density.

5. Finally, the amount of current flowing through the coil directly affects the flux density. The more the current, the greater the flux density.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday Science

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Gen Eds 10c: Ancient Egypt

This is the third post in the Classical Civilizations" unit of my World History series. The first two were India and China.

This is part of my "General Education in a Nutshell" series. The series consists of ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy. So far in the world history section:
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1. For some 3000 years, Egypt was the dominant civilization around the Mediterranean Sea. From about 3400BC until Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332BC, Egypt was unsurpassed in the Mediterranean part of the world.

The first real dynasty of Egypt took place around 3100BC under king Menes, who set up his capital in the area that would later come to be known as Memphis. However, even before him there was a northern and southern kingdom. [1] The movie The Scorpion King, although completely unhistorical, no doubt took its inspiration from a king named Scorpion who in 3200 unsuccessfully tried to conquer the northern kingdom from the south.

The oldest known hieroglyphics come from the time of Menes, and it was during this time that some of the most enduring aspects of Egyptian culture were being formed. For example, the king of Egypt (the Pharaoh) was thought to be like a god and associated with the god Horus. The yearly flooding of the Nile provided natural irrigation.

2. The five hundred years of the Old Kingdom (2686-2181BC) was the time during which the pyramids were build. These were funerary monuments for the kings of the third dynasty. The first pyramid was the "step pyramid" of Djoser, built about 2630. It was the first major stone building in the world. The Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the seven wonders of the world was build by Khufu or Cheops in Greek in the 2500s. Two more pyramids were also built.

The third and fourth dynasties were the golden age. From the fifth to the sixth dynasty, the rise of a priestly class drained the resources that before belonged to the king, and the building of pyramids became a significant economic burden.

3. The "First Intermediate Period" saw the disintegration of a united kingdom for a period of about a hundred years (2181-55BC). There were several kings one after the other until Mentuhotep, a king ruling from Thebes in the south, reunited Egypt. Thus began the eleventh dynasty and the Middle Kingdom.

4. The Middle Kingdom dates from 2055-1786BC and runs from the eleventh to the twelfth dynasty. Pyramids returned. The practice of co-regents so that a successor was in place began. The last ruler of the twelfth dynasty was the first female ruler of Egypt. This is about the time of Abraham.

5. A "Second Intermediate Period" (1786-1567BC) erupted after the end of the twelfth dynasty. Around 1650, the Hyksos invaded and ruled from the northern part of Egypt (Lower Egypt). There is no real agreement on who the Hyksos were. Some think they were Semitic. Others think they were Indo-European.

If you try to align this part of Egyptian history with Genesis, then it would seem that the Pharaoh before whom Joseph appeared as a Hyksos king. Meanwhile, the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in 1570, and the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph may have been a New Kingdom king.

6.  The New Kingdom (1567-1085BC) began when Ahmose I reunified Egypt under an 18th dynasty. At one point the Egyptian empire stretched from Nubia in the south to the Euphrates River in the east. There were a number of powerful queen rulers during this period, including Queen Hatshepsut (1503-1482BC).

One of the most intriguing episodes during this period is the rule of Akhenaton (1379-62BC), otherwise known as Amenhotep IV. (His wife Nefertiti is also well known) He disbanded the priests of Amon-Re and instituted the worship of only one God, Aton, another sun god. He built a new capital in Middle Egypt at a place called Amarna, and the Amarna letters are a collection of letters from his reign.

Tutankhamen (1361-52BC) is well known today because this child emperor's tomb was discovered intact in 1922. He was the child of Akhenaton. Not long after their deaths, their names were expunged from all records and traditional Egyptian religion was restored. The capital returned to Thebes.

7. Many locate the time of Moses with the reign of Ramses II (1304-1237BC), and you can see the letters MSES in Ramses' name. It is interesting to wonder about the interplay of Akhenaton's henotheism and the henotheism of the Israelites. [2]

Funerary Temple of Ramses III
The 19th and 20th dynasties were the Ramesside period. All the New Kingdom rulers except Akhenaton were buried in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. The last king of the twentieth dynasty, Ramses III, had a magnificent funerary temple.

8. A "Third Intermediate Period" (1085-664BC) followed the end of Ramses III's rule. During this period, there was no strong central king, but local rulers vied for power. Shishak, who began the 22nd dynasty around 945BC, is mentioned in the Old Testament as a king who came and plundered the Jerusalem temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 14:25).

The Assyrians came through Egypt in 671 and destroyed Memphis. Egypt became part of the Persian empire in 525BC. The Greeks took it over in 332BC and it was then ruled by the Ptolemies. Finally, the Romans took over after the death of Cleopatra in 31BC.

Next Week: History 10d. Ancient Mesopotamia

[1] The southern part of Egypt was known as Upper Egypt and the northern part Lower Egypt because the Nile is the most famous river in the world that flows from south to north. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for Egypt, mizraim, is a "dual" noun, indicating two things.

[2] Henotheism is the belief that there is only one legitimate God to worship, even though other gods may also exist. Monolatry similarly refers to the worship of only one God, even though other gods may also exist.

Take-Aways:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

16. Maneuvering Toward Power

Previous posts are at the bottom.

1. I have read two more chapters of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer, chapters seventeen and eighteen. Rather than shape prose, let me give bullets. (Previous posts are at the bottom)

Chapter Seventeen:
  • Hitler shifted away from war speeches because he wanted to be democratically elected. He began a peace propaganda. 1931
  • Hitler: "Foreign policy is only a means to an end" (415). "The programmatical principle of our party is its position on the racial problem."
  • Hitler wanted peace among Fascists. An authoritarian tide was sweeping over Europe.
  • Herbert Hoover called for a moratorium on war repayments. Hitler predicted it would never resume.
  • Hitler met with President Hindenberg because some in the government felt that the National Socialists had to be brought on board to preserve the current state. Hindenberg thought Hitler was "no real German" and rejected him (425).
  • Still, some in the government saw Hitler as a way to stabilize the masses. "He will keep it [his oath to respect the Constitution]. He is a man of legality." (427). They wanted a "democratic dictatorship."
  • When the Chancellor, Brüning, invited Hitler to come to Berlin and reach an understanding with the government, Hitler believed "Now I have them in my pocket!" (433).
2. Chapter Eighteen
  • Hindenberg's seven year presidential term was coming to a close. Brüning did not want to have an election because he feared it would rip Germany apart. He wanted simply to unconstitutionally lengthen Hindenberg's term. Hitler wanted an election, knowing the Nazis would get more seats in Parliament.
  • Hindenberg wanted an election, and Hitler and Hindenberg entered each other's orbit. Goebbels wanted Hitler to run for president too. He couldn't make up his mind. He procrastinated a decision for a month. 
  • Finally, after Hindenberg declared, Hitler declared.
  • Hindenberg was a "junker," something like old landholders with property in Eastern Germany. It was fairly worthless land and these old aristocracy were only propped up by the government.
  • Hitler had a huge following among the masses. "Many people were puzzled by the fact that millions followed him, although almost the whole big press was grimly against him" (445).
  • Hitler lost, but he got 11.3 million votes to Hindenberg's 18.6 million. There had to be a revote. Hitler lost again, but increased. He got 13.4 million to Hindenberg's 19.3 million. In the second vote, he shifted from a negative to a positive nationalist message.
  • "The large majority of Germans were opposed to National Socialism" (450).
  • "Röhm was convinced that Germany was approaching a period of pure military rule" (450).
3. Previously on Hitler:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Paul 2.8

... continued from last week
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One of the most striking of the prophecies in those days was the prophecy of Agabus that there would be a famine in Judea. This prophecy came the year after Herod Agrippa I had James the son of Zebedee put to death, after which the Lord justly ended Agrippa's reign.

In the last year of his reign, Agrippa had James, the brother of John, beheaded. James had been preaching strongly at the temple that Jesus would return soon to judge the world. "No Herod was truly king," he said. The true King Jesus would come back to Jerusalem and re-establish the true kingdom of Israel.

Suffice it to say, Agrippa was not pleased when he heard such "sedition." He had James beheaded almost immediately. Imagine his surprise, then, to receive such strong voices of support from the leaders of the temple and the Sanhedrin. Herod Agrippa had done what many of them had wanted to do for over a decade.

Such leaders do not get that sort of approval often, so Agrippa proceeded next to throw Peter himself into jail. James the brother of Jesus was not in the city at that time. However, this time the Lord intervened. He enabled Peter to walk out of the prison and escape the city before Agrippa even realized he was gone.

The year was not over before Agrippa himself was dead. In a spectacle, he appeared in Caesarea along the coast in magnificent silver clothing. The reflection was so amazing that some in the crowds began to say that he was a god.

That was enough for Yahweh. Agrippa immediately began to experience sharp pains in his bowels. It was not five days before he was dead.

It was that same year that Spirit revealed to Agabus that the church at Antioch should store extra food because those in Judea would need it the following winter and spring. Sure enough, the crops of Judea were so sparse that year that fear of starvation rattled not only Jerusalem but the villages all the way north to Galilee.

Once again, Barnabas volunteered Paul to go with him to take wheat and barley for the churches of Jerusalem. He was still working to bring this Saul of Tarsus out of the shadows and into the full mission of the gospel. They both made the fifteen day journey from Antioch to Jerusalem with the help of several other young men.

The followers of the Way in Jerusalem were overjoyed. The fulfillment of the prophecy was such a powerful witness that many who had been enemies of Christ came to believe. They went from despair over James to elation at the miracles of God. Of course those on the Sanhedrin merely became more envious of James the brother of Jesus and the churches of Judea. But it would take them almost twenty more years before they found their opportunity to kill this James.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Seminary PL40: Fundraising and Capital Campaigns

This is the ninth post on church administration in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the fortieth post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post looked at giving in the Bible. This post is about fundraising and capital campaigns.
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1. Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn suggest that there are five reasons why people give to a church:
  • to pay the bills
  • to further missions
  • to support education
  • to help those in need
  • to build something
The oldest generation, those born before 1945, are the ones most likely to give toward paying the bills. Older congregations still often also have a strong (overseas) missions emphasis and often sponsor specific missionary families. Specific individuals and families often have a special burden for this kind of giving.

If I continue this series and do a series on mission, we can discuss this rapidly changing area of the church. Much overseas church planting is increasingly done either by those of the same ethnicity as the country of planting or by missionaries from the two-thirds world, who are now increasingly coming as missionaries to North America as well. Rapidly diminishing are the days when mission work had a not so faint overtone of unintended colonialism.

So, in the future, the second and fourth reasons for giving will likely be folded together into one bucket, something along the lines of "outreach." But of course if you are in a "missions"church, then keeping the two separate makes more sense.

2. People give for specific purposes far more than they give just to give. McIntosh and Arn suggest that giving for each bucket doesn't tend to take away too much from the giving for other buckets (207). If a person has a passion for missions, then they are going to give to missions. If you have a building fund offering, it probably isn't going to take too much away from their giving to missions.

Their point is that balancing the different kinds of giving opportunities will tend to increase the overall giving more than to diminish the giving in a particular area. Let people give in the area of their passion! Trying to move a person from their passion to another area is not likely to be fully successful. [1]

3. It is good for a church to pursue projects associated with its giving over time. If your church hasn't had a major vision project in the last 10 years, perhaps it's time to have one. It could be a project for something in the community. It could be a project overseas. It could be a project to plant a church. It could be a project to raise up ministers. It could be a building or renovation project.

Of course many churches struggle year over year simply to stay open. That's a challenge again for a series on mission. As far as finances are concerned, McIntosh and Arn suggest that "A church needs a minimum of twenty-five giving units to be financially stable and independent" (211). They define a giving unit as an individual, group, or family that gives 10% of its income to the church.

4. Building projects are probably the most notorious reason for having a "capital" campaign, a season in which you are trying to raise a large amount of money. Studies show that churches that hire a professional to lead the campaign tend to raise about 50% or more of the amount that they would raise on their own. However, a smaller church is not likely to have the resources or the desire to do this.

There are, however, firms that specialize in church fundraising of this sort: national firms, regional firms, local firms, and denominational resources (214).

McIntosh and Arn suggest that all good fundraising campaigns have the following elements (214-15):
  • participation (Give everyone something to do.)
  • clear timing (a beginning, a middle, and an end)
  • giving (everyone's gift counts)
  • information (do people know what's going on)
  • a clear goal (when will we have arrived?)
  • enthusiasm and celebration
5. A church shouldn't take on an indebtedness for such a campaign that is more than 2.5 times its normal yearly undesignated income. The first phase of a capital campaign thus might aim at raising the amount of money that gets you below that threshhold of indebtedness.

McIntosh and Arn give the following example. Say your annual undesignated income is $500,000. Then the church shouldn't borrow more than 1.25 million dollars. So if you want to enter a building project of two million dollars, you will need to raise 0.75 million ($750,000) that is not borrowed. That would make a good first phase of a building project, getting down to the amount that you need to borrow.

Over a three year period, a church can raise the amount of its yearly income over and above its normal income. Perhaps that's a good deadline for the second, middle phase of a campaign.
6. A church often has key givers who are able to contribute more to a building project. Such individuals often are more than happy to be part of such projects. If they are approached individually, they will give much more than if they are simply part of a general petition to everyone.

I heard of a building project campaign that was within a couple million of reaching its goal. The pastor, given the awkwardness, was tempted to make a generic pitch for the last two million from the pulpit. But he was strongly counseled to go personally to the homes of some key givers in the church and to challenge them.

They gave, and now when the pastor made the final push he only had to raise about 500,000, which the church easily reached. Individuals who know about such things said the church would have never reached the two million if he had only made a generic pitch from the pulpit.

7. A pastor inevitably uses up "influence capital" when she leads a capital campaign. But it is part of the responsibility of being a lead pastor. The pastor I mentioned above knew for a couple years that the church needed to build a new facility before he finally was willing to spend his influence on it. It is usually much more pleasant to focus on preaching the word. But occasionally a leader has to embody the spirit.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 41: Communications

[1] I also take this from Terry Munday's, It's Not About the Monday: How to Tap into God-Given Generosity.

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management
Church Administration