Posts

A June to Remember

Image
Pentecost was the first Sunday in June, celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit, poured out on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension. It is one of the biggest celebrations in the life of the church. Some call it the birthday party for the church. We baptized children and adults and received new members. I am now taking time for vacation and a required “continuing formation” leave through the rest of the month. I would normally be attending Annual Conference, the yearly meeting of United Methodists in our conference, but our oldest daughter, Kaitlyn, is being married this same weekend. I told our bishop I would rather be at the wedding and she graciously confirmed she would make the same choice! Kaitlyn’s wedding is at Salem on Sunday afternoon, June 11. Those who are worshiping at the 11 AM service that day, will likely be encouraged—pleasantly, I hope!—to leave fairly quickly afterwards so the church can be cleaned and prepared as my family will arrive soon after to begin taking …

The Future of The United Methodist Church?

Image
Salem is a vibrant, fruitful, and growing congregation. Our denomination, The United Methodist Church, however, is struggling. Therefore, our Council of Bishops announced a special General Conference in February of 2019. This special meeting of our denomination’s top lawmaking assembly will be limited to acting on a report by the Council of Bishops, based on the proposals from the Commission on the Way Forward. The 32-member commission, appointed by the bishops after last year’s General Conference and has been tasked with finding ways for our denomination to stay together despite deep differences around homosexuality. In the meantime, the Judicial Council met in New Jersey and made some pertinent decisions. The Judicial Council is The United Methodist Church’s top court. Denominationally, we are structured much like the United States government. We have an executive branch (the Council of Bishops), a legislative branch (General Conference), and a judicial branch (the Judicial Council). …

Membership and Discipleship

Image
“How do you become a member as Salem?” That’s a question I am asked fairly often. It’s a good question that deserves a helpful answer. First, while we love to receive new members (and we're receiving new members during worship in a couple weeks), I want to let you know that our mission isn’t to make new members but to make new disciples of Jesus. Our initial focus, therefore, is to connect with people and help them to first become and then grow more mature as followers of Jesus, who go on to live in a such a way that they participate in God’s mission to transform, to renew the world. So you don’t need to become a member of Salem. That’s not our goal. And all are welcome to be a part of Salem regardless of membership. That means your baptism, wedding, or funeral can happen at Salem even if you’re not a member. We’re more concerned about your connection to and participation in the congregation. You can worship and serve and be a part of the church in every way except for two. You have…

We Really Don't Eat?

Image
Each year our congregation has been encouraged to fast during Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 1). Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount about giving, praying, and fasting as virtues of the kingdom people. Jesus does not say, “If you fast.” Rather he says, "And whenever you fast..." (Matthew 6:16a) Therefore, I invite you to fast with me during Lent. Fasting is a spiritual discipline; it means abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting and prayer go together. Therefore we devote the time normally used for eating to reading scripture and prayer. Furthermore, the feeling of hunger is a reminder to draw near to God. We remove our dependence from food and instead depend upon God. Doing so often leads to greater intimacy with the Lord and to hearing more clearly what the Lord is saying to us. While there are interesting physical things that happen when we fast, far beyond anything physical is the spiritual. This is a discipline that helps us hear from the Lo…

State of the Church 2017

Image
Each year, in assessing the state of Salem, we take a look at some benchmark statistics. Our membership now includes 254 professing adults. We also have 40 baptized infants and children— so 294 total. That’s an increase of 21 members. This past year 7 members died and 2 withdrew their membership. We received 28 new members. That means we have received 109 new members since arriving at our current location a little over six years ago! Our weekly worship attendance averaged 210 this past year, a very slight increase from 209 the previous year. This is an area that needs some attention and intention. Gathering weekly for worship is a central action for followers of Jesus. 254 professing members have vowed to be present. Of those, some will be sick or out of town, but we also have 40 baptized children. Their parents vowed to raise them in the church. We also have a significant number of active non-members who regularly worship, and guests join us frequently, too. We could potentially have 3…

Habits for the New Year

Image
January is a wonderful time to make some resolutions for the upcoming year. How do we intend to live our lives? After all, life is the most precious gift from God. What we do with it is our response to God. Some of the most popular resolutions in our culture include losing weight, being more healthy, getting organized, learning something new, and getting out of debt. Of course, most resolutions fail within the first month. We make the resolution, but often we don’t have a plan to make it happen. Likewise, as followers of Jesus, it’s not enough to simply want to be a disciple, we need a plan and a process to make that happen. Discipleship is a pattern of life. It’s the practices we cultivate in our lives as we submit to our Lord, Jesus. One of the early Church Fathers, Tertullian (c.160 – c.225) said “Christians are made, not born.” That is, it takes work. Just like Olympic athletes are made and not born, the kind of people we become is directly related to the habits we practice in life…

What We Learned Along the Way

Image
Our Leadership Board has been intentional the last several years about Salem’s direction. Our goals this past year have been to engage everyone in the life of the church; to develop a system of congregation care; to continue holding “bridge events” outside the building to reach out to our community; and to increase the payment of our apportionments from 40% to 50% (our giving beyond the local congregation to support the general church as well as our denomination’s mission locally and throughout the world). We learned much as we worked on these goals. We learned that while God is in control, everything takes longer than we think it will. We have to have patience and trust in how God is working. We discovered that it’s hard to get people to commit, especially to long-term things, but it’s more fruitful with a personal invitation from someone already participating. We also wondered if perhaps we’re attempting to do too much, if the congregation is sometimes spread too thin. Still, we’re con…