Posts

What's Going Well?

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I sat down a couple weeks ago with our district superintendent, Rev. Kiboko Kiboko, for my annual professional interview. We prayed together. We talked about Salem and my ministry and my family. He asked a wonderful question: “What’s going well?” I thought of so many things. Salem is a great congregation with wonderful people. We continue to reach out and receive many new people. Worship gatherings are passionate, lively, and engaging. We are tweaking our discipleship pathway and working on engaging people in discipleship and service. We created a MAP (ministry action plan) for the congregation. We have built a wonderful, new facility and are working on paying the debt (about $1 million). We're in the midst of our second capital campaign. Giving continues to increase and we are getting closer to paying 100% of our general church apportionments again, supporting the ministry and mission of The United Methodist Church around the world (we've been working on this since recovering f…

Living Life Together

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On a Thursday afternoon, Gary is trying to leave work. It’s been a busy week, but he wants to get out of there so he can make it on time to his small group. Honestly, to begin with, he wasn’t all that excited about being in a small group. His wife, Karen, kept asking him about participating in one together, and the preacher kept talking about how important it is for discipleship. So he finally agreed. But after they made the commitment to gather with a small group of people regularly, he soon discovered it was one of the highlights of his week.  In fact, it changed his life. In his small group, he began to talk about his spiritual life—the ups and downs, joys and struggles, questions and doubts. Others shared what was happening in their lives. They began to live out the practices of discipleship, especially praying for one another. He was stretched in his relationship with the Lord, but he felt such peace. He grew in all his other relationships, too. Not just with Karen, his small grou…

Blessing the Earth

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How are you blessing the earth? In worship this summer we have been reading the beginning of our story in Genesis. The covenant that God made with God’s people, beginning with Abraham and Sarah, is that because the Lord God blesses us we will be a blessing; all the families of the earth will be blessed by God’s people (Genesis 12:1-3). Through Jesus we have been grafted on to this story. This is our story. So we also are meant to be a blessing to all the people of the earth. That’s why in the United Methodist Church, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who transform the world. We are to help care for and renew everything and everyone that God created. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, understood God’s grace as power — the power to live a transformed life, the power to transform the world. He never doubted that we are saved only by God’s grace through faith. But Wesley believed God calls us to participate, to be fruitful. That is, God saves us by grace so we…

A June to Remember

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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?

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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

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“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?

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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…