Showing posts from 2018

Do the Math (A Meeting at the Kitchen Table)

The book of Exodus tells the story about building the Tabernacle, the sanctuary for God’s presence to dwell. The people whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were willing brought their offerings for the Tabernacle and all its service. The people kept bringing their offerings every morning until the workers told Moses the people had given more than enough to complete the work the Lord had commanded. So Moses told the people they had given enough. In fact, they needed to stop giving because there was too much. The people had to be restrained from giving more! (Exodus 25, 35, 36) This story exemplifies generous giving to God’s kingdom. Unfortunately, it also shines a glaring light on our unfaithfulness with money. Charitable giving has remained stuck in our country at 2% for nearly fifty years, ever since we started measuring it in the 1970s. That accurately reflects the average giving in The United Methodist Church, too. The problem, of course, is that 2% is a far cry from scripture…

Human Sexuality: A Way Forward in The United Methodist Church

Recently, we hosted Bishop Laurie Haller and the East Central District. 215 people came to hear about the official proposal going before the specially-called General Conference in February 2019 about our way forward as United Methodists. Currently, The United Methodist Church declares that all are welcome and all individuals are of sacred worth but the practice of homosexuality (not homosexual people themselves) is incompatible with Christian scripture and tradition. Further, the church prevents clergy from officiating at same-sex unions, teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and prohibits the ordination of self-professed practicing homosexuals. Not everyone agrees with this position and want it changed. Therefore, some have broken our covenant as an act of defiance or justice by marrying same-sex persons. Further, some annual conferences have ordained LGBT persons. This debate around human sexuality has been waged, really, since the first General Conference in 1972 after …

A Simple Method for Making New Disciples

I recently returned home from the School of Congregational Development in San Diego. One of the plenary speaks was Pastor Sam Yun, who is starting a church in the northern California Bay Area called Embrace ( 
I felt a bit of a kinship with Pastor Sam, or P. Sam as his congregation calls him. He’s a church planter like me. He’s a fourth generation pastor. So like me, he grew up as a PK, a perfect kid. No, it stands for “pastor’s kid.” His dad is also retired, and like me, much of what he knows in ministry is from first watching his dad. Unlike me, he said his dad is quite the SOB…son of a bishop, that is. P. Sam’s grandfather was a bishop of the Methodist church in Korea. As a preacher he was incredibly powerful. As a bishop he was scary; he was very strict in his episcopal leadership. But to P. Sam, he was just his grandfather whom he loved, who would sneak ice cream with him. His great-grandfather was the first generation pastor in this family. Somewhere around 1…

Adding Staff and Growing

We have been reorganizing our leadership structure and adding Staff this year. So far we have a new Director of Discipleship (Tim King) and a new Worship Coordinator (Jodi Anderson). We have more positions we’re working on, as well (Service Coordinator, Youth Director, Community Ambassador). In the meantime, our leaders have heard a few questions about whether we should be doing this when currently we’re not fully “in the black,” financially. This is a good inquiry and deserves an answer. One of our major goals the last two years, and we’ve talked about it for longer than that, has been to implement a staff reorganization to get the right leaders around the table to lead people and ministries to carry out our mission to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. These are also the areas we identified before our building project as being most important. Back in 2011 our Study Committee spent time researching for our building project and met with leaders to discuss Salem’…

Becoming Members

Salem is receiving new members on Sunday, May 13. Sixteen people have been fulfilling the requirements and responsibilities of membership and are ready to step up and help take responsibility for Salem.  When we receive the new members during worship, there’s a moment when the people in the congregation renew their membership vows, as well. Because of that, I want remind you of those membership responsibilities. Members are people who have professed faith in Jesus, been baptized, completed the membership orientation, and regularly practice spiritual disciplines to worship, grow, serve, give, and share. What does that that look like? Members worship each Sunday (9 or 11 AM) unless they are sick or out of town. Worshiping weekly gives them an opportunity to gather with others to love God, offering praise, honor, and glory; to hear what the Lord God says to the by reading scripture; and to speak their prayers to the Lord. It’s an incredibly powerful moment to re-center their lives in commu…

A Decision Will Be Made About Our Future

It is incumbent upon me to clearly communicate what’s happening in the wider United Methodist Church. Salem may be required to make a big decision in another year, depending on what happens next February at a specially called General Conference.  In 2016, the every-four-year General Conference decided not to take up any legislation related to homosexuality. Currently, The United Methodist Church declares that all individuals are of sacred worth but the practice of homosexuality (so not homosexual people themselves) is incompatible with Christian scripture and tradition. Further, the church prevents clergy from officiating at same-sex unions, teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and prohibits the ordination of self-professed practicing homosexuals. Rather than voting on these matters again in 2016, the bishops were authorized to form the Commission on a Way Forward to help our denomination discern what to do in the midst of our differences around human sexuality. The Commi…

Discipleship Pathway

Our church’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our Annual Conference, the connection of United Methodist congregations in Iowa, has set the goal of every church developing a process for intentionally forming disciples of Jesus by 2020. At Salem we began this process with our Healthy Church Initiative consultation back in September 2013. We were given a prescription to develop a discipleship pathway for all ages. Therefore in 2014 we created and implemented a path for people to follow in order to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, to become like Jesus. As an aside, John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist movement, defined a disciple as having a heart habitually filled with love of God and neighbor, and having the mind of Christ and walking as Jesus walked. At Salem we imagined our discipleship pathway as a meal, offering just a bite, a more filling portion, the entrĂ©e, and dessert. Each part of the meal has it’s place. So we created a menu…

State of the Church

How are we doing with our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ who transform the world?Each year, in assessing the state of Salem, we take a look at some benchmark statistics. 2017 has been another fruitful year! Our membership now includes 242 professing adults. We also have 45 baptized infants and children— so 287 total.  This past year we lost 17 members as 5 died, 3 transferred to other congregations, and 9 were withdrawn. We received 5 new members. That means we have now received 114 new members since arriving at our current location a little over seven years ago!  Additionally, we have about a hundred active non-members. That means we actually have closer to 400 people who are a part of Salem. As part of our mission to make disciples of Jesus who transform the world, we essentially carry out four actions: reaching out, connecting, forming, and sending. Reach. Our Outreach Team leads us to reach out to others with activities such as our Easter Egg Hung, Trunk or Treat, Cleaning …

I Am a Writer. There, That Was Easy!

This is my tenth year at Salem. So much has been accomplished since the flood of 2008 changed Salem’s course. It's encouraging sometimes to step back and reminisce. Pastors have the privilege of requesting and planning a period of time for personal renewal and growth each year. Normally, that period is two weeks for each appointed year. Once every four years, however, the renewal is expanded to one full month. I previously received this renewal leave in 2008 before coming to Salem and then in 2013. I am overdue and proposed last fall that I take my renewal leave in early 2018. The Leadership Board and, subsequently, the District Superintendent approved this. Therefore, I am currently on leave from January 15 through February 13. I will return to work on February 14, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  During this time, I am writing about my own and Salem’s experience with the 2008 flood and rebuilding the church. In short, I'm writing about saying no. When I went back to sc…