Thursday, April 26, 2012

"What's Missing in Today's Church"

I have always said I strongly believe that what is good of individuals is also good for churches. Let’s be honest. Older existing churches are in a slow downward spiral of decay while new churches are springing up like wild fire only to burn out quickly. So what is missing? Why are old churches dying and new churches burning out? Why are individual’s in older churches complacent and new believers in new churches are ignited but quickly burn out?

Many people believe that all you need for the church to grow is a new, young, nice looking charismatic pastor with a gorgeous family and that will solve it. All the church needs is someone who looks like Rob Bell, writes like Rick Warren and draws them in like Joel Osteen and all problems are solved. That may be true but what if the real answer already lies within the faith community and the people haven’t even realized it.

What I uncovered through my experiences as a new church planter as well as revitalizing a congregation that is over one hundred fifty years old was actually found in a parallel of the life of Joshua and the life of churches. Joshua was one of the greatest leaders of all time and was called by God to lead the people of Israel during a time of great transition. Moses their leader was dead, God chooses Joshua to lead the people into their destiny that God had promised. The Israelites were transforming from wondering newly free slaves into a great nation. God chose Joshua, Moses assistant, to lead them. When the Israelites arrived at their destination they found that the land was already inhibited. Joshua being a warrior wanted to take the city of Jericho but God had other plans. Joshua had the ability, the experience, the enthusiasm, the expertise, the training and the determination to conquer the city of Jericho. But God didn’t ask Joshua to be the great warrior that he was, God asked Joshua to obey him. Don’t fight just walk, blow some horns, and scream like a bunch of girls.

Like Joshua many new churches have that same vigor. They launch their new church with awesome new shinny programs ready to do battle. Their leaders have the knowledge, the expertise, and the passion but maybe lacking the ability to slow down, listen to God, and obey God in an uncommon way. They rush into battle when battle might not be God’s plan. Even with their determination they are slow to slow down and obey God in some uncommon way. Many new church leaders have prepared for battle when God wants them to walk around, blow some horns and scream like girls. They have determination but maybe lack restraint and wisdom. When God wants you to walk and you want to fight, burnout, frustration, and discontentment quickly set in. New churches are set on advancement when God may intend on relenting.

After Joshua takes the city of Jericho, he goes on a thirty one kingdom conquering winning streak. Joshua leads the people and they take them down one by one. When Joshua is finished he is tired and old not unlike many older existing churches. In Joshua 13:1&2 God says to Joshua: “you now are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” (NLV) Like many older churches, Joshua had done a lot, been through tough times, conflicts, and battles. The church as Christ body is old, tired, and battle worn. God even called Joshua very old but still had important things to accomplish. So are older existing congregations. Many from an older generation are content on sitting back on past victories and relinquish it all to a younger generation. The older generation finds contentment of what they have accomplished in the past. Like Joshua they are old, body covered in battle scars and content on sitting on the sideline. This generation is relenting when God is calling for them to advance.

So what is missing? What is missing for both new churches and older churches I believe is collaboration. Speaking for my generation I must express that young people are crazy, energetic, full of energy, and will try anything. Young people have a deep passion to serve Jesus. We believe in those quiet moments that we really can change things for the better. We feel strongly that we can make a difference in people lives and in our community. But we are missing wisdom and insight. We are missing someone to believe in us. There is this aching hole inside the younger generation that is looking to the previous generations and asking, “Do you believe in us? Do you think we can do it?” Look we may dress funny, yes we may rely on technology for everything, we may talk weird, but you know what we love God the same as you do. I believe there is a younger generation that is looking across our churches and desperately wanting you to say, “Yes! I believe you can do it. I believe in you.” We need you to say, “let us bring our wisdom alongside of you to help you be more efficient. Help you look out for the blind spots that you are too young to notice yet. Help you slow down and listen to God and when to fight” The older generation has something vital to give. We as a younger generation need to hear you say, “I’ve made some mistakes in my life but here is what I’ve learned.” We so desperately need to hear how your marriage survived sixty years, how you made it raising your children, how you survive cancer, how you put your life back together after your spouse died. We need to hear it because where we sit we think you are perfect. The older generation needs to know we look upon you and your life and say to ourselves, we hope we are like them when we are their age. We need you, we need your wisdom, most of all we need your belief in us. I don’t think it is possible for any church new or old to become everything God wants it to become in the future without your wisdom and confidence. To the older generation please hear us; we need you, we can not do it without you. Don’t relent; we must advance the bride of Christ together, side by side, hand in hand, wisdom and vigor with the same love of Christ and the church. We may be old, we may be young but together God has called us for to progress together as one unified body.

Rev Thomas J Henegar is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who has worked both as a New Church Planter for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tennessee. He is currently serving as the Senior Minister of a one hundred fifty plus year old church in rural Southern Illinois. Rev Henegar is a graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree and has extensive research and continuing education in new church development and church transformation. He is married to wife Kellie for over 18 years and is the proud father to Abby 17, and Will 13. He only dreams of looking like Rob Bell, singing like Chris Tomlin, writing like Rick Warren and a smile that draws them in like Joel Osteen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“Centralia Has Me Seeing Green”

Every where I turn in the town that I live, I see green. Green signs, people wearing green t-shirts, and green lettering on local businesses and vehicles. The green is not to just to celebrate spring, our High Schools colors, but a community effort to save something priceless. Everyone in the community have united together to display green to save one of its most valuable assets, the Murray Center. The Murray Center provides a caring home and excellent care to 280 special needs residents. Governor Quinn, the governor of Illinois, has decided to close the facility and displace all the residents and employees. But the green is not about saving the jobs of 550 staff members. While jobs are crucial and important, the main explanation I hear for saving the Murray Center is more about the quality of care and life of what Jesus called the “least of these” and their families. Governor Quinn explained his actions were taken because of green cash despite the fact that the Murray Center has turned a profit of millions of dollars in last years.

So what is all the green about? The color green symbolizes self-respect and well being. Green is the color of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony. Not being from Centralia I see green as the perfect color. Green has displayed the self respect and well being of the care given to the residence at the Murray Center. Green causes each of us who live here to find this balance between activism, politics, religion and community involvement. I have witnessed churches putting theological practices aside and coming together to pray and seek God’s guidance. I have witnessed local political leaders put aside personal egos and party lines to work together. It does not take long to see people gathering together in a show of solidarity to keep green in our community. I am not sure of the outcome but I know that during this whole journey our community has grown closer together. We have put others needs ahead of our own, lifted up to God in prayer our current circumstance, and bonded together. In a green cash strapped community, people have given of their already limited resources to help in the fight. The people of the Centralia area have begun to work in harmony with one another. Yes green is the perfect color for our community. In a society when division is profitable it is refreshing to see unity.

I can not predict the outcome but I truly believe no matter what our community has already won. We have unselfishly fought for the quality of life for those who can not take care of their own basic needs. We have battled for the families who can rest easy at night knowing that their loved one is safe, loved, and taken care of. We have brawled side by side in unity using all our resources with those in power to secure a safe home for those who need it most. Nothing can take that away our self respect and pride as a community as we know we have done the best we can. I was not born in Centralia but God chose to call my family and me here and once again it has proven to be an awesome place to live and raise our children. For that i am thankful. I believe in our community there has been awakening for each of us to see the beauty within that sometimes eludes us. That is something no governor can take away from us. Yes Centralia has me seeing green and I could think of a more beautiful color.
Peace, Love and Happiness,

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life In Transition

Has there been a time in your life when you were in transition? Parents know what I’m talking about. I believe that parenting is the single hardest job in the entire world. In case you didn’t know I have a daughter who is 17 and a son who is 13 and every single time I think I got this whole parenting thing down, it changes. There was the small baby phase were all I had to do is not drop them, feed them change them, feed them, put them in a bouncy seat, and as long as they were not screaming, I was good. As soon as I got that down, here comes the toddler phase. They start to walk, start to become mobile, and start to get into stuff and make messes. As soon as I can keep them out of all the stuff in the house, they transition into the why stage. “Why? Why Daddy? Why?” My reply usually was “I don’t know why it’s because I’m not a good parent, just go ask your mother.” As soon as I got to answer every question under the sun, they transition into what I call the “Dad is great” phase. I like this one. It is where they become mini me’s. They think I hung the moon, follow me around, and imitate me. Just while I’m loving this stage, they transition in to beginning to have their own thoughts and ideas. I went from the smartest person in the world to not knowing anything in 24 hours. Then it is a transition into a teenager where I am embarrassing to be around and no longer cool and annoying. Every time in the parenting thing I get down, they transition on me.

What is true in parenting is also true in life. Every time we think we get life figured out. Every time we master a season or phase in our life, it is as if almost by divine coincidence we transition into a new season. How do we handle these transitions in life? Life is lived through season or what I like to call defining moments. These defining moments can be time of joy: graduation day, wedding day, getting your first “real” job, the day your kids were born, the day your grandkids were born, and other highlight ion your life. Our defining moments can be not so great: the day the Dr tells you the test results show its cancer, the ending of a relationship, when you hear the words, “your laid off”, the moment you get a call and someone tells you your loved one has died. Good or bad these are defining moments in our life. They either make us stronger or the devastate us. But what do we do in those in between defining moments are or times of transition. These times can be scary and our natural reaction is to freak out. I strongly believe it is during these seasons or time of transition God is preparing us for something bigger. I believe every season good or bad has a purpose wither we see it or not. We can become impatient and only look forward to what we want ahead. We can step boldly into the next season of our life knowing that God is with us. Knowing that it is with His grace we can confidently transition into the next season of our life. We go forward with confidence not in our own strength, talents, gifts, or abilities, but with the grace of God. It is God’s strength that God reaches down and says “I choose you for the next season of your life. As I have walked with others I will walk with you. It is not by your power but with mine you will embrace the next season of your life. You might not feel worthy, qualified, or you have the experience but God says I choose you. Go boldly into it…
Peace, Love and Happiness,

Monday, April 9, 2012

“Embracing Your Season”

Isn’t it interesting that when you and I reflect on our lives that there are defining moments or defining seasons? Life is lived through seasons. Some of them are good: like getting your driver licenses, graduation day, wedding, birth of your children or grandchildren, your first real job. Then there are not so good defining moments or seasons: when the divorce became final, the day the test results came back and the Dr. said, “it’s not what we had hoped for”, the day a loved one passes away, the day the factory closed for good, having to change living accommodations, or struggle daily with health problems. These moments good or bad are defining moments or seasons in our lives. In these defining moments, as we transition through these defining seasons and on the back side of them, when they are over, no matter how painful or tough those times were, we can come out on the back side stronger, more determined about life than ever before. Unfortunately we have walked through defining moments or seasons and we have come out more broken, bruised, discouraged and defeated. These seasons of life can be scary to say the least. Some of us resent the season we are currently in and can only look past our current season and hold out unto it can pass. Some of us just when we think we have our season figured out God transitions us into another season. When we do this it is easy to miss what God is preparing us for the next season. As we grow older, we become jaded to the fact that God may still have a purpose for us to that the fact God is still developing who we are as His child.

As we kick off our new sermon series Joshua: Unleashing the Leader Inside You, we will examine Joshua’s life and his seasons. Joshua went from the son of Nun to Moses assistant to the leader of God’s chosen people, who would deliver then into their ultimate destiny. Joshua went from being Moses assistant to leading a million people into the promise land. This during the time when the people were freaked out by the death of their leader.  God transformed Joshua from an administrative assistant to the leader who would conquer the land for the people and help them transition from wandering ex slaves into a great nation. Just as God was there transitioning Joshua, God is there for us during our seasons as well. We must be willing to listen carefully to God’s instruction as we transition from one season to the next. We can learn how to embrace each season good or bad in order to live the life God desires us to have. What season are you in? Are you in transition between two seasons in your life? How can you be a leader in your family and help your children transition from one season to the next. Join us each week in Fusion Worship or watch each message online as we examine Joshua's life to help us unleash the leader inside you as you embrace each season.
See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Peace, Love & Happiness,