Friday, August 19, 2011

3 reasons to be baptized

We're celebrating baptisms this weekend at Grace. I believe that baptism is a critical part of an obedient Christian life. I also feel strongly that the Bible indicates that it is believers who should be baptized. An oft repeated phrase throughout the New Testament is "repent and be baptized" - which seems to indicate that baptism is something that we must choose to do.  I felt so strongly about this that 15 years ago I was baptized as a believer even though I had been baptized as a baby early in my life. Baptism is a symbol of a person’s total identification with Christ and allegiance to him.  But more than that – it is a public declaration -a way of identifying that the person being baptized is now welcome in the community of faith. Here are 3 reasons I think baptism is so important:

  1. Jesus commanded it. Baptism is an act of obedience - and for many Christians it is their very first act of obedience.  Jesus was clear about this, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  (Matthew 28:19)
  2. It is a primary tradition of the church.  From the very beginning of the church, believers in Jesus have been baptized. In getting baptized, you are demonstrating to the church that you have made a commitment to follow Christ.  ”What are you waiting for?  Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16)
  3. Jesus himself was baptized. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:13-17) - There was really no other reason for Jesus to be baptized other than to be an example to us... (oh yeah and for God to split the heavens open and show the world that this was His son...).

It's not too late - if you're still interested in being baptized this weekend at our 9:15 or 11:00 services in McKean - let us know here.  Do some more reading in Romans 6 if you'd like some more theology on the subject.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Game Day Thoughts: August 14, 2011

I'm an old football player, and Sundays can be something like Game Day.  As a Pastor, it's the day the church convenes for worship.  It's the day many of our staff plan for all week.  Kids are learning, youth are worshiping. It's the day our teams at Grace are on high alert and in full-service mode.  Here are a few of my highlights from today:

1. Focus on the Holy Spirit - This month we are turning our attention to the Holy Spirit at Grace and it has been very impacting for me. This week I realized how great my need is to be 'filled with the Spirit' as I live my life day to day.  Our services were very powerful this weekend as we incorporated some time to pause and reflect on the Spirit and then worshiped as Nathalie Martin expressed the song Indelible by Brooke Fraser in a beautiful worship dance.  Worship was intense and we closed with the song Awakening as we cried out for the Spirit of God to be awakened in our lives.  Here is a little clip from Grace Harborcreek as Dustin, Bryan, and Kaley and Pastor Mike close out the service. 

2. Second Date - I got a chance to check in very briefly on our Second Date reception following the 9:15 service.  I got to meet a bunch of people who are very new to Grace.  To hear them bubble over with excitement about their first impressions is infectious!  One woman said something that I hear quite often - she said "Every time I come here I cry."  (I always check to make sure it's not the preaching!) She's experiencing the Spirit of God and trying to put words to it.  It's a beautiful thing. I also heard there were a handful of families checking out some next steps at Second Date in Harborcreek as well. 

3. 80+ Luncheon - Pastor Al organized a luncheon reception today for the people in our church who are over 80 years old.  They were encouraged to bring some guests with them as well.  It was so cool to go table to table in that room and shake hands and give hugs to the people who are the solid building blocks upon which our entire church is built. It was their sacrifice, their bold prayers, their encouragement, their sacrificial giving, their positive attitudes that have allowed us to be where we are today as a church.  Joel Nelson (a missionary who grew up at Grace) was even with us to share some memories about growing up at Grace and how things have changed over the years.  It was wonderful to see these pillars of faith - with generations of their family gathered - giving thanks to God for how he has blessed their lives. 

I love our church.

If you were at Grace this weekend - what was one of your highlights?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leadership Summit Day 2 Highlights

The 2011 Global Leadership Summit is in the books. I'm so proud that Grace Church is associated with this event. We had nearly 300 leaders from a variety of different organizations and over 30 churches from throughout the region. The conference blog is here if you'd like to catch up with some of the backstage information and session summaries. I'm including my favorite quotes from each speaker on day two along with a link to Tim Schraeder's blog summaries of each talk - he does a great job capturing each speaker with thorough notes. 

Mama Maggie Gorban - Silence yourself to listen to God.  Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.  Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating. Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.  Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit. In silence you leave the many... to be with the One

Michelle Rhee - I would much rather have anger than apathy (in the people I'm trying to lead). 

Henry Cloud - Don't let someone else's character problems stop your vision.

John DicksonSome of the most inspiriting leaders in all of history had no structural authority. Sometimes you don't need the power to hire and fire to change empires or individuals. You don't need the keys to the kingdom to have impact on the kingdom.

Pat Lencioni - In order to be vulnerable as leaders we must overcome the fear of being embarrassed. When we're leading/serving others- we sometimes have to do things that could embarrass us.  We have to ask questions that might make us look stupid

Erwin McManus - The church needs to reclaim its place as the incubator of God-given talent and potential inside of every human being. There is no better way to live than to redeem the image of God in every human being. 

If you were at this year's Summit - what was the most impacting moment for you?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Leadership Summit Day 1 Highlights

This was one of the best first days of the Willowcreek Global Leadership Summit since I've been attending the conference. It was a great mix of practical leadership advice, stretching vision ideas, and personal inspiration and challenge.  I'm including links to Tim Schraeder's notes from each session since they are very thorough along with my favorite quote from each keynote speaker of today.

Bill HybelsAre you naming, facing, and resolving the problems that exist in your church or organization?  Leaders call problems 'problems' and then turn over heaven and earth to try to solve them.

Len Schlesinger - We have been educated to believe that failure is a dirty word, but failure doesn’t mean “game over;” it means try again with experience.

Cory A. Booker - The world you see outside of you will always be a reflection of what you have inside of you

Dr. Brenda Salter McNealA mutli-national, multi-lingual, multi-racial church was born in Acts 2. From the beginning the church was a global movement. Are we going to be global Christians?

Seth Godin - If failure is not an option... then neither is success.

Steven Furtick - Having good ideas doesn't make you a visionary, it makes you a daydreamer.  The difference between the two is having the courage and audacity to act. If the size of your vision isn't intimidating to you, there is a good chance that it's insulting to God. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting the most out of conferences

We are hosting the Willowcreek Global Leadership Summit this week at Grace Church. It is 
a tremendous event and has had a huge impact on our church over the years. As an 
occasional attendee at conferences of this sort, I'm always looking for ways to leverage the 
time most effectively.  I was reminded of some advice I received a few years ago from my friend Bob about getting the most out of conferences.  Here are a few thoughts that I found 
most helpful. 

1.  Note Taking. Keep a running list of thoughts and notes from each general session and breakout workshop.  If possible take your laptop so you can email and live blog what you are learning.  I like to take notes for application and action instead of content when there are reliable bloggers who are blogging content (a common occurrence at most conferences).  I 
have found that they capture content far better than I ever could - so I just need to be responsible for what I'm going to do with the information.   

2.  Daily Wrap-Up. If you’re with a team use meal times and breaks to debrief your learnings/insights. Group discussions always yield great understanding of the session/topic, 
you get to hear other point’s of view.  Include insights from these debriefing times in your notes.

3.  What do you think we need to think about?  Good conferences raise questions, great conferences cause us to question and evaluate what we’re doing.  Be sure to write down 
what questions you’re beginning to ask, questions you believe we should be asking, 
questions worth asking.  Plan to incorporate these questions into future meetings with 
your teams when you get back home. 

What older leaders should know about younger leaders

I ran across this post from Brad Lomenick of Catalyst fame about older leaders understanding younger leaders better.  At age 40 I find myself in the middle of this spectrum between young and old.  We have worked hard at Grace to continue to stay young with our staff hires and our volunteer leaders. It is so easy for churches to allow their ideas, their methods, and their programs to become outdated and stuck.  We want to avoid this by creating ample opportunities for young leaders to be involved in leadership roles in our ministry. I have seen the truth of Brad's post first-hand as I've worked with young leaders.  I picked the three insights from Brad that I resonated with the most (Brad lists 14).

1.  Willing to work together - young leaders are more willing to collaborate than any other generation before. They trust each other. Really. And see collaboration as the starting point, not some grandiose vision of teamwork that is far off in the distance. Collaboration is now the norm. Many young leaders don’t care who gets the credit- it’s way less about WHO and way more about WHAT.

2. Authenticity and humility wins - trust is incredibly important. Leaders won’t have followers going forward unless they trust them and see that they are authentic and real. Authenticity is not only important to the next generation; it’s a requirement. The next generation wants to follow leaders who are willing to admit that they don’t know it all.

3. See social justice as the norm  Leaders who care about the poor and lean into causes and see the social gospel as a key ingredient to following Christ are no longer seen as the exception. Young leaders see taking care of the poor and sharing the Gospel as BOTH crucial to the advancement of the Church and of God’s Kingdom. 

If you are an older leader, what are some insights/experiences you have had in working with younger leaders?  Younger leaders, what would you add to this list?