Friday, October 24, 2014

From the Newsletter . . . Lions and tigers and bylaws... O my

During our most recent Executive Committee meeting, the topic of our Bylaws and organizational structure came up, and the decision was made to begin to redo them, because, in the words of Dan Nye, our moderator, “they haven’t been working well for ten or fifteen years”. The key problem is that they were written for a church at a different size than ours. They were written for a church of 250, not 25 to 35. To try to comply with them, we have people wearing two and three hats, and if we had not just decided to have the Deacons and the Exec meet together as a single board (since every member of the Deacons was also wearing at least one other hat that required that they be there), they would be running to multiple meetings a month. Some people could have a meeting a week (or more) if we were where trying to function as our Bylaws call for. There are other problems with the Bylaws (I for one think that they should include a church statement of faith), but this is the driver that has lead us to redo them.

The plan is to do the revision in five stages. First, we will be starting with the Bible to see what it says on the qualifications of leaders, looking at re-sources the denomination recommends for churches of our size, and studying several other sets of bylaws of healthy and well governed churches, on all points of the size spectrum. Then we will write a draft that seeks to incorporate the things that are most helpful to us. After that, the deacons and exec will work on revising it till there is consensus that it is ready to be presented. From there, it will be presented to the congregations for conversation and get another round of improvements. Finally, it will be presented to the congregation for a vote., likely at the annual meeting next may. Our current bylaws call for a two thirds majority to change the bylaws.

Now, bylaws sound like boring things. In some ways they can be. But they are also hugely important. For two reasons. First of all, they lay out how a church is to be ordered. They give direction and guidance and define responsibilities. Think of them like the suspension system. The engine and drive train of the car is the gospel and the word of God. On the ground ministry is the rubber meeting the road. The bylaws are the suspension system, tying important things together and providing cushioning for the journey. It is important that they work well, or the road gets bumpy.

But second, they tell us about how the church thinks of itself. Sometimes churches build bylaws that look like a fortune a 500’s governances system, with a CEO, board of directors, middle level management. Sometimes, churches order themselves like sole proprietorships, and sometimes they set them-selves up like nonprofits. Why? Because that’s how they really see themselves. But the church is not these things, it is unlike any organization in the world, it is God’s church and it is designed for spiritual heavy work.

The church is looking to retool on so many levels. We are hard at work on re-tooling the building. We have a matching grant that provides an unprecedented opportunity to finish up the sanctuary. We are seeking to reach out. On a preliminary basis, we have approved a significant raise in what we are spending on outreach. And we are seeking as a church to be a church that is aiming towards health and vitality and life in every area. It makes sense that while we are doing the re-tooling, we tackle this.
 As we begin to do this, I have four requests for you. First, pray like crazy, pray that God guides and leads our church in this process. Second, consult your Bibles often to see if what we present lines up with God’s word. Third, listen thoughtfully and approach this with reason over emotion. Sometimes, we allow our heart to drive us where our mind would never take us. Think carefully rather than letting your heart lead you. Finally, be generous with us as we seek to do this. I don’t think any of us have written bylaws before. This will be a process of writing, revising, debating and discussing, and revising again as we seek to be governed by the word of God more fully, and develop bylaws that work well for First Baptist.. Be generous. I think that we are a congregation that can be very generous and forgiving at times, and hard on each other at other times. That is basically known as people being people. Be generous with all who are taking part in doing this. The intent at the end of the day is to facilitate the church functioning well, so that we release people for ministry rather than tie them up in meetings, and so that at the end of the day, A we glorify God, build a great community, proclaim the gospel throughout the region, and build deep disciples who connect to the gospel, grow in the gospel, serve from the gospel, share the gospel, and have their lives changed by the gospel as they live out of the gospel in every area of life. May our by-laws further that work.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Don't Lose Sight of This!

It’s the economy stupid.” It was an obnoxious, laser focus line that controlled everything that was said in the 1992 presidential campaign by Bill Clinton. “It’s the economy stupid.” Why did they have such a laser-like focus? Because they knew, that this was the issue that controlled their destiny. If they talked about foreign policy, they were sunk. President Bush had just overseen an awesome victory over Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, and there was no way they were going to win on that topic, and so in a brilliant strategy move, they decided to keep the discussion to the thing that mattered most to them for them. The economy. Which is why they drove it into their teams head, keep your eyes fixed on what is most important, don't lose sight of this!  

I’ve often thought that there is a lesson for churches. In the final words of Matthew, Jesus declares that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”, and in light of that he says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." In John 20 we read, “As the father sent me, so send I you”, and in Acts 1 we read, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  

With these words, Jesus says , I have a task for you. Make disciples. Nurture disciples. Teach disciples. Build up disciples, knowing that I have authority and I am with you because I lived the life you should have lived and died the death you should have died, and now have risen. Keep your eyes on this. My commission to you is to make disciples, just as I made disciples. Don’t forget that.  

The final instructions are very important. They tell us what is most important to that person. Before He ascends, in His last times with His disciples Jesus says this is it. Disciple-making. And just as the Clinton campaign had a laser-like focus, so too must we.  It’s so easy to lose focus. We all live busy, packed lives with lots of demands. And yet if we are not careful, we can lose sight of this command and think that it’s someone else’s job. We must be on guard to not let this happen. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talks about how some people are “like seed sown among thorns”. Who hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word”. The result is that they are made “unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19). We must not allow that to happen in our lives. We must keep Jesus commands firmly in view. When we are called to faith in Christ, we are given a mission and commission. We are to be actively and intentionally seeking to lead people to faith in Christ so that they too become disciples of Christ who make disciples who make disciples. We do this through love, through service, through living holy before the Lord, through obedience to everything that He has taught us, but most importantly we do it through words. By opening our mouth and inviting people to faith in Christ. This is the mission Christ has commanded us to fulfill. 

Be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Don’t lose sight of this command. It’s so easy to lose sight of it, which is why we need to remind ourselves of it daily. Just as we need to remind our-selves of the gospel daily, in a very real way, we need to remind ourselves of this daily. We all do. Myself included. If you come behind my desk, you’ll see a whiteboard with the words, “it’s disciple-making stupid!” on it. I keep it there for one reason. I can get so bogged down with the running of the church, and the this and the that, that I too need to be reminded. I too drift. I too get trapped by the thorns. And so I need to say to myself it’s disciple-making stupid. Don’t lose sight of this command. The call to me, and to you, and to all Christians, is that we are to be disciples who make disciples. Remember that this is our final instruction. Don’t lose sight of this command. We are called to make disciples, and if we are not, we’re not obeying our Saviors final instructions and we are showing ourselves to be false disciples. May we be disciples, who are obediently making disciples, who make disciples.