Pastor’s BLOG

Be Prepared

On Pentecost Sunday, I challenged the youth who were being confirmed to “be prepared” for whatever life might bring their way. I used the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids where five were prepared with extra oil and five were not prepared. I gave the youth four practices to undertake as they prepare themselves for the life ahead. I have had a number of people ask me for the four challenges, so I thought I would review them here in our newsletter.
 
1. Surround yourselves with supportive Christian Friends who hold you accountable.
Developing close friendships with Christian friends during the easy times of life will help prepare you to lean on them when the inevitable difficult times will come. Not only can they encourage and support you, they may even counsel you and help prevent you from making stupid mistakes. I have a handful of close friends who will challenge my thinking and make me consider things from different perspectives.
 
2. Allow the Word of God dwelling richly in you.
Do this by hiding the word of God in your heart. Memorize important verses of scripture. The day may come when you don’t have access to your Bible. The more you immerse yourself in the word of God, the more able the Holy Spirit is to bring to your remembrance things that you need to hear at any given moment. I often recite in my mind the first passage of scripture I memorized: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
 
3. Develop a consistent prayer life.
Do not let your prayer life just be a 911 call to God in the moments when the oil runs out. Cultivate it, nourish it, and practice the presence of God. Prayer is the chief exercise of our faith and it will sustain you in the difficult times if you have done a good job of cultivating it as a practice in the regular times of life. Ultimately, prayer is not about asking for things; it is about cultivating a relationship with God which will sustain you through all the travels of life.
 
4. Live a life of self-sacrificing service
When we follow in the serving footsteps of Jesus, we become more like Jesus and have a broader view of life than the immediate issues we are facing. We realize that meaning in life comes from making a difference in the life of another person not in the acquisition of things.
 
These are good words for all of us to hear!
 
Grace and peace to you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


Discerning God’s Will

In a sermon a few weeks ago, I reflected on the challenge of discerning the work of God in the world around us. Sometimes what we think is from God is really the world presenting a photo-shopped image which deceives us. Drawing from the book “The Power of a Whisper,” I shared five questions we should ask ourselves to see if something is truly from God.
 
The first question is: “God, is this truly from you?”
Ask God candidly if the word or direction squares with who you know God to be, and whether or not it is consistent with God’s character as you understand it.
 
The second question to ask is: “Is it scriptural?”
If you think you’re hearing from heaven on a situation you are facing in life, first try to imagine Jesus as we know him from scripture taking the action you’re considering taking. If you can’t picture him doing whatever it is you’re about to do, chances are the prompting is not from God.
 
The Third question to ask is: “Is this wise?”
There is an entire book in the Bible devoted to wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, we learn many things that are wise and many things that are unwise. If you believe God is instructing you to do something that seems unwise, you should definitely question the origin of the prompting.
 
The Fourth question is: “Is this prompting in tune with my character or wiring patterns?”
In other words, does the input you’ve received seem to correlate with the person God created you to be? If you receive what you believe is a direction from God, and it stands in stark contrast to your journey to this point in your life, slow down, scrutinize it from all angles and ask God to confirm through a variety of other ways that it was God’s voice that you heard.
 
The fifth and final question is answering the question: “What do the people I most trust think about this prompting I have received?”
In my life, when I have felt the Lord leading me to a major life change, I have consulted with mature Christian friends and asked their input on it. The counsel of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ can truly help process the leading of God.
 
As we seek to discern God’s work in our lives, let us remember the words we read in 1st John: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” May the Lord help you as you use these questions to “test the spirits.”
 
Grace and peace to you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


With Us and For Us

“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” – Romans 8:31
 
Indeed, if God is for us, who can be against us? This is a wonderful promise of scripture that reminds us that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we can be assured that it is no match for the power of God. God is for us, and God is with us.
 
In Jesus, God is for us. If you ever have any doubt that God is on your side or wonder about God’s love for you, just reflect on this truth: God loved you so much that he sent Jesus to this earth to conquer the power of sin and death and provide a way for abundant and eternal life. This truth should give each of us confidence that God is on our side no matter what comes our way.
Jesus, our Emanuel, is also God with us. He promised to be with us to the end of the age and never forsake us. We have not been given instructions and then left on our own. Jesus is present and always available through the Spirit. When we have a difficult task to undertake, all we have to do is remind ourselves that He is with us in the task. This truth gives us courage to do what needs to be done.
 
The message of Easter that life conquers death through the power of God is an encouraging word. Whatever dead place you have in your life, know that it can be resurrected because God is for us, and God is with us. Knowing these truths give us hope, confidence, and courage.
May the joy of Easter stay with you all year!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


Restructuring Ministry Teams

Back in 2013, the congregation voted to combine the work of the Board of Deacons and the Session into a single body. At that time we divided the work into 13 ministry teams with 18 elders in two classes of 9. Now that we are 5 years into the new structure, we have discovered that it would be helpful to have 2 elders on each ministry team. With 18 elders, it means we would have to reduce our teams down to 9.
At its March 2018 meeting, the Session voted to do just that. The Youth Ministry Team and the Adult Education Team responsibilities will now fall under the Education Ministry Team’s work. The New Member and Visitation Team will combine with Member Care in a new team known as the Member Care and Guest Outreach Team. The Outreach Ministry Team and Stewardship will combine into a new team known as Stewardship And Benevolent Support.
As a result of this new structure, a second year elder and a first year elder will be on each team. It is our hope that this new structure will foster continuity from year to year and make our work much more efficient. The new teams will be as follows:
 
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1. Worship and Music
Oversees all things related to worship including volunteer lists for ushers, lay leaders, children’s sermon, nursery, communion, flowers, candles, elder greeter, etc. Train volunteers for these duties. Provide volunteers for special services such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms as needed. Keep the handbooks for weddings and funerals updated and available to families as needed. Coordinate putting up of the Advent decorations and their taking down and storage.
 
2. Member Care and Guest Outreach
Coordinate Lay Ministry program, small groups, prayer groups, bread delivery to new members, new member buddies, and correspondence with members at life event times. Maintain the pew registers and cards in the pew backs. Plan for and publicize ways to attract new members and orient new members to our building and our programs. Keep the church directory up to date.

 

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3. Educational Ministries
Work with the DCE to determine curriculum and secure teachers for the educational program, and to evaluate the delivery of educational materials. Promote the educational programs to the congregation with bulletin boards, articles in the newsletter, and interactions with members. Act as the liaison with Scouts, preschool, YD’s, and Acts Alive to the Session. Plan with the church staff for the yearly church retreat.

4. Congregational Life
Plan and coordinate 1st Sunday Fellowship events, and other special events such as Memorial Day lunch, birthday dinner, ice cream social, pig picking, and events during Advent. Oversee and staff the fellowship time following the 9 O’clock worship service. Facilitate Presbyterian Table fellowship dinners.

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5. Faith in Action
Coordinates and encourages participation in ministry events such as TDCWL, Grace Episcopal meals, Operation Christmas Child, overnight stays at the homeless shelter, food for the Crisis Ministry, and mission trips both domestic and foreign. Plan other hands-on ministries to the members and to the community. Oversee Nuts on A Mission, chicken pie sales and other fund raising activities for missions.

6. Stewardship And Benevolent Support
Review requests from local helping agencies for monetary support and make recommendations for budget. Coordinate and encourage member participation in community agencies and events. Develop and implement a financial stewardship program and a program for giving of time and talents. With the finance team prepare the annual church budget.
 
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7. Finance
With the Stewardship and Benevolent Support team develop a budget. Perform an annual financial review, administer church insurance policies, administer Extended Giving Funds Policy, oversee and make recommendations for investments, oversee memorial funds, and administer the Winnie Green Scholarship program. The Endowment Team would be a sub-team under the responsibility of finance.
 
8. Building and Grounds
Develop and implement a maintenance program for the building and the grounds. Evaluate condition of building and grounds and secure bids for work needed. Oversee cleaning service and lawn service. Encourage members to help with building and grounds clean-up.
 
9. Personnel
With the Minister conduct a yearly review of staff performance. Coordinate with Session a yearly review of Minister. Keep job descriptions, vacation policies, salary and benefits, and work dates current and in accordance with denominational guidelines. Conduct job search and hire persons to fill job vacancies. Work with Minister to keep the Manual of Procedures up to date.
 
Each team will need 3 to 4 additional people from the congregation to help with the planning of ministry in each of the areas. This year’s Time and Talent survey is being developed with the new structure in mind and will be distributed in April. When you receive the survey, please fill it out prayerfully as you consider how you can be involved in the work of our church.
Grace and peace to each of you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee