Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Who is feeding the church?

Working through the sermon for this week, I ran into a question that really needs to be processed in the larger arena of a church. Who is responsible for a disciple's spiritual "feeding"?

The impetus for this thought really grows out of the complaint I have heard too often: I am just not being "fed" at this church/by this pastor?

I have my suspicions on what is meant by this. It isn't a reference to potluck dinners, either. It has to do with the subjective sense of having desires or expectations met. When the desires or expectations are not being met, it would seem to make emotional sense to seek those desires or expectations out somewhere else. There are two questions that need to be asked, and a really hard illustration to prove this wrong.

First the questions we need to ask:
  1. Is the church not fulfilling its purpose to help one another grow and mature?
  2. Is the person participating fully in the effort to become mature and to grow?
The answers to these questions will bring us to action points. If the church is not fulfilling its purpose to help each other develop into the maturity of Christ, that is evident from New Testament expectations, then a local church needs to change its operation. There are plenty of churches who are falling short in this arena. We notice these churches by the decrease in mission and the increase in social gatherings. We can get a hint that a church may be the reason when the use of energy is about meeting the wants of the present congregation instead of the congregation seeking out the needs of the community around them to do something about them. We know that a church is moving in this direction when Bible study and accountability are exchanged for "political" rallies and parties.

There are churches than need to tighten up on the purpose that they are mandated with: make disciples for Jesus Christ. That is stated by Christ when he tells the disciples to go into all the world and baptize and teach. That is the purpose made clear through Paul's teaching on the body of Christ. Churches can fall down on "feeding" the people who make up its members. If the answer to the first question is no, then a church needs to refocus on why they are there.

If the first question seems to be a fair "yes" then we move to the second question. Participation is mandatory on the part of individuals. When a person is baptized, their connection to a body of believers carries a responsibility to active participate in the life and ministry and work of that church. We do not join churches for the membership privileges. We join a church to participate in the body of Christ. We become a part of the ongoing work of Christ's mission in the world. It is a never-ending effort to bring the kingdom of God to the world. We are part of the mission to transform lives and bring release, restore the broken, heal the wounded, and bring hope to the hopeless. The kingdom mission cannot continue in a given area unless churches in that area are filled with active, participating disciples. If the answer is no to the second question, then the person is individually accountable to failing in their promise as a follower of Christ. They need to repent, step in, and do something different.

If the answer to both questions is no, then I believe we are seeing a vacuum of Christian witness. If the church is not building people and individuals are not participating at any level, then no one is doing the work of Christ in that area. And if neither want to change, then it is best to close the door, wipe your feet, and move on to using your time in for more productive things (according to your own needs). Christ can bring life back to the dead. If there is no desire to become something new and different, though, Christ won't do anything. To bring more of the same life to a church will only produce more death of spirit.

Now for the hard illustration.

Leaving something wherein a commitment was made just because desires or expectations are not being met is not the answer. The illustration to look toward is a marriage. When a couple get married, there are desires and expectations that each carry into that marriage. If there is no communication of those, then fulfillment of those are only going to be accidental. If there is communication regarding desires and expectations, and they continue to be unfulfilled, then that requires intervention and accountability or transformation of those desires and expectations. If neither party is willing to change, then it is likely moving toward divorce. But I would ask if they were ever truly married to begin with. If they were only interested in serving their own desires and moving for the fulfillment of their own expectations, they were never married in a true sense. They were only seeking after a servant to meet their needs.

The church is made up of people who are supposed to sacrifice their own needs, their own way, to serve the Master and Lord. The Lord has made it clear that serving him requires serving others, sacrificially. If we are not joining churches to serve others, then we are going to be disappointed and disillusioned. If we are joining a church for our needs to be met, we will go very hungry.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Latest on the United Methodist Church

On Friday evening, the 28th of April, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church released their decision regarding some very challenging issues that are at the top of our life together as United Methodists. There were various topics of law and Discipline within the denomination. The dominant case that so many were waiting for was the case of a bishop who was in consecrated and appointed while also being in a same-sex marriage. The declaratory decision that was requested of the Judicial Council was - is this allowed within the church law?

There are plenty of statements regarding the official word is about the UMC's Discipline. The situation that we currently work under revolves around those statements of homosexuality and incorporation of LGBTQI persons into the full life of the UMC. I don't have anything to contribute to the ongoing conversation which I have already commented upon. I want to focus on the decision of Judicial Council regarding our bishops.

The most obvious thing to deal with is that the decision does not make anyone completely happy. The bishop had her lifestyle declared as "self-avowed homosexual". Her same-sex marriage was declared to be avowing a lifestyle of homosexuality. And lets be honest about our current state of definitions: homosexuality is about sexual activity and not attraction to or relational status with people of the same gender. This declaration broadens the definition of same-sex marriage to include same-sex sexual activity. And it should.

The normalization of same-sex marriage should receive the same level of expectation regarding sexual activity. There is a lot of statistical data that would support that marriage does not necessarily mean that sexual activity is required, but the commonly held standard of healthy marriage includes regular sexual activity. If we are to assume that same-sex marriages are to be accepted as normal, then the normal definition of a healthy marriage (including sexual activity) would be applicable to those marriages.

I feel this was a common sense ruling. Even if we don't deal with it enough or sufficiently enough to address it as part of our lives, sexual activity in marriage is part of the expectation. If those who desire to see the status of same-sex marriage as normal, then sexual activity is not out of bounds. Especially when we talk about fidelity of marriage as an expectation of clergy within the UMC.

But does this open all clergy up to an examination of their sexual practices? Maybe it should.

This leads us into another decision of the Judicial Council. Another decision gave direction that Boards of Ordained Ministry (the group in a local Annual Conference {the boundaries and organization of a collection of UMC churches and clergy} who handles examination and approval of clergy candidates) to include examination of "all provisions relevant to pastoral ministry, including issues of sexuality". This puts the Board of Ordained Ministries on task to ask "what is your sexual activity like" of any prospective clergy member. And it could open the door to examining the clergy of all standing within the Annual Conference. It is not outside of the consequences of this decision.

But back to the bishop.

The bishop in question, Bishop Karen Oliveto, was declared as being outside of the boundaries of church law due to her marriage. But the Judicial Council also decided that they are not in a position to interact with her consecration or appointment as a bishop. The Judicial Council declared that she is "good standing" and was at the point of time when she was consecrated and appointed. This sounds like they are waffling or being wishy-washy. The reality is that they are standing by the rule of law of the  United Methodist Church.

Bishop Oliveto was elected to become a bishop with no outstanding question to her qualities or qualification to become bishop. That is a historical fact. The issue of her being in a same-sex marriage is not at issue here. If there is an issue of law, it is that persons within her Annual Conference did not bring charges against her. But since that did not happen, she was brought forward as a bishop candidate. Her election was clear of question. And the Judicial Council does not have the authority to undo nor remove her from her position as bishop. This is fair.

Her appointment as bishop was challenged because some believe she was in violation of the church law. The Judicial Council agreed with that position. But to remove her through action of the Judicial Council would violate the same church law. Judicial Council has authority to rule on the legality of actions. They do not have the action to undo what another United Methodist body has authority to do. The Judicial Council put the issue back upon the jurisdiction and the bishops of that jurisdiction to take action. This is the appropriate thing to do so that the order of the UMC can be maintained.

This does not immediately change anything. It does put in place a course of action that someone needs to begin in the northwest region of the US UMC. It also puts more weight upon the outcome of the commission that has been challenged to examine where we are as a united church. When the called special session of General Conference (the organizing authority of the Unite Methodist Church) happens in 2019, there is supposed to be a "way forward" for the people called United Methodist. Until that time, there are a lot things that can happen.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why Dungeons and Dragons?

There is a revival of role-playing games happening right now. In particular, the progenitor of most role-playing games is seeing a surge in popularity and publicity. Dungeons and Dragons is becoming a media license unlike it has ever been. And I love it!

Dungeons and Dragons is a game that is played among of group of people. In past incarnations, it involved little more than some notes in a notebook, some dice, and maybe a hand drawn map on graph paper. And pizza. Today it can involve hand painted miniature figurines on a digitally projected map that was drawn by a professional artist. It can be played without the other players in the room, but virtually present on a computer/tablet screen or even in a virtual reality setting (in limited ways). D&D, as it is affectionately known, is in its 5th edition since being originally released in 1974. This newest edition has probably sparked the greatest public interest in the game, and the larger genre, than at any point in history.

That includes the period of hysteria surrounding D&D in the mid 1980's. There was a cultural backlash mounted against the game. It was accused of teaching players how to do magic or practice satanic rites. It was blamed for mental and emotional and spiritual woes that players experienced. There were even some largely circulated stories of players who got "too involved" in the game that they couldn't tell fiction and reality apart. That hysteria was in some part the responsibility of conservative Christian groups.

Cooler heads have prevailed in the recent surge of popularity. We aren't seeing the outcry against D&D (yet?) that we saw in the past. We are seeing the opposite, in fact. Dungeons and Dragons is becoming the center of attention in media. Thanks to online streaming outlets such as Twitch and media producer Geek and Sundry, Dungeons and Dragons is being consumed by 10s of thousands each week as a spectator "sport". Viewer tune in to watch a group of people playing a session of Dungeons and Dragons, and other role-playing games, that can last up to 5 hours. And they are tuning in regularly.

Some may ask why? Why is it so popular? Why does it have such an attraction?

I don't know that there is an easy answer. I wonder the same thing about football. But that is because I am not a fan. I don't understand sitting in the cold watching people run up and down a field for hours. I don't understand watching vicariously as two teams push, shove, manhandle, and smash into each other. I don't understand the need to critique every choice that a coach, player, or referee makes. I don't understand being so impolite as the yell rudely at the person who it was felt made a poor choice. I don't understand any of this. But I do understand that the same NEED to experience these things is what brings people like me to the D&D table.

When I sit down at the table, dice and character sheet at the ready, I am jazzed. I feel my blood racing just a little more. I am just a little more on edge, waiting to see what the next turn will reveal. I am leave those sessions with a refreshed energy and tiny adrenaline rush that I don't get from any other source. It is not a game to be won or lost. It is a time to be experienced.

Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games are about cooperative story telling. As a player, you are not passively watching the story unfold. You get to interact with it. As a Dungeon or Game Master, you craft elements of the story based upon setting and circumstances which the players guide. The story becomes unique and individual to the table of people there in that moment. It is an act of creation or crafting. The story that emerges has never been told that way and never will be told that way again. And everyone at the table has some part to play in that. It may be the dynamic speaker who is grandiose in their role-playing who commands the narrative through word or deed. It may be the quiet individual whose attack on their turn demolishes the signature villain. It may be the interaction of a player or two that create tension. Everyone at the table in that moment brings something to the story and creates a tale to be told.

That may be why D&D and RPG's are seeing the resurgence - people want to see heroic people doing heroic deeds. Even if they are fictional characters in a fictional world doing impossible things, when someone plays a D&D character, they get to the be the hero. And the world hungers for heroes. Somewhere in our subconscious, we need heroes to be our champions. We want someone to beat the bad guy. We want someone to rescue the endangered. We are looking for those who can overcome the odds and rise triumphantly.

Playing offers the same thing. Rolling up a character (the act of creating the character through the process rolling dice for statistics) is usually partnered with the creation of a backstory of how this person is above the average. You don't roll up a farmer or merchant who sits in a shop all day. You create a champion, a defender, a power-fueled warrior, who will go into the dark and scary places to eradicate the evil that is swarming the land.

My history with RPG's goes back to my early teens. Dungeons and Dragons wasn't played where I lived. Or if it was, I never heard about it. The earliest exposure I had to getting into gaming was when I purchased the Marvel Super Heroes starter box. As a huge comic book fan, and someone very interested in the whole Dungeons and Dragon thing happening in the early '80's, when I found that in a store on a trip to Buffalo, New York, I had to have it. Sadly, I never got to play it. I was the only one of my kind I was aware of at home. I was also too sheltered within myself to ever seek out people who might want to try it. So it sat in my collection of comics until it disappeared in one of the tragic purges of items.

The next encounter was during a summer college preparation experience. I had graduated from high school and was living in the dorms at the college over the summer. A group of folks on our hall said that someone was going to lead a game of AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - the second edition of the game) and I was invited to participate. Finally, I had a chance to see what it was like to play a game I had only dreamed of participating in for years. And it was only a so-so experience. It was difficult to understand. I didn't know some of the people playing. I didn't get the mechanics down very well. But I finally got to play.

Fast forward a couple of years. I am halfway through college and a couple of the guys from that game of AD&D invited me to play in a group that was doing their own thing. It wasn't D&D. It was based on another game system: Generic Universal Role Play System (GURPS). They invited me to meet up with the group and play. I accepted. And that formed my love and passion for RPGs to this day. We played for hours. We hopped from one kind of world to another. We played sci-fi, fantasy, cyberpunk, superheroes, Vietnam combat teams. We played it all. And every chance I got to play was one more reason to love that experience.

Today, I am playing with a group of people I didn't know 8 years ago. I met one person through working at EMS and he invited me to meet a group of folks wanting to play 4th edition. Through that meeting, I met another person. That initial group didn't work. But it gave way to what we have now. A table full of people. Around that table, we take on personas and names that don't exist anywhere else. We have adventures that would be ridiculous to people who don't understand. We laugh and joke and build a tiny community around this one thing we all enjoy.

It really is a great time to be a Dungeons and Dragons fan.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Random Monday

Some random musings to get me back in the habit.

Random musing #1
I love jelly beans. It is one of four foods that if they are in my life, I can't stop eating them. Luckily, jelly beans come around once a year for me. I know that there are "gourmet" jelly beans available all year round. The jelly beans that I eat uncontrollably are the non-gourmet. And usually, the cheap ones. They are the ones that have been popular fodder for Easter baskets going back to my childhood. They are gelled sugar coated in a harder sugar shell with some flavoring added. I love those the best.

Don't get me wrong about gourmet jelly beans. I enjoy those. But for the old standard Easter jelly bean, I can't control myself when eating them. And Lisa bought me two bags of them. They sit on my desk, taunting and tempting me. One bag has been opened. But I have shown restraint. I only allow myself a few.

It is driving me crazy.

Random musing #2
We enrolled Nick in college Friday. He is started Oklahoma City University in the Fall semester. I was really filled with anxiety at the thought of him going to college. I still worry about it some. But I feel more comfortable after Friday. I am not worried about him succeeding nearly as much as I was at the beginning of last week. There is something comforting in knowing that he will have friends to look after him. There is something relaxing in it being a smaller school without the large, easy to get lost in, lecture classes. I really want him to succeed there. I think he could take the education he receives there and launch himself into the world. For the first time I see him becoming what he wants to be.

Random musing #3
This is the week that the  United Methodist Judicial Council will approach the subject of Bishop Oliveto's appointment. There are a lot of emotions and opinions about what this week represents. In my mind and heart, it represents the unknown future I face as a pastor within the UMC. It also represents the division that exists within my emotions and opinions about where I stand. I am afraid that there will be no answers through this. I am afraid this will cause a split within the denomination. I am afraid that it will cause people in the churches I serve to leave, putting their local ministry at risk. I am afraid I won't have a job soon. All of these emotions are running through my life. It doesn't make getting up to do the work easy.

Random musing #4
I really miss having a weekly game of Dungeons and Dragons or any other RPG. I wish I had a group that could game frequently. The games do a lot of good for my peace of mind and well-being. It gives me an outlet for creative energy. It helps me build a community of similarly minded people. It gets me out of the stress of all that I'm facing. It allows me to lay aside the pastor for a little while and tackle fictitious problems in a safe environment.

In college, and right after, I had a group that played almost every Sunday. We would sit for hours and adventure. We didn't use D&D. We used a system that allowed us to play in multiple types of settings. That meant we might play fantasy one week and science fiction the next then superheroes the week after that. That really was a happy time. It was getting me out of the stress of studies. It was a group of guys that I grew to trust and enjoy. Those Sunday's were long and tiring. I haven't found anything yet that replaced how good those times were.

That is why I keep searching for something like it.

Random musing #5
I am thankful for Spring because my seasonal depression is going into its dormant phase. This cycle has been the worst since college. There are too many personal factors that went into it to share publicly. I realize that much of it has been accompanied by health factors and panic/anxiety. And it has probably been detrimental to my effectiveness in ministry during the cycle. I realize that I lost a lot of the ability I have had in the past to shield the congregation and my family from things. I was more sensitive to events. I was less patient with circumstances. I didn't preach with the same impartiality that I typically have used. I don't say this as justification or excuse. I recognize that I am responsible for how I approach the work that I do. But I also recognize that heart, mind, body, and soul are intertwined. Whatever I do is a reflection of the interaction of the parts of who I am. This year, I was less than who I am normally.

Random musing #6 (to end on a brighter note)
Free Comic Book Day is two weeks away!

Monday, March 06, 2017

An unlikeable sermon

One week ago, I got some strong affirmations for a sermon I preached on Christians and Protest. In that sermon, I stressed that there are times when Christians need to raise their voice in protest against or for certain subjects. There were very strong affirmations about that sermon. Stronger than I typically receive. It was nice. It also told me that it was a likeable sermon.

Yesterday I preached an unlikeable sermon.

I decided to narrow in on one subject that the Bible consistency tells the people of God they should be attentive of. It is a subject that God protests about. It is a subject that is highlighted in the commandments and statutes of the Covenant. It is a subject that the prophets hold the people of God accountable for. It is something Jesus refers to in his ministry. It is something that the letter writing apostles bring to the attention of Christians.

The subject that God protests and expects Christians to protest about is how the poor are treated.

Due to an electronic malfunction, there is no video of that sermon. I want to share the main points here.

The wrong protests
I have watched churches, congregations, and Christians protest many things in my 20+ years of ministry. They have protested against abortion, gay marriage, and the Walt Disney Company. They have protested when they lost influence in schools over school prayer, against stores that acknowledge diversity with “Happy Holidays”, and the inclusion of diverse religions in the public square. They have protested against these things but there is minimal evidence that God calls us to protest any of them from the Bible.

But there is something the God clearly calls believers to protest throughout Scripture, yet many congregation or Christians do little to raise their voice to it. It is something that affects 1/6th of the world’s population. It is something that is responsible for the death of 22,000 children every day. It is something that touches this nation and the communities we live in. The thing that God calls us to protest is how the poor are treated.

The godly protest
The theme of protest for Christians should come around to this at some point. I am not saying the Christans, congregations, or churches should or should not protest about the previous things listed. I am saying that at some point Christians should raise their voices about the subject of the poor and the excluded.

God explicitly commands followers on how the poor and excluded are to be treated. In Deuteronomy 10, the relationship between the people of God (Israel) is summarized. In the midst of the summary of the covenant, the only commands about how the people were to relate with other people. Out of the 6 commandments that deal with relationship in community, Moses highlights the poor.

Through the Law, Prophets, and Gospels, we find God directly addressing the needs of these specific people: the poor and needy, widows, orphans, and strangers. This theme of how the faithful treat the poor is dealt with all the way through the Bible and never does it deviate from this message: God cares about the poor. And God wants the people who follow God to care about the poor also.

The poor and excluded are always put in front of the biblical people of God. Before the people of God enters the land of promise, Moses brings the covenant of commandments and statutes to the people. Exodus 20-23; Leviticus 19, 25; Deuteronomy 24, 25 are all commands regarding how the poor and excluded are to be treated. After the land has been established, the prophets call the people to accountability for how the poor have been treated since the land has been settled. Isaiah 58:6-12; Jeremiah 22:3-5,13-17; and Amos 5:10-15 are all examples of prophetic declarations about the failure to care for the needs of the poor and excluded. In the Gospel, Jesus puts the needs of the poor upfront with those who follow him in Luke 4:18-19 and Mark 14:7. And the first epistle of John offers this expansion upon the "laying down of our lives" in 1 John 3:17-18. The Bible stresses that whoever wishes to know and do what pleases God will at least stand up for justice and righteousness with regard to the poor and the excluded.

Justice and righteousness are themes that run parallel in the Old Testament with the poor and excluded. Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:16-17; Jeremiah 22: Amos 5 all refer to the justice that is required of God's people. Justice does not just represent punishment for crimes, though. Justice is the treatment that all deserve equally. It is the lifting up of the poor and excluded out of forgottenness and into community. It is providing the generous sufficiency so that the poor and forgotten can live and produce what is needed to live as dignified people. It is caring for those who cannot care for themselves in generous way. The widowed, fatherless, foreigner, disabled, aged, homeless, hungry are all people that the God’s followers are called to be concerned about, as highlighted in Luke 14:12-14; Matthew 5; James 1:27,2:5.

God has an expectation that we will be standing up for the poor and forgotten.

When laws further demean people of certain status - we should protest.
When drug and insurance companies and the government remove needed medical care from the sick and disabled - we should protest
When nursing homes are filled with forgotten people and mental health facilities turn out the mentally ill because they can’t find room - we should protest
When we see foreigners being shunned in communities because they are different in some way - we should protest
When we are afforded certain rights that others are not because we fit into a certain class - we should protest
When we receive the benefit of a better life because we are a certain race or social status and others are turned away because they are not - we should protest

This is what God calls us to by command and prophetic word and applied to our setting. It is what Jesus Christ calls us to in determining our fitness for the kingdom. Matthew 25: 34-46 highlights the end of days and the judgment of the Christ. In that judgment, those who have responded to the needs of the poor and excluded will benefit from the kingdom. Those who have overlooked the needs of the poor and excluded will be rejected from the kingdom. We are called to protest for the poor, the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger.

This sermon received no affirmations or accolades. It wasn't liked very much. It wasn't received as warmly. And with reason. It is an uncomfortable sermon. It is a sermon that was designed to hold the congregations accountable for a portion of scripture that is not frequently highlighted. It is a sermon that puts something we are responsible for right in front of us. To ignore the way the poor and excluded are treated is to ignore a significant portion of the Bible. And it demands a response.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

My Lenten Sacrifice

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and so begins the Lenten Season. Lent is the season that leads us into Easter. For more Traditional faith pursuers, Lent is a season of penitence, self-denial, and preparation for the Easter event. Historically, this was the period of intense focus for initiates into the Christian faith. For non-Traditional pursuers, this is a time when we "give something up".

This year, I am in a place I have not been before. I am facing a period of health issues that have not ever been a problem before. Specifically, I am facing my second surgery in 6 months. All signs point to the need that I have back surgery and soon.

I am not afraid of the surgery. That may be because I am too stupid to be afraid. There are complications pre-/mid-/post-surgery that could impact my life. That is not far from my thinking. But of these things, I fear not.

What I am afraid of is the dependence that this surgery will require.

I view myself as a "do-it-myself" type. I don't like asking people to do what I can do myself. If something needs to happen to a certain level of quality, I prefer to do it myself. Rather than asking for a helping hand, I prefer to get it done.

This surgery will require me to let others do for me what I can't do for myself. My mobility will be slowed. I will not be able to do the jobs around the house that are mine to do. I will have to rely on someone else to prepare supper, fix my coffee, and do the little things that I do because normally I can.

Worse still, I will have to step out of active leadership of my churches for a few weeks. I have stepped out of active leadership for one week, or maybe a little more, because of vacations. It is possible that I will lose up to a month of active capacity. And that bothers me.

It isn't that my folks aren't capable. Turpin has a great team of leaders and a strong core of passionate and capable people who have always shown themselves willing and able to step up and do what needs to be done. Baker is a tight knit community church that already works together to keep the church operating in the face of difficulties. It isn't that I am afraid the churches will fail because I am not there.

I don't like the feeling of not doing what I do, what I'm called to do. I have always understood the calling that God placed upon my life as leading the church into maturity and personal growth. I want to equip people to continue to develop a deeper and more meaningful life with God. I see my gifts and tempers being suited to being a mentor to assist people in discovering how good and strong and powerful they can be in relationship with God.

My sacrifice this Lenten season is letting my people fill in where I will not be able to.

It doesn't sound like much. But it will challenge me. It will push me to do what I can in the absence of being there for them as leader, pastor, and mentor. It will push me to pray more deeply about their growth. It will push me to pray more deeply for my own humility (because I am weak and think they need me to be there).

I know this sounds horribly fatalistic. It will only be one month. It will only be a few weeks. But it will be a few weeks of knowing that I am not doing what I am called and appointed to do. It will be like letting my child leave and make his way in the world. Which is also happening, but that is a whole different set of emotions.

This isn't a test; it is a season. This isn't about God putting me in a "wilderness" or giving me a "thorn in my flesh". This is about the natural ebbs and flows of guiding people in a church. I have to learn to rest in their ability, strengths, and gifts. I have to believe in them and in the God who is within them. I have to put faith in the vision we share for the churches and the communities.

So, in this Lenten season, may God show me the grace that I need to step back, allow God's people to be the ministers I know that they can be. They will be able to do this. I just pray that I can.