Blog

Jul
20

Be Unselfish

The greatest commandments are these: Love the LORD with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).  I used to think that hate was the opposite of love, but I’ve since learned that hate is the absence of…

Jul
13

Faith Under Pressure? Just Trust…

We often face circumstances that don’t make sense – situations that challenge both our faith and our rationality.  The longer I live, the more often I find myself confronted with these types of things.  One might think that this would leave me discouraged and broken,…

Jul
6

Prepping for 2050

My husband Josiah, a cheerful, relational sort of person, loves to comment on “that good old Nakamura pessimism.”  I, of course, prefer to think of myself as a realist than a pessimist… but I’ll definitely own up to being a “prepper.”  Not quite to the…

Jun
29

The Race Set Before Us

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”  – Hebrews 12:1 Picture a church…

Jun
22

Hitting the Ground Running?

A few months ago as vaccines were becoming widely available, one of my biggest encouragers in the faith community I pastor, suggested I make some time to go away and rest. Pretty soon, she imagined, “we will hit the ground running.” On the one hand,…

Jun
15

“Here Am I Lord; Send Me!”  

“Here am I Lord; send me!”  Isaiah’s call, one of the lectionary readings for Trinity Sunday, captured my attention again when invited to preach on that Sunday.  We will not go into the heaviness of his call – I will save you from the sermon…

Jun
10

Chew on This

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells recently posted an article titled “What People Missed Most About Restaurants.  (It Wasn’t the Food.).”  The article’s subtitle serves up his main point: “it’s clear that the magic ingredient was the random thrill of seeing other people.” As…

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Jun
8

Leaving the Land of They

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.  ….These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: …. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven…

Jun
3

Greater Works

Big goals… to change things… working together. After 60+ weeks of lockdowns, quarantines, and uncertainties, things are re-opening at a speed few of us would have guessed even a month ago.  Church boards can be forgiven for being caught both exhausted and unprepared.  We are…

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Jun
1

The Isolated Pastor

One of the great paradoxes of our age is that while we’ve never been more connected to one another on social media, we’ve also never felt more alone. More than a third of Americans over 45 report being lonely. Feelings of isolation are especially acute…

May
27

Going Outside

She was a French philosopher, a mystic, and a political activist.  As her life progressed, she moved deeper into philosophy and became more religious.  When Simone Weil died at age 34 in the midst of World War II, Albert Camus described her as “the only…

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May
25

Resist The Rush

“The rush back to normalcy is aggressive. Give us a minute.” Unknown This morning as I began my day and clicked onto Instagram, this was the quote that greeted me. I couldn’t comment “Amen” fast enough and I wasn’t alone. Within an hour hundreds of…

May
20

Our Town…Your Church

Most of us probably haven’t given much thought to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town since, maybe, it was the spring play during our high school years.  That is, until Tom Long’s review of Howard Sherman’s new book, Another Day’s Begun:  Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the…

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May
18

Who Do You Take With You?

37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Matthew 26:37   Life is hard. Ministry is difficult.  These are perhaps the understatements of the year.  But life and ministry are even more difficult when we…

May
13

The Hard Stuff

“What you are writing is helpful – it is something for us to aspire to – but this is too hard, too challenging right now.”  “I’d love to have my church board spend a generous amount of time talking of larger topics of God’s imagination,…

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May
6

Your Choice

Every church board faces hard choices at its meetings.  Beginning with how to structure the meeting itself. Choice One is to spend time… …on the minutes from the previous meeting, correcting typos and the list of excused absences; …making one board member uncomfortably read some…

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May
4

An Ending…or a Beginning?

Getting an ending right is not easy. Just ask the writers of popular TV shows like Dexter, Game of Thrones, The Good Place, or Seinfeld. The last episode of each of these series left fans confused and disappointed, muttering to themselves, “Wait, what? That can’t…

Apr
29

Which Are You Talking About?

Exactly one month ago today, Gallup published significant data on church membership in a report bluntly titled U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time. Highlights from Gallup’s polling include the following: 47% of Americans report that they belong to a house of worship (a…

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Apr
27

What’s the Urgency?

The Easter accounts in the gospels feature a lot of running.  Resurrection may cause that in people.  In John, the women and the disciples are practically running a relay race from and to the empty tomb.  In Matthew, the followers of Jesus are told in…

Apr
22

Kicking Holes

In his wise and insightful New York Times piece titled “The Unsettling Power of Easter,” Esau McCaulley recalls an Easter of his youth. I grew up in the Southern Black church tradition, where Easter was the opportunity to don your best outfit. The yellow and…

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Apr
20

Ugly Truths & Pretty Lies

“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Matthew 28:17 At the beginning of the pandemic, a friend was asking me about my thoughts on quarantine life. I told her I didn’t think it was going to be as quick or easy as…

Apr
15

Avocados and Screwdrivers

It feels a lot like we have been in a darkened movie theater for the last year, watching the same pandemic picture show play over and over and over again…and now have walked out into bright light.  Our eyes are struggling to adjust and refocus….

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Apr
13

The Apocalypse Behind the Apocalypse

There’s been no shortage of reflection and conversation over the past year about what’s been revealed by our multiple societal crises. So many dynamics – economic, social, political, cultural, and indeed ecclesial – that lay under the surface suddenly came to the fore in jarring…

Apr
8

Heart, Home, Hub

It must be hard to contemplate the breadth and depth of your church board agenda right now.  New protocols for meeting in person, staying safe, being ready to contact-trace if needed, and tracking vaccination levels.  But also, in-person worship (or when can we do that?)…

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Apr
6

Returning Forward…

We’ve just celebrated Easter 2021. We’ve endured a full year of this pandemic, political and social unrest, and likely an untold number of personal struggles that accompany these external pressures. We have had to discern a new way of being in a world that feels…

Apr
1

Who Is Not Here?

In some traditions, the story of Thomas’ encounter with the Risen Christ, following upon his earlier missed opportunity, is suggested for the Sunday after Easter. You’ll notice careful construction in the previous sentence to avoid the word “doubt.”  In the clear proclamation of John’s Gospel,…

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Mar
25

Point of Return

A quick survey of recent church-related emails yields one prominent word:  return. “Return to in-person worship.” “Return in time for Easter.” “Return of regular programs.” “We know you are all wondering, when can we finally return after these long, hard 13 months?” What does the…

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Mar
23

Is the Church Dying?

We’ve all heard it before, and probably even have said it ourselves: The church is dying. This diagnosis is based on troubling symptoms we’ve seen in recent years. Worship attendance is down, fewer people are participating in church programming, and an alarming number of congregations…

Mar
9

Tough Times…Tougher Questions

We have heard it said that adversity brings out both the best and the worst in who we really are. The times are telling on all of us, as we’ve had plenty of opportunity to reckon with ourselves over the last year. The compounded crises…

Feb
23

No More Hero’s

As we enter the Lenten Season for the next few weeks, The Ministry Collaborative staff will be inviting you into conversation with us on topics that we’ve seen bubbling under the surface of our work and experience as ministry leaders. Our goal is to use…

Feb
18

What is Trust? …Continued

These days, whenever churches get mentioned in the company of banks, Congress, journalism, and big business, the news is probably not good. Case in point: Amanda Ripley’s recent piece in Comment Magazine on The Mystery of Trust. For decades, at least four different research organizations…

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Feb
16

The Limits of Technical Solutions

“Seminary didn’t prepare me for this.” I hear this sort of statement all the time, from senior pastors to newly minted MDiv grads. These are really talented folks who have gone to great seminaries and who care deeply about the church and the world. Yet…

Feb
11

What is Trust?

“No one around here trusts the other side at all.”  – a U.S. Congressperson, January 2021 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  – Psalm 56:3 Former Secretary of State (and Secretary of Labor and Treasury at different times) George Shultz died…

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Feb
9

Great Adventures

If you’re reading this, then congratulations, you have successfully navigated almost one whole year in the pandemic. One year ago we were all bracing ourselves for the onslaught of fear, pain, death, anxiety and grief that none of us could’ve foreseen. In some ways 2020…

Feb
4

What is New?

Late last spring (mere months into the pandemic, although it already felt like a lifetime in lockdown), Lake Institute on Faith & Giving asked its extensive network of religious and philanthropic leaders to look ahead a year. What did they hope would be happening with…

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Feb
2

A Well-Planned Leap of Imagination

Among the top three questions we are getting these days from pastors and congregational leaders:  How can we plan for our ministry in the next year?  Or, do you have strategic planning tools to recommend? In every office I have moved into upon starting a…

Jan
28

What is Accountability?

Well, that didn’t take long.  For all the talk of unity on January 20th (and the gifts to the new president from Republicans and Democrats alike, and Lady Gaga’s memorable national anthem, and Amanda Gorman’s gorgeous spoken word poem, The Hill We Climb), by January…

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Jan
21

What is Unity?

On the Sunday morning after the deadly riot at the United States Capitol, Father William Corcoran put on his black suit and clerical collar and stepped into St. Elizabeth Seton church in the Chicago suburb of Orland Hills to celebrate the 7:30 a.m. Mass. So…

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Jan
14

What is Truth?

As our nation reels from the violent assault on the women and men of Congress and the Capitol Building last week, church boards need to direct their feet. They need to walk toward conversations about shared truth and walk away from the language of false…

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Jan
12

Resolving to Change

It’s January, and that means one thing: New Year’s Resolutions. Eat better. Exercise more. Spend less. Make it through one of those read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year programs. Whatever the goal, New Year’s Resolutions produce two contrasting impulses in me. The first is hope. January heralds the possibility of…

Dec
17

Grace, Actually

Colossians is a guide for every church board in every season, but perhaps in no season more than this one at the end of 2020. At the beginning of the letter, we read: In our prayers for you we always thank God, for we have…

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Dec
15

Questions of the Year

Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com revealed their “word of the year” last week.  Unsurprisingly, that word was “pandemic.”  More interesting were the words that were “runners-up”- including “bubble,” “pod,” “social-distancing,” “face-masks,” and “lockdown.”  There was another set of runners-up that dug deeper into how this year has…

Dec
10

Charity, Justice, Debt—and your Church Board

It’s rare that a major news outlet covers the charitable work of American churches. (Is that the fault of the news media, or the churches?) Bucking this trend, a recent New York Times Op-Ed by Elizabeth Bruenig, “Churches Step In Where Politicians Will Not,” highlights…

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Dec
8

“Hold On, Just a Little While Longer…”

The Birmingham 2.0 Cohort of The Ministry Collaborative have transitioned to the next phase of our journey together.  Our official time together ended this month, but the relationships that began over three years ago have been deepened and our commitment to support on another has…

Dec
1

Church Beyond Buildings

One of the things we’re learning during COVID-19 is that many in our communities are longing for “thirdspaces.” Thirdspace is a term used by sociologists to describe where we spend time when we’re not at home (“first” space) or at work (“second” space). Thirdspaces can…

Nov
24

What Have We Learned?

As I sat down to write today’s article pondering the prompt, “What have we learned?” I immediately began pulling up emails, and scouring studies, and statistics. I then turned to several bloggers I respect and read their brilliant think pieces. I even logged onto some…

Nov
19

Push Pull

The year 2020 has launched an armada of articles that bear the same rippling banner.  “The coronavirus could be the crisis that finally propels X industry into the 21st Century.” This week’s flotilla led off with a New York Times piece by Stefanos Chen about…

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Nov
12

Can We Survive It?

They had become so focused on the aches and pains in the system that they had been thrown off course by the complaints. They had stopped supplying vision or had burned out fighting the resistance; they had ceased to be the strength in the system….

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Nov
10

Holding Our Breath

Over the past week, many of us have held our breath as we awaited results from the election. In the agonizing period between Tuesday and Saturday, I must have hit refresh on the blue-and-red map a thousand times. Never have four days felt longer. Yet,…

Nov
5

Listening

Our inboxes—perhaps like yours—have been flooded with election-related emails in the last month.  There have been requests for money (and more requests, and more requests), pleas for volunteers, and updates on polls and strategy.  As we headed into election week, however, there came a change. …

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Nov
3

By Contrast…

One of the strong impressions this year has made on me is the growing distrust – or disdain – of words.  There are active attempts to undermine the words of those in positions of responsibility.  But there is something more personal involving so much hard…

Nov
2

Macedonian Ministry Foundation, Inc. Receives $1 Million Grant for Thriving Congregations Initiative

Macedonian Ministry Foundation has received a grant of $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish and build collaborative, adaptive, and joyful congregations. The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so…

Oct
29

Can We Get T-Shirts for Everyone?

It is inevitable for most church boards that, during times of uncertainty (like now) or contentious board discussions (potentially like now), people get to thinking, if only we knew more … or if only the people on the other side of the issue understood more…

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Oct
27

No Safe Place Down Here

Growing up my mother always warned us, “There’s no safe place down here.” Whenever we went to her for an explanation of something crazy happening in the world she reminded us that this world is not our home and safety wasn’t hers to give. Yesterday…

Oct
22

Moving Toward Bigger Questions

What is the church for? Increasingly, this question is coming into focus as an essential question to ask – and answer – for congregations, their pastors, and their church boards.  Most faith communities have long assumed they know what they exist for.  Sadly, the year…

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Oct
20

Curating this Crisis?

2020 is one for the books for sure.  We have all been riding this ridiculous rollercoaster for months now and are likely worn thin by worry and anxiety.  Our souls are disquieted by the uncertainty of the times.  But amid these crises, I offer you…

Oct
15

Rainy Day Fund

Before writing our piece this week, we called a colleague who is a gifted pastor of a mid-sized healthy congregation.  “So, what are you thinking about in the midst of this fall’s stewardship emphasis in your church?” The pastor’s succinct response:  “Ugh.” Among pastors and…

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Oct
13

Wholehearted

Half-hearted ministry is killing us. Every bit as much as half-hearted living leads us into dead ends, half-hearted ministry is leaving congregations adrift and clergy and other church staff looking for, as more than one pastor has said to me lately, “a ticket out.” This…

Oct
8

Unlikely Stories

For some, it is the loss of salad bars.  As the Wall Street Journal reported last week: A casualty of the pandemic, the days of the salad bar are gone for the foreseeable future. …[T]o devotees, the banishment of buffet bars signifies the closing of…

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Oct
6

Getting Precision about Ministry Paradigm Shifts

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

Oct
1

What Time is It?

Once you reach your 60s (or so we hear . . .), the annual physical at the doctor’s office may include a memory test. Spell “world” backward.  Sure. Subtract 7 from 100 until you get less than 50.  Got it. What day of the week…

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Sep
29

Embodying Justice: A Lesson Written in Crayon

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

Sep
24

Rewrites

As the multiple challenges of 2020 lengthen and deepen, and the pressures on pastors and  church boards proliferate, it is helpful to hold onto some Biblical and theological truths and then follow those truths wherever they lead.  Here’s one such truth, supported by creation accounts…

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Sep
22

Holy Inefficiency

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

Sep
17

Efficiency

Today, we take you to the NBA three-point line. We tend to stay away from sports analogies, but this one is less about basketball and more about risk, efficiency, change, and the development of new skills. The three-point shot was introduced to NBA games in…

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Sep
15

Recovering Identity

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte. This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing…

Sep
10

Gifts

It’s helpful for those of us working in or with churches to remember that we – and our institutions – are not as special as we often think we are. For every invaluable reminder that the church has a unique calling in our world (the…

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Sep
8

When Are We Going Back?

32 Remember Lot’s wife. [1] Luke 17:32   When are we going back?  One of the greatest things I ever learned from running in track meets in grade school and high school was never to look back.  Even if you thought you were winning a…

Sep
3

Real Work

When, in July, Lifeway Research asked pastors what was causing them the most stress, the number one answer was not what you might expect. It was not congregation members’ safety and well-being (that was named by 13 percent). It was not personal exhaustion (that was…

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Sep
1

Seeing What’s Important

Everyone loves a superhero. At least I do. There is something about the way ordinary people, with ordinary lives are transformed by some hidden ability allowing them to do extraordinary things. We recently lost a beloved actor, Chadwick Bosman, who gave us King T’Challa in…

Aug
27

Arguments

While we hope these pieces are helpful and relevant whenever they are used, we do not write them to be “evergreen.”  That is especially true this week.  Conversations with pastors, church leaders, and church board members in diverse settings in the last several days have…

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Aug
25

Lists

The pain, grief, dislocation, and uncertainty generated by this pandemic feel endless.  As it turns out, so do the lists. Top Ten Comfort Foods in Quarantine Fifteen overlooked movies of the 1980’s Essential TV shows to Binge Today (yes, it is time to watch The…

Aug
20

The Struggles You Choose

In the days after the deaths of C.T. Vivian and John Lewis, which happened on the same weekend in July, the digital displays outside Lincoln Center in New York City – usually pre-occupied with upcoming performances but mostly blank amid the pandemic –  displayed alternating…

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Aug
11

Groundhog Day

Is it me or does it seem like we are stuck in the movie Groundhog Day? For some reason the past couple of weeks feels oddly like the first weeks of quarantine life back in March (April or May depending where you live). Although we’ve…

Aug
4

Confronting Social Justice Fatigue

In recent weeks, I’ve begun hearing people talk about social justice fatigue. This refers to the physical, mental, and/or emotional toll incurred through advocating for social change. There’s no doubt, standing up against racial injustice or any other form of violence and marginalization is exhausting…

Jul
21

Rest

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29 The…

Jul
14

Grind Culture Will Not Save Us

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For…

Jul
9

What Now?

Our colleagues at RootedGood are offering a terrific tool to help pastors and church boards navigate the challenging decision making that is inherent in ministry today as we seek to be faithful to the urgent demands of the moment.  Though Digging a Deeper Well is taking a…

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Jul
7

Narratives

A recent post by my favorite daily blogger, Seth Godin, contains a great deal of complexity in its few lines: When you talk about your last job, your last vacation, the things that happened when you were 12… What do you lead with? Do you…

Jun
30

Where are You on the Edge of Inside?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting on Richard Rohr’s notion of “The Edge of Inside.”  Being on the edge of inside means being connected to an established system but not being beholden to it or reliant upon it. Sometimes, being too far…

Jun
25

Love, Actually

Last weekend, The New York Times ran a front-page story about Chris Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Williams, Alabama. In early 2017, President Trump had been inaugurated the week before, and the new administration was already making headlines with a travel ban that…

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Jun
23

Who Is My Neighbor?

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 When we think about naming and labeling, recall how God gave Adam the job of naming what He created. That naming was not just a vocabulary challenge, but it…

Jun
18

Dustbins

If the current season of crisis and change doesn’t end “strategic planning” and consign it to the dustbin of history, nothing will. Speaking of dustbins, go into most pastors’ offices, and there on the highest shelf you will find the last four strategic planning reports,…

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Jun
16

What Story is Your Church Telling?

“Anger and tears create the space for the work of the Spirit. They are the groaning of the Spirit for renewal of creation and an expression of compassion thus revealing a deep spiritual well. To fear our tears or to suppress our anger is to…

Jun
11

Listening for (a) Change

In a recent Ministry Collaborative podcast we were talking with Tod Bolsinger, who teaches and directs leadership formation at Fuller Seminary and is also a member of our advisory board.  Tod was asked what he learned after writing the widely read Canoeing the Mountains that…

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Jun
9

Get Out of Haran

This past weekend I participated in a protest here in Atlanta, Georgia organized by my daughter and some of her former classmates at The Lovett School. The small group of college freshman and sophomore’s decided to hold a protest in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta,…

Jun
4

What is Needful?

We can only imagine the items on your church board’s agenda as you head into June. If/when/how to open the building and for what purposes. If opening, how to establish new cleaning and seating and singing and greeting protocols. Which programs to postpone, and which…

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Jun
3

Christian Conscience in Crisis: A Statement About The Most Recent Painful and Poignant Examples of Racial Injustice In Our Society.

Christian Conscience in Crisis: A Statement About The Most Recent Painful and Poignant Examples of Racial Injustice In Our Society.   The Ministry Collaborative has long been committed to creating spaces and processes for nurturing deep, trusting relationships across perceived barriers in communities, especially between…

Jun
2

Peace-Making is Not Peace-Keeping

To assume that peace exists or can be maintained simply by remaining silent, is a misrepresentation of what peace is. To remain silent in the face of oppression or violence, is not “peace,” and that silence is not “golden.” This false peace is more akin…

May
21

A Special Message

Digging a Deeper Well will return on June 4.  Our 18- month archive of past articles is available at any time, here. Also, if you would like a more focused conversation about the challenges and opportunities of engaging your church board, the Macedonian Ministry Team…

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May
19

Questions That Cannot Go Away

Our Advisory Board here at MMF is an amazing group of women and men  who are engaged in ministry from many different angles in diverse places around the country.  On a call with them last week, we were talking about all the challenges facing pastors…

May
14

What Is Your Question?

For some time before the Covid-19 crisis (if we can remember back that far), we were hearing concern from pastors that they were becoming “soft targets” for the frustration boiling over in our society.  Clergy told us that they were increasingly on the receiving end…

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May
12

Leaving Normal Behind

Last December I read the book, “Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose” by Jean Case who uses compelling storytelling to illustrate how bold decision-making and acts of fearlessness have changed the world. I remember it as a decent read, but…

May
7

“Normal” is Not a North Star

by:  Elizabeth Lynn and Mark Ramsey  I  May 7, 2020   8 …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.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before…

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Apr
30

Psalms of Lament

by:  Elizabeth Lynn and Mark Ramsey  I  April 30, 2020 Recently we invited you, our readers, to tell us what issues you would like us to address in the area of church board leadership. Among the responses we received, one theme predominated:  the challenge of thinking together deeply about…

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Apr
28

Joy as a Matter of Protest?

“Joy is resistance to disorder, cynicism, entropy and despair. It is not simply resistance but courageous resistance that, I suspect, transcends reason. Most miraculous experiences baffle reason…”  ~ Toi Derricote, African American Poet As Christians, our joy is rooted in the living hope we have…

Apr
23

Trust and Relationship

Some things that seemed rock solid before the global crisis are suddenly not so reliable anymore, a reality humorously captured in this three-minute video from Julie Nolke.  Think regular haircuts. In-person doctor visits.  Annual conferences. The right to accompany your loved ones into surgery. Other…

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Apr
21

Don’t Jump.

Last week Mark Ramsey wrote a thought-provoking article titled “Timing,” wherein he challenged us as clergy to open our thinking to the wondrous things that Jesus is doing “out there” in the world. He stated that the resurrected Jesus had gone ahead of the disciples and their…

Apr
16

Now What?

We will return next week with a new post on Digging a Deeper Well. Now that every congregation has done the hard work to celebrate Holy Week in this challenging time, the question for many is becoming: now what? What questions do you have about…

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Apr
14

Timing.

Last Friday afternoon – Good Friday – I talked with three pastor colleagues, all of whom had “finished” their work for the weekend.  They had concluded recordings of their Good Friday and Easter services.  Now, they were contemplating what was usually the most stressful weekend…

Apr
9

Easter

We hope that every pastor – and every church board member – who has been working so diligently to lead through these challenging times will be able to find rest and restoration in this week where, biblically speaking, God performs the work of resurrection! There…

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Apr
8

He Is Not Here…

Matthew 28:6–8 ESV 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to…

Apr
7

Don’t Forget!

To all you pastors, lay leaders, volunteers, and congregation members who are rapidly adjusting, adapting, and trying new things, some of which are going well and others which aren’t going well at all, don’t forget… God is rejoicing over you! In the midst of an…

Apr
2

Point of View

So much bold, imaginative, and tiring work has gone into the last few weeks, for pastors and church boards alike.  It’s been a time full of “how on earth do we …?” questions.  Those questions will keep coming, but the urgency of answering them all…

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Mar
31

Where We Find Easter

In faith communities all over – large and small, rural and urban – church leaders are wrestling with the challenges of Easter Day. Many are trying to figure out how to do it online, in a way that captures the “specialness” that has usually accompanied…

Mar
26

Fast and Slow

Think back to where you were a month ago, and where you thought you were going to be this week and what you thought you were going to be doing. Now think about where you are and what you have been doing instead. The pace…

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Mar
24

One of the Metrics that Matters Most Right Now

We’ve been in awe over the last couple of weeks witnessing the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and faithfulness of pastors and lay leaders all across the U.S. and the world.  It’s amazing to see how quickly we can interpret the circumstances and adapt when necessary.  It…

Mar
19

Please, Over-React

On one of the Sunday morning news shows this week, Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health was talking about the COVID-19 crisis. “You know, we think we are over-reacting in our plans to deal with things like this,” he noted, “only to find…

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Mar
17

The Urgent Need to Lead, Not Manage

Join us for a nationwide Zoom call on Wed, 2pm ET, at https://zoom.us/j/173865252. No registration required. Just click and join us! As the COVID-19 global health crisis continues to expand, we are in a rapidly increasing number of conversations with pastors all over the country…

Mar
12

Going the Distance

It’s hard to imagine any church board meeting in the next couple of weeks in which we don’t discuss handshakes or hand sanitizers. Or how to visit the most vulnerable members of our congregations. Or how the peace can be passed without human contact. Or…

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Mar
10

Stop the Insanity

For the past couple of weeks my colleagues Adam Borneman and Mark Ramsey have been posting our reflections, observations and findings from a recent gathering we held on the economics of ministry. The fact that we are still mining nuggets of wisdom is proof of…

Feb
25

Fewer Answers, More Questions, Please!

Last week in Atlanta, we convened about two dozen pastors, lay leaders, and other church leaders from around the country to talk about the pressing challenges of ministry economics with a focus on property, space, and buildings. Now if that doesn’t get you amped up…

Feb
13

Sharing versus Curating

Recently, Stacy Williams-Duncan of the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!), addressed ministry leaders on the topic of digital culture.  Among a score of important insights, one sentence stood out:  “Sharing on social media is not the same as curating information for your audience.” It may be…

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Feb
6

We’re So Glad You’re Here

A friend who sometimes calls herself a ‘serial parishioner’ tells the story of visiting churches in her midwestern community some years ago.   I went to the United Church of Christ for several months. When I expressed interest in joining, the pastor replied: We’re so…

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Feb
4

Discovering Your Green Growing Edge

  “The hard thing when you get old is to keep your horizons open. The first part of your life everything is in front of you, all your potential and promise. But over the years, you make decisions; you carve yourself into a given shape….

Jan
30

How Disappointing

Pastors and church leaders are quick to assert that they are not in competition with other churches.  But most will admit that, while they aren’t trying to compete, they do feel pressure to “keep up.”  This leads to many spiritual ailments:  distraction, envy, disappointment, and—most…

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Jan
28

Get Out of Your Lane!

One of the traps we see ministries falling into revolves around this set of assumptions: We have the youth ministry lane, the worship lane, the adult education lane, the missions lane, the communications lane, and so on.  And then an individual, group, or committee is…

Jan
23

Enter Imagination

  Where does imagination enter into our work? How do we learn to see new possibilities in the resources available to our congregation? Who teaches us how to imagine our church life together? What possibilities do they help us to see?   We think these…

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Jan
16

Church Board Improv

In church life, January–not April–can seem like the cruelest month.  All the routine meetings, tasks, and assignments that everyone deferred in December land back on the calendar with a thud.  And there are budgets to finalize, and often congregational annual meetings, and sometimes new board…

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Jan
14

More Than This

For many of us 2020 has started the same as any other year with an endless list of task, chores, errands and to-do’s. No matter how we ended 2019, 2020 demands that some things must be done. As for pastors and church leaders, there are…

Jan
7

Top of the List

Most of us learned a certain way of doing chores:  we were told to get through with all the “compulsory things” and then we would be “rewarded “ with something fun or meaningful. First the mundane, then the meaningful. I think we’ve imported this approach…

Dec
23

Thank YOU!

This year has been amazing! To each of you who has joined us in this wonderful work of supporting, equipping and transforming pastors and congregations, we say thank you! Whether you have served as a facilitator, a cohort member, a presenter, a conversation partner, a…

Dec
19

Looking to 2020

As we conclude the year, we are appreciative of all the comments, ideas, and suggestions you have offered in response to these posts.  We are always eager to hear from you with suggestions of topics to explore.  Just let us know here if you have…

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Dec
17

Really. No One Cares.

What are your church’s biggest problems?  You know – the ones that have people talking in meetings, in the hall, in the parking lot… Chances are that if you’re a leader in your congregation, you could make a list of problems in a quick minute. …

Dec
12

Sounds of Silence

Ah, Advent! Well, certainly in church, you will hear congregational leaders saying, with at least a little exasperation, “Ah, December!”  What a month! Crowded calendars, last minute financial asks, special programs and everything else. It is unlikely that the First Century gospel writers could have…

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Dec
10

No One Cares.

I am a life-long Presbyterian who loves the church. I went to a Presbyterian seminary, where I was formed by Presbyterian theology. It has been Presbyterian pastors and lay people who have shaped me, and it is a Presbyterian pension and medical plan that secures…

Dec
6

Facilitator Spotlight: Rev. Chaz Howard

Rev. Charles L. Howard, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, University Chaplain, Macedonian Ministry Cohort Facilitator, Philadelphia, PA. Chaz, why did you say, “Yes!” to being the Facilitator of this cohort? “‘Oh how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters!) to dwell together in…

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Dec
5

Send in the Crowds

Isn’t it ironic that a season set aside for contemplation has become so crowded? During Advent, the world crowds in on us and our churches. At closer look, though, church itself – with very little help from culture – crowds in too. There’s the sign-up…

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Dec
3

Use Your Turn Signal!

“Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them…” Philippians 4:5a – The Message I’ve been in Alabama for twenty years now and perhaps one of the most annoying things I…

Nov
26

It’s Not a Game.

Sometimes we find ourselves trying to win at church. We don’t like to admit it, but since we’re among friends, we can be honest in this space. We track all kinds of data attempting to paint a picture of positive progress and success in ministry….

Nov
22

We Welcome Our Newest Dallas, TX Cohort!

Meet Our 2019 Dallas, TX Cohort! “We have a very diverse cohort of pastors from across Dallas who are committed to engaging with their City, and who want to learn from one another and from a variety of resources how to do that more faithfully and…

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Nov
21

The In-Between Times

At a recent cohort gathering (thank you, Denver) a question arose:  “It’s good to dig deeper in church board meetings, but what are the implications for what we do between meetings?” Practically, if monthly board meetings are going to provide enough time for prayer, Bible…

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Nov
14

To Stop or not to Stop

As we go about our church board business—building agendas, leading meetings, showing up for worship and programs, recruiting volunteers from a dwindling list, solving budget crises, and on and on—we need to be attuned to a voice crying, Stop!     That voice may sound counterintuitive. …

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Nov
12

Caring in the Right Direction

In a recent post, Seth Godin retells what he terms a “magical story.” A Gurkha rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked…

Nov
7

Spiritual Delivery Systems

Our mention last week of the recent Pew Forum report about the decline of American Christianity drew a lot of response, suggesting that many church boards and pastors are pondering their congregations in the harsh light of its findings. The Pew report is deeply researched,…

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Nov
5

Who Really Cares?

  What do people in your community care about? What are their values? What are their aspirations? What are their hopes? What are their goals? What are their needs? What are their interests? What are their challenges? Where do they experience joy? Where do they…

Oct
31

The Main Thing

Recent survey results from the Pew Forum on the decline of Christianity in America have brought forth responses from across the spectrum of faith communities.  Reactions have ranged from panic and despair to renewed resolve about the power of the gospel.  No matter where your…

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Oct
29

This is Why You Don’t Like Disruption

Because, contrary to all evidence, we treat disruption as the exception rather than the rule. While life experience overwhelmingly indicates that attaining perfect stasis and equilibrium is a myth, we continue – often unconsciously – to relentlessly pursue such conditions. On the other hand, we…

Oct
25

Facilitator Spotlight: Erica St. Bernard

Erica St. Bernard, Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist, Macedonian Ministry Cohort Facilitator, Washington, D.C. Erica, why did you say, “Yes!” to being the Facilitator of this cohort? “I accepted the invitation to be the Facilitator for this cohort in order to create safe and…

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Oct
24

Keeping Heart, Mind, and Soul Together…

… is crucial, as a church board discerns God’s activity, or as a faithful congregation discerns its way forward.  Hopefully we have established that polling or surveying a congregation is among the worst of the options.  But what are some wiser options for discernment? Today…

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Oct
22

All We Need Is Here

Today, the demolition of our congregation’s kitchen begins. It’s going to be a major disruption—let’s be honest, it already has been. The conversation about the kitchen was alive well before I arrived five years ago to Christ on Capitol Hill (Saint Paul, Minnesota), my fourth…

Oct
17

Good Pauline Data

In the instructions Paul gives the followers of Jesus at Corinth about the Lord’s Supper, we may also glean some wisdom for church boards. 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on…

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Oct
15

Tiny Seeds

It looked like a weed – the tiny sprig of green that sprouted in the crack of my front walkway. I passed it for days as I rushed out the front door headed for work. With each passing, the growing leaves reminded me to add…

Oct
14

Get to Know Reverend Adam Mixon!

Rev. Adam Mixon is no stranger to working with Macedonian Ministry. Over the last several years he has shared his gifts with us in various ways and we are grateful that his involvement continues to increase. Adam has been engaged with the work of Macedonian…

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Oct
14

Get to Know Reverend Jennifer Maxell!

Rev. Jennifer Maxell is no stranger to working with Macedonian Ministry. Over the last several years she has shared her gifts with us in various ways and we are grateful that her involvement continues to increase. Jennifer has served Macedonian Ministry in a variety of…

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Oct
10

Get to Know Jennifer and Adam!

Rev. Jennifer Maxell and Rev. Adam Mixon are no strangers to working with Macedonian Ministry. Over the last several years they have shared their gifts with us in various ways and we are grateful that their involvement continues to increase. Jennifer has served Macedonian Ministry…

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Oct
10

Measuring…What? And Why?

For the last several weeks we have been talking about the “volunteer line” and how it is increasingly difficult for congregational leaders to recruit participants for the activities and organizations under their umbrella. Sometimes, church board members, pastors, and/or those active in churches see this…

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Oct
8

Loves Disruptive Power

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” For years the words from 1 John were the crescendo of my well-crafted wedding homily, where I proclaimed to a couple that because they were in love, God…

Oct
4

Facilitator Spotlight: Rev. Emily McGinley

Rev. Emily McGinley, Pastor, Urban Village Church (Hyde Park | Woodlawn), Macedonian Ministry Cohort Facilitator, Chicago, IL Emily, why did you say, “Yes!” to being the Facilitator of this cohort? “I have been blessed to participate in a few different clergy cohorts over the past…

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Oct
3

End of the Line

Last week, we examined the painful truth of most congregations large and small:  no one is standing in line behind you to take your volunteer role when you are ready to lay it down.  Going deeper still, a good follow-up question is:  why do we…

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Oct
1

Please, Bother Me.

Several years ago, when our kids were still pretty young and wiggly, we had a particularly bad Sunday in worship. They rattled papers, squirmed, and dropped more than one Matchbox car. We were still fairly new to the community, so we were especially uncomfortable to…

Sep
26

Empty Lines

If there was a time in church life when “Time and Talent Forms” and Sunday morning appeals for new program leaders actually worked, those days are surely over. No one is standing in line behind you to take your church role. Congregations today find themselves…

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Sep
24

The Habit of Personal Disruption

Macedonian Ministry welcomes pastors from throughout our program and broadening network to contribute to our weekly articles. This week, our thanks to Rev. Jim Truesdell, for his reflection.  After nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry in Presbyterian churches, God issued a disruptive call. Away from the…

Sep
20

Facilitator Spotlight: Rev. Brady Radford

Rev. Brady Radford, Licensed Professional Counselor, Macedonian Ministry Cohort Facilitator, Atlanta 6 Brady, why did you say, “Yes!” to being the Facilitator of this cohort? “I said yes to being a facilitator because I believe in the positive benefits of collaborative ministry. As clergy leaders,…

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Sep
19

Chefs and Servers

Church Boards have a significant challenge—actually a series of significant challenges—when it comes to inviting volunteers to help with all aspects of a congregation’s ministry.  Keep in mind that this should never be a “let’s fill this hole in our org chart” kind of endeavor. …

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Sep
17

Disruptors

A childhood friend of mine shared with me this past week, about an incident with her child and one of his friends. Her child told his good friend that he and his family was moving away. Welp, this good friend decided to post, his thoughts…

Sep
12

Vocabulary Lessons

One of the summer’s notable news events was the death of American author and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.  Reflecting on Morrison’s legacy for the New York Times, American poet and recent U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith observed:  It’s hard, waking up so often to…

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Sep
10

Unplanned Disruption

Disruption comes in many forms. There is the disruption that we plan and manage. And then there is the disruption that comes unbidden and unwelcome but often brings unexpected gifts. I’m mostly talking about when things go wrong. There was the Sunday the toilets overflowed….

Sep
6

We Welcome Detroit’s 2019 Cohort

Meet Our 2019 Detroit Cohort! “Our Detroit Cohort is comprised of a diverse group of servants throughout the city. These pastoral leaders range from bi-vocational leaders that teach in the public schools by day and preach the gospel by night to those approaching retiring from…

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Sep
5

Relationships

Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new posts starting next week. You can arrange a meeting room in just the right way. Everyone can come to the church board meeting having…

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Sep
3

The Anti-Time-and-Talent Sheet

Time and talent sheets are surveys that ostensibly present opportunities for service in the congregation and invite people to get more involved in church life. By and large they are a waste of time. Congregations are rarely poised to activate all responses in a timely…

Aug
29

Giving and Receiving…Year Round

Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new entries right after Labor Day. In less than 100 days we will be back in the end-of-year rush. For church boards, that means pressured…

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Aug
27

Don’t Be Afraid to Disrupt.

There are numerous factors and forces that disrupt the life of the church – everything from conflicts and situations unique to a specific congregation to the whole North American church in general navigating an indifferent, secular culture and we have been exploring disruption in this…

Aug
22

Up and Out, Not Just Down and In

Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new entries right after Labor Day. There is so much in congregational life that pulls us – pastors, staff, and church boards – to look…

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Aug
20

It’s Not a Game, But…

Disruption has gotten a bad rap.  It’s almost like “the name that shall not be spoken.”  We spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid disruption and reinforce status quo.  This is remarkable, because disruption is our friend.  Disruption is the friend…

Aug
15

Ready, Set…

Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new entries right after Labor Day. Can you hear it?  Can you feel the rumble of your church’s program train pulling out of the station…

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Aug
8

And Yet…

Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new entries right after Labor Day. How many more Sundays where pastors lead prayers in the face of unspeakable tragedy? How many more church gatherings…

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Jul
30

Space: A Break Away

Macedonian Ministry welcomes pastors from throughout our program to contribute to our weekly articles. This week, our thanks to Rev. Cassandra Henderson of The Breakthrough Fellowship and MM Atlanta 4 cohort member, for her reflection.    “But now more than ever the word about Jesus…

Jul
26

Living and Leading Strategically in Ministry

Please join us on August 20th from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, at North Avenue Presbyterian Church for an in-depth conversation on strategy, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship in ministry.  This workshop is open to all MM Atlanta cohort members and local ministry leaders, as well as their…

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Jul
25

Capacity (f)or Conflict

Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new entries right after Labor Day. These days, we are keenly aware of conflict in our world, our communities, our Congress, and our congregations. And…

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Jul
18

Anxiety and Attention

  Note: Throughout the summer we are revisiting posts of the past year, grouped around common themes. We will return with new entries right after Labor Day. Several of our past posts have encouraged congregational leaders who are feeling anxious about their responsibilities to shift…

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Jul
16

And I Saw No Temple in the City…

One of the realities of congregational decline is that many church buildings – built to accommodate double or quadruple (or more!) the number of people who now attend or support – are consuming an inordinate amount of the church’s financial resources, and attentive human devotion…

Jul
11

How to Start Digging a Deeper Well

  You have to start some place. And so we did. Over the next few weeks we are going to revisit some of the places we started our digging, seven months ago, in order to help church boards go deeper in their meetings and discern…

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Jul
9

Another Kind of Space

Macedonian Ministry welcomes pastors from throughout our program to contribute to our weekly articles. This week, our thanks to Pastor Mark Honstein of the Watford City Area Lutheran Parish and MM Watford City, North Dakota cohort member, for his reflection.  I am told by parishioners that life in…

Jul
2

An Argument For Specific and Strange Space

Macedonian Ministry welcomes pastors from throughout our program to contribute to our weekly articles. This week, our thanks to Rev. Dr. Katie Hays from Galileo Church and our Ft. Worth, TX Cohort, for her reflection. I spent my childhood in two bedrooms that I remember….

Jun
25

Purposefully Planted

“If the church is inconsequential to the very place it is located, it cannot call itself church.” – Dr. Willie Jennings In this 5 minute video excerpt from the 2015 Macedonian Ministry Leadership Conference, Dr. Willie Jennings reminds us that the place in which we…

Jun
20

Appreciating Value

  Several years ago, somebody somewhere decided that October should be designated “Pastor Appreciation Month.” While rarely complaining out loud for fear of offending well-intentioned church members, many pastors would just as soon pass on this kind of appreciation. First, there is the difficulty with…

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Jun
18

Why Are We Here?

This is an important question for congregations to ask, and it can be framed in several different ways: …. as a question about the congregation’s ultimate purpose or aim.  … as a question about the nature of assembling as community of faith and what that…

Jun
13

No Doubt?

Doubt is a familiar visitor for both ministers and congregational leaders. We doubt our faith. Even more, we doubt ourselves, as leaders, worrying that our faith is not strong enough, that we do not understand enough, that we are not expert enough to fulfill our…

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Jun
11

5 Surprising Gifts of Sharing Space

  From its birth, our community of faith (The Well at Springfield) decided to make acquiring a permanent meeting space optional. We wanted to avoid the financial burden facing so many churches. As time has gone on though, we are discovering some unexpected gifts of…

Jun
6

High Wire Acts

In his 1974 essay “Vocation as Grace,” Baptist minister and writer Will D. Campbell (1924-2013) recounted a conversation he had once had with a high-wire performer for a traveling circus: I asked him why he chose that particular way of making a living. The first…

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Jun
4

“The Space Always Wins”

“The Space Always Wins” Guest Reflection By: Glenn Stallsmith   “The space always wins.” That paraphrased summary of the conclusion was arrived by James F. White, a liturgical scholar who taught for many years at Notre Dame. White meant that no matter what theology or…

May
28

Essentials

Space has an important relationship to faith, but “space” does not automatically equal “church building.” I have served six congregations over 30+ years in ministry. Each was an established church which had moved into its current building as early as 1892 or as recently as…

May
23

Don’t Miss It

In a recent interview, Bruce Springsteen—45 years a rock icon, with those four-hour live concerts and last year’s sold out Broadway show—was asked about his family life.   Springsteen admitted that for years the idea of a home filled him “with distrust and a bucketload of…

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May
21

No Roof and No Walls

“At this church no borders divide. No walls exclude.” So reads the website of First United Methodist Church of Los Angeles. The words are apt because the church meets in a parking lot. Started in 1853 as the first Protestant church in the city, First…

May
16

The Eleventh

  Every church board of whatever size will face a moment when the stunning complexity and reality of the needs they feel called to meet will make their efforts—even their very solid, organized, well-resourced, well-led efforts—seem inadequate.  What to do then?   The temptation is to try to…

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May
14

Space and Place

As I followed the coverage of the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral a few weeks ago, one element that stood out to me was how deeply grieved people were all over the world by the extensive damage to this place. This building. These walls. These spires….

May
9

Feed My Sheep Machine

  In the 21st Chapter of John, after post-Easter Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples (while coaching them from the shore to re-rig their boats following a long, frustrating night of fruitless fishing), he turns to Peter and asks him three times: “Do you love…

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May
2

Habits of Avoidance

  There’s a story about a church choir whose members processed in pairs down the long center aisle during the opening hymn at the beginning of worship. About halfway down, the members of each pair would separate momentarily—one stepping right and the other stepping left—before…

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Apr
25

Choosing

  After spending the last week noting the over-use of references to the Notre Dame fire in sermons and blogs, we find ourselves referencing . . . the fire at Notre Dame.  Actually, not the fire itself, but the response by the fire brigades.  News…

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Apr
18

No More of What?

  Last week we started a conversation about the difficulties of clearing out programs that may have outlived their purpose. How does a church board decide it is doing too much, and in that moment, what do we stop doing? One way to go at…

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Apr
11

Spring Cleaning, Tidy or Not

The tradition of “spring cleaning” springs up everywhere as daylight lengthens:  closets, pantries, desks, garages, to-do lists.  And right now, wherever we go, the advice of professional de-clutterer Marie Kondo is springing up, too: only keep items that “spark joy,”  she tells us. What can…

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Apr
4

The Place of Suffering

  Plans have carefully been crafted for Lenten observances and grand Easter plans. And then. And then there is a death in your congregation that touches everyone. Or a tragedy in your town that renders all the plans to be nothing more than an afterthought….

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Mar
21

To Care and Not to Care

  Lent began two weeks ago and unless your church chose to give up meetings for Lent (which, by the way, is a wonderful idea and a nurturing spiritual discipline!), you will find yourself in a church board meeting or two during the Lenten Season. …

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Mar
18

Filling the Hollowed-Out Spaces

  Last week, we considered the motivating – and risky – role anger can play in a quest for social justice. In her essay, “Getting Angry Can Be a Good Thing,” Cecilia Muñoz suggests that “Anger has a way . . . of hollowing out…

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Mar
12

What Road Signs Are You Seeing in Your Ministry?

We invited several pastors to reflect on “road signs” they’re seeing in their ministry and here’s what they had to say: Runaway Vehicles Only Reflection by: Ben Johnston-Krase   “You’re speeding downhill with more weight than you can possibly manage. In a death-defying moment, you…

Mar
7

Anger

  Mention anger in church and most people will say something like “well, Jesus did overturn the tables in the temple, right?”  Almost as reactive balance, someone else will respond with “But isn’t anger one of the seven deadly sins?” We wonder if there are…

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Mar
5

The Danger of Going Too Slow

We all know the signs we must pay attention to on the road – speed limits, curves ahead, school zone.  There is one, however, that most of us probably ignore – the one that tells us the slowest speed we should travel. So much emphasis…

Feb
28

Terms of Engagement

We hear a lot of statistics these days about the growing number of people who are religiously unaffiliated. But, thanks to the Pew Research Center, we also get stats from time to time on people who are religiously active.   For instance, one recent Pew…

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Feb
26

Children at Play

I have two young children, and one thing I deeply and truly envy about them is their ability to play in just about any circumstance, no matter the context, time of day, who else is present, or what the objects of play might be. Their…

Feb
22

Leadership Conversations with Adam Mixon

  Adam Mixon has been preaching and pastoring for over 25 years, serving the Zion Spring Baptist Church, Birmingham Alabama for almost 18 years. He was educated at the University of Cincinnati, Samford University, and Beeson Divinity School. Adam has served several years as the…

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Feb
21

Fruitfulness and Fellowship

  In a Bible full of lists, the list of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 is among the most inspiring and aspirational: … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no…

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Feb
19

Watch for Falling Rock

Two weeks ago, Adam Borneman opened up the idea of road signs and ministry. We’re going to follow this fruitful idea for the next several weeks. “WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK.” If you drive in the Rocky Mountains, you will certainly see this road sign. From…

Feb
14

Handling Pots and Dreams

  One of the most unfortunately trivialized texts is Luke 10:38-42: 38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the…

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Feb
12

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Last week, Adam Borneman opened up the idea of road signs and ministry.  We’re going to follow this fruitful idea for the next several weeks. Any journey of more than a block brings an encounter with a multitude of signs.  While at any given moment…

Feb
5

Ministry Traffic Signs

There are all sorts of ministry traffic signs that we need to pay attention to, point out for others, and obey.  Here are a few: No U Turn. I’ve found that one of the most liberating things I can say to a pastor or congregation…

Jan
31

Gratitude in the Work of Mission

  Luke 17:11-19: 11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus[a] was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[b] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and…

Jan
29

And the Word Became Flesh

Word Matters Part 5: And the Word Became Flesh As I mentioned in my first article on the general theme of Word Matters, I worked on this series on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Later that evening, we heard again the magisterial words from the…

Jan
24

Love and Math

The presentation to the mission committee offered a compelling case for funding clean water wells in Haiti and in Malawi.  It seemed the committee was ready to allocate a significant part of its budget to this worthy endeavor.  Then two members raised their hands. “What…

Jan
22

Call and Response

Pastoral leaders are in the communication business. Whether preaching or listening, communication is at the heart of pastoral ministry because it had to do with people – knowing them, caring for and about them, organizing them, influencing them, blessing them. And that requires words. Most…

Jan
15

The Other Side of Speaking

Words matter in preaching. But words matter even more when you’re not the one speaking them. Listening is the other side of the communication and it is essential to pastoral leadership. The late Peter Drucker, whose work in leadership and management continues to ring relevant,…

Jan
10

Upcoming Event: TheoEd Talks

  TheoEd Talks brings together leading thinkers in the church and the academy to give the talk of their lives in 20 minutes or less. By packaging powerful ideas in bite sized talks, this series helps Christians from across denominations explore the power of faith…

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Jan
8

“The Sweet Torture of Sunday Morning”

Perhaps nowhere is the use of words more publicly on display nor more consequential that in the preaching moment. Preaching is really a remarkable event and almost unparalleled in human society. Think about it. Week after week preachers open an ancient text and, through it,…

Jan
3

Deeper, Wiser Mission Committees

  Speaking from experience, I think we can agree together that we approach dangerous water when we speak (or hear) this sentence: “Of course, we all know the purpose of the ________________ Committee.” Probably somewhere in a tattered file folder in most every congregation, there…

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Jan
1

Words Matter

Word Matters Part 1:  Words Matter “Toxic” was the Oxford English Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” for 2018. Toxic. Imbued with poison. Given the climate of our national discourse, this is no surprise. Meanwhile, on the other hand, The Christian Science Monitor reported recently that…

Dec
20

We Welcome Scotland’s Newest Cohort!

A Message From the Facilitator: “Hi to all you readers as one in Christ. It is especially rewarding to be involved in Macedonian Ministry. We here in Scotland have been energized, warmed and upheld by the generosity of this wonderful organization. Our Cohort is now…

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Dec
14

Leadership Conversations with Adam Borneman

  In this webinar, Adam and our gifted panelists provide a brief overview of what Macedonian Ministry is currently seeing in the church across the many denominations, traditions, and contexts MM is engaged with. They also consider how various metrics, categories, and priorities are rapidly…

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Dec
13

December and Giving Part 2

Christmas is about giving, yes, but Christmas is also about receiving – receiving gifts, receiving people, receiving God’s grace. How do church boards learn to receive well? How, in a context where things are constantly being asked of them, do they practice reception? And not…

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Dec
6

December and Giving

Think of a church that is well known for its generosity to those in need, especially at Christmas.  Would it surprise you to know that this church nearly tears itself apart each year in wrestling over how much to give to whom, and who gets…

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Nov
29

Depths

  During the first full year of the Civil War (1862), Emily Dickinson wrote: At least—to pray—is left—is left— Oh Jesus—in the Air— I know not which thy chamber is— I’m knocking—everywhere—   Thou settest Earthquake in the South— And Maelstrom, in the Sea— Say,…

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Nov
28

We Welcome Birmingham’s Newest Cohort!

Not Pictured:  Antonio Alexander, Dave Barnhart, Sherrad Hayes “In fall of 2017 the Birmingham 2.0 began to form. Considerable periods of prayer and thought went into the ‘asks’ that were made to the women and men that would eventually become this new group. We were…

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Nov
20

Short Game Christmas vs Long Game Christmas

Refocusing the Christmas Lens With most pastors and congregations thinking about upcoming worship services and other ministry opportunities that seize so much of our attention this time of year, I want to help us think broadly about what the priorities are, what they aren’t, and…

Nov
15

What Expression of Humanity is Acceptable?

  As we previewed in Macedonian’s Leadership Conversations over the last few weeks, we strongly believe that church boards in their decision-making role should go as deep spiritually as they possibly can every time they meet. This weekly email will suggest resources for digging that…

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Nov
13

The Why and the Who

Refocusing the Christmas Lens With most pastors and congregations thinking about upcoming worship services and other ministry opportunities that seize so much of our attention this time of year, I want to help us think broadly about what the priorities are, what they aren’t, and…

Nov
8

New Article Series!

For the last several weeks, we have been considering what could make church board meetings feel like church, instead of all the other meetings in our lives. Among the values shared: The monthly church meeting as an invitation to depth, nurture, and discipleship.   If…

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Nov
6

The Whole

This month, church boards will convene in the wake of the U.S. midterm elections. A congregation of any size has within it those who do not agree with one another socially, politically, theologically. What does belonging to one another in a church mean when the headlines of the day are serving to confirm, agitate, delight, and divide? How can you build community and nurture trust not only in your worship but in your board meeting?

Oct
16

It’s Not About More Information.

There have been countless times I have been so tempted to have t-shirts printed with that emblazoned on the front in bold, neon letters and distribute them among every church committee or board with whom I have worked.

It’s not about more information.

Oct
2

“But How Will We Get the Work Done?”

That is the understandable question that church board members ask when their meetings begin to tilt toward Bible study, discussion of articles about the nature of God’s church, and prayer. Of course, church being church, rare is the occasion that any board member will speak…

Oct
1

Welcome, Dr. Ryan Bonfiglio!

Macedonian Ministry is excited to announce and welcome Dr. Ryan Bonfiglio as the organization’s Pilgrimage Formation Consultant!

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Sep
18

The Main Thing…the Only Thing..

If we feed people spiritually, all the true institutional needs of a congregation will be taken care of.

I think the corollary is also true: congregations can organize, plan, arrange, recruit, announce and invite folks to all types of things, but if the deep spiritual needs of women and men, girls and boys, are not addressed, the institutional needs of any congregation will resemble a parched desert.

Sep
11

Disruption…

The hurricane that is bearing down on the east coast as I write this, the earthquakes that have shaken Japan, the spilled cargo of an 18-wheeler that snarls traffic for hours on your way to work—these are bad, potentially dangerous disruptions.

Sep
6

Leadership Conversations with Jennifer Maxell

We are living and leading in interesting times. People are either turning to the church, with more demands and expectations on us as leaders and the church in general; or they are leaving the church sometimes hurt, sometimes confused, almost always searching for more.

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Sep
4

The Power of Presence

Presence. Perhaps one of the reasons our diverse pastoral cohorts are so generative is because these pastors spend three or four hours a month together for three years. They go away on retreats together. They travel together for a two-week pilgrimage in the Holy Land (nothing quite brings out the real self than extended travel!). In other words, they have occasion to build authentic relationships of trust, sometimes discord and reconciliation, and deep friendship.

Aug
28

The Purpose of Place

Dismantling Racism & the Role of the Church… Week 3:  The Purpose of Place Place. One great way a church can begin to uncover and inhabit the full history of our country and the narratives we have inherited about race so as to inform our…

Aug
21

The Power of Posture

Dismantling Racism & the Role of the Church… Week 2:  The Power of Posture Posture. To address the systemic racism that exists in our country, good posture is important. A wide-open stance, relaxed forehead and neck, eyes and ears alert, hands open. Because most of…

Aug
14

Making a Difference Requires Purpose

Dismantling Racism & the Role of the Church… Week 1:  Making a Difference Requires Purpose Purpose. If you go to a store looking for “nude” shoes, what color do you expect them to be? If you buy a band-aid called “flesh-toned” in the drugstore, what…

Aug
7

The Front Porch, the Living Room, the Dining Room, and the Kitchen

My family has always had a big front porch (nearly a non-negotiable expectation if you’re somewhere around the 12th generation of a family from Georgia). And sure enough my current home has one of the only front porches on our street. As a kid, “porch parties” – as we called them – were a normal part of the weekly rhythm, as my parent’s friends from up the street would come over and have a glass of wine or tea on the porch while the kids run around in the front yard until it was too dark to see, and often times well past.

Jul
31

Lakes vs Rivers

There are some instructive differences between lakes and rivers that are not lost on me. Metaphorically speaking, we all need both lakes and rivers, a place to be still, as well as a place to be on the move. What is problematic for many congregations, however, is that we’re quite addicted to the lake, and afraid of the river.

Jul
24

Buffets vs Progressive Dinners

It’s Beverly Hills, 1978, and Cheesecake Factory’s menu is one page long and features salads, sandwiches, and ten varieties of cheesecake. It’s simple, straightforward, highlighting what they’re really about, what they do best. These days, they advertise “more than 250” items prepared daily. Maybe it’s…

Jul
17

Lanes vs Trains

As far as local politics are concerned, I’ve become a single-issue voter. About three times a day in my car, I utter to myself, “I hate this city.” Ok, I don’t hate Atlanta (usually). But I absolutely do hate the traffic. I grew up with…

Jul
10

Embracing Abstract Play

Guest Writer: The Rev. Rebekah McLeod Hutto Associate Minister for Christian Education and Discipleship, The Brick Presbyterian Church in the City of New York & MM Cohort Member, New York, New York       A developmental milestone for many toddlers is the ability to…

Jul
3

On Trust…

“Most messes can get cleaned up where trust is present.”  The closing of last week’s piece gave us that ultimate sticking point.  Trust is one of the chief casualties of the erosion we are experiencing in our common life. This week, David Lose noted the…

Jun
26

The (Messy) Road Ahead…

Back in the olden days of paper maps, it could be disconcerting to get lost. Having a map didn’t help unless you knew your location on that map. GPS presents a different problem. The “my location” button can tell you where you are. But then…

Jun
19

Stretching Over Stressing

“God is actively dis-establishing the church in America.” That line in last week’s article garnered some significant reaction, ranging from relief to gratitude to annoyance to rejection. “Numbers still matter – Jesus grew the church.” “Saying God is doing this takes away our need to…

Jun
15

Leadership Conversations with Laurie Ferguson

Rev. Dr. Laurie Ferguson Senior Research Fellow for Coaching and Director of the Residential Coaching Program at Auburn Seminary It is no surprise that most clergy occupy various types leadership roles on a daily basis. Some of these might include therapist, consultant, mentor, spiritual director,…

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Jun
12

How Are You Managing?

Four “Church Questions” That Have Reached Their Sell-By Date… Over the last several weeks, in addition to taking a closer look at John 21, we have examined three questions that may have lost traction in our rapidly changing culture: Where do you go to church?…

Jun
5

John 21 for the 21st Century

Four “Church Questions” That Have Reached Their Sell-By Date… The questions examined in the last three weeks that may have lost traction in our rapidly changing culture: Where do you go to church? The “attractional model” of bringing people into church risks depriving congregations of…

Jun
1

We Welcome Austin’s 2018 Cohort!

Growing Faithfully, Together “Our first Austin cohort brings together strong leaders from across the area. Each in a distinct way, we are considering how to navigate change: change in the American religious landscape, changes in staff roles or our own roles, change in our congregations’…

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May
29

What is God Doing Next?

Four “Church Questions” That Have Reached Their Sell-By Date… Where do you go to church? and Will this…bright, shiny new thing…get us new members? are two questions those of us in church keep asking even though they have waning relevance in our fast-changing culture. This…

May
16

Where Do You Go to Church?

There are ways we talk in and around church that have existed for years largely unchallenged. They are so common—among congregants and church leaders—that they are part of the “background wallpaper” of churches. However, as our context for ministry changes so rapidly, it’s time to…

May
8

Leadership Conversations with Willie Jennings

Dr. Willie Jennings Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School The western world and especially America is bound up in a history of racism and racial antagonism that we have not been able to escape. This church shares in this…

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May
8

Galileo Church: They Will Church

Guest Writer: Rev. Dr. Katie Hays Lead Evangelist, Galileo Church & MM Cohort Member, Ft. Worth, TX Rev. Dr. Katie Hays is the Lead Evangelist of Galileo Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the suburbs south of Fort Worth, Texas and a member of the…

Apr
24

The Stories We Aren’t Telling

“I’ll give you all the weapons in the world, but if you give me story, I’ll win every time” – Willie James Jennings “Who gets to narrate the world?” – Robert Webber Every congregation is telling a story about God, themselves, and about the world….

Apr
10

Just Be

Guest Writer: Rev. Jennifer Watley Maxell The Breakthrough Fellowship, Pastor and Co-Founder, and MM Cohort Member, Atlanta 3          As clergy we spend so much time focused on membership. Whether it’s the size of our church membership, the organizational culture of a…

Apr
8

Contagious Joy

“We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.” These words by Pope John Paul II not only testify to the joy of the risen and living Christ, they also have a good deal to do with leadership, too. As it turns out, the…

Mar
20

Will the Adaptive Leader Please Step Up

Tod Bolsinger, in his recent Leadership Conversation, summed up leadership for adaptive change as “leading where there is no expert or answer into an unknown and unknowable future.” No wonder “adaptive leadership” daunts so many leaders! But, the suggestions he set forth were disarmingly ordinary….

Mar
7

The Ministry of Disappointment

Tod Bolsinger’s recent webinar for MM pastors was outstanding. A recording will soon be available, and you should watch it. One thing that Tod touched on was Heifetz and Linsky’s provocative notion that leadership means “disappointing your own people at a rate they can absorb”…

Feb
27

Coach K’s Leadership Tips

Webster’s Dictionary defines leadership as the following: “the office or position of a leader,” “the capacity to lead,” or “the act or an instance of leading” (Merriam-Webster, 2018).  If you were to randomly ask a number of people how they define leadership, I suspect you would get…

Feb
21

Communicate to Change

If you want to lead change (and, frankly change is needed in our churches, communities, nation, and world), communication is key. I have been reading and thinking about leading change and have noted several components of effective communication:  Communication with God is essential. No change…

Jan
31

We Welcome Atlanta’s Newest 2018 Macedonian Ministry Cohort!

Our newest Atlanta cohort not only represents the rapidly growing diversity of the city, but also the necessity of experimenting, innovating, and adapting ministry to complex communities…urban, suburban, refugee, homeless, seekers, searchers, skeptics, podcasters, old, young, and in-between!

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Jan
30

A Special Message From Macedonian Ministry

Macedonian Ministry Founder, Rev. Dr. Tom Tewell, and new Executive Director, Rev. Mark Ramsey, shine a spotlight on the past, present and very bright future of Macedonian Ministry.

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Jan
23

One New Thing

I would like to invite you to do one new thing.  I’ll get to what it is in a minute. The evidence is in and, honestly, if you hang which nonchurch people at all, you can verify this yourself, that one of the features that…

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Jan
2

Today Is The Day

Theologian N.T. Wright has reminded us that the gospel “is news, not advice.”  That news, coming in the days of celebration of the incarnation is straight-forward:   God has come to us in Jesus Christ.  Grace abounds.  Love wins.  And everything the church is called to…

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Dec
26

The Endless Kiwi Quencher

I know a family who got hockey sticks and pucks for their two older sons and an electric guitar for their younger son for Christmas. By noon, the boys had broken all of the garage windows and shorted out the electrical system! That family did…

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Dec
12

The Sinister Lure of People Pleasing

Have you ever made a decision because you wanted to please someone?  If the person we want to please is a significant donor in our church, a leader in our ministry, or an important person in our life…we may find it difficult to disappoint that…

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Dec
5

An Antidote to Worry and Fear

“This saber-rattling with North Korea really has me scared.” “I’m worried that with this new tax plan, I will have to quit graduate school.” “I live in fear every day that my son will be deported.” “Of course, I carry a gun. I ‘m afraid…

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Nov
28

Support Macedonian Ministry Pastors on #GivingTuesday

Given the demands of ministry, a majority of pastors experience crippling isolation and seasons of depression. A Pew study notes that as recent as 2012, over 20,000 pastors left congregational ministry.  Macedonian Ministry strives to ensure that our pastors receive the necessary support, skills, and…

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Nov
28

Prayer – From Monologue to Dialogue

From Guest Writer — Reverend Neely Towe, Pastor Emerita of Stanwich Congregational Church How humbling it is to be asked to write “a few words” on prayer – when prayer, though often involving words, is so far beyond words!! Prayer – that holy mystery that we…

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Nov
21

Like an Air Hockey Puck

We were at a staff meeting recently, praying (one associate of ours calls our staff the, “prayin’est bunch of people I’ve ever seen”) when someone asked, “What does it really mean to tell someone you will pray for them?” It’s a fair question. It can…

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Oct
31

The Address of Your Church & Why It Matters!

In this 5 minute video excerpt from the 2015 Macedonian Ministry Leadership Conference, Dr. Willie Jennings reminds us that the location of our church is not by chance but rather…purposefully planted by God!

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Oct
17

When the Church Leaves the Building

Evangelism has become an unfortunate word in the church and, frankly, I wish the term had never been coined. In far too many cases, it has reduced to a program of the church (as just one of many programs) what is in truth fundamental to…

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Oct
16

A Year of Progress and Growth

[info-box]  “Macedonian Ministry has changed my life. The group of faith leaders in our cohort have become my closest friends. We worship together, encourage each other, challenge each other, mourn and celebrate with each other. Most of all, we *hear* each other. The biggest gift…

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Oct
3

The Sorrowful American Liturgy

From Guest Writer: Rev. Ryan Baer, Pastor, Ridglea Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth, TX, and Macedonian Ministry Fort Worth, TX Cohort Member I was 21 years old the first time I encountered the American liturgy. I was a senior in college, going to school full-time and…

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Sep
26

Peyton Manning’s Priorities…And Ours!

I love the story of the young man who wanted just the right card to express a deep sentiment to the girl he loved. Finally…he found it! The card said simply, “To the only girl I’ve ever loved.” “Terrific. Wonderful,” he said to the store…

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Sep
12

The BIG ROCKS

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” Matthew 6: 33 A “Children’s Chat” that I saw in a worship service made a profound point about priorities. A pastor took a huge jar…

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Sep
11

Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant

An unforgettable image that is seared in my memory bank from 9/11 was the firemen and police officers who ran INTO the burning buildings… as hundreds were running OUT! These civic servants risked their own lives and in many cases… gave their own lives… to…

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Sep
10

Jesus and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is a field of study which addresses the phenomena and the laws of heat. One of its most esoteric concepts describes the tendency of all things in the universe to run down, cool off, and become increasingly more disorganized. Things never get hotter or…

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Sep
5

Reordering Priorities

There is nothing like epic flooding to reorder priorities. In the wake of Harvey which rushed ashore a week ago inundating Houston and South Texas has come a rush of rescue workers – some governmental, many more neighbors and strangers – whose only concern is…

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Sep
3

For Whom Are You Working?

Have you ever felt like YOU are the “Director of Everything” and that the weight of the world is on your shoulders? The country Western singer Johnny Paycheck felt that way. He wrote a song, years ago titled, “Take This Job and _______.” (You can…

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Aug
29

Prioritizing Proximity

Acts 15 includes one of the most pivotal scenes of the New testament and the early church. Often referred to as “The Jerusalem Council,” a group of elders, apostles, and early church leaders, including Paul, Barnabas, James, and Peter convene and debate whether Gentiles should…

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Aug
27

When Life Seems Overwhelming…

It was Christmas Eve. Every member of Bill’s family was on their way home for Christmas dinner, followed the traditional 11:00 Candlelight Christmas Eve service. Just after midnight, the family would exchange gifts. It would be a glorious Christmas…except for the elephant in the room….

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Aug
22

The Most Obnoxious Part of the Worship Service

It was “Question and Answer” time at a worship workshop in Indiana. My friend, Dr. Tom Long, a Macedonian Ministry faculty member, was discussing the nature of reformed worship. After his brilliant lecture, he opened the floor to questions…one hand shot up immediately! A Lay…

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Aug
20

Better Together 

When our son Ryan was in college, he was captain of the varsity crew team at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The sport of crew suited Ryan perfectly. In other sports, individual achievements are recognized such as … a touchdown, a basket, or a…

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Aug
15

This Week’s Assignment

From Guest Writer: Rev. David Feltmen, Pastor to the Presbytery, North Central Iowa It’s an old preachers joke. The preacher says she will not begin preparation on her sermon until there is a word from the Spirit. Monday, is quiet. Tuesday, Wednesday – nothing. By…

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Aug
13

The Power of an Interruption

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the road. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David,…

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Aug
8

Preparing for Spontaneity

It took Jesus 30 years to prepare for his ministry. I’ve tended to see Jesus as a relatively spontaneous guy. After all, think how quickly he responded off-the-cuff to questions that the disciples or the Pharisee’s would ask him. Think of the way be seemed…

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Aug
6

Letting Go

Do you have trouble letting go? Of control? Of the lives of family members and friends? Of situations at work? If we’re honest, there are times in our lives when every one of us has trouble letting go.

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Aug
1

Prepare to be Amazed and Disappointed

Jessica and I are expecting our second child to arrive in a couple of months. As you might imagine, we’re incredibly excited. Excited, because this pregnancy was totally unexpected, given that we endured infertility for five years before the birth of our first daughter, Maggie….

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Jul
30

The Greatest Teacher in the World

Who was best teacher you ever had in school? My finest teacher was Dr. James McCord, President of Princeton Seminary. Dr. McCord taught only one class each year, but I learned more about pastoral ministry and the nature of God in that class than in…

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Jul
25

The Rx for a Healthy Life

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17: 22 Can I ask you an honest question: Can you laugh at yourself? I ask this because life can be so serious…especially in these tumultuous times. Life can be…

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Jul
24

A Message from the Reverend Dr. Thomas K. Tewell

Dear Friends of Macedonian Ministry, For the past ten years, it has been my privilege to serve as Executive Director of Macedonian Ministry. I am humbled to have founded a ministry that has grown from a cohort of 17 Presbyterian pastors in 2008 to 28…

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Jul
23

The Second Greatest Teacher in the World

Waiting is hard. And yet, we have to wait every single day…in traffic (UGH!), at checkout counters in the supermarket, at the doctor’s office, and in drive-thru lanes. These daily waits never fail to try our nerves. In fact, do you ever make your choice…

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Jul
18

It’s Not Just Child’s Play

From Guest Writer: Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer, Senior Pastor, North Avenue Presbyterian Church For as long as I can remember, I have loved to play. I played sports all my life, played music that brought me joy, played games with anyone who would play with…

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Jul
16

How Honest Can We be and Still be Friends?

Have you ever struggled with how honest you should be with someone? Do we tell someone what they want to hear, or do we dare tell them what we honestly believe is best for them…even if it involves a hard conversation…and deeply disappointing them? Doug…

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Jul
11

Do Yourself a World of Good

Friends, it’s summer time which has me thinking about vacation. More specifically, about play. Here are five tell-tale signs that you need to play more: You can’t easily laugh at yourself or your circumstances. You find yourself defensive or easily offended. You have a difficult…

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Jul
9

God’s Hall of Fame

You may never have heard of Ernie Banks…but he is a member of The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York…and a member of God’s Hall of Fame too! Let me explain. Ernie Banks played baseball in the era with legends like Hank Aaron,…

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Jul
4

What the Lady Would Tell Us, If Only She Could Speak …

As we celebrate the 241st birthday of the United States of America, and the 131st birthday of the Statue of Liberty, a special gift from the Republic of France, it would be fascinating to hear what Lady Liberty would say to our nation on this…

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Jul
2

When You Have to Go to Plan B…

Have you ever had to go to Plan B? You had “Plan A” for your life all figured out…but, things didn’t turn out the way you planned? I asked this question in a sermon recently, and a woman approached me after the service and said, “Plan B? I’m on Plan G, H, and I!”

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Jun
27

The Past, Present, and Future of the Holy Spirit

I’ve seen the quote below making the rounds on the internet this Pentecost season and it’s quite striking. It’s excerpted from a presentation that Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Ignatius of Latakia (port city in Syria, historically known as Laodicea) delivered before the World Council of Churches…

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Jun
25

How Do You Spell Success?

Can I ask you a personal question? And be totally honest. Do you think of yourself as a successful person? And, more importantly, what criteria do you use to measure success? In other words, how do you spell success? I ask this question because society…

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Jun
20

How Do We Know God Hears Our Prayers?

I’ve written in a previous post about what it means to pray the “Psalms of Vengeance.” There I drew upon pastor, theologian, and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who reminds us that when we pray those Psalms calling on God to crush enemies, break the arm of…

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Jun
18

Passing the Baton

Who has been a mentor in your life? Who has invested their time and energy to help you become who you are today? Who has “passed the baton” to you and challenged you…inspired you… to run faithfully the next lap in the race that is before you?

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Jun
15

A Wonderful New Cohort in Fort Worth

The Fort Worth pastoral cohort is comprised of leaders from numerous denominations and congregational models– all serving together in a dynamic, diverse metropolitan area of around 2 million people.

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Jun
13

Get Moving

John records that Jesus talked explicitly about the coming of what he called the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would “teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” Interesting, then, how the Holy Spirit showed up, how the disciples responded,…

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Jun
11

The Three Feet Rule

Author and philosopher William James once said, “The deepest craving within any human being is the craving to be appreciated.” People ache to be seen, heard and acknowledged, James said. Persistent un-acknowledgement takes a toll on people’s lives, psyches, and even our bodies. James coined…

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Jun
6

I Believe in the Holy Spirit. Period?

What do you say we all agree to put a period in the creeds immediately after professing our belief in the Holy Spirit? Wouldn’t that make life easier? Since many of us in mainline Protestant churches don’t know what to say about the third person of the Trinity, I think we would be perfectly happy stating our belief in the Holy Spirit and stopping there.

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Jun
4

Channels, Faucets and Nudges

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist who led the expansion of the American Steel industry in the late 19th century. He became one of the wealthiest and most philanthropic Americans in history. When a journalist asked him the secret of his success Carnegie replied, “I…

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May
30

Manchester

It is another sad time in the world.  Names like Newtown, Charleston, and Columbine ring in our minds as we hear the name Manchester. Twenty-two people were killed in Manchester, last week and another fifty-nine wounded as a bomb exploded just as young people were…

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May
28

The Power of “Re-membering”

Our grandson Nathan graduated from high school this past week. I can’t believe it! During the graduation festivities, our son Ryan, our daughter-in-law Holly, and her parents, Rick and Pat Bollinger were remembering the day Nathan was born…it seems like only yesterday! We remembered that Ryan called us when he and Holly went to the hospital.

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May
23

Where I’ve Found Perseverance

This week I’m on a retreat with some of the best friends I’ve ever had. These brothers from Birmingham have given me a sense of what Jesus meant when he redefined family as those who do the will of the father, a family that exhibits…

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May
21

Kingdom of God Eyes

In her best-selling book, Team of Rivals, author Doris Kearns Goodwin describes the day that Abraham Lincoln took office as President of the United States. Unlike his predecessor, James Buchanan, who limited his Cabinet to “like-minded” people from the same political party, Lincoln shocked the nation by selecting for his cabinet representatives of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the Whig Party!

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May
16

It’s a Miracle

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

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May
14

Jesus’s Shocking Mother’s Day Message

Abraham Lincoln described the inestimable value of mothers when he said, “no one is poor who had a Godly mother.” Despite Lincoln’s words, maternal relationships can be complicated. For many of us, Mother’s Day can be a joyful day centering on the baptism of a child or grandchild, phone calls, face time, or dinner at Mom’s favorite restaurant.

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May
9

Are We Trying Too Hard?

I was leading a seminar for a group of pastors and lay leaders serving local congregations when a pastor asked me a provocative question. She said, “You work with pastors all over America and Scotland now, instead of serving one congregation. From your experience with…

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May
7

Billboards for God

Suzanne and I will never forget the UBER driver who drove us home from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. We were impressed with her knowledge of the history and demographics of our city.

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May
5

Macedonian Ministry Welcomes Shannon Perry to the Team

Macedonian Ministry is very pleased to introduce the newest member of our team as we welcome Shannon Perry as an Executive Assistant. Shannon is an energetic young man who has spent his early professional life working with non-profits and public policy groups in Washington, D.C….

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May
2

Nevertheless, She Persisted

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Mitch McConnell was probably not setting out to create a viral meme when he gave this explanation for silencing Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor. Within hours, however, “Nevertheless, she persisted” was showing up…

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Apr
30

Ann Coulter, Arabella Young and the Power of WORDS

Arabella Young was a gossip! Her tongue was always getting her into trouble. She gossiped so much… that on her tombstone in an English cemetery, her family wrote this epitaph, “Beneath this sod, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who on the 24th of…

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Apr
23

If I Wake Before I Die…

One of the best ways to understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ is to remember the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. The French Army was commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte and the British allied army was commanded by the Duke of Wellington. The fighting…

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Apr
18

He Is Risen?

I was greeting parishioners one Easter Sunday morning with a hearty, “Christ is Risen,” enjoying the joyous refrain, “He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” Until I got to Bernice Knuckles (not her real name.) “Christ is Risen,” I exclaimed to her. She looked at me blankly for a long minute and finally replied, “Oh well, yes, I suppose so.”

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Apr
16

Christianity Began in a Cemetery

Our Christian faith began in a cemetery. Think about it; we are Christians because the tomb is empty. God raised Jesus from the dead in a cemetery to remind all of us that death is not a period at the end of the sentence of…

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Apr
14

Costly Love

During the Passover Feast, one of the greatest festivals in Judaism, the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. When Pontius Pilate, the governor, put the question to the crowd, “Who do you want me to release for…

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Apr
13

The Final Exam… Ahead of Time

The well-known preacher and author, Dr. John Claypool, had an unforgettable experience in college. On the very first day of class, his Greek professor, Dr. Henry Trentham, shocked the students by handing them the final exam! Claypool wasn’t just being cute when he said, “It…

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Apr
9

The Day Albert Einstein Became a Bellhop

Legends and stories about Albert Einstein abound in Princeton, New Jersey, where I went to seminary. You don’t have to live in Princeton very long before you discover that one of the gorgeous framed wood houses with black shutters was Einstein’s home. One of my…

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Apr
4

The Resurrection

Guest Writer: The Rev. Carrie R. English Rector, Resurrection Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, FL Resurrection Episcopal Church is a Christian community Church dedicated to serving God and all creation. Learn more. I began my process for ordination in the Episcopal Church at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church….

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Apr
2

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year…in A.D. 29

At the end of each year, the editors of Time Magazine select one person who has made the most impact in the world the previous year. The first recipient was Charles Lindberg, who in 1927 made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean…

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Mar
26

The Lost Son

When was the last time you lost something valuable to you…your car keys…glasses…wallet…passport…or your password to an important document? How did you feel when you found it? Two-year-old Grant was lost in a shopping mall. When his parents discovered that he was missing… they were…

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Mar
23

Macedonian Ministry Names Outstanding Faculty to Teach Pastors and Laity

Macedonian Ministry’s mission is to help pastors become more faithful and effective leaders in their congregations and local communities. In addition to our Staff and Advisory Board, these gifted faculty leaders are now available to lead workshops and seminars for our cohorts and alumni to help achieve our mission.

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Mar
21

And Max said “No!” – A Reflection on Repentance

My daughter and I usually read two or three short books every night before bedtime. One of our favorite books is Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are. For those unfamiliar the story, it tells the tale of Max, a mildly recalcitrant and lovable…

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Mar
19

The Two Great Tragedies in Life

The 19th century Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, once said, “There are two great tragedies in life. The first is not getting what you want. The second is getting it. When you get the thing you think you want…you realize that it can’t ultimately satisfy you.”…

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Mar
14

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

I was 18 years old and a freshman at the small liberal arts college I attended in Sterling, Kansas, when I had one of my first experiences of repentance. It came by way of Bonnie Carson. Bonnie was a tall, graceful, athletic African American from…

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Mar
12

The Oxygen Mask

When the flight attendants on a jet airplane review the safety instructions before takeoff, they always say these words, “In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure during the flight, an oxygen mask will automatically drop down in front of you. If you are traveling with a child or an elderly adult, put your own oxygen mask on first and then you will be in a position to help your child or elderly adult.”

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Mar
7

The Six Most Important Words

A Pastor friend of mine charges every couple he marries to remember what he calls, “The Six Most Important Words.” He reminds the couple that these six words can save a relationship. The six words are… “I am sorry, I was wrong!” When in your…

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Mar
5

Rearranging the Price Tags…

The late Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, tells the delightful story of two vandals who broke into a shop in the middle of the night. They didn’t steal anything and they didn’t break anything…but what they did caused havoc in the store the next morning!…

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Feb
28

The Truth is not Enough

One of my all-time favorite movies is the Big Lebowski. In many ways, this cult classic is about an unlikely yet strangely beautiful friendship between two characters – Walter and The Dude. Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) is a seemingly crass Vietnam War veteran who, despite…

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Feb
26

Why?

One of life’s most challenging questions is, “Why?” Barbara asked it on September 11, 2001, when she overslept and was late to work. The plane that crashed into the World Trade Center killed everyone who was in her office that morning. Barbara was only alive…

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Feb
21

Speaking the Truth in Love

If only the Church was like Alcoholics Anonymous… it would be more like Jesus wants it to be! I mean it! There is something refreshingly honest about an AA group. Saying the 4 words… “I am an alcoholic,” takes guts…it requires honesty with oneself. To…

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Feb
19

Enlarging the Room

What are the characteristics of a truly great person? If we follow social media trends, we could think that the truly great people are the big-time athletes or entertainers like Beyoncé, Adele, LeBron, or The Boss, (Bruce Springsteen.) But, the Bible teaches us that truly…

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Feb
14

The Hardest Truth

“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.” So wrote Walter Lippman in his famous 1920 book, Liberty and the News.

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Feb
12

The Amateur Police Officer!

Words are like children…always in motion…never sitting still for very long…constantly changing. A case in point. In 1675, nine years after the terrible fire in London, England that destroyed much of the city, Sir Christopher Wren laid the cornerstone on the most ambitious work of…

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Feb
7

Macedonian Reflections

Macedonian Ministry has changed my life. The group of faith leaders in our cohort have become my closest friends. We worship together, encourage each other, challenge each other, mourn and celebrate with each other. Most of all, we *hear* each other.

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Feb
7

Experiments with Truth

When our Macedonian Ministry staff brainstormed “truth” as a topic of our February column for 2017 it was about two months before the Oxford dictionary declared that the “Word of the Year” for 2016 was post-truth. The Oxford dictionary combs through data bases of word…

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Feb
5

Open and Closed Doors

When has a door closed in your life? Every one of us has experienced closed doors …when a loved one dies and a chapter of our lives ended; when a job or a relationship did not work out as we hoped; or when we hoped…

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Jan
31

Washed into Remission

My adventure with Serious Ju Ju skateboard ministry had evolved from spectator, to advocate, to volunteer. I guess at some point I went “all in.” Read more about Tom Esch’s adventure.

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Jan
29

The Most Difficult Instrument to Play

When Leonard Bernstein was conductor of the New York Philharmonic, he was asked by a reporter, “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Second fiddle.” Bernstein is quite right…second fiddle is THE most difficult instrument to play!

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Jan
24

The Adventure We Didn’t Know We Wanted

If we’re not careful, a Christian meditation on the theme of “adventure” can quickly devolve into shortsided idealism about the supposed excitement of following Jesus, how inherently adventurous it is to take risks for Jesus, or something of the sort.

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Jan
22

A Spiritual Lesson at the Potter’s House

My friend Marjorie Bankson is a gifted potter. One day, I saw her put a hunk of dry, brittle clay on her potter’s wheel and turn the wheel on. The motion of the wheel and the moisture from the water hose softened the clay to…

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Jan
20

A Call to Prayer for the United States of America

As we the people of the United States of America inaugurate our 45th President of the United States today, I am asking you to join me in doing two things. First, let us reflect together on the words of President Abraham Lincoln which called our…

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Jan
17

The Roller Coaster Ride of Faith

I hate roller coasters! I always have. They scare me to death. When our two sons were little, my wife Suzanne would take Ryan, our older son (who is now a Navy pilot) on the roller coaster while Toby, our younger son, and I would get ice cream!

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Jan
15

Changing the World 101

But …what has happened to King’s dream of an America where “children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?” In his 1963 letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. King reminded us that America is one…

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Jan
10

The Three Words that Start an Adventure

From Guest Writer: Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger Vice President for Vocation and Formation, Fuller Seminary Author of Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory “Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur, that spirit of adventure…

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Jan
8

Acting Medium

As the children in the neighborhood thought about the rules that would govern their club, they came up with three rather profound ones: Rule #1 – Nobody act BIG Rule #2 – Nobody act small Rule #3 – Everybody act Medium These are pretty good…

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Jan
3

Good Adventure to You

Garrison Keillor is credited with observing, “Nothing bad ever happens to writers. It’s all material.” By this he meant, of course, that it is from experiences, good and bad, that the author develops a story line – a making sense of the experience. The result…

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Jan
1

The Gospel in 1 Verse

Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington are the top four college football teams this year. (Penn State and Michigan fans, please forgive me!) When your favorite team scores a touchdown and the camera pans the end zone, what scripture verse is ALWAYS there in bold…

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Dec
27

Be Still and Behold the Mystery

Resurrection makes a lot more sense to me than the Incarnation. In one sense, the logic of resurrection is rather simple: You’re dead, and then you’re risen from the dead. The widow of Zarephath’s son was dead, and Elijah raised him.

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Dec
25

The Endless Kiwi Quencher

O God, on this Christmas day, please come into my heart and soul and quench the deepest thirst of my life. May I remember that no tangible gift I can receive, nor any earthly thing, can ultimately satisfy me. May I realize today, O God, that ONLY YOU can satisfy the thirst of my soul! May it be so! Amen

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Dec
20

Analog Jesus in a Digital World: A Reflection on the Incarnation

My friend and colleague, Rev. Gray Norsworthy, recently recommended to me David Sax’ book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. I’m glad he did. It’s a fascinating narrative chronicling recent market and broader societal movements that are bucking the trends of…

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Dec
18

The Lady with the Mop

Trustees at a Pennsylvania Medical Center did a patient survey to determine which of their employees were most helpful in contributing to the health of their patients. Although many doctors and nurses were singled out…there was a surprising name on the list…Edna, a cleaning lady….

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Dec
13

More Than in the Manger

[info-box] Guest Writer: Rev. Shannon Spencer Chaplain, Swannanoa Correctional Center For Women Founding Executive Director, Asheville Poverty Initiative   [/info-box] Their names were Rose and Cliff. It was their first time joining us. They’d heard so much about our community they felt the need to try…

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Dec
11

God’s Left Handed Curveball

If Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, and Anderson Cooper had been alive and if television had been in existence in 1809, the morning and evening news would have focused on Austria. The big news in 1809 was Napoleon Bonaparte leading the French army across Austria. While…

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Dec
6

God With Skin On

Since the Council of Nicaea the global church has strongly affirmed that Jesus was fully human and fully Divine. Certainly this seasons of Advent and Christmas uphold the Divinity of Jesus. That he was born a tiny, vulnerable baby in humble circumstances notwithstanding, in his…

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Dec
4

God Can’t Steer a Parked Car

Have you ever been stuck? Not sure how to proceed? Are you asking questions like: “Should I change jobs? Should I say “yes” to the opportunity that is before me? Which road should I take?” God can’t steer a parked car. So…proceed in the direction…

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Nov
29

The Importance of Showing Up

When the phone rang and I saw that it was from Lucille…I braced myself. Lucille was critical of almost everything in the church. Do you know people like this? I sometimes call people like Lucille, “cobweb spotters.” A cobweb spotter is someone who can walk…

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Nov
27

The Question of a Lifetime

Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ teaching was so memorable? Jesus was a master communicator who employed three important methods that all communicators ought to remember: he asked provocative questions, he told memorable stories and he used illuminating metaphors. Who can forget Jesus’ story of…

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Nov
22

You’re In God’s Hands Now

From Guest Writer: Rev. Karl Travis, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church Fort Worth, in Fort Worth, Texas The anesthesiologist didn’t want to do my surgery. He asked the surgeon why they were going ahead with the procedure, considering the complications and the morbidity rates. I…

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Nov
20

Mark Twain’s Favorite Word

When Mark Twain was the most well-known and respected writer in the United States, he was paid $5.00 for every word he wrote. Someone sent him a note which said, “Dear Mr. Twain, please send me your best word,” and enclosed a $5.00 bill in…

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Nov
13

Bearing Fruit

I love the story of Pablo Casals, the world’s greatest cellist, who at the age of 93 still practiced four hours a day. When a reporter asked Casals why he practiced the cello four hours a day at the age of 93, Pablo replied, “Because……

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Nov
8

An Election Day Message: Signboards, Stereotypes, and the Savior

The signboard on the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, in New York City, said simply, “This is God’s house…all are welcome.” In a sermon one Sunday, I mentioned how much I loved that signboard and everyone in the congregation nodded their head in agreement. Then, I…

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Nov
6

For Such a Time as This

A black limousine stopped in front of Buckingham Palace in London. A man emerged from the limo who was short of stature but tall in character. He had a characteristic scowl on his face. As he walked up the steps of Buckingham Palace, the world…

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Nov
1

If that’s the very worst thing that can happen…

I am flying out of Denver, Colorado one February twilight many years ago. To our right, the snow-covered plains stretch endlessly into the distance, the last light of the day still dancing in golden sparkles across the icy ground. On our left, the Rockies, high…

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Oct
30

Warning: Don’t Let Anger Eat You Alive

The following four questions are a test of how well we are managing our anger. Can you think of a time when you sent an e-mail in anger, and then wished you could retract it? Can you think of a time when you were angry…

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Oct
25

Where Politics Happens

It is surely cliché at this point to say that the U.S. is politically polarized. This reality is corroborated not only by the daily experience of most Americans, including older generations of people who say they can hardly remember a more divided time, but also by ongoing research which demonstrates an increase in ideological “purity” and a decrease in bi-partisanship and political compromise in recent decades.

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Oct
23

The Day That “Can’t” Died

The history of every family is defined by a few decisive events: weddings, births of children, moving to a new home, taking a new job, matriculating to a college or university. Family histories are also defined by illnesses, crises, and other catastrophic events. What events…

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Oct
18

Faith and Politics

From Guest Writer: Rev. Joseph F. Scrivner, Ph.D. Pastor of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Professor, Stillman College I’m a Christian. I believe God became a human being in Jesus Christ to save sinful humanity. I’m a pastor. I serve a small Presbyterian congregation. I’m a…

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Oct
16

A Walk with the President in the White House Rose Garden

A friend of mine was selected by President George H.W. Bush to be the United States Ambassador to Austria. During a time when he disagreed with the President about foreign policy, the Ambassador was summoned to the White House for a meeting in the Oval…

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Oct
11

It’s Not an Option

Tom Cousins, the Atlanta developer whose philanthropic heart has led him to dedicate his resources to breaking the cycle of poverty, told me about a dream he had one night.

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Oct
9

Loving Difficult People

Be honest. Do you know anyone who is hard for you to love? A family member? Your boss? A colleague at the office? A neighbor? As Charlie Brown used to say in the old “Peanuts” comic strip, “I love humanity… it’s just people I can’t…

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Oct
4

If Abraham Lincoln was Running for President…

Reverend Dr. Tom Tewell reflects on the current election year and wonders what Abraham Lincoln would lift up if he was running for president? He believes Lincoln would lift up the following: Civility Work for the common good Faith in God Watch Rev. Dr. Tom Tewell…

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Oct
2

The Biggest Upset in Biblical History

If Monday Night Football had been covering the events of 1,000 B.C., ancestors of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, and Al Michaels would have been providing commentary for a Super Bowl-like gladiatorial contest between the heavily favored Philistines and the underdog Israelites. The Philistines were led…

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Sep
27

Just Generosity

At meal time, my 23-month old daughter likes to share her food with me and my wife. Sometimes if she starts giving us too much of her food, I’ll say, “No, thank you. It’s for you, you eat it.” But most of the time we’ll…

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Sep
25

What was “Sully” Sullenberger’s Secret…

You may be asking what was Sully Sullenberger’s secret? As we reflect on how we are procrastinating in our own lives, we can take away some inspiration from Captain Sully Sullenberger, a U.S. Airways pilot, who made a successful emergency water landing on the Hudson…

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Sep
25

“Sully” Sullenberger’s Secret

In this passage, the people of Israel were on the verge of entering the Promised Land. Fourteen months earlier, they were led out of captivity in Egypt into the wilderness of Sinai. God led them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire…

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Sep
20

The Last Check My Father Ever Wrote…

The last check my father ever wrote was consistent with the way he and my Mother lived their lives. My parents were generous people: with their time, their material goods, their home, their ideas, and their money. Their simple philosophy of life was to give away…

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Sep
18

Peyton Manning’s Priorities…And Ours!

I love the story of the young man who wanted just the right card to express a deep sentiment to the girl he loved. Finally…he found it! The card said simply, “To the only girl I’ve ever loved.” “Terrific. Wonderful,” he said to the store…

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Sep
13

Liberating Generosity

Preachers, you’re entering one of my favorite seasons of the year. Fall Stewardship Campaign Season. I wish it lasted all year long because if there was one thing Jesus had on his mind, it was money. He seemed to think it was a matter of…

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Sep
11

When You Feel Distant from God

Our world changed on September 11, 2001. During the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., our nation came face-to-face with our vulnerability. For the first time, many people came to the realization of their need for a Higher Power. As a Pastor…

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Sep
6

The Overflow

From Guest Writer: Sheldon McGorman Pastor of Watford City Assembly of God Church, Watford City, ND. Pastor Sheldon McGorman explores what is generosity and why it’s so important to communicate to congregations. Watch the video to learn more.   The Overflow from Macedonian Ministry on Vimeo.

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Sep
4

The Power of a Bible Bookmark

“I’ll never forget it. Being a pastor in New York City on September 11, 2001 is seared in my mind.” Tom Tewell opens his first devotional with these powerful words that recall one of the darkest hours in American history. Read more about how he was able to use his ministry and a bible bookmark to bring a ray of light into that darkness.

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Aug
22

Preach Like TED

If I were to recommend one book this summer for you preachers, it would be Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo. It’s not a preaching book, per say, but it is a book about the…

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Aug
16

Preaching for Today and Tomorrow

From Guest Writer: Mark Ramsey Pastor of Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX. When I became a parent several years ago, I was amazed at the unsolicited advice about everything from sleep schedules to food ideas to nap routines to socialization regimes. In the…

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Aug
9

What Was it About Jesus’ Preaching…That Made it so Memorable?

How did Jesus’ original followers remember their Lord’s messages years after they heard them? Were they such attentive listeners that they remembered the messages for a long time? Or, was there something distinctive about the way Jesus presented the content and connected with His audience…

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Aug
2

The Challenge of Preaching Today

From Guest Writer: Rev. John Lovelace Cantelow, III Senior Pastor of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL Paul says in Romans 10:14-15(NIV), “How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of…

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Jul
28

The Justice of Sabbath

“To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence of…

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Jul
26

“The Trip of a Lifetime for Eight Unlikely People”

We are pleased to share a great article about Macedonian Ministry by McKenzie Electric Cooperative, featuring our Watford City, North Dakota Cohort and their recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land! http://mckenzieelectric.coopwebbuilder2.com/sites/mckenzieelectric/files/MEC/MKZ_JULY2016.pdf                            

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Jul
26

A Faithful Lack of Enthusiasm

“Why is it that we are so much busier than Jesus ever was?” This was the question Mark Danzey posed to a Macedonian Ministry cohort of pastors in Birmingham during a recent workshop on discipleship.

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Jul
19

Are you Suffering from Hurry Sickness?

A deadly spiritual virus is infecting our society. Every day this virus destroys relationships, and contributes to the downfall of countless individuals. The name of this deadly virus? Hurry Sickness! Consider these three questions to see if you are suffering from this virus that plagues…

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Jul
12

Give it a Rest!

“Once people feel nourished and refreshed, they cannot help but be kind; just so, the world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people.” — Wayne Muller “That is because Sabbath represents a radical disengagement from the producer-consumer rat race of the empire. The community…

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Jul
5

Receiving Rest

The gracious call of Christ is to salvation and discipleship, but it also a call to rest.

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Jun
30

Advancing the Kingdom through Conflict

William Willimon recounts an occasion when a church member on their way out of worship said, “I know that you would not intentionally hurt anyone, but I was hurt by what you said today in your sermon.” Willimon thought to himself, “Where would you get…

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Jun
29

Renewing Pastors, Transforming Congregations

Our second MM Quarterly Newsletter features Gray Norsworthy, the Senior Pastor of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church north of Atlanta, Georgia. He was invited to be part of the Atlanta Cohort of Macedonian Ministry around the same time that he was called to serve in this role.

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Jun
28

Fear and Perfect Love

From Guest Writer: Rev. Jan Tolbert Associate Pastor First Presbyterian Church, Lagrange, GA I John 4.18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” Let me begin by…

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Jun
21

When You are the Critics’ Choice…

“If you don’t rise with people’s praise, you won’t fall with their criticism.” Those words from the pastor of the church in which I grew up came home to me when I became a pastor. Many times I left the church building SOARING because of…

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Jun
14

What My Father Said….

Perhaps nothing is as demoralizing to a pastor as criticism. By criticism, I don’t mean critical feedback offered in good faith. Any pastor with a modicum of ego-strength welcomes that kind of criticism. No, the criticism I mean could better be termed “kvetching.” This is…

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Jun
7

Reflections From a Two Year Old

From Guest Writer: Rev. Courtney D. Arntzen, Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Missoula, MT. “Mine, mine, mine,” my two year old, Elias, yells as he battles his big brother, Ezra, for a toy. While I navigate the situation between the two, I hear…

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May
31

The Cross, the Body, and the “Other”: What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation is the act of restoring estranged people to the bond of friendship. The assumption of estrangement in this definition is significant because reconciliation takes place not in the context of convenient relationship but in the context of separation, segregation, alienation, indifference, and disharmony. The…

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May
17

In Praise of the Uncomfortable Pew

A few years back I was a co-pastor at a church that prided itself in having the most uncomfortable pews in Christendom. Their pride was 100% warranted; the pews were barely sit-able. But why be glad in such a thing?

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May
3

Multi-ethnicity and Mission

From Guest Writer: Corey Widmer is Senior Pastor of Third Church, Richmond VA and co-founder of East End Fellowship, a multicultural congregation. He discusses how racial diversity is crucial for missional credibility.

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Apr
26

Change or Die

Change or die. Allan Deutschman of Fast Company wrote his best-selling book by that title in response to a striking medical study which found that 90% of patients who had undergone heart by-pass surgery and had been instructed to make specific life-style changes did not…

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Apr
12

When Letting Go Feels Like Letting Down

From Guest Writer: Reverend Peter Neilson, Mentor, Macedonian Ministry St. Andrews, Scotland It was a cold November day, sitting with my wife by a log fire in a country hotel. It had been a crazy few weeks and this was the first free day we…

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Apr
5

The School of Letting Go

When we are born, we all enroll in the school of “letting go,” but most of us don’t realize it! As we go through life’s stages, we naturally attach ourselves to people, places and possessions but as life goes on, we must learn to “let…

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Mar
30

Karl Barth on Continuity and Change in the Church

During the 1950’s, theologian Karl Barth provided guidance to a distressed pastor serving in what was then Marxist East Germany. The pastor was wrestling with how the church was to faithfully continue in its traditional forms while being forced underground by the state. The following…

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Mar
17

2016 Mentor Gathering: A Learning Cohort of Mentors

The 2016 Macedonian Ministry Mentor Gathering was held on February 29th and March 1st in Atlanta, and it was a wonderful time of fellowship, prayer, encouragement, brainstorming, and mentorship. We conduct regular video conference gatherings with our mentors throughout the year, but we look forward…

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Mar
15

“I Am Not Volunteering!”

“I am not volunteering!” The parishioner who accosted me after worship one Sunday morning was not angry but so very earnest he definitely had my attention! That morning in worship we had asked for volunteers to work in our homeless shelter. His words surprised me…

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Mar
9

More Than A Marathon

Seven years ago the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama was a yearly inconvenience. But in recent years this event has become a powerful way for South Highland Presbyterian Church to connect with their neighbors. This year, South Highland got involved with what God is already…

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Mar
8

Making Disciple Makers

Rev. Adam Borneman interviewed Rev. Mark Danzey about Discipleship Ministries and the life of the church. Rev. Borneman and Rev. Danzey discussed three critical areas of Discipleship: – How do you define discipleship? – What biblical texts shape your understanding of discipleship? – What do…

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Mar
1

Does Following Jesus Change What We Do Each Day?

Or…does it change why and how we do it? Does following Jesus change the “Christian segment” of our life or…could it change EVERYTHING? The Twentieth Century Theologian and Author, C. S. Lewis, once observed that believing in Jesus Christ did not change what we do,…

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Feb
23

How to Pray for God’s Vengeance

Don’t you love Psalm 139? Here is one my favorite sections: 17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with…

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Feb
16

Experiments in Public Prayer: Restaurant Edition

I’m a Presbyterian so it pretty much goes without saying that I am not one to foist my religion on anyone else. Even so, about six years ago following a challenge by my friend Reggie McNeal, I started praying for people in public places. For…

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Feb
4

Pastors Impacting Communities

Our first MM Quarterly Newsletter features Pastors for Texas Children (PTC), a ministry that lends a helping hand to children all over the state of Texas. PTC grew out of the Macedonian Ministry Dallas-Fort Worth Cohort that began meeting in January of 2013, under the…

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Feb
2

Do We Pray To Get What We Want?

What is the purpose of prayer? Is it to change God’s mind? Is it to get what we want? Or…is there a greater purpose of prayer that we only discover when we get beyond our own wants, needs, and desires? Watch this short video by…

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Jan
26

The Balanced Life is a Sabbath-Filled Life

My daughter is almost fourteen months old. It’s amazing to observe how rapidly she’s learning. One of her recent interests is stacking. She stacks blocks, cups, toy cars, pots and pans, anything that she can lift! But at fourteen months old, she often learns the…

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Jan
19

Resigning as General Manager of the Universe

During my Father’s career in the airline industry, I learned that there is a regulatory agency that mandates the number of hours per month that a pilot can fly a plane. The Federal Aviation Agency believes that pilots carry such responsibility that they must be…

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Jan
14

VIDEO–A Story of Celebration Los Angeles, CA

We shine a spotlight on the wonderful success of our cohort group in Los Angeles, CA. The Stadia LA cohort is a diverse group of 20 Los Angeles area pastors committed to a mission of church planting, with the bold long-term goal of starting a…

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Dec
29

Seized By a Great Hope

Prolific theologian Jurgen Moltmann is known for his unyielding emphasis on hope as a central theme of Christian theology and also for the hopeless experiences from which his faith and theology emerged. Drafted into the German army during World War II as an Air Force…

Dec
15

The Inextinguishable Flicker

In a very dark world characterized by terrorism, violence, and fear, Rev. Dr. Tom Tewell offers a word of hope about the inextinguishable flicker of God’s light that no darkness can ever overcome. The Inextinguishable Flicker from Macedonian Ministry on Vimeo.

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Nov
4

2015 Macedonian Ministry International Leadership Conference

“I really enjoyed seeing the Kingdom embodied in the various cohorts – in their inclusiveness of women and men in leadership, in the diversity of racial expressions, in the call to service with creativity and risk. The whole conference raised possibility for powerful ministry that was contextual, impactful, and gospel centered… “

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Nov
2

God is Our Refuge and Strength

Being a pastor in New York City on September 11, 2001 is seared in my mind. When the planes hit the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, chaos reigned in New York. The staff of our church tried desperately to reach our members who worked in those towers.

Nov
2

The Greatest Indicator of a Healthy Church

Rev. Dr. Tom Tewell, Executive Director of Macedonian Ministry shares what he believes to be “The Greatest Indicator of a Healthy Church” and offers three suggestions you can apply to your ministry this week.

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Oct
30

Courageous Leadership

Dr. William Willimon, Bishop in the United Methodist Church speaks to our Macedonian Ministry community about Courageous Leadership. Introduction by Chris Henry of Shallowford Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA.

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Mar
17

Taking Your Communication to the Next Level

Author and communications expert Kem Meyer offers an examination of how Christian communities communicate, and three mantras that can help you take these communications to the next level. Taking Your Communication to the Next Level from Macedonian Ministry on Vimeo.

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Oct
29

Taking Your Creative Imagination to the Next Level

Dr. Steve Hayner, President of Columbia Seminary, shares some advice on the importance of keeping your creative imagination engaged in pastoral work and church leadership. Taking Your Creative Imagination to the Next Level from Macedonian Ministry on Vimeo.

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Oct
29

Discipleship: A 3 Legged Stool

On October 29, 2011, Dr. Steve Hayner led Macedonian Ministry’s Next Level Seminar, “Taking Your Creative Imagination to the Next Level.” Here’s just a clip of what was a FANTASTIC seminar!

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