Sunday May 19th – Matthew 13:9-17
The Message: Are you listening to this? Really listening? – Matthew 13:9
Monday May 20 – Matthew 13:1-9
This week of devotionals for our GPS will include several parables from Matthew about God’s Kingdom. But, this parable talks about the sower and the seed and not the Kingdom. This parable asks of us if we are listening and ready to receive the news about God’s Kingdom. Today, pause and consider if you are ready to receive God’s Kingdom? Are you ready to be surprised, to grow and be challenged by the Kingdom God has planned for all of us?
- Prayer: Gracious God, you welcome us each to be members of your Kingdom. Prepare our hearts to be receptive to your Kingdom today. Amen.
Activity: Spend time reflecting on God’s Kingdom today, write down or draw your thoughts. How would you describe God’s Kingdom? Save your reflections for the end of the week. Have your ideas and thoughts changed?
Tuesday May 21 – Matthew 13:31-32
This week for the GPS we are reading from The Message. We’re used to hearing the story with the mustard seed but today we read it with “pine nuts.” When we read this parable we learn that God’s Kingdom is a Kingdom that grows so large that people make a home in the Kingdom. How is God’s Kingdom your home? What steps could you take today to feel at home in God’s Kingdom? Are there people who are not able to make a home in God’s Kingdom? How can you welcome them?
- Prayer: Welcome me into your Kingdom-home today God and help me to choose to welcome people into your home, as well. Amen.
Activity: When has church felt like home to you? This next time you are at a church look for signs of “home.” Did you notice anything different or new?
Wednesday – Matthew 13:33
In this single verse parable, we see the image of God’s Kingdom in a woman kneading dough. We knead dough for three reasons, 1) to mix the ingredients, 2) to promote the formation of gluten which binds it together, and 3) to help the dough ferment and grow. How different would the Kingdom of God look if we were intentional about kneading our lives together as a community of faith? How can you practice “kneading” at St. Matthew’s?
- Prayer: God, today I ask that you knead me together as part of your Kingdom. Help me to grow and learn to develop into a full member of your Kingdom. Amen.
Activity: Bake some bread today or sometime this week. Buy some yeast and spend some time kneading. How does it feel to spend the time waiting and working for something to develop? What do you need to wait and work for to develop here at St. Matthew’s?
Thursday – Matthew 13:44-52
This set of Scriptures includes three parables about God’s Kingdom and one about being a student in God’s Kingdom. Each parable reveals something unique about God’s Kingdom. The first shows how something small can have incredible value. The parable about the pearl reinforces the great value we should place on God’s Kingdom. The third parable about the casting of the fishnet refers to the future coming of God’s Kingdom. The final parable is reminder that as members of the Kingdom we are trained to convey the message of God. We are called to share the incredible value of the gift of God’s grace and love in God’s Kingdom. How do you share God’s Kingdom?
- Prayer: God, today help me to value your Kingdom and share its value with others. Amen.
Activity: Consider what things (or treasures) you value most; a wedding ring, a gift, a family heirloom. Why do they hold value in your life? What stories do you tell about these treasures? What stories do you tell about God’s Kingdom? Write down your story of God’s Kingdom. Share the story with a friend or family member.
Friday May – Matthew 18:23-35
This parable is a more difficult one. As we read it we may feel condemned. In one moment the king shows grace to the servant. When the servant does not show mercy the king is angered and has the servant tortured. You may wonder is that what God has planned for me? What about God’s abundant mercy? Instead, read this Scripture as an opportunity to consider your motivations in forgiving someone. Where is your heart centered when you choose to show mercy? Are you showing mercy to extend God’s love or to benefit yourself? How can mercy in your life be Christ-centered? How is mercy a part of God’s Kingdom?
- Prayer: God of mercy, forgiveness is hard. Sometimes I hold on to pain and struggle to have a heart that focuses on the love that Jesus offers me. Mold my heart today to be more like Jesus. Amen.
Activity: When was the last time you asked for forgiveness from someone? What was it like to feel the assurance of forgiveness? When was the last time you offered forgiveness to someone? How did it feel to forgive them? If God’s Kingdom is one of forgiveness who do you need to forgive today.
Saturday – Matthew 20:1-16
We read about the abundance of God’s grace in this parable. This gift is surprising because it is in its very nature egalitarian and equitable. In God’s Kingdom we all receive the same gift of love and grace. But sometimes, we feel as if we have been treated unfairly; we doubt that God’s love can be so capable of offering such radical grace. When have you witnessed the abundance of God’s grace? How can you both accept and extend God’s grace to others – whether deserved or undeserved?
- Prayer: God of great abundance, your grace surprises us with its generosity. Help me to accept that gift and share your grace. Amen.
Activity: Doodle or visualize the word grace today. What others words do you connect with grace? Love, mercy, justice, righteousness? How do you witness God’s grace at work in the Kingdom today?
Monday May 13 — Philippians 2:5-11
Philippians Chapter 2 is often referred to as the “Christ Hymn.” Most likely, this Scripture was a very early Christian hymn. This passage of Scripture is at the foundation of how we understand the character of our king, Jesus Christ. The king we serve is not one who abuses power, who manipulates, who sees his kingdom as something to exploit. Instead our king is the one who emptied himself, who humbled himself, who was obedient to God, who lived our life and died our death. Read verses 6-11, and consider how you can live the way Christ lived. How can you model your character and life after Christ today?
Tuesday May 14 — Jeremiah 10:6-7, 10
The words in verse 10 are particularly powerful, “he is the living God and the everlasting king.” We each experience the love and grace that God offers us through Jesus Christ both in this moment (our living God) and forever (the everlasting king). What does it mean for you that our king is both living now and everlasting? What steps can you take to help you receive fully the grace that God offers you in every moment? Consider today how you can intentionally embrace the gift of God’s grace in every moment.
Wednesday May 15 — John 14:1-7
John 14 is a Scripture we often use in funerals. These words provide us comfort in times of difficulty. It is so easy in our world to become burdened and overwhelmed. We stress about family, health, jobs, finances, our church, our government, our world. In the middle of these struggles we radically proclaim that our focus is on the life that God wants us to lead by claiming Jesus as our way, truth and life. How can you focus today on who Jesus calls you to be? How can you receive comfort from proclaiming Jesus Christ as your Lord?
Thursday May 16 — Psalm 96
Psalm 96 provides us vivid imagery of our Lord and king. Our king is a saving king, who does good works for the people, who is strong, fair, and righteous. The Psalmist sees all these things in our king through wonders of creation. What does the beauty of God’s creation teach you about God’s character? During the day pause to reflect on the wonder of creation. Reflect on who God is in your life.
Friday May 17 — Matthew 10:5-7
Jesus tells the twelve go to Israel (our people) and proclaim that “The kingdom of heaven has come near (vs. 7).” Here in Matthew 10 the disciples go to the people they know the best and proclaim to their friends and neighbors that God’s Kingdom is near. This Scripture reminds us that we can encounter the love of Christ in our homes, grocery stores, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We don’t have to go far to see that God’s Kingdom in available and present. How can you witness God’s Kingdom in the places you know best today?
Saturday May 18 — Isaiah 9:2-7
This is a Scripture we often associate with Christmas Eve and the birth of Christ; as Christians we read it and see the characteristics of Christ in the words “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (vs. 6).” How do you need Jesus Christ to be present to you today as your counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and prince of peace? Spend time today reflecting on these different aspects of Jesus.
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – The Kingdom is Good News
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10, Mark 1:1, 9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:9-15)
Monday May 6 — Mark 1:1-15
The first thirteen verses of Mark’s Gospel serve as a prologue and introduction. They set the stage for the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry in verse 14. Unlike Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel, Mark does not include any birth narratives. But instead jumps right in with the (adult) ministries of John (the Baptist) and Jesus. Verses 14-15 serve as a summary of Jesus’ preaching ministry: in Jesus, God’s Kingdom is present in the world; this is good news and calls for a response. The rest of the Gospel will describe the Kingdom and God’s desired response. The question is: does the Kingdom of God sound like good news to you?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I am thankful that you have sent Jesus into the world to be The King – on earth and in heaven. Help me to trust and believe the Good News. Amen.
Tuesday May 7 — Luke 4:14-21
Luke’s account of the start of Jesus’ ministry begins with an appearance by Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown. He read from Isaiah (in chapters 58 and 61) and announced that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled. Knowing that God’s Kingdom was the primary subject of his preaching, these verses help us understand that the coming of Jesus is indeed good news, especially for people who were typically believed to be excluded from the blessing of God: the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. The question is: does this sound like good news to you?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for not understanding the scope of your love and your amazing grace. Forgive me for assuming that your love is only for people like me. Amen.
Wednesday May 8 — Luke 4:42-44
The final verses of Luke 4 connect Jesus’ preaching (Luke 4:16-21) and healing (Luke 4:31-41) with the Kingdom of God. In other words, the Kingdom of God is the life that God intended for everyone: free from the power of sin and death, whole, and healthy. This sounds like good news, but not everyone saw Jesus’ teaching and ministry as good news for them. Read Luke 4:22-30 and prayerfully reflect on why someone might resist or reject the good news of God’s Kingdom.
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the gift of new life through Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me and setting me free from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Thursday May 9 — Isaiah 52:7-10
Over the centuries, Isaiah 52:7-10 has been interpreted in a number of ways and quoted in a number of other passages. The primary message is that God’s messengers take many forms and have the joy of announcing the good news of God’s salvation. We hear God’s messengers announce good news at the birth of Jesus. We hear Jesus announcing the good news of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ disciples are charged with continuing Jesus’ ministry of announcing good news. But here’s the truth: in order to announce the good news, we must believe the good news. Do you?
• Prayer: God of Creation, I long to experience your peace and sing praises in response to the good news of salvation. Open my ears to hear the good news. Amen.
Friday May 10 — Luke 1:30-33, Luke 2:8-12
The word “angel” simply means “messenger.” The angels in the Christmas story are messengers announcing that the birth of Jesus is good news, and that “of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). The baby born in Bethlehem is “a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Jesus’s birth initiates God’s Kingdom on earth, which is why Jesus’ birth is “good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). How is the coming of God’s Kingdom good news for you?
• Prayer: God of Joyful Life, thank you for constantly showing me your love and grace. Open my heart to experience the abundant and joyful life you offer me every day. Amen.
Saturday May 11 — Romans 10:14-17
In his letter, the apostle Paul reminds the Romans of God’s great offer of salvation to everyone. He quotes Isaiah as a reminder that God, throughout the ages, has sent messengers with the good news of saving grace. His point is that we experience salvation when we hear and respond to the good news. This promise (that God sends messengers) requires that we pay attention and be willing to listen when the messengers tell us about Jesus. Are you looking for good news? Are you open to the possibility that God is speaking to you today? Will you listen?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, grant me the ability to pay attention to your messengers. Help me learn to notice signs of the good news all around me, every day. Amen.
United Methodist Women’s Sunday
Sermon – “Doubt, Faith, and Action.”
Scripture Readings: Psalm 150, John 20:19-31
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:26-29)
Monday April 29 — John 10:7-18
The Bible has much to say about the identity of Jesus. He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings and so much more. In the Gospels, Jesus often talks about himself cryptically, revealing his true nature in parable and metaphor. John’s Gospel includes what are called “I am” statements, through which Jesus reveals himself to be “bread of life,” “living water,” “the good shepherd,” “the gate,” and so much more. What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the way”? What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the good shepherd”? Read Psalm 23 and think about how Jesus fills the role of shepherd in your life?
• Prayer: Shepherding God, lead me to abundant life. Guide me and protect me today and every day. Amen.
Tuesday April 30 — Matthew 16:13-17, 20
When Jesus asks his disciples about the “word on the street,” they tell them what they’ve heard. When he asks them what they believe, Peter affirms that Jesus is the Messiah. However, Jesus insists that they not tell anyone (that he is the Messiah). Remember that the Hebrew word for “messiah” means “deliverer” or “anointed one” and that “christ” is the Greek equivalent. Can you think of reasons Jesus would not want to spread the word that he is the Messiah (the Christ)? What kind of Messiah do you think the people were expecting?
• Prayer: Saving God, I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that he will deliver me from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Wednesday May 1 — Matthew 16:21, Romans 5:16-21
One reason Jesus does not want the disciples to announce that he is the Messiah is because he is not the kind of Messiah the people were expecting. He is a suffering servant, not a military hero. Jesus will “deliver” the people through his death and resurrection. The Christian message is that we (humanity) can only be saved by grace. We need the grace that God offers through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Have you accepted God’s grace for yourself?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I need your grace. I believe it is the only way I can have a relationship with you. Amen.
Thursday May 2 — Matthew 16:13-19
Many people in North America believe in God but have no desire to be part of a church. Even among active church members there are a variety of reasons why the church is important to them. It is easy to think of church simply as a worthwhile human institution and forget that Jesus founded the church. According to the NRSV translation of the New Testament, Jesus says, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18, emphasis added.) Why is church participation important to you? Is it simply a good thing to do, or do you need the church?
• Prayer: God of History, thank you for the church. Help me remember that I need to be in a Christian community. Amen.
Friday May 3 — Colossians 1:9-23a
The New Testament consistently describes the church as the Body of Christ, declaring that Jesus is the head of the Body. This means that: (1) the church continues the “bodily” ministry of Jesus in the world, doing what Jesus did in his earthly ministry; and (2) that individually, we are “members” of the body (1 Corinthians 12:27). How have you been joined to other believers as a member of the Body of Christ? Have you made your gifts and abilities available to Jesus? How is God using you to transform the world?
• Prayer: Transforming God, I am willing to serve you today. Use me in your eternal project to change the world. Amen.
Saturday May 4 — Hebrews 10:12-25
One of the reasons we need the church is because the church helps us to be the people God wants us to be. The church is the place where we can make and keep the commitments that change our lives: worshipping, growing, serving, sharing, and giving. Christian discipleship is not a self-help project. It is a group effort, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Remember Hebrews 10:24-25 whenever you are tempted to go it alone. What help do you need to become the person God wants you to become? What can you do to help someone else?
• Prayer: Loving God, my life is incomplete without you and other people. Help me be the person you want me to be. Amen.
Sermon – The Decision to Believe
Scripture Readings: John 20:1-18, John 20:24-31
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. . . . Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. (John 20:1, 6-8)
Monday April 22 — John 20:1-10
On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross and was buried in a garden tomb. Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away, she thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body. So she went to get the disciples. Slowly, but surely, they came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but they did not yet fully understand the whole story. Sometimes we are like Mary and the disciples. We do not fully understand the meaning of Easter. How has God helped you increase your faith and your understanding of the Good News of Easter?
• Prayer: Living God, help me grow in my faith, and understand the true meaning of Easter. Prepare me to encounter the risen Christ in my life today. Amen.
Tuesday April 23 — John 20:11-18
In the garden, Mary Magdalene has an encounter with Jesus, but she does not recognize him until he calls her by name. Like the Good Shepherd that he is, Jesus knows his flock and calls every one of us by name. (See John 10:3,14.) The Good News is that Jesus knows and loves us before we know or love or even recognize him. God’s love and grace are present in our lives before we can know or name them. The living Christ is ready and able to open our eyes so that we can see him and follow him. Where have you encountered the living Christ today? Will you ask him to open your eyes so that you can see and follow him?
• Prayer: Eternal God, despite the fact that I often do not recognize your presence in my life, I believe that you know and love me. Amen.
Wednesday April 24 — John 20:19-31
The second part of John 20 includes Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples (John 20:19-23) and his relationship with Thomas, and Thomas’ need to see in order to believe (John 20:24-29). What Jesus tells Thomas is a message for us: seeing Jesus in the flesh, in first-century Israel, is not a requirement for Christian discipleship. If we are willing, we can hear the Good News of Easter—and believe. What is preventing you from believing the Good News of Easter? Are you willing to believe in God’s life-changing resurrection power?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I doubt the Good News of Easter. Help me to believe in the life-changing power of Jesus’ resurrection. Amen.
Thursday April 25 — John 21:1-14
The final chapter of John’s Gospel serves as a transition between Jesus’ earthly life and ministry and the continued ministry of his disciples (the Church). We know that the resurrected Jesus is the one who both commissions the disciples (John 20:21-23) and empowers the disciples to perform miracles (John 21:6). The point is that the power of God that was present in Jesus’ earthly ministry will be available to Jesus’ disciples as they continue to serve in his name. In light of the resurrection stories in John 20 and 21, how have you experienced Jesus’ commission and Jesus’ power? Where is Jesus sending you? What is Jesus sending you to do?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for Jesus and for the gift of salvation. Fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I might serve you today. Amen.
Friday April 26 — John 21:15-19
Jesus’ final conversation with Simon Peter demonstrates the life-changing power of God’s grace. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, is offered grace and is able to affirm his love for Jesus and his willingness to serve as Jesus’ representative in the world. The work of the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11-18) is passed on to Peter. Everyone who loves Jesus is expected to fulfill the commandment to love one another (John 13:34-35). Do you love Jesus? Do you really love Jesus? If so, how will you fulfill Jesus’ command to love and care for others? How is your love for Jesus evident in your love for others?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I love you. I love your Son, Jesus. And I love your Holy Spirit. Let your love flow through me into the world. Amen.
Saturday April 27 — John 21:20-25
The Gospel According to John ends where it begins: with an invitation from Jesus to, “Follow me” (John 21:19, 22). When we decide to follow Jesus, we may not know where he will lead us, but we can trust that he will be with us. We can trust that he will be our shepherd, our guide, and our Savior. And that, through him, we will find eternal rest and peace. Have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow him? If not, what is preventing you? Take the next (or first) step on your journey today.
• Prayer: God of Grace, grant me courage to take the next (or first) step in my journey of discipleship. With your help, I will follow Jesus. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Surrender
Scripture Readings: John 12:12-15, John 10:1-6, 14-18
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:14-15, 17-18)
Monday April 15 — John 13:1-38
During supper with his disciples, Jesus got up from the table and washed their feet. Peter’s response is a clue that this was an extraordinary event. In a world of unpaved roads and open-toed footwear, washing feet was essential, but it was usually done by servants, not by the master or host. Jesus sets an example for all of us. Even though we may not wash dirty feet, Jesus calls us to serve others with the same kind of love and humility. What do you think about Jesus’ example? Do you prefer to serve or be served? Are you willing to follow Jesus’ example?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for your Son, Jesus. Grant me courage to follow his example and be your servant in the world. Amen.
Tuesday April 16 — John 14:1-15:17
Chapters 14 through 17 in John’s Gospel contain Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples. In this section, he prepares them for his departure — for when he will no longer be with them in the flesh. Jesus reassures his disciples that he will come again and take them to their heavenly home, and that God will send the Holy Spirit to be their Advocate. The ultimate promise is found in John 14:3. It is similar to the promise made in Matthew 28:20, which is that the living Jesus Christ will be with us. Always. How do Jesus’ words in this section of the Gospel provide you comfort and peace? Which promise is most comforting to you?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, I long to be in your presence. Send the Holy Spirit into my life to guide and comfort me all my days. Amen.
Wednesday April 17 — John 15:18-16:33
The promise of the Holy Spirit is a central theme in Jesus’ final discourse. Five different times he tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will be their Advocate and will teach them everything they need to know. When the Holy Spirit is present in their lives, Jesus’ disciples will continue to experience his presence and will be empowered to continue his ministry. The Holy Spirit will be the source of the disciples’ continued learning and growth as they follow and serve Jesus in the world. How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? How is the Holy Spirit helping you to learn and grow?
• Prayer: Gracious God, open my heart and mind to receive and trust in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit today. Guide my life. Amen.
Thursday April 18 — John 17:1-26
After teaching his disciples, Jesus prays for them and for everyone who will believe in him through their witness. He prays for the Church universal. He prays for us. He prays that we, the Church, will be in the world but not of the world. He prays for our unity, the unity of the Church, “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). Do you believe that God will answer Jesus’ prayer? If so, how do you see his prayer being answered in your life? Do you see signs of love? Do you see signs of unity? Are you helping to answer this prayer?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to love my brothers and sisters in the Church. Use me to help answer Jesus’ prayer for unity. Amen.
Friday April 19 — John 18:1-40
John’s entire account of Jesus’ life and ministry has been moving toward the events described in chapters 18 and 19. John 18:4-5 are critical verses. They fulfill the promises Jesus made in John 10:17-18. Jesus’ life is not taken from him. As the Good Shepherd, he lays it down “of [his] own accord” (John 10:18). As the suffering servant, he freely offers himself for the sins of the world. This is the ultimate sign of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Have you accepted the gift of God’s love? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Today, I believe in Jesus. Amen.
Saturday April 20 — John 19:1-42
On the cross, we see the paradox of the Gospel. The man who was crucified was — and is — the King of the Jews. God’s Messiah was not an earthly leader. He was not the kind of king the people wanted (see John 6:15) or expected. He was the suffering servant, the sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Spend time today thinking and praying about what Jesus’ death means to you. Allow the darkness of his death help you prepare for the light of Easter.
• Prayer: God of Love, I can’t comprehend the depth of your love. I am ready and willing to follow and serve the crucified Messiah. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Persevere
Scripture Readings: John 7:25-36, John 7:37-44
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Monday April 8 — John 7:37-53
Not everyone who meets Jesus chooses to follow him. This is one of the themes of the Gospels. We find several different reasons for rejecting Jesus, including lack of understanding about what the Scriptures say about the Messiah and lack of belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Some of the religious leaders are also jealous of his popularity. But for many people, Jesus is not going to be the kind of King and Messiah they want him to be. He follows God’s agenda, not theirs. He is not a mighty warrior in the conventional sense. Have you ever wanted to turn away from Jesus? Have you ever wished that Jesus would follow your agenda and not God’s agenda?
• Prayer: Eternal God, forgive me for the ways I resist or even reject Jesus. Help me learn to trust that you know best and that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior that I need. Amen.
Tuesday April 9 — John 8:1-59
The encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is an attempt by the scribes and Pharisees to test Jesus and get him to indict himself. (Jewish law insists that both men and women caught in adultery are to be punished by death – see Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22.) Instead, Jesus insists that only people without sin can render judgment on her. In some sense, it’s a parable of the Gospel: when we encounter Jesus, we can experience God’s grace, which has the power to change our lives. Have you received God’s grace? Has it changed your life?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I am not without sin, and yet I eagerly render judgment on others. I am a sinner who needs to encounter your love and grace for myself. Amen.
Wednesday April 10 — John 9:1-41
Each of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include stories of Jesus healing people who are blind. These miracles demonstrate God’s power, but John’s Gospel teaches us that Jesus’ miracles are signs that point to a larger truth about God. That is: an encounter with Jesus can heal our spiritual blindness. When we trust Jesus, and grant him access to our lives, we begin to see more clearly. We begin to see ourselves the way God sees us. We begin to see the world the way God sees it. In prayer, ask God to open your eyes to see more clearly.
• Prayer: Almighty God, I am amazed at your power and your grace. I am ready to give you access to my life, so that I can see you, myself, and the world more clearly. Amen.
Thursday April 11 — John 10:1-41
As we read John’s Gospel, we discover that the entire story is pointing to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We read about conflict with the authorities. We read about Jesus’ veiled and not so veiled references to his own suffering and death. And we discover that Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd who protects and cares for us, we discover that is the kind of shepherd who will lay down his life for us. Ultimately, what we discover is that God’s love is sacrificial love. How have you experienced God’s sacrificial love? How have you shared sacrificial love with someone else?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for my salvation. Thank you for loving me this way. Amen.
Friday April 12 — John 11:1-54
The story of Lazarus shows us how Jesus is at the same time fully human and fully divine. He weeps at the death of friend, but the power of God – the power to overcome death – is at work in and through his words and actions. John 11 looks forward to Jesus’ own death and resurrection. It also shows us how God works in our lives, setting us free from the power of death, so that we can live fully and abundantly. Do you have a sense of how much God loves you? How have you experienced God’s live-giving (resurrection) power in your life?
• Prayer: God of Love and Power, I hear your voice calling to me, inviting me to live a new life with you. I am ready to be set free from the power of sin and death today. Amen.
Saturday April 13 — John 11:55-12:50
By the time we get to the twelfth chapter of John’s Gospel, we are ready to accompany Jesus through the last days of his earthly life. We follow Jesus into the city, waving our own palm branches to hail him as our King. We feel the pain of discovering that Jesus will suffer and die – and we join the crowds in struggling to understand how and why he must die: how is it that God’s Messiah will be lifted up (on the cross to die)? What kind of King suffers this way? Are you ready to follow Jesus through his last week?
• Prayer: God of Life and Death, give me the courage I need to trust that you know best. Give me the courage I need to follow Jesus all the way. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Respond
Scripture Readings: James 1:22-25, John 6:1-14
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. (John 6:9-11)
Monday April 1 — John 6:1-15
An account of Jesus feeding a large crowd of people is found in each of the four New Testament Gospels. But only John’s Gospel tells us about the little boy who has five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes what the little boy has to offer and uses it to perform a miracle. The Good News is that Jesus can also perform a miracle with what we have to offer. But, like the little boy, we must be willing to let Jesus use what we have. What is preventing you from allowing Jesus to take everything you have and use it to perform a miracle? What are you holding back?
• Prayer: God of Miracles, I give you everything I have today. Use it to share the Good News and accomplish your mission on earth. Amen.
Tuesday April 2 — John 6:15-21
When the people saw that Jesus had performed another miraculous sign (feeding the large crowd), they wanted to make him their king. But he refused and retreated to the mountain alone. Later, John tells us, Jesus walked on the water to meet the disciples on the sea, demonstrating his glory as one who shares God’s mastery over the entire creation. If Jesus is Lord over creation, have you let him be Lord over your life? What part(s) of your life have you not surrendered to Jesus’ Lordship?
• Prayer: Lord of Creation, today I surrender my entire life to you. I am willing for you to be Lord over every part of my life. Amen.
Wednesday April 3 — John 6:22-59
After Jesus fed the large crowd and walked on the water, he interpreted those events in a long discourse that also included dialogue with both his disciples and the crowds. Since John’s Gospel does not focus on the bread and wine at the Last Supper (instead it focuses on the foot-washing, see John 13), the sixth chapter helps us understand that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus himself is the Bread of Life that sustains us and provides strength for our Christian journey. Where do you turn to find strength for your journey? In what ways do you rely on God to strengthen and sustain you as you follow Jesus? Is the Sacrament of Holy Communion one of your spiritual disciplines? How is Jesus the Bread of Life for you?
• Prayer: Sustaining God, I am aware that I need your love and grace to sustain me in life. I am thankful for Jesus, the Bread of Life. Amen.
Thursday April 4 — John 6:60-71
Jesus’ words always call for a response. Some people respond in faith and trust. Some people question what they hear. Some people wonder if it is possible to do what Jesus asks. Some people respond with disbelief and reject Jesus and his teaching altogether. John’s Gospel tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples stopped following him. But Simon Peter speaks for all who keep following Jesus when he asks, “to whom can we go?” (John 6:67). In other words, who else offers eternal life? Do any of Jesus’ teachings trouble you and cause you to question what you hear? What helps you to trust and follow Jesus when you have questions and doubts? Do you ever pray about your questions?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I know that your grace is sufficient for my questions, my fears and my doubts. Today I choose to follow Jesus! Amen.
Friday April 5 — John 7:1-24
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him and challenged him to go to Jerusalem and perform his acts in public. Jesus refused to let them set his agenda, but he went to the festival in Jerusalem anyway and taught in the temple. Like before, his words created conflict as he challenged people to see that God was present in his words and his life. What helps you to pay attention to the presence of God in your life? Are you willing to consider that God works in unexpected ways?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to be aware of your presence in my life. Open my eyes and help me see more clearly. Amen.
Saturday April 6 — John 7:25-36
One of the themes of John’s Gospel is that God is firmly in control of all of the events surrounding Jesus’ life. (See John 19:11 for an explicit statement of this truth.) Despite the fact that the people are divided and the authorities want to arrest and kill him, Jesus remains in control of the situation. In John 7, we are reminded that even Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death are within God’s control. God ensures that Jesus’ mission is fulfilled. What prevents you from trusting that God is firmly in control of your life? This does not mean that you will not make mistakes and suffer during your life, but that God will strengthen and sustain you—always.
• Prayer: Loving God, I know that you are with me always. Help me grow in confidence and faith that you are Lord of my life. Amen.
Monday March 25 – John 4:1-26
There are so many things we could focus on in this Scripture. Today consider verse 15, the Samaritan woman asks for the water that Jesus offers. She seems confused, thinking after one sip of this “magic water” she will never be thirsty again. But Jesus is instead offering eternal life through him, the Messiah. She doesn’t understand this fully until verse 26. How often do we come to Jesus expecting one thing and receiving another? Consider today how an encounter with Jesus can be surprising or even change your entire world view.
Prayer: Surprising God, sometimes I come before you expecting one thing and receive something totally different. Prepare my heart today to be surprised by you. Amen.
Tuesday March 26 – John 4:27-42
The disciples and Jesus, and the Samaritan townspeople were very different from one another. Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another or even speak to each other. However, the Samaritans in the town of Sychar had the same converting experience to the Good News of Jesus as the disciples. So much so, that they invited Jesus to stay with them in their home (vs. 40). We live in a world of stark division and it can be hard to find ways to even start a conversation with people “across the aisle.” Maybe we could start with welcoming one another? How can you actively welcome someone today who is different from you?
Prayer: God today I welcome Jesus. Help me to welcome others in Jesus name every day. Amen.
Wednesday March 27 – John 4:43-54
The stories of Nicodemus (John 3), the Samaritan woman (4:1-42), and the official’s son (4:43-54) intersect in this passage. Jesus offers Nicodemus new life if he is born of water and the Spirit. Nicodemus is confused. The Samaritan woman initially does not understand the offer of water from Jesus. However, she embraces the fullness of the gift of eternal life and shares it with others. The royal official asks for life for his son and his entire household comes to believe in Jesus. Life with Jesus can mean different things to each of us. Have you been confused like Nicodemus, transformed like the Samaritan woman, or desperate for healing like the official’s son? What does life with Jesus mean for you?
Prayer: Today God I request life with you. Life with you can be confusing, transforming and healing. Surround me with the fullness of your gift of life today.
Thursday March 28 – John 5:1-18
The opening of John 5 is almost abrupt in the limited interaction Jesus has with the paralyzed man. Jesus heals him so quickly. In their second conversation Jesus gives him an instruction, “Do not sin any more… (vs. 14).” Receiving healing and new life in Jesus is more than just the transformation. We are called to respond; to live a life continually following Jesus. We are called not to sin and to ask for forgiveness when we do sin. How do you choose to follow Jesus every day? How can you be reminded to live a life free of sin with Jesus?
Prayer: Forgiving God, you offer to me healing and a life with you. Guide me to seek forgiveness and healing in every moment. Amen.
Friday March 29 – John 5:19-30
Each passage from John this week teaches about life in Jesus. The gift of life in Jesus happens in different ways, however, this gift does not happen apart from the Father. Verse 5:30 confirms this as Jesus says, “I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” In this passage we come to a full understanding that God’s intention and covenant with humanity is that we may have life and have it abundantly through Jesus Christ (John 10:10). What does abundant life mean for you? How can you accept abundant life from God through Jesus Christ today?
Prayer: God of abundance, from the beginning, you have sought to love and care for your creation. Remind me today that you want a full and abundant life for me. Amen.
Saturday March 30 – John 5:31-47
When reading this Scripture, it almost sounds like a trial in courtroom. Jesus talks about testifying, testimony, and accusers. Jesus speaks about John as a witness, the works of God through Jesus, himself, as a witness, and even Moses (vs. 45-46). What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus? Recall the Samaritan woman witnessing to her encounter with Jesus, the royal official’s household witnessing healing and believing, the paralyzed man testifying to the Jews about his healing. Who witnessed to you and shared the stories of Jesus? How can you be a witness for Jesus today?
Prayer: God, I have witnessed you moving in our world. Open my eyes to see you at work. Equip me to witness to others about the great things you are doing each day. Amen.
NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team: Recommendations to Church Council -March 19, 2019
The Strategic Worship Team was created to evaluate the current worship schedule and identify ways for all age levels to engage with both Sunday School and their preferred worship style.
Language from the NLI Report: The team will evaluate the current schedule with a goal to provide an opportunity for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship. In particular, there was an expressed desire for the youth to be able to participate in the modern worship service without having to choose between Sunday School / Confirmation and worship.
The team recommends the following:
· New service schedule
8:30 a.m. – Traditional worship
9:45 a.m. – Sunday School for all ages
11:00 a.m. – Modern worship
· Offer Children’s Worship for both 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services.
· Ensure a robust offering of Sunday School options for all ages.
· Begin new schedule in September with the start of a new school year.
In addition to eliminating the conflict between Sunday School and services, the committee considered the following advantages to this recommendation:
· The modern worship service is given equal value to traditional worship. There is a perception reflected in the survey comments that attendees of the modern service don’t feel as valued as the traditional service attendees. Given the logistical/time constraints of the current service schedule, the modern worship team is limited to the scope of worship experiences that could be offered during this service. The later time would allow for more creative planning of the modern worship experience.
· Given the rehearsal time needed for traditional choirs before service, the early service is preferable for the traditional service so adults/youth/children aren’t leaving Sunday School early each week for rehearsals.
· In addition to considering the service preferences for our current congregation, the committee also considered which option might allow for growth. The modern worship style seems to have the widest appeal for young families and youth, so offering it at the later time seemed the best option.
***Please note that this recommendation is not a final decision. Church Council has the authority to make the final decision regarding a change to the worship schedule.***
We appreciate that the data doesn’t offer a clear solution. We could spend months gathering additional data, debating options and considering the merits and challenges for each one. We understand that making a change to the worship schedule later this year could negatively impact church attendance. We also believe that not making a change to the worship schedule could also negatively impact attendance as there will continue to be a conflict between the modern worship service and Sunday School. In the interest of providing closure for this NLI initiative, our team came to a consensus on this recommendation for Church Council.
You are welcome to share any additional thoughts or observations you have by emailing Mandy Lloyd, firstname.lastname@example.org, or speaking with any member of the NLI Strategic Worship Team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.
We will be hosting a town hall meeting on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00 p.m. to discuss the information learned from the survey and the committee’s recommendation to Church Council. We invite you to continue the conversation with us!
Worship Team NLI November 2018 Update
We enjoyed hearing from so many of you during our Listening Sessions in October and November. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas with our team! To meet the current needs of our congregation and to carry on in our mission to invite and welcome new people to our church, St. Matthew’s will continue offering both traditional and modern worship services as well as Sunday School on Sunday mornings. The team agrees that the best time to make a change in our Sunday morning schedule will be either May 1 or September 1, 2019. We are currently drafting a survey to share with the congregation to solicit input on proposed schedule changes. Surveys, both online and paper copies, will be published in January. The team will meet again at the end of January to review the results of the surveys. We aim to submit our final recommendation to Church Council at their February meeting. Ideally, we will have at least 6 weeks to communicate any change in the Sunday morning schedule to our church community. Keep in mind that no final decisions have been made at this time, and our goal is to ensure transparent communication throughout this process.
If you have additional thoughts or questions, you can email Mandy Lloyd, email@example.com, and/or connect with any other member on the team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele. We invite you to continue the conversation with us!
NLI Update October 2018
Fall is a busy time at St. Matthew’s, and NLI is no exception! In September, the Vision Alignment Team and Church Council members met with St. Matthew’s NLI Mentor, Rev. Reggie Tuck, who led them in a discussion on discerning the values that best characterize St. Matthew’s. The Worship and Communications Teams have been meeting since this summer, and just this past Sunday, the Worship Team hosted two of three planned listening sessions. A total of 60 people attended both sessions and shared their thoughts on worship. The next listening session will take place Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary. If you’re unable to attend, but would like to share your thoughts with the Team, please email Mandy Lloyd, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second session of Financial Peace University began on October 7. As you may recall, one of the five NLI recommendations we received suggested offering Financial Peace University. So far this initiative has been a great success.
Another NLI recommendation being implemented this fall is the formation of life groups. A successful pilot program was held last spring, and 3 life groups involving 37 St. Matthew’s members began meeting in September. The groups are meeting on a weekly basis through the end of this month. We have one adults group, one parents of teens group, and a blended young adults/young families group.
As we move through the fall into the Advent season, you’ll see additional opportunities seeking your participation. I hope you will take advantage of them, so that we can include your input as we take this journey.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, suggestions, and ideas.
Church Council Chair
- Why is corporate worship (worship with others) important to you?
- Which service do you usually attend and why?
- What factors impact your worship attendance decisions?
NLI July 3, 2018 Update
I would like to introduce to you the members of our NLI Strategic Worship and Communications teams. The Strategic Worship Team is tasked with evaluating the current worship schedule and identifying ways for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship. The Communications Team will develop a strategic communications plan that will contemplate updates to St. Matthew’s website and social media presence, as well as address the ways we communicate to those within and outside of the church through our bulletins, symbols, and signage.
The members of the Strategic Worship Team include: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Mandy Lloyd, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.
The members of the Communications Team include: Susan Adams, Fran DelVecchio, Kim Lauer, Chris Laughlin, Keith Robertory, and Lori Taylor.
These groups will begin meeting shortly, and we will be sharing their progress as they move forward. Additionally, each group will be looking to the congregation for feedback and input as they do their work. Stay tuned for these opportunities. I want to thank these members of our congregation for agreeing to help lead us as we discern how best to address the critical issues of worship and communication. Please keep these team members and their efforts in your prayers.
The Vision Alignment Team has also continued their work. The members of the Vision Alignment Team are John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Neil Hough, Beth Lanthier, and Boe Workman. At their last meeting, they considered a draft presentation created by Boe Workman, which includes the feedback St. Matthew’s members provided during the NLI Weekend last fall and input from the Discipleship Committee. The Church Council will hear more about the VAT’s progress and plans for congregation outreach, which they expect to begin in the very near future. This outreach will occur in multiple forms and in a variety of settings so that everyone will be able to provide input.
Please continue to be in prayer for our church as we implement the NLI Report Recommendations, and please feel free to contact Neil or me with any questions, concerns, or comments.
From Pastor Neil
Here is an NLI update, as reported to the St. Matthew’s Church Council on February 28, 2018. After more than a year of preparation, we held our NLI Retreat weekend in October 2017. The weekend culminated with a celebration worship service and a presentation of our NLI report. This report describes St. Matthew’s areas of strength, areas of weakness (where we have room to grow) and outlines five Innovations that are designed to help us take the next steps of faithful ministry. After much discussion and two lively town halls, the Innovation Report was accepted by an 84% majority of members present at a called Church Conference in November. The five Innovations are in the areas of: vision alignment; communications; worship; discipleship; and generosity.
Work is underway on several of the Innovations and you will be hearing much more about them in the coming weeks. At its January meeting, St. Matthew’s Church Council approved a seven-member Vision Alignment Team (VAT) consisting of: John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Beth Lanthier and Boe Workman. The VAT is just beginning its work of discerning God’s vision for the next season of St. Matthew’s ministry. They will be meeting with our mentor, Reverend Reggie Tuck on March 18. One of the primary questions they are considering is: what does God’s preferred future for St. Matthew’s Church look like? As part of their work, they will be asking the entire congregation to join them in the discernment process. So, I want to ask you – as part of your Lenten spiritual discipline to pray for God’s guidance for St. Matthew’s Church. Ask God to help us dream God’s dreams for our church and community. Ask God to give us courage to move into the future with confidence and faith and hope, not fear and anxiety. Ask God to help us grow closer to Jesus and have a clearer picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
In other NLI news, a Discipleship Team is being formed and is meeting this week to start envisioning a plan that will strengthen our ability to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Members of the Discipleship Team are: Annette Landers, Chris Ligon, Jenny Ligon, Gail Krieder, Sean Moran, Susan Moran, and Keisha Smith. The Trustees are exploring ways to improve signage in and around the church. And, starting on March 18, we will be offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The Church Council, VAT, and Discipleship Team, along with other church leaders are reading Membership to Discipleship: Growing Mature Disciples Who Make Disciples by Phil Maynard so that we can have common language as we carry out God’s mission together. Members of the Discipleship Team will be attending an Intentional Discipleship workshop led by Phil Maynard on March 15. These were all action items outlined in the Innovations Report.
As I said above, some of this work is just beginning and you will hear a lot more in the coming weeks. More importantly, you will be invited to grow closer to Jesus in your own life and participate in the discernment and decision-making processes as we dare to imagine what God is dreaming – not only for St. Matthew’s Church, but for the community and the world that so desperately needs to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus. God has blessed St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church with an abundance of gifts, so that we can be a blessing to the world.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
On Sunday afternoon, we held a called Church Conference to vote on the Innovations we were given in the NLI Report. Here are the results of the voting:
Total votes cast, 150: Yes, 126 (84%); No, 24 (16%).
I want to thank everyone who participated in the town halls and came out on Sunday afternoon to participate in the Church Conference. Whether you voted “yes” or “no,” your passion to do God’s work and commitment to St. Matthew’s Church is evident. Please continue keep St. Matthew’s UMC in your prayers as we work together to fulfill God’s dreams for the church and community.
Attached is the link for the NLI Report St Matthews Final Innovation Report 10.15.17.
What is Next Level Innovations (NLI)?
NLI is an investment in our larger churches that have a recognized potential for reaching more people in their community and inviting them to become disciples of Jesus. These churches have healthy and coachable leadership (clergy and lay).
NLI is based on similar programs in other UMC conferences, such as Missional Church Consultative Initiative (MCCI) out of West Ohio Conference and Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) from the Missouri Conference. Like the above mentioned programs, NLI has multiple components including a foundation of prayer, monthly clergy training, two to three laity training events, an intensive weekend of church study, a detailed report and recommendation for innovations specially developed for the church, and follow up coaching for a year or more.
Who is Invited to Participate?
District Superintendents have carefully studied and selected potential church participants. Churches selected have met size, health and potential growth requirements. Leadership, both clergy and lay, should be teachable and ready to lead change.
What is the Church’s Commitment?
NLI churches commit to a number of activities over a period of three or more years. They commit themselves to a practice of daily prayer for the ministry of their church. They support their pastor’s participation in monthly training. Each church forms an NLI team that helps the pastor implement the training they receive. Church leaders participate in two to three training events designed for laity, around issues such as breakthrough prayer and stewardship. Church leaders and attendees participate with a consultation team and mentors in a weekend long intensive study of the strengths and weaknesses of their church, and the best potential innovations to move forward. Upon receipt of the NLI report and recommended innovations at the end of the weekend, the church will hold a series of town hall meetings to decide whether or not to proceed with the innovations. If the innovations are accepted, the church then works with their mentor to implement the innovations. If the innovations are not accepted, the mentoring, peer groups and laity training come to an end.
What is the Clergy Commitment?
Clergy participants are expected to attend approximately nine NLI meetings – these will be held locally for the majority of the work day. There will be associated reading and projects with these trainings. Clergy are then expected to return to their church and with the help of their NLI team begin to implement the ideas and innovations about which they have learned. Clergy will help organize, prepare for and fully attend the Innovation Weekend.
Topics that are likely to be included in clergy training are all from the larger church perspective, including breakthrough prayer techniques, how to lead change, stewardship, discipleship, staffing, and aligning vision with staff and laity. Special topics may be designed for the needs of each particular group of churches.
What is the District Commitment?
The District will provide leadership and administration for NLI and secure outside funding to offset much of the significant cost of this ministry. The district will secure training locations and leaders and district staff will participate fully in each of the NLI weekends. The district will arrange for and oversee the Innovation Mentors for each church. The District is giving significant staff time to the development of this process and these churches over the next several years, all without increasing the apportionments. This is possible due to the income from the new District Offices and grants from the Virginia Conference and the Virginia Foundation.
What is the cost?
The overall cost of NLI exceeds $10,000 per church. Each church will be asked to contribute $3,000 over the course of three years; $500 for the first year, $1500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.
In addition, clergy will be asked to purchase books and materials for their training and each church will be asked to cover the cost of hospitality and meals for the weekend Innovation Consultation team.
How is this different from every other conference/district program we’ve seen come to us over the years?
First of all, this program has been developed after a study of several very successful programs in other conferences and states – this model of super-charged training of the clergy, mentoring, and an intensive weekend study, followed by individualized plans for growth has been used over and over again over the last ten years or so to revitalize congregations throughout our denomination.
We didn’t want to just take someone else’s model though – we think Northern Virginia churches are unique, and large churches in our area have significant struggles that are not the same as other churches. So we invested the past year in interviewing and designing this program with a team of large church pastors who have already succeeded in growing large churches in this area. The team committed to bringing you the best resources they wished they’d had as they grew their churches- and that became NLI.
This was never intended to be a one size fits all program; each church will take what they need from the program and contextualize it to the current situation. Each church will have an individual mentor, so it is not just information shared, but a plan to implement with accountability as well.
There is also a significant investment of Conference and District funding and staffing. These investments would not occur if there was not significant belief that NLI will make a difference in these churches and in their communities for Christ.
What if we already have a mission, vision and strategic plan set out, or in development?
NLI is intended to work with the church wherever it is in its lifecycle to help move to the next level. As a church lives in to their current strategic plans, the pastor may develop more resources and the laity may find available training through NLI that can help their current strategic plans. The innovations that will come from the Innovation Consultation Weekend will not occur until year 2 of the NLI process, and at that time the church can discern if those innovations become a new part of the strategic plan, or they can choose not to implement them.
How much laity time and effort will this take?
How much clergy/staff time and effort will this take?
Each church should have an NLI team that has been oriented to the process, and will assist the lead clergy in communications and accountability. During the first year, this group will meet at one Orientation meeting, and 2-3 additional times with the lead pastor for training, as needed. There should also be a team working to prepare for the Innovation Weekend Consultation that will occur in the second year; they will do a self-study of the church and prepare for the special weekend. After the weekend, if the church goes forward with the Innovations, there will be substantial laity teams working on each of the Innovations.
For the first year, the major time commitment will be for the lead pastor. There will be approximately nine full or partial day meetings to develop resources, insight, and leadership techniques specific to large, Northern Virginia churches to help lead changes that are to come. The pastor may need additional help or scheduling work-arounds, and the church should be prepared to allow this time investment. Other clergy and/or staff can plan a role in both some of the training events and in assisting the pastor in implementation and administration.
Who is our mentor, and how does that part work?
Mentors have been recruited and will be assigned to churches by the NLI District team, including your District Superintendent. Our mentor is Reverend Reggie Tuck, Senior Pastor of Messiah UMC in Springfield.
Mentors are for the whole church, and will probably most often have a one-on-one relationship with the pastor as well. They will coach, resource, challenge, and help implement innovations throughout the entire process. Your church will not be alone in figuring out what to do next – you will have a mentor who has already done this work in their own churches and ministries.