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    Elders' Blog - Entries from March 2014

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    ThuThursdayMarMarch27th2014 Funny Is Good, Too
    byDon Whipple Tagged Encouragement Humor 0 comments Add comment

    Remember the story of the twin boys with opposite personalities? One was a miserable pessimist, the other an incurable optimist. The parents, seeking to balance the two, gave the pessimist a new bike for Christmas and the optimist a bag of horse manure.

    Christmas morning came. The parents asked the pessimist, “Do you like your new bike?” He replied, “It’s okay, but it will probably rust and I’ll have a wreck and cut myself and probably have to have a tetanus shot or maybe even kill myself ...”

    Realizing their experiment had failed, they asked, “Where’s your brother?” To which he replied, “Oh, he got all excited and went outside saying something about trying to find his new horse!”

    Bill Elliff uses this joke to make an excellent point in a November 2013 blog post for Life Action Ministries. I copy and paste the joke here because it is funny. Funny is good, too. 

    In fact, laughter is more than just good; it is an essential part of a gospel-focused life. If there is a science to humor, one of the core components of “funology” would be the element of surprise. In the opening story, the reader is lured into the unexpected and surprising punch line that induces at least a half smile, if not a mild snort. Most of us identify with one of the twins.  

    God’s loving rescue of our lives and world is full of the unexpected and surprising. Rather than laughter being used exclusively to escape reality, express foolishness, or mistreat others, it can have some pretty deep redemptive roots. The wisdom writer exposes the limitations of laughter (Eccl. 2:1-3). It is a blessing but cannot save. The limited shelf life of laughter points us to our need of a Savior, too. 

    God causing Sarah to have a son after her and her husband’s bodies had clearly moved on to other age-appropriate concerns is a reason to laugh (Gen. 21:6-7). Sarah would be disappointed if you didn’t laugh with her when you visited her in the hospital the day after the delivery. I think her comment, “Who would have said…?” is a wonderful model for gospel-induced humor. That line sets the reader up for a summary of surprise. What was once a reprimand for Sarah (Gen. 18:12-15), God turned into joy. She thinks it’s laugh-worthy; so should we. 

    Psalm 126 provides another setting for the gospel giggles. You have experienced it I am sure. The psalmist expresses the laughter of God’s people after they were well cared for by God in incredibly painful and hopeless situations. Mouths were filled with laughter at the recognition and expression of God-induced hope. Sow in tears, reap in joy – it’s absolutely true. Haven’t some of the most profound times of laughter for you been when reflecting on the loss of a loved one with others? The stories begin and soon you wonder why something so sad has suddenly become so genuinely and curiously fun. Stories of God delivering, rescuing, enabling, and strengthening bring hope for the future and are delivered best at times on the wings of laughter. 

    How about the elderly lady in her hospital bed asking me if I wanted to see her scar? (I did not get “no” out soon enough.) Or the patient at the hospital cafeteria table talking on a banana as if it were a phone? Or the outhouse in Siberia with every surface covered with inches of icy frost? These and more are simply one of God’s wonderful delivery systems for me to tell of his surprising and unexpected grace in my life. What are your laugh lines that begin and end with the workings of God in your life? Funny is good, too. Keep telling your stories, we need the hope and confidence in Christ that they deliver.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch20th2014 Strategic Planning at KSBC
    byDon Whipple Tagged Church Planning Vision 0 comments Add comment

    Here are two quotes for you to consider as I invite you on behalf of the leadership team to participate in the upcoming strategic planning process here at Kossuth. The first is from the Bible:

    For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:6)

    One commentator entitles this proverb “strategy is strength.” Along with the truth that thoughtful wisdom will succeed where brute or entrenched strength will fail, this proverb shouts out the value of a multiplicity of perspectives in developing that winning strategy. Remember that Proverbs assumes (Prov. 1:7) that all wisdom begins with the fear of God. All planning should be rooted in God and his revealed word and ways.

    What's the first thing you might focus on when considering a church's "plan"? Would you start with the people being served? How about the needs you feel to be most unmet? Should you study the methods other “successful” churches are using and duplicate them? The Scriptures point us initially in two other directions. First, they direct us to know clearly God’s perspective of what a church should look like. That is our target. Second, they call us to work through this strategy developing process in a collaborative way, involving as many of our church family as possible while relying on the various roles, gifts, and experiences of our congregation. We need a level of participation as broad as possible in prayer and engagement in the process from our church family.

    A second quote is from an article regarding organizational health and growth. The article is describing a relatively new approach called “appreciative inquiry”:

    Human systems grow in the direction of what they persistently ask questions about...

    Keeping in mind my limited organizational health training, my take-away on this simple thought is that the dominant, repeated, and perhaps unanswered questions of a group or organization set the course for that organization’s growth or development. We trust the planning process will help us learn to embrace new questions in a way that stretches us and pulls us toward the target of what our church is called by God to be. An exciting aspect of the planning process is found in growing our understanding of the target and learning to persistently ask the questions that will continue to help us move toward it.

    Over the next several months, we are hoping that the strategic planning process here at Kossuth will unite our hearts around refining our answers to questions like these:

    • What should a faithful local church look like?
    • What does God want Kossuth to focus on as a target for our future?
    • What are the strengths that need to be strengthened to grow closer to the target?
    • What are the opportunities to pursue to be God’s church at this time in this town?

    Over the next two Sundays (March 23 and 30) we plan to share the “what” and the “how” of our strategic planning process with the church family at combined Connections Group meetings in the sanctuary. We will distribute and review a document that we are calling “a quick reference guide” to KSBC’s strategic planning with the intent of engaging your participation and answering your questions. If you are not able to attend those sessions, please get a copy of the Quick Reference Guide and connect with church leadership or your Connections or Care Group leaders.  

    ThuThursdayMarMarch13th2014 Looking in on the Elders
    byDon Whipple Tagged No tags 1 comments Add comment

    The elder meeting on Tuesday began at 6:00 pm, and I walked out to get in my car to go home at 10:15 pm. The elders and staff ministers of Kossuth meet twice a month—the second monthly meeting includes an hour and a half with the deacons. I typically begin Tuesday with a 7:00 am theology reading group, so when I arrived home it took a sizable piece of cake to celebrate all that God is doing. I am deeply grateful for these men who “pay careful attention . . . to care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28) here at Kossuth Street.

    For your encouragement, participation, and prayer support, let me take you through the agenda from our past few meetings. Hopefully this will generate prayer support and increase awareness—but most of all, if anyone has any hints on how to do shorter meetings, we are all ears! Here’s a sample agenda with some brief explanations.

    1) Word/Prayer/Shepherding updates. We read a chapter of the Bible (currently we are reading through 2 Timothy). We share observations from the reading and then talk about you, the church family. We sometimes go page by page through the church directory, lately we have been sharing regarding those we have connected with in various ways or perhaps are facing significant issues. After our reading and review of the church family, we go to prayer. Occasionally this agenda item will be abbreviated due to various factors but typically it takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes of our meeting.

    2) Elder appointment process. For the past 4-5 months the elders have been reviewing the 15-page completed questionnaires and interviewing the four candidates recommended by the congregation for eldership. This past Tuesday we had three one-hour interviews that very well may wrap up our interview process. We have met with each candidate at least twice including time with their wives as well. We want to be as thorough as possible so we can confidently recommend candidates to the congregation for the next phase of extended exposure and interaction at that level. Please pray for us as we hope to wrap up our responsibilities in this phase and have recommendations to the church family by early April.

    3) Strategic planning next steps. Developing a strategic or long range plan has been on our agenda for a long time but has now gained some positive traction. A significant component of the plan development process is engaging the church family to look together at the biblical target of what God has said a church should be and identify the opportunities that we believe God would have us pursue with greater diligence or resources. We plan to begin rolling out the process for you to be engaged in this process over the next few weeks in various ways including combined Connection Group classes on March 23 and 30.

    4) Crosswalk Board update. In this week’s meeting we heard and reviewed a brief report from the Crosswalk Board that generated a “wahoo” from one of our more articulate elders. Hopefully the church family will hear this report at our April Family Gathering. Praise God that he seems to be making our Crosswalk dream into a very real and productive ministry.

    5) Membership/Welcome Team next steps. We continue to assess and improve our processes for assimilating new people into our fellowship. Currently the two teams responsible for membership and welcome are considering becoming one team to make this process more effective and productive. How a person or family get plugged in at Kossuth is the core question that drives these teams. Helping people along the “3C Path” of Commit, Connect and Contribute is their task. Pray for these teams that God will bless their efforts and give them their desires of helping us be a church that receives and disciples people well.

    In addition to monthly meetings there is more that elders do. Teaching, visits, counseling, Care Groups, and leadership development are regular tasks of all elders and ministers. In addition to the above items there is a pending agenda of things stacking up such as adult curriculum plans, by-laws task force report, and missions policy review. Thanks so much for taking a peek into our world and praying for us. Please pray that not only will we have wisdom and strength, but that God will give us joy as we see Christ developed in you and in the wonderful partnership we have in the gospel. We thank God for you!    

    WedWednesdayMarMarch5th2014 Rejoicing With Those Who Suffer
    byDon Whipple Tagged Joy Suffering 1 comments Add comment

    It is hard to imagine that anyone reading this is not within a few relational feet of someone who is suffering in some profound way. Suffering, while unpredictable and seemingly random, is a clear means that God uses to accomplish his purposes in our lives, the church, and this world. Just in our church family there is cancer, death, untreatable chronic pain, broken relationships, disabilities, and all sorts of other painful and stressful daily realities.

    How do you relate to others close to you who are suffering? Further, how do you influence a suffering friend to rejoice as we are instructed in 1Peter 4:12-13?

    In his book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller rejects that suffering is always proportionate to our sins or the absence of suffering is indicative of our righteousness. He identifies three kinds of suffering from the Bible. I summarize his thoughts from page 47:

    • Some suffering is to correct and chastise for wrong doing (Jonah and the storm).
    • Some suffering is not for past wrongs but to prevent future ones (Joseph sold into slavery).
    • Some suffering has the purpose of leading to a greater love for and understanding of God (Job).

    In other words, comforting and encouraging those in adversity cannot be a “one size fits all” approach. The Bible directly addresses sufferers with three admonitions that we would do well to obey and carefully pass along to others going through deep waters. The passage is 1 Peter 4:12-19 and the shaping truths are:

    • Rejoice because you are sharing in Christ’s suffering. Remember his suffering led to and leads to an incredible glory where there is not only no suffering but all impact of sin and death is transformed and reversed. Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. He is using you and your suffering for his glory and your good. (4:12-13)
    • Don’t be ashamed of your suffering. If you are suffering because you murdered or meddled, then be ashamed, bear the responsibility, and correct your behavior. If you are suffering as an obedient follower of Christ, don’t be weighed down with questioning guilt or shame; see and accept the purposes of God. You are one with Christ! Give him glory! (4:15)
    • Trust God and do good. As a sufferer, it is possible to so completely dedicate your life and well-being to God that you will be able to serve others. The evil one is pleased when God’s people allow adversity to cause them to sit on the sidelines ashamed and without joy. We misunderstand the purposes for suffering if we do not allow it to thrust us into greater trust and service. Let the suffering serve! (4:19).

    Joy comes from a growing intensity of our God-centeredness in all things. Typically some of the last things we want to bring into intense focus are our deepest pains and biggest questions. I am so proud of our church family in both the response to suffering that I see every day in your lives as well as the incredibly effective ministry of comfort and hope given by our church family to those going through adversity.

    I want to gratefully encourage you to continue in your ministry of personal presence, prayer, reading the Scriptures, and lovingly reminding each other. Pray, share, and repeat these truths with each other so that we can experience every measure of joy possible from our sufferings for the glory of our great God.

    And while you’re at it, look up these further passages for meditation, memory, and ministry with others: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Romans 5:1-5; Philippians 3:7-11. 

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