Tag Archives: leadership growth

Embracing A New Normal

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This is an exciting time for Christendom. I’m reminded of the scripture found in Isaiah 43:16-21, MSG Bible, “This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards—Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sunbaked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.”

COVID19 has created a new normal in this global society for years to come. Even the church has been affected. I illustrate:

  • Churches have remained empty, but functional
  • Ministers are learning to adapt from traditional building worship to online, teleconferencing, and live streaming platforms.
  • Steward Boards and Officers are creating ways for members and friends to give online, by mail, or text to give.
  • The class leader system is resurfacing due to necessity of the hour.
  • District, Regional, Episcopal, and Connectional meetings are being reshaped for online delivery.

Indeed, this is a new normal. When I was in the military, we had an exercise called running in place. It was excellent for getting our heart rate up but did little for moving forward. There was forward momentum nor forward progress. I wonder if we are changing to reflect God’s new move or just running in place, waiting for things to return the way they were.

I believe this is a time to examine our ways as a denomination. I believe we should ask the question what rituals, meetings, gatherings, modes of operation and methods have become too cumbersome to serve this present age. This is a challenge for our College of Bishops, General Officers, Presiding Elders, Pastors, and Lay Leaders.  We can not assume that we will ever go back to business as usual. Can we discern what God’s new normal is for our church?

Matthew 9:14-17, MSG Bible, reads, “A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?”

15 Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” 16-17 He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

In the age of G5 and Corona Viruses (of which many other strains will arise in the coming months) what of our structure can we renovate to “serve this present age.”  In a cultural slang, we have heard it said, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” Meaning, preserve the essentials, throw out the excessive or nonessential. This is the question for every leader and the College of Bishops are wrestling even now to establish such distinctions.

This is new for us all and we all must support our leadership, adjust to the new normal, and remember our theme for this quadrennial which I doubt was designed to address this pandemic but which certainly is apropos for this pandemic.  Our theme is “Getting back to the basics as we envision our way forward taking care of God’s business.”  This is both prophetic and relevant for our present circumstances and for moving forward into our new normal.

Let us unite to pray, fast, and seek God’s hand at work in this present age.  Are we the church being led by God’s Spirit, able to answer this challenge, and meet the needs of the present age or are we kicking and screaming to return to the old way?

Well I believe conditions force us to rethink what is Methodist and what it means to be a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. I believe we have the right leaders, in the right places, to receive from the Lord – through collaboration, deliberation, and experimentation – to guide us boldly into this new normal.

The Louisiana Region Annual Conference is strategically forming a plan to move from the precautions of social distancing due to the Corona Virus pandemic to one which will address the critical facets of the brick and mortar Annual Conference in light of the new normal.  To that end, we have cancelled our normal Annual Conference and are looking at the legal and traditional requirements to necessary for the Teleconference Annual Conference format.

We trust that the good people of the Louisiana Region will engage in this discussion with your Pastors, Presiding Elders, and your Bishop.

 

It’s Time to move to the Next Level

Text:  Deuteronomy 2:1-3

Introduction

The children of Israel had taken 40 years to complete a journey, which should have taken only a few days.  God charged them to move into their land of promise, but they refused.  They tried to remain encamped on the top of the Mount Horeb.  And if they couldn’t stay where they were, then they decided to stay in the wilderness.  Because they rebelled against God’s opportunity due to the opposition that lay before them, they could not enter into the opulence that their land of promise afforded. 

So God decreed that the generation that started out with Moses would not enter the Promised Land; only the next generation would enjoy
This new generation had wandered in the wilderness for 40 more years watching their ancestors die without receiving the promise.  They had been receiving instructions on how to live as people of God.  God taught them how to fight in order to preserve their freedom.  God taught them how to worship in order to preserve their faith.  God taught them how to love one another and to care for one another to preserve their nation. 

Finally, God taught them how to get wealth to preserve their independence from other nations.  Never again did God intend them to become slaves.
It was time for them to move to the next level.  They had everything they needed to move.  God was with them; a skilled proven army was with them; faith was with them; unity was among them; and wealth was among them.  Nothing was missing and nothing was broken.  They were ready – destiny was upon them. 

Now, Moses stands atop that same mountain peak rehearsing the travels and journeys of God’s people throughout the last 80 years.  He challenges the next generation to move to the next level with faith in their God.

Move 1

The opportunity God presented was in front of them.  But in order to take advantage of this opportunity they would have to face opposition.  In order to get to the opulence God had decreed for them they would have to confront their enemies.  You see, beloved, when you decide to act in concert with God, God will give you an opportunity and you will have to face opposition before the opulence flows into your life.

First, let us look at the opportunity.  God gives you opportunities that belong only to you. 

What God has for you no one else can take.  Notice verse 4-12 and 17-23 [read] What God promised the children of Esau, he fulfilled.  What God promised the children of Lot, he fulfilled.  God did not allow the Israelites to possess lands he previously promised to others.  And what God promises to you, he will fulfill. 
Beloved, you serve the God of an open door.  The Bible declares, “God will open doors that no man can shut, shut doors that no man can open.” 

When you determine, to move into your destiny, God will guide your steps. In other words, your brothers and sisters in the LORD will not lose their blessing because God has chosen to move you forward.  So be not afraid, neither be dismayed.  It’s time for us to move to the next level. 
Not only that, but in your personal life it’s time for you to move to the next level.  You’ve circled this mountain long enough.  You’ve been bankrupt, distressed, and in a mess long enough. 

In short, God has granted us opportunities that we have wasted because when opposition came we bailed out instead of confronted the enemy.  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  We’ve circled these stagnant  mountains long enough.  Hallelujah!

It’s time for each of you to take advantage of the opportunities that God has provided for you.  And you don’t have to worry about getting what God has for somebody else.  God wouldn’t do that.  What God has for others will always belong to them.  But what God has for you belongs to you.  Don’t delay; don’t procrastinate; don’t hesitate; step out of your place of pain, and step into your place of peace.  It’s time for you to move to the next level.  Again, you’ve circled this mountain long enough.  Now is the time to act!

The story is told in 2 Kings 7:1-20 of a time of utter turmoil in the lives of the people of God.  Their enemies the Syrians had besieged them.  Nothing could enter and nothing could leave the city without encountering this opposition.  In due time famine set in and people were reduced to eating their own children. 

Then Elisha the prophet declared, “Hear this message from the LORD!  This is what the LORD says:  By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of fine flour will cost only half an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only half an ounce of silver.”
This was God’s way of presenting them with an opportunity.  God always sends us a message, a Word of direction, purpose, and destiny.  If you miss hearing God’s word about your situation, you miss God’s opportunity. 

Simply put, once you hear God’s word, you have to mix it with faith in order for it to benefit you.  Hebrews 4:12 reads, “God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there.  For this Good News – that God has prepared a place of rest – has been announced to us just as it was to them.  But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.”
But thanks be to God there were four lepers who believed.  They heard the word and decided to take advantage of God’s opportunity.  They looked at one another and asked, “Why should we sit here waiting to die?”  They reasoned among them, “We will starve if we stay here, and we will starve if we go back into the city.  So, we might as well go out and surrender to the Syrian Army.  If they let us live, so much the better.  But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

Someone here this morning needs to hear this Word.  You need to surrender your life to Jesus Christ.  Why keep sitting in a place of pain, misery, and anguish?  Why keep circling the same of mountain of defeat when God is presenting you an opportunity to go to the next level.  You know in your heart, just like those four lepers that you need to act.  You need to move forward.  You need to believe the word that God has sent this morning.  You will come, won’t you?  You will take advantage of God’s opportunity, won’t you?  It’s time for you to move to the next level. [Pause]

Move 2

Well, let us move on.  The Second thing you encounter when you decide to act in concert with God is opposition.  Look again at Deuteronomy 2:13-16 [read]

When God presents you with opportunity, you encounter opposition from two fronts: within and without.  The first opposition came from within their minds.  They felt inferior to the people who already lived in that land.  They felt that they were powerless, sinful, helpless people. 

Their minds could not imagine ever living among so great a people.  They could not imagine fighting these foes and being successful.  So, they talked themselves out of their own blessing.
And that’s the problem with slavery, addiction, or abuse of any kind.  It so demeans the victim until the victim begins to see themselves as their affliction.  You go from having diabetes to being a diabetic.  You go from having a drinking problem to being an alcoholic. 

In Numbers 13:33, God presented an opportunity for the first generation to enter the promised land. They responded “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants:  and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.  You can’t face opposition without boldness and confidence in who you are.  If they had not seen themselves as less than those people, then the Anakims would have seen them differently as well.  How do you see yourself compared to other people?  Because how you see yourself will actually be how others see you and treat you. 
Are you bold, confident, self-assured, full of faith in God?  Do you see yourself as wonderfully and marvelously made?  If not, now is a good time for you to see yourself as God sees you. 

In his 1994 Inaugural speech Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa quoted these words penned by Maryanne Williamson:

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that
Other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously
Give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fears,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

However, once you get your self-image realigned to conform to the image that God designed, you must still face external opposition.   

When you decide to act in concert with God, enemies will show up and try to beat you back into your old place.  Look at Deuteronomy 2:24-25 and 3:1-13 [read] Notice how God had destined these enemies for defeat even before the children of Israel encountered them.  I’m telling you that when you get with God you become invincible. 

The Bible declares, “God always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus our LORD.”  The Bible declares, nay, we are more than conquerors through Christ which loves us.”  The Bible declares, “No weapons formed against us shall be able to prosper.”  When God gives you an opportunity, he also prepares your opposition for defeat.  Just like it’s time for you to move to the next level, it’s also time for your opposition to move to another level.  And that level is to move out of your way or face God as their adversary. Gardner Taylor, would tell his enemies “your arms are too short to box with God!”

We must face our enemies.  We cannot hide, sidestep, or dodge them.  We must confront them.  We must let them know our purpose!  We must announce our objectives!  We must send word that we are moving to the next level.  Hallelujah! 
And we must let our enemies know that we are ready to fight for the souls of our children.  Let the weak and the faint of heart stay at home and watch the house.  But, let the young of heart, the bold, and the fearless arm themselves for battle.  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  It’s time to take this church out of neutral and put it into drive so we can win souls for Jesus Christ! 

Let us challenge ourselves to go further than we have ever been to announce the kingdom of Christ.  God has promised:  “Fear him not:  for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand.”
Paul faced opposition with every opportunity.  He said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “For there is a wide-open door for a great work here, and many people are responding.  But there are many who oppose me.” 

Beloved, with every opportunity, there will be those who oppose you, but keep on moving.
Your mind may tell you to turn around, but keep on moving.  You may begin to get cold feet, but keep on moving.  You may be ostracized and criticized, but keep on moving.  Your friends may walk away, but keep on moving.  Your friends may even become your enemies, but keep on moving.  You may not understand where you’re going, but since you know that where you were was misery, pain, and despair, keep on moving.  Keep on moving.  Don’t let opposition spoil your opportunity because you’re on your way to opulence, which is the plan of God for your life and this church.

Move 3

Finally, when you decide to act in concert with God, you encounter opulence. Opulence means “wealth, riches, sumptuousness, prosperity, lavishness, and luxury.  When God presents an opportunity, don’t despair the opposition because when you take advantage of God’s opportunity it leads to opulence.  God desires to bless his children more than they could ever imagine.  The purpose of the opportunity is to open up channels for more people to experience the blessings of God through your hands.  The act of accepting God’s opportunity ensures that your life will abound with blessings. 

The Bible declares, “The blessings of the LORD they maketh rich and addeth no sorrow with it.”  The bible declares, “Our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think.”  The Bible declares, “The LORD has increase on his mind.  He is always thinking about you.  He wants to bless you more and more.”  But you have to overcome opposition and stand your ground as you pursue the opportunities that God places in your path.

Beloved, God wants to do exceedingly more with this church than he has ever done before.  “Eyes have not seen, neither has ear heard, what good things the LORD has prepared for those who love him.”  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  We’ve circled the mountain of average, and mediocrity long enough.  It’s time to move into the area of excellence.  It’s time to get motivated, fired up, and charged up to be used by God to bless somebody else.  It’s time for us to go higher as a resource in this community.  We have to rid ourselves of the status quo and begin to do things differently.  We need to explore the opportunities regardless of the opposition.  Amen.

The story is told in Luke 5:1-10 of some anglers who had fished all night long and captured nothing.  Finally, after hours of exhaustive work with no results they began to clean their nets and prepare to accept defeat and go home.  But then Jesus showed up and asked them to allow him to use their boats to minister to the crowds.  After they had served the LORD, he wanted to bless them.  He told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat opposite from where they had toiled all night.  They almost missed this opportunity.  They were tired, exhausted, and frustrated.  The majority did not want to do it.  But thank God, Peter was willing to try it.  Peter was willing to say as their leader, let’s at least try it his way.  And when they did they caught so many fish, they were living in opulence.  This one catch done God’s way made them rich beyond their wildest dreams.  Their opulence was such that they had to enlist others to come help them put the fish in their boats.  They had more than enough.  This was a testimony that God had been with them and many other lives were impacted through their knowledge and belief in God.  God used this opportunity, though fraught with opposition, to bless them and those engaged in the fishing business with them. They were a changed people, changing the world.

Beloved, don’t be afraid to trust God’s word.  He is telling us that it is time for us to move to the next level.  I challenge you to excel in whatever you do for the LORD.  When God presents an opportunity for you to minister to someone else, take full advantage of it.  Embrace all the opposition as challenges and keep on moving.  You will experience walking in your wealthy place.  Oh, the joy of leaving poverty, sickness and despair behind.  Oh, the joy of experiencing true love and friendship.  Oh, the joy of not having to repeat mistakes from the past because you did what you needed to do to learn from your mistakes.  Now everyday in everyway your life is getting better and better. 

Beloved, you’ve circled these mountains of defeat long enough, turn north.  Turn toward God through Jesus Christ and allow him to change your entire life.  Decide that you are going to work in concert with God and not against God.  Determine that from now on you refuse to serve the world, your own selfish aims, and the devil.  Resolve to embrace God’s way and God’s word.  Resolve that you’re going to seize God-given opportunities, overcome opposition, and enjoy opulence as you serve the Lord.  Then and only then will you reach your promised land.