Congratulations to Newton Old Crow, Sr., who received the 2017 Cora and John Sparrowk President's Award at the ABC-USA biennial meeting in Portland, OR, on July 2, 2017. It was a joy to see Newton receive this award. At the conclusion of the presentation, Newton removed his hat and pointed upward, giving thanks to the Lord. Afterwards, Newton said it was really Amelia who should have received it. That humility is a hallmark of Newton's faith and life in Christ.
Some of the remarks read at the presentation are below. You can read the complete presentation at this LINK.
Newton Old Crow served as a pastor with his wife, Amelia. He was born in 1932 into a cultural world that was one of forced transition as his people struggled with a new way of living. Crow married his wife, Amelia, in 1980; in the years after, he and Amelia each received a Pastoral Certificate from the Cook College and Theological School in Arizona, and in June of 1989, Newton was Licensed for Ministry by the Crow Christian Association. He and his wife moved to Oklahoma to pastor together to three churches in the communities of Seiling, Canton, and Watonga, OK. Their ministry was primarily with the Southern Arapaho, Southern Cheyenne, and Kiowa people.
In September 1997 Newton and Amelia were called to pastor at the First Crow Indian Baptist Church and the Little Brown Church in Lodge Grass, MT. This brought him back to Crow Country to work with his people in the community where he grew up. He founded the Christian Cowboy Fellowship, a ministry that continues today. He also started a Rodeo Camp for Youth. During Newton’s pastoral ministry, he baptized many new Christians, both young people and adults.
A recurring theme in some recent discussions has been fear or anxiety. However, most people don’t use the words “fear” or “anxiety.” Instead, I’ve heard people say things like, “We are concerned about the drop in Sunday morning attendance.” “I am unhappy with the current direction of our church.” “Some of us are worried about the church’s future.” As we discuss the particular event or issue, what strikes me is unnamed fears lie beneath the concern or unhappiness.
This is not to suggest we shouldn’t have or experience fear. Fear is, after all, a natural part of life. Fear can help us survive by heightening awareness of potential threats and dangers. In Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, the book our LLCs are currently reading, Peter Steinke says, “Regulating anxiety [and fear] to the point of having no anxiety is humanly impossible. Anxiety [fear] is always present; it is a fundamental human expression, even a healthy response to life” (p. 32). Though we experience fear and anxiety, we are told frequently in Scripture to not be afraid because of where fear can lead: demoralized feelings, paralyzed actions and ultimately, disobedience.
Where Fear Leads
Fear demoralizes us. If we lean toward fear, our resolve weakens and our healthy choices as a follower of Jesus can be destroyed. The gap between “I haven’t yet been able to do X (invite Joe, share Jesus with Sally, read my Bible) and “it doesn’t matter if I do X because it will never happen” is subtle. But the gap is significant. In the case of “not yet,” there is still faith and hope and plans. In the case of “never,” we’ve chosen demoralized defeat, and we’ve bought the lie that what God wants us to do doesn’t matter.
Fear leads to paralysis. Paralysis is more than just not doing something: it is doing something that doesn’t accomplish God’s purpose in our circumstances. We keep doing something because it is comfortable. Doing a thing keeps life within our control. Doing it may produce acceptable results, but we end up settling for mediocre instead of reaching for God’s best. One example happens within a church’s small groups. People talk about and agree that inviting others is important. The talk can serve to remind us of what we need and want to do. It can also ease us into thinking that the talk is enough, and no one in the group actually invites another person to participate in their group.
Fear ends in disobedience. “Anxious fear or worry becomes the sin of pride and unbelief when it diverts one’s attention from following the Lord…or causes someone to trust their own resources or abilities or those of someone else rather than God’s.” (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 562).”
Where Faith Leads
Faith overcomes fear. When faced with fears and anxieties, faith chooses to believe and to act. There may still be moments of doubt or anxiety, but these do not control us. We choose actions based on a conviction that our Lord wants the best for us, and the Lord’s plans are for a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). That is not to say that faith is stupid. Jesus directed us to pay attention, count the costs, and be wise (Luke 14:28). The paralysis of fear leads to disobedience and reinforces fear, our stubborn self-will and pride. But in prayerful analysis of risk, we understand what is coming but still move forward in faith. We operate out of the conviction that even if we make mistakes because of our human weakness, God is bigger than our mistakes.
Faith leads to peace. In Paul’s words, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). If that truly is our conviction, then peace – diminished internal anxiety – follows.
Faith results in action. There are many indicators that point to whether we are choosing faith instead of fear. Here are two:
1) Involvement in something bigger than us. What risk have you taken to open possibilities to share Jesus with someone in the last 30 days? It could be as simple as learning the name of a salesperson at a store you frequent. Do we know anything about the people who live around us? Whatever our opportunities, they are pursued even when the results are not clear.
2) Decreasing “activities of distraction.” At the least, fear and anxiety make us uncomfortable. In looking for something to ease or erase our discomfort, we may grab at what quickly makes us feel better. But that thing may only mask what the real issue is, and the fear is not recognized, confronted and overcome. Likewise as congregations, it can be easier to do programs and events because they make us feel like we are doing something. But we haven’t looked at why we think these activities are needed. Are they done to help us interact with people far from God? Or do they just make us feel better about ourselves? Is there really space in our relationships for new people? Or is the event and group set up where those who are new are left to figure out our congregation on their own?
Life in Christ and pursuing Christ’s kingdom work will not keep us from experiencing fear. Fighting off wild beasts in the shadows in order to protect the sheep is where David learned to say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalms 23:4) Later he fought the giant Goliath for God’s flock of Israel, no less a fearful endeavor. The truth is that sometimes the fear will not go away. So we have to do things in the midst of fear – but with Christ’s power and presence aiding us to act anyway.
Aug 25-26 at Manette Community Church, Bremerton, WA
To be a Christian, to live like Jesus, is not easy. When the push and pull of our culture is added to the mix, we find ourselves challenged. The confrontations to Jesus’ values are subtle, and they are also blatantly in our faces. If congregations want to draw people to Jesus and show the truth of the Gospel they proclaim, then the body must develop and maintain an ethical faith. All ministry leaders need to reflect the transforming love and grace of Jesus and avoid conforming to the behavior patterns of our culture.
Mission Northwest will be offering ministry ethics training for all pastors, church leaders, and ministry workers on August 25 and 26, 2017. Manette Community Church in Bremerton, WA and Pastor Ron Anderson will be hosting us. We will begin at 3:30pm on Friday and conclude at 4pm on Saturday. Four key areas of transformed behavior patterns within the congregation will be presented: sexual boundaries, financial integrity, electronic communications/social media, and boundaries of the pastoral role. In addition to meeting a requirement for ordination for pastors, the material covered satisfy church insurance directives that ministry volunteers and staff receive boundaries training.
In addition to the onsite gathering, the conference will also be offered in its entirety via Zoom (video conferencing).
Registration is available online HERE
Cost: $30 – includes all materials and continuing education certificate (upon completion of conference)
For more information, contact Patti Duckworth, email@example.com or the Region office, 208.777.2733 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Northwest: A Region, An Association, and A Family
The Mission Northwest Region (aka ABC-NW) exists to resource and develop churches that connect people to Jesus Christ. We are in this together. Each church has a part to play and expertise to contribute to the greater cause. At some point every church will find itself on the receiving end of resources our association provides when a church is in need. Ours is not a staff-centered family of churches, it is a church-centered family of churches.
Unfortunately, because of our geographical spread, and reduced Region staff, it is common for a church to feel isolated. For some churches the closest sister Mission Northwest church is a two to three hour drive away. Connection in the northwest has always been a challenge, and continues to be.
To offset this sense of isolation I am suggesting the following:
1. Let’s re-envision the region as "our family" of churches. The region is more than an office or staff. It is first an association of churches committed to one another, investing in the life and health of each member church. Every church matters. Every church has a God-given mission. Each church is learning lessons in how to be effective in the 21st century, and can help other churches with its discoveries.
2. Let’s prepare ourselves to not only be served but to serve other churches. Some of this service will be as simple and organic as the next church in the next town reaching out to help. Some services will be delivered in the form of region staff and/or consultants—people with training and expertise—who are accountable to the family, coming alongside to provide expertise. Either way, such services don’t happen unless each church is invested in the family as a whole.
3. I encourage you to pray for your sister churches on a regular basis, in worship services and in leadership meetings. Pick one Region church each month and concentrate your prayers on that church. (The Region directory of churches may be found on our web site at www.abcnw.org.)
4. Encourage your pastor to connect with other pastors through their local LLC (Leadership Learning Community). When the pastor is connected the church is usually connected.
5. Attend the annual Leadership Tune-Up in the fall at Ross Point Camp. Bring your staff, bring your key church leaders and ministry team leaders. When localized training events are offered do your best to join in and attend.
6. Consider conducting a pulpit exchange between your church and another Mission Northwest congregation. A great example of this transpired recently when Pastor Tim Hughes (FBC Port Angeles, WA) and Pastor Jamie McCallum (Belfair Community Baptist Church, WA) exchanged pulpits. Call either one, and find out how they did it.
7. Invite people, especially your church leaders, to “Like” American Baptist Churches of the Northwest on Facebook. Also, sign up for the Email lists: Prayer Connection and Email Update by sending your email address and a request to the Region office (email@example.com).
8. Welcome an "ambassador" from the region to bring greetings, encouragement and connection or even provide supply preaching for your church in your absence. We have Rev. John Iverson doing this through the “Partner in Ministry” initiative among our Montana churches. And, soon, in southwest Idaho Rev. Clint Webb, along with his wife, Kathy, will soon be visiting our churches in southern Idaho. We hope to recruit more ambassadors in other parts of the Region in the near future.
9. Schedule Rev. Patti Duckworth or me to preach in your church. We enjoy preaching God’s Word and bringing greetings from sister churches around the Region. Both of us desire to encourage every church in the spirit of Paul who wrote, “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.” Romans 1:11
Yes, it is a big Region. And, yes, it often feels isolating. But, there are steps we can all take to reduce the space between us. We ARE stronger together rather than APART. Let’s do our part to strengthen and encourage one another in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His power.
Have you ever wondered why a sure-fire church program works well in one church, but not another? Here's my take on that phenomena with insight from the story of Abraham and Ishmael.
God made a promise to Abraham. “‘You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his.’ Then the Lord took Abram outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That’s how many descendants you will have.’” (Gen 15:4-5)
The promise would later fade as Abraham waited and waited and waited for the promise’s fulfillment. Connected to that promise was Abram’s longing for a son, and the longing led him to fulfill his desire apart from God. His wife, Sarai, actually came up with the plan. But Abraham acted on it. Abraham would take matters into his own hands and have a son with Sarai’s stand in, Hagar. So he did and Ishmael was born.
On the surface it looked reasonable, and totally justifiable:
1. It was acceptable by the customs of the day.
2. It combined human and divine effort, a synergistic effort to fulfill the promise, one-part human and one-part God. This seemed to be a reasonable, even spiritually responsible, solution.
3. It would produce a legitimate heir. The laws of that day would recognize the validity of the child as Abram’s heir.
It turned out to be quite the disaster. Abram and Sarai attempted to fulfill the promise apart from God. They turned to their human ingenuity, rather than waiting on God to fulfill his promise. But Ishmael was not God’s intended fulfillment of the promise. This is a serious error, even among Christians today. We are tempted to rely on human-centered solutions to ministry challenges. They can seem reasonable and good at first. Then, when they don’t pan out we discover how wrong they can be.
Hudson Taylor said, "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supply." How wise we would be to follow this advice in today’s ministry contexts while avoiding creating Ishmaels of our own doing.
What do I mean by that? Well, consider this common example from everyday church life. “Church A” seeks God in prayer, and is convinced that it should begin a new ministry. Let’s say it’s a particular method of community outreach. With inspiration and leading from the Holy Spirit they creatively design a home-grown approach to outreach. And, it’s successful! “Church A” has such success with their God-inspired outreach that it packages it’s method in the form of an “off the shelf” program.
“Church B” is concerned about decline in attendance. So, in desperation it looks around for a quick fix. It hears about “Church A” who has had great success with its community outreach program. “Church B” figures it’s a sure-fire thing, purchases the program’s “how-to-do-it kit” and appoints a committee to implement it. At first, there is some meager success. By the time “Church B” has been into the program for three months the workers have lost interest, and few are engaged except two or three guilt-laden people.
What happened? “Church B” bought a “program.” It produced an Ishmael. It would have been wiser to look to God for His direction in developing the strategic ministries that would best fit their particular context. Perhaps God wanted them to create their own unique outreach ministry. Maybe God intended for them to assess first the particular gifts and interests of their people, and allow their outreach strategies to rise out of that mix.
There are numerous cases where a pastor or staff member attends a conference like Catalyst or Exponential or, in former days, Willow Creek or Saddleback. The pastor would return home all fired up to reproduce the programs at the home church, and they failed miserably. Importing an Ishmael from another church can be disappointing.
What should churches do to avoid producing an Ishmael?
1. Be careful when attending a conference. The experience can be inspiring and encouraging. It can expose a participant to great resources and creative ideas. Use all of that to prime the creativity of one’s own ministry teams. Resist adopting an “off-the-shelf” program or ministry. If a program does look promising for your context, take some time for your leadership to reflect, pray and consider the appropriateness of the program. Give your team permission to adapt the program, or only use portions of it.
2. Assemble a team of willing and creative servants to pray, dream, and discern the new direction and ministry strategies that God wants to birth in your particular context. These strategies should be unique to your people’s giftings and their passion for ministry. They should be shaped by the culture of your town, city or neighborhood.
3. Whatever new ministry you launch, make sure that it is in alignment with your church’s mission, vision, values and other strategic initiatives. Make sure you can articulate how a particular new ministry will help the congregation as a whole attain its overall mission. If these essential DNA pieces have not been articulated by your church Mission Northwest offers Church Unique guidance to assist your congregation in clarifying these essentials.
In many instances a program fails because the church took a short-cut and produced an Ishmael. Resist the urge to adopt someone’s else pre-packaged ministry. Instead, take time to pray, research, explore, dream and discuss before launching any new ministry. Ask the Holy Spirit to birth ministries that rise out of your people’s dreams, passions and skills. Give permission for creativity and experimentation. Maybe the pre-packaged ministry will be a right fit and will be productive. On the other hand it might be better to design your own. Some of the most successful ministries are home-grown and will never be packaged for mass consumption. And, that is a good thing. Just like tomatoes, the best church ministries are often home-grown.
After working with Northwest local churches for 13 years I can confidently say that the primary reason churches stop growing is that they quit practicing evangelism. In 95% of the assessments I have conducted evangelism is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the ranking of most church's values. Church people will affirm that the lost need Jesus because. They know that Jesus calls us to go and make disciples of all nations. But they struggle greatly to practice evangelism, individually or corporately.
I believe that if a church raises its "evangelistic temperature" just one or two degrees it would be amazing what God would do. I believe that it would lead to spiritual renewal for the church, and I believe it would be energizing for the overall spirit of the church. It might even result in numerical growth, although that's not why we reach out with the Good News. And this is not to mention the sense of joy and fulfillment people would feel as new believers come to Christ.
As a Region we have emphasized two excellent resources for helping churches do better with outreach. First there is OIKOS, an approach that comes from Tom Mercer at High Desert Church in Victorville, CA. Essentially OIKOS helps people focus on the 8 to 15 people in their relational network, identify those who are not yet Christ followers and start praying for them. There's a full explanation along with free resources for implementing this approach at www.8to15.com.
Second there is ORGANIC OUTREACH developed by Kevin Harney. Kevin offers churches an "operating system", not a program, for increasing the entire church's commitment to practicing evangelism. It is not rocket science, but it works. There is a ton of free resources for any church desiring to embrace the Organic Outreach methodology at Kevin's web site: www.organicoutreach.com. For individuals I recommend Kevin's book "Organic Outreach for Ordinary People". For pastors, staff and church boards I recommend "Organic Outreach for Churches." Kevin's messages from this year's Leadership Tune-Up are also a good way to get familiar with OO. These may be found at www.abcnw.org on the Leadership Tune-Up page.
Since I'm on the subject of evangelism, Thom Rainer recently posted this article about evangelism. This would be a good discussion piece for your next church board meeting.
God bless, Charles Revis
FIVE KEYS FOR RENEWING EVANGELISTIC GROWTH IN YOUR CHURCH by Thom Rainer
“What can we do to help the churches in our state become more evangelistic?”
“We need more good evangelism programs. Why aren’t you providing them?”
“Why are we reaching fewer unchurched people than we used to?”
Those three questions were asked of me in the span of a just a few days. Each of them came with hints of frustration, confusion, and anger.
It is true. Most churches reach fewer lost and unchurched people than they did in the past. It is no longer necessary to be a part of a church to be culturally accepted. That pool of immediate evangelistic opportunities has been reduced dramatically.
Is there hope? Absolutely!
I am observing carefully churches in North America that are truly making an evangelistic impact. Most of them transitioned from evangelistic apathy to growth. Though there is no formulaic approach or magic-bullet program, here are five common themes I see repeatedly:
1. A small group of church members dedicated themselves to pray for an evangelistic harvest. Evangelism is not a human-devised program. It is a Spirit-led endeavor. I am saddened when I see churches with no intentionality about praying for evangelism and the lost in the community. It is absurd to think we can separate prayer from evangelism. “And they devoted themselves to . . . prayer . . . And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).
2. Pastors make evangelism a personal priority. I have yet to find evangelistic churches where the pastors have not committed themselves personally to evangelism. It’s not easy. Pastors are pulled in a multiplicity of directions. It is easy to respond to the tyranny of the urgent. Pastors must make time to make personal evangelism a priority. Church members must give them time to do so.
3. Leaders in the church teach church members to invite people to church. Most church members do not realize what happens more than half the time when they invite an unchurched member to church. They show up at church! Such is the reason I encourage leaders to have a singular day focused on inviting people to church (We created a resource to help in that process called Invite Your One). Though a single day of inviting people is not another magic-bullet solution, it does typically create a positive ethos toward inviting people.
4. These churches love the communities in which they are located. I love the focus on the nations evident in many of our churches. I love the national church planting emphasis we see in many places. But churches that are evangelistic do not forget that the commission of Acts 1:8 begins with Jerusalem, the local community. What percent of your church’s budget goes to direct ministry and evangelism in the community?
5. These churches have consistent, usually weekly, efforts to connect with unchurched people in the community. The efforts may be as simple as Facebook ads or communications with new residents. It may be a basic email campaign to reach out to those who have visited the church. These efforts are not solutions in themselves, but they do help create an outwardly-focused ethos in your church.
"Questioning God" (Part One)
As the joke goes, we catch ourselves talking out loud to ourselves in someone's hearing. We laugh and say we aren't too worried because we haven't started talking back to ourselves. At least, not yet.
Talking to ourselves is a reality, whether we are conscious of it or not. Much of what we say to ourselves comes through filters created by our past. It comes because we live in a time of information overload; there is a lot of "telling" going on. Instead of just talking to ourselves, are we asking any questions? More importantly, do we make room for questions?
When we intentionally ask ourselves questions, we make room for more than the same patterns of thought we easily fall into because they are comfortable or because they protect us from having to face our own flawed natures. Asking questions makes room for the Lord to get a word in edgewise.
So what kinds of questions should we ask ourselves before the Lord? What will open us up to more of the Lord's desires? There are questions that are concerned with personal needs and discipleship. Those should be asked. However, let me suggest here the first of several questions, which will sharpen an understanding of what the Lord wants for our ministry life as God's shepherd-leaders.
Question 1: What am I striving for in the ministry God has given me? In other words, what do I hope will be the outcomes of my ministry?
This question is really much more difficult to answer than it seems. If the answer is an automatic "more people, more baptisms, more ministry funds," I would suggest we are giving a Sunday school answer and not a "God's dream in our heart" answer. True, seeing people transformed by Jesus is the goal. But the Lord has given every disciple and every church that mission. The "hoped for outcomes" deal with the specifics of what the goal looks like or feels like in our particular ministry.
Let me offer an example. Dwight Spencer came to Utah in 1881 as an ABHMS missionary among the Mormons. God's dream in Dwight's heart was preaching Jesus in such a way that, though suspicious, Mormons would send their children to the Baptist Sunday Schools and "day" or grade school, first in Odgen, and then in Salt Lake City. The more he worked at it, the more he realized the there weren't enough resources available among the people to do this work.
Dwight then worked to bring other missionary pastors and teachers to continue and expand the work started. In late 1886 and 1887, he then traveled back to the mid-west and the east to raise funds for home mission work in Utah and the west. He raised $100,000 (over $2.7 million in current dollars) so congregations could afford buildings for ministry. The money was not the dream; neither were church buildings. God's dream in Dwight's heart was that congregations would be Christ's vital witness in their communities and "not leave this darkness alone" (The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, February 1885).
Question 2: What is God's dream in your heart?
Please let me assure you I don't mean if you ask the question, you will have an instant answer. In fact, if the answer comes quickly, it may not be God's answer.
To explore what God's dream in your heart is, let me suggest this activity. Go to your church's sanctuary when it is quiet. Be still before the Lord. Sit in one place for a while. Move to another place for a while. If you are an active person or find sitting in one place a distraction in itself, you may want to move around. Listen to your memories of what has happened there. What do you see in your mind's eye? Don't dwell on the past too long, but move to considering the future. Ask in faith, "Lord, what could happen here? What would it look like? How would it sound? What would people experience?"
Additionally, you might want to walk through your church’s neighborhood, looking at the people, the places, and any activity. Again, ask, "Lord, what could happen here?" Please note: the question is what COULD happen, not what SHOULD happen. "Could" and "should" are two very different ideas, both of which are important. Be willing to concentrate on the "could" because that is where God's dream in your heart can emerge.
It is important to try to find a few words or an image to express this to yourself. From my own and others' experience, it is important to know several of these encounters may be needed before there is some clarity and something we have that confidently comes from the Lord.
What are the some of the results of engaging in this exercise? God's dream in our heart releases us from unfair standards and unrealistic expectations. It sets us free from ourselves and our tendencies toward self-absorbed dreams fellow Christians may chafe at. It brings stamina for the ministry and capacity to withstand the difficulties encountered. It keeps us accountable to God.
In part two, we'll look at questions that deal with both the freedom and accountability in these dreams.
What is God's dream in your heart? One of the God dreams I have is that we will have courage to talk together about the God dreams in our hearts because, in part, we will be strengthened in knowing these dreams are part of God's great whole and we are not alone in them.
"A church committed to being on mission would always be in the development stage where adaptation is normative. Maintaining status quo would be considered unhealthy and abnormal."
Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning
March 20, 2016, marked the celebration and culmination of years of prayer, obedience and preparation by Sun Kim and many other people in his life. That day, First Baptist Church of Des Moines, WA ordained Sun Kim to the gospel ministry. It was an inspiring service that included participation by Sun’s father (Yoan Kim) and brother (Woun Kim) as well as many others, including Worth Wilson and Charles Revis of Mission Northwest, who came alongside during his journey.
November 8, 2015 was the last major event on the road of preparation that led to ordination. That day FBC called an ordination council for Sun who had worked through the required steps with the guidance of the WA/N. ID Ministerial Concerns and Standards Department. Sun did an excellent job responding to a vigorous examination by the members of Mission Northwest churches in attendance. At the conclusion, the council voted unanimously to recommend that FBC of Des Moines proceed with the ordination and that Mission Northwest recognize Sun’s ordination.
Those were some of the markers on the path to ordination. What is not always known and seldom seen by most people are the years of preparation, education, mentoring and internships. A pastor who has a standard ordination has nearly as much formal education as a physician entering residency training. In the midst of all the training are the hours of prayer and Bible study, searching for God’s continued leading. There are deep conversations with other pastors and mentors, also seeking to confirm God’s guidance.
Sun Kim’s ordination was a culmination of prayer and preparation. It also marked a beginning of a lifetime of ministry of leading others to faith and obedience. Sun’s major role now is to lead any congregation he serves to bring the good news of Jesus to our broken world, to develop life-long followers of Jesus, and to shepherd others among these disciples who might be called by the Lord for ministerial servie.
Where does it all begin? With a response of obedience to God’s moving in many hearts and minds with the conviction God is saying, “Set apart for me [these] for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
I was recently asked for advice in negotiating a pastor’s salary package for 2017. That request reminded me of an excellent, free resource that MMBB publishes, the title of which is “Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation.” I have uploaded a copy on our web site for easy access at www.abcnw.org/pastors-compensation-guide.
Often there is confusion as to what constitutes the pastor’s salary and what is a benefits package, and what is simply business expense and is not considered compensation. This MMBB guide helps in sorting out these details.
For example, the “Cash Compensation” aspects of a pastors salary includes “cash salary, “housing allowance” as well as “social security offset” and “equity allowance”.
Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows ordained ministers to exclude from federally taxed income some or all of the cost of providing their principal residence. A church that fails to establish a portion of pastoral compensation as housing allowance is penalizing the pastor by increasing his, or her, tax burden. The amount designated as housing allowance needs to be established and recorded in the board’s business meetings prior to the start of the new year. Consult the Compensation Guide for more details.
Some churches confuse Pastor’s Benefits with Cash Compensation. These cover expenses that are essential for maintaining employee health and morale. Typically these fall in four categories and pastors do not pay taxes on them: 1) Retirement savings, 2) Life insurance, 3) Disability insurance and 4) Health insurance.
Then there are a good number or expenses that pastors incur through simply carrying out the duties of their ministry. These should be reimbursed through an “Accountable Plan” as the pastor submits receipts for each expense. Typically these fall into several categories: 1) Business-related travel and auto use, 2) Hospitality 3) Conference attendance 4) Continuing education 5) Subscriptions/books/periodicals 6) Fees and dues for professional associations, and 6) Work-related cellphone use.
Unfortunately, there are times when churches, usually under financial duress, lump these last items under compensation when they are not. Yes, they are part of the cost of having a pastor, but they should not be considered as part of the salary package.
I commend this resource to our pastors and churches as you make financial plans for 2017. Our region accountant, Cherie’ Vidovich, is also available to answer additional questions that you may have in this arena.
A chief value of Mission Northwest is resourcing and developing church leaders. This is why we encourage pastors to involve themselves in a Leadership Learning Community. Each year a uniform selection of books and resources are selected for study by the various groups around the region. These are recommended for church leaders and staff as well. Some church boards take 3 to 6 months to cover a particular book to hone their skills and gain fresh insights for ministering in today’s world. A follow-up action plan is helpful for implementing what has been learned. The following list represent the recommended resources for 2017. Prior year selections may be found at the region’s website under the LLC tab (www.abcnw.org or www.missionnorthwest.org)
January and February
Canoeing the Mountains by Tod BolsingerTopic: Adaptive church leadership for a post-modern, post-Christian world in which there is no roadmap for leading through uncharted territory.
March and April
Growing Young by Kara Powell Topic: Understanding millennials with a view towards changing the church’s approach in reaching out to this unchurched generational cohort. Based on exhaustive research conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute.
May and September
Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times by Peter Senske Topic: Wisdom and practical advice for remaining calm while leading changes that result in improved church health and effectiveness.
October and November (choose one of two selections, or study both)
The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us by Karl Vaters Topic: Churches of all sizes matter and therefore maximizing the effectiveness of the small church should be more important to us than nursing an inferiority complex.
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart Topic: Responding to the challenge of racism by considering the insights of an evangelical African-American theologian.
December (choose one of two selections)
Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri Nouwen
Organic Outreach for Everyday People: Sharing Good News Naturally by Kevin Harney (chapters 6 – 9)
Mission Northwest is proceeding with exciting plans to develop three new learning networks aimed at providing crucial support for workers among young leaders in our congregations.
We all know how critically important it is to have vibrant children and youth ministries as well as a growing cadre of young, innovative pastors if our churches are to continue into the future. Even more important than mere survival is the fact that we are put here to impact the Northwest with the good news of Jesus Christ, a daunting task to say the least!
Building connections among those working in these areas that will provide collaboration, training, coaching, and support becomes a high priority for our Region, especially given the stress and challenges facing those in our local congregations who have answered the call!
Funds from a recently awarded ABC-USA Palmer Grant for Mission Northwest will allow us to provide resources for three new learning networks. These will be formed in the coming weeks and will focus on the following areas:
1. Children and young families
2. Youth (Jr. High, Sr. High, College and Young Singles)
3. Younger, innovative pastors, leading in ministry settings that need transformation
Recognizing that our churches are spread out over a large and diverse area, these networks will convene monthly using video conferencing technology. Each will be led by a region-appointed facilitator. They will schedule input from experienced resource people. Collaborative discussions for the purpose of sharing best practices will take place among all the participants.
An annual retreat for these young leaders is also envisioned for developing face-to-face relationships and celebrating ministry successes.
What we need most right now is to identify who are the people working with children or youth in our congregations, and to develop a working roster of possible participants in each of the children’s and youth networks. Region staff will recruit participants in the young pastors network. They can be people who are on your staff in full or part time capacities, paid or volunteer, or maybe someone who you think has a heart for stepping into a youth ministry position but needs training and support. Please send their contact information to the Region Office. Provide their name, area of ministry (children or youth) and contact information (email address, mailing address and phone number).
With their permission we will send them more information on the program and how they can be a participant.
This is an exciting time to be engaging together in ministry and this new venture holds great promise and possibility for our churches and communities!
This time of year a lot of attention is given to gifts – giving them, getting them, and guessing what they are or should be. Expensive? Thoughtful? Unique? Or maybe trendy, techy AND tasteful all at the same time! And don’t forget the sales – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and both sales extended for “just one more day!” in case you didn’t spend enough or feel like you (and only you) were dumb enough to miss out the first time around. The whole thing can be enough to bring out the Scrooge-e-ness in just about anybody.
Those of us seeking to be Christ followers find ourselves caught between participating in all that Christmas offers and avoiding the excesses. In our own ways, each of us reclaims and proclaims the truth of Jesus during this season, as we should. But it isn’t easy. Do too little, and you feel worse than Scrooge. Do too much, and you feel like you’ve sold out. No doubt, someone you know will agree with you either way.
Amidst the attention about giving, there is one vitally needed gift we can give the Lord. It doesn’t cost any money, initially, but it could be priceless. You might not have any immediate satisfaction from it, but it could have eternal ramifications. It lies within anyone’s ability to give. It is at once both simple and profoundly complex.
That one priceless, eternally significant, especially needed thing you can give to God’s kingdom work is asking someone to consider becoming a pastor-leader in Christ’s body.
Why should we do this rather bold thing? First, in inviting someone to consider becoming a pastor-leader, we have the opportunity to take “ego” out of a call to ministry. While a person needs to have a clear sense of God’s call on his/her life in order to pursue the ministry, it is immensely helpful if that same person isn’t the initiator of the conversation. To say, “I have a call to ministry” can seem arrogant and presumptuous, even when there is no pretext of self-centeredness in that person. Second, we can help awaken something God is doing in someone’s life, helping him/her name a spiritual restlessness that really comes from the Lord.
How would we go about asking someone to seriously consider God’s call? We need to pray at length, asking the Lord to help us be sure it is the Spirit’s idea and not our own. One significant indicator would be the ability to name concrete reasons why this person would be a good pastor-leader. Leaders in the New Testament had experienced a conversion to Christ, were people of character, and were competent in ministry. By competence, Scriptures show these people’s ministries produced fruit. (See Acts 5:12-16; 6:1-7; 9:36-43; 18:24-28; Romans 16:1-5.) If the person is not actively engaged in some kind of ministry in the church, encourage him/her to get involved. Continue to pray for and with that person as he/she tests the waters to see if there is any fruit.
If the Lord is calling this person to full-time ministry, what happens next? Even the most talented and gifted person needs the benefit of preparation and training along with mentoring and support from a local church. Our role is to encourage the person to avail him/herself of this training. Churches in today’s world need pastors who are as prepared as possible. There are several excellent part-time and online programs available if a person is not able to pursue education at a school full-time. In the meantime, the leadership of the church and the congregation can publicly recognize their understanding that the Lord is leading a person into pastoral leadership by the process of licensing. (For a full explanation of the process, which is intended to lead to ordination, see Mission Northwest’s process at this link.)
One of the most recently ordained people among Mission Northwest churches is Sun Kim, pastor at First Baptist Church of Des Moines, WA. One of the most recently licensed people in Mission Northwest happened in October. Andy Paz – pastor at First Baptist Church of Filer, ID – was licensed for ministry in anticipation of ordination in the next year. Filer First Baptist will also be taking steps to license Teresa Hardin and Thomas Klein in January 2017. There are several others in different parts of the region also working toward ordination.
Why do we make such a big deal out of this? One answer is practical: without skilled and called pastors, churches do not thrive and they struggle to reach out. History has shown clearly in the northwest that without a pastor and without a place of its own, a congregation generally flounders and dies. The other answer is Biblical: pastoral leadership is the Lord’s pattern for shepherding a congregation as found in the New Testament. It is the local church that embodies and carries the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus to a broken, lost world. Pastors are those specially charged with leading congregations and training disciples for the fulfillment of that mission and work.
You are in a position to give an extra special gift to the Lord’s kingdom in this next year. Consider those you know and prayerfully consider asking one or more of them, “Have you ever thought the Lord might want you to be a pastor?”
A number of years ago (I won’t say how many!), John and I went to the community nursing home during the Christmas season to lead some singing and bring them a word about God’s love for them. We sang some familiar Christmas songs with the less familiar accompaniment of my guitar. Then John read one of the New Testament passages about the birth of Jesus to be followed by a short devotional thought. After the singing and the Bible reading, one of the elderly men got up and shuffled out with the aid of his walker. As he left, we heard him say out loud to no one in particular, “I’m leaving; I’ve heard this all before.”
There is some truth, minus the cynicism, to what the old gentleman said. What we say and do at Christmas has been said and celebrated before. We often use the same decorations, sometimes passing them to the next generation. We sing many of the same songs. After all, what is Christmas without _____? (Pick your favorite song.) When we think about it, this God-with-us event isn’t even a new idea. It was in God’s heart long before it actually happened. And the Lord made sure we knew it was going to happen. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph though the action of God’s Spirit, the Lord made it clear He was at work doing something new. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared,
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)
By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem, many people were looking and longing for the event. Some of the people were like Anna and Simeon, already faithful people of the Lord’s community (Luke 2:25-30). Some were outside of community of faith, but were looking for this special event in order to be a part of it (Matt. 2: 1-2). The old message of God’s things to come repeated down through the years was a really a new thing. Though expected, it came in an unexpected way.
About the time I think I’ve heard it or seen it all, something happens. A new song. Someone who has just begun to experience that Christmas is more than an excuse for consumerism, that the real God of the universe has taken an intimate and eternal interest in every single person on the face of the planet in every time and every place. A warmth in a familiar event. A reconnection with an old friend.
In the same way, the Lord is taking this same Christmas message of God’s love in Christ for people and doing a new thing today. I am convinced that the Lord is doing a new thing among people in the northwest. More than that, God has a vital part for our people in Mission Northwest to play in God’s new thing.
So what may seem like “the same ol’ thing” also has the features of a new thing. One of the best parts of Christmas for me is this: in the middle of events that may look like and sound like what we did last year, and probably many years before that, God continues to break in. Then as now, God keeps on say to us, “I’m doing a new thing. Don’t you recognize it?”
This Christmas season, may you recognize the eternal newness of God in the midst of all that is dear and familiar to you. My prayer for you is that you will recognize the part Christ has for you in bringing His new life to those He has put in your life for exactly that reason.
As I reflect on the meaning of Christmas my thoughts take me back to past Christmases. Intermingled with those old memories are mysterious touches of God’s presence. I distinctly remember as a sixth grade boy walking through ice-cold air from our church’s Christmas Eve service down to the parsonage where we lived. A church member had given me a gift and I was in a hurry to unwrap it. It was a plastic model kit for a 1939 Ford hard top roadster. I was so thrilled. My first model car. That gift now lodges in my memory as a token of what it means to be on the receiving end of grace.
Many years later that boyhood experience would return to my consciousness as I would leave my own church’s candle-lit Christmas Eve service and walk out into the wintery, star-filled nightscape. My heart would be full from the echoes of carols, the moment when I kneeled at the communion table with my family, and the whispered “Merry Christmas” blessings at the exit as people scurried off to their own homes. Distant memories and current experiences all mingled together to evoke wonder at the gift of salvation embodied in the Christ child born so many years ago.
So the wonder of Christmas and all that it means for me personally is encapsulated in the word “mystery.” Not as in a “who-done-it” novel where the protagonist’s identity is revealed upon the story’s denouement. Rather, for me “mystery” points to the revelation and appearance of the Messiah who redeemed humanity from the dark shadow of the curse that rested upon it.
I am convinced that the significance of those subtle numinous experiences in my past emanate from that first mystery that trumps all mysteries: a baby born to a virgin, asleep in a feeding trough, who was and is God in the flesh—this infant who would live His life in perfect obedience to the Father who sent Him. And when the fullness of time had come He died in my place at Calvary. He did this because He is the very embodiment of love and grace, rescuing that which is un-deserving of rescue. No wonder the Apostle Paul in pointing back to the first Advent wrote: Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory” (1 Tim 3: 16 NLT) This is the revealed mystery, Jesus, the hope of the world, who has come to redeem us. And it is this mystery that means all the world to me, which for me is the very meaning of Christmas.
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/17/16)—The General Secretary Search Committee for American Baptist Churches has met face to face and by conference call to prayerfully discern the way forward in the search for our next General Secretary. The committee seeks the best qualified candidate who will serve ABCUSA with a sense of deep faith and love of Christ, engage in collaboration with denominational and ecumenical partners, offer both a pastoral and prophetic presence, and be the harmonizer who calls all American Baptists into unity. Executive recruitment firm, National Executive Service Corps, has been retained to assist with the search.
The General Secretary position profile is now posted on the ABCUSA website, here. To apply, please see the instructions document “How to Apply.” To make a recommendation for the position, please use the “Recommendations” form. Submit all recommendations and applications to National Executive Service Corps as indicated on the “How to Apply” document. The application deadline is January 6, 2017. The deadline for recommending prospective candidates is December 6, 2016.
All American Baptist entities are asked to share this news release through social media outlets and other sources of communication.
General Secretary Search Committee members include: Judy Fackenthal, chair; Wesley Roberts, vice-chair; Kelly Legg, chaplain; Robert Crouch; Shirley Fair; Charity Matic; Donald Robinson; Tom Ross; Don Ng; Marcia Patton; Charles Revis; John Williams; Doris Garcia-Rivera; and Marilyn Tyson, support staff.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.
Day 2 - Kevin Harney
Joe Medicine Crow has passed away at the age of 102 on Sunday, April 3. What you may not know, or hear from the news, is that he was a long-time member of the First Crow Indian Baptist Church in Lodge Grass, MT. His pastor of many years, David Lopez, told me that when he first came to the church Joe was the church moderator. Joe held other leadership positions in the congregation and was active until more recent years as his failing health slowed down his involvement. Not only has a national treasure passed from the scene, our brother in Christ, who has left his mark on the living with his faith and life, is now in the presence of his Master receiving his award. The funeral honoring his life takes place on Wednesday, April 5, at the church. ~ Charles Revis
Check out this excellent television story on our very own River Valley Church in Missoula, MT with pastor Dave Lodwig. It features their name change from First Baptist to their new name. As Pastor Dave explains they felt--and was later confirmed through on-the-streeet interviews--that the name "Baptist" was a barrier to reaching younger adults and people with no church background. So, the church changed it's name. This is just one piece of a multi-layered strategy River Valley church is employing to better reach its community and kick start growth. The story also features Scott Klaudt, founding pastor of Zootown Church. Pastor Scott was one of our speakers at the 2015 Leadership Tune-Up.
"More often than not, the reason people come to church week in and week out if they're looking for a place they can find hope -- hope for a life better than what they have today," Missoula First Baptist Church Pastor Dave Lodwig.