Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spiritual Discipline

Lent is traditionally a time for Christians to focus on their spiritual disciplines.  Some choose to give up something for Lent.  Others like to add something.  Dr. Elaine Heath, professor of evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, and director of the Academy for Missional Wisdom, talks about the discipline for disciples with four steps.

SHOW UP

PAY ATTENTION

COOPERATE WITH GOD

RELEASE THE OUTCOME

Which one of these actions come naturally to you?  Which one does not?  With so much competition for our attention many of us have trouble showing up and giving God our undivided attention.  Once we know what God expects of us do we have the fortitude to follow through and cooperate with what God is doing in the world?  And then we often struggle with control.  We can't seem to let go and realize that this is God's work.

My prayer this Lent is that I could live these simple four steps each day as I act on my desire to follow Christ.

Grace Always,
Dave

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Benefits from our Big Sister Conferences

I am sitting in a PNW cabinet meeting today in Seattle.  I always appreciate the hospitality they show me whenever I can attend.  I do listen to conversation and teaching about PNW conference matters.  And I always seem to pick up things for consideration in Alaska.

One example today is a process they are hoping to implement that will help churches who want to increase their health and vitality.  What is vitality?  Does it look different in Washington or Idaho from Alaska?  How do we measure vitality?  Worship attendance, baptisms, professions of faith are metrics that relate to the UM Church as an institution.  How do we measure vitality when it cannot be  counted?  How are our elderly disciples counted when they cannot attend worship?  How can we "count" people who participate with a church via social media?  How do new missional communities fit with the UMC institution?

As you can see I have more questions than answers.  My final question is this.  Should the Alaska conference engage in an invitational process to help local churches look seriously at their mission and ministry?

Grace Always,
Dave

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Coaching

Coaching has been around for a long time in sports.  I grew up with a very negative image of coaches probably due to my youth football coach who treated us like marine recruits.  So don't think of coaching today as one who is towering over another screaming at them on how to be a better leader!  It is quite the opposite.

Coaches today are people who have received specialized training to engage leaders one on one in order to help them discover for themselves the direction of their professional and personal lives.  It's a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Throughout her journey to find her way home to Kansas she had the power all along.  But she needed the help of others to enable her to know it.

Last week the Alaska UM clergy and deaconess gathered at Anchor Park for our annual retreat.  Mary Huycke and Lee Hayward were our leaders to introduce us to the basic principles of coaching.

Our Leadership Team approved major funding not only to provide coaches for our leaders but also to provide learning opportunities both in person and online so that we can be prepared to lead our conference in reaching our mission to transform the world through discipleship in Christ.  I am seriously exploring becoming trained as a coach. 

This is a clip of our clergy practicing coaching with one another.
video


Grace Always,
Dave

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gun Violence

Should Christians be involved in the gun violence debate?  Should Alaska UM pastors preach a sermon on the subject?  Should our churches offer forums where they can have a respectful dialogue?  My answer is yes to all of the above.  As much as the gun debate tends to polarize people the church has an opportunity to model to our communities the skills needed to have a civil discourse.

When I was growing up I was taught how to shoot a 22 rifle safely.  My grandfather was a firearm instructor for the police department.  When he died my father gave me three of his guns.  I went through a pacifist stage and sold them all to a friend.  I later regretted this decision in part because I failed to respect my grandfather's legacy, but also because I moved to Alaska.

Alaska is where I became a gun person.  I wanted to be able to protect my family while hiking in the back country.  I learned that hunting here is a necessary part of managing the wildlife balance in nature.  I learned about native traditions of using every part of an animal.  It all seems so natural and respectful.  I do not hear anyone calling for a total gun ban.

I won't list the current arguments in this debate.  This is a multifaceted issue.  As people of God we need to keep the focus on our desire to end gun violence.  Here is a link to our Board of Church and Society on this topic.  http://umc-gbcs.org/blog/gun-violence-must-end

My message today is to encourage our UM leaders to explore ways to discuss this complex issue with the love and respect that comes with knowing Christ as our Savior and Lord. 

Grace Always,
Dave