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Summer

This year at Mercy Church we are doing what we have never done before... a summer schedule.

One of things we become aware of as leaders is change is hard for all of us. Even when we know it is good.

One reason for our particular change here is that we have over the years, by offering two VERY different worship gatherings in terms of music, ethos, and energy - have connected with different people but have not connected different people TOGETHER as well.

Yes some of this occurs in small groups, and hopefully more so as we have been moving into homes and adopting a "mercy circle" approach of scattering in smaller groups during the week.

However, in the Sioux Falls context the worship gathering is still our biggest "front door" and therefore first impression to many.

For a church that has grown over the years from 15 adults (and not mothered) to over 200 + in part by merging in an older congregation - we sense a real need to increase the spiritual warmth and connectedness in our large gatherings.

It also true that in summer many are traveling during this extended holiday-season so there are practical volunteer/ministry quality reasons to offer one service with rotating worship styles instead of two different ones based on styles.

So:

1> This is a great time to get to know Mercy Church better. Join us at 10am when you are in town this summer. If you are a guest you are always welcome in our worship/teaching gatherings and our Mercy Circles (which meet less frequently - but sill do in summer contact chris@mercy-church.org for information on groups).

2> We also invite and encourage you to read through NT Wright's translation and commentary out loud at home (perhaps during dinner) on Galatians. You can order the book and study guide through our Amazon.com store.

Booklet:
http://astore.amazon.com/mercychurch-20/detail/0664227856/185-7273399-2529252

Study Guide: http://astore.amazon.com/mercychurch-20/detail/0830821899/185-7273399-2529252

We are calling this a summer of unity, of re-visiting mission and vision and of joy and play I pray and hope.

Exciting times as always to be part of the Mercy Church family - where depth, warmth and the Kingdom of God values matter most.

belong, question, share and grow at Mercy!

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European Anabaptism vs Global Pentecostalism #MennoNerdsOnRace

European Anabaptism vs Global Pentecostalism #MennoNerdsOnRace

http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/european-anabaptism-vs-global-pentecostalism-mennonerdsonrace/?utm_content=buffer4a7a4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Posted on June 14, 2014 by Micael Grenholm

A few days ago, the Anabaptist blogging network MennoNerds, which this blog is a part of, arranged a webinar called Race, Mutuality and Anabaptist community. It was all recorded via Google Hangouts and can be watched in the video above. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join the discussion live since time here was around 2 AM, but we MennoNerds now have a chance to contribute to the conversion via our blogs, which is what I’m doing right now.

Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion and for the first 300 years, most of the important theologians (the so called “church fathers”) came from the Middle East, Northern Africa and what is now Turkey. The present churches in for example Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia have survived since the time of the apostles. But since the Western Catholic church distanced itself from and condemned the eastern and oriental churches, the experiences, stories and theology of non-white Christians became peripheral. To this very day, it is common among Western Christians to identify themselves with and be inspired by Christian streams from Western Europe: Catholicism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, Lutherism, Anabaptism, Quakerism, Methodism, Salvationism, Baptism, and so on.

It gets increasingly problematic when people of European descent expect other people to submit to these European interpretations of the teachings of Jesus when they are born again, i.e. asking them to become “Lutherans” or “Anabaptists”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anabaptism and identify myself with the movement, and I think that people like Drew Hart does an excellent job in outlining “Anablacktivism” and interpreting the Anabaptist message about justice and peace from an African-American perspective. Truth is that all of the church streams I mentioned above are global today – Catholicism is biggest in Latin America which their Argentinian pope signifies, Anglicanism is bigger outside England and the biggest Lutheran denomination in the world is Mekane Yesus in Ethiopia.

These voices need to be recognized and influential within these church streams. Yet, we cannot get away from the fact that if you want to get to the roots of the movement, as A.O. Green likes to do, you’ll have to read what a bunch of white, European men wrote. And that’s a bit boring, isn’t it?

I think we need more inspiration from eastern and oriental churches, as well as the independent churches in Africa, China, Nepal etc. that has grown and developed with hardly any Western influence. And most of all, we need inspiration from our Middle Eastern Jewish Bible. But I would also like to emphasize a church stream that is the most international one I can think of: Pentecostalism.

The Pentecostal revival is normally viewed as originating among a group of African Americans, Latino Americans and actually some Swedish immigrants in Los Angeles 1906. The church on Azusa Street, The Apostolic Faith Mission, was one of the first inter-racial churches in the United States, and it was led by William Seymour whose father had been a slave in the American South. The Mission quickly sent out missionaries to all continents with the Pentecostal “Full Gospel”; reports from all over the world were published in the Mission’s magazine The Apostolic Faith, and soon it was revealed that the Pentecostal revival actually did not originate in the United States!

Missionary Albert Norton visited the Mutki Mission in India which had been founded by Pandita Ramabai. He was amazed when he saw an uneducated woman that only knew Marathi and Hindi, suddenly speak fluent English when the Spirit came upon her. There was a strong outpouring of the Holy Spirit there, and it had started when Pandita Ramabai prayed for her school students in 1905 – one year before the Azusa Street revival! Other missionaries also witnessed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was already known among several Christians in the majority world, and thus the restoration of the Pentecostal baptism was a global phenomenon, rather than an American one.

As I’ve written before, early Pentecostalism was also pacifist, which is why I often argue that theologically early Anabaptism and early Pentecostalism are basically the same movement. I think Anabaptists would benefit a lot from seeking inspiration in the Pentecostal movement, especially its early roots. But again, the most important inspiration should be the Bible, which both Anabaptism and Pentecostalism try to restore.

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Why Are Some Christians so Homophobic?

At Mercy we've talked about finding a Third Way for a long time. Here is a great sermon on applying it:
Why Are Some Christians so Homophobic?

http://media.themeetinghouse.ca/podcast/audio/2014-05-18-919-sermon.mp3

I have preached similar things in the past at Mercy - here it from a more "polished" older moderate Anabaptist preacher Bruxy Cavy.

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Fatherhood’s Call to Duty: Ravi Zacharias

Ravi is one of our beloved Christian & Missionary Alliance national evangelists. Let him evangelize you about duty this Father's Day weekend.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/june-web-only/fatherhoods-call-to-duty.html

Fatherhood's Call to Duty
www.christianitytoday.com

A love that knows its responsibilities.

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Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor

To my pastor friends - a good reminder from Thom: Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor thomrainer.com by Thom Rainer The work of pastoral ministry is a joy, but it’s also demanding. Every pastor is on call 24/7. Expectations of members are high and sometimes unreasonable. Pastors are thus expected to “run the race” constantly. But how can a pastor keep the pace in this marathon of ministry without burning out? How can a pastor remain productive with such demands? Allow me to offer ten tips to becoming a more productive pastor. Be spiritually disciplined. Pastor, you cannot lead God’s people spiritually if you are spiritually depleted. Find a time to pray and to read God’s Word every day. Don’t let it become an afterthought. Pick a time of day and stick with it. For some of you, it’s first thing in the morning. For me, it’s the quiet of late evening. Pray for the day ahead. There is obvious overlap between the first two, but I want to remind pastors to pray about three specific things before you begin the day. First, pray for God’s wisdom for all the conversations and situations you will be facing. Second, pray for His grace. You will hear from critics and high maintenance people. It’s not always easy to be gracious to some. Third, pray for opportunities to show and share the love of Christ during the day. I am always amazed how He answers that prayer in my life. Be physically disciplined. As you set aside a time of the day for spiritual discipline, also set aside a time of day for physical discipline. You may think you don’t have time to do both. You can’t afford to neglect either. I love the advantages of technology. My iPad, headphones, and treadmill are daily companions. Make appointments for sermon preparation. How long does it take you to prepare a sermon? Take that time plus one hour and put it on your calendar each week. Don’t try to do sermon preparation in the margins of your life; it’s too important to minimize. You may not always get to keep those appointments, but you have a better chance if they are on your calendar. Determine one to three priorities you will accomplish for the day. If possible, don’t take on any other tasks until those items are completed. Get sufficient sleep. Hard workers often like to brag about how much they work and how little sleep they get. If their lack of sleep is a reality, they are becoming less productive and more unhealthy. Sleep is not a luxury; it is a gift of rest and recovery given directly from God. Make appointments on your calendar for strategic vision. Perhaps once a month, set aside a day to get away by yourself, pray, seek God’s face, and dream about the future of the church. Take notes that day, either electronically or on paper. Laugh and have fun. Sometimes I have a bad attitude about my work and ministry and say I have to do something. My attitude should be that, by the grace of God, I get to do His work. We who are in vocational ministry often need to lighten up and laugh more. Not all ministry could be described as “fun,” but much of it is if we have the right attitude. Have a right attitude. Speaking of attitudes, productive pastors rejoice more. They learn greater gratitude. They see setbacks as temporary and opportunities as never ending. They see themselves as co-laborers with God Himself. Work hard; rest intentionally. There are a few pastors who need to improve their work ethics. Are you truly laboring for God? But there are more pastors who need to rest and relax more. You are not omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Thanks for letting me share these ten tips with you. What would you add to my list? The post Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor appeared first on ThomRainer.com.

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Can Women be Elders in the Church or Not? by Felicity Dale

Shel: The Alliance historically (using a Luke-Acts/Charismatic argument) had women elders, lead pastors and even DS's. Some of have denied or "re-framed" the history to say we were not a "denomination" until 1970 so those leaders somehow do not count. It's a rip-roaring debate among some. Here is one perspective using Paul. Can Women be Elders in the Church or Not? 6/12/2014 Felicity Dale Many people believe that women cannot be elders. They often base it on this Scripture: It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do (1Tim 3:1 NASB). Many other versions say something similar. There are two problems with this translation: Nowhere in the original Greek does it use the word "man." In fact, according to Philip B. Payne, author of Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters, nowhere in the descriptions of qualifications of elders and deacons in either Timothy or Titus is a masculine pronoun used. The New Living Translation has it more accurately–"If any person..." The word "office" or "position" is not in the original Greek either. It was added by the translators. But, you may say, what about the fact that one of the qualifications for an elder is that he is to be the husband of one wife–a "one-woman-man"? The qualifications for a deacon also include that stipulation, and we know that Phoebe was a woman deacon, so this on its own cannot be taken to mean there should not be women elders. The exclusion was probably to prevent polygamy in the leadership of the church, not to prevent women, or indeed single males, from being either elders or deacons. Added to that, unlike many cultures where men can have more than one wife, I cannot think of a single culture where women had/have more than one husband. Others may object, but there are no females named as overseers (Greek episkopos) in the New Testament. True. However, apart from Jesus, there are no named males entitledepiskopos either. Yes, John and Peter both describe themselves as elders, (Greekpresbuteros) but these do not identify them as having a specific local church function and can equally well be interpreted that they are older in age. Similarly, older women in Titus 2 are described as presbutera. advertisement What about verse 11 that says "Likewise their wives..." (NKJV) implying that the wives of elders and deacons have to be qualified too? The Greek word can be translated as either "wives" or "women." A better translation would be "Similarly, the women..." This phrase occurs within the description of deacons. Several inscriptions have been discovered that show that women were leaders in Jewish synagogs shortly after the time of Christ. There is similar archaeological evidence of women leadership in the early church. What do you think? Adapted from Felicity Dale's blog, Kingdom Women. Felicity Dale is the author of numerous books including The Black Swan Effect and Simply Church. She is an an advocate for women in the church and trains people to start simple, organic house churches around the world.

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On the Death of One of the Saints: Phil Presley

A couple weeks ago, on a Sunday morning before worship Phil Presley came over to me as I was plinking on the piano before the rest of the musicians came in. (Phil and I played together numerous times at my home church and recently he and Marty joined Mercy Church.) He said something like, "that's nice," I was playing some Greig. "But when are you gonna play the real stuff for us?" I said, "this is 'real stuff' I was trained initially classically you know!"

He replied, "No, you need to do some of that Gospel-jazz worship fusion stuff you used to do back in the day."

Phil could play any number of instruments and was in the rotation on drums for the last few months.

I laughed him off, and said "I don't do music at Mercy Church, that's for others. They get enough of me in the sermon time." Phil was insistent so I said, "ok, just for YOU Phil, some Sunday this summer when we're hurting cause of traveling I'll try to work something in." Phil was pleased but not entirely happy with this response.

Phil died last night in his sleep.

Marty and Phil joined our church after some transitions in their old church and mostly because their son and daugther-in-law + dear grand babies are here and serving on our team. (Phil said he loved my teaching and humor on a couple of occasions -an encourager for sure! But, I said, "yes, but I know the brass tacks of the situation- the kids and those grand-babys! I'm just an added bonus compared to them of course." He did not disagree with my analysis ;-) ).

Phil had a dry sense of humor that those who know him appreciated. We got along well on that point. My off-handed dry humor/remarks in sermons resonated with him (even if others missed it or they fell flat -he would chortle a hearty laugh!).

Having re-connected after many years was a joy. I was excited to have him (and of course Marty as well!!) share his gifts and his "been-there-done-that-have-the-t-shirt" AND YET I WILL STILL SERVE attitude at Mercy Church. A special gift indeed!

So tonight as his family is gathering and over the next few days my heart is heavy (and tears come calling to my eyes). He was a gift to all who knew him.

I know he is in the presence of the Father and the Lord Jesus. He knew Jesus. He loved the messy local church - because it is people saved, being saved and yet to be saved - joined together by the Holy Spirit.

Phil, you are now in the cloud of witnesses. I know I can pray directly through Jesus and have access - but can you add a few words in for me, for us, for your family grieving and celebrating your home-going?

You were and are loved.

And we will have to do a gospel-jazz fusion set when we all get together again.

Love, your younger brother in the Lord,

Shelby

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The Title ‘Christ’ Hurtado

Shel: Ben Witherington reposts this. Good info regarding the title 'Christ' in the NTT In the discussions of Tom Wright in his recent opus, he stresses again and again that Christos is not merely a name, rather it regularly indicates that Jesus is the Jewish messiah, the anointed one of God. Here is reflection of another scholar, meditated to us by a fine post by Larry Hurtado that offers us a third choice…. which may break new ground. BW3 — The Messianic Jesus in Paul’s Christology by larryhurtado Some time back, in a posting over on the blog site of our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, I drew attention here to Matt Novenson’s book, Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism (Oxford University Press, 2012). Having re-read it as part of my preparation for a paper on “Paul’s Messianic Christology” for a conference in Rome in late June, I’m again impressed with the book, and want to reiterate my commendation of it. Over against what has been the “majority position,” that “Christ” (Greek: χριστος) in Paul’s usage is essentially a colorless name, merely designating Jesus but not really carrying any connotative emphasis, Novenson lodges what I regard as a convincing counter-case. Part of his case is to show that previous scholars have tended to work with only two “onomastic” categories: “Christ” in Paul is either a “title” (having strong connotative emphasis, as “messiah”) or a “name” (merely designating Jesus). Novenson cogently contends that there is a third category to consider, however: appellatives used as “honorifics,” i.e., a term so closely and particularly attached to an individual that it alone can designate that person, yet still carrying its connotation. As well-known examples, he cites “Augustus” (for Octavian), “Epiphanes” (for Antiochus IV), and Judas “Maccabee”. This seems to me a breakthrough of sorts beyond the philological impasse that has plagued Pauline scholarship. Novenson’s contention is that in Paul “Christ” has this sort of function: It is closely and uniquely attached to Jesus, such that on its own it can designate him (as it does some 150 times in Paul’s letters), but it retains its semantic value (“meaning”) as “messiah.” This “honorific” category accounts for how “Christ” can seem to function almost like a name, and yet not really be reduced to functioning as a name. Then, Novenson analyses a selection of Pauline passages, observing how they illustrate Paul’s use of “messianic language.” This analysis confirms the judgment that Jesus’ messianic status/significance really was an important claim for Paul. Another creative feature of Novenson’s study is his emphasis that Paul’s use of messianic language should be seen as a “case study” in ancient Jewish messianic expressions. Many scholars have portrayed Paul’s Christological thought as a flat contrast with, or negation of, Jewish messianism. But, as Novenson argues, this seems to rest upon an over-simplified picture of Jewish messianic hopes that does not do justice to its diversity. Moreover, in light of Paul’s firm efforts to continue to be identified as Jewish, and his view of his gentile mission as securing “the obedience of the nations” to the biblical God and his Christ, Paul’s Christology is better seen as a particular (and distinctive) version in the diversity of ancient Jewish messianism. I confess that perhaps part of my readiness to see the force of Novenson’s case is that I see it as reinforcing and sophisticating views that I’ve tried to express. But I also readily grant that Novenson’s case is a marked advance on anything previous, and in my view is now the starting point for any further consideration of how Paul’s Christology relates to ancient Jewish messianism.

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The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches – By Thom Rainer

Shel: I LOVE Thom's stuff so right on and needed for many to hear. In Wednesday’s post, I focused on seven very practical habits of churches that have an outward focus. I am honored and humbled to be in a place where I get to hear from and study about thousands of churches. The leaders and congregants in those churches provide me with incredible information and data. I am grateful, because I’m not smart enough to understand these issues on my own. As God has allowed me to study congregations for more than 25 years, I began to see a common pattern in churches that had become outwardly focused. You read some of the practical steps these churches have taken in the earlier post.

The Most Common Factor

Conversely, though, I also can see a simple but profound pattern among the declining churches.
Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.
The ministries are only for the members. The budgetary funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. The times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members. Conflict takes place when members don’t get things their way. You get the picture.

Warning Symptoms

After studying and consulting with thousands of churches, I began to see clearly this pattern. Even more, I began to recognize symptoms of an inward focus. See if you recognize a few of these.
  • There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
  • Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
  • Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, other church staff, and lay leaders in the church.
  • Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.
  • The past becomes the hero.
  • Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
  • Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.
  • If the churches are a part of a denomination or similar affiliation, meetings of those denominations mirror the churches in lost focus and divisiveness.

There is Hope

For those of us in Christ, however, there is always hope—His hope. I have written in recent years about the dire straits of most of our churches. I have felt it necessary to do so in order to face the facts. Indeed, I have written in my most recent book about the deaths of many churches. In the weeks and months ahead, however, you will be hearing from me about churches that are defying the negative trends. You will hear more about church leaders who are dreaming again. You will hear about revitalized churches. This fall, I will deliver to your computers a multi-hour video conference about these exciting times. I don’t have my head in the sand. I know times are tough in many churches. I know congregations are dying every day. I know many church leaders are discouraged. But we serve the God of hope. Decline in our churches does not have to be a reality. I hope you will join me as I share what God is doing in so many congregations. And I always look forward to your comments and thoughts in these blog posts. The post The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches appeared first on ThomRainer.com.

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Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members 2K thomrainer.com / by Thom Rainer

Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members 2K thomrainer.com / by Thom Rainer In an earlier article this week, I noted nine things church members would like to say to their pastors. In this article, I represent the pastors. Please hear me clearly. Most pastors love church members dearly. They truly care for those they serve. But pastors are human. And there are times they would like church members to know some things about them. In my conversations with pastors via social media, in person, by phone, and by email, here are the nine most common themes. 1. When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.” Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them. 2."I will have bad days, and it will show at times.” A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times. 3. "Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’” I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be. 4."I am sensitive about my salary.” There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core. 5."I struggle when the church numbers are down.” I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church. 6."I would love a true friend in the church.” I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time. 7."Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.” I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach. 8."I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.” I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be. 9."I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.” Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation. Most pastors do indeed love their church members. But most pastors have a challenging work, one that is impossible without God’s strength. Pastors, what would you add or change on this list? Church members, what do you think about these nine items? The post Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members appeared first on ThomRainer.com.

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