Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Selecting Shepherds in 2014 by Greg York

Selecting Shepherds in 2014: A Congregational Exercise in Spiritual Growth

A bit of a departure from our usual use of this space: A chance to speak to us all as a church on the importance of the next few weeks.

This is the year for what has become our biennial shepherd selection process. That means that we have some decisions to make about who will lead this church and how it will be led. We have the chance to see if God is raising up others among us to serve as elders.

In 2004, we began using a system for shepherd selection that was predicated on a number of principles:

·         That the congregation as a whole should be involved in selecting its leaders (and would want to be involved);
·         That the congregation as a whole—having been reminded of the scriptural teachings on leadership among God’s people and having prayed about the matter—was wise enough to see who among us is following in the steps of Jesus in a way that the rest of us want to follow him;
·         That God through his Spirit could and would superintend such a process as we bathed the process in prayer;
·         That being appointed an elder was not like being appointed to a Federal judgeship: no one was to serve longer than four years without the congregation prayerfully reaffirming that this is someone who is leading us in the steps of Jesus;
·         That through participating in the process, all members would be able to feel that our elders were not “the church’s” elders, but “our” elders; and
·         That through participating in the process, all of us would have a clearer vision of who we are supposed to be in Christ.

The current leadership wants to encourage all of us to participate in this process. If you are a member of this congregation, you are not too young in years or too old, too new to this place or too long in place. You are not without a voice in this!

We want that to be an informed voice. Here’s how you can be an informed participant:

·         Read over the summary of the process we will follow.
·         Listen to (and process, alone or with others) the sermon of September 28.
·         If at all possible, be part of the combined adult Bible classes October 5, 12, and 19 where we’ll think further about the Biblical teachings on leadership of God’s people (we will try to have recordings of these available on the website as soon as possible so that you may catch up if cannot be present).
·         Above all, pray for the process (that God’s will for this church will be clear and compelling in the results of the process), pray for God to show you clearly who he has prepared and is raising up for leadership, and that those he is calling to serve through this process will be willing and able to serve joyfully and conscientiously.

Please don’t think of this as a pause in our life of striving to spread the aroma of Christ. Rather: The ultimate desire is that our church’s shepherd selection process enhances the life of this church, that we come out on the other end more deeply committed to follow together in the steps of Jesus Christ, and that Southeastern continues in its efforts not merely to exist but truly to be an outpost of God’s Kingdom, spreading the aroma of Christ. As such, this will be a way we continue to grow in Christ.

Shepherd Selection Process (Abridged)
Southeastern Church of Christ                               Fall, 2014
The process involves the congregation in five phases:  Information, Nomination, Examination, Confirmation, and Dedication.  The whole process is dependent upon God’s blessing as we seek to follow his leading in selecting spiritual men to lead this congregation.


Phase One – Information

The purpose of the Information phase is to assure that the congregation understands:  

  • The Selection Process itself

A committee will be appointed by the current elders to superintend the selection process.

  • The Qualities and Role of ShepherdsTeaching will be provided to the entire congregation to assure that we have the opportunity to hear and understand what scripture teaches about spiritual leadership in the church. 

Phase Two – Nomination

The purpose of the nomination phase is to encourage the congregation to prayerfully consider who God is calling to serve as shepherds.  Nomination Forms will be distributed to the congregation to help identify those whom the congregation is “calling out” to serve as spiritual leaders.

In addition to this formal nomination process, the currently serving elders may draw from their knowledge of the congregation to present additional names to the members for their examination.

Phase Three – Examination

This phase is 1) to provide the committee time to process names, and 2) for the congregation to prayerfully consider the initial list of names presented by the committee.

After the committee has processed the nomination forms, they will ask the current elders for their input and insight regarding these men. It is at this point in the process that the elders may choose to add additional names to the list. Prospective shepherds will meet with both the committee and current elders to jointly explore this opportunity to serve.

Then names of potential shepherds will be presented to the church. Members will then have at least two weeks to alert the Committee of any spiritual basis upon which to challenge the appointment of one of these men.

Phase Four – Confirmation

A Confirmation Form will be distributed to the congregation. Every member will have the opportunity either to affirm (“yes”), reject (“no”), or simply indicate “I don’t know” for each prospective elder.  The committee will process these responses, and present a list of new shepherds for appointment. (For any prospective elder to be selected as a new shepherd for the congregation, he must receive an affirmative (“yes”) response on at least 75% of the Forms returned. 


Phase Five – Dedication


A Dedication ceremony will occur during a Sunday morning assembly, to charge the new shepherds to fulfill their God-given responsibilities (Titus 1.7-9; Acts 20.28; 1 Peter 5.2), and to challenge the church to follow the leadership of its shepherds (1 Thessalonians 5.12-13; 1 Timothy 5.17; Hebrews 13.17). 

NOTE: A more detailed explanation of the process will be available at the Welcome Center for you to pick up should you desire it. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Health Ministry Newsletter-September 2014 by Lisa Fleetwood

How to Visit Someone in the Hospital

Have you ever visited a church member in the hospital only to wait in the hallway until the nurse is finished, or been relegated to the waiting room because there are too many people in the patient’s room? Have you popped into the hospital to see the sweet elderly gentleman that sits two pews up only to discover he had a bad night and can’t stay awake? If so, you know that visiting the sick can be a tricky situation. When things go well, everyone reaps the benefits of fellowship and encouragement but when circumstances vary, the results can leave you frustrated and the patient without the joy of your room-brightening smile! Remember that visiting the sick is an important responsibility that Jesus himself commanded.

Read Matthew 25:31-36 (ESV). 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew shows the importance of our faith in action. Verse 35 tells us exactly what those actions should include! Since we are charged with this important responsibility, let’s look at some tips to ensure everyone has the best possible outcome.

Don’t underplay the situation. Being in the hospital is a BIG deal. It can be traumatizing, intimidating, and sometimes humiliating. Don’t underestimate the experience. If someone is going in for an elective procedure, make sure to let them know you are praying before they are admitted. Ask them what concerns them the most (privacy, pain, fear, insomnia, recovery, food) and lift up prayers that are specific. Pray with them and continue these specific prayers when you get home.

No need to visit everyone. If you aren’t particularly close to the person, postpone your visit until they are discharged to home. In 2014, if you are hospitalized, it is because your are significantly ill. Allow those closest to the patient to provide support at this time as they can often coordinate visits and care in a manner that meets the patient’s needs best. Once the patient is at home, your visit will be a source of joy as they regain strength and transition back to daily living.

Talk openly. Sometimes, patients in the hospital are facing serious, life-threatening illness. Don’t tip toe around the elephant in the room or worse yet, pretend it’s not there at all. If someone has been diagnosed with cancer, don’t discuss the beautiful weather or your upcoming trip. Ask them how they are coping, what they need, and their greatest concerns. Pray with them, hold their hand, and express your love and support. Remember Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” Our church family is our greatest asset in times of despair.

Bring a card. When your loved one returns home, they will try to recall the blur of people that visited them while they were in the hospital. Bringing a card will not just brighten their room in the moment, but it will serve as a reminder that you stopped in to show your support in the weeks after they are discharged. After a week long hospitalization in 2012, I struggled to recollect the many supporters that encouraged me with visits during my stay. Weeks later, I reviewed the lovely cards and sentiments that I received. I was reminded, yet again, of the outpouring of support that I received from my church family.

Keep it to yourself. Whatever is shared during your visit, keep it private. A
hospital stay can be a very vulnerable time for a patient. As a visitor, you may overhear sensitive health information or the patient may voluntarily disclose details of their illness with you. Either way, keep the information quiet. If you feel compelled to share, make sure you clear it with the patient beforehand. Clarify with them what can and can’t be disclosed to others.

Know when to leave (or when to stay). Make your visit short and sweet.
Hospitalized patients are often in pain, medicated, and exhausted. It is important that you express your care and support, but after that they will need to rest. The exception comes when you are providing relief for the caregiver. Offer to sit with the patient so that their loved one is able to go home, shower, and rest. In this situation, it is okay to sit quietly (bring a magazine or book) and encourage the patient to rest. Let their behavior be your guide. If they look sleepy, pull your chair into the corner and quietly read while they sleep.

Don’t forget when they get home….

  • Make sure that you provide meals that adhere to their ordered diet. Those with high blood pressure or heart disease may be on a sodium restricted diet. When in doubt, ask! Ensure that the meal you provide will help them heal!
  • Offer to run errands like grocery shopping or pharmacy pick-ups. It will ease the burden of the primary caregiver to know they have what they need without leaving their newly discharged loved one. 
  • Keep visiting. After discharge, patients can sink into a depression. Your visits are more important than ever. Bring them your favorite book to borrow or a flower from your garden. The gesture will brighten their day and speed their healing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mind the Gap by Greg York

Mind the Gap                                                                   

By tompagenet (Tom Page) ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.’
-- Mark 10.17-18

On the way back from mission trips to Poland in 1994 and 1995, our teams had a couple of days’ layover in London each year. There were some debriefing meetings with other Let’s Start Talking teams from Europe and a chance to do a little sight-seeing. And getting around in London inevitably means riding on the Underground. That’s where I first encountered the signs advising me to “Mind the Gap.” When the trains stop at the platforms to disgorge and engorge passengers, there is inevitably a small gap between the opened doors of the train and the platform. Not much of one, just enough that I suppose you could catch a toe or a heel and do a face-plant if you’re not paying attention. So, there are signs and announcements reminding us all to “Mind the Gap.” It is a gentle reminder that the train and the platform are two different things.

In my devotional reading one day this week, I read a section of Psalm 119 and then read all of Psalm 53. I was struck by the contrast between two lines, one in each of these two psalms.

You are good and do good;
   teach me your statutes.
                                                                        -- Psalm 119.68

God looks down from heaven on humankind
   to see if there are any who are wise,
   who seek after God.

They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
   there is no one who does good,
   no, not one.

                                                                        --Psalm 53.2-3

God is good, morally right.

People… well, not so much

Mind the gap.

Perhaps that seems like a “duh” sort of observation to make. Indeed, it would be, if we did not seem to have trouble remembering that so much of the time. Rather than seeking after God and his goodness, we want to be “good” as we define goodness, “good” as we are comfortable defining it. If you’re like me, you always find it quick and easy to see your actions (and therefore yourself) as good. (I’m reminded of Sir Lancelot in the old Broadway musical, Camelot: early on in the play, he sings in the self-appreciating song, “C’est Moi,” that he’s so comparatively pure that “had (he) been made the partner of Eve, we’d be in Eden still.” A few scenes later he’s betraying his lord the king and committing adultery with the king’s wife. So much for comparative goodness.)

Maybe we’re just letting ourselves off the hook when we think of ourselves as really good people. Then again, maybe we, in fact, are better morally than some people around us.

But here’s the issue in this: Is our thinking about what is “good” and how to do “good” focused on ourselves or on God? There’s a gap there, you know. Mind the gap.

Then again, that “duh” distinction between God and people gives us some insight into the odd response by Jesus to the fellow in the quotation at the top of this post. I always want to say, “Hey, Jesus, give yourself some credit – you are good!” Sometimes I want to say, “Come on, Jesus! Give this guy some credit—he’s asking you about what he should do, after all? We’re about to find out that he’s a good, law-abiding guy.”

Mind the gap, Jesus says to this fellow. You want to measure goodness by your ability to be good and do good. Maybe you are pretty good. But not as good as God. Are you just interested in being as good as you feel like being, or are you committed to pursuing God’s goodness and rightness in all things? Is your “good” focus on you or on God? Mind the gap.

(For what it’s worth, I think that’s what Jesus is doing in part of Matthew 5.21-48, leading up to v. 48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Are you making your moral choices based solely on what you’ve always heard, or on what you’re feeling at the moment, or…are you taking your cues from the one who defines good, who is good, who does good? Mind the gap.)

Well, Greg, what does this have to do with spiritual growth, the alleged purpose of this blog?
Here’s my point for that purpose: When it comes to determine and do the good, my ability to do that begins with the recognition that I am not God. There is a gap between
what I’ve always been taught,
with how I was raised,
                with what my best-informed thinking might be,
                                with what my best intentions are…
and God and his goodness
and his good desires for me and for others.

Forgetting that gap does not serve me well. Forgetting that does not serve others well. Forgetting that does not serve the purposes of the kingdom well.

Not minding that gap can—and does, often—lead me to spiritual face-plants.

On the other hand, remembering that may help me and in turn help me to help others. Remembering that may not make me good as the One who “is good and does good,” but it will help me to be a better human being.

This next week, when you and I face choices in how we are going to act and speak, here’s my advice for us all: Mind the gap.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fearful Eagerness by Mike DeCamp

Fearful Eagerness

Earlier this summer, in late June, Nancy and I had the privilege and good fortune to be able to take an incredible vacation to one of God’s true wonderlands:  Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Teton National Park.  We had planned it for a long time, and the trip was off and on and then off and on again as our finances took various turns over the last couple of years.  But, in the end, God blessed us with an opportunity to both escape the usual pressures of our careers and also enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery that He has created anywhere in the world.

We flew to Salt Lake City where we rented a car and then drove on up to the Wyoming.  Staying inside the park, we journeyed each day to another part of the area; taking in as much of the variety as possible in the one week we had for the adventure.  We explored the natural wonders of geysers, hot springs, mountain lakes, and beautiful green valleys.  We watched trout spawning in a small stream.  We watched the Bison roam, and the antelope play.  Eagles, elk, owls, ground squirrels, and bear.

And we hiked.

Nearly every day, we took a good hike or two.  One day was extra special because two of our good friends, Brian & Becky flew in and spent the day hiking with us in the Grand Teton National Park.  We hiked out and around a couple of lakes, getting rained on, hailed on, and enjoying the overwhelming wonders of that mesmerizing mountain range.

However, we saved our best hike for our last day.  We started off hiking along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone…with lots of other people around.  Feeling good.  Feeling safe.  But eventually, we hiked far enough out that the crowds became scarce, and then we took a turn into the back country to make a large loop back to our vehicle.  It was at that turn that it hit us.

The fearful eagerness.

You see, Yellowstone is truly wild.  90% of the people who visit that vast wilderness park do not range more than a half mile from the road.  The animals truly own the place.  And, some of those animals wouldn’t mind having you for a snack.

So, there we were…ready to make that turn that we knew would take us in to the truly wild country.  We were so eager to see what was out there.  To see what we could see.  To see what 90% of the other visitors would never see.  But, even with that bear spray strapped to my belt, there was a streak of anxiousness…fearfulness that wrapped around us like a rope.  We had our doubts:  Maybe we shouldn’t go on.  It was just the two of us, instead of being in a group of at least three like the park service recommended.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be safe, and we should just turn around and backtrack.  We were eager, but fear was right there with us.  

After talking it over for a few anxious minutes, we decided to go for it; to forge ahead with the adventure!  Folks, I am so very happy that we did!

And, in reality it was the fear that made that hike just all that much more exciting and worthwhile!

But, that was early in the summer.  Before Kent’s illness, and before Ebola became so real to us at Southeastern.  Before we witnessed God using harsh, raw situations to touch people’s hearts.  Before we saw Him use a terrible disease to change us, and change others.  Before He used an illness in a young doctor and an obscure sermon given in his home church to reach into the hearts of thousands—famous and average, white collar and blue collar, young and old.  Have no doubt about it!  God is at work!

And, that makes me feel that same feeling that I felt on that trail in Yellowstone: fearfully eager.  I'm eager to see what God is going to do next, but I'm a tad fearful of what that will mean.  I’m not the first.  Daniel at the edge of the lions’ den.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at the door to the furnace.  Esther in the hall of the king.  Jesus in Gethsemane.

Each felt the fear.  Each could have turned back.  Each forged on ahead.

Make no mistake friends.  The world is a royal mess right now, but God is up to something!  I can feel it tingling up my spine and looping around my gut…that rope of fearful eagerness.  I don’t know where this is going to take me.  Or you.  And I don’t know how much sacrifice will be required.  Like Daniel, I don’t know in advance if the lion is going to devour or embrace.  I don’t know in advance if the furnace is going to burn me or not.  And, Jesus did die…as did Stephen, and James, and Peter, and Paul.

But, in the end, the victory belonged to all of those biblical heroes, and it will belong to us as well.  God ensures that victory.  And, perhaps… if we don’t turn back…if we head on out into that wild country that God is leading us into, we just might see some mesmerizing wonder of God that most people will miss.  And that tinge of fearfulness will only make the adventure all that much more exciting.

Do you have your hiking boots on?


PS:  I visited Alice Fay Brown in the hospital tonight, and she told me to say “hello” to everyone for her!  So, I told her that I'd put it in the blog and make her famous.  She told me to make sure I spelled her name correctly.  (How'd I do, Alice?)