Invite People to Christ

Lorrie Long, Mission Center Missionary Coordinator, has compiled this list of resources that may aid you as bring the invitation, ministry of Christ, and details about Community of Christ to others.

 

Sharing in Community of Christ.  This resource is also available for purchase from Herald House.

This foundational document is a must-have for priesthood, disciples, and seekers. For personal formation, preaching, and teaching in Community of Christ, it is the primary resource for sharing with others our identity, mission, message, and beliefs.

 

Of Water and Spirit (available for purchase through Herald House)

Explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and how discipleship is lived in Community of Christ. Included are six lessons of preparation for baptism and six lessons of preparation for confirmation. While the resources focus on preparation for baptism and confirmation, the First Presidency has indicated that congregations will be blessed by sharing together in these courses.

Of Water and Spirit: Preparing Children for Baptism and Confirmation in Community of Christ

Facilitator Guide (for teachers) and Disciple Journal (for students)

Of Water and Spirit: Preparing for Baptism and Confirmation in Community of Christ

(For youth, adults, and seekers; teachers and students)

 

Walking with Jesus (available for purchase through Herald House)

A disciple’s guide for anyone who seeks to follow Jesus Christ as a member of Community of Christ.

We Share Picture Book and Resource CD

This beautifully illustrated book expresses Community of Christ identity, mission, message, and beliefs through art and poetry in three languages. The book and CD (including lesson plans, electronic version of the book, Power Point templates, and more) are available for purchase through Herald House.

 

Understanding the Way: Exploring Our Christian Faith, Revised Edition, by Anthony J. Chvala-Smith (available for purchase through Herald House)

Explore key themes of the Christian faith from a Community of Christ perspective. Theology—careful reflection on the Gospel—helps voice the deepest realities of our shared life in Christ. What is revelation? The Trinity? Salvation? For what can we hope? This resource invites readers into the conversation.

 

Lessons and Ideas www.cofchrist.org/lessons-and-ideas

Ø  Online lessons for children, youth, and adults connecting the Gospel lectionary text with Community of Christ identity, mission, message, and beliefs (generosity-based giving encouraged, suggested cost is $20/quarter or $80/year per age)

Ø  Lessons for young children: We Share, Of Water and Spirit, Create Shalom

Ø  Variety of lesson series and resources for all ages; Ideas focused on Enduring Principles

Ø  Jack & Jenn and the Not-so-Secret Mission (Mission Initiatives and generosity)

Ø  Jack & Jenn: Lights! Camera! Action! (Enduring Principles, VBS kit available through Herald House

 

Temple School www.cofchrist.org/templeschool  

Ø  Ministry and Priesthood courses

Ø  Adult Study Courses

Ø  Community of Christ Seminary

 

Ministry and Priesthood www.cofchrist.org/priesthood

Ø  Information, resources, and courses for each office of priesthood

Ø  The Priesthood Manual, 2004 Edition; available through Herald House

Ø  Theological Foundations for Ministry and Priesthood www.cofchrist.org/priesthood/resources

Ø  Pastors and Leaders Field Guide www.cofchrist.org/leaders

 

Spiritual Formation www.cofchrist.org/spiritualformation  

Ø  Variety of practices, resources, and retreats

Ø  Daily Bread blog www.cofchrist.org/daily-bread#1

Ø  Kirtland Spiritual Formation Center

 

Worship www.cofchrist.org/worship

Ø  Worship Resources www.cofchrist.org/worship  

Ø  Sermon & Class Helps Year A: New Testament (Gospel of Matthew) www.cofchrist.org/worship

Ø  Community of Christ Sings www.cofchrist.org/hymnal

Ø  Disciples Generous Response www.cofchrist.org/worship/dgr

Ø  Daily Prayer for Peace www.cofchrist.org/prayerpeace

Ø  Witness the Word (Sermons on Demand) www.cofchrist.org/worship

 

Stay Connected

Ø  CofChrist.org—The church’s official website features new content regularly on the homepage.

Ø  Herald—Subscribe to this monthly magazine at www.HeraldHouse.organd stay informed of official church information as well as read thought-provoking commentaries and mission stories about transformation and hope.

Ø  E-subscriptions—Sign up to have important content delivered right to your e-mail inbox at www.cofchrist.org/subscribe.asp. Options include: Daily Bread blog-daily devotional; Evangelist blog; High Priest newsletter; Community of Christ News-weekly mission stories, news, Disciple Formation info, events, and more; Community of Christ announcements-monthly, Commentary Series-explore theology, scripture, and mission

Ø  Social Media—Join the online conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. Links to these social networks can be found on our homepage at www.cofchrist.org.

Signal Communities by Andrew Bolton

Christ’s Mission Is Our Mission: An Exploration of Luke 4: 16-30,2012, by Peter Judd, Herald Publishing House,

Community Survey  provided by Pres. of Seventy John Wight

1.                  What do you think are the greatest needs in this neighborhood?

(i.e. parks, street lights, etc.)

2.                  Are you an active member of a local church?

 [  ] Yes                                                                                                             [  ] No

 3.                  Why do you think some people are not involved in a church?

 4.                  If you were looking for a new church, what would you look for?

 5.                  What are your primary personal interests and needs?

(i.e. job search assistance, budget/financial planning, hobbies, home improvement, food co-op, child care, etc.)

 6.                  Would you like a copy of the results of our survey?    [   ] Yes        [   ] No

 Name: __________________________        Address:  __________________________________                                                                                

Interviewer:  __________________

 

Community of Christ Website Videos  www.cofchrist.org
as of August 2, 2016
2016
Time Title
21:41 Closing 2016 World Conference Sermon Steve Veazey
2:30 Change Your Life, Change Your World
3:27 A Few Minutes with David Anderson
4:53 A Few Minutes with Jane Gardner
3:45 A Few Minutes with Janne Grover
4:19 A Few Minutes with Lachlan Mackay
2:54 A Few Minutes with Michele McGrath
3:51 A Few Minutes with Robin Linkhart
3:14 A Few Minutes with Steve Graffeo
4:39 A Few Minutes with Stassi Cramm
3:40 The Great Reversal
56:54 2016 World Conference Presiding Bishopric Report
6:43 Prayer of Disruption
30:42 2016 World Conference Sermon by Steve Veazey
32:30 International Peace Award Acceptance Address Leymah Gbowee
16:47 Community of Christ: Come to the Table
5:20 Community of Christ: First Responders
6:06 Community of Christ: Lessons in Generosity
20:13 Community of Christ: No More of This!
22:29 Community of Christ: What is Your Response to Our Call?
4:45 Community of Christ: Where Your Treasure Is
3:23 The Long Journey
6:00 Open Your Eyes
3:36 Tables
46:40 3 April 2016 – Questions and Answers with President Steve Veazey and Acting Presiding Bishop Stassi Cramm
15:24 Discurso del Presidente – 3 Abril 2016
15:24 President’s Address – 3 April 2016
27:32 Steve Veazey Interview – 18 March 2016
1:24 Easter Greeting
19:19 Witness the Word – Community of Christ: “Be Easter People”
14:18 Community of Christ: “Be That Blessing”
18:18 Community of Christ: “Fully Present in the Moment”
4:41 Disciples Generous Response: “Graciously Receive”
3:42 Disciples Generous Response: “Ignite!”
4:31 Disciples Generous Response: “Who Stands Behind You?”
4:03 Mission is Relational
21:46 Statements Regarding Financial Information – 18 February 2016
28:50 Steve Veazey Interview
4:22 You Are Loved
7:49 Frames
2:00 The Mission Prayer
2015
:34 A Christmas Greeting
3:41 Disciples Generous Response:  “How is God Calling You to Be Generous?”
3:41 Disciples Generous Response:  “Plant Trees for Christ”
6:07 Disciples Generous Response:  “We Are a Worldwide Church…because of God’s Love”
21:34 Witness the Word – “Becoming Invitational, Christ-center Communities of Justice and Peace”
15:36 Witness the Word – “Help Us Be Faithful”
17:55 Witness the Word – “We Are One in the Sanctuary of Christ’s Peace”
2:40 Missio Dei
4:25 Mission Story – Troy’s Gift
42:48 President’s Address -Question and Answer Session 4 October 2015
16:10 President’s Address – 4 October 2015
5:44 Disciples Generous Response – Generosity and the Peace of the City
6:57 Disciples Generous Response – How Weird is THAT?
3:11 Disciples Generous Response – Shaped as a Disciple
16:34 Witness the Word – Christ is Born Anew
14:17 Witness the Word – Let All Around Us Be Christ
14:45 Witness the Word -This is but the Beginning
5:00 Mission Story – Clay Cross, Fighting Hunger
3:44 Mission Story – Gavyn Remembers
4:32 Mission Story – Sharing Food, Sharing Love
5:32 Mission Story – Robbie’s transformation
4:08 Mission Story – A Strong Voice of Witness
4:22 Disciples Generous Response – “All Are Called to Christ’s Mission”
4:51 Disciples Generous Response – “Generosity’s Transforming Joy”
5:59 Disciples Generous Response – “Lives Are Waiting”
17:05 Witness the Word – “Eat, Friends, and Drink Deeply”
9:28 Witness the Word – “Following Christ’s Footsteps”
15:42 Witness the Word – “I Am Convinced”
4:30 India Golden Jubilee Celebration
18:26 President Veazey May 2015 Statement to Staff Members and the Church
41:41 President’s Address – Question and Answer Session 12 April 2015
1:40 Mission Story – Life After JAM
22:02 President’s Address – 12 April 2015
1:40 Mission Story – The First Year
1:51 Mission Story – Whenever and Wherever
1:41 Mission Story – What Love Is
4:17 Mission Story – Jesus and Me
5:02 Disciples Generous Response – “Are You a Generous Disciple?”
5:39 Disciples Generous Response – “Inside and Out”
4:09 Disciples Generous Response – “So That You Can Be Generous”
22:20 Witness the Word – “All Are Welcome”
10:00 Witness the Word – “Bold, Stubborn, Hope”
15:13 Witness the Word – “For the Joy Set Before Us”
7:11 Introduction to Lenten Practices
1:41 Mission Story – New Port Richey, Florida, A Community That Cares
1:43 New Port Richey, Florida: Confirmation
5:20 Mission Story – New Port Richey, Florida – Our Mission
1:33 Mission Story – New Port Richey, Florida – You’re Invited
2014
5:14 Disciples Generous Response – “Christ’s Mission Needs Our Time”
5:06 Disciples Generous Response – “Generosity: A Cycle of Love”
4:26 Disciples Generous Response – “Pie Principles for Generosity”
7:23 Peace Colloquy – 2014 Poverty Simulation
12:55 Witness the Word – “Holy Disruptions”
15:42 Witness the Word – “Letting Go for Christ’s Mission”
18:39 Witness the Word – Transforming Sheep
30:47 Peace Colloquy – 2014 “God Weeps…and Hopes”, Steve Veazey
50:54 Peace Colloquy – 2014 Plenary Session
35:25 Peace Colloquy – 2014 President Steve Veazey
7:22 International Peace Award – 2014 Presentation
32:44 International Peace Award Acceptance Address  2014 – Rev. David Beckmann
40:52 President’s Address – Question and Answer Session 5 October 2014
23:12 President’s Address – 5 October 2014
3:32 Disciples Generous Response – Building Potential
3:50 Disciples Generous Response – God Will Care for You
3:33 Disciples Generous Response – Joyful Sharing for Mission
14:52 Witness the Word – Remembering Opens Us to Christ’s Love
18:41 Witness the Word – The Way of Discipleship
19:51 Witness the Word – Are You Ready for Christmas?
5:44 Ministry and the Priesthood – Teach the Teacher
22:23 International Youth Forum – 2014 US – Mareva and Adam
3:11 World Hunger Meditation
4:47 Disciples Generous Response – Disciples’ Response to God’s Generosity
5:09 Disciples Generous Response – Jonesboro to Jamaica, My World is Local
4:47 Disciples Generous Response – I Have Given You a Day
12:11 Witness the Word – Let There Be Light
14:34 Witness the Word – Make Us One!
18:07 Witness the Word – Not Far from the kingdom of God
21:59 President’s Address 6 April 2014
45:33 President’s Address Question and Answer Session 6 April 2014
2:10 Disciples Generous Response – More Blessed? Yes!
4:40 Disciples Generous Response – Share the Harvest
5:27 Disciples Generous Response – Transformed by Abundant Generosity
10:32 Witness the Word – Come and See
17:49 Witness the Word – Risen and With Us
15:26 Witness the Word -The Incarnational Table
2013
5:01 Disciples Generous Response – Bring Your Perfume
5:53 Disciples Generous Response – True Capacity – Getting to the Heart of the Matter
4:20 Disciples Generous Response – What’s Your Story?
10:15 Witness the Word – Building Bridges
25:39 Witness the Word – Cast Your Net into the Deep
NA Witness the Word – Let’s Put on Our Shoes
3:07 World Hunger and Tangible Love – Your Contributions Make a Difference
16:27 Hymnal Launch – Call to Worship with Drums
32:28 Hymnal Launch – How Can We Keep From Singing
57:45 Hymnal Launch – Hymn Festival
57:33 International Peace Award Acceptance Address – John L Bell 2013
5:25 Theological Foundations for Ministry and Priesthood – Conclusion
12:25 Theological Foundations for Ministry and Priesthood – Session 1A
18:42 Theological Foundations for Ministry and Priesthood – Session 1B
12:36 Theological Foundations for Ministry and Priesthood – Session 2A
15:13 Theological Foundations for Ministry and Priesthood – Session 2B
7:47 Willing to Walk
4:14 Can We Chat for a Moment?
1:01 Catching My Breath
:49 God’s Love in the Words of My Blessing
17:11 Journey of a Blessing
1:05 My Continuing Life Blessing
44:22 Interview with Steve Veazey Regarding Words of Counsel 2013
22:03 2013 Word Conference – Words of Counsel
5:48 Peace through All People
2012
42:07 International Peace Award Acceptance Address – Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba 2012
18:59 Pastors and Leaders Field Guide Discussion
8:17 Jack and Jenn Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
8:23 Jack and Jenn and the Not-so-secret Mission
8:12 Jack and Jenn Develop Disciples to Serve
7:52 Jack and Jenn Experience Congregations in Mission
7:25 Jack and Jenn Invite People to Christ
8:26 Jack and Jenn Pursue Peace on Earth
13:45 Mission Initiatives – Video Interview Series
2011
27:26 International Peace Award Address – Terry Tempest Williams 2011
3:21 It Takes Practice
48:14 Mission Matters
5:51 The Story of Jack and Jenn
16:59 Using Scripture in Community of Christ
36:25 Ways of Discovering God’s Will
2010
51:29 Steve Veazey on 2010 World Conference and Section 164

 

IF Churches Can Change, They Can Grow by C. Kirk Hadaway.

Notes from this Reading:

An exceptionally revealing report on church growth is now available from the Faith Communities Today research project. Drawing on extensive survey data, noted researcher C. Kirk Hadaway paints a compelling picture of factors leading both to church growth and decline. Churches have differing degrees of control over these factors.

Factors Beyond the Control of Congregations

  • Population growth. The strongest demographic correlate with growth is an increase in the number of households in the area.
  • Location. Churches in newer suburbs are more likely to grow than churches in other locations, followed by downtown metropolitan churches. But central city churches are also more likely to decline than those in other areas, followed by those in towns and rural areas.
  • Congregation’s age. The more recent its founding, the more likely a church is to grow.
  • Household makeup. The proportion of households with children in the home is positively related to growth.
  • Region. If your church is in the South, it is far more likely to grow than churches in any other region.

Factors Over Which the Congregation Has Some Control

Age of members. Churches with a healthy mix of ages tend to be growing, but those with more than 40 percent of regular participants over 60 are much less likely to grow

  Racial ethnic makeup. While most churches are composed of a single racial ethnic group, congregations with two or more racial ethnic groups are most likely to have experienced strong grow

  Gender makeup. Churches able to attract larger proportions of men than other congregations are more likely to grow.

Factors Over Which the Congregation Has Much Control

Conflict. Churches experiencing major conflict are likely to have declined in attendance. Congregations with no major conflict during the previous two years are most likely to grow

  Spiritual vitality. There is a strong relationship between growth and the sense that the congregation is spiritually vital and alive, a place where people encounter God.

  Character of worship. A congregation that describes their worship as “joyful” is more likely to experience substantial growth, and churches where worship is described as “reverent” are least likely to grow.

  Change. Congregations that say they are willing to change to meet new challenges also tend to be growing congregations.

  Worship change. Congregations that changed their worship services moderately or substantially in the past five years were more likely to grow than those that changed their worship only a little or not at all.

  Congregational Identity. When all congregations are combined, there is very little relationship between growth and theological orientation. More important is the religious character of the congregation and clarity of mission and purpose.

   Children in worship. Congregations that involved children in worship were more likely to experience significant growth. Whether a congregation has relatively few or more than a few children and youth, not involving them in worship is associated with decline.

  Website. Congregations that have started or maintained a web site in the past year are most likely to grow

  Sponsoring public events. Congregations that sponsor events are more likely to grow. These programs attract both members and non-members. This adds value for members and gives non-members a low-key opportunity to visit the church.

Support groups. Among churches where support groups are a key program, two-thirds are growing.

Follow-up in multiple ways. Congregations that follow-up with visitors in multiple ways are those most likely to grow.

A subtitle of the report sums up the reality churches face. “If churches can change,” it says, “they can grow.”

Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

 

Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry by Henri Nouwen
Jesus established the true order for spiritual work.

Here is the material:

The word discipleship and the word discipline are the same word – that has always fascinated me. Once you have made the choice to say, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus,” the question is, “What disciplines will help me remain faithful to that choice?” If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life.

By discipline, I do not mean control. If I know the discipline of psychology or of economics, I have a certain control over a body of knowledge. If I discipline my children, I want to have a little control over them.

But in the spiritual life, the word discipline means “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainty not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.

I think three disciplines are important for us to remain faithful, so we not only become disciples, but also remain disciples. These disciplines are contained in one passage from Scripture with which we’re familiar, but one that we may be surprised to find speaks about discipline.

 

“Now it happened in those days that Jesus went onto the mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came, he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them and called them apostles: Simon, whom he called Peter; and his brother Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, son of Alphaeus; Simon, called the Zealot; Judas, son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

“He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples. There was a great crowd of people from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and be cured of their diseases. And people tormented by unclean spirits were also cured. Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all” (Luke 6:12-19).

This is a beautiful story that moves from night to morning to afternoon. Jesus spent the night in solitude with God. In the morning, he gathered his apostles around him and formed community. In the afternoon, with his apostles, he went out and preached the Word and healed the sick.

Notice the order – from solitude to community to ministry. The night is for solitude; the morning for community; the afternoon for ministry.

So often in ministry, I have wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, “Please!” searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying.

But the order that Jesus teaches us is the reverse. It begins by being with God in solitude; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news.

_____________________________

Discipline means to prevent everything
in your life from being filled up.
_____________________________

 


I believe you can look at solitude, community, and ministry as three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen.

You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples.

Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there any space for that in your life?

Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” “my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.

Who am I? I am the beloved. That’s the voice Jesus heard when he came out of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved; on you my favor rests.” And Jesus says to you and to me that we are loved as he is loved. That same voice is there for you. When you are not claiming that voice, you cannot walk freely in this world.

Jesus listened to that voice all the time, and he was able to walk right through life. People were applauding him, laughing at him; praising him and rejecting him; calling “Hosanna!” and calling “Crucify!” But in the midst of that, Jesus knew one thing-I am the beloved; I am God’s favorite one. He clung to that voice.

There are many other voices speaking – loudly: “Prove that you are the beloved.” “Prove you’re worth something.” “Prove you have any contribution to make.” “Do something relevant.” “Be sure you make a name for yourself.” “At least have some power – then people will love you; then people will say you’re wonderful, you’re great.”

These voices are so strong in this world. These were the voices Jesus heard right after he heard “You are my beloved.” Another voice said, “Prove you are the beloved. Do something. Change these stones into bread. Be sure you’re famous. Jump from the temple, and you will be known. Grab some power so you have real influence. Don’t you want some influence? Isn’t that why you came?”

 

Jesus said, “No, I don’t have to prove anything. I am already the beloved.”

I love Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The father holds his son, holds his daughter, and touches his son and his daughter and says, “You are my beloved. I’m not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you’re my beloved. I hold you safe in my embrace. I touch you. I hold you safe under my wings. You can come home to me whose name is Compassionate, whose name is Love.”

If you keep that in mind, you can deal with an enormous amount of success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity, because your identity is that you are the beloved. Long before your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your church, or any people touched you in a loving as well as in a wounding way – long before you were rejected by some person or praised by somebody else – that voice has been there always. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” That love is there before you were born and will be there after you die.

A life of fifty, sixty, seventy, or a hundred years is just a little moment in which you can say, “Yes, I love you too.” God has become so vulnerable, so little, so dependent in a manger and on a cross and is begging us, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you really love me?”

That’s where ministry starts, because your freedom is anchored in claiming your belovedness. That allows you to go into this world and touch people, heal them, speak with them, and make them aware that they are beloved, chosen, and blessed. When you discover your belovedness by God, you see the belovedness of other people and call that forth. It’s an incredible mystery of God’s love that the more you know how deeply you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and your brothers in the human family are loved.

Now this is not easy. Jesus spent the night in prayer. That’s a picture of the fact that prayer is not something you always feel. It’s not a voice you always hear with these ears. It’s not always an insight that suddenly comes to you in your little mind. (God’s heart is greater than the human heart, God’s mind is greater than the human mind, and God’s light is so great that it might blind you and make you feel like you’re in the night.)

 

But you have to pray. You have to listen to the voice who calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. And then you’re not free.

Oh, if we could sit for just one half hour a day doing nothing except taking a simple word from the gospel and putting it in front of us – say, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Say it three times, and we know it’s not true, because we want many things. That’s exactly why we’re so nervous. But if we keep saying the truth, the real truth-“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want”-and let that truth descend from our mind into our heart, gradually those words are written on the walls of our inner holy place. That becomes the space in which we can receive our colleagues and our work, our family and our friends, and the people whom we will meet during the day.

The trouble is, as soon as you sit and become quiet, you think, 0h, I forgot this. I should call my friend. Later on I’m going to see him. Your inner life is like a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down.

It’s not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you not as a magical voice but that he will let you know something gradually over the years. And in that word from God you will find the inner place from which to live your life.

Solitude is where spiritual ministry begins. That’s where Jesus listened to God. That’s where we listen to God.

Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes. In the middle is the hub. Often in ministry, it looks like we are running around the rim trying to reach everybody. But God says, “Start in the hub; live in the hub. Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you won’t have to run so fast.”

It’s precisely in the hub, in that communion with God, that we discover the call to community. It’s remarkable that solitude always calls us to community. In solitude you realize you’re part of a human family and that you want to lift something together.

_____________________________

If we create space in which God can act and
speak, something surprising will happen
_____________________________

 


By community, I don’t mean formal communities. I mean families, friends, parishes, twelve-step programs, prayer groups. Community is not an organization; community is a way of living: you gather around you people with whom you want to proclaim the truth that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God.

Community is not easy. Somebody once said, “Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives.” In Jesus’ community of twelve apostles, the last name was that of someone who was going to betray him. That person is always in your community somewhere; in the eyes of others, you might be that person.

I live in a community called Daybreak – one of over a hundred communities throughout the world where children, men, and women who are mentally disabled and those who assist them live together. We share all aspects of day-to-day living. Nathan, Janet, and all the other people of our community know how hard it is and how beautiful it is to live together.

 

Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we’re going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that way. They cannot.

We’ll expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. But community is not loneliness grabbing onto loneliness: “I’m so lonely, and you’re so lonely.” It’s solitude grabbing onto solitude: “I am the beloved; you are the beloved; together we can build a home.” Sometimes you are close, and that’s wonderful. Sometimes you don’t feel much love, and that’s hard. But we can be faithful. We can build a home together and create space for God and for the children of God.

Within the discipline of community are the disciplines of forgiveness and celebration. Forgiveness and celebration are what make community, whether a marriage, a friendship, or any other form of community.

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is to allow the other person not to be God. Forgiveness says, “I know you love me, but you don’t have to love me unconditionally, because no human being can do that.”

We all have wounds. We all are in so much pain. It’s precisely, this feeling of loneliness that lurks behind all our successes, that feeling of uselessness that hides under all the praise, that feeling of meaninglessness even when people say we are fantastic – that is what makes us sometimes grab onto people and expect from them an affection and love they cannot give.

If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we become a demon. We say, “Love me!” and before you know it we become violent and demanding and manipulative. It’s so important that we keep forgiving one another – not once in a while, but every moment of life. Before you have had your breakfast, you have already had at least three opportunities to forgive people, because your mind is already wondering, What will they think about me? What will he or she do? How will they use me?

 

To forgive other people for being able to give you only a little love – that’s a hard discipline. To keep asking others for forgiveness because you can give only a little love – that’s a hard discipline, too.

It hurts to say to your children, to your wife or your husband, to your friends, that you cannot give them all that you would like to give. Still, that is where community starts to be created, when we come together in a forgiving and undemanding way.

This is where celebration, the second discipline of community, comes in. If you can forgive that another person cannot give you what only God can give, then you can celebrate that person’s gift. Then you can see the love that person is giving you as a reflection of God’s great unconditional love. “Love one another because I have loved you first.” When we have known that first love, we can see the love that comes to us from people as the reflection of that. We can celebrate that and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

In our community, Daybreak, we have to do a lot of forgiving. But right in the midst of forgiving comes a celebration: we see the beauty of people who quite often are considered marginal by society. With forgiveness and celebration, community becomes the place where we call forth the gifts of other people, lift them up, and say, “You are the beloved daughter and the beloved son.”

To celebrate another person’s gift doesn’t mean giving each other little compliments-“You play the piano better”; “You are so good in singing.” No, that’s a talent show.

To celebrate each other’s gifts means to accept each other’s humanity. We see each other as a person who can smile, say ‘Welcome,” eat, and make a few steps. A person who in the eyes of others is broken suddenly is full of life, because you discover your own brokenness through them.

Here is what I mean. In this world, so many people live with the burden of self-rejection: “I’m not good. I’m useless. People don’t really care for me. If I didn’t have money, they wouldn’t talk to me. If I didn’t have this big job, they wouldn’t call me. If I didn’t have this influence, they wouldn’t love me.” Underneath a successful and highly praised career can live a fearful person who doesn’t think much of himself or herself. In community comes that mutual vulnerability in which we forgive each other and celebrate each other’s gifts.

I have learned so much since coming to Daybreak. I’ve learned that my real gifts are not that I write books or that I went to universities. My real gifts are discovered by Janet and Nathan and others who know me so well they cannot be impressed any more by this other stuff. Once in a while they say, “I have good advice: Why don’t you read some of your own books?”

There is healing in being known in my vulnerability and impatience and weakness. Suddenly I realize that Henri is a good person also in the eyes of people who don’t read books and who don’t care about success. These people can forgive me constantly for the little egocentric gestures and behaviors that are always there.

 

All the disciples of Jesus are called to ministry. Ministry is not, first of all, something that you do (although it calls you to do many things). Ministry is something that you have to trust.

If you know you are the beloved, and if you keep forgiving those with whom you form community and celebrate their gifts, you cannot do other than minister.

Jesus cured people not by doing all sorts of complicated things. A power went out from him, and everyone was cured. He didn’t say, “Let me talk to you for ten minutes, and maybe I can do something about this.” Everyone who touched him was cured, because a power went out from his pure heart. He wanted one thing – to do the will of God. He was the completely obedient one, the one who was always listening to God. Out of this listening came an intimacy with God that radiated out to everyone Jesus saw and touched.

Ministry means you have to trust that. You have to trust that if you are the son and daughter of God, power will go out from you and that people will be healed.

“Go out and heal the sick. Walk on the snake. Call the dead to life.” This is not small talk. Yet Jesus said, “Whatever I do, you can do too and even greater things.” Jesus said precisely, “You are sent into the world just as I was sent into the world – to heal, to cure.”

Trust in that healing power. Trust that if you are living as the beloved you will heal people whether or not you notice it. But you have to be faithful to that call.

Healing ministry can be expressed in two words: gratitude and compassion.

Healing happens often by leading people to gratitude, for the world is full of resentment. What is resentment? Cold anger. “I’m angry at him. I’m angry at this. This is not the way I want it.” Gradually, there are more and more things I am negative about, and soon I become a resentful person.

Resentment makes you cling to your failures or disappointments and complain about the losses in your life. Our life is full of losses – losses of dreams and losses of friends and losses of family and losses of hopes. There is always the lurking danger we will respond to these incredible pains in resentment. Resentment gives us a hardened heart.

Jesus calls us to gratitude. He calls to us, “You foolish People. Didn’t you know that the Son of Man – that you, that we – have to suffer and thus enter into the glory? Didn’t you know that these pains were labor pains that lead you to the joy? Didn’t you know that all we are experiencing as losses are gains in God’s eyes? Those who lose their lives will gain it. And if the grain doesn’t die, it stays a small grain; but if it dies, then it will be fruitful.”

Can you be grateful for everything that has happened in your life – not just the good things but for all that brought you to today? It was the pain of a Son that created a family of people known as Christians. That’s the mystery of God.

Our ministry is to help people to gradually let go of the resentment, to discover that right in the middle of pain there is a blessing. Right in the middle of your tears – that’s where the dance starts and joy is first felt.

In this crazy world, there’s an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they’re never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom.

Jesus says, “Cry over your pains, and you will discover that I’m right there in your tears, and you will be grateful for my presence in your weakness.” Ministry means to help people become grateful for life even with pain. That gratitude can send you into the world precisely to the places where people are in pain. The minister, the disciple of Jesus, goes where there is pain not because he is a masochist or she is a sadist, because God is hidden in the pain.

“Blessed are the poor.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who care for the poor”; he says, “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the mourning. Blessed are those who have pain. There I am.” To minister, you have to be where the pain is. Sometimes that pain is hidden in a person who from tile outside might look painless, or successful.

Compassion means to suffer with, to live with those who suffer. When Jesus saw the woman of Nain he realized, This is a widow who has lost her only son, and he was moved by compassion. He felt the pain of that woman in his guts. He felt her pain so deeply in his spirit that out of compassion he called the son to life so he could give that son back to his mother.

We are sent to wherever there is poverty, loneliness, and suffering to have the courage to be with people. Trust that by throwing yourself into that place of pain you will find the joy of Jesus. All ministries in history are built on that vision. A new world grows out of compassion.

Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate. It’s a great call. But don’t be fearful; don’t be afraid. Don’t say, “I can’t do that.”

_____________________________

If you know you’re God’s beloved, you can
deal with an enormous amount of success
as well as an enormous amount of failure.
_____________________________

 


When you are aware that you are the beloved, and when you have friends around you with whom you live in community, you can do anything. You’re not afraid anymore. You’re not afraid to knock on the door while somebody’s dying. You’re not afraid to open a discussion with a person who underneath all the glitter is much in need of ministry. You’re free.

I’ve experienced that constantly. When I was depressed or when I felt anxious, I knew my friends couldn’t solve it. Those who ministered to me were those who were not afraid to be with me. Precisely where I felt my poverty I discovered God’s blessing.

Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine died. He was a classmate, and they sent me the tape of his funeral service. The first reading in that service was a story about a little river. The little river said, “I can become a big river.” It worked hard, but there was a big rock. The river said, “I’m going to get around this rock.” The little river pushed and pushed, and since it had a lot of strength, it got itself around the rock.

Soon the river faced a big wall, and the river kept pushing this wall. Eventually, the river made a canyon and carved a way through. The growing river said, “I can do it. I can push it. I am not going to let down for anything.”

Then there was an enormous forest. The river said, “I’ll go ahead anyway and just force these trees down.” And the river did.

The river, now powerful, stood on the edge of an enormous desert with the sun beating down. The river said, “I’m going to go through this desert.” But the hot sand soon began to soak up the whole river. The river said, “Oh, no. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get myself through this desert.” But the river soon had drained into the sand until it was only a small mud pool.

Then the river heard a voice from above; “Just surrender. Let me lift you up. Let me take over.”

The river said, “Here I am.”

The sun then lifted up the river and made the river into a huge cloud. He carried the river right over the desert and let the cloud rain down and make the fields far away fruitful and rich.

There is a moment in our life when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves. But there is the voice that comes, “Let go. Surrender. I will make you fruitful. Yes, trust me. Give yourself to me.

What counts in your life and mine is not successes but fruits. The fruits of your life you might not see yourself. The fruits of your life are born often in your pain and in your vulnerability and in your losses. The fruits of your life come only after the plow has carved through your land. God wants you to be fruitful.

 

The question is not, “How much can I still do in the years that are left to me?” The question is, “How can I prepare myself for total surrender so my life can be fruitful?”

Our little lives are small, human lives. But in the eyes of the One who calls us the beloved, we are great – greater than the years we have. We will bear fruits, fruits that you and I will not see on this earth but in which we can trust.

Solitude, community, ministry – these disciplines help us live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete.

 

 

Used with permission. Leadership Journal,
Spring 1995, Volume XVI, #2.

 

 


 

Rod and Reel, or Net?  By Robert C. Crosby, professor of practical theology at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.

The Material:    What it means to catch in community.

When you think of fishing, what image comes to mind: a solitary figure with a rod and tackle box, patiently choosing a lure, casting, and reeling? Or a commercial shrimp boat with nets spread wide?

When Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19), what kind of fishing did he have in mind? When he called out that first ministry team, was he picturing them as net-fishers or anglers? The question is one worth considering, since we, too, are called to that same task.

Jesus used the fishing metaphor to describe evangelism and disciple-making, and today’s assumption is often that it’s an individualized task. We tend to think of a fisherman as an angler, which is defined as (1) a person who fishes with a hook and line, or (2) a person who gets or tries to get something through scheming.

The individualized terms personal salvation, personal evangelism, and personal discipleship are actually relatively new within Christendom. Even the phrase personal Savior is a 20th-century expression attributable at least in part to Charles E. Fuller, the popular host of The Old-Fashioned Revival Hour radio program (1937-1968).

Certainly vast numbers of people have come to faith in Christ through individualized strategies and approaches to evangelism, but many along the way have also managed to “fall off the line.” Unfortunately too often some have approached evangelism more as an individual “sales pitch” instead of a collaborative, compassionate, and gospel-modeling community.

Personal Fishing?

The New Testament metaphor of “fishing” for people with the call of Christ was never meant to imply the mere work of an individual with a pole; rather, it was referring to net fishing. The picture he uses is not that of the sole angler seeking to hook “the big one,” but rather a community of fishermen casting a broad and weighted net and drawing it in together. The idea is “throwing nets into the sea” cast by a capable and caring community (Mt. 4:18-22).

Notice: “throwing nets into the sea” (v. 18) and “they left their nets” (v. 20) and “repairing their nets” (v. 21).

While the Bible does refer at least once to fishing with a hook (Mt. 17:24-27), that’s not the context of Christ’s call to his followers.

The net commonly used at this time was circular, having heavy weights around its perimeter. Typically, fishermen would cast these weighted nets from the shoreline and sometimes from the sides of their boat. It was a particularly labor-intensive task to cast and draw these nets in.

So what does “net evangelism” look like today?

Caught in Community

Access Church in Lakeland, Florida, recently decided to throw out a fresh “net” into their community.

“What if we took a whole month of our tithe income and just gave back to our community?” asked Jason Burns, the pastor of Access. “What if we did so with no strings attached?” Access Gives Back was a week-long effort to reach out to the community and to unleash Spirit-inspired creativity in the minds and actions of the church’s members.

So one Sunday everyone at the church received anywhere from $5 to $100 in an envelope with simple instructions: “Just take the money and use it for some good purpose. Simply find a way to bless someone with no strings attached, no hidden agendas, and no ulterior motives.”

One husband, Ian Vibbert, a 27-year-old employee at Publix, a local grocery store, was stunned by this approach: “I was speechless. I’d never heard of anything like that. But, I felt blessed to be part of a place that would trust the congregation and be willing to give a big part of the budget to do that.”

Access is a four-year-old church. It is primarily comprised of members in their 20s and 30s and has no permanent building. The 500 or so worshipers meet in a local high school. Burns describes it as “a traditional church trying untraditional things to reach an unreached generation.”

The Gives Back effort was intended to be both an act of simple compassion toward the community and a way to prompt the members to live out their faith in the community.

“The amounts we gave are not going to do a lot,” says Jay Graffam, 32, Access’s executive pastor. “It would take millions of dollars to make a big difference. But, we want to create people who will be generous for the rest of their lives. We said to the church, ‘Go out and be generous on us.'”

Nothing But Net

Mother Teresa once said, “God hasn’t called us to do great things; but to do small things with great love.” When Give Back Sunday arrived at Access, there was $9 in Ian Vibbert’s envelope and $100 in his wife Heather’s. They pooled their money, added some of their own, and asked God what they should do. They finally called the Lakeland Regional Medical Center’s neonatal clinic and found out how many infants were there.

“I bought stuffed animals,” Heather said, “and get-well cards, and just wrote ‘Jesus loves you’ on them. Hopefully, it had an impact. It was worth it if even one person was touched.”

“The idea is to bring God’s kingdom down here,” says Burns. “That’s what we are working on at Access. We often say, ‘Up there, down here.’ It’s not about how big we can grow the church. It’s really more about how well we can cast the net. While church facilities may be something people build, the Kingdom is something we spread. And, when the kingdom is spread, souls are reached for Christ and the world becomes a better place.”

So often in the Bible, outreach is a together activity. When Jesus sent his disciples out to the towns and villages, he sent them two by two. When he sent them to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit, he sent 120 of them to a place of prayer in Jerusalem. Even when the first missionaries were commissioned, there were two leaders and one protégé sent out. If outreach was anything, it was together.

Outreach requires bold witness and sharing our faith. We do need to be instant in season and out to give people “a reason for our faith” (1 Peter 3:15). There are certainly many times when our witness will be one on one. But, we must not forget that Jesus said “they will know you are my disciples by the love you have one for another.” That’s not something anyone can do alone. The gospel is primarily a net (i.e., a culture) of grace and truth that we boldly and broadly cast … together.

Fishing Mindsets: Pole vs. Net

Consider this:

Pole Fishing Net Fishing
is a solo effort. is a team effort.
involves throwing them a line on your own. involves showing them Christ within a community.
helps people hear about the gospel. helps people see the gospel lived out.
is about “coming to a decision.” is about “coming into community.”
is convincing them of the truth of Christ (information). is showing to them the love of Christ (transformation).
tends to view evangelism as a periodic project. sees outreach as necessary and ongoing.

Robert C. Crosby is professor of practical theology at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.

Churches That Make A Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works by Ronald J. Sider, 2002, Philip N. Olson, & Heidi Rolland Unruh, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI

 Acting On Your Faith: Congregations Making a Difference: A Guide to Success in Service and Social Action by Victor N. Claman & David E. Butler with Jessica A. Boyatt, 1991, Insights, Boston.

 A Story About Light by Maxine C. Wight, 1979, Herald Publishing House, Independence, MO

 COMMUNITY AND GROWTH by Jean Vanier revised edition in 1989. Paulist Press: New York.

Notes from the Reading:

Community is caring; caring for the people in a permanent, individual way.  “Community is the place where our limitations, our fears and our egoism are revealed to us” (p. 26).

 “In every human being there is…a cry to be loved and understood…; there is a yearning to be called forth as special and unique” (pp. 30, 31).

 “The enemy in the community reveals to us the enemy inside us” (p.35).

 “When we judge, we are pushing people away; we are creating a wall, a barrier.  When we forgive, we are destroying barriers; we come closer to others” (p. 36).

“…if we are looking too much for our own peace – we will never find it, because peace is the fruit of love and service to others” (p. 46).

“Humility and trust are more at the foundation of community life than perfection and generosity” (p. 47).

“The more a community deepens, the weaker and the more sensitive its members become” (p. 48).

’The cement that unites us in our community is the part of us that is weakest and smallest’” (p. 48).

“Envy is one of the plagues that destroys community.  It comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts” (p. 49).

“We truly need the power of the Holy Spirit to accept what we have been given and to accept what others have been given” (p. 52).

‘”I am convinced communal life can flourish only if it exists for an aim outside itself.  Community is viable if it is the outgrowth of a deep involvement in a purpose which is other than, or above, that of being a community’” (Bruno Bettelheim, Home for the Heart, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974.  p. 90).

“…a love that sees their beauty, the light shining within them; a love that reveals to them their value and importance in the universe” (p. 97).

“Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of humanity lies in the acceptance of our insignificance, our human condition and our earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness.  The beauty of people is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day” (p. 109).

“Leadership needs to be prophetic” (p. 221).

“It is important for each community to have a constitution defining its structure and mode of government:  who makes what decisions and so on” (p. 222).

 “People who are given responsibility must be allowed to carry it out….However, people should not be left to carry responsibility alone….This person should be a discreet presence who does not judge, who has experience in human affairs and who instills confidence” (p. 224).

 “We can only command if we know how to obey.  We can only be a leader if we know how to be a servant” (p. 225).

 “One of the essential qualities of people with responsibility is an ability to listen to everyone….” (p. 225).  “…listen to the young people….’God often inspires the youngest to make the best suggestions’ (Rule of St. Benedict, vol 15, Regency Publishers, USA, 1968; p. 227).

 “Truly responsible people are open to others….stay vulnerable to criticism….People in authority should always stay close to those for whom they are responsible….to reveal themselves as they are and to share their difficulties and weaknesses” (p. 227).

 “Leaders have to be seen as fallible and human, but at the same time as trusting and trying to grow” (p. 228).

 “In a community which has to do with the growth of people, it is good for trusting relationships with them” (p. 229).

 “We don’t open our heart to a group; we open it to an individual….A personalized authority will always put the good of the individual before that of the group and before the law….” (p. 230). 

 “….community is not an end in itself; it is each individual person that is important” (p. 234).

 “The most precious gift in community is rooted in weakness.  It is when we are frail and poor that we need others, that we call them to love and use all their gifts.  At the heart of community are always the people who are insignificant, weak and poor.  Those who are ‘useless’, either physically or mentally, those who are ill or dying, enter into the mystery of sacrifice.  Through their humiliation and the offering of their suffering, they become sources of life for others. ‘Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole’ (Isa. 53:5).  This is a mystery of faith.

 “At the heart of everything beautiful in a community, there is always a sacrificial lamb, united to the Lamb of God” (p. 263).

 “It is the people who love, forgive and listen who build community.  It is those who are sensitive, who serve others, and who nourish and pray for them” (p. 264).

 “It is hard to find the balance between using people for the community and leaving them too much space, without a useful role” (p. 273).

Meetings:

  • The first important thing is to start and stop on time
  • It’s good to start with a time of silence, even of prayer, if that is what people want; putting God first helps us overcome our own ideas, desires, and passions.
  • The next important thing is a clear agenda which allows essential question the time they need.
  • It’s good to be flexible and to create moments of relaxation and laughter.
  • Leaders of meetings have to know how to enable everyone to have their say.
  • “The expression of feelings brings freedom.”
  • People must learn to listen to others and understand their points of view.
  • Basic, necessary attitudes in community discernment are openness, the seeking of truth, and trust that it will be given to the group.
  • State the question/problem in its simplest form; if possible, in a way that brings a “yes” or “no” answer.  After a time of reflection, have members one after the other give their reasons “for”; then, after another time of reflection, give their answers “against”.  The leader should name the reason for the disagreement and will, then, formulate a new question (same process as before).

“We forget that the best nourishment of community life, the one which renews us and opens our hearts, is in all the small gestures of fidelity, tenderness, humility, forgiveness, sensitivity, and welcome which make up everyday life.  It is these which are at the heart of community and can bring us to a realization of love.  It is these which touch hearts and reveal gifts” (p. 300).

Community is both body and spirit.

Communities need more commitment to relationships and to its celebration (p. 309).

“…the Father loves us and sends his Spirit to transform our hearts and lead us from egoism to love, so that we can live everyday life as brothers and sisters” (p. 312)

“The deepest cry in the heart of the human person is a cry for life, and life is unity and peace.  Joy flows from unity.  And unity is born from daily love, mutual acceptance and forgiveness.  Celebration is the song of joy and thanksgiving flowing from a sense of unity but also creating and deepening it” (p. 315).

“Celebration is joy with God” (p. 316).  “And Jesus is born in our hearts to heal us, to make us whole and to save us” (p. 317).

“A celebration must always be a festival of the poor, and with the poor, not for the poor” (p. 319).

“.Sacrifice is always at the center of community life, because it has to do with the sacrifice of our own interests for those of others, as Jesus sacrificed his life so that we could receive the Spirit” (p. 321).

“But when all is said and done, each of us, and in the deepest part of our self, has to learn to accept our own essential solitude” (p. 329).

“It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of marriage or community” (p. 330).

Community life is “there to help us believe that our illusions and egoism will be gradually healed if we become nourishment for others.  We are in community for each other, so that all of us can grow and uncover our wound before the infinite, so that Jesus can manifest himself through it” (p. 330).

“Community is there not for itself but for others—the poor, the Church, and society.  It is essentially mission” (p. 331).