Church Leadership Grounded in Prayer

When we hear the word nomination what comes to mind? For some we immediately think of politics. For instance, this week, the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court will have a hearing in the Senate. So it makes sense that when nominations are heard of we can easily come to think that some controversy or questioning is close behind. Not so when it comes to nominations in the church.  While this may seem a rather dry subject I assure you it is not. This coming month the nominating team will be chosen and begin their work. This work is grounded in prayer. These prayers, like all others, ground the work of the group in Christ, as they seek God’s will together for the church.

Prayer is central to any activity of the church and this may seem like the obvious thing for a pastor to say, but when we move beyond simply asking God for things in prayer (like a full slate of candidates for Session), and begin seeking God’s will everything changes. When we pray for God to show us what he desires us to do for his kingdom and who he wants leading the church in that work surprising things begin to happen. For one, groups that pray together, be they families or church teams, stick together and form lasting unbreakable bonds of trust and friendship. Perhaps more importantly, prayer helps us shed those things in our lives that keep us from seeking fully God’s will and grounds us in the hope offered by Jesus. This is particularly important when it comes to figuring out whom God is calling to lead our church.

There is a lot of work that goes into finding those people whom God is calling. However, that work needs to be grounded in prayer. If and when you are contacted to consider becoming one of our six elders in the coming months you should know two things. One, that you have already been fervently prayed for as the Nominating Team has sought to discern God’s will for the church. Second, that you are not being asked to say “yes or no” to the team, but rather are being asked to enter into a season of prayer yourself to discern if leadership is something you are being call to engage in here at Heritage Church, knowing that you will have plenty of help along the way. So do not wait! Begin praying now. Pray that God would help you know his will for you, for your family, for your church, and for the world.

Blessings,
Pastor Brian

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The Journey of Bi-Cultural Bridge Building

Well folks it’s that time of year again, it is Lent. Lent of course is that season in the church’s life when she begins to contemplate what it means to travel the long road to the cross which Jesus takes on our behalf in the hopes that, unlike the disciples, we might not run away afraid but claim Jesus as our own just as he claims us as his own. It’s a good thing that none of us takes this journey alone but that we do so as a church, each one of us never disconnected from the others taking this journey to the cross.  It is also an interesting time of the year culturally. The news seems to be the same coming out of Washington, the kids are well into their school routines, work schedules are well known and the days move one into the next. Yet there is a pending sense of adventure as well.

As I continue to move through this year with you I will be attending to research for my Doctoral project and I would like to share with you some thoughts on how this might impact our life here at Heritage. I will be engaging in a discipline called ethnography. This is the practice of literally, “studying the nations.” Of course this is not exactly how it will be borne out here. What will occur though should yield some surprising and helpful results. The primary question I am seeking an answer to is this: What does being the church look like as we encounter people different from ourselves, who may not know what the church is? As we move deeper into the 21st century the suburban landscape is changing rapidly with more immigrants moving into our surrounding neighborhoods than ever before. The church is obligated to do ministry with those whom it encounters and yet we have very little idea what changes may be needed to do ministry with say, people from India or Asia. By learning more about these cultures through guided interviews, we will have pathways open for us to build bi-cultural bridge communities.

There is a lot of Biblical precedent for this. When Peter encounters Cornelius and his household and sees the Holy Spirit being poured out on them in Acts 10, it is clear that two seemingly disparate cultures are having a bridge built between them. In fact, I would argue that the bulk of the book of Acts and the New Testament as a whole is a discussion of what bi-cultural bridge building looks like. It is important to keep in mind throughout this project, which I am hoping you will help me with, that the goal is never conversion to the faith, as though we could be the savior of people. The people already have a savior named Jesus Christ. No, the goal, as it is in Scripture is encountering the other as witnesses to the good news which we have received and which we are obligated to share. That others may be drawn into the way of faith is a very real possibility, but that occurs through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Our role in all of this is to love the other. I hope you will join me on this journey.

Blessings,
Pastor Brian

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A Time of Reawakening Our Imaginations

As we continue to plunge into the New Year, and as I continue my studies (by the time you receive this I will be in the throws of my last two classes,) the transition that we have been working through as a church is well under way. The Session is busy praying about and contacting folks regarding service on one of our five teams. We hope that you will join us! February is going to be an exciting month. I know that sounds crazy as February is usually a time when we long for the beginning of Spring. My hope and vision for Heritage this month is that it will be a time of reawakening our imaginations as we seek to disclose to the people of our community what place a relationship with Jesus Christ has in their lives.

Accomplishing this is not something which can be borne by the few but needs to be cheerful and gratefully taken up by the many. In that spirit I want to thank you all for your generosity in continuing to minister to one another and to the community and to me as well. Your prayers for me and my family while they were here over Christmas were felt and welcomed. To those of you who donated air mattresses and pillows and all the rest, I can’t begin to tell you how much they helped. I know from experience that generosity begets generosity.  A year from now, if all goes according to plan, I will have received my Doctor of Ministry degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I simply would not have been able to even make it this far, without you.  We began with fourteen students and I believe there are only six or seven of us left. Please keep us all in prayer this year.  The best news to come from having engaged in this course of study is the work that we are doing here at Heritage, all of it is happening because of you. So many of the projects I have engaged in have been done in conjunction and with the participation of church members. The fruit this is bearing is made manifest in our monthly meal ministry, our engagement with single moms, and Body & Soul. I thank God for each of you and for these developments in our church’s life which have occurred not because I am a tireless pastor or because you are a tireless congregation, but because we rest in the sure hope of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Please continue in the spirit of generosity in which you have been baptized and which continues to allow us to discern and imagine the things which God is calling us to do. Prophetic ministry is typically marked by two things, a robust use of the imagination, and a reliance on God to fulfill His promises through the work of the church. Be a prophet this month!

Blessings,
Pastor Brian

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If We Work Together We Will Have A Happy New Year Indeed!

Grace and peace to you all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I hope everyone reading this had a joy filled Christmas as was possible. I know for many of you loved ones that you hoped would be present could not be and that joy may have been a little tougher to come by this year. It is important to remind ourselves that the promises of God which never change will be fulfilled on the day of Jesus’ return and we all have that to look forward to. It will be a Great Day!

I also hope that your new year is full of promise and I wanted to write this month about many of the exciting things happening here at Heritage in 2017. As many of you know we are restructuring our leadership and team work and the heavy lifting of that work will occur in the next few months, and all of us will need to lift. But if we do it together the burden will not be heavy. Over the course of the next few months all the members of Heritage church will be invited to and strongly encouraged to join one of our ministry teams. These teams include: Mission and Evangelism (M&E), Christian Education (CE), Worship, Stewardship Administration and Finance (SAF), and Membership, Fellowship and Care (MFC.) This is important work on a couple of levels.

First and foremost being part of a team allows all of us to engage in the mission to which God is calling Heritage Church. The ways we can serve God through the church are infinite and we seek to use our imaginations in this pursuit. The second level is that of functionality. As the Session transitions to a leadership team of six persons it will be incumbent upon all members of the church to serve God so that the burden (for lack of a better word) will not fall solely on the shoulders of the pastor and elders.

Lastly, we all have an inherent desire to contribute. We want to contribute to others beyond what we do for a living. This is the reason I coach water polo; it helps me see what’s out there. Being on a ministry team will help you see that God’s kingdom is huge and has no end. You will see more of the world than you ever thought possible. You will engage in fulfilling, life-changing work, and see others come to know Jesus. If we do this work together we will all have a Happy New Year indeed.

Blessings,
Pastor Brian

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Working Together in 2017

Grace and peace to you all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I hope everyone reading this had the most joy-filled Christmas possible. I know many of you missed loved ones that you hoped would be present and that joy may have been a little tougher to come by this year. It is important to remind ourselves that the promises of God which never change will be fulfilled on the day of Jesus’ return and we all have that to look forward to. It will be a Great Day!

I also hope that your new year is full of promise and I wanted to write this month about many of the exciting things happening here at Heritage in 2017. As many of you know we are restructuring our leadership and team work and the heavy lifting of that work will occur in the next few months, and all of us will need to lift. But, if we do it together the burden will not be heavy. Over the course of the next few months all the members of Heritage Church will be invited to and strongly encouraged to join one of our ministry teams. These teams include: Mission and Evangelism (M&E), Christian Education (CE), Worship, Stewardship Administration and Finance (SAF), and Membership, Fellowship and Care (MFC.) This is important work on a couple of levels.

First and foremost, being part of a team allows all of us to engage in the mission to which God is calling Heritage Church. The ways we can serve God through the church are infinite and we seek to use our imaginations in this pursuit. The second level is that of functionality. As the Session transitions to a leadership team of six persons it will be incumbent upon all members of the church to serve God so that the burden (for lack of a better word) will not fall solely on the shoulders of the pastor and elders.

Lastly, we all have an inherent desire to contribute. We want to contribute to others beyond what we do for a living. This is the reason I coach water polo; it helps me see what’s out there. Being on a ministry team will help you see that God’s kingdom is huge and has no end. You will see more of the world than you ever thought possible. You will engage in fulfilling, life-changing work, and see others come to know Jesus. If we do this work together we will all have a Happy New Year indeed.

Blessings,
Pastor Brian

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The Spiritual Discipline of Being “With”

By Rev. Brian Janssen

My biggest issue in ministry has always been my struggle with Spiritual Discipline. I am sure many of you have the same issue. You know how this struggle goes…we find a devotional or a practice we like and we try and stick to it as best we can for as long as we can (for me this has been anywhere from two weeks to a year). But then we lose interest…maybe the words of what we are reading don’t fill us like they used to, perhaps the accountability group we were a part of has split up (that actually happened to me), or usually we just can’t find the time.

I would like to suggest a practice we can all get involved with so that we might be more attentive to being “with” one another and with ourselves. It doesn’t take long and I have found it can be very helpful. Please know that this is one of those disciplines I have done and fallen away from at times, that’s a confession I want to make. At the end of the day before you go to sleep check in with yourself on the following questions, you can do this with your husband or wife as well: How have you seen God’s grace at work in your life today? Where were you personally able to show grace to someone? When did you have an opportunity to show grace and failed to do so? When did you need someone to be gracious to you and they weren’t or why were you unwilling to tell them you needed grace? These questions can be answered quickly and honestly. By doing this you will begin to see that even in the midst of life’s troubles your life is filled with the grace of God. You will also become more aware of how you can be more gracious yourself.

This personal discipline is easily translated into a conversation which the former dean of Duke Chapel encouraged his congregation to have during a week in Advent. I would encourage you to have the same conversation sometime in the next month. You can do this with a family member or at a meeting or even during a Bible study. The four parts of the conversation are this: “Tell me about the ways in which you are rich;” “tell me about the ways in which you are poor;” “let me tell you about the ways I am rich;” “let me tell you about the ways I am poor.” You will be amazed at how much your daily discipline leads into this conversation so that you are able to actually be with the person in front of you. It is not about fixing the person or hoping against hope that they finally “get it” or begin to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It will be about finding your story in their story and vice versa. You will both find that God’s grace is not as distant as was once thought. And you will see that God is nearer to us than we ever thought possible.

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