Learning to Pray Unceasingly

 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18                                                                                         

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Today’s Lesson: “The Jesus Prayer”                                                       

Take a 10-minute personal prayer retreat by quietly reciting the prayer below.  

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! 

(Dedicated to all pilgrims currently listening to the Way of a Pilgrim daily recording, and all who will begin this week!) 

Amen – Let it be, Lord; Let it be.                                                                                              

<><                                                                                                                                    

Pastor Bob


Read more

What is A New Normal? Core Issues for Churches in a Post-COVID-19 World

“Unstuck” is the name of a church consulting firm that specializes in helping churches get “unstuck.” Hence, the name! Also, perhaps not a bad name for a church! Unstuck does a lot of research on the future of churches and what the critical issues will be as churches attempt to move forward in a Post-COVID 19 world.

Recently, on they’re website, they posted an updated list of the 5 “core issues” that churches consistently rank the highest. Here are the results, with a few comments about each one. As you read them, see if you think they pertain to our future here at Vine Street, and if we are doing enough to address the issue, or need to be doing more.

1) Digital Ministry Strategy

Churches are trying to figure out how to establish a digital ministry strategy that connects with people outside the church and outside the faith. And, they also want to provide online experiences for people who are already connected to the church.

The biggest challenge? Churches are beginning to realize they need a new team creating content and experiences targeted specifically to an online audience. It’s one more example of how a change in strategy requires churches to also consider a change in structure.

2) Family Ministry

Churches are starting to recognize that reaching young adults is critical to the future of their ministries, and more and more churches are beginning to prioritize ministry to these young families. Some churches are trying to equip and partner with parents—both those parents who are single and those who are married. 

By the way, kids don’t drive themselves to church. So, churches who want to reach kids for Jesus are prioritizing creating in-person and online experiences that their parents want to engage with, as well. This is probably the number one priority of an effective ministry to kids.

3) Discipleship Pathway

Churches are having difficulty creating a solid and simple discipleship path to help regular attendees, as well as newcomers, take next steps in their walk with Christ.

Many churches have an overwhelming number of programs available, but no cohesive path that helps people learn which steps to take and when. Those churches that do have a clear track for spiritual formation, often don’t include a specific step to encourage relational evangelism. 

4) Outreach Strategy

For many churches, their outreach strategy either involved serving in the community with the hope that the people who were being served would take a next step toward Jesus. Or, they hoped people would invite their friends to attend a worship service. 

Yes, we should serve people. And yes, we should continue to invite people to church. But churches are recognizing outreach needs to look different going forward. 

Unstuck encourages churches to use a two-pronged approach. The first focus is a relational evangelism strategy to encourage people in the church to reach the people God has put in their daily lives. Secondly, we encourage the use of an online engagement strategy to provide content and experiences that engage with people who are outside the church and outside the faith.

5) Communications

Churches often identify two challenges related to communications. First, they don’t have an intentional communications strategy to connect with the person they’re trying to reach. Secondly, they indicated there’s a communication gap internally with the people who are already a part of the church. 

This second challenge is often linked to the lack of a clear discipleship path. Without that, ministry programs and events begin to compete with each other for people’s time and attention. When that happens, there’s always a sense among both the staff and the congregation that it’s a communications problem…when in many cases it’s a complexity problem.

Now, I realize that much of what Unstuck offers to churches is technology and communications focused. Thus, they have a particular bias. But, nevertheless, I found these 5 core issues fascinating because of the resonance they have with so many of the discussions going on right now in our church. 

If you’re able to look past the consulting jargon, I think there are some really profound points here that we need to bear in mind as we all move forward together … into our own “New Normal.”

May Peace Abound, and Light Cover Your World!                                                                 

Pastor Bob


Read more

“Ralph” Responds to Luke: 24: 36-48 (Or … “Learning to Witness”)

Last Sunday I preached on the Gospel story from Luke 24: 36-38. Do you recall Bruce Conlin reading this amazing little “post-Emmaus” story about Jesus coming to see His 11 disciples for the very first time after He left the tomb empty? As a reminder, here it is:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

This week, I discovered a response to that story from someone named Ralph. I love the way that Ralph speaks so honestly and passionately. I found this on the blog “Rumors: Sermon Helps for Preachers with a Sense of Humor.” 

I share Ralph’s testimony with you to serve as an inspiration and motivation for all of us to take to heart what Jesus tells us at the end of the text. Jesus says, “You are witnesses of these things.” 

We need to do more of that “witnessing” thing that Jesus calls us to. Perhaps starting to share our own “witness” with others in the congregation is a good way to find comfort with it. In fact, I’ve started a new segment in our worship service called “Meet the Flock.” It’s an opportunity for us to get to know more about the faith life of our fellow disciples. If you’re interested in sharing, give me a shout.  

C’mon! Give it a try. Not because I ask you. But because He calls you. 

Now, check out Ralph’s little testimony:

After reading the scripture story above, Ralph says –

 

 

“It was perfectly clear. The facts were there staring them in the face.
The disciples had seen the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion. They had seen his corpse. They understood the finality of the stone rolled across the gaping, black mouth of the tomb.

 

 

There was nothing left to do but face up to reality and get on with life. One step at a time. One day at a time. Nothing but raw, bloody-minded, cold-as-steel determination to keep you going. If you can’t find that strength within yourself, you’re toast.

 

 

I am not prepared to argue with anyone about whether those disciples saw Jesus that day. Did he really eat that piece of fish? Did they really converse with him? Isn’t it true that in the depth of grief the human imagination soars, and we see and experience all sorts of weird and wonderful things?

 

 

I do know this. The story of a resurrected Christ – the cosmic Christ – the real presence of God among us – this fable, legend, myth or whatever you choose to call it – this graceful presence has rescued me from the depths of grief when there was nothing inside myself to help me stand and walk again.

 

 

In the ordinary times of life, in the day-by-day living, that presence offers a comfortable sense of purpose – a gentle, firm nudge toward a life of love in action. With forgiveness, over and over again when I fall short of my own standards, and firm, parental pushes to get me back in there and do better.

 

 

And the moments of high joy. Many of them. At many points in my life. The last one being in the combined choir of two congregations singing an Easter Cantata – it was one of those moments when everything came together and we sang with one voice! Shouting! Celebrating! Praising!

 

 

So, I will live inside that story. I’m just not tough enough to handle the alternative.” 

Thanks for sharing Ralph! I can relate …                                                                                A WITNESS: Pastor Bob <><


Read more
^