How To Cultivate This Relational Virtue

In my last post, I wrote about the Philippians 4:5 challenge of being well known for a sweet reasonableness–a perfect courtesy, if you will, in dealing with others.

Here in part two is the first of three ways from the context of that passage for developing this otherwise unnatural disposition, especially when we are wronged.

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We don’t often associate the rather familiar verses of Phil. 4:4-8 with negotiating conflict and preserving oneness in our dealings with others. But the context in vv. 2-3 makes this connection very plain.

Paul calls out publically two godly women struggling to get along. He even enlists the aid of a mediator–“true companion”–to help resolve whatever dispute left the ladies at odds.

Let this hit you right between the eyes. That real church-life struggle sets the stage for the exhortations which follow.

Here is step one from these familiar verses for cultivating a sweet reasonableness known to everyone–especially in your church when conflict threatens to disrupt unity.

One, pursue your joy in God (v. 4). Rejoice in the Lord. He doesn’t want us to miss the point, so he repeats himself. Again, I will say rejoice. The apostle likes this theme. He hit them with it once before in Phil. 3:1.

I’m not sure we can hear this often enough. Our contentment ought not depend on how well relationships work out. No matter how hard we try, things can get dicey with others. When it does, the way to sweet reasonableness lies in a Godward orientation.

Ken Sande puts this so well in The Peacemaker:

Salvation through the gospel, the motivation and power to change, sound guidance through God’s Word and Spirit, the resources of the body of Christ, opportunities that come through a sovereign God–all these blessings are available when you are “in the Lord.” But remember, Satan does not want you to think like this; he wants to keep you worried about your conflict, wrapped up in yourself, and looking everywhere except at God. Resist him! Go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer and worship, and delight in his goodness to you. You will be surprised at the freedom and power that such rejoicing brings (85).

This is precisely why our church offers once a year a class on the subject of spiritual disciplines. Joy in God grows as the fruit of our gospel-driven pursuit of God through the means of grace with which He has blessed us.

How’s your joy in God quotient?

There’s little hope of sweet reasonableness known to all without it.

Stay tuned for part three!

Why Pastors Leave After a Building Program

Now that we’ve survived the major push to occupy our new facility at 872 Maitland Avenue, it occurred to me that someone out there might have written about what to expect as a church AFTER the completion of a new building.

I did a Google search to that end. About four pages into the search I ran across this intriguing title. The article suggests, for a variety of reasons, that as many as twenty percent of pastors leave their churches within two years of completing a building program.

As I read through the article I found myself grateful for the wisdom to have stayed out of the construction process to focus on my pastoral responsibilities. I said all along that wiser, smarter, and better equipped people than I served on the building committee and sub-committees to put our structure on the map. Pastors doing the opposite apparently position themselves for disaster. The article calls it a recipe for burnout:

Most pastors already have enough work to do. The weekly regimen of preaching, preparation, counseling, visitation and administration take up the bulk of their time. It has been estimated that the pastor of the average church works 48 to 55 hours per week. Add to this the responsibility to get a building built, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.

Indeed. Praise God for sidestepping that pitfall. You can read the rest of the article here, if it interests you.

I have noticed, however, a shift in my personal involvement with the facility now that we’ve opened. Going to the office day-in and day-out, I am regularly confronted with the variety of matters needing attention both inside and out. Six plus acres and a 21,000 sq. ft. building present a sizable stewardship. How’s that for understatement? Quite frankly, it exceeds the demands of two staff pastors, an assistant, and five elders and five deacons working as hard as they can.

Dear ones, we simply must own this, all of us covenant members, together. The SDA days are gone. We can’t call the landlord anymore. And we simply don’t have the budget to pay for all upkeep, though we have outsourced a good bit of it. We need volunteers willing to serve in the day of His power (Psa. 110:3).

How can you help?

First, if you see something that needs attention, if you possibly can, jump on it. Pull a weed, haul a limb, pick up the trash, dust the shelf, clean the smudge, etc. If you can’t dispatch it yourself for whatever reason, call it to our attention in the office and we will get someone who can.

Second, plan to participate in  at least one or two work parties in the next calendar year. We will call them regularly. We have no choice, especially at this time of the year in the tropics where stuff grows like crazy. If Saturdays don’t suit you due to work or other responsibilities, how about volunteering to come in sometime during the week? Let Greg or me know and we will be happy to put you on assignment at a time that works for you.

Please don’t anybody panic over this post. I not tempted in the least to bail from burnout. I’ve never felt healthier in my adult life. And I am more excited about ministry at OGC than ever now that we have a home. But please count this a gentle reminder that a new day has come. We have a mega-responsibility now to steward. If we spread the weight of that on everyone’s shoulders, no one should collapse under the strain, including me.

Many, many thanks.

Another Financial Update

As with last week, we asked the deacons to tabulate the offering from Christmas Day so as to keep the body informed about our progress to close the 2011 budget year with a strong finish.

The total for our general fund giving  for 12/25 was $6083.

While that is about $1000 below our weekly budget needs, I consider it a strong offering for a holiday Sunday where attendance was significantly less than usual given the traveling of so many of our folks. Call me a glass half-full kind of pastor, if you like.

Also, not reflected in both this amount and the previous week’s accounting are any gifts that have come in through the mail. Teddie stopped the daily mail delivery during her two week vacation so we will not have an idea of where we actually finished until she returns to the office next week.

Please remember that you can still make a yearend gift if God so leads. As long as it is postmarked on or before December 31, it will still be credited to this fiscal year.

Thanks again on behalf of the elders and deacons for your faithful stewardship as covenant members at OGC!

Brief Financial Update

With Teddie out of the office for two weeks of vacation here at the end of the year, we won’t deposit offerings from last Sunday or this Sunday until the first week of January 2012. However we didn’t want to fail to report giving in light of our yearend ask letter that went out a few weeks ago.

The totals from December 18th’s offering were:

General Fund:  $9,031.75
Building Fund:  $6,245.00

Praise God for His faithfulness through the generous giving of His people! We continue to make progress by God’s grace in lowering our budget deficit numbers.

We will not collect an offering on Christmas Eve this Saturday night, but we will have the offering as usual during our Christmas Day service at 10:45 AM on Sunday.

Also, please remember that yearend gifts sent via mail must be postmarked by December 31, 2011 to count for this budget year.

Finally, please continue to pray for God’s provision as we believe Him for a strong finish financially in 2011.