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    Elders' Blog - Entries from January 2015

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    ThuThursdayJanJanuary29th2015 Form, Function, and Feel
    byDon Whipple Tagged Change Church Leaders 1 comments Add comment

    I think I said it at least ten times in the three “Changing Seasons at Kossuth” sermons that I delivered this past November. Here’s the sentence that I remember intentionally repeating several times over those weeks of teaching about the leadership changes in store for our incredible church:

    “I along with the leadership believe that it is God’s timing for a new season of fruitfulness, growth and joy at Kossuth and that season will be launched in part from the platform of a change in the form, function and feel of what we know as the lead elder and his role.”

    One obvious take-away from that statement and the “Changing Seasons” sermons is now old news. At some point, I will no longer be lead elder. Another (perhaps more important) take-away is that the responsibilities and expectations of the lead elder role will change when another lead elder is appointed. When that new lead elder is appointed by the elder team, our thinking will need to shift from how I have filled the lead elder role to a new form, function, and feel regarding that important role.

    Well, it is my joy to share with you that the elders at their meeting this week approved both a new lead elder role description as well as a new lead elder. Please let me introduce you to them both with the understanding that more details will be shared in the coming weeks.

    Lead Elder Role Description. Essentially this process began by listing the responsibilities that I have carried and collected over my years of service. These responsibilities were then divided among the other elders according to giftedness, passion, and capacity. So the form, function, and feel is changing as tasks that have been associated with the lead elder in the past may now be the responsibility of an elder who is not designated as lead elder. It may be helpful to remember that regarding the lead elder role, our by-laws read: “All elders are equal in authority, but the elders will choose one from among them who will serve as leader for the elders.”

    The lead elder role description approved by the elders this week states that the lead elder will serve the elders by:

    1. Setting the elder and staff meeting agendas.

    2. Guiding discussions toward the aim of consensus.

    3. Shaping the team of men toward maximum effectiveness.

    4. Planning key events that build team cohesiveness (elder/staff retreats, relational time, etc.).

    5. Serving as the point of first contact for the community and outside organizations.

    This second list shows how other responsibilities have been assigned that are no longer associated with the lead elder role:

    1. Developing the sermon calendar - Drew

    2. Overseeing the on-call visitation schedule - Drew

    3. Organizing weddings, funerals and special services - Drew

    4. Overseeing Deacon Teams - various elders

    5. Providing non-elder staff and church operational supervision - Abraham

    6. Overseeing biblical counseling - Abraham

    7. Overseeing the Elder Blog - Drew

    Since much of this was just decided this week, we will get a more detailed listing of elder and deacon assignments and responsibilities to you as soon as we are able.

    Lead Elder Appointment. The elders unanimously appointed Abraham Cremeens as lead elder to carry out the new lead elder role description. Abraham has proven gifts and skills to serve the elders and our church in this newly defined role. Abraham will assume this role effective immediately with me being available to come alongside him to provide support and coaching as necessary.

    It is always a win to have the right people positioned in the responsibilities that God has gifted and enabled them to do well. God has given Kossuth an amazing group of godly men to shepherd and oversee this precious flock. Remember to pray for and encourage them as each one carries the pastoring load assigned to them. It may take some time and continued dialogue, but we believe the new form, function, and feel will soon settle into new fruitfulness and joy as we serve together.    

    WedWednesdayJanJanuary21st2015 3 Lessons About Injustice
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Abortion Justice Race 1 comments Add comment

    This week we observed two very important days of commemoration. The first was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, an occasion to remember the lives that are lost to abortion and to pray for national repentance, healing, and change. The following day was our annual remembrance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the heroic civil rights leader who helped awaken our nation to its need of racial reconciliation.

    But as important as these two days of commemoration are, they’re also highly unfortunate. Why? Because they remind us of the deep and troubling injustice that pervades our society. Without the injustice of abortion, there would be little need for a campaign to defend the sanctity of human life. Without the injustice of racism, we might not even know the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. These two days of commemoration give us a chance to pause and reflect upon the fight against injustice, while mourning over the injustice that makes this fight necessary in the first place. And as we do that, I think there are three lessons we can learn about injustice and how we should respond:

    1. Injustice is systemic. In other words, it’s a large-scale issue. Injustice is intricately woven into long and complex narratives involving educational opportunities, legislative decisions, housing markets, family structures, economic empowerment, community health, generational patterns, media influence, and a host of other converging factors.

    Recognizing the systemic nature of injustice allows us to address it at an institutional level. Abortion is an obvious example. Advocates of the unborn are not simply up against rogue abortion practitioners who perform their dark deeds in back alleys and run-down shacks. For over forty years, our nation’s highest court has formally and openly endorsed abortion as a perfectly legal practice. Pause to let this sink in: our society has effectively legalized murder. That’s systemic injustice in its purest form. And it deserves a response that recognizes it as such. This is why we need to call for big-picture change and institutional reform.

    2. Injustice is interpersonal. There’s also another side to the coin. We must never allow the previous point to overshadow the fact that injustice is still very much a problem of the human heart—yours, mine, and everyone’s. When we harbor bitterness toward individuals of another race, we’re not victims of “the system.” We are morally responsible individuals who are failing to love as God loves.

    The need for institutional change is accompanied by the need for transformation that must happen within and between individuals. Overturning a Supreme Court decision will not cause a panicked single mother to respect the humanity and dignity of the unexpected child growing within her any more than eradicating Jim Crow laws caused prejudiced white people to instinctively appreciate and honor their brothers and sisters of another color. Fighting for justice means calling for personal change.

    3. Injustice is temporary. The more we come face-to-face with the true and ugly nature of injustice, the more daunting it seems. But there is good news. It’s not permanent.

    The Bible is full of anticipation for a day that is coming when injustice will be no more. Psalm 10 is but one of many places where we see this theme on full display: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

    God will deal with injustice. He will bring it to an end. Whether it’s abortion, racism, or any of the other manifestations of injustice we encounter in our world, we can rejoice in the fact that our God is just and he will make all things right! 

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary15th2015 Changing Seasons: What's Up?
    byDon Whipple Tagged Church Leaders News 0 comments Add comment

    Disconnected. Uninformed. Out of the loop. One of the unintended consequences of celebrating two major holidays, traveling to spend time with family, and having extended battles with various evil flu bugs is that feeling that you have lost touch with what’s going on in our church family. That’s dangerous because clear and timely information is crucial to fueling our prayers, hopes, and joyful participation in ministry together.

    Our elders met on Tuesday evening. This was the first meeting for all eight elders to participate. It was a five hour marathon due to (1) an extended time of reviewing and praying for needs among our congregation and (2) a huge agenda due to not meeting in December, many leadership transition tasks, and approval of a 2015 budget. Here are some take aways to encourage you to pray and serve well:

    1. A 2015 budget was approved to be presented to the congregation for approval at our February 1 Family Gathering.

    2. The Community Christmas Impact offering was about $4,700 and connections are being made to distribute that to needy families in a relationally-driven way. These stories will be told as we are able and as they happen. If you would like to get directly involved in life-on-life service in these community opportunities, be sure to connect with Abraham Cremeens or Bobby Williams.

    3. The year-end Overflow offering is currently at $46,000. While we are grateful for that measure of generosity, it is well below our $100,000 goal. We will continue to pray and receive gifts toward this project through the last Sunday of January. Remember that the offering is designated to address sending our Kossuth missionaries, promoting adoption, and developing future ministry leaders. An update will be given in February Family Gathering.

    4. Some dates have been established for me to transition the responsibilities I carry to others over the next four months. My transition will look something like this:

    • Jan/Feb – I will preach a 6-week series with the understanding that Drew begins preaching and oversight of pulpit ministry on March 1; by then I will have passed the lead elder role to another elder and continue to work with staff and elders to define and develop a careful transition of ministry responsibilities.
    • March/April – Continuing support ministry to staff and elders in transition, responsible for assigned projects from elders, less presence around the office day-to-day, and developing the “what’s next for the Whipples” plan.  
    • May 15 will be my final work day with Sunday, May 17, as the final Sunday for the Whipples at Kossuth. This author is inclined to believe they will be back for visits but this is the final Sunday for ... you know what I mean.

    5. A position has been drafted for a new staff position for youth and children's ministry, and we are nearly ready to begin advertising the opening. Within a few weeks that will be available to prayerfully distribute to attract the person God has to join our leadership team in this crucial area of need in our church family. We will work with parents to influence the job details, evaluate candidates, and continue to shape how this ministry will be positioned to flourish. Please ask God often to bless this search for the right person.

    6. Oversight of the Elder Blog has been passed on to Drew. He and the elders will continue to use this venue to encourage, instruct, and inform our church family. Please make it a weekly “must read.”

    7. Our newly appointed elders will be formally commissioned and acknowledged in our worship service on Sunday January 25. It promises to be a meaningful time of celebration and commitment for our entire church family.

    That’s more than enough information for now even though I am certain this does not address all your questions. Please note that while we will try to share in brief ways on Sunday mornings, our next planned time for sharing and interaction is February 1 at Family Gathering. We will work through the proposed budget plan, share various reports, and have a Q&A time to address transition issues of concern to you.

    Please feel free to address your concerns or questions at anytime to me or any other elder. We want you to be informed so that we can be a united church family in fervent prayer, God-focused hope, and joyful service anticipating the good things God has in store for the next chapter at Kossuth.   

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary8th2015 A Happy & Prosperous New Year

    What goals do you have for 2015? Are you hoping to drop a few pounds? Improve your marriage? Build up your savings account? Find a new career? Take a vacation?

    All those are perfectly fine ambitions, when pursued for the right reasons. But let me suggest that you add this one to your list of goals for the coming year: to pursue abundant happiness and extravagant prosperity.

    Now before you grow concerned that I’ve fallen in with a band of big-haired television preachers, let me explain.

    In Psalm 1, we meet a truly interesting fellow. Among all the descriptions of him that the Psalmist packs into the short span of just six verses, there are two that stand out to me above the rest: he’s blessed (translation: “happy”), and he’s prosperous.

    Now perhaps there’s nothing remarkable about a happy and prosperous individual. After all, we seem to have such people all around us (or at least in the television commercials, anyway). But what’s unique about the person in Psalm 1 is the reason for his happiness and prosperity. His condition isn’t the result of winning the lottery or landing a big promotion. Instead, it’s the result of an intimate communion with God that is achieved through the faithful enjoyment of Scripture.

    “His delight is in the law of the Lord,” the Psalmist tells us, “and on his law he meditates day and night.” The happy, prosperous man isn’t out shopping. He’s not surrounding himself with friends. He’s not hoisting a championship trophy. He’s patiently sitting before God’s word, soaking it up and savoring every last drop. His happiness and prosperity are transcendent, spiritual realities that he enjoys as a consequence of being rooted in Scripture.

    This message is a needed one for those of us who find ourselves approaching daily Bible reading as a dull and dreary chore. God’s word isn’t a tedious textbook to be laboriously memorized. It’s the key to true joy and lasting wealth! When we delve into its endless treasures and explore the God who is revealed within its pages, we sincerely benefit as a result. Just like the man in Psalm 1, we discover that God’s word isn’t meant to bore us; it’s meant to bless us!

    So let’s make 2015 a year that we all get serious about happiness and prosperity. Let’s commit to dive into our Bibles, knowing that innumerable treasures and benefits await us.

    While there are a number of practical tools to help us in this quest, perhaps one of the best is a Bible reading plan. Having a structured, systematic approach to reading the Scriptures is a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted. Here are a few quick resources to get you started:

    • If you want to read the Bible in a year, you might enjoy this 52-week plan.
    • If you’d like to go more slowly, Stephen Witmer’s two-year plan might be a good option. (And if you don’t want to print off a 9-page document, our very own Theresa Blaisdell has put together a condensed version of this same plan that you’ll likely find very useful!*)
    • The ESV website also offers a variety of plans that you can choose from.  

    And of course, you don’t want to forget about the new Connection Group and Care Group curriculum, which is a tremendous resource for Bible study in its own right. If you haven’t done so already, grab a green folder this Sunday, and get to work!

    I’m eager to see the happiness and prosperity that God plans to bring our way as we delight together in his word!

    *Note from Theresa: “To save space, I omitted the verse number when it is the last verse in the chapter. This sometimes requires looking at the next day's reading for clarity. For example, on November 12, the OT reading is Eccl 1:12-2. The 2 there is clearly not a verse number, so it is understood that the reading encompasses all of chapter 2. However, on December 5, the OT reading is Isa 4:2-5. That could be read as verses 2 through 5, but the December 6 reading is Isa 6, which makes it clear that it should be read as ‘the rest of chapter 4 and all of chapter 5.’”

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