After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the disciples saw themselves as the “evidence” of the resurrection. They started a movement that continues over 2000 years later. Their words, actions, and interactions with people were evidence the resurrection was real, powerful, and hope-filled. Today, their witness is animated through your life.

How can your life be evidence of the resurrection?

Yes, it is possible!

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Kirk Byron Jones, author of The Jazz of Preaching and editor of The African-American Preaching Library writes:

“Handling the resurrection is challenging; being handled by the resurrection is even more challenging.  In Alaine Alsire’s novel, Lazarus’ problem was not being raised; his problem was being raised ‘different.’ He was not the same person. Christian resurrection is not just about coming back to life, but coming back to life ‘different.’  We don’t do different well. In social relations, all too often we interpret different as deficient…

Being handled by the resurrection means constantly challenging our fear of the unknown, and even more…constantly challenging our fear ‘of the loss of the known.’  Being handled by the resurrection means learning to relax in the experience of new life. May we enter with God into the work of changing and recomposing our lives.  May we rise and cheer such resurrections.”

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My first appointment out of seminary was at Humphreys Memorial United Methodist Church located on the Coal River in a small West Virginia town. Being the third in a succession of new, young seminary graduates to become the pastor of the congregation, the people of the church knew how to make a young family welcome. My wife, Kim, our four-month-old son, Evan, and I were immediately taken in as family members.

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We waved the palms.

We shouted “hosanna.”

Yet the headlines shout to us, alerting us to a reality too common.
Breaking news of terror.
Destructive bombs.
Innocent life lost.
Confusion and chaos; heroes; and fear-filled waiting.
Once again.
We pause. We pray. We wait.

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Watching the news reports about the bombing in Brussels, I remembered the words of Paul in his letter to a church in Ephesus, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power…so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

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In “Leadership Challenge #1” we explored the challenges of church programs for missional leaders. In this second installment, we’ll briefly explore the challenge of assessing transformation.

Assessing Transformation

First, a question: Why are measurements in the church elusive?

You’ve likely completed many reports, participated in surveys, and been involved in conversations about the “numbers” and trends in the church.  None of these conversations begin to touch on measuring transformation.

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In the final years of his life, a lifelong Bible teacher found his faith challenged.  First, a degenerative nerve disease confined him to bed, impeding him from most of the activities that gave him pleasure.  Then his thirty-nine­-year-old daughter battled a severe form of diabetes.  Along with the illnesses, financial pressures mounted.

In the midst of the crisis, he composed a Christmas letter and mailed it to others in the family.  He felt uneasy about many of the things that he had once taught, but he wanted to express what he believed with certainty.  So, he came up with these three things:  “Life is difficult.  God is merciful.  Heaven is sure.”  He believed he could count on these three things.  When his daughter died of diabetic complications the very next week, he clung to those truths ever more fiercely.

“Life is difficult. God is merciful. Heaven is sure.”

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Peter Drucker, in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, writes:

“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time—literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”

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Programs are a leadership challenge for the missional church.

“What?” you ask.

“Programs are central to our church’s ministry.”

So let’s ask different questions:

“Why so many programs?”

“How do the programs help the church focus on our mission?”

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Scott Levy, a United Methodist pastor, was preaching for a pastor friend one Sunday morning. He went early to the church to see what it was like and to get a feel for the context and atmosphere. As he was walking down a long hallway, his sermon notes in one hand and his pulpit robe draped over the other arm, he came upon a large room used as a nursery for preschoolers. Glancing in, he saw a little boy who looked about four years old, sitting all by himself.

The little boy said, “Hi, my name’s Tommy and I’m all alone in this big room.”

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