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As I reflect on the events of the past couple of weeks, I don’t know how much more I can take. It has been a tough couple of weeks. 

Over 200,000 people have died from coronavirus. The latest word from the CDC is, we could reach 300,000 or more deaths by the first of the year. 

Lord have mercy. 

The grand jury decision not to charge anyone for the death of Breonna Taylor. We are not only continuing to scoff at the worth of black lives but continue to maintain dysfunctional systems that stand in the way of dignity and healing. 

Lord have mercy.

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, our country has lost another champion of human rights. Just as John Lewis helped us see that the discrimination on the basis of race was not an abstract ideal of equality, Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of gender was not about an abstract ideal of equality. Liberty and justice for all is a real consequence for all persons, regardless of race or gender. 

Lord have mercy.   

The inflammatory statements made by political leaders in a time when we need leaders to pull together to overcome the pandemics of racism and coronavirus is just beyond my imagination. How much more are we going to have to endure? 

Lord have mercy. 

Your Leadership

My greatest relief over the past two weeks as been your steady and consistent leadership. I have seen how you have been navigating the converging and conflicting values of this time. I have experienced your stability as people have trusted you to lead them through these days of uncertainty and chaos. And even when there has been disagreement, I have heard of your compassion and care. I want you to know that you have been a source of hope for me. 

As tough as the past couple of weeks have been, I am writing to encourage you to not give up.  We are in the middle of a very crucial time in our history.  Your leadership is needed more today than ever before.  I know that sounds dramatic, but as I have reflected, this is what is needed: 

1. Continue to encourage people to pay attention to the protocol of wearing masks and social distancing. 

We have all grown weary of this pandemic, but now is not the time to let down. People want things to be “normal.” You already know, we are not going back to the way things were before the pandemic. Encourage people to keep going and to not give up.  There will be an end. 

We know that wearing masks in public, like church buildings, helps in slowing the spread of the virus. We know that keeping the number of people gathering in groups to a minimum helps to slow the spread of the virus. I miss the personal contact, the singing of hymns, and gathering together to pray and to share other signs of care, but now is not the time to let down. Continue assisting people to make the decisions they need to make to keep themselves and everyone around them safe and healthy.

2. Continue to learn about and to practice anti-racism. 

The protests and demonstrations that are taking place across the country might be frightening and, frankly, unnecessary to some people. What is frightening to me is that almost 20% of practicing Christians say race is not a problem in the United States. According to Barna research, this is an 8% increase over 2019. Now is the time to learn more about and to practice anti-racism. 

Let me try to put in perspective. This year, the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake have opened the door for conversations about racial justice. We have seen and experienced marches and demonstrations, a players’ strike in the NBA and WNBA, professional tennis players focusing upon justice, and new policies concerning issues related to Confederate symbols. 

Books on anti-racism have risen to top of the best-seller lists, and leaders in government, business and religion have examined their actions and influence.  With all these things and more, we might assume that the events of 2020 have increased our awareness of racial injustice and motivated us to do something about it.

But new Barna research suggests that the events over the past year have brought some clarity to how we think about racial injustice but has not necessarily helped us see the issue as important or to identify our role in it. In fact, according to Barna, within the Christian church, there is a sense that people are doubling down on their views of race. 

Now, like never before, is the time to learn about, teach, and practice anti-racism. Let me put it another way. Now is the time to “love your neighbor.” Now is the time to “love as you have been loved.” Now is the time to “welcome one another as God in Christ has welcomed you.” So, don’t give up. Take advantage of this opportunity to help the people entrusted to your care to become the people God has created them to be. 

3. Vote and get others to vote. 

Help people in your community to register to vote if they are not registered. Organize a group of people in your congregation to provide transportation for persons to get to the polls on election day. Assist those who are afraid to be out in public to vote by using an absentee ballot.  This might not seem like a spiritual exercise, but the dignity and worth of people who are affected by our votes are at the center of our spirituality.

Bring Hope

I am sure you are already thinking of other ways to bring hope into the lives of the people entrusted to your care. Now is the time to step up and lead.  It is in times like these that people need leaders they can trust, leaders of compassion and stability, and leaders that can offer hope of better and greater days ahead.

I am grateful for your leadership and for the ways you encourage me and offer me hope. May we, together, lead the people entrusted to us into God’s love in the days ahead. When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

How are you doing this week? As you have navigated a pandemic, balanced family and work responsibilities, and continued to lead prophetically through recurring acts of racism, how are you feeling? How are you doing? 

If you are weary of the false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the political bantering and conflicting opinions, you are ready for an encouraging word. As a leader, created to lead for such as time as this, a word of hope would be good. 

The Meaning of Hope

As you know, hope means different things to different people. To some, it has religious connotations. To others, it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still, others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. 

So, what will lift your spirits and keep you looking beyond the obstacles you are facing at the moment? What will keep you believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly? 

Hope Keeps You Focused

What we know is this, when there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be. Hope keeps you focused on the direction you are moving in the midst of the challenges. 

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Even hope-filled leaders need a word of hope. I know it will sound strange, but you already know what is needed to move forward. Even though you might feel weary, anxious, and exhausted, you have it within you to lead others through the days we are living. 

Hope Abounds

Even with that in mind, I know that when you are weary, you are more open to doing anything other than what you are doing to get out of the weariness. So, here is what I want you to do: 

Keep your eyes on Jesus 

  • Jesus said, “If you believe in God, you believe in me.” God created you to lead through this time. As much as you want to please people, keep Jesus at the center of your life. Feeling anxious is normal. Following Jesus is transformational.

Trust your instincts

God has put within you the desire to trust God’s leading. You are who you are for a reason. There will be times that you will doubt yourself. Trust who God has created you to be and lead out of who we are.

Be generous with the people you are leading.

Love people the way God, in Jesus, has loved you. People are only trying to live into what they know. You are the leader and you know the mission and goal that is to be accomplished. People trust who and what they know. Give them the benefit of your doubt and love them into the future.

Don’t give up. 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Continue to hold before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next. Empower them to look beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers. 

Remember that you are surrounded by those who have gone before you. They are cheering you on. Listen closely when you are weary. You will hear family members, mentors, saints throughout the ages saying, “Don’t give up. Keep going. We are with you! Hang in there! Don’t give up.”

Don’t be afraid to move forward.

You are a leader.  You know there will be times of disapproval and pressure to conform. But you also know how to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.

Be the hope-filled leader you feel you need to face the challenges of today. 

I know it is easier said than done. But the bottom line, in the midst of your weariness, is not to be afraid. When you are weary it is easier to be motivated by fear and by hope.  

Fear prompts you to stay with the status quo. It is easier to stay with what you know rather than what you don’t know. There is a level of fear that is reasonable. But, when you let your fears take control, you often become paralyzed and do nothing.

Hope, on the other hand, gently steers you toward making a difference. By keeping your eyes upon your goal, hope helps you manage your fears. You move from weariness to expectation. 

Slow Down for Hope

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning historian, writes, 

“The opposite of fear is hope, defined as the expectation of good fortune not only for ourselves but for a group to which we belong. Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon. Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.” 

When you move forward with hope, you:

  • Let trust be the basis for your relationships,
  • Offer opportunities for improvement,
  • Test your assumptions with those entrusted to your care,
  • Think more about what you stand for and less about what you oppose,
  • Are curious about possibilities.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, embrace the risks, and move forward.

Move Forward with Hope

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Stop what you are doing and read your favorite verse of scripture. Let the God who created you for this time give you a different perspective. Call, text, email a friend or colleague, and let them give you a fresh perspective on your leadership.

Remember, in the midst of weariness, hope is a gift. Don’t throw it away. 

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, in him I will place my hope” (Lamentations 3:22-24). 

When you need and want encouragement, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you in the ways you might need it the most. Know how much you are appreciated. 

Don’t give up! Move forward with hope. We need you and want you! Don’t give up!

How are you doing this week? Last week I asked that question in relation to leading the mission. This week I am asking the question in relation to you personally? How are you doing? To be the leader needed for this time, you must keep yourself healthy and focused.  You can’t lead others to become who God created them to be if you aren’t at peace with yourself, your work, and with God.

In the midst of all the noise and chaos of our everyday living, it can be hard to feel at peace. It can be so hard that we can go days, weeks, even months without feeling a true sense of calm. I understand. There are days that it would feel good just to feel good for a change. 

You Are a Leader

I want to remind you that you are the leader for this time. You are leading in ways you never imagined. Now I get it. On any given day, as you are learning another aspect of technology, there are people upset that they are not back in the sanctuary. 

As you work with them, you get an email from someone who points out that the guidelines say “no more than 10 persons” should gather. Then, there is the person who is upset that you have said something about racism and loving your neighbor. All you want is to be the pastor, preacher, and leader you know you can be. 

Before the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, you had time to read and reflect and enjoy the relationships. Now, you feel as if you are rushing from event to (virtual) event, from conversation to conversation, and you might even feel the world would be a better place if it weren’t for people. (It’s ok to admit you’ve said it, too.) 

I get it. It would be nice to have a little time and space for yourself. It would be great if you felt some peace and calm.  

If you are willing to take a little journey with me, I guarantee peacefulness at the end. So, if you are willing, here is what I want you to do.

1. Read

Get your Bible or open your Bible app.

  • Read Lamentations 3, paying attention to verses 22-24. I am using the Good News Translation. “The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.” (Good News Translation)  

2. Reflect

Consider the context of Lamentations.

Israel is in captivity.

The people are grieving. The writer, speaking on behalf of the people, writes, “I am the one who knows what it is to be punished by God. He drove me deeper and deeper into darkness and beat me again and again with merciless blows.” (Verses 1-3) All they have known and depended upon is gone. Their lives have been disrupted.  The people are totally preoccupied with their own pain.

They are grieving physically.

The people are weary. “He (God) has left my flesh open and raw and has broken my bones” (Verse 4). When you are physically weary, you will do just about anything, other than what you are doing, to get past the weariness.

 They are grieving spiritually.

“He (God) has bound me in chains; I am a prisoner with no hope of escape” (Verse 7). The people feel like there is no future and things will not get better. They want God to comfort them, but God cannot be reached. “I cry aloud for help, but God refuses to listen” (Verse 8).

They are grieving psychologically.

Read verses 10-18. The imagery is of being attacked and alone, humiliated with no hope. “The thought of my pain, my homelessness, is bitter poison. I think of it constantly, and my spirit is depressed” (Verses 19-20). No matter how much we think we are prepared for the loss, it always comes with pain. The writer of Lamentations had been preparing for this for 40 years, yet the people are still surprised.

But they continue to pray.

They do what they know to do. Earlier in the chapter, they could not pray.  They didn’t feel like praying. They didn’t think praying made any difference.  Remember, “Even when I cry out, God shuts out my prayer” (Verse 8).

So here is a turning point. 

What do you do when your experience does not match what you have been taught or what you expect? The writer chooses to embrace hope. The writer chooses to hope in God’s goodness. Remember, hope is shaped and strengthened through a personal and internal struggle. “The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, in the Lord I will place my hope” (verses 22-24).

The writer, speaking on behalf of the people, places their confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God.  God’s mercy never ceases.

3. Respond

Take the reflection of this scripture with you today. Think about how the truth of this scripture will come alive for you. To help stimulate your thinking:

  • Where might you experience God’s unfailing love and mercy?
  • In what you are facing, where will you embrace hope?
  • As you navigate the changes brought about by a pandemic, how will you show your trust in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God?
  • As you lead and teach about anti-racism, how will you show your trust in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God?

4. Return

At the end of day, or at a time of reflection upon the scripture and your interactions of the day, consider:

  •  Where did you experience God’s unfailing love and mercy today?

Remember, God’s love will not run out.  God’s merciful love will not dry up. The love of God is created new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.

A Pattern for Living with Jesus 

This pattern of “Read, Reflect, Respond, Return” is a great practice of creating a little time and space to be connected to God. It provides you the opportunity to recognize God every day even in the midst of the chaos and confusion. Your connection to God is what brings the peace that allows you to become who you were created to be.

So, what is one thing you will do to create a little time and space for yourself?  What is one thing you will do to place your confidence and hope in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God?

Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you along your journey. Head over to the podcast and explore episodes 122-128 or 129-131 to use this pattern to explore discipleship in the context of Matthew or John’s gospels. 

So, now, how are you? May you always be as blessed as you are a blessing!

As our world changes, our churches struggle, and we face uncertainty and fear, people are looking for leaders who can make a positive impact upon their lives and in the community.  They are looking for inspiration that speaks to their needs.  They want and need a leader who instills hope for the future. 

In a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, what surfaced as some of the top characteristics people needed from their leaders were direction, faith, and guidance. These words describe the outcomes of hope.  

At this point and time in history, people are tired of false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the sensationalism of political positions and conflicting opinions.  They are looking for authenticity and integrity. In a word, they want and need hope.  And they are looking to you, as their leader, to provide it. 

What is Hope?

Hope means different things to different people. To some it has religious connotations. To others it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. When there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.  Hope keeps you focused in the midst of the challenges. 

Hope is the one thing that lifts our spirits and keeps us going despite the difficulties we face. It looks beyond the hardships to a better and brighter world. It keeps us believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly. Hope is seeing the future we can attain by moving forward and, when needed, adjusting and adapting to the changing landscape. The importance of hope cannot be overstated. 

As a hopeful leader, you are constantly in pursuit of what ought to be. You are holding before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next and empowering them to see beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers.

C. Richard Snyder, in his book Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths, defines hope as an emotional state accompanied by clear thoughts about what the future can be and how to get there”. He contends there are three main things that make up hopeful thinking:

  • Goals – Approaching life in a goal-oriented way,
  • Pathways – Finding different ways or pathways to achieve your goals,
  • Agency – Believing that you can use those different pathways to achieve your goals.

Are YOU a Hope-Filled Leader? 

Hope-filled leaders are:

1. Goal-Oriented

They always have the end in mind. They know their present situation and context, but don’t allow it to steal their joy. Hope-filled leaders are happy where they are but refuse to stay there. They are forward-thinking, inspiring, enthusiastic, and positive. They believe tomorrow holds great opportunities and motivates others to move toward those opportunities.

 2. Adaptable

Hope-filled leaders embrace change because they know change is the best path to their goal.  They are able to adapt to change because they know that change is the fastest path to growth and improvement. Leaders filled with hope are innovative and try new things at the risk of failing. They understand that failure is not final. In fact, it is required. They also know that courage is necessary to reach the goal, so they are willing to step out, to become vulnerable, and to risk change for the overall health of the people and institutions entrusted to their care.

3. Focused on people

They focus on the strengths and gifts of the people around them. They offer encouragement with care and compassion as they equip others to reach the goal. Because they are confident in where they are going and are openly inviting others on the path, they are able to partner with people, engaging their strengths and gifts, to live into the new opportunities and possibilities along the path.  

4. Able to Navigate the Challenges

They have their eyes upon the goal.  It is the goal that moves them forward.  They know where they are going and are able to navigate the challenges to get there. They adapt to unexpected changes, face the unanticipated obstacles, and depend upon the strengths and gifts of others to follow through and to reach the goal. Because they have built trust and credibility, they have what is needed to complete the journey and to reach the goal. 

We live in a time when people are looking for leaders who can make a positive impact. They are looking for inspiration that speaks to their needs.  They want and need a leader who instills hope for the future. 

Your Turn

Take a moment to think of the people entrusted to your care. What is one thing you can do today to instill hope in their lives? 

If and when you need and want help, contact us at transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in becoming a hope-filled leader. Hope is one characteristic every leader needs to be the leader people want to follow.

It is not uncommon in the church for us to urge each other to witness to our faith. Sometimes we assume that sharing stories of our faith is easy to do. I must confess that I have found it incredibly difficult. It might be my personality, but it is tough to talk about things so deeply meaningful and profoundly intimate.

Several years ago, I had a businessman, a young father, by the name of Dan, call me about his church membership. He said he was tired of searching for God and was leaving the church. As I listened to him, I tried to understand his dissatisfaction. We talked about his work, his family relationships, and his contentment with his life. During our conversation, he said, “I feel like I’m running the bases but I never reach home.” Then he said, “I am not sure I really believe in God.”

God Believes in You

My next words to him were words I had used before.  I had heard them as a teenager in a Sunday school class.  It was there they had taken root in my life and began to shape my understanding of God’s love. Because they were meaningful to me, I had offered them to others through sermons, bible studies, and conversations along my faith journey.

So, I offered them these words to him. “Dan, at this moment, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not.  God believes in you.” I said, “I know you are searching for God.  But have you ever thought that God is also searching for you?  Can you imagine that God believes in you so much that God is searching for you?”

What Will You Offer?

I remembered words that had profoundly shaped my understanding of God’s love.  They were words of one of my instructors in seminary.  At that moment, I offered them to Dan.

“When our parents, Adam and Eve, left the garden of Eden, God whispered in their ear, ‘I will come for you.’  Adam and Eve didn’t understand God’s word as a promise.  They interpreted the word as a threat.  So, they ran and hid.

As human beings, we have been running and hiding ever since.  But God has come searching for us.  God has come as a fragile, vulnerable little baby, growing up with the comforts and restraints of home, family, community, and culture.

As he grew up and matured, he worked hard. He experienced both joy and exhaustion. He learned what it was to love and be loved. He experienced what it was to have people betray him. He had a dream of making the world a better place. His dream was rejected. He experienced the pain of having his friends turn against him. He suffered and died for his dream.  That is how God has come searching for you and for me.”

Being Found

I wish I could say that Dan said, “I never thought of it that way before.” Or, “Now, I know that God loves me and my family.” Or, “Thanks Pastor.” The reality is, I had the opportunity to offer hope by offering Christ.

What would happen if you and I began to tell our stories of “being found” by God? What would happen if we took John Wesley seriously and began to “Offer them Christ” as we developed relationships and talked about what was deeply meaningful us?

To Offer Christ, Is to Offer Hope

What I know is this, to offer Christ is an offer of hope. The offer is more than sharing “spiritual facts” which lead to a mental assent to correct understanding and logical decisions.  You and I don’t experience hope as a form of indoctrination.

The offer of Christ is not, what I grew up hearing, “closing the deal” for Jesus.  You and I don’t experience hope by being manipulated into saying “yes” to carefully worded questions.

The offer of Christ is a two-way process of honest interaction. Because you and I simply do not see everything the same way, we develop a friend-to-friend relationship.  So, the offer of Christ is not a single encounter.  It is an extended relationship of mutual respect and care.  It is within the relationship that hope is developed, experienced, and lived out.

As important as it is, the offer of Christ is more than inviting people to worship or to participate in the programs of the church.  To offer Christ is to offer hope to those who are discontent and dissatisfied in their search for God. It is in and through our relationships that we can share our experiences of God searching for us in Jesus.  Hope will be found in the love we share.  Because hope becomes a sign of who we are.

I believe we can change the world by offering Christ.  It is in the offer of Christ that we offer the hope we have experienced in and through Jesus. T. S. Elliot wrote, “the life we seek is not in knowing but in being known, not in seeking but in being sought, not in finding but in being found.”

To offer Christ is to offer hope!

 

 

My fourth grade Sunday school teacher, Mary, would greet me every Sunday at the classroom door with the words, “Timmy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” Then with a welcoming hug, she would send me into the classroom to meet other classmates who had gathered.  As I entered the room I would hear her say, “Nancy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” When I would look back she would be hugging Nancy and sending her into the room to meet the rest of us.  Mary greeted us as if she had been waiting all week for us and as if we were the most important people she knew.

She modeled hospitality.  She acted out what she taught us in class. I remember her lesson on Jesus touching a leper and the story of Jesus receiving a woman that was sick.  I will always remember her saying that we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us.

As important as it is, hospitality is more than a gesture of welcoming people to worship.  Hospitality is a sign of offering hope.

Four Ways to Extend Hospitality

Here are four practical ways you can offer hope by extending hospitality:

1. Become a Learner

A Prayer of Hospitality. Lord, send us the people no one else wants and help us receive the people you are sending to us. Amen Transforming Mission

Seek to understand instead of teaching. Mary was interested in who we were as people. She knew our

parents, our siblings, our school, and what we received as gifts for Christmas and our birthdays. She took time to learn about us as individuals, even though we were 10 years old.

Seeking to learn or to understand could be as simple as getting to know your neighbors. Learn their names, their needs, talents, and interests. Show an interest in them as a way of building relationships. Soong-Chan Rah writes, “In the household of God, we are called to a humility that places our relationships in a new light.”

2. Learn the language of the community around you

Although Mary worked for the town collecting money for water bills, she took an interest in us. She learned our 10-year-old language, attended special events at the school, and gave us gifts that challenged us to become who God would have us be.

Learning the language of the community could mean learning the language of teens and young adults.  It could also mean to communicate with a Hispanic population, Congolese or Vietnamese population, or another population centered in one part of your community. Attempting to learn the language is a sign of hospitality that brings hope.

3. Share a meal together

Several times a year, Mary would bring a meal to our Sunday School class. As we ate, she would tell us how Jesus invited people to eat at his table. Once when we did not have enough room around the table in our classroom, I remember her words, “There is always enough room at Jesus’ table.” With those words, she added an extension to our table.

We extend hospitality when we bring children, teens, and senior adults together. How could you create cross-cultural connections with another congregation or with other groups of people in the community?  What would happen if you offered to provide the food they liked and gave them the opportunity to prepare it for everyone?

4. Examine and Evaluate

Examine and evaluate how you are inviting and welcoming people into the building and into worship. Mary always greeted us at the door, in the hallway, outside the classroom. She always made sure there was a place for everyone around the table.

Where do you greet people coming into the building? Is there a place for everyone who enters the space?

In regard to worship and/or events in the building, are you prepared for people who do not know the routine? Do the announcements include outsiders as well as the insiders? What is the format of the printed bulletin? Does it assume people know the Lord’s Prayer, how to respond following the reading of scripture, and/or how to pray before worship begins? Just simple acts of hospitality are signs of hope to those being included.

A Prayer of Hospitality

As you are working on the four practical ways to extend hospitality, practice praying, “Lord, send us the people no one else wants” and “Help us receive the people you are sending to us.”  When you do, you will find the above suggestions helpful.

Remember, we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us.  I am convinced that when you extend hospitality, you can expect your church and community to experience the beauty, complexity, and love that comes with being Jesus followers.

Let us welcome one another as God in Christ welcomed us. Your hospitality is a sign of hope.

 

 

Is it possible for the church to be a center of hope and healing in your community? If so, what needs to happen to make it so?

Consider the people in your community this week of Thanksgiving and beyond. When we pause to reflect on how the church can be the center of hope and healing, we consider engagement with people in our communities all year.

Penny Lernoux described engagement in the community and the world this way, “You can look at a slum or peasant village, but it is only by entering into the world, by living in it, that you begin to understand what it is like to be powerless, to be like Christ.”

hope transforming mission

What is Engagement?

  • It is living grace and truth in the communities in which we live.
  • Engagement is reaching out and receiving people, offering Christ by living and loving as God in Christ has loved us, growing in a Christian community, and living out our faith in the communities in which we live.
  • Engagement is the weaving together of Wesley’s “personal piety and social holiness” in the development of relationships with the community. Wesley modeled care and compassion for the hungry and hurting. He knew at the center of life-transformation were relationships with people in a variety of life circumstances.

What would happen if your congregation began to “enter the community” to develop relationships with local schools, with people living in poverty, with health care facilities? What would happen if you began to pray with people from your congregation, “What do we need to do that no one else is doing?”

We believe you would take a giant step toward, not only offering hope but, by becoming hope.

Extend the Table Throughout the Year

As we celebrate the ways we bless people from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we also pause. What we do at the end of the year offers hope to our communities. We celebrate the connections we make with people, the ways needs are met during the winter, and the joy that comes from being a blessing to others.

We also know hope is needed the entire year.

Perhaps what you do this week and in the weeks to come to engage with people in your community will be the spark for a quarterly, monthly, or occasional experience with your community. Said more directly, our hope is the relationships you nurture in the coming weeks will be seeds of hope for your engagement in the community in 2019.

Whatever this week and the weeks ahead bring for you and the church, may you consider how God is inviting you to be an agent of hope.

Hope for A Blessed Thanksgiving

Tomorrow we will celebrate with family and friends. We will serve meals in our communities and perhaps enjoy a football game on television. There will be laughter and conversation, new connections and reunions. While we gather, we ask you to consider how we can intentionally extend the table throughout the year.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”

-Philippians 1:3-4

It is our hope that as you continue leading people to follow Jesus by engaging in the community, there will be one who will say to you, “I thank my God every time I remember you…”

We give God thanks for you and your leadership. We are grateful for how God has shaped and enriched our lives through you. May each of you be as blessed as you have been a blessing.

O God, by your grace, shape us into your loving presence in the world. Thank you for the opportunity to be partners with you in your work of transformation in Jesus’s name. Amen

-Tim Bias and Sara Thomas

Each of us faces times of uncertainty in our lives. Uncertainty comes with death or disaster. It comes with divorce, unemployment, or retirement. It comes with disappointment, lack of security, or the fear of the unknown.

Personally, I have come through several times of uncertainty. Times of not knowing what the future might hold and being paralyzed in regard to what decisions to make. I have felt I was caught in a place I had never been before.

Recently, I faced a time of uncertainty so great that I could not see beyond the moment. Uncertain about my future, I felt confused, hurt, and alone.

Facing the Future

It was at that point, in my anxiety, that a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my future. I didn’t get a lot of sympathies, shallow agreements, or unrealistic platitudes. What I did get was a person of faith who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need.

She created a space for me to talk about my disappointments, hurts, fears, and anxiety. Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened with compassion and, at the appropriate time, asked me questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing.

She offered Christ by embodying God’s grace. I began to trust her compassion and look forward to her questions. The space she created and the grace she offered allowed me to move past my anxiety to see new possibilities beyond what I had known or experienced up to that point in my life.

Healing and Hope

Within the process of healing, she provided opportunities to put into practice the new possibilities that were beginning to emerge. Along with plans for reading and reflecting on scripture, occasions to practice the presence of God through prayer and conversation, and the challenge to look beyond myself to see what new thing God might be doing, I was invited to put my faith into action. It was at that point I rediscovered God’s desire, to use me, to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love.

It was in and through her engagement in my life that this Jesus follower helped me experience hope in a time of uncertainty. She did not bring easy answers. In fact, she did not bring any answers.

She did bring God’s promises to bear on my uncertainty. She came alongside me, at the moment of greatest anxiety, embodying God’s love, to journey with me through my most difficult moments, to see what God might have in store for the future. She was an instrument of God’s hope.

Hope in Uncertain Times

It is stating the obvious to say that we live in a time of great turmoil. People are killed not only in the streets but in their places of prayer. We are experiencing the deliberate strategy of fear and hate that has turned into violence. If I had to choose one diagnosis for what wounds people the most today, I would say that the root of the fear and hatred is found in uncertainty.

People lack certainty in their jobs, in the economy, in their children’s future. They are asking questions like, “Will my pension be enough?” “Will my job last?” “Will there be a place for me?” I know that some of you are uncertain about the future of our United Methodist Church. We are trying to hang on to what we know and we are wondering what will happen if it turns out differently than what we expect.

Agents of Hope

I am convinced, that in this time of uncertainty, God is ready for the congregations of the Capitol Area South District to be agents of hope. We are the people to bring the great promises of God to bear on this time and place in history. So, why don’t we become agents of hope?

Let’s create spaces for conversation, where we can talk about our fears, disappointments, and uncertainty. Let’s create places of trust where, even if we disagree, no one is judged for their thoughts, feelings, or opinions. Listen with compassion and offer hospitality even in the midst our uncertainty.

Let’s offer Christ by embodying God’s grace. The space we create and the grace we offer will allow individuals and churches, to see new possibilities beyond what they have known or experienced up to this point.

Let’s put the new possibilities that begin to emerge into practice. And if no new possibilities emerge, let’s just be Christian in our living. Let’s come together as congregations and pray for the people that no one else wants and put our faith into action by receiving the people God sends to us. These simple acts of faith will help us rediscover God’s love and we will begin to love our communities the way God in Christ has loved us.

Engagement Brings Hope

Friends, colleagues, readers, it will be in and through our engagement in the lives of individuals, our churches, and our communities, that we will experience hope during our uncertainty. There are no easy answers. We have not come this way before. But, because of the faith God has given us, we can bring God’s promises to bear on this moment. We can become instruments of hope for this time and place.

Let’s come alongside the people with whom we live, work, and serve. Let’s embody God’s love and journey together through these difficult moments to see what God might have in store for the future.

The people around us, our families, our churches, our communities, are longing for hope to face the future. God has placed in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” It is the power of HOPE.

So, let’s give people what they are longing for. Let’s give them hope in these uncertain times.

 

 

Lindsay had been unconscious for hours. She had felt horrible all weekend, but when she didn’t answer her door, her friends became concerned and broke into her dorm room. Neither her friends, the EMTs, nor the emergency room doctors could get a response. Her parents were called to the hospital. They tried to get all the information they could, but the only detail that mattered was that their oldest child, away from home for her freshman year, was in unexplored territory for all of them.

Lindsay was life-flighted to a hospital better equipped to address her condition. It was during this time of crisis that the church, the community of faith, surrounded Lindsey and her family.

A woman by the name of Becky, a mother of two girls, decided to visit Lindsay with a gift. She took her gift with a disciple’s faith and a mother’s heart.

A Disciple’s Faith and A Mother’s Heart

When Becky arrived, Lindsay was in the Critical Care Unit. As she entered the room, the doctor and the nurse in the room at the time said, “We’ll leave so you can be alone with her.” While Lindsay lay unconscious, this woman, with a disciple’s faith and a mother’s heart, began to pray.

Becky said, “I stood at the edge of her bed, and I touched her leg. And I prayed for her. I can’t tell you for how long. But as I prayed, I was filled with this overwhelming assurance that this young woman was going to be all right.” Then she said, “I finished praying. I wiped the tears from my eyes. I turned to leave. That’s when I realized that the nurses from the unit were gathered outside the room. They had been watching while I was praying.”

So, what kind of gift can a disciple’s faith and a mother’s heart possibly give an unconscious teenager? What gift is worthy for a group of caregivers in a critical situation? How about the gift of hope?

The Power of Hope

Hope is the most powerful force in the universe. More powerful than death and despair, hope is lifegiving.  The power of hope brings God’s promises to bear on the here and now. There is absolutely nothing else like it in the world. Doctors will step out of the way to let hope in. Nurses will stand outside the room in awe to watch hope at work. There is nothing more life-giving and death-defeating than the power of hope.

Friends, colleagues, whoever will listen, I write today to tell you that the power of hope has been given to the church. That’s the real surprise, isn’t it? That the opportunity and honor of giving hope is given to you and me.

Whenever God wants to bring God’s promises to bear on the here and now, God looks for one of us. God looks wherever God can find a disciple’s faith and a willing heart. God looks for the church to be the people of hope. God has placed in our hands, “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles,” the power of hope.

We cannot live without hope. Hope is the backbone that holds us up and holds us together. Transforming MissionWhat Can People Live Without?

Victor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, tells about his life as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp. He recalls a fellow prisoner who was in good health, considering the conditions of the camp. Each day on the way out to the work site this man would talk about what he and his wife were going to do together at the end of the war when they were released.

Then one day the man received the news of the death of his wife. Two days later, he died. Frankl concluded from this experience that people can live longer without bread than they can without hope.

Hope is More Powerful Than…

We live in a time of great turmoil. People are killed not only in the streets but in their places of prayer. We are experiencing the deliberate strategy of fear and hate that has turned into violence. But if I had to choose one diagnosis for what wounds people the most today, I would not say it’s greed, or selfishness, or apathy. I would say that the root of the fear and hatred we are experiencing is found in uncertainty.

People lack certainty in their jobs, in the economy, in their children’s future. They are asking the questions, “Will my pension be enough?” “Will my job last?” “What if the election doesn’t go the way I want it to go?” I know that some of you are uncertain about the future of our United Methodist Church. We are trying to hang on to what we know. We are wondering what is going to happen if it turns out differently than what we expect.

What I know is this, there are only a few things more powerful than life and death put together, hope is one them. As human beings, we can live for forty days without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. But we cannot live without hope. Hope is the backbone that holds us up and holds us together. Anchored in God’s promises, hope gives us life. It is hope, given to us in and through Jesus, that is same today and tomorrow.

Agents of Hope

I believe that God is ready for the congregations of the Capitol Area South District to be agents of hope. We are the people to bring the great promises of God to bear on this time and place in history. God has placed in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.”

So, God is looking for one of us to have a disciple’s faith and willing heart. God is looking for one of us to bring the promises of God to bear on the here and now? God is looking for one of us to be an agent of hope in the neighborhood, the community, and the city? God is looking for one of us to pray, “Where do you need me to be hope today?”

Friends, colleagues, fellow human beings, God is looking for you!

 

 

 

 

 

Psychologist Neil Clark Warren used to say when he did therapy with married couples, his primary goal was simply to see a 10% improvement in their relationships. He found it made a tremendous difference because, even a 10% improvement, gave the couples hope.

Warren believed in hope.

He found that if people had hope, they had a tremendous reservoir of energy. Hope kept them moving when they would have otherwise given up. He wrote, “Hope is the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.”¹

A Vision for A Better Day

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote,

“We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

-Romans 5:1-5

Paul was talking about hope being a vision for better days that changes us in the present. For Paul, hope was not just an exercise in wishful thinking (“I hope it doesn’t rain.”). Hope was not just another word for disappointment. (“We had hoped that he would recover.”) Neither was hope the absence of hardship nor the denial of reality. For Paul, hope reached its greatest potential in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

Because hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present, we can face the future with hope.

Facing the Future with Hope

As the church, we are located at the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer. Because of what we have experienced in and through Jesus, we have a God-given hope which cannot be defeated and does not disappoint.

Because of Jesus Christ, you and I hold in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” With that in mind, your congregation is a beacon of hope. Can you imagine what you and the local church could do with a vision for better days that changes it in the present?

There is nothing that your community needs more than hope.

There is Hope

When someone wanders into your space, broken by the realities of life, having given up on trying to make it on their own, and looking for someone to save them, will you be there to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When someone who is lost in the depths of depression and drowning in a deep darkness, will you be there to let them know, “No matter how bad it feels now, there is hope in Jesus.” Or when someone is trapped in addiction and unable to escape on their own, will you come alongside him or her and whisper, “You are not alone. There is hope.”

When someone is a prisoner to bad choices and incarcerated behind the bars of our justice system, will you be around to send caring witnesses inside the walls of the prison to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When disaster strikes somewhere in our country or world, and you feel helpless to fix everything or to save everyone, will you be ready to gather people together to be hands, feet, and face of hope?

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our church and our aimless wondering through structural changes, are you able to focus upon our mission and to face the future with hope?

At the Intersection of Desperate Need and God’s Amazing Offer

What do you think? Are you able to move your heart, mind, and money out to the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer? Faced with an uncertain future, a changing community, and shrinking resources, we can either choose fear and hunker down or we can face the future with a radical hope.

Because of Jesus, we have in our hearts and hold in our hands a hope that cannot be defeated and does not disappoint. We have a vision for better days that changes us in the present. You and I have a relationship with the author of hope. We hold “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” We have access to hope. In the midst of the chaos and confusion of the moment, what more do we need to face the future?

 

Notes

  1. You might know the name Neil Clark Warren as the founder of eHarmony.com.