Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

My insight of the day - The best thing about winter is you can't catch a summer cold.  But you sure can catch a winter one.  But like most of us who have been fighting off colds and flu this winter I am going in the right direction. 
This week I have some real suffering scheduled as I represent our conference Board of Ministry at an event in Orlando.  Maybe I can get out of a conference room long enough to enjoy some 80 degree weather.  I bet I do.
The purpose of the event is to develop a conference plan for clergy assessment.  I know it sounds really exciting, but it could be very helpful.
It makes me think about the idea of assessment.  The Leadership Council is initiating a strategic planning process.  We want to have the clearest idea possible of where God wants to take us in the next few years. (Vision)  Then we must chart the course to get there. (Path)
Another part of this will be assessing our ministries.  It is important, every few years, to make sure what we are doing is consistent with and furthering our mission.  (Leading people to follow Jesus.)
I will certainly be doing self-assessment as part of this.  We will all be taking a look at how we are doing with moving the church forward in serving the Lord.
I am encouraged by what I see in the life of our church.
Today we launched our new service.  Frankly, it reminded me of "church" when I was growing up and developing a life of faith. 
This "traditional" service truly complements our other services, especially praise and worship and modern worship. 
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Cindy and I had the opportunity to hear Bobby Watson with the K.C. Symphony this weekend.  The jazz performance got me thinking about some of the things that most intrigue and interest me about Kansas City.
Since I was starting with Bobby Watson and others the whole Kansas City jazz history is amazing.  The American Jazz Museum tells a great story of Kansas City history.  Music played such a role in our history.  Definitely worth looking at.
Kansas City Baseball is also interesting.  Of course we are currently cheering for the Royals but this is "only" their 50th year.  Before the Royals the "A's" played here for a few uneventful years.  But before that the Kansan City Monarchs ruled the city.  They were the standard of the Negro League in those days.  I believe they had only one losing season during their 40 years.  The Monarchs sent more Negro League players to the major leagues than any others.  The Negro League Museum (next to the Jazz Museum) tells the history of baseball in Kansas City but more importantly the social issues of the era and how these men contributed to our city.
Another intriguing part of Kansas City is crime.  It is just one of those things with me.  Kansas City's history of organized crime is a blight on us but significant none the less.  Think about the Union Station shootout.  Those  criminals did some really bad things.  But my, what stories surround their time in the city.
There is also some Methodist history associated with Kansas City.  The uniting conference of 1939 was held here.  That had real significance as the church merged  together 95 years after the split over slavery.  It was an historic time.
One other area of great interest...Kansas City BBQ.  Need I say more.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Last evening Cindy and I had the opportunity to attend the performance of C.S. Lewis, The Most Reluctant Convert.  It is the story of Lewis' coming to faith from being a committed atheist to one of the great Christian thinkers and writers of the 20th century.  Perhaps you have read The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity or other books C.S. Lewis has written.  (Maybe we should do a study of the works of great Christian thinkers.)  This play takes you to Lewis' coming to believe, first that there is a God and then to commitment to Jesus Christ.  A great story for any of us.
This is a production of the Fellowship For Performing Arts.  (Google it!)  They have a very intriguing mission: To provide provocative, entertaining theater, from a Christian worldview, for diverse audiences. 
In other words...provide an excellent product from a clearly Christian perspective for a diverse audience.  That would not be a bad goal for a church!
We certainly have no shortage of excellent material - the Bible, Christian tradition, Jesus!
We must share our story unapologetically from our unique Christian perspective.  Don't try to "make the Gospel relevant" (it IS relevant) - tell it truthfully.
We might look for ways to increase the diversity of our hearers.  In this context we are talking about a diversity of opinion regarding the faith.  Do we have room for committed believers?  I think so.  Is there a place in the church for Seekers?  I believe there is.  Do we have room for questioners and skeptics?  Pause...deep breath...Why yes, we do.
It's been a good day.  (Super Bowl Sunday) I hope you've had a good day too.
steve
(Go Eagles!)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Today we announced our plans to launch a new worship service on the first Sunday in Lent, February 18.  It will be traditional in nature and held in the sanctuary at 10:45.
From the beginning of our building program there has been the vision for concurrent services.  This will give us our most traditional and most modern services meeting concurrently to serve the worship needs of our mission field.
Our current 9:15 service is averaging nearly 80% capacity in the worship center.  Rather than wait until we have put a "lid" on our potential at this popular service we will launch out and gain room to grow in significant ways.
We have also learned that there is a high expectation that churches in our mission field provide excellent traditional worship as well as contemporary worship.  We are in a unique position where we believe we are able to do both.
We expect a number of our current attendees to become more deeply connected with traditional worship.
We expect a number of people to get connected through traditional worship.
We expect a number of new people to  become connected through traditional worship.
In a year we anticipate 10 new families and 50 new participants in the current 9:15 and new 10:45 services.
We will also plan to see an increase in the 9:15 praise service as more room is available and we are able to specialize in the praise style. 
Our Modern Worship has shown the greatest increase in participation in the past year and we will continue to emphasize this style and time.  This service reaches more people for their "first church experience" than any other we offer.  This trend will only increase.
We will begin offering Holy Communion weekly at 8:00 and expect an increase in this service. 
The Saturday night service has a stronger identity than it has in several years and we see new people sharing in this service.
Keep the church in your prayers.  Even changes like this do not come without challenges.  I trust that through the Holy Spirit these challenges will be met and the kingdom of God move forward.
Another thought on this...
I see Platte Woods UMC in a similar place that the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves.  It appears the Chiefs feel they are "good enough".  From the outside looking in (I truly hope to be totally wrong about this) it looks like they settle for good but are afraid to try to be great.
Our church is better than good - but - what could God do?  I have decided that it is not best for our church, the kingdom of God, nor our future to play it safe.  So we launch out. 
On another note...
Rev. Cindy Buhman led our annual Church Conference today.  We did the business and then focused on highlights of our ministry.  Our staff shared highlights and spotlighted different volunteers who have contributed greatly to the ministry of our church.
We concluded this with a special recognition of Peter and Phyllis Babalian for their service in hospitality.  We miss Peter and have framed his hospitality shirt and plan to keep it visible as a reminder of those who selflessly commit to service.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

"Blame".  There is plenty of that going around these days.  It seems like the default response in our political climate.  It is not only the political climate.  It seems like blame is where we go when there is a difference of opinion, perspective, or disagreement.
I wondered what the opposite of blame might be.  I found a long list of antonyms.  Among them are "blessing", "praise", and "absolve".
Wouldn't that be crazy.  When we see things differently rather than "blame" someone we "bless" them?  Who would do that?  Who would suggest such a thing?  Oh yes, Jesus said things like that.  "Bless those who curse you and pray for those mistreat you."  (Luke 6:28) 
Would there be any way to actually praise those who disagree with you? 
Who would absolve someone of wrong?
As I think about these things it reminds me of how counter-culture the Gospel truly is.  We simply do not do these things.  But what if we did?
What if rather than blame we listened and learned? 
What if rather than blame we sought common ground?
What if rather than blame we committed to a higher good?
Maybe I should try to do something like that this week.  Perhaps that might make the kingdom of God a bit clearer.  I guess I won't know unless I try.
In the meantime, who can I blame for the Patriots going to yet another Super Bowl?
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

I appreciate Rev. Jason Bryles, Sr. Pastor of Centennial UMC in Kansas City, for preaching at Platte Woods this weekend.  Jason made me think of the importance of perspective in ministry.  Centennial is about 20 minutes from Platte Woods but it is like a different world. 
I agree with Jason that access to good health care, education and economic opportunity really should not be determined by zip code.  But often times it is.
Jason also offered insight into the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  In 1963 he "had a dream".  Dr. King's work for civil rights in America has changed lives and contributed to changing the fabric of our nation.  Obviously we have far to go.  Steps forward are often followed by regression but by the same token Dr. King has been to the mountain top and seen the promised land. 
What does our promised land look like? 
I see people continually growing in love for God and others.
I see people, even nations, with differences being reconciled.
I see hope spurring the imagination of children in every segment of society.
I see people lacking basics of life with "enough".
I see the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The legacy of Dr. King continues.  May we be inspired to see the promised land.
On another note...
We pray for Liberty UMC.  On Saturday we were honored to host the memorial service for Rev. Alan Zugelter.  Alan fought a courageous battle with cancer and now has entered God's eternal kingdom.  Our prayers continue for his wife, Ashley, his family, friends and the congregation of Liberty UMC.  Alan was a great inspiration to many and has left us far too soon. 
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

I have this desire to go off on a rant about the Kansas City Chiefs...but that would not be helpful.  It would mean I would have to write about things like "Dealing with Defeat", "Facing Failure", "Disappointment"...you get the idea.  Who wants to think about things like that?
Of course there are always "life lessons" in sports but they should lean more toward the "thrill of victory", "Winning in life"...things like that. 
Oh well.
Maybe it would be better to revisit our new sermon series.  "Reflecting Hope".
We are looking at Reflecting Hope ...in the Midst of...
We will look at things like violence, failure, suffering, isolation and the fear of the Lord. 
The big point is "External factors may trigger internal anxieties and produce unwarranted fears."  Rather than spend our life, time, and energy focused on these external factors, most of which we have little to no control over, we look to our faith and find what a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ brings forth.  In one word Christ brings Hope.  We become reflectors of hope with the power to influence those external factors.  Go change your world.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve