This video highlights some reflections my staff had at a recent meeting on how small groups have helped them in their spiritual lives.
Vision: Working your Way Back
As part of the opening session for Impact 365, Rev. David Lindrooth spoke about how we can become a church that makes a profound difference in the world.
He discussed the process in three parts: clarifying our vision, combining it with prudence (our ability to think, strategize, and gain the necessary information) and then working in partnership with providence. He explained that this process “prepares the way of the Lord.” By this kind of partnership we achieve amazing results that would not be otherwise attainable, causing “miracles to happen in our own lives and in the life of the church.”
First, David explained, we need vision. As an example of the importance of vision, David recollected a time when he and some other New Church leaders felt their time and energy were taken up with troubleshooting issues, leaving little time for forward positive action. After talking to a business expert who repeatedly asked them, “But what do you DO?” these church leaders realized that lack of clarity in the church vision was yielding chaos and poor results. They more acutely saw the need for a clear vision, purpose and goal.
As important as vision is, David explained, we also need prudence, and we need to gain the necessary information. To illustrate this point, David gave an example of a time he’d had a vision for how to change a small, old, historical church in Stockholm Sweden. As a young, newly ordained American minister, David thought he’d come in and “get the place hopping.” He wanted to rip up the hard old pews, do a billboard campaign, and modernize the music. The long-time church members, however, had been worshiping that way for years. Although their response was kind and forgiving, David realized he had tried to implement his vision without first gathering the necessary information. He hadn’t spent time listening to or paying attention to the dreams of the others in the congregation.
David added that when a church unites vision and prudence with a willingness to hear the Lord’s call, great blessings occur. He referred to the story of Jacob in Genesis, quoting the Lord’s promise to Jacob: “In you and in your seed, all the families of the earth will be blessed.” David used this quote to remind us that the goal is to create a church that seeks to serve and bless all the families of the earth. David concluded with the message that “the Lord has put us in a place of challenge, but He has also given us tools to move forward and bring blessings to all the nations.”
Written by Sasha Silvermanreport
There is a Korean speaking group that has been meeting in Orange County for the last couple of years. Rev Jon Jin’s visit to them last week resulted in 15 people being baptized into the faith of the New Church. It is very exciting to see this kind of new commitment developing. It seems to align with the high level of interest we have had in newchurch.org from this region.
The New Church in Australia.
There is a warm spot in my heart for the church in Australia- though my experience with it does not extend much beyond Sydney and Perth. While some of that feeling may be attributed to the climate (hard to beat), there is spirit, determination and resiliency among the people there that is very impressive.
In Sydney, for example, one finds this image in people like Norman Heldon who is working in the church gardens every day. Norman is 93 years old. The people there work hard to take care of their beautiful little church. Also, it is heartwarming to see the level of caring that the different families have shown toward Huiling as she copes with the recent passing of her husband Robert.
Robert, unfortunately arrived, in Hurstville to start as the congregation’s new pastor but passed away from a heart attack after only two weeks. He came with hopes and a vision for evangelization that was compelling. While his short tenure is traumatic for everyone there, it is possible that in his short stay he initiated a direction with the congregation that will serve well in future years. We shall see what his legacy looks like.
Sydney, a major metropolitan area is something of an international crossroads. Sydney harbor is beautiful, but also functional as a major import export center serving all of Asia. This sets up an international buzz that seems to serve the church well. With the church announcing itself on the internet, there is a gradual influx of visitors joining the congregation for Sunday worship. With some shepherding of that process by a resident pastor, the congregation could soon be growing. In the mean time, the congregation is engaged with Bishop Keith in a search for a new pastor to take up where Robert left off.
Perth is a pearl of a city located on the Southwest coast of Australia. There has been a New Church presence there since the early 1920’s. It seems that the future there is as bright as the sun kissed beaches surrounding the city. Perth is currently a boomtown that is growing exponentially due to the natural gas and minerals that are mined in the area. As with Sydney there are two groups worshipping there, one which is a part of the Australian Association and the other affiliated with the General Church. Many of the events held in the region are combined efforts. While the General Church group in Perth is without a resident pastor, the group meets regularly for Sunday worship, Bible studies, etc.
They worship in a beautiful rented facility in South Perth. When I conducted worship there were about 25 people in attendance.
My visit there included preaching, holding several classes, pastoral visiting and conducting a planning session. If the group heads in the direction that it intends, I would not be surprised to see it growing to the size where it could sustain a resident pastor in the space of just a few years.
From a pastoral perspective, my trip to Sydney and Perth was uplifting. I felt like I was witnessing the Lord doing something special through the efforts of the church members in this far off corner of the planet.
Here is some interesting news emailed to me by Brian Smith. He writes: “I would like to plug an awesome new project called ‘NewChurchPerspective.com’. Its basically an online magazine about New Church topics. NCPerspective now has articles by over 10 writers on a wide variety of topics. This is designed to be a platform which allows people to express their ideas, questions and efforts to apply concepts from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. As a reader have the opportunity to read and respond in the comment lines. You are also warmly encouraged to write and submit what ever New Church topics have been burning on your mind.”
To check out the website follow this link: New Church Perspective
Here are 2 spreadsheets taking the data from the Austin Plant model and asking the question of what is the overall financial impact on the funding denomination if we were to roll out a new church plant every other year. The two spread sheets are very similar in conclusion, however, I favor the model assuming 30% success, 30% failure and 30% moderate success because it more closely mirrors success statistics in church planting in the United States today.GC Plantexpns303030 GC Plant expense raw GC Plantexpns303030report
The New Church of Boulder Valley has gradually build a youth group over the last 5 years into a thriving program. Andrea describes the initial vision and process they used to successfully cultivate the program. You can view Andrea describing the program in the YouTube Video here. Please take a little time to share your thoughts about youth programs by making a comment.
Music and the Word have always made a great combination. Tom Rose and the Ivyland New Church have developed an alternative vesper service combining contemplative Jazz with readings from the Word. This YouTube video gives you a sample:
The Lord is all about redemption! – So much so that He is called the “Redeemer.” It is not about coupons. Rather redemption is about His wanting to be a part of your life. And when He becomes a part of your life the most incredible things happen.
We are not talking about doing what is ‘easy’ or ‘safe.’ This is more along the lines of Peter who was willing to get out of the boat to walk on stormy seas even though he had no life preserver and couldn’t swim. He did it, and spiritually speaking we can too.
The attached PDF contains a collection of passages I have been reflecting on that link the works of Redemption to the purposes of a Church. I would love to hear your comments and reflections. Here is the file: Establishment of a Church
When I read a Facebook comment yesterday mentioning your transition into heavenly life, I admit, I felt stunned. It is not that it came as a surprise, rather, its that I really do need to get used to the idea of life without you here as a mentor and guide for in the work we have shared in evangelization.
When you preached you didn’t ‘preach,’ you invited us go join you for a tour and adventure from the pulpit. Often, the journey was so amazing, so fascinating that I would forget the passage of time while you were guiding us. It would be a bit of a jolt when we were brought back into the pews with your ‘Amen”. No one preached like you. Your style was unique bold and joyful.
For years, you were a voice for the New Church in the Delaware Valley through the radio broadcast, and through your writing in the papers. Again that same sense of excitement through adventure and discovery shone in the lines of the subjects you tackled – always drawing the readers attention to the sacred texts from which your ideas came. Through your enthusiasm, you became the most published clergy member of any faith in the Delaware Valley. I am certain that you have done more to shape the public perception of the New Church, on your own, in the Philadelphia area than any of the rest of us combined.
More important to me, and the many you left behind was your friendship. You were a constant positive advocate – for a lot of people. In the clergy we experienced this often by receiving newspaper clippings and handwritten notes in the mail. Constantly advocating outreach and the spreading of the truths we hold dear. If things were rough, you would always lend a word of constructive encouragement – often with a twist of brilliant humor.
You were a man of the people. No one could ever say that you, even had a shred of arrogance. I remember how you frequently described your ministry as ‘a journeyman’s ministry’ -a service by one ‘average Joe’ to another. Of course you were no average Joe, though I deeply respect your approach. You respected all, were quiet about your disagreements, and never looked down on others.
I have often compared you to fine wine. Wine that has been gradually aging and maturing, with sophisticated and brilliant flavors, nuances that come through a life of observation and reflection. You could have come from the same grape, but you gave us something unforgettable and irreplaceable through your life.
I remember a sermon you preached years ago reflecting on ‘the patient expectation of Jesus Christ’ from the beginning of Revelation. In it you spoke of wondering what joys one would really discover in the life to come. Well now you are there. I am sure you are blessed by what you are discovering and I guess it is, just as you said, ‘beyond anything you could imagine while here on earth’ I pray that you will continue to offer your mentorship and support for the establishment of this church from your new position in heavenly life. I am certain we will get a good lift through your work there. But I will miss you my friend. It will take a while for it to sink in that you are not here.