I was recently invited to attend the Change of Command ceremony for TACRON TWO TWO, a US Navy Squadron. My friend CDR Stuart Mattfield was relieving CDR Scott Boros of command of the squadron. In Scott’s farewell speech, he made three incredible observations:
Embrace Your Opportunity
It may not be the opportunity you want, the one you think you deserve, but it is the one you have–so embrace it. Or as the Apostle Paul said–whatever you do…do it as unto the Lord. You may not be in your dream job, your dream church, your dream location, but embrace the opportunity you have right now.
Make Your Shipmates Better
Scott noted that everyone can do something to make somebody better on the boat. And, the same is true on any church staff. We can encourage each other, instruct each other, help each other. We can make each other better. There’s a reason the term “one another” appears so often in the New Testament–we can make each other better.
The Most Important Job in the Navy is the One You’re Doing Right Now
I guess people in the Navy are just like everybody else–thinking what they do may not matter. According to Scott, the most important job in the Navy is the one that sailor is doing at the moment–whether it’s cleaning a bathroom or filing a report. I think he’s on to something. On Sundays, everyone thinks the most important job is the message–but the greeting in the parking lot, the nursery worker caring for children, or the usher helping someone find a seat. To the person being affected–those tasks are much more valuable than the sermon. Your job is important!
Thank you, skipper, for the good thoughts. I wish you fair winds and following seas!
It was embarrassing. Someone’s loved one passed away at Bethel and I didn’t know about it. It happened once before when I pastored in Des Moines and I quickly shared my displeasure with my small staff. Each of them thought another team member had told me about the death. At Bethel, the problem is different. The church is larger and people with various levels of connection to Bethel pass away almost every week. Scores of prayer requests are turned in each week. And, all kinds of people have surgery each week. So, I couldn’t just tell everybody to tell me what they know like I did in Des Moines.
I expressed frustration, but nothing happened. I kept finding out about people having surgery, losing loved ones, etc. later than I wanted. What we needed was a system! It sounds impersonal, but we needed a system so we could be more personal with people. So we developed a system for how I would be alerted to critical needs of people in the congregation. Then, I can decide whether to call, visit, send a card, or let another pastor closer to the circumstance handle it.
What the actual system is doesn’t matter. The point is we have one and can work to improve it. We aren’t acting like each event is the first or last time someone is going to have surgery or have a prayer request. Without a system, you act like every time is the first time.
What areas of your business, life, or ministry do you need to develop a system for? Our Bethel School of the Arts just developed a system to contact people with outstanding balances to help get them back on track. Before that, we acted like each time was the first time it happened.
I guess that’s the point with a system, each time no longer seems like the first time. With a system, people’s needs can be met better and quicker. That’s the goal.
What’s it like behind the scenes on a Sunday morning at Bethel? It’s anticipation, excitement, and a hard work! And, it’s a lot more than just me. It’s parking lot greeters, ushers and greeters, children’s ministry workers, band, tech people, singers, and so much more that nobody ever sees. Those guest parking signs don’t just appear by magic!
For me it starts early–usually before six am. I meet with the pastors at 7:15 in my office to go over the order of service, make sure everything is good, and pray together. Then, they head out to complete all kinds of tasks with volunteers to make sure the service is ready for you–everything from last minute sound checks to making sure the parking lots are clean.
I take time to stay back and go over the message. I read it over about a dozen times while praying for the Lord to help me deliver it the way he wants. Around 8:30, we meet and pray with the worship and some of the tech team before the service. Then, we go back to the ready room and hang out until just about time to start. I’ll be honest, I’m not very sociable before the service–I’m trying to focus on what God wants me to say. There, we pray again as a team, but mainly I just try to focus on what God wants to do in that service.
Our prayer is one I learned from a friend–help us help people. Another prayer we pray often is that people leave more in awe of God and in love with Jesus than when they arrived.
Well, that’s a little trip behind the scenes. See you in the sanctuary!
I’ve read the book and am excited to see the musical this Sunday night. I don’t recommend the book for younger readers—it’s a little dark, twisted, and racy at times. I understand the musical is more lighthearted than the book.
The point that screams at me is how much we want to paint everybody and everything into neat boxes like the good witch and the wicked witch. In the end, we discover the good witch isn’t as good as we thought and the wicked witch isn’t as bad as we thought.
It’s kind of like most people—we either want them to be all bad because they aren’t “saved” or all good because they are “saved.” I remember a Sunday school teacher in junior high telling me the musical artists raising money for Africa hunger relief (remember We Are the World?) couldn’t be doing it for a good motive because they weren’t saved.
Thirty years later, I realize each person is born with some trace of the imageo dei in their lives even though it is scarred by the fallen nature. So, sinners can do good things. And, good people can and do sin.
We are all a mix of spirit and flesh. The question is which one are we crucifying and which one are we bringing to life.
At Bethel, we want to get better. We want to provide a better worship experience. We want to connect with people better. We want to do better at making people feel welcome. As part of that, we’ve adopted a continual improvement process. It kind of looks like this:
- Analyze—what needs to get better? Pick an issue to work on.
- Diagnose—what are the obstacles to improvement? What are the opportunities?
- Set Intentions—what do we want to accomplish, by when, and by whom?
- Implement—put the intentions on the calendar and in the budget.
- Analyze Again—is it working? Start the process again.
The idea behind this message series is that the beauty of our faith has to be restored. Modern zealots, Pharisees, and Sadducees have each made our faith ugly by throwing rhetorical bombs at, retreating from, or becoming like the dominant culture ruled by science (reason) and stuff (materialism).
For something to be beautiful it has color, shape, and form. For a church to be beautiful it has to welcome people of all color with lives in all kinds of shape. The beautiful thing is that when we bring our misshapen lives to the Cross (the form that beauty takes in the church) we find love and forgiveness that makes something beautiful out of our ashes.
As Brian Zahnd (an upcoming guest at Catalyst Unplugged) says, “God is an artist. And, ashes are his medium.”
This Sunday, we’re going to transition from the Beauty of the Cross (you can listen at www.bethelhampton.com) to the Beauty of Christ at 9 and 11 at Bethel Hampton. Beauty Will Save the World launches at Bethel Chesapeake this Sunday.