Devotional for March 18, 2012 – Pruning our programs

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Theme Background

In the season of Lent, we are looking at the benefits of pruning our lives to better eat, share and serve.

Bible Background

This crazy thing happens when churches are doing well and people start to attend.  We start to get really excited about programs.  In fact, we get so excited that we want to program all over the place.  In fact, we get passionate about creating programs instead of looking at the ministries that continue the mission.  The danger becomes that we spin off into programs all over instead of refocusing where we might follow.  This is where pruning comes back into play. In order to refocus our efforts we must look at how our programs fit into eating, sharing and serving.

There are some reasons why we look at refocusing our programming.  We may need to cut some things that do not fit into our mission because it takes away from the whole.  It is a good time to look at the entire picture.  What are those reasons?

First of all, if we do way to many things for our church we run the risk of not doing any of them well rather than focusing on a few and doing them they way they should be done.  Plus we run the risk of confusing creating fruit with the illusion of producing or busyness.  We are called to actually produce fruit not just look busy.

Over programming runs the risk of starting to look like a meal of just chocolate or a schedule of just extra curricular activities.  We start to ask, where is the protein? Am I really getting fed?

Over programming divides us rather than unites us.  All of sudden we are more concerned with dividing into ages, genders, etc.  God calls us to actually learn from one another and grow together. It is great to get together with those like us but there is something about learning from the other as well.

In all of this, the bottom line is to look towards what God is calling us to do.  Sometimes even if something is good, we need to evaluate whether or not we are called, as a church, to go to that area of interest.  Where are our efforts most useful and transforming and restorative in the world?  God loves the world.  Our gospel lesson reminds us of that.  Too often John 3:16 is shown to say look how much God loves the world and it is really telling us the way that God loves the world. God loves the world with concerted effort, focusing on transformation and life.  God has opened all sorts of new doors to us and it is our responsibility to choose wisely.  This may mean some difficult choices.  What do you think?

Quotes for the Week

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

“It’s all very simple. But maybe because it’s so simple, it’s also hard.”  ― Natsuki Takaya

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ― Eckhart Tolle

“In the game of life, we all receive a set of variables and limitations in the field of play. We can either focus on the lack thereof or empower ourselves to create better realities with the pieces we play the game with.”  ― T.F. HodgeFrom Within I Rise: Spiritual Triumph Over Death and Conscious Encounters with “The Divine Presence”

Psalm 107:1‐3, 17‐22 (NRSV)                                                                                                                       O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.                                       Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.                                          Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;   they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.                                        Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress;                                   he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.                                          Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.                          And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

John 3:14‐17 (Message)                                                                                                                               In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Questions for the Week

What programs are we called to in the church?

In your own life, is there a way to refocus your energies?

What is essential in a church?


About pastorcourt

Courtney McHill is the pastor at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Northeast Portland where they love compassionately and inclusively!
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