Open to Receiving and Ready to Give
Recently someone asked me if I have taken a day off lately? Most of the time I can honestly say, “Yes.” But this time I realized that for about three weeks I hadn’t. I had to answer, somewhat sheepishly, “No.” Now, the point here today is not that we all need to take a day off. That is true and I have written about that in the past. Rather, the point is that someone asked!
More specifically, there are two points to be made; one that we need to allow ourselves to be accountable to others and two, we need others to care enough to ask us.
The Scripture passage that comes to mind is Exodus 18 in which Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came to visit. One day Moses sat to judge the people and the people came to him for advice and judgement from morning until night. Jethro was appalled! “What you are doing is not good! You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you.” (vs. 17-18).
Thank God for Jethro! God’s mission could have been stalled simply because Moses didn’t see he was taking too much onto himself or didn’t know how to do things in a different way. But God sent Jethro to ask a question (“What is this you are doing for the people?... vs. 14) and bring a new perspective (“I will give you advice… look for able men… who fear God... and let them judge… vs. 19-23). Thank God for Jethro who cared about Moses and God’s people so that he spoke a word of love.
And thank God that Moses listened! Evidently, Moses recognized that Jethro was right. He was taking too much onto himself. He was going to wear himself out! Moses also discerned that Jethro’s advice was a message from God and wise council. Moses heeded that advice, made some adjustments, and went on to lead God’s people toward the Promised Land.
Through this story it is not hard for us to see how God graciously works in our lives. He works through our fellow redeemed (and sometimes the unredeemed too – a discussion for another time). Thank God that, in our fallen sinfulness, he sends people to ask us questions, now and then, for our health and wellbeing. We forget to be healthy, believing that our efforts and actions are better for us and others. And I am not just talking about overworking now. We have other omissions and unhealthy behaviors that are detrimental (like lack of prayer, devotion, worship, or service, and addictions etc.) Thank God that he who sent his Son to seek us and redeem us continues to do so a he sends others into our lives.
And thank God when, like Moses, we can receive that word. Arrogance is a sin against the first commandment; humility is a gift of God in Christ Jesus. When we die to self in the waters of Holy Baptism, and are raised to new life in Christ, we can shed arrogance and put on humility. Like Moses we can be open to the loving words of others who challenge our unhealthy behaviors and guide us back to the ways of God.
Let’s be open to receiving and ready to give.
For more on this I refer you to the paragraph below and the article in this newsletter on “Holding Up the Prophet’s Hands”. The Biblical story, while still about Moses, is different, but correlates with this devotion.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I encourage congregational leaders and members to acknowledge their pastor is some way this year. The effort does not have to be expensive or extravagant but should be meaningful. Honestly, most pastors don’t want a big fuss and are a bit shy about recognition. However, they do appreciate hearing and experiencing your love and gratitude that comes from the heart.
If you need a few ideas to stimulate your thoughts, here is a link to the Missouri District’s website that lists five things you could do to show appreciation: https://mo.lcms.org/five-ways-to-celebrate-pastor-appreciation-month-2/
Holding Up the Prophets Hands: Worker Wellness and Congregational Leadership Training
Are you concerned for the health of your congregation? of your Pastor? They are related. One of the best ways to have a healthy congregation is to have a healthy pastor.
“Because of their passion and dedication, church workers are especially vulnerable to stress, burnout, and the assaults of the devil, who tries to destroy the relationship between the Church and her workers and among the workers themselves. How do we, as members of the Body of Christ, acknowledge the unique position we have put our workers in, and support them in their task.”
The quote above is taken from the back of Dr. Bruce Hartung’s book Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand. It makes us aware of a critical issue among us and hints at some of the solutions that will lead us toward healthy pastors and healthy congregations.
I invite you to come and hear Dr. Hartung address the members of the NJ District on Saturday November 4th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Somerset Hills Lutheran Church, Basking Ridge. Please see the article in the main body of this newsletter for more information on the content of the workshop and how to register.
Who is invited? Well, anyone who loves our Lord Jesus and cares about his church and pastors. But we especially invite Pastors and Church Workers, Elders, Church Leaders of all sorts, members of Women’s and Men’s groups, and others.
God bless you for loving, caring, and making this effort toward better pastoral and congregational health.
Installation at Bethlehem, Ridgewood
Rev. Peter DeMik accepted the call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Ridgewood and was installed on Sunday September 24th. Sixteen Pastors and two Commissioned Ministers processed in the service. He and his family are in the process of settling into their new home and community. Welcome DeMik family! God bless your life and ministry among us.
Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD) and NJDU
In September our NJDU congregations gathered for their 5th session of NJDU. The subject was Worship Planning. Once again, a robust review of the previous session was done to ensure that all of the congregations were up to date on the development of their plans. Then we moved on to worship planning in which congregations were given resources and tips to assist in developing year-long worship plans. Next session is Spiritual Life.
For these congregations the completion of NJDU is near. There are only two more sessions left. But that is not the end. These congregations will have a plan that can be easily updated and made current on an annual basis. Developing a ministry plan is an ongoing process.
In addition, IMD is looking to enter its third phase in 2024 in which half and full day seminars and retreats will be offered to explore new areas of ministry and planning as well as helping congregations keep current with their plans. These additional sessions will be open not only to SCC and NJDU graduates but to all congregations interested in enhancing their ministry.
District Short Clips
Congregational Statistics. Congratulations NJD! You get the most improved award! At the last Council of Presidents meeting our Synod’s Secretary reported on the results of Synod’s Districts and congregations submitting congregational statistics. While NJ did not appear in the top rung of responders, it was noted that we were the most improved over last year! My thanks to all of you who made the effort to submit your statistics and especially to our Circuit Counselors who gave an extraordinary effort at encouraging our pastors and congregations to submit. With continued diligence and faithfulness, I can easily see us move into the top rung of responders!
Official Visits. I have made five Official Visits to congregations and have five more scheduled for this fall. I do have one more slot available this fall but visits are scheduled by invitation. If you did receive an invitation but have not responded please let me know and I will get you scheduled. I have found these visits to be a delight as I have spent time with pastors, leaders, and congregations.
Call Lists. Holy Trinity, Somerset, St. Paul, Closter, and Christ Memorial, East Brunswick are preparing for their 1st Call List. St. John, Bloomfield and Calvary, Verona are preparing for their 3rd call list. Rev. Anthony Lovine has a call to Faith, Easton.
Pastors Conference. The NJD Spring Pastors Conference will be on Thursday October 26th at King of Kings Lutheran Church, Mountain Lakes. Rev. Dr. Richard Serina, Associate Executive Director of the CTCR and former Pastor at Christ the King Ringwood, will be our speaker. He is one of the primary authors of the CTCR document on the Order of Creation which will be our subject. This conference will better equip our pastors to understand and teach about the nature of the pastoral office and the role of laypeople in the congregation. Registration for pastors can be accomplished through the link in the article in the main body of this newsletter.
Circuit Pastors Meetings. At the request of our Outreach Council, our Pastors at their Circuit meetings are doing two things. First, they are reading and discussing the book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church”. Our prayer is that, with all of our pastors reading and discussing this book, we can have a greater sense of what a healthy congregation is, recognize the signs of being unhealthy, and lead our congregations into greater health.
Second, they are helping to develop a District resource webpage that will list outreach ideas that congregations can use. Each pastor/congregation is asked to submit 1-3 ideas their congregation has utilized along with a paragraph or two of description/explanation. We hope to have this up on our District website by 2024.
Synodical Convention Resolutions. In an effort to bring Synod closer to congregations and to make Synodical resolutions relevant to ministry here in NJ, plans are in the making for District representatives to visit each congregation to share Synodical resolutions that are relevant to congregations. Knowing about these resolutions, congregations can then decide if there are any that can assist them in their ministry or decide to take up something new at the suggestion of a resolution. We pray that this can assist and stimulate us to vibrant ministry here in NJ.
As we move out of September and into October, we recognize the great amount of work the Lord has given us to do. We can’t do it alone nor are we called to do it alone. God has placed us into a community of believers called the church. In that church, working together, let us always be open to receiving and ready to give.
The LORD with you,