Blog : Traverse City

Sharing the Gospel and Ourselves

Recently we took a good look at ourselves, those who help us work the fields in the Grand Traverse Bay Area.  We began by asking focused questions about our talents, gifting, and strengths.

How are we doing as a leadership core and what are we doing well?

Gallup finds that, “An overarching emphasis on strengths allows employees to form better connections – in part because strengths are a springboard for meaningful conversations that build trust and help groups accomplish their most important goals.”1)Brandon Rigoni and Jim Asplund, “The Best Way to Build a Strengths Coaching Culture,” Gallup: Business Journal, December 1, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/198581/best-build-strengths-coaching-culture.aspx.

“better connections . . . meaningful conversations . . . build trust”

We turned a corner over a year ago when we started having conversations about our strengths.  Something has changed.  There has been real edification – building up.

We’ve had “meaningful conversations” in many areas.  Some of our leaders are engaging their role more effectively.  Others are taking on new roles, or trying temporary roles.  Our teams are energized by the conversations.

A little research introduced to our leadership team has given us new freedom and license to explore the strengths and talents that we each have.

Community formation is at the heart of Strengths research

Gallup states, “By uniting employees around strengths, managers promote deeper, more productive and more engaging relationships among workers throughout the company.”2)Ibid.

Central to leadership development, even in the marketplace, is a commitment to, “more engaging relationships.”  How much more so should this be evident in a congregation?  We’re not a machine.  We’re a community of faith.  We do life together.

Mt. Zion has a reputation as a friendly church.  We’re a family oriented church, not because of families, but because individuals are at home in our Christian family.  This is the way Mt. Zion has operated for years.  To borrow from cell phone marketing in their time, the Wermuths (our Former Pastors) say they grew the congregation on “The Friends and Family Plan.”  Community formation is at the heart of who we are and at the heart of strengths research.

How does our leadership team measure up?

In the Christian book Living Your Strengths, it is reported that, “more than half of churchgoers report that they don’t get to do what they do best in their congregations or parishes.”3)Gallup, “Living Your Strengths,” Gallup: Press, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/press/176561/living-strengths.aspx.  They’re not plugged in, and they’re not plugged in where they want to be.

We also have some workers who may not be serving in their strengths but are striving to make a change or remedy.  However, we have a very strong leadership team. We have many committed workers. Right now at Mt. Zion, about 50-60% of our people are engaged in regular service.

Do you know what the average has been for years in America?  It has been 20%.  Recently, the Barna Group found that the number of people volunteering at a church on a weekly basis is only 19%.4)Barna Group, “The State of the Church 2016,” Barna: Faith and Christianity, September 15, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016, https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/.

We are aware of this and grateful for all who serve!  We dream about what our leadership core is actually capable of.  There are still untapped resources in the hearts of our leaders that God wants to bring to fruition.

Are numbers the bottom line?  No Mt. Zion is building a community of faith

Let’s review the language of the Strengths research: “better connections . . . meaningful conversations . . . build trust . . . uniting . . . deeper, more productive and more engaging relationships.”

When I think of this language, I think of Paul explaining similar ideas to the Thessalonians in his first epistle:

1 Thessalonians 2.8, NRSV: “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”

He says, “So deeply do we care for you.”  The word picture is desire, longing for, or even the longing of love.  We care for you with deep heart-felt emotion.

He adds, “we are determined to share with you.”  We are willing, but willing in the Biblical sense.  The word will is not just a mental decision.  Will involves the heart, pleasure, and emotions.  It’s not only intellectual, but stirred from deep within.

We’re called to share our souls, ourselves, with each other

A determination rises up within us that we are going to share the Gospel with you, but we are going to cross boundaries and share ourselves.  The phrase, “our own selves,” is the Greek word psyche.  It’s the word soul.  The New International Version says we’re called to share “our lives.”

This is Christian community.  He says the reason why is because, “you have become very dear to us.”  This word “dear” is a form of the word agape.  It is the same word that the Father uses when He describes His Son.  “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased” (Matthew 12.18a, NRSV).  Beloved means dear one, dearly beloved, or even favorite.  The Father calls Jesus Beloved, and we are Beloved in Christ.  Paul turns around and uses the same term for us as the family of God.

Henri Nouwen declares, “The Christian community is a community of people who remind each other who they truly are – the beloved of God.”5)Henri J. M. Nouwen, Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation with Philip Roderick (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007), 20.

We’re dear to each other.  Our relationships and strengths are vital to each other.  We’re building well.  We’re Sharing the Gospel and Ourselves.

Rev. Jared V. Ingle, M.A., Lead Pastor
MT. ZION Family Worship Center

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Brandon Rigoni and Jim Asplund, “The Best Way to Build a Strengths Coaching Culture,” Gallup: Business Journal, December 1, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/198581/best-build-strengths-coaching-culture.aspx.
2. Ibid.
3. Gallup, “Living Your Strengths,” Gallup: Press, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/press/176561/living-strengths.aspx.
4. Barna Group, “The State of the Church 2016,” Barna: Faith and Christianity, September 15, 2016, accessed December 15, 2016, https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/.
5. Henri J. M. Nouwen, Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation with Philip Roderick (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007), 20.

Ruth Buell on Encouragement from Hebrews

Ruth Buell is an Elder, our Bookkeeper, and the Director of S.I.S.T.E.R.S.  She is an avid student of the Word and ministers a couple times per month to our women.  Ruth preached for us recently during a Midweek Gathering (01.25.17).  God gave her an encouraging Word for our congregation.  Here are some excerpts from that message.

 

My topic is about encouragement.  We’re starting a new year.  Start fresh with the Lord.  We are to encourage one another in the Lord.  Hebrews 10.23-25 was our memory verse two years ago.  In S.I.S.T.E.R.S.  we have a Scripture and we meditate on it for the year.  There’s a few of us who memorize it, but we glean from it and chew on it all year long.

 

Hebrews 10.23-25: Let us hold fast to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day of Christ’s return.

 

I like to dissect this so here we go.  “Let us hold fast,” unswervingly, always strong, never weakening, “to the hope we profess,” the Gospel of Christ, our salvation.  “For he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider,” think about doing something about it, “how we can spur,” encourage on, provoke one another, “toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day of Christ’s return.”  We hear people talking about “Christ is coming.”  We need to encourage each other to continue this race we’re on.

Hebrews 3.13 says, “But encourage one another daily as long as it is called ‘Today.’”  We don’t know about tomorrow.  We just know about today.  I love the fact that God is “I Am.”  He was in our yesterday.  He will be in our tomorrow.  But He’s a God of today.  “So that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  We need encouragement so we aren’t hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  The enemy doesn’t waste time, doesn’t take a vacation.

Encouragement is vital to the life of a church.  It keeps us in step with the unity of the church.  Hearts and minds are focused, being one, one voice and attitude of mind.  People are inspired to serve, because we’re on the same page.  We’re on the same page with the Lord and what God is doing among us.  Encouragement is so important and vital to the church that God commands it.  He tells us to, “encourage one another daily.”

So what is encouragement?  The King James uses the word “exhort.”  Many other translations use the word “encouragement.”  Exhort and encouragement come from the Greek word paraklesis, which means to call to one’s side, to summon, encourage, admonish, entreat.  Admonish is to warn and rebuke, correcting, teaching, instructing.

So to exhort is to develop relationships with other believers, community of faith, for the purpose of encouraging them in their spiritual growth.  It is through the Word of God that we encourage.  It’s not pep talks.  For pep talks you need to be there lifting that person up, and then they fall when you leave the room.  But it’s through the Word of God, because it doesn’t return to us void.  It encourages, strengthens the inner man, comforts us, and guides us.

“Let us hold fast,” stand strong church, unswervingly, always strong, never weakening.  Holding on, “to the hope we profess;” what are we claiming?  “For he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider,” think about, “how we can spur,” encourage and provoke, “one another on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day of Christ’s return.”

So may this New Year be one for our church, our community of faith, because we have to bring it home . . . May our church be the hands and feet of Christ to create a strong environment of encouragement among us through the Holy Spirit, as we continue to grow in unity and mature in the Lord.

 

[Previous audio sermons are archived, but still available, and may be ordered at our Welcome Center]

 

Valentine’s Dinner with Pastor Mark Beasley

A night on the town for our MtZ couples, Valentine’s Dinner was excellent, from the dinner at Ruby Tuesday, to the games, to the guest speaker.  We were so grateful to have the Beasleys with us last Friday night.  Pastor Mark did a phenomenal job sharing a Word for our couples!

 

 

Pastor Mark took time to share some very obscure scientific, and rather funny, differences between males and females – remarkable how God makes man and wife fully complimentary for each other!

 

One concrete way to celebrate these differences is by actively praying for each other.  He highly recommends The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Husband, both by Stormie Omartian.  We agree, these are tremendous resources!

 

We caught some of our couples on camera, enjoying the night at Ruby Tuesday.