I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,
if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received
from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Three Things – Converging Paths, Lent and The Beatitudes, and Disciple Bands
I have three things I want to put before you.
1.) THE CONVERGING PATHS MINISTRY
In a recent sermon, I asked: NOW THAT YOU HAVE ME HERE …
And now I ask: Would you like to help design and explore our new adventure, called “Converging Paths” – the liaison between the BTS Center (spiritual successor to Bangor Theological Seminary), Countryside Community Church, and The New Church?
As some of you may know, on Sunday, March 9 (the first Sunday in Lent), I will have an afternoon meeting with Countryside folks about this new ministry. For TNC folk, we will have a chance to meet that morning, at our usual conference call following the Sunday service, for any questions or comments you may have. I will try to explain what I know of “the Path ahead.” Having just lost my crystal ball, I will not be explaining enough, but it may still be more than some of you can keep up with. This will be a small-group-based ministry. Many of you are in small groups already and will not wish to interrupt what you are doing. Some of you may be forming new groups with people you already know, or you may be willing to become part of an existing group, or you may be in an existing group that is willing to switch agenda for long enough to come help design the new ministry with us. But if you have interest or curiosity, call into our conference conversation right after the service on Sunday, March 9 (1.605.475.4800, code 487327#).
There will be excitement and confusion. There will be options and opportunities. Nobody will be dragged into anything they do not want to participate in, so no worries about railroading or pressure. If you are unable to join us for the phone conference after the service or you have questions not answered by this message, give me a call at 402.391.0350 ext. 121 or send me an . Either one will reach me, and I will be happy to hear from you and we will go from there.
2.) LENT AND THE BEATITUDES
I’m excited to have been asked to preach at Countryside’s Ash Wednesday service on March 5. It will be broadcast live starting at 5PM PST, and the replay will be available for those of you who need a later start that evening. We are also hoping to be able to live-broadcast Countryside’s Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services and will give you more information on that when it is available. And much to my delight, I’ve been asked to lead an actual outdoor Sunrise Service on Easter morning. We won’t be able to broadcast that, but we will have other material available to supplement your own Sunrise celebrations. Then Mariana and I will join you for TNC’s Easter service that morning at 9AM PST.
Hopefully you will also be able to join me the rest of the Wednesdays in Lent (March 12 through April 9) for a Lenten series on The Beatitudes. They will be broadcast live from 3:45 to 4:45PM PST and available for replay later. The Beatitudes are the heart and core of Jesus’ perspective on spirituality, so even if you think you’ve “heard” them before, there might be something new waiting for you. This will be in mini-retreat format: I will “teach” for a while and then those in attendance will form into small groups on the spot to frame comments and possibly questions. Then, in a brief closing together, we will see what has come from our groups. We haven’t ironed out the logistics for the online community yet, but if you are interested in being part of a phone conference discussion group for this Lenten series on The Beatitudes, .
3.) WHY A DISCIPLE BAND?
From very early in our history, starting in fact with the first twelve disciples, we have discovered that community, “church” –disciple bands –are a key part of living the Christian Life. We need to know and share with each other, or it all gets lost or quickly put on the back burner. Does any birder not wish to talk with other birders? “Did you see such-and-such?” “Where have you been going? In fact, let’s go out together sometime.” Ditto to every field of human interest or exploration.
We know that we are not all in the same “place” with the same language, the same concepts, or the same confidence when it comes to the Christian Faith. (Or anything else, for that matter, but that’s another subject.)
Sometimes I have pondered and wondered: Though I have had my share of doubts, perplexities, and challenges, why has it become easier for me to end up believing and trusting in spiritual experience and in the Presence and Guidance of the Holy Spirit than it seems to be for many of my friends?
Without getting too detailed, one of the major reasons is my considerable involvement over the last 55 years with small Disciple Bands. (Some call them Bible Study groups, or just small groups.) Not all Disciple Bands are the same – not by a long shot. The emphasis, interest, and approaches can vary greatly, but the “common denominator” is this: We gather to study and discuss whatever material we have chosen to focus on (usually a book of the Bible, in my experience). We do that for 45 or 50 minutes. Then we break from that part of the meeting and go to a “sharing” time. In this sharing time, one of us – typically going in alphabetical order from week to week – tells the group in 15 to 30 minutes something about their own experience on the Path (past, present, or hopes for the future).
After the group has been meeting for a while, we become more simple, more honest, more trusting. As that happens, the Spirit “speaks to us” as much (or more) through this sharing as through our study and discussion explorations.
As a result of attending three to five such groups every week over the years, I have been taking in a huge amount of information – from people I have come to know and trust – that simply is not readily available to a lot of “normal Christians.” Things that may sound far-out, exaggerated, or fanciful to many people are things that are part of my normal weekly fare. Real people have these experiences, and they don’t say much about them “out there.” (They don’t want others to think they are strange, or crazy.) So over time I have huge evidence, not readily available to many, that the Spirit is indeed active and caring among us – and far more than most realize.
Thus I am eager to urge my fellow Christians to form or get into a Disciple Band. Without being in a Disciple Band, the journey is thin, theoretical, bland, and only half-believable … and all too soon.
So I have three things I want to put before you:
1.) The Converging Paths Ministry
2.) Lent and The Beatitudes
3.) A Disciple Band
Will you journey with me?
Peace & Love,