Wear God’s Silk Scarf to Work

No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes (Luke 5:36, MSG)

When you read the Gospels, you discover that the Pharisees and religious scholars favored the familiar. They kept things kosher. The way we’ve always done it.

So when Jesus invited Levi, a hated tax collector, to “come, follow me” and the moral reprobate dropped his coin purse and walked with Jesus, you could have bought the Status Quo Border Patrol for a nickel.

To make matters worse, Levi threw a dinner party with the finest china, crystal wine goblets, and gold-plated utensils stolen tax money could buy and invited every tax-collecting friend and other “despicable me’” he knew . . . plus Jesus! This Jesus, who increased faith so radically with an unfamiliar joy in his work that showed more love for God and others, could perhaps help save his friends from themselves, too, he thought.

The Champions of Correctness couldn’t stand idly by while this defiant assault of their familiar by the new went on. From Levi’s front yard, they said loud enough to be overheard by those in the big house, “What is he [Jesus] doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?” (Luke 5:30).

Do you hear the “we’ve never done it this way before” in their voices?

Jesus stuck his head out the door and said, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders . . . to a changed life, changed inside and out” (Luke 5:31–32).

Can you imagine how quiet things got around the dinner table about then? Surely Levi smiled. He got it. Faith, joy, and love are required to reverse the effects of the negative world at work.

Surely his reprobate friends got it, too. Jesus was talking about them. They knew they were sick and needed a doctor. But not just any doctor. One whose faith, joy, and love for his work were accessible to them.

Realizing they were losing, a scholar said, “John’s disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?” (Luke 5:33).

“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes,” Jesus said (Luke 5:36).

Jesus says change is frightening because you prefer the old work clothes of the way you’ve always done it. Change gives you a headache because you have to repeatedly perceive the unfamiliar, intentionally choosing to suspend your judgment in pursuit of God’s positive way in the world.

The reality is what you’ve been doing no longer works. Put on the fine silk scarf, the new fabric that matches what God is doing in the world.

Wear God’s new fine silk scarf to work and increase your faith with greater joy so you love God and others more. Then watch who gets changed, inside and out.

Work Faith Positive in this negative world.

Dr. Joey Faucette is the #1 best-selling author of two books, the latest of which is Faith Positive in a Negative World with co-author, Mike Van Vranken. He is our keynote speaker at the May 1-2 Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie. Register for this experience at http://eagleeyrie.org/events/leadership-gathering-2015/ Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at www.GetPositive.Today

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The Child & Discipline Issues in Sunday School

While I was thinking about discipline in the church setting, I was struck by how often we focus on “the problem” instead of “the child.” Every teacher I have ever known (including me!) had a student that makes the time we spend teaching more of a challenge. Challenge or not, each child is a PERSON first, and should be treated as such – not as a problem to deal with or work around. Remember the end goal for any preschool or children’s teacher at church is helping shape a person who loves God and follows Jesus, not producing perfectly behaved robots or chalking up another completed lesson! An example from my own classroom:

I teach a class of 3rd graders, most of whom are active and energetic (read here, rowdy and loud!). On this particular day, one of my regular attenders was having a particularly difficult time, being even more active and energetic than usual. Not openly defiant, but slow to quiet (LOTS of talking and noise making) and unable at all to be still (running around, touching everything, poking people). When I asked the child to be still or quiet, it seemed to exacerbate the behavior. This back and forth continued for the entire class time. And I was irritated because I had a great lesson planned and I couldn’t get to all of it if this kept up. We made it to the end of the hour, but I was still irritated and curious about this child’s behavior – why so much more disruptive all of a sudden?

After class, I asked if the child could stay to help me clean up the classroom. While we (and the other teacher – 2 person rule!) worked, I asked how school was that week. The answer? “I wasn’t there much.” My response? (raised eyebrows!) “Really? Why not?” “Well, my mom and dad had a big fight and my mom and me went to stay at my grandma’s for a few days. It’s too far to get to school on time, ‘cause Mom had to work. But Mom said it’s okay to miss a few days. And I was feeling kind of sick.”

Me, too.

The morals of this story are kind of the same as so many others when you work with children — or anyone, really: The lesson isn’t always the most important thing, you “winning” the behavior battle isn’t the primary focus, everybody has stuff they bring with them, and each person has value. The big question is, What am I going to do about all that, especially when behavior IS an issue?

The best advice I have for you is this: Always evaluate what might be going on OUTSIDE the classroom that could be having an impact INSIDE the classroom. Keep the end goal in mind. Ask questions. Listen. And pray. Pray that you will be a conduit of God’s grace. Pray that you can look past the behavior to the child as a person. Pray that you will be able to tell the difference between “bad behavior” and “needy behavior” (like with my little friend). Pray that you will be able to balance the needs of the larger group with the needs of one child. Pray that somewhere along the line, in the midst of what you may feel is chaos, the truth of God’s presence is very real to all the children in your care, whether that truth came from a perfect lesson or from a quiet conversation in the wake of the chaos.

My prayers continue for you as you shape and guide the little people in your care!

This is installment 2 of probably 3 in a series of teacher helps. I failed to mention in last week’s email that what I sent was, like all the others that will follow, based on a compilation of experiences over the course of 20+ years of work with children and families. All of us have times we need to hear from the experiences of others, and story is an easy way to convey ideas and examine self. The rest of the series focuses on different aspects of the idea of discipline: the child as “person” (not “problem”) and the partnership between the teacher and the parents/family. This week: the child.

Our guest writer is Amanda Lott, Associate Pastor for Children’s Ministry at Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond.

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Growing Mature Leaders By Bob Dale

Recently, I’ve been thinking and writing about how leaders grow in faith and maturity across their entire lifespans. How does your church prepare members for lifelong growth in faith? How does it develop rich age-specific resources, structures, and ministries to encourage maturity in leaders? How does your church provide catch-up opportunities for leaders who have fallen behind their life stage growth arcs on the faith-and-maturity curve?
Launch Decades (teens and 20s): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their exploratory try-and-fly life stage?
o Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 1, how are you providing settings and structures for younger leaders to evaluate their callings, relationships, and career options?
o How are you guiding the transitions into “junior” adulthood and creating faith updates for launching leaders?

Hustle Decades (30s and 40s): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their productive burning-and-turning life stage?
o Like Moses at the burning bush, how are you creating anchors and harbors for adult leaders to put down roots, choose life directions wisely, and deal with generational dynamics?
o How are you easing the entrances to full adulthood and mid-life and facilitating faith updates for hustling leaders?

Legacy Decades (50s and 60s): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their contributory living-and-giving life stage?
o Like the heroes and heroines of Hebrews 11, how are you inviting legacy explorations about being sandwiched between generations, facing life and career deadlines, and paying back emotional and spiritual debts?
o How are you bridging empty nest and retirement transitions for leaders and guiding faith updates for legacy-stage leaders?

Wisdom Decades (70s and beyond): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their supportive caring-and-sharing life stage?
o Like Jethro in Exodus 18, how are you using resources to expand “pay it forward” attitudes, wider-angle perspectives, and gifts of guidance from older leaders?
o How are you preparing leaders for life’s limits and offering faith updates for your church’s oldest leaders?
Leaders for Every Age and Stage
Faith and maturity are two sides of the leadership coin. How are you growing personally over your entire life? How well are you helping leaders prepare to succeed? Ready?
Bob Dale and Bill Wilson are currently finishing a book on Weaving Strong Leaders. It explores practical growth processes for developing clear theology and sturdy maturity in leaders and leadership teams. This book is due out in 2015.

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Discipline Issues: Sunday School with Preschool and Children

I was thinking about discipline in the church setting the other day. There are a couple of trains of thought about this: We are here to love them, not discipline them! or We are here to make sure they walk the straight and narrow! The truth about our call as Christian leaders of preschoolers and children is somewhere mixed up in both of these!

From a recent example in my own classroom: I teach in a mixed age classroom — about 15-20 kindergarten through 5th graders. This particular night, I had all 16 stand up, leading them in some silly stretches (to get them moving a bit after having been still in the class before ours). One of my more challenging students often balks at doing what I ask — sometimes acting very silly and out of control, sometimes choosing to exit the class for the bathroom, sometimes instigating others to inattention by talking over me or engaging someone in a side conversation. This night, though, there was open verbal defiance: “I’m not doing that.”

I had several choices. I chose to re-direct verbally, “Well! You sure are grumpy!” This prompted a somewhat nominal involvement in the activity (raising our arms and wiggling our fingers). When we moved to the next movement/stretch (can’t remember now what that was!), again, flat out, “I’m not doing that.” And before I could get a redirection out, another, younger, child said, “I’m not doing that, either.” Keep in mind, I’ve asked them to do nothing that would single them out, or anything that would harm anyone in any way, simply getting our wiggles out. So, I chose again to verbally redirect. “Well! There must have been something that these two ate that made them grumpy!” There were some giggles, and the second child complied.

We moved on to another stretch, and, again, “I’m not doing that,” which I chose to ignore. At this point, one of the youngest students giggled and said, “I’m not doing that.” By this time, I was completely frustrated by the older child who had started the whole thing. And I let my frustration overtake me. “Now do you see why it’s important for those of you who are older to be careful what you say and how you act? The little ones see what you do and copy you.” The response? “I don’t care,” with a shrug of a shoulder. My response? “Then we need to have a conversation in the hall.”

The first train of thought would say, “They don’t have to do everything you prepare for them. They didn’t hurt anyone. Offer mercy. And a cookie.” The second train of thought would say, “Okay, miss or mister. That’s it. Time out. Now. And no fun stuff the rest of the night.”

My response was somewhere in between, and wasn’t very sensitive to calling the child out in front of peers. Definitely born of frustration, and probably pride. Not necessarily motivated by love or grace. Just trying to survive a challenge.

If so challenged, do you have a plan? One that includes BOTH trains of thought? One that includes a space for grace (even if this child continually pushes all the buttons?!), AND the reality that we ARE there to help guide these children in the way they should go. We’re here to guide them toward Christ, with an understanding that bending to a teacher’s will helps shape them for bending to God’s will for them — and even the smallest in our care are on this same journey!

Our guest writer is Amanda Lott, Associate Pastor for Children’s Ministry at Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond.

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How Would Jesus Teach?

HWJT?

A few years ago the buzz was WWJD? – What Would Jesus Do? You saw these four letters and question mark just about anywhere you went. Not only was it prominent in churches but the mainstream of our society picked up on that idea. This simple reminder did make you pause and think about what you might do if Jesus were to do the same thing.

But Jesus not only showed us a better way, He also gave us, as teachers, excellent models to follow to impact our learners. He chose not to stay in one teaching style in his ministry – neither should we. You might say we need to ask the question – HWJT? (How Would Jesus Teach?)

Here are just some examples of what He did to get his points across.

Visual – People got the point when he pointed out things they could see as he spoke at the Sermon on the Mount. (“See the lilies of the field grow”. – Matthew 6:28)

Aural – You would have been awe struck as well if you had heard Jesus begin his ministry by speaking in the synagogue by saying that the words of Isaiah have now come true. (Luke 4:18-19)

Read/Write – Wouldn’t you have wanted to know what Jesus wrote on the ground when the religious leaders brought in a lady caught in adultery? We see him write not just once but twice! Whatever the scrawled out words were, it helped change the course of the discussion with his accusers! (John 8: 6-8)

Kinesthetic – It was time to put all the learning into practice. Jesus gathers a group of over seventy followers and sends them out to do ministry. They come back excited and ready for more. The Good News is not stagnant! (Luke 10)

Your Sunday School or small group ministry can really come alive if you make sure that you use these ways to engage your learners. Not everyone in your group will be comfortable in just one style. If that is true, we can’t be cozy in our preferred method. Remember that Jesus didn’t either!

Our guest writer this week is Steve Zimmerman. Steve is the founding partner of the Barnabas Partnership based out of Danville. He and his other partners have been doing short-term ministry support activities for Baptist churches across the South since 2009. To learn more about their work, check them out at http://www.barnabaspartnership.com.

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Sunday School and Prayer

Whether you are an experienced, veteran teacher of many years or a new teachers still trying to get your bearing about the whole Sunday School thing; I want to suggest prayer. This sounds so simple & elementary. But after all, you have a teacher’s book and maybe some additional resources and a kit for your age group with lots of helps and suggestions. You may have a good Study Bible with extra stuff you can use. You may be savvy enough to go to the internet and find lots of other resources. You may have even been to a Eagle Eyrie or Ridgecrest of some seminar for SS teachers. Great! Wonderful! More power to you for your resourcefulness! I congratulate you on your preparation! Good job! But there is still something else – prayer.

I remember in college having the opportunity to preach at a local church. I worked on my sermon for many weeks in the college library looking up references, illustrations and finding out all I could about the subject. I was primed & ready to go only to preach & fall on my face & come away feeling like I preached the worse sermon ever. I really had not prayed about it that much. I was doing most of the work on my own. There have been times when teaching Sunday School I have had similar experiences.

I Cor 3:6 Paul writes: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. Did you catch that last part? It is God who gives the increase after we have given our best to be faithful. Let me suggest that you pray:

> during the preparation time;
> ask God how you are to approach the text & lesson;
> that YOU will be open to God’s method & approach;
> people in the class would be open to receive;
> that there would be a positive change as a result of the text/lesson;
> your class would grow spiritually & in number;
> that God would call laborers from your class;
> the positive spirit of your class will spread to other classes;
> ask your class to pray for you to do your best;
> that you pray more often & more fervently;
> And remember pray without ceasing;

Now go pray, study & prepare and have a great class.

Tommy Speight
Courtland Baptist Church

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One Word for Your Sunday School in 2015?

The New Year brings resolutions to do better in 2015. Some people even set goals for losing weight or getting their financial house in order. Some might resolve to go to church more or have a more disciplined quiet time. But most people will already have given up their resolutions by the middle of the month.

I am as guilty as anyone else. I make my goals to lose 15 pounds or go to the gym at least three times a week. I am determined to spend 30 minutes a day in prayer and Bible study. My wife and I will go on a “date” at least two times a month. When I don’t meet those goals, I get down and defeated.

Jon Gordon, one of our Leadership Gathering lead speakers a few years ago, introduced me to a new resource to help me get a better handle on my goals. I then I noticed that the United States Military Academy Men’s Basketball Team signed up for the same process. So I invite you to do the same.

The concept is simple – find one word! Yes, that’s right! Find One Word that will make an impact on your life and plan around that one word. Jimmy Page, Dan Britton, and Jon Gordon put a book together called One Word That Will Change Your Life. The response to the book has been enormous. People have discovered a new way at looking at their focus for the year. Take a look at their website at http://www.getoneword.com and see the resources that available for you.

I have decided my word for 2015 is Discipline. I am going to build my ministry, financial life, emotional health, work with churches, and family life around this concept. The process encourages you to use their three phases — Looked In, Looking Up, and Looking Out- to find that one word that will drive you to purposeful action for the year.

Here are some of the One Words I have seen people develop – Focus, Believe, Now, Determined, Purpose, Faith . . . and the list goes on. Your One Word will help you organize and move forward your life journey.

How about your Sunday School or your Bible study class? What resolutions or goals have you established for 2015? What is the One Word that God wants you to organize around for 2015 – Innovate, Care, Outreach, Evangelize, Study? I encourage you to find the One Word for your church. That one word could change the life of your congregation.

Ken Kessler, Leader of the Empowering Leaders Team for the Baptist General Association of Virginia, is our guest writer this week.

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