Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Almost finished!

I have run the race and I am almost to the finish line. I can see it in the near distance. I am getting close and I will finish, if I do not stumble and fall. This journey has been long and full of joy, happiness, sorrows and regrets. But it has been a wonderful learning experience. I have met many wonderful people along the way and, of course, I have met a few that I could have been fine without meeting. Most of the professors have been great but some of them have been jerks--c'est la vie.

I have two classes to complete and then I will graduate on May 17th- WooHooo, happy dance, happy dance! Somehow (probably God) I have saved what seem like two for the best for last. I am in Spiritual Formation and also Christian Leadership Identity. Both classes intertwine aspects of the other class and both use many of the same concepts so the two classes flow well together.

Part of the Spiritual formation class was at Canterbury Retreat Center in Oviedo, Florida. I meet some wonderful people there from different parts of the U.S. Some were from south Florida, north Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama. The end of this seminary journey indicates the beginning of another journey through this adventure called life.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Master Theologian

A master theologian taught me many lessons. I studied under this theologian for a little over 16 years. 
Some of the lessons I learned under that theologian were:

1. Be always faithful to your master.
2. Be committed to what you do.
3. Persistence does pay off
4. Be careful what you eat
5. If it s not right, then don't do it.
6. Always have a desire to be close to the Master.

I was a member of the staff for this theologian. It was my privilege to learn under the great master theologian Meow-Meow. I will expound on the lessons I was taught.
                                  
1. Be always faithful to your master-- Meow-Meow was ever vigilant to listen for the sounds of her master. When she heard her master she would run to find him. Even when she was nearing death she would struggle to walk down the hall to where her master was. Ever faithful!
2. Be committed to what you do--never give up. Meow-Meow taught me that commitment is crucial. Meow-Meow would get it done if she wanted to do it. If she wanted to eat, she would eat. If she wanted to go outside she would scratch on the glass.
3. Persistence pays off--When Meow-Meow was dying, she fought valiantly to hang on. She did not want to leave us. So we stayed with her until she died. And, of course, if she wanted to get your attention she would just merely speak her name and your attention would be found.
4. Be careful what you eat--Meow-Meow was careful not to eat people food. She would only eat Science Diet food and, of course, only when she wanted to. She was not into shrimp and other things of the such, only "cat" food- not people food.
5. If it's not right, then don't do it--Meow-Meow used to sleep on the dryer, but when she was beginning to get weak we tried to move her bed to the floor-she wouldn't have it. It was not in the right place so it would not do. Also, her litter box had a top that enclosed it except for an opening on one end. We took that off so she could get in easier--nope, it was not right. We had to put the top back on the litter box before she would use it. (see # 3, above)
6. Always have a desire to be close to the Master.--She always wanted to be near me or she wanted me to be near her. So, I have learned from her, always have a strong desire to be with your Master.

Thank you to my good friend Meow-Meow for teaching me so much!

Friday, February 24, 2012

In this season of Lent 2012, as in all seasons of Lent, we focus on repentance, penitence and preparation for the resurrection. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. In the use of ashes we are reminded of our own mortality. We are reminded that nothing but God is forever. I am vividly reminded of this as I write. My very good friend of 16 plus years lies at my feet, dying. My wonderful companion of 16 years has renal failure and all that I can do for her is make her comfortable and be here with her. I found her, or maybe she found me, when she was but a small kitten. I came out of Bible study and there she was, in the church parking lot north of Greensboro, Alabama in about 1996. When I took her home, even after I fed and watered her she would "meow, meow....meow...meow", hence, her name Meow-Meow. She has traveled with me to serve about 14 different churches in two different states. She has been a loving and faithful friend. She even liked to watch television. She is not gone yet...but I do not think it will be very long....let me pause and go and be with my good friend.....


(left)- Meow-Meow watching a TV show about hummingbirds! We loved to watch birds!
(left) In her bed in my home office


(above) 2005 in the kitchen at the parsonage on Zirlott Road




(left)- Feb. 24, 2012-a very sick kitty!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Marketing Paradigm

       In the fast paced world of today, people want things their way. Sales statistics and marketing surveys only enforce this statement. It is no longer "business as usual" but a new paradigm is bursting forth at dramatic speed. Marketing concepts that worked only a few years ago are now not working so well. It is time to rapidly re-address past views and thinking concerning marketing and advertising for churches, as well as ministry and missions. As Bishop Larry Goodpaster, former Alabama-West Florida Conference bishop, once said, "The way ministry was done 10 years ago no longer works as it did then." In the remainder of this blog, as I refer to "customer" it can also be thought of as potential member (for churches).
      Many church leaders lament that attendance is declining and interest in church is descending. But, so often, those same church leaders are unwilling to change or listen to the potential customer's needs and wants. Today it is about what the customer wants- not necessarily what they need. What they need will have to be fed to them while they are receiving what they want. This is not to say that the Gospel messages should be altered or watered down. Certainly not! But it should be remembered that the application may change, but the principle remains the same.
      The most important factor for consumers and customers today are the experience itself and the information available about that experience. It is your customer's perception of the experience that you must improve. We must listen to the customer.The old adage, "The customer is always right is so applicable today, even if they are wrong." This is involved with the motivation of the customer-why they are here.To begin to better understand motivation it is not enough to look only at demographics. Psychographics and topology should be looked at also to get a better, more rounded view of the potential "customer."
      Another relevant factor in selling and marketing has to do with the bias that organizations have for the type of data they collect; which, very often, is only demographic data. But demographic data alone does not give much insight into customer behavior and motivations. No amount of research can ever tell you exactly what people will do. Research is great at measuring what has already happened. Past behavior is a good indication of possible future actions but it is not a guarantee. Customers and potential customers should be profiled. Despite the negative perception that profiling has received, it is important for organizations to profile the customers (especially potential customers). Another factor to consider in relation to customer motivational behavior is Psychographics.
      Psychographics is a term that describes consumers or audience members on the basis of psychological characteristics initially determined by standardized tests. Psychographics is the study of personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. The use of focus groups and specialized research into local psychographics helps executives answer one of the most important questions about potential consumers: Are they willing to try something new, and specifically, are they willing to try your new product?-- behavioral data holds the most promise for creating predictive models of customer behavior.
      Topology is the final area that should be considered. The topology of the local church should be investigated thoroughly. Topology is the study of the landscape of connections. How does the church connect to the local community? How does the church connect to members in the community?
      It all boils down to the fact that people want to be treated the way they want to be treated. In the marketing world the Golden Rule has become slightly tarnished.-"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The problem with the Golden Rule is that we become the yardsticks against which we measure the needs of another. Obviously, not everyone wants the same things or wishes to be treated in the same way.The persuasive effectiveness of applying this "rewritten" golden rule- do for others as they would like it done to them-- shows us that we truly delight people when we treat them as they would like to be treated. When people are treated like they want to be treated they will be happy people. Happy people will probably be happy repeat customers.
     


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Leading Change

       I am taking a very informative and enlightening class through Asbury Theological Seminary entitled "Leading Change."
Some basics from the class thus far include:
  • Pray and pray again!
  • Everyone needs to be on the same page.
  • Preparation is critical and crucial to the effective transformation process.
  • Formulate precise, simple goals
  • A great deal of flexibility and team coordination is critical.
  • To get more successes, you have to be willing to risk more failures.
  • Tight controls strangle innovation.
  • Action without a clear and uniting vision may become a nightmare.
  • Leading change means over-communicating.
  • It is crucial to change the behavior of people.
An excellent group of principles for the leader is this: 1) Be a servant of the people (Matthew 20:26), and 2) Have the ability to give (Luke 6:38).
Innovation involves ideas that create the future. Major research shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. People are most creative when they care about their work and they are stretching their skills.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take." And Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor, said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work." If you don't take care of the customer, someone else will.

Diffusion of Innovations
by Everett M. Rogers
Leading Congregational Change by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, and James H. Furr
Leading Change by John P. Kotter
Managing Transitions:Making The Most of Change by William Bridges
Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger

thanks!  Jabe

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Control or in Power?

This may be an issue of mere semantics but I am going to address the issue of whether God is in "control" or not. This issue of God in control or in power was raised in a recent CPE Plus class that was led by Rev. Danny Doss. He raised the question about whether God is in control or in power. I believe that , before we can go any further,we need a working definition of power and control. Power is defined as the ability to act or accomplish something. Control, on the other hand, is focused around dominating or exercising restraint or command over something.
    Let add the needed disclaimer:God is omnipresent, omniscience, and omnipotent. Anthanasius said, "Omnipotence may be defined as the perfect ability of God to do all things that are consistent with the divine character." Thomas Aquinas said, "Omnipotence does not include the power of God to act in ungodly ways."
    God is all-loving. God's essential nature is love. This is the secret: absolute love guides God's exercise of God's omnipotence and omniscience in the affairs of human-kind. What God does with what God knows is always conditioned by what decisions will help to advance in mature and healthy persons.  Greatness of character and personality is not formed by a smooth, easy life. We have all discovered that it is through the difficulties even more than the pleasures of life, that we are impelled to grow. It may be true that God will not give us more than we can handle, but many have seen those limits tested, and at least in their minds, exceeded. God is able to use all that happens to us to bring us to a place of greater trust and dependency on God. God's occasional interventions are "perfectly timed" to help us without negating our freedom.  This freedom is our free will. God gave us the ability and the choice to choose good or evil; to do what is right or what is wrong. If God's essential nature is love, then the question of God's possibilities is a question of the possibilities of divine love. God does and wills nothing else than that wherein divine love realizes itself. God can do anything that love can do.(Grace, Faith, and Holiness, Dunning, 201).Augustine said, "Nothing that God conceives and wills to do is beyond God's ability or power to accomplish."  God loved us so much that He gave us free will. He gave us the freedom to choose.
    We need to realize that God gave us this freedom, knowing that we might use it unwisely. God knows what God is doing. He has that power. God allows the consequences of our choices and the rigors of the reality of living in this glorious yet broken world. God is in power; He has all power as God limits God's control to give us freedom, and God intervenes in our lives to express God's power in ways that move (strongly encourage) us toward God's calling- to become like Christ.  "God does not exert the kind of coercive power that directly determines all historical processes unilaterally."(Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 76)
    Aquinas said, "God does not always necessarily exercise every conceivable form of power in every situation, for God has also the power to withhold influence, and to allow other powers to influence and other wills to have their own effect. "
    As human beings, we are permeated with an incredible amount of power. We have power beyond our understanding and imagination. By contrast, we have control over very little in our lives. We cannot control the economic or family situation we are born into, or the wounds and limitations  of our families. We cannot control the weather or what obstacles we may encounter each day. We can only control our attitudes and responses to what life throws at us.
    But, with God the situation is turned around. He has both power and control. In the case of control though, I believe, He never "forces" us to do what He  wants us to do. God never dominates us or commands us to do or not to do something. Yes, He does strongly encourage us to do what is right but He  never imposes His control over us to impel us to comply with his wishes. He does possess the power to do this but He will not force us to do anything.
    "If God chooses not to control all things, however, then there is something you can do about it. As a morally responsible free person, you can make choices  that maximize your safety and minimize your vulnerability against other free people who have chosen evil. The world is perhaps still scary, but less so than if  the Creator himself had the kind of character that made him willing to ordain child kidnappings and the power to ensure that what he ordains will certainly be accomplished."
    God is analogous to the bird in the book titled, "The Shack" by William P. Young. Young wrote, "Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around." (97) God, I believe, chooses to self-limit Himself in order to allow us to have freedom and free will. If God chose to exercise control over us to the point that we had no free will then we would merely be biological robots doing exactly what God wanted us to do when he wanted us to do it.God has all power to be able to control all of our thoughts, words, actions and deeds, but he chooses to limit Himself so we may freely obey or disobey Him.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Camouflaged Christian

Camouflaged Christians

     Hunting season is not yet upon us but the idea is that when you go hunting it is better to be camouflaged so the animal being hunted cannot see you that well. When we hear the word "camouflage" most people think of a hunter in the woods that is blending in with his surrounding or of a soldier who has disguised himself for the purpose of not being discovered. The Bible is clear that Christians are in the army of the Lord.
     Unlike our earthly armed forces, God's army is never to be dressed in camouflage. We are to be constantly ready, alert and prepared to stand for God. We are never to disguise our identity or be ashamed that we are indeed enlisted in the most powerful of all forces known to mankind.
     However, and unfortunately, there seems to be reluctance today among some of God's army personnel to identify themselves as true believers of the gospel. To keep from being considered "radical," too many Christians are willing to blend in with those who make no claims of believing in any form of Christianity--every day but Sunday. They hear and share filthy jokes; they may encourage and promote dishonesty; they are greedy for self gain; they pretend blindness to all forms of employee/employer abuse. Even engaging in illicit relationships is not beyond them. No one can see them. They are in perfect camouflage--indistinguishable from the world.
    Yet, often these same individuals will be extremely active in their church activities. It is as though on Sunday the "whole armor of God" is worn with pride and honor, all ironed and polished; but in the workplace there is often not the slightest hint of ever having enlisted in God's army.
    While no one desires to be mistreated or passed-over for job promotions, if standing up as a child of God is what causes us to be persecuted, then that is exactly what God expects of us. Are we going to be ashamed at the appearing of Christ? Or are we going to be ashamed when it is time for us to vacate this temporary dwelling place we call earth? Please remember that it was Jesus Christ Himself who said if we're ashamed of Him; then He will be ashamed of us.
    We must remember that church membership does not guarantee that we are enlisted in God's army. Anyone can claim to be enlisted; but it's not those that talk only, but those who "walk the talk" and wear the garments of Christ's salvation openly, unashamedly and with honor who are numbered among the soldiers in God's army. This means seriously and honestly seeking to live holy lives and never being willing to camouflage our position in Christ.
    So take off that camouflage! Never forget that Almighty God has saved us, Benevolent God blesses us, Creator God guides us, Supporting God promotes us-- and when our earthly battles have ended, God will receive us into that blessed eternal Kingdom where all who have worn God's garments of salvation with honor will receive their "just reward."
    "Well done thou good and faithful servant" are not words that "camouflaged Christians" can expect to hear when they face God at the final judgment. Our position in Christ is to be as open and displayed as Christ was on the cross so ALL can see. The cross was not camouflaged; it was not hidden. It was on a hill, called Golgotha, where all could see it and where sin's debt was paid. So take off that camouflage so all can see that you are a Christian, a soldier in God's army and not ashamed of it.

Rev. Jabe Fincher
Irvington/Zirlott Road United Methodist Churches