Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Faithful By Design

This regular morning post serves as a deliberate, personal, devotional exercise. I'm happy to have other people look over my shoulder, as it were, and see what is on my heart and mind at the beginnings of each day.

I'm honestly not sure how many of you "tune in". During 2009 I had a "hit counter" running, and it registered somewhere over 20,000 visits. That number did not include people who read the RSS feed on facebook, or views via the feed that goes directly to my "author page."

During the first couple of months of 2010 the counter lit up like North America from space on a clear night! By the beginning of March it was up to 60,000; I didn't trust its behavior, so I removed the application.

It could be that my mother looked at my blog 20,000 times last year, or that a few hundred of you check in once in a while. My best guess is that there is a mixture of regular readers and "drive-bys". Regardless, the process is good for my spirit and it gets my writing juices flowing every day.

Today I'm thinking about the potential ripple effect positive lives of faith can have on the world we impact. I use the word "impact" with care. We may make a difference (positive, negative or a little of each) in the lives of a half dozen people or so, or it's possible that hundreds of thousands of people, across the globe, experience potential change in their lives because of what you do, or say.

That's why I'm excited every time I get involved in something new that allows me to dialogue with a few extra people, and I wanted to use this morning's post to share such an opportunity.

I love the Presbyterian Church, and I've been able to place a few articles with various church-related publications over the years. I write devotions for These Days, I've contributed articles to Presbyterians Today (the glossy magazine), I've filed stories with the Presbyterian News Service, and I've had a few commentaries in The Presbyterian outlook (the bi-weekly news magazine).

The Presbyterian Outlook has recently undergone a serious overhaul. When the dust settled and the new format unveiled (it's super-cool) it turned out I have a regular slot and a permanent name for my column.

I'm extremely pleased with this development. The column name - and we kicked around several ideas before settling - is "Faithful By Design". It neatly sums up the direction of my content, which is the imperative to be faithful to our calling in the context of God's design - a very Presbyterian slant and theological undercurrent.

What really floats my boat about this new column is the opportunity I now have to get inside the heads of Presbyterian leaders throughout the United States. The magazine is read, primarily, by pastors and elders. My books have (so far) made an impact in the United Methodist Church; now, maybe, I can send a few ripples out that will rock a Presbyterian boat, or two.
  • (If you're interested, I've pasted this issue's column at the bottom of today's blog)
This leads directly back to today's Bible verse. Jesus is still praying (yes, he was a "long pray-er"!). He's dealing with just this issue; the issue of ripples:

"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)

Here's something we can do that will determine the kind of ripples we send out; the quality of the impact we bring. Spend deliberate time today in the presence of Jesus.

Spend deliberate time today in the presence of Jesus.

Love and blessings - DEREK

"Faithful by Design"

Who Needs the Presbyterian Church?


Recently, I sat in a pastor’s office and asked the following question: “Why is it important to have a Presbyterian Church in this community?”

The church is celebrating its 75th birthday, and I was writing an article on the festivities for their local newspaper.

“Wow!” she said. “That’s a great question.”

Yes, it was a great question. I have, over the past decade, published interviews with over 300 active clergy who live and minister around Tampa. I have my finger on the spiritual pulse of the region. There is much to be excited about, in literally dozens of denominations, but there is a numbing sameness to the vast majority of the work, and a huge percentage of the population has yet to find a spiritual home.

Consequently, and while I have a deep appreciation for the commitment of almost every pastor I’ve met, it’s profoundly evident that there remains a crying need for a dynamic, passionate, creative Reformed witness - and it’s only being addressed by a handful of churches.

The majority of Presbyterian congregations in this region are losing ground. Why? It’s not because people already go to church somewhere else; and it’s not because (and I’ve heard this) “Presbyterians only appeal to a select group of people.”

First, less than 40% of the population attend church anywhere. Second, when “select” become mostly interchangeable with “dead”, we’re looking at the wrong demographic.

My interviewee, Rev. Loli Ros Reiter, offered an answer to my question that rang true; she’s irrepressibly enthusiastic about the value of a Presbyterian presence in any community.

“Presbyterians take God’s word very seriously,” she said. “We study it, and our history has been to look at the world around, and to see how we can fit God’s Word to the needs of the world today. That is an important witness, and we’re faithful.”

There’s a story about a well-known 19th Century atheist seen hurrying along a London street on his way to church.

“I did not know you believed this message?” He was challenged.

“I don’t,” he replied. “But the man who is talking believes with such passion that I am compelled to listen.”

Presbyterians have a message worth both the passion and the presence.
Love and blessings – DEREK MAUL

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