Saturday, November 28, 2015

Infinite Stakes

Infinite Stakes
By Dean Brown

On Sept. 15, 1940, while visiting the RAF’s No. 11 Group in Uxbridge, England, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood in silence as his air force came under assault by 250 German Luftwaffe planes. As his pilots returned to refuel and rearm, and the gravity of the situation began to weigh in on Churchill, he asked an Air Vice-Marshal standing nearby, “What reserves have we?” The answer he received was grim: “There are none.” Reflecting on that moment in his book, The Second World War, Churchill recalled, “The odds were great; our margins, small; the stakes, infinite.”

Churchill’s descriptive phrase could be applied to local church ministry today. Satan and his comrades are aligned against the outposts manned by pastors and their people. Faulty thinking reflective of a secularized worldview permeates many corners of the Western church and leaves people confused and rudderless. A fresh foe, terrorism, attacks our sensibilities each morning and whispers fear throughout the day. We wonder, “Where can we turn for help and hope?”

Jesus opens our eyes to reality as He interacts with Simon Peter in Matthew 16: 17-18 (Msg.):

“God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

When the odds are great and our margins are small, remember, church leader:

1. The help and hope we long for comes from one source - the Eternal God - and cannot be found in the shifting values of a decaying world.

2. Ultimate Truth is found in a Person and not a philosophy.

3. A proper understanding of who we are, and to Whom we belong, is critical if we are to overcome the real enemy.

4.  Our eternal success is guaranteed because Jesus’ church is so expansive with energy that nothing of hell can defeat it.

Because the stakes are infinite, and the odds and margins of these days are restrictive, let’s learn from the examples set in September 1940 in the skies over southern England: keep flying, keep refueling and keep rearming because the victory is ours if we walk with God and do not quit.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Advance! Weekend at Vantage Pointe Church

District Transformation Project 2.0

Event Name: Advance!
Date: October 2-4, 2015
Statement of Intention:
Vantage Pointe Church was born when a small but determined group of people joined Pastor Dean Brown in July, 2011 to investigate forming a new faith community in the Glens Falls region. The new church would be called Vantage Pointe and it would reach people who were waiting to meet Jesus Christ and become involved in a healthy, growing community of faith. The group believed that from God’s Vantage Pointe, nothing would be Impossible for them.

They followed though on their faith by acting on three core values:

·       Loving God and loving people to God;
·       Growing people through biblical discipleship; and,
·       Engaging with the region so that the unchurched would know that Vantage Pointe’s God loves them and that He has a place of service for them in His kingdom

The fledgling group reached out to their family, friends and yet-to-be friends by gifting the community with events designed to touch the lives of people for Jesus and introduce them to Vantage Pointe’s ministry. This happened in city parks through annual Easter Egg Hunts, Family Fun Days, Trunk ‘n Treat events and through a backpack ministry in a local school. The group also partnered with community agencies like Open Door Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Warm the Children, and the Open Arms Pregnancy Center. It also offered the region a “City’s Biggest Baby Shower” to reach and support young families in need of baby clothing and supplies. An Antique Car Rally also occurred to share donations with needy veterans. Thousands of people have been touched by these outwardly-focused events.

The leaders of Vantage Pointe Church have invited the Eastern New York/New England District of The Wesleyan Church to partner with them in a special weekend called “Advance!”. It will be held October 2-4, 2015.  While the church has made good progress since its launch 3.5 years ago, Pastor Dean and the church’s leaders believe that there is yet much ground to take for Christ and for the people whom He died to save. The weekend will better equip the congregation and her leaders for effective ministry well into the next decade.

You can be a vital part of this event in one or more of the following ways:

·       Pray for the leaders and volunteers of Vantage Pointe as they prepare for the weekend and for open minds and hearts for what we will be taught/caught during this time
·       Attend special prayer events to help us “turn the soil” and receive whatever seed the Holy Spirit will plant in us
·       Offer to serve on a team that will do research in the areas of church history, demography, community reference, finances, food preparation and facility set-up
·       Commit to give so that whatever recommendations come our way, we can act on them without a shortage of volunteers or financial resources

The next days will be filled with much activity as we prepare spiritually and organizationally for our Advance! weekend. I’m excited to share these days with you!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why I Do It

I have the privilege of serving as District Secretary for the Eastern New York/New England District of The Wesleyan Church. This weekend my church - Vantage Pointe - is hosting the DBA for its Fall Retreat. There is a lot of work to be done behind the scenes to make this a powerful event in the lives of the members who serve with us:

  • Reports must be completed, collated and distributed
  • Facilities must be cleaned and set up
  • Food must be purchased and restaurants booked
  • Lodging must be secured for weary travelers
  • Schedules must be harmonized and confirmed
  • Prayers must be prayed for Divine Intervention to occur

We are blessed with an amazing office administrator who does a tremendous amount of work on our behalf (thanks, Cam!) and lay volunteers who do so much to help get things ready. 

As Rosalie and I left Wal-Mart at 11 PM last evening after picking up supplies and food stuffs, we talked about the weariness we felt after a very long day. One could be tempted to ask, "Why do you do it?" A variety of responses could float through the mind:

  • I have nothing else to do (not true!)
  • Someone has to do it (true, but a shallow response)

Here is some insights into why I serve:

  • The middle judicatory places rigorous demands on the superintendent. If I can lighten the load for him by caring for the myriad of details, this gives him freedom to serve without the strain of minutia bogging him down.
  • I believe in our district mission and gladly to do my part to help achieve what it is God is calling us to do and become as a people.
  • I know that a well-presented DBA Retreat results in members gaining clarity on the work of the district and discovering insights to help them make good decisions on behalf of the 40-some churches and many more pastors that labor to fulfill their calling in the local environs where they do life and serve those who are journeying toward eternity. 
  • There is joy in serving Christ, even when buying groceries, setting up chairs, and typing out meeting minutes. After all, He washed dirty feet and received a thorn crown in service to me!

In a few hours we will welcome our members from across the district to our facility in Queensbury, NY. They will serve with distinction with our superintendent and conduct what they pray will be beneficial service to the ministry that is ours. Most will not notice (nor should they!) the details that are in place so they enjoy an exceptional experience for the twenty-some hours they are with us. 

After I finish my administrative work, and re-set the church for Sunday, and care for the details that will be mine to manage before the day is done, I will turn out the lights and go home knowing that I played a small part in "Unleashing a team of energized leaders to multiply life-changing churches."

Now you know why I do it!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Welcome, Dear Friend!

I do not encourage cold and snow to march into these mountains and bring with him a shiver that makes it hard for me to rise from slumber and welcome the day. 

But I do invite my friend who carries cooler nights and milder days beneath her comforting sweater. 

Her presence signals the changing season and gives permission to the foliage to embrace its brilliant hue. 

Welcome, dear fall. I've been waiting for you!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Careful What You Ask For

I am reminded as I study today that I must be very careful what I ask for:

"It is often ignorance that seeks leadership, power, and glory: the brothers do not know what they are asking. To ask to reign with Jesus is to ask to suffer with him; and not only do they not know what they are asking for (cf. 10:37–39; Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:21), they have as yet no clear perceptions of Jesus’ sufferings. To ask for worldly wealth and much honor is often to ask for anxiety, temptation, disappointment, and envy; and in the spiritual arena to ask for great usefulness and reward is often to ask for great suffering (cf. 2 Cor 11:23–33; Col 1:24; Rev 1:9). 'We know not what we ask, when we ask for the glory of wearing the crown, and ask not for grace to bear the cross in our way to it” (Henry).'"

 Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 431). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Post Sabbatical Summary Report

Post Sabbatical Summary Report
Pastors Dean and Rosalie Brown
August 10, 2015

Rosalie and I returned home from our mini sabbatical on August 9, 2015. Of the 28 days were were on sabbatical, we spent 14 study days at the parsonage, 9 study/travel days in New York State and 5 days in New Brunswick, Canada where we studied and attended a family reunion. We rolled up thousands of miles on our Hyundai in the process!

You may be wondering, “What did you do on your mini sabbatical?” Here’s a partial answer to that question:

Studying and Dialoguing
We spent most of our time reading, studying, praying, and dialoguing about ministry and how God will use us to lead you in the years ahead. Topics included the myth of work-life balance, church finances, church relationships, pastoral counseling and care, resolving relational conflict, the necessity of understanding our cultural context so that we can assess the role our church plays in it and how we can better speak the language of our culture so as to win people to Jesus Christ.

One More Person
We held a marathon movie night by watching “Schindler’s List” and were broken for lost people by one of the final scenes in the movie. Oskar Schindler, a German weapons manufacture turned savior of the Jewish people, wept tears of regret, exclaiming, “I could have gotten one more person!” We wondered if, on the Judgment Day, we, too, will cry those same words of regret.

We studied the issues surrounding communication in the local church and learned that systems in an organization break down every time the organization triples in size. Our church is an organization that has more than tripled in size since 2011 and must, therefore, re-engineer its systems or we can expect organizational tensions to result.

Do’s and Don'ts
We studied the functions of a pastor and discerned the “To Do’s” and “Don’t Dos” that must now characterize our ministry.

Intentional Relationships 
We renewed our commitment to develop intentional relationships with those we lead so as to better equip them to serve at their fullest potential.

Schooled by the Holy Spirit
We were schooled by the Holy Spirit on many things, especially on the need to love one another because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4: 8). Ephesians 4: 32 also spoke in clarion tones to us as we set the tone of our ministry in the years to come: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ministry is a Marathon
We embraced the fact that ministry is a marathon and not a sprint and that incorporating silence and solitude into our lives will help keep our energy “topped up” and available to serve the church and our broader community.

Weaknesses and Strengths
We understood (again!) how fallible and weak we are as servants of our King, but that we lead best, not in the exercise of our strengths, but in the embrace and acceptance of our many weaknesses (2 Cor. 12: 9-10).

Whispers of the Spirit
We visited historical military sites in our region and heard the whisper of the Spirit reminding us that even though Satan will wage war against the church (as the British did the Americans in the Revolutionary War), we need not be intimidated by our size because the One who is in us is greater than the one who battles against us (1 John 4: 4). We were inspired by the fact that a small, rag-tag army led by George Washington could defeat an outstandingly-equipped British force much larger in strength and reputation!

Releasing Ministry
We accepted the reality that we cannot be the church’s custodians or building superintendents any longer and will better fulfill our roles as lead/assistant pastors as we release our facility to others who are uniquely gifted for the task.

Agile Programming
We were schooled in the concept of “Agile Programming”, a concept utilized in the software start-up world that helps companies remain flexible and informal as they set and achieve their goals.

Celebration of Progress
We celebrated the progress Vantage Pointe has made in the three years since she launched on Easter Sunday 2012. We visited churches where it was apparent that there had not been a DTP assessment!

Loving and Serving Lost People
We met people that did not know the Lord and yet had a Wesleyan Church in their community. In casual conversation, unsaved people spoke to us of the churches in their community and how they did not know the Wesleyan pastor because he was not out in the community where he could be known. We studied ministerial involvement in the community and resolved to return to one of our strengths as a couple – loving and serving people who do not yet come to Vantage Pointe Church.

Services and Campuses
We gave thought and study to the notion of a second service or a second campus/venue at Vantage Pointe.

Millennial Generation and Ministry
Because we're a growing church, and the millennial generation will play a role in our continued growth, we studied this generation in some detail and began the discovery of how best to reach, serve with and lead this talented group.

Personal Productivity for Ministers
We completed a 300+ page book on productivity while traveling in our car and implemented a complete renovation of our personal management systems so as to better deal with the myriad and growing responsibilities and inputs that rush into our lives on a daily basis.

Support and Sacrifices
While there is so much more we could write about our mini sabbatical, we wish to thank each one who supported us with their prayers, financial gifts, generous hospitality, and love. We’re also indebted to those who served in our place while we were away. We acknowledge that our absence meant more work for you but we’re confident that God will reward you and our church for your sacrifices.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Favourite iPhone Apps

Yes, I use an iPhone 5s. While many of my friends swear by their Android device, so much of what I like to use a phone for seem to work best for me in the Apple universe.

Here are my favourite apps, in no special order (I'll double asterisk my favourite/most used):

**1Password for my, uh, passwords!
**Dropbox's Carousel for photos
*Google's Chrome
**Dropbox for files
**Evernote for most EVERYTHING!!
**Nozbe for Projects, Next Actions, Goals and Horizons of Focus review
*Apple's Calendar
*Apple's Mail

Nothing fancy these apps work for me so I can live in a state of positive workflow.

What do you use?

Monday, February 2, 2015

I Love This!

“We are practised in pleading inadequacy in order to avoid living at the best God calls us to.” - Eugene Peterson

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Thursday in January 2015

Today is Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Today I'll change my pace a bit and spend some quality time in God's Word - the Bible - to hear from the One who created me and sustains my life in all its various forms.

While days like this are not regularly scheduled events, they do come and I do my best to seize the time to make a stronger connection with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I suppose I could ignore the inner promptings from The Holy One and motor on through my day. But I'm learning that there are more important things in life than checking off 5 more next actions on my Projects Lists. Those things have been captured and will be there when I return.  This day will never be repeated and my relationship with my Saviour is too valuable to me to carelessly skip past it.

So I'm shutting down my laptop and opening my heart and mind to all that He wishes to share with me.

Let the day begin!