Friday, May 29, 2009

A congregation to visit: Bethlehem Lutheran Church Lakewood

Bethlehem Lutheran Church and School Lakewood is a diverse congregation that understands its calling to be a regional center for Missouri Synod Lutheran Christianity, to be an equipping place that helps as many people as possible experience the fullness of life in Jesus:

  • Cultivating remarkable worship, that people would receive and respond to God’s gifts,
  • Intentionally discipling, that people would become more like Jesus,
  • Nurturing significant relationships, that people would grow spiritually by sharing together their life in Jesus.

They offer a broad range of opportunities for people to engage with God and with each other.

Their features include:

Two worship sites running simultaneously on the same campus
Saturday – Contemporary worship, Sunday - Traditional and Contemporary worship
MIDI technology (computer controlled instruments) integrated into contemporary worship
Dynamic leadership training for ministry team leaders
Thriving and well-organized LifeLight Bible study program for 300+ adults
Day school ranked consistently in Denver’s top 25 private schools.
370 in the Day school, Preschool through 8th grade
Expanding rotational Children’s Ministry
Youth Coffee Shop/Ministry Center
Fall musicals drawing crowds of 2,000 on a weekend
Mission field is the 100 foot circle around each member
A staff that works and plays well together
Emphasis on staff health/wellness and healthy boundaries
Team-based governance
Ownership of a medical complex divided between church use and medical tenants
Willingness to try new things
Identity as a “sending place” with several internship programs including a vicar
Family Ministry Resource Center to strengthen family life

There are even some resources available which you may be able to adapt and use, including devotional DVDs

Go to

Paper: A process of discipleship, Gifts discovery and Spiritual Formation

Randall Olsen has put together an academic paper that is practical, relevant and informative for new houselholders of Ascension Lutheran Church but also for others interested in developing and having in place a process that welcomes, nurtures and encourages new disciples in their congregation.

The paper is available at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Video devotions from Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Lakewood offers 5 video devotions available online, including one on fear, big, global, veils and filled.

You are welcome to view them at

Stories of our hymns

Singing hymns are an important part of the Christian life, but our life is enhanced even further when we know the story behind the hymns

Stories behind our hymns provide stories and reflections about many of the hymns including those written by:
Clement of Alexandria
John of Damascus
Joseph the Hymnographer
Rhabanus Maurus
Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Cluny
Martin Luther
Paul Speratus
Paul Eber
Nikolaus Decius
Nikolaus Selnecker
Bartholomaus Ringwaldt
Martin Behm
Philipp Nicolai
Johann Heermann
Jacob Fabricius
Martin Rinckart
Paul Gerhardt
Thomas Kingo
Hans Brorson
Nikolai Grundtvig

you can find the stories at

Lutheran Leadership 10: Handling complaints in a healthy way

Complaints are inherit part of being church, especially a church that is welcoming, has a diverse range of people and lives the reality of being a bunch of saints and sinners. If you want a biblical example of a church complaining, read 1st and 2nd Corinthians and see how they acted and how St Paul responded.

Some complaints are legitimate, that is why we have processes in place and biblical guidance. Many other complaints are not legitimate especially when you consider the full context of a situation and what the church is called to do.

The following teaching is about dealing with complaints in a healthy way, a way that encourages others and helps us grow more like Christ and as the body of Christ.

Some of the issues that lead to complaints
We have the basic issue of sin, people mess up and people think primarily of themselves. We sin and people sin against us.

At times, we think of ourselves as individuals above what we agree and have agreed to do together as the body of Christ. Our position by itself may not necessarily be wrong, but it is wrong when we are part of the Body of Christ and yet put our position above that or in competition to the rest of the body.

At times, we don’t understand the context God has called us to shine His light into. We ignore generational differences, time differences, cultural differences, geographical differences and social differences.

At times, our loyalty is to things other than God. (ie. We are more interested in a particular style of worship, our friends, maintaining a tradition, even an attitude of what is right in church, money or anything else above God.)

At times, we allow the law to dominate over the Gospel (ie. We don’t help people see that God accepts them and forgives them), or we don’t speak any law at all, ultimately resulting in the Gospel being irrelevant (ie. We allow people to do whatever they want).

Responding to complaints
When it comes to complaints, God gives us some fundamental tools and principles.
The primary principles come from scripture.

The most frequent scripture passage used by the Christian Community is Matthew 18:15-20
15 "If a brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Two other important passages in this area are:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Ephesians 4:29-32
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Also Luther’s Small Catechism offers some guidance…
The Eighth Commandment says
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. Luther also pointed out that the bible says we are not to tell lies about others, betray or slander them or destroy their reputation. Instead we are to always defend them, speak well of them and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

These three passages and Luther’s explanation to the 8th Commandment highlight that there is a process and attitude which is biblical when it comes to complaints.
1/ They recognise that complaints will occur.
2/ Forgiveness and love are essential goals in dealing with complaints.
3/ When we have an issue with someone in the church (or a group) we should first meet with that person or when it is a complaint against a team decision or action, the responsible team leader. We should not to wait for a meeting, especially a congregational meeting. If we don’t believe it has been dealt with appropriately we need to inform the person we have complained to and then bring the issue up with the relevant team. If it still has not been handled appropriately then it becomes a matter for the BCL (Church Council) and then the congregation as a whole.
4/ Our motivation for raising issues is to encourage people, build them up and help people and the church grow.

What happens when others complain to us or we hear a complaint on the grapevine?
One of the most damaging complaints in a church is the anonymous complaints, eg. someone has told me, I have heard on the grapevine, etc.. People who raise such complaints should not expect any action to occur in regards to their complaint. Apart from ignoring biblical principles, these complaints are damaging because:
· We cannot clarify the nature of the complaint, there maybe misunderstandings.
· It does not allow informed discussion about the complaint, why an issue occurred or what is happening.
· It does not allow people to defend themselves, explain their actions or provide another side of the story against a complaint.
· It prohibits us educating people of why and how certain things occur or do not occur, or even what it means to be church at our congregation.
The most appropriate way to handle these complaints officially is to ignore them until the person who instigated the complaint is prepared to come forward.

What to do when people complain to us about someone else?
If we are not the appropriate person when we hear people complaining, an appropriate and biblical consistent approach to take is:
1/ Listen to them. They maybe just blowing off steam or getting an opinion if others think that way.
2/ Encourage them to take the complaint to the person or team they have a complaint with. If they are not confident in doing this, say you are prepared to go with them, but you will not speak on their behalf. It is not your role to represent them and bring complaints to others on their behalf. As a last resort, encourage them to talk the issue over with the pastor.
3/ If they are unwilling to go directly to the person they have a complaint against encourage them to drop the issue and forget about it, suggest they read the above passages. Also don’t listen to the complaint any further.

If someone complains to us or to the team we are leading.
1/ Listen to them.
2/ Clarify with them what their complaint is.
3/ Let them know we are following the principles in the above bible passages.
4/ Put the complaint into context. What have others said? How many have complained? Has there been praise for the very thing people are complaining about? Does a once off, mean it happens all the time?
5/ Explain your side of the story and why things were done or not done.
6/ Judge your complaint and actions based on what we are called to do as a church, against what our congregation’s objects are, our mission statement, your team’s responsibilities, our congregation’s decisions, member’s responsibilities and what scripture say.
7/ If necessary agree to disagree.
8/ Seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness.
9/ Pray to God about the situation
10/ Help the person be more involved in the congregation.

Due to laws and our responsibility as a congregation if you hear of a complaint of a criminal matter, sexual abuse nature or abuse relating to children or the elderly regardless of how you have heard it this must be discussed immediately with the pastor of the congregation and not discussed widely.
© 2009 Richard Schwedes. Please feel free to use this for congregational and church use.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mother's Day and worship

Mother's Day seems to arch up some emotional discussion when it comes to worship.
On one extreme some worship services seem to glorify the mother above God, people are caught up in the entire day. The there are those who are so fed up with the commercialism of Mother's Day or they are so worried about offending those who can't be mothers that when you attend worship services led by them you wouldn't even know mother's exist.

Both responses to Mother's Day deny the Gospel, God speaking to us in the situations we live in. Neither of these responses I believe are biblical or helpful to us in seeing how God is at work in our lives.

I have always preferred to take the point of view that Mother's Day is a great opportunity to remember how we have been blessed through our mothers (even if it is only the life we have), how mother's aren't always perfect but God is and that biblically and realistically one of the main ways people receive the faith is through their mothers.

Ideas for worship in mother's day
Lutheran Church of Australia's suggestions for mother's day worship
History and ideas from Rev Richard J Fairfield
Family Worship
New ideas from Baptist Press
Ideas from the Reformed Church in America
Fresh ideas for Mother's day
Mother's Day Litany based on Proverbs 31
Mother's Day service ideas from John Mark ministries
Hymn suggestions
A new hymn for Mother's Day
Mother's Day Remembrance pin

Bible readings
Proverbs 1:7-9
Ephesians 6:1-3
John 19:25-27

Hymn Suggestions
Make me a channel of your peace
Now thank we all our God

Friday, May 08, 2009

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Discover your spiritual approach

God has created each person different and as a result there are some legitmate ways to relate to God. Not every Christian relates to God in the same way.

Natural Church Development will release a book in October 2009 relating to people discovering and understanding other people's spirituality.

In the meantime you and your friends can undertake a survey to discover more about how you relate to God and compare this with others at your congregation

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Online training for Sunday people living a Monday world

Life Journey Ministries has its roots in the Lutheran Church Missouri synod.
It is committed to helping Christians live out their Christian calling by helping them:
  • Understand and live their newness and freedom in the Gospel
  • Clarify and be empowered to perform their distinctive God-given purpose and irreplaceable contribution in life wherever God places them
  • Develop deeper dialogue and relationship with God
  • Help others meet and experience God
  • More intentionally be God’s presence in the world as we partner with Him in caring for life as accessed and influenced through our various arenas of life

Currently they offer the following online courses:

  • Managing Conflict From a Christian Perspective
  • Touring the Sites of Biblical Leadership
  • Called to Be Free, on-line
  • Freed to Let Faith Transform Your Work
  • Soul Talk in the Workplace

For further information visit