I am thinking a lot about our Pathway to Discipleship and other elements of our ministry at University UMC especially as we get closer to The Large Church Initiative 2010. I thought I would pause to take some reader input about what I should be writing about. Want to know more about the details of the pathway? Want to know how our tracking system works? Want to know about the Pathway to Membership? Want some data regarding our successes and struggles with the pathway? Want to know what we see as our biggest challenges? Post your questions and ideas for posts in the comments or let me know via email or twitter (@pastorwill).
The other night at our Charge Conference (that is the connectional decision making body for the local church in United Methodist governance) the chair of our Administrative Board began the opening devotional by reciting Psalm 100 from memory. I was taken at how powerful that simple action was. Had you asked me beforehand if there would be much of a difference between him reading it or reciting it from memory I would have responded that I didn’t think it would matter, but it did. That brief experience really convicted me about what we are about to do as we move into the second component of our series of series “Season with the Savior.”
During “That’s What the Man Said: Key Teachings of Jesus” February 7-March 14, 2010, we will offer one key verse each week and challenge members of the congregation to memorize it. It will be my job to offer some resources and tools and give some encouragement to people who are committing to this discipline.
I have to admit that this is new to me. Remember, I didn’t grow up in the church so I never did “Sword Drills” or any other memory work in Sunday school. But as I have been thinking about how we are going to do this, I have become more and more convinced about how vital and important it is.
I believe that scripture tells us that God wants scripture to be more than something on our shelves; God wants it to be in our hearts. Deuteronomy 6:6 reads,
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
God wants the word to dwell in us, to be part of our very being. Colossians 3:16 reads,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
If you have ever taken a Bible class with me, you might know that, for me, this is not as simple as memorizing key passages. I want people to know the overarching story of the Bible and the message that is heard from knowing the entire narrative of God’s relationship with God’s people. Just memorizing scripture doesn’t do this. However, when you combine the memorization of scripture with a life of comprehensive Bible study, these memorized passages become mental bookmarks. One verse calls to mind more than that verse. It calls to mind where it fits in the overarching story of redemption. It becomes a bookmark to remember all of God’s word to us.
I challenge you to try it. Our first verse will come Sunday, February 7th. We will cover it in worship and then have the whole week to memorize and live with it. I look forward to hearing how it goes and how this time with scripture affects individuals and the congregation as a whole.
Don’t know where to start? Check back on the weblog, I will be posting some tricks, tips and resources in the coming days.
A lot of people assume that, because I am a pastor, the busiest times of my year revolve around Christmas and Easter. However, I am a specialized associate pastor so my life works just a little bit different. In the history of my ministry, January has consistently been the busiest month by far. There are two reasons for that.
One, because I have always worked in the area of Christian Education and Spiritual formation, January begins a new 'semester.' We launch a lot of new classes and studies in January. We also do that in the fall but summer gives a lot more time to prepare. Because the church and society are so busy from late November through the end of December, January courses involve a lot more last minute participation. There is also something about the beginning of a new year that causes a lot more people to show interest in learning and growing.
Two, because the end of the year is so busy, January seems to be a great time to catch up. And everybody seems to have the same idea. Thus, January becomes the busiest month of the year. So far this year, I have spent two nights in Dallas (my niece's wedding, that one was fun!) a night in Kerrville (for covenant connection), four days in Leakey (Annual Conference mid-winter youth camp - I had an amazing time.) The sporadic days I spent in town were pretty crammed full of kickoff sort of meeting and meetings to finish up 2009. (In fact I have one more of those tonight as we have our second Charge Conference to finalize University's budget.)
Needless to say, my attention to the blog, twitter and facebook have been seriously cut, especially because those days in Leakey were completely cut off from the world except for one of those phones that are actually attached to the wall.
I am looking forward to getting back in the office, back to my books and back to the blog. In the mean time, our Directing Pastor Charles Anderson has gone kicking and screaming into the current era with his blog debut and he is posting more faithfully than me. Check him out at:
I am trying to remember exactly how I find myself in 2 Chronicles, Lamentations, Acts and Revelation. At the beginning of 2009, I made a commitment to to be more devoted to my daily Bible reading and prayer life. Somewhere in January, I decided that a fresh journey through the entire Bible was in order. That went fine for a couple of months, but then I got sidetracked. It wasn't that I stopped reading the Bible everyday, I just diverted from the systematic journey through the Bible I had planned. That was fine for a while. Then, at some point in the fall (I can't remember exactly when) it became clear that I was going to need to get back to reading all the way through. And I was pretty clear that it needed to get it done by the end of the year, which was a little scary because I had not gotten very far by then. I got back on the system that I had devised at the beginning of the year. I find the Bible a little overwhelming just going front to back, so I split it up and read some from multiple sections every day (for instance: Torah, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels, Letters.) Doing this in nearly every free moment throughout the fall, I almost made it. I was on track to get it all done by December 31st... and then... we got two new foster kids. If you are a parent, you will fully understand how that sort of thing can get in the way of well-laid plans.
So, I slowed down but I didn't stop and I have not given up. If you look on the right side of the blog, you will see where I am. Here are the books of the Bible I need to cover to finish this journey:
2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (fortunately the minor prophets are pretty short), plus the rest of Lamentations, Acts and Revelation.
A few thoughts: First, this is certainly not my first time to read the Bible but I think this will end up being the fastest. (I did actually start in January but 95% of the reading has happened in just a few months.) Second, it never ceases to amaze my the new things I find every time. And I am just not talking about how I see things in new ways. There are whole narratives that I simply forget about and that seem brand new. It is absolutely amazing.
Theologian J.I. Packer once wrote "Every Christian worth his salt reads the Bible cover-to-cover every year." I know that for many that sounds impossible to do every year but I know that there are lots of Christians who have never read the Bible cover-to-cover ever. I know that there are lots of Christians who have never read more than small sections of the Bible. (I mean, raise your hand if you know what is in Nahum.)
Anyway, pray for me as I get through the rest of the books this time through. And keep your eyes on the blog and on the u|news, we will be focusing on Bible reading this year at University.
2010 is a big year for University United Methodist Church. All churches are in the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ and University has been working over the last couple of years to be singularly focused on that mission. We have developed and implemented our Pathway to Discipleship and engaged an impressive percentage of our new members in a systematic journey towards discipleship development. 2010 brings us to the next step in our journey. This past Sunday, we kicked off Season with the Savior, a six-month all church emphasis designed to engage the entire church is looking to Jesus in order to look more like Jesus. It is designed around the three-fold Pathway to Discipleship: looking at how we have a Jesus meeting, learn the Jesus message, and begin to hear our mission from Jesus. The series extends beyond the sermons. Our journey together involves our Sunday school classes and other small-group Bible studies and is coordinated with our Pathway to Discipleship offerings.
I am excited about the series and also excited about the timing. We will be right in the middle of this series as we host The Large Church Initiative 2010 which is focused on "Disciple-Making and Decision-Making in the Large Church." We will be sharing a lot about our pathway for making disciples and it will be great that the entire church will be focused on meeting, message and mission.
You can read more about Season with the Savior at The U's website:
Rev. Will Rice is Pastor of Communications and Outreach at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio. Will and his wife Alisha live in San Antonio with their sons Joshua and Sam, and their dogs Violet, Goliath and Lola and a box turtle named Simon.