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in Faith

Spiritual Formation is Essential

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Currently our staff, elders, and board are reading a great book called The Present Future by Reggie McNeal. The book talks about how important it is for the church to be missional, to go out and make a difference in the community, and to not simply exist for itself. But the book also stresses the vital role that spiritual formation plays in this process.

In chapter four, McNeals says, “Jesus facilitated spiritual formation in his disciples by introducing them to life situations and then helping them debrief their experiences.” He says, “Helping people grow, particularly in the arena of spiritual formation, is about unpacking life: challenging our emotional responses that are destructive (envy, hatred, bitterness); challenging our biases (racial prejudice, social and economic elitism, intellectual snobbery); challenging our assumptions (‘my needs are the most important’); challenging our responses; unpacking our frustrations, our hopes, our dreams, and our disappointments; bringing life to God rather than teaching about God, somehow hoping to get him into our life.” (McNeal 85-86).

One of the best questions we can ask ourselves is “Are we experiencing spiritual formation on a regular basis?” If not, then why not? It is different for everybody. For some it happens in Bible study, a Sunday School class, a small group, in worship, on a Habitat Build, hosting Room in the Inn, volunteering at Nashville Food Project, reading a good book, going on a retreat. There is no ONE WAY to do spiritual formation but it simply must be done. In the same way we tend to our bodies – diet, exercise, sleep - we must also tend to our souls.

In his book Spiritual Formation, Henri Nouwen says, “Spiritual formation prepares us for a life in which we move away from our fears, compulsions, resentments, and sorrows to serve with joy and courage in the world, even when this leads us to places we would rather not go.” Nouwen gives a specific example of what spiritual formation can look like: moving from resentment to gratitude. “Resentment blocks action; gratitude lets us move forward toward new possibilities. Resentment makes us cling to negative prisoners of our passions. Gratitude helps us to transcend our compulsions to follow our vocation. Resentment exhausts us by complicated jealousies and ambiguities, stirring up destructive desires for revenge. Gratitude takes our fatigue away and give us new vitality and enthusiasm.” (Nouwen 64).

Human beings yearn to grow spiritually but often don’t know where to begin. One of the reasons we constantly push small group at Woodmont is because small groups, when done well, enable spiritual formation. The world is stressful, busy, and often overwhelming. We all need a safe place where we can connect with God, tend to the soul, and form meaningful relationships. If we can’t find a way to do this regularly, life will wear us out, and leave us tired, fearful, and confused. Jesus can show us the way to fullness of life, but only if we let him.

Posted by Clay Stauffer with 0 Comments
in Faith

Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

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As many of you know, we are currently in the process of taking nominations for church leadership positions. Nominations will be accepted through the end of this month, January 31st. We are nominating one Treasurer, three At-Large Board Members, six Elders, and thirty Deacons. These are all very important positions in the life of this church I am thankful to Dr. Mark Clymer for chairing this year’s nominating committee – it is a big job. You can nominate by going to this link: 

www.bit.ly/nom2017.

I would like to share some honest thoughts with you about leadership because it is something that I think about and reflect upon often. I take my role as a leader very seriously. Leadership is important, but leadership is not easy. Leaders get both praised and criticized simultaneously. The criticism can hurt but it’s part of being in leadership. It is simply impossible to make everybody happy when it comes to a large, dynamic organization. Tony Jarvis talks about the challenges and even the “no win” predicament of leadership in his book With Love and Prayers: “If a leader is strong, undeterred by projection, blame, and calumny, he is then labeled as arrogant, as authoritative, as dictatorial. If he sets aside his initiatives, goes with the way the wind is blowing, if he backs down at all, he is immediately labeled as ‘weak’ and ‘a waffler’.” Leadership is not easy but is always necessary. In his book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Henri Nouwen says this: “In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out, and wants to heal. In that heart, there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred. It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response. It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope.”

Leadership expert John Maxwell says that “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” He has written numerous books over the years but in one of those books titled “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,” he names the primary qualities that need to be present. We should think about these as we nominate our leaders at Woodmont again this year. Here are a few: CHARACTER – What type of character does the person have? COMMITMENT – Are they committed to Woodmont and its mission? COMMUNICATION – Do they communicate well with others and receive input and feedback? COURAGE – Do they live courageously in the face of fear? GENEROSITY – Are they generous with their time, talent, and treasure? INITIATIVE – Do they take initiative or do they sit back and wait for somebody else to do it? LISTENING – Do they listen to others even if they disagree? PASSION – Are they passionate about Woodmont and all that happens here? POSITIVE ATTITUDE - Do they maintain a positive, hopeful spirit or do they criticize and bring others down? PROBLEM SOLVING – Do they help solve problems or help create them? RELATIONSHIPS – Are they good at cultivating relationships with others inside and outside of the church? RESPONSIBILITY – Are they responsible and can they handle additional responsibility? SELF-DISCIPLINE – Do they manage themselves well and are they committed to growing spiritually? SERVANTHOOD – Are they willing to lead by serving? TEACHABILITY – Are they willing to constantly learn and grow? VISION – Will they help us set a vision for the future? Obviously, not every leader has all of these qualities but these qualities are important as we choose those who will lead at Woodmont.

Ultimately, the example we follow is that of Jesus who said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He also said, “If any want to become my followers, they must DENY THEMSELVES, take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24) It is also important to ask if we are exhibiting the fruits of the spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22) Many people in our world long to be leaders but they are not willing to be servants. Many long for power and influence, but don’t want the responsibility and the accountability that comes along with it. You can’t have it both ways. We are blessed at Woodmont with many talented and gifted lay leaders. All of us are called to serve and put others before ourselves. As you think about nominees this year, please ask the following questions:

1) Are they serious about their faith and spiritual life?
2) Do they have a servant’s heart and have they demonstrated leadership ability?
3) Are they committed to the overall well-being of Woodmont and our mission?
4) Are they present on a regular basis in worship and in other activities/ministries and do they support Woodmont with their time, talent, and treasure?
5) Will they help move Woodmont forward in the years to come?


Blessings,

-Clay


P.S. Join us this Saturday morning Jan. 21st at 9 a.m. in Drowota Hall for a leadership breakfast with speaker Dr. Rubel Shelly. This is one way that we continue to learn and grow.

Posted by Clay Stauffer with 0 Comments

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