The Signals We Send With Boundaries Training

In my new role as Regional Minister for the Christian Church in the Southwest, I have some responsibility for the standing of our clergy.  Here’s a blog post I wrote for our website.  It’s primarily for ministers, but I’d welcome others’ thoughts also.

For many years my wife taught in the same elementary school where at least one of my children attended.  Often, I had reasons to go into the school as a parent or as a spouse.  The protocol for visiting the school was the same each time.  I’d go in, show my license to the clerk working there, register my reason for being in the school, and pick up a visitor sticker.  I was to wear the sticker while in the building.  Sometimes, this process took more time than the actual visit would.  Still, I did it every time.

Occasionally, the receptionist or attendance clerk would apologize to me for the bureaucracy.  Surely there should have been some “frequent visitor” pass I received, but I saw the process differently.  To me, the process sent a signal of respect to the educational staff at their school.  I respected their efforts to keep children safe and cooperated with their protocols.  It also sent a signal to the children themselves.  One of the ways they learn to tell the difference between the people they can trust and the people they can’t trust is by watching whether people follow the rules they’re supposed to follow.  That doesn’t mean that everyone who side-stepped the protocols was up to no good.  And it doesn’t mean that everyone who abided by the protocols was always trustworthy, but it was an important sign.

I view Boundaries Training in the same light.  Every five years, commissioned and ordained clergy are required to go through the Healthy Boundaries training.  Taking this training sends some important signals.

  1. It sends a signal to our colleagues.  Our attention to boundaries training sends the signal that we take our professional accountability seriously.  It says that we abide by the rules established by the region and we expect others who bear the title “Minister” to do the same.
  2. It sends a signal to our congregations.  It tells our congregation that we understand that ministers connect with people in difficult and vulnerable moments and we intend to preserve the trust that has been given to us.
  3. It sends a signal to our culture.  We know that many ministers have over-stepped the boundaries and have acted inappropriately.  We do not intend to ignore the abuse that people have endured and we will take the steps to be transparent and accountable.

If you have yet to take Healthy Boundaries training or you’re about to reach the five year mark since you last completed it, I encourage you to participate in one of the upcoming trainings.  Here’s a list of the ones that have been scheduled.  We will have more scheduled in the coming months.

  • December 2 (Saturday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm) – Healthy Boundaries Training at Riverside Disciples Ministry Center in Fort Worth – register online or call Regional office at 817-926-4687
  • January 20 (Saturday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm) – Healthy Boundaries Training at First Christian Church in Carrollton – online registration or call Regional office at 817-926-4687
  • February 5 (Monday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm) – Healthy Boundaries Training at University Christian Church in Fort Worth – online registration or call Regional office at 817-926-4687

Creation and Covenant Meeting Minutes

While digging through some very old meeting minutes, I located this summary that I thought I would share:

The Chair called the meeting to order saying, “Let there be light.”  It was seconded by the Spirit hovering over the waters.  The motion was approved. There was light.

A subsequent motion was made to make of Abram and Sarai a great nation.  The motion was amended to change the names to Abraham and Sarah.  After floor debate, the motion was approved.  Abraham believed–the treasurers reported credited him with righteousness.

A motion was made to deliver the descendants of Abraham and Sarah from captivity in Egypt.  A one-person delivery team was nominated from the Chair and after addition from the floor, Moses and Aaron and Miriam were then authorized to requisition God’s people from slavery. The governing powers objected.  The Chair overturned the objections.  The motion was approved.

The convener of the rules and regulations committee gave a report from the Sinai conference indicating two tablets representing duty to the Chair and duty to others had been proposed.  After idol-demolition and rewrite, the tablets were reissued.  Since the motion came from committee no second was needed.  No objections were heard.  The motion was approved.

Reports were given by the wandering in the wilderness committee, the occupation committee, and the judges committee.  A motion was made to accept the reports.  The motion approved.

The monarchy committee announced the selection of the King Saul.  He was approved by unanimous consent.  Following his ascent, he was removed from office by the chair who appointed King David and then King Solomon. The motion was approved.

A move was made to divide the kingdom into two division.  The proposed northern division retained the name Israel.  A rebranding campaign was approved for the southern division to be called Judah.  Eventually, both division fell and went through restructure.  A motion was made to rebuild the capital and the temple.  The motion was approved.

The chair gave the staff report.  Throughout the meeting, the people made mistakes and suffered the consequences for their mistakes but, they never exceeded the statutes of limitations on God’s favor. Th Chair moved that, “The Lord, Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  Although the motion needed no second nor was it subject to vote is was seconded and seconded and seconded again.  The motion was approved.

Getting Personal, Part 1

The phrase, “personal relationship with Jesus” has come under fire recently. Last week, a blogger wrote, “Here’s the things:  Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus.”  A couple of years ago a  blogger opposing  the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus said, “The concept itself is purely subjective; there is really no way to define it, and there is no way to observe it.”  I do think the problem revolves around definitions.  Not that we cannot define what we mean by a personal relationship with Jesus, simply that we don’t.  The objections raised about an exclusive focus on the personal relationship with Jesus are valid and need to be heard.  The idea that a personal relationship with Jesus is the same thing as a private relationship with Jesus is even more problematic. But I also believe that the personal side of a relationship with Jesus Christ can’t be neglected.  This week, I’ll try to address what I see as some of the important aspects of maintaining a balance between the personal and communal modes of Christianity.  Today I’ll begin by defining what I mean with the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

  1. Christian faith is a choice that a person makes for themselves.  Notice I didn’t say “by themselves.”   A person’s Christian faith relies on the people who surrounded them, the witness of the church over the ages, the Disciples and Apostles and first witnesses.  That said, the great cloud of witness that surrounds any one person cannot impose faith on that person.  The person makes a choice or doesn’t. In congregations like the one I grew up in and the one I currently serve, a person’s individual faith-decision is marked with baptism.  In churches that baptize infants, confirmation marks the choice of a person to become a follower of Jesus Christ.  To say that it is personal is not to suggest that it is the autonomous discovery of the individual apart from the witness of the church or that faith is the result of direct revelation to the individual.  It’s simply to say–people are Christian because they choose to be Christian.  The choice is personal.
  2. Individual spiritual practices are helpful resources.  Spiritual disciplines like prayer, scripture reading, meditation, and fasting are solitary experiences.  These do not exclude the necessity of corporate worship, group Bible study, spiritual retreats and hospitality.  In fact, I find that they mutually benefit one another.  But when I speak of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I mean these practices that a person adopts on a personal level.
  3. Individual sanctification happens.  Jesus taught about individual behaviors like anger (Matthew 5:21-26), lust (5:27-30), humility in the practice of spiritual acts  (Matthew 6:3-4, 6:5-6, 6:16-18), and worry (Matthew 6:25-33).  Much of the Sermon on the Mount is dedicated to showing how God’s reign is lived out in a person’s intellectual and emotional lives.  Seeking to obey God within these spaces belongs to what I refer to when I say a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
  4. Individual decision making is a context in which God’s will can be sought.
  5. There is a mysterious connection between people as individual persons and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

To use an analogy, I have two brothers.  Each one of us has a personal relationship with our mother.  We will be in relationship with each other–inevitably because we are a part of her life and so no one of us can relate to her without being exposed to the relationship she has with the others.   If we truly love my mother–and we truly do–we have to be in relationship with each other.  We have to work together.  Yet, we each have our own memories, engage in our own conversations, and love her in our own way.  It’s personal and through our personal commitments it is also fraternal.  Our participation in the life of Christ is inherently communal, but that does not eliminate the need for personal relationship.

THE CALL and the calls

Much of answering “THE CALL” involves answering the calls.   This is a detour from our normal daily Bible study.  It’s just what’s on my mind tonight after a very full day of ministry.  The Call of God comes and it’s a moment of tremendous joy—for some it is ecstatic.  Wednesday, March 1, 2017 was the 36th anniversary of my public profession of faith. The day I said yes to Christ was a day of joy for me.  I was baptized a week later.  And that, too, was a day of great joy.  A few years later, I made another decision to follow God’s call to vocational ministry.  I’ve joined my life with churches in Abilene, Canyon, and Old Ocean, Texas.  I’ve answered calls to serve churches in Amarillo, Weatherford, DeSoto, Irving and Arlington, Texas.  Each of those movements in ministry has had a “CALL” experience.  They have come with joy, affirmation, and warmth.

Yet in my 25 years of ministry, here’s what I’ve discovered—answering THE CALL involves answering the calls.  It’s answering the call to go visit someone in the hospital, answering the call to care for someone grieving, answering the call to go to some meeting to see how collaboration might occur, calling the AC repair guy to look at the unit that doesn’t seem to be working.  For some, THE CALL takes them to places like India and Africa.  I’ve been on the roof, the boiler room and the nursery.

I’m not tooting my own horn—or maybe I am.  I just know that the people who tend to read my blog are in similar shoes.  They’re the folk who take THE CALL to be Sunday School Teacher and then take the calls about pinpointing the minutia details of Bible study, searching for accessible language for complex idea, doing Bible study and preparing lessons even when the game is on.  It’s taking the calls about Sunday School parties and fellowships and how we might follow-up on the prayer concern that was voiced last week.  They are the folk who take THE CALL to be Elders and Deacons and then the calls to help arrange communion to our Beloveds (the folk who can’t get out and attend church like they once did), or help prepare a meal at church—for Ash Wednesday perhaps.  They are the people of take THE CALL to be God’s salt and light in the world.

All too often the joy of THE CALL gets buried somewhere underneath the calls.  I get it.  Burn-out happens–frustration, stagnation, feelings of futility.  THE CALL is great.  The calls . . . eh, maybe not so much.  Yet here’s what we know:  Without answering the calls answering THE CALL is just a good intention.  It’s a dream with no awakening.  The calls are the place where THE CALL gets lived out.  A few words from me to myself—feel free to listen in.

  1. Accept that there are days when you need to not answer the calls.  Biblically, that’s one out of seven.  A day of rest.  You should not feel guilt or anxiety over the calls you can’t make.
  2. The calls deserve the same prayer, faithfulness and spirituality that THE CALL received. It’s how the calls become transformative.
  3. Some days, the calls seem to obscure THE CALL. Some days, though, it’s the calls that lead you back.  And those days—and may they increase in number and strength—are the days to watch and pray for.