Friday, March 21, 2014

FLD Spring Conference Live Blog 2014

For the next two days I'll be live blogging from the Forest Lakes District, EFCA Spring Conference 2014 located at Highlands Community Church in Wausau, WI. The keynote speakers are Gordon and Gail MacDonald speaking on the theme of Shepherding: Ourselves, Our Families, & Others. Check back for updates as we go!

Gordon MacDonald

Session 1:
  • Thank you for the invitation to be here...I met Gail 53 years ago in Feb…4 weeks later we were engaged, and 4 months later we were married…my first experience with an Evangelical Free church was in college in Colorado...When did pastoral ministry first come to me? Growing up as a child in a Christian home…renewed vision of what it means to follow Christ in college. How was I to follow Christ? At first, the last thing I wanted to do was become a pastor...During a discussion in college, “bashing” the church and pastoral ministry, a professor called our attention to Ac 20:28 (NIV), "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” The professor asked, “What do you hear in those verses?” We saw in this passage the great importance of the church, which was purchased by the blood of Christ...Suddenly, I saw how important the church and the work of pastoral ministry was to God and how important it should be to me.
  • It’s interesting in the Bible that there is a picture of an infinite, holy, and righteous God dealing with people…how do we understand this relationship? There are places that use metaphorical images to help us understand God: God as a Father…King…Judge…Deliverer, etc. One of the greatest metaphor for God is that of a Shepherd. In both OT and NT, God is pictured as a Shepherd. (Ps 23:1-6) Every line from Psalm 23 sinks into the soul. You could read it 1,000 times and get something new every time. Ps 23 tells us a lot about how ancient people saw the role of a shepherd. It’s hard to think of anyone in those times who wasn’t familiar with the role of shepherd. Shepherds didn’t have a positive image in the culture of that day. Beware of glamorizing shepherds as beautiful, tender people...these were tough guys. What do we learn from Ps 23?
    • The Feminine Side of Pastoral Leadership (Ps 23):
      • He makes me life down
      • He leads me beside quiet waters
      • He restores my soul
    • The Masculine Side of Pastoral Leadership (Ps 23):
      • He guides me
      • He’s with me in the valley of the shadow of death
      • Your rod and your staff they comfort me
  • Ezekiel 34 is the opposite of Ps 23. In Ps 23, the Lord gathers the sheep in a quiet place but in Eze 34, the shepherds of the people were scattering them in a harsh and brutal place. In the rest of Eze 34, the Lord describes negatively the role that which we as pastors are supposed to positively take (look after, rescue, gather, heal, feed, search for the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak)...A painting from Peter Brueghel called Unfaithful Shepherd illustrated the shepherds of Eze 34.
  • In Ac 20, Paul exhorts the elders of Ephesus to shepherd the flock that God cares so much about. Not to be the unfaithful shepherd of Eze 34, but the faithful shepherd of Ps 23...By the way, I don’t limit the work of the shepherd to the ordained, trained clergyman, but also to the lay women and men who do the work of the shepherd in the local body with the shepherd’s heart of the Lord.
  • 9 Traits of Effective Shepherds:
    1. They are “first-followers,” modeling the way of spiritual growth
    2. They point people to Jesus
    3. They lead people in worship
    4. They identify teachable people and “build” them
    5. They offer hope to the struggling or the failing person; present in chaos]
    6. They encourage, bless, and unite people to live faithfully
    7. They detect danger, offer correction
    8. They inspire faith
    9. They are street-faith rated

Session 2:
  • This evening’s talk is something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time…who are those who lead people through the uncertainty and danger of life? (people facing these things like a bug facing a row of stomping boots) The shepherds among us. Could anyone have had a more difficult job than Moses in leading a complaining people through a land of uncertainty and danger? Ex 33:7-11, when the people watched their shepherd speak with the Lord (face to face!), they would worship. The privilege of the shepherd is to quiet the sheep to be able to experience the peace of God. What are some of the things that people are seeking when they come to our places of worship on Sunday? What if you had a “TSA” scanner as people were coming in to worship to see what the prevailing moods and difficulties? What if you knew what percent who…had a fight…were in anxiety…etc.? Would it in any way affect the way we preach? pray? speak encouragement to people? What if we used that scanner as people left the worship service? Would they look any different? What would you like people take out of the worship service? Do we know as much about our people (on a Sunday morning) as a shepherd knows about their sheep?
  • Seven Possibilities in Worship:
    1. A "vision" of triune God
    2. Grace and growth
    3. Gratitude
    4. Intercessory prayer
    5. Sense of belonging
    6. Courage & hope
    7. Faithful presence

Gordon and Gail MacDonald

Session 3:
  • Snippets of conversation between Gordon and Gail MacDonald...
    • Gordon: We’ve been married for 53 years and I would have to say that shepherding has really been a common component through all those years.
    • Gail: part of the shepherding role that a wife has is to listen to your husband’s dreams…this is sometimes scary, but is really important.
    • “We build each other!” Gordon: do you remember how we came to this phrase? Gail: When our children were young, there was a time when our kids were really after each other. Gordon: we were so frustrated that I went to them and said, “No matter what’s going on out there in the world, in this family, we build each other.” There are many examples from Scripture where we are exhorted to build each other.
  • Importance of gratitude…thank you notes…maybe the loss of gratitude is the reason many relationships die…when gratitude goes away, that’s when the walls go up.
  • Gordon: What you may do when you say the wrong thing in a relationship, you may squelch the relationship for years...In the moment, I was thinking, “There are ways of loving Gail that I haven’t even discovered.” Over the years Gail was so supportive of my sermon prep…I realized that I never asked the question, “What is Gail’s ‘sermon’ that I could be supportive of?”
  • Gail: We have to think of love like electricity going around in a circuit. The more we love the more goes through the whole circuit of a relationship.
  • Gordon: Building each other up is a day by day by day objective.
  • Gail: It has to be two people. It won’t work if one person stops.

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