COULD YOUR CHURCH HAVE THE WRONG TYPE OF CHURCH PROGRAMS?

ARE YOU A PASTOR OR PART OF A MINISTRY TEAM WRESTLING

with routine, long-standing church programs that have flatlined and volunteers feeling burnout?  Are you struggling to identify the right programs to reach your community that can remove the invisible “member’s only” sign at the church door? 

Learn and integrate The Stranger to Neighbor Experience Blueprint in 4-Weeks. Pivot from a schedule of programs to a dynamic mission-building plan of action.  Feel new life flow through the veins of your church, energize conversations and build new relationships, jumpstart fresh volunteers to serve. Experience new partnerships in Spirit-led missions and transformational change through Christ-like outreach.

Yellow-and-Red-Burger-Recipe-Book-Cover COULD YOUR CHURCH HAVE THE WRONG TYPE OF CHURCH PROGRAMS?
 

MODULE 1: LIGHTS ON!

Discover the four relationships that will supercharge your congregation to experience new clarity in spiritual growth.

Yellow-and-Red-Burger-Recipe-Book-Cover COULD YOUR CHURCH HAVE THE WRONG TYPE OF CHURCH PROGRAMS?

MODULE 2:  SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER

Know how to ask the right questions and engage powerful conversations that will guide you to hear all voices so you can build community trust.

MODULE 3: FOCUSISITY  

Yellow-and-Red-Burger-Recipe-Book-Cover COULD YOUR CHURCH HAVE THE WRONG TYPE OF CHURCH PROGRAMS?


Shift your focus from a transactional mindset to transformational experiences that deliver “WOW!” outreach every time.

Module 4: LIVE YOUR MINISTRY!    

Yellow-and-Red-Burger-Recipe-Book-Cover COULD YOUR CHURCH HAVE THE WRONG TYPE OF CHURCH PROGRAMS?

Create your ESSENTIAL MINISTRY BLUEPRINT so that your church ministries experience deeper connections with your community. Next, systematically evaluate new and existing programs for repeatable ministry success.

GET STARTED AND SIGN UP NOW ! http://www.diaspra.com/services

Risen Indeed!

Like many, it is my tradition to participate in a Sunrise Service for Easter Sunday Worship. This year, I attended the City Wide Community worship in Charlotte. Several Christ communities gathered together among the towering buildings in Romare Bearden Park  to worship in the coolness of this morning’s air. Each presenter shared music, prayer, and God’s spoken word from the cultural context of their own church community. The gathering was praise filled and inclusive. Throughout the service, I was thankful for these Christ communities who intentionally gathered together from different denominations and ethnic cultures to worship God during Resurrection Sunday. It is the most appropriate way to gather in an act of worship for the one who died for us all. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Easter Risen Indeed!

Voices raised in the shadow of Charlotte’s Towering Buildings at the City Wide Community worship in Romare Bearden Park , Charlotte NC

Love Will Change Your Life

casstle Love Will Change Your LifeThe world witnessed the power of love and a real time example of how love crosses boundaries and moves us to acknowledge and embrace our differences.  The royal wedding offered an opportunity to experience intercultural worship.  It was a teachable moment to shift our personal lives and church communities from cultural exclusion to inclusion.

If you woke up early to witness the event, hear the music, the preacher, the vows, and intentional moments throughout the service, did you have a personal experience?  Was there something about this celebration to challenge your beliefs about ethnicity and community?  If so, what was it?  Specifically, what aspect of this celebration caused you to think about your own life, your relationships, or the celebrations of worship in your church community? Are you living a life of inclusion?

Anytime we feel challenged, there are two possible reactions.  We can respond or not.  We can continue to dig into the challenge or we can walk away.  In the book of Esther, a young woman was challenged in her identity behind the palace walls. Her cousin Moredecai, pleads for her to take action and speak out to save the people of her birth.  Esther denied his request. She did not believe she had the power to change the tragic law imposing death to her people. Mordecai did not give up and continues his plea. Esther awakens to both her identity and comfort hidden behind the palace walls and confronts the challenge to change the lives of many.

This story reminds me how easy it is to shield ourselves behind cultural walls of identity. The new princess created pathways of inclusion during her wedding celebration.  Regardless of our identity, we too can learn lessons of love from Esther and Meghan.

  • Become active to dissolve walls of exclusion and racism.  
  • Embrace opportunities for relationships across cultural boundaries.  
  • Interrupt your comfort.  Engage in real conversations, dialogue, and action. 
  • Reconsider your definition of community in your personal life and in your church.  What does it really mean?  Who does it really include?
  • Everyone has privilege and everyone has influence.  Challenge yourself to recognize yours. 

When we hold tightly to loving only those who share our culture, we miss God’s image in ourselves and in others. For a time such as this, simply follow the ministry of Christ with actions of Love.  It will change your life.

Food, People, & Churches

I recently visited a restaurant near Richmond, Virginia that specializes in good old soul food.  The plate was filled to the sides with enough food for 3 people.  There was no way to finish the plate.

The world would be a wonderful place if we appreciated the diversity of people the way we appreciate the different cultures of food we enjoy.  I enjoy all types of cuisines from all over the world.  Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South American and of course, all the varieties we find right here in America.  Different American cultures are also proud of their specialties.  Philadelphia Cheese Steak sandwiches, Chicago Pizza, Cajun Gumbo, New England Clam Chowder, and North Carolina Barbeque, just to name a few.  The list goes on and all.

pottery1 Food, People, & ChurchesAppreciating our differences is to be celebrated.  Churches have the same opportunities to celebrate different cultures within their own congregation to begin a conversation of cultural awareness.  Sometimes the first step in intercultural ministry is looking where we are right now to appreciate sameness and differences.   What do you share with others in your congregation that is the same?  Is it your ethnicity, gender, generation, history, etc. Where do you find differences?  The same list still applies.

Guiding churches to understand both sameness and difference is foundational to intercultural ministry, a ministry of salt & light.  Both salt and light are change agents and Christians are called to be the same catalysts for change.  Have you noticed any changes in your community or inside the walls of your church? All around us are opportunities to share God’s love.  We put together this video to explain how churches can open doors to prepare for the changing demographics of their communities.  Pass the bread, its time to begin the conversation and thrive.

Awaken Our Hearts!

10 Questions with Daynette Snead

daynette-snead-photo 10 Questions with Daynette SneadCurrent Job Title: President/Founder DIASPRA; Associate Pastor First Chin Baptist Church New Bern

Family:   I have two daughters who are amazing and beautiful inside and out.  Both were adopted at birth and I am blessed to be their mom.  I also have a 8-month old Hungarian Vizsla named Kahlo.  He is a ball of energy and loves to run.

The One Thing No One Knows About Me  I was a Girl Scout for 10 years and the first African-American girl to be photographed for the Girl Scout Cookie Box.  Living in Richmond, Virginia where the cookies were made, the organization taught me about leadership and how to be curious about the world.

My Dream Job is offering intercultural ministry training at the seminary level.  The ministry is critical for new pastors called to serve in a changing and beautifully diverse world.

My First Job  was making and selling caramel popcorn.  I was responsible for popping the kernels, melting the caramel in the big copper pot, caramelizing the popcorn, and bagging it up for customers.  There is nothing better than the taste and smell of freshly popped, warm caramel popcorn

The Best Advice I Ever Received was written by Marianne Williamson.  She writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us most.  You are a child of God and playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

My Heroes (and why) are my paternal grandparents who planted seeds of love into my entrepreneurial spirit.  Grevious and Mattie Snead raised 14 children on a farm in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia.  I am honored to have known and loved them.

If I Could Do It All Over Again I would sing Gospel Jazz with Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald.

The Part of My Job I Could Do Without Is the paperwork.  Did I mention the paperwork?

daynette-snead-photo 10 Questions with Daynette SneadAt the Top of My Bucket List is returning to Westray Baptist Kirk in The Orkney Islands of Scotland.  I was blessed to serve as an interim pastor during a one-month internship.  This church welcomed me, the stranger.  When I began Doctor of Ministry studies, I learned one of my professors enjoyed a sabbatical on the same island.  He wrote a book and God confirmed my calling for intercultural ministry on the north isles of Scotland.  It is indeed a “Thin Place” between heaven and earth.

 

 

Everyone Has Influence. Leaders Wanted!

paper-2221812_1920 Everyone Has Influence. Leaders Wanted!   Recently, I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. This summit has been around for almost 30 years, but this was my first experience and I was excited to attend. This year’s focus was on our influence. We were encourage to recognize the influence we have in our lives to grow boldly in our development as leaders in the one church of God.

     Each of the national speakers provided authentic insight into how our leadership is the salt to change the world for all that is true and good.  Because of the diversity in our world today, it is more important today than ever before for us to consistently develop our leadership.   We can no longer lead the way leaders have led in the past.  Our leadership is tied to a world that is changing rapidly in technology and globally. The bible reminds us iron sharpens iron.  As I intentionally absorb and challenge the words of the summit leaders, I was blessed to walk away with new ideas, visions, and goals for my continuing journey in leadership.  In both sacred and secular places, there is always room for me to learn and grow.

     During these times of renewal and growth, I always have the opportunity to meet others who are doing incredible things in God’s kingdom.  This brings me to my “new” friend, Kinzie Brinson.  Kinzie and I met on the second day of the summit and had a brief conversation about our worlds.

paper-2221812_1920 Everyone Has Influence. Leaders Wanted!     Her ministry is a morning Christian radio talk show here in Eastern North Carolina. As a result of our meeting at the summit, she asked me to be a guest to talk about my passion for intercultural ministry. We had a great on-air conversation and she was a generous host.  It is always a blessing to meet others who are not only committed to their work, but they also reflect joy in their ministry.

     One of the topics we discussed was our takaways from the summit.  I thought I would write down ten of my takaways here.  One reason is to red flag these new ideas from the summit and how they will benefit the people and churches I will serve over the next twelve months. These new moments in Christ will be fed through my desire to grow through continuing education, spiritual formation, and ministry goals. Another reason to write a few of my takeaways here is this.  When I write down my thoughts, they become a prayerful committment to grow my leadership.  The final reason is to acknowledge the influence I have in the lives of others who are growing in their own spiritual formation and their own paper-2221812_1920 Everyone Has Influence. Leaders Wanted!ministsry calling.  Here are my major takaways from the Global Leadership Summit 2017.

  1. Live to Lead Well & Love Well.  Write down and commit to my 12 month personal leadership betterment plan. Spend at least 30 minutes each day to read, reflect and pray on my leadership and ask the questions?  Who are we doing this for? Are we getting better?
  2. Commit to an organization connected to a deep human need.
  3. Remember to hire skills over experience. Hire for the people I am going to need.
  4. When I know someone is suffering, I will show up and do something specific instead of asking “What can I do?”
  5. Make it easy for people to give me feedback on my leadership. This will help me with my own leadership development.
  6. Give a kid a chance and recognize leadership when I see it in children by offering access to people, processes, or the product.
  7. What is an idea?  An Idea is using two known things combined in a new way.
  8. Be creative in my leadership.  It gives others permission to seek their creative solutions.
  9. Create healthy enviroments in proximity with others.  Change the narratives behind the practices of our companies.  Remember fear and anger are the source of the problems we see.
  10. Be transparent about my own brokenness. I do what I do because I am broken too. Close minded leaders have closed minds.  Keep my eyes and mind open to listen to outsiders – who are not bound by my assumptions.  We are called to pay attention to the frontiers of our ignorance.
  11. When someone tells me about an idea, before I say, How?  Say…Wow!  Acknowledge their creative moment.

     There were so many more takaways from this Global Leadership Summit.  It was an awesome opportuinty to learn alongside other leaders in my community, share our common goals, and recognize our influence to serve our community.  I will continue to pray for the leaders of this summit and support their efforts to raise up leaders to make the world a better place for each of us.

Awaken Our Hearts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“This is not our story”

weather "This is not our story"     The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia was another chapter of a climate that exists in our country and today’s worship gatherings were opportunities for church leaders to call evil by its name. Boundaries of ethnicity and culture continue to permeate our country.  In our own lives and in many of our churches there is an absence of diversity and inclusion.  Right now, we are being called to bring light into the darkness, examine our stories, and heal the open wounds of ethnic boundaries separating our relationships with each other, our communities and the nation.

     On Saturday, we witnessed in real time the unfolding tragedy of one community in the midst of re-writing their own story.  The removal of a Robert E. Lee memorial brought many to rally against the change.  Did they come to commit violence and disrupt this town, armed with torches, shields, helmets, and homemade weapons? Before the day ended, three Americans lost their lives and many were injured.

weather "This is not our story"

     The city of Charlottesville decided over one year ago to re-write history and “tell the true story of race in their city”.  This new story has no room for symbols of racism, bigotry and hate.

     Virginia’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe said to White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and White Nationalists “This is not our story, we will write our own story.”  I believe his words give us all permission to break the silence.

     Today, there are many critical questions for church ministries to answer. Are you bringing people together across ethnic lines? What is the story of your church?  I am prayerful pastors around the country will continue to interrupt the comfort of their worship to acknowledge the need of the church to speak words of unity, be “the salt of the earth” and “the change we want to see in the world”.

     Our nation, our towns, and our churches are in a State of Emergency.  Just as Christ broke the silence to call out to the men and women of the city, “Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love.” (Micah 6:8, Msg)

     I prayed this morning pastors laid their prepared sermons aside to acknowledge the ugly head of hatred and bigotry and called evil by it’s name. If ever a pastor had a reason to bring their congregation into a relevant moment, it was this morning.  If ever there was a reminder to follow Christ, it was today.  Christ was not passive, but proactive and engaged to love and respect everyone, always.  “The story of the church is Christ.  It is love, truth, diversity, inclusion, and honoring the dignity of all people.  weather "This is not our story"

     I am calling the church to stand in the the gap.  Are you living the clear message of Christ? Is the door to your heart open?  Are the doors of your church wide open?  Are you standing on the line and in the threshold, extending an open hand and beckoning all to walk with you and follow Christ?  Are you saying to everyone across false boundaries of ethnicity and culture, “Come and be a part of His story!”

Awaken Our Hearts! Lord, Awake Our Hearts!

Rev. Daynette Snead

Photo Credit:  http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/virginia-gov-mcauliffe-white-nationalists-place-america/story?id=49183979

 

weather "This is not our story"Daynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Associate Pastor of First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Association), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry.  Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry cohort at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: daynette@diaspra.com

 

This is what Stranger to Neighbor Ministry looks like in the church…..

This is a true “Awaken Our Hearts” story and a vision of intentional discipleship towards making Christ known.

Many times I have written about embracing diversity and inclusion, especially in areas of church leadership.  The story below highlights how one church through their openness of welcoming someone who was different from them, found a pastor willing to partner with them to reach the beloved across ethnic boundaries.   This is the fruit of the vine in real time. 

My Prayer is found in John 17…Please pray with me

“Father, it’s time.  Display the bright splendor of your Son, so the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.  So put him in charge of everything human, so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life.  That they know you, the one and only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”.  Amen.

Awaken Our Hearts!

My Response to “Divinity, Diversity and Division”

Recently an article was published about issues of multi-cultural training at Duke Divinity School.  You can read about it here.   I commented on several blogs but I wanted to raise my voice in this space to unveil the discourse of diversity and inclusion in a very unlikely place, Duke Divinity School, a seminary training future pastors and church leaders.   Here is my response to the article.

Diversity and inclusion in the church continues to be an issue. Moving away from the minimization of cultures toward cultural integration is not new to America, nor to the church. Resistance remains visible and embedded in institutional and church leadership.

awaken-our-hearts My Response to "Divinity, Diversity and Division"A commitment to diversity and inclusion is not passive, but it is an intentional act. Admitting students of different cultures includes the responsibility to share cultural education. In turn, we honor and value those we have sought to bring into community and create a greater understanding of each other.

As leaders of the church, we must be willing to embrace new skills, knowledge and attitudes.

These conversations are required to lead as a pastor in an increasingly diverse world.  As a church diversity coach and an African-American pastor of a Burmese refugee congregation, I speak from experience. I navigate the uncharted territory of engaging with and within a different culture as a pastor and worshiper.  I wrote about it here.

Reaching all people for Christ, embracing the broadness of God and crossing cultural boundaries is an intentional ministry to be pursued with our hearts. This conversation is the start of the engagement of diversity and inclusion.  I pray God continues to show us how  more churches can make a difference, Our church communities, divinity schools, and each of us must ask the question.  Are we prepared to serve the changing demographics of our communities?  Are we prepared to act?

Awaken Our Hearts!

Rev. Daynette Sneadawaken-our-hearts My Response to "Divinity, Diversity and Division"

 

Unapologetic Church

Recently, I spoke to a Senor Pastor who was intrigued with the work and ministry of DIASPRA, my journey to a church in Scotland, and position as a pastor of a Burmese Refugee Congregation.   His curiosity came with many questions.  Mainly, why I choose the difficult path of  understanding and helping churches embrace diversity, when most churches are happy to remain comfortable where they are?

I remain unapologetic when it comes to Church Diversity.  I have visited many churches and one thing I know for sure. Church Diversity is a clear calling. It doesn’t happen by accident. It is intentional.

Every decision made by a church is a decision toward or away from the benefits of being a diverse and inclusive congregation. Leadership choices, authentic website design, spiritual formation classes, and faith partnerships are few of the critical components. Our actions towards becoming a diverse church are the skeleton to the body of Christ we seek to reach and serve.

As a point of disclosure, I confess every church I have joined in my lifetime, was a homogeneous church. African, European, and Asian-American churches who enjoyed unique cultures of worship. They welcomed the stranger, but each continued to navigate within their own culture during times of opportunity. That’s another blog for another day.  As I connect the dots from church culture to church culture, I believe God had a plan.

I grew up attending a small church just outside of Richmond, Virginia.  Attended by African-Americans. I do not remember seeing a European-American inside the walls of this church.  During my teens, I briefly began attending church with a friend. A different denomination with an active youth program. My cautious parents made the decision for me to return to my home church. They were not ready for me to switch denominations or cultures. Four years in undergrad bounced me from church to church in Northern Virginia near Winchester.  I never found a place to call my home church, but enjoyed the many expressions of worship I experienced during those years.  I believe God’s plan to open my eyes to the beauty of His church was working.

I reclaimed my calling to serve and work alongside a congregational body when I purchased a farm in rural Virginia.  I found a church close-by attended by  only European-Americans.

After years of serving this church in lay leadership, the pastor accepted a call for another position in Maryland and began his move North.  Before leaving, he shared with me a pivotal moment in the life of the church.  He recalled within weeks of us walking through the doors, there was a special called meeting of the deacons.  They asked the pastor, “What happens if they want to join?”  The pastor responded, “If for any reason they are not allowed to join, I will resign my position as Senior Pastor.” He didn’t apologize to the deacons, instead he offered two solutions, open our church doors to everyone or his resignation.  In this small church near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the pastor used his position of privilege to stand up for oneness in the Body of Christ.  There are opportunities around each of us in church leadership and in the service of the church.

The resistance to sameness in our churches in America, helps churches and church leadership open doors to people who do not look like them or share the same culture.  “The most segregated hour in our nation” as Martin Luther King said, begins in the small decisions we confirm as churches. It begins in our policies, leadership choices, and community outreach, which are just the tip of the iceberg.

Long before 11:00 arrives on Sunday morning, hundreds of decisions have been made within the church body and leadership to move the church closer or further away from being a house of worship for all God’s people.

I am unapologetic for the ministry of DIASPRA.  I serve to help churches actively engage in the gospel work of church diversity.  My calling is covered in the Blood of Christ. It is the intentional ministry reaching out into the world.

As I stand in the pulpit on Sunday mornings as a guest pastor, in churches identified as African, European, Asian, and Hispanic-American, I pray in that space. “God use me to open the hearts of your people and the doors of this church. Amen.”   If this is where God is leading you, begin the conversation, do the work, act!

Awaken Our Hearts!

Daynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Community Outreach Pastor serving, First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Association), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry.  Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry cohort at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: daynette@diaspra.com

The Church Diversity Conversation We Aren’t Having

We go to church on Sunday morning to worship.  Right?  What’s all the talk about church diversity?  The doors of our church are open to everyone?  Why is church diversity our problem?  It’s not our fault the majority of us in the sanctuary share the same ethnicity.  Actually Church, it is.

What does it mean to live the Gospel in our own lives, in our own churches? The woman at the well knew about Jesus but she needed an encounter to experience Him. We all need an encounter to experience Jesus.

Church diversity begins as an encounter with people who love Jesus.  The church diversity conversation is happening in homogenous churches no longer willing to sit comfortably in pews on Sunday morning.  It is happening in churches who recognize the demographics of their community are changing and they want to know and understand the newness around them.  It is happening in churches who recognize sameness as a void in their own lives.  How does a church begin to learn more about being a place of community?

Begin with a conversation. Find a small group within your church willing to discuss the Gospel as it relates to reaching community and be willing to learn more about how the demographics of your community are changing right now, then..

Get together weekly, at church or in another location to discuss what’s missing in your church community or how church diversity can broaden the church’s vision and outreach for Christ, then..

Discuss your thoughts, dreams, and fears of being fully engaged in reaching others for Christ across ethnic boundaries, then…

Learn about the different cultures around your church community.  Ask questions and gain understanding from people you would like to know better, then…

Invite guest speakers to your church to help you engage in safe and difficult conversations with each other.  Ask the leader to help you dig deep into the meanings of words like microagressions, privilege, tokenism, and diversity to name a few, then…

Engage the church community.  Ask members of the original group to shepherd more individual groups throughout the church, then…

Engage the local community.  Hold special cultural events to invite others through the doors of your church.  There are many ways you can reach out and reach into your own community.  Remember it’s not about you, it’s about Jesus Christ and helping others to experience Him, then…

Begin with a conversation. This time, it will be with people outside your church community.  Invite them through the doors of your church to worship together with you.  Invite them in with their culture fully intact.  Integrating cultures in worship, gatherings, and leadership.  Keep repeating these steps until your church is at least 20 percent ethnically diverse.  Yes, that is a real number to claim we are a diverse church.

This is the church diversity conversation not happening in our churches right now.  How will you begin to welcome the stranger into your House of Worship. How will you begin to share the Gospel and the love of Christ?  How will your church move forward in the direction of embracing all people for Christ?  Begin that conversation.

Awaken Our Hearts!

doors-1690423__340 The Church Diversity Conversation We Aren’t HavingDaynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Community Outreach Pastor serving, First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Association), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry.  Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry cohort at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: daynette@diaspra.com

How to Re-Think Church

face-1370958__3401 How to Re-Think Church

Church communities are changing ways to identify, gather together, and create community.  What’s the best way to discover it in your church community?  Ask one important question. Why do we do what we do?  Dig deep to find the underlying  meanings in your church culture.  Worship formats, staff identification, physical spaces, and community outreach are all up for re-thinking. Understanding the significant aspects of the church culture can help or hinder the vision and mission of the church.

Often we are so steeped in our own church culture, we miss opportunities to re-think the way we worship, serve, and reach others for Christ.  Are we keeping pace with cultural changes or are we stuck in old thinking? Visionary churches must be willing to learn new skills, knowledge and fresh ways to reach out into the community.

This is important for churches now.  Why?  Because our communities are thriving in diversity.  Are you prepared to serve the changing demographics of your community?  Be woke! or if you are a boomer, stay awake and recognize the change happening right in your own community.  Re-thinking church can be an intentional part of your church vision and mission to experience God, the community and reach others for Christ.

Let me know your thoughts. What’s missing here? How is your body of Christ re-thinking church?

Awaken Our Hearts!

face-1370958__3401 How to Re-Think ChurchDaynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Community Outreach Pastor serving, First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Association), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry.  Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry cohort at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: daynette@diaspra.com

Come, Come, Whoever You Are…the doors are open. May we affirm that truth with our acts of hospitality. And, in our midst, may there always be room for one more. — Rev. Alicia Forde

I love a great quote when I see one.  Over the past few weeks I have been preparing to speak to pastors in North Carolina about reaching community.  Multicultural ministry remains a buzz word, especially in homogenous churches claiming diversity.  But here’s the truth.  True diversity begins when twenty percent of your congregation is different from the other eighty percent.  We shy away from the word tokenism, but in Spirit and in Truth, when there are only a few faces in the congregation who are different from the majority,  the title of a diverse church has not been earned.

I often hear the same question.  “Why are we not a diverse church?”  There are many answers to this question, including this.  Our desire for sameness is culturally deep.  On days of worship, we attend the place where we are most comfortable culturally.  Churches must be willing to disrupt the sameness and become intentional towards reaching across barriers of ethnicity as we reach into our own communities.

Christians devoted to the ministry of our churches, enjoy the culture of our worship which often is closely tied to the culture of our ethnicity.  Changing our worship culture takes knowledge, skills, and the willingness.  Here are three ways to get started.

If my church is looking to change its worship to include a different ethnic group, we must first understand who we are before we begin reaching across cultural boundaries.  The first step is understanding our own worship culture.  As we review our worship services from start to finish, we begin to notice specific aspects of our worship culture and identify why we do what we do.  Understanding ourselves, we move from the inside of our church (our congregation) to the outside of our church (our community).  This inside outside analysis is a great place to begin.

The second simple step is to identify who we are reaching outside the doors of our church.  Is it an ethnic, generational, or gender outreach?  Each of these identifiers come with a culture and the more we know, the more successful our outreach will be.  Finally, make time to understand cultural norms.  Ask questions, read books, hold special events….engaging in culturally diverse activities is educational and welcoming.

Here’s the last idea.  If God is moving the heart of your church ministry to reach across cultural boundaries and reach all disciples for Christ, I recommend your church start with a small group.  Begin by learning, discussing, and understanding the meaning of words and concepts including diversity, inclusion, privilege, and microagressions.  Pray and begin the work, then speak the words of Rev. Forde.  “Come, Come, Whoever You Are…the doors are open. May we affirm that truth with our acts of hospitality. And, in our midst, may there always be room for one more.”

Awaken Our Hearts, Lord!

What’s Next?

joy-and-fear What's Next?The division in our nation is national news. As we gather in the comfort of pews in the coming months, some joyfully breathe a sigh of relief and some fear for what’s ahead. We continue to hear our world in terms of us and them. What is next for our nation?

As people of God, will we model the ministry of Christ and intentionally cross human boundaries in our relationships with others as we head into a new year, a new presidency, and  a new time?  Are we leading the way towards embracing “the other” and seeking Christ centered solutions to the divisions in the world?

Last week, many churches heard the story of Zacchaeus, the man who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus.  Maybe he thought it was a simple solution to look over the crowd.  Maybe it wasn’t that easy and he needed others to help him or did he reach up to catch a low hanging limb to pull himself up?  Did he loose his grip again and again, until he was able to hold on and climb high enough to see Jesus?  Successfully, Zacchaeus stood high above the crowd.  It was in this high place, Jesus called to him.

joy-and-fear What's Next?It is my prayer we will begin climbing to the possibilities within our reach.  Maybe we will stretch high enough on our own to catch the first branch or maybe we will need the help of others.  Either way, the tree of opportunity is here, to be above and beyond the crowd, an opportunity to lift us in our relationship with others and in Jesus Christ.

What will we choose? Are we ready to climb or pass it by?  Will we touch the tree and find it a rough and difficult challenge and decide the ground is a safer place to be?  Or, will we look at the tree and say, “If we can figure out where and how to begin, if we can scale the difficult part, and find a high place, God will respond.”

Regardless of if, how and when we climb, we can all pray now.  Pray brothers and sisters in Christ, for our nation as it moves “to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God”.  (Micah 6:8, CEB) Pray and “make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties us together. We are one body and one spirit, just as God also called us in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all..” (Ephesians 4:3-6)  

Awaken Our Hearts

joy-and-fear What's Next?Daynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Community Outreach serving, First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Association), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry.  Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry cohort at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: daynette@diaspra.com

In The Air

 

church-1029392_960_720 In The Air“Love is in the air

In the whisper of the tree

Love is in the air

In the thunder of the sea

And I don’t know if I’m just dreaming

Don’t know if I feel safe

But it’s something that I must believe in

And it’s there when you call out my name”

The name John Paul Young may not ring any bells, but his one musical hit “Love Is In The Air”[1] certainly may. Even after this one tune became a hit in 1977, love songs continue to retell the stories of the power surrounding us…the power of love.  I once heard a pastor say if you listen closely to the words of love songs, you can often hear echoes of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Young’s love song reminds us that love involves risk and faith. We risk little in preaching, teaching, and living the gospel in the security of just sitting in the pew on Sunday morning.  Instead, we should use our time in the sanctuary as the springboard for reaching out to “the other” – those who are different from us.

We know the Body of Christ is diverse and crossing cultural boundaries should be pursued with our hearts and out through the doors of our churches because it is what we believe in. But, there is risk involved in loving, caring, and praying for others. In light of our too frequent national tragedies, it is difficult for us to see that love is all around us. We must work through it. Every time we witness tragic events around the country, thoughts of safety first rush in to protect us. Instead of sequestering ourselves we need more churches willing to awaken us from our safe comfortable pews and risk engaging “the other” in love.

As an ordained African-American woman, serving a Burmese refugee congregation, I am learning to release routine comfy pew sitting for the freshness of experiencing the Gospel through another culture.  The gathering of God’s people is our calling to reach beyond our comfort boundaries.

We need more churches…..

to move more people towards embracing the whole community

where the pulpit and platform reflect the ethnicity, gender, and generations in our pews.

to welcome the stranger and reflect the demographics of our community in the pews.

church-1029392_960_720 In The Airto take us outside our comfort zone and challenges us to understand what it means to be “the other”, while actively engaging  within our community.

loosely holding onto bricks and mortar and tightly holding onto souls reached for Christ. Consider “Sabbatical Sundays”. Sabbatical Sundays allows your church to meet outside the walls of the sanctuary; holding worship and engaging the community without intimidating barriers of stained glass windows, iconic doors, and high steeples.

where financial budgets and building funds are equally as important as the number of people reached each year. A church willing to be accountable for the people served, met, reached, engaged, and witnessed to.

willing to share conversations about unconscious bias.  We must be willing to receive that it is not “if” we have unconscious bias, but rather “which ones” are part of our everyday lives and how unconscious bias changes our discipleship as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Love one another” was His simple instruction. We need more churches willing to take the risk with us to actualize these words of Love.

church-1029392_960_720 In The AirDaynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Community Outreach serving, First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Associationz), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry. Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry student at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: daynette@diaspra.com

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is_in_the_Air_(song)#cite_note-1

10 Signs Your Church Should Invest in Intercultural Ministry

basket-1195754_1920 10 Signs Your Church Should Invest in Intercultural MinistryChurches seeking to extinguish sameness and reach across boundaries of gender, ethnicity, and generations should prayerfully come before God and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Philippians 4:4-7 reminds us to rejoice as we intentionally seek to navigate away from homogeneous churches towards embracing the diversity of who we see in our daily lives, in grocery stores, work places, and schools.  11:00 on Sunday morning doesn’t have to remain “the most segregated hour” in America as Martin Luther King, Jr.  expressed.  If you are reading this blog, God has already begin moving your heart towards an understanding of intercultural ministry within you own church community.   When do you know it’s time for change?  Here’s 10 Signs You Should Invest In Diversity.

  1. An aging congregation means you are beginning to notice fewer young people around and about the halls of the church.  Your worship services are geared towards this culture and generation and younger members are not joining.  It’s time to rethink your worship services. What you are offering through the week to reach all generations?
  2. On Sunday Morning, the pulpit is limited to one gender or one generation. Our Sunday morning worship services speak volumes when it comes to who is in – and who is out!  Sunday morning is a worship celebration and should reflect everyone represented in your church.  Their absence in the pulpit  may reflect how the church community values them in the Body of Christ. basket-1195754_1920 10 Signs Your Church Should Invest in Intercultural Ministry
  3. The only biblical stories your congregation hears from the pulpit are stories of men and boys. Always consider a wide range of biblical stories of women and men.  In doing so, you open biblical relevancy to everyone in the congregation.  Including stories of women and girls lets your congregation know the equity of God.
  4. Your church is limited to one social class. Reaching others for Christ in your own community should reflect the community as a whole.  Are you serving the changing demographics of your community?  Are you serving the poor, hurting and the lost on Sunday morning?  There are many ways you serve on Sunday morning too!
  5. The people connected to your love for diverse food, music, and culture are not reflect in the pews on Sunday morning. Nuff said!
  6. Ethnic diversity is limited to the janitorial and grounds staff of your church.
  7. Pulpit guests are limited to one ethnicity and one gender. Nuff said!
  8. You recognize your church events are not reaching across ethnic, gender or generational cultural boundaries. Find ways to engage the community at large outside the walls of your church.
  9. No Faith partnerships within your community. Here’s a great opportunity to serve your community by helping new church starts.  Consider offering a meeting place in your buildings to new church starts.  Share the blessings of your bricks and mortar with another Christian community who is getting started, or speaks a different language. We can never have too many places for God’s people to worship. You should invest in the beauty of diversity in your church because it is biblical to reach all people for Christ.  It isn’t always the easy path to choose, but remember,
  10. basket-1195754_1920 10 Signs Your Church Should Invest in Intercultural MinistryAnd the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Amen! Awaken Our Hearts, Lord!

One Thing Your Congregation Can Teach You About Diversity

sameness One Thing Your Congregation Can Teach You About DiversityDiversity is one of the most misused words spoken in our churches today.  I often hear pastors and church leaders speak of diversity, but diversity is a very broad term.  Here’s the question to help you move your church towards understanding the full range of meaning of the word.  Is there an intercultural ministry mindset in your church?

Today, corporations are strategically using the word “diversity” when describing the outreach of their organization.   Looking inward and finding little to no diversity and/or inclusion within their own ranks, diversity managers and executives are becoming an important position in today’s business culture.   The discovery for most is a breakthrough into their own corporate strategy by seeking an equitable work force.  How can they serve the public, if the organization does not demographically reflect the public they serve?  From the executive suite to the janitorial closet, often there is predictable ethnic, generational and gender representation.  It is no secret, limited outreach is tied to limited profits.

Now, let’s segway to the church.  But, before we go there, let me remind you, church diversity is not the goal of DIASPRA or the church for that matter.  It is a byproduct of our outreach.  As we seek to reach disciples for Christ, everything we put out into the world, comes back to us in the form of visitors who see our websites, attend with friends, come for special events, and participate in our ministry activities.

At Diaspra, we cooperate with individual churches to bring diversity through their doors for worship on Sunday mornings and weekday activities?  When talking to churches we ask them to take an informal assessment.  The assessment identifies generational, gender, and ethnic diversity within the church community.

sameness One Thing Your Congregation Can Teach You About DiversityDuring the assessment, one of the exercises is called, PEN TEN.   The church leader is required to engage in conversation with the last 10 people (or 1% of the congregation) that last joined the church.  The church leader will ask why this particular Christ community became their congregation.  The answers are then penned, or written down.  In fact, what was it about the (church) culture that brought them to join the community?

Once the list is compiled the exercise continues. She must then contact the last 10 people (or 1%) who left the church to ask the question, Why did you leave?  Penning the answers to paper, the responses will vary from relocation, worship style, small group meetings, lack of diversity, to pastor contact, etc.

sameness One Thing Your Congregation Can Teach You About DiversitySuccessful discipleship outreach and retention will hinge on our ability to effectively identify our gifts and shortcomings.  Diving deep into our culture with others can be a rewarding reflection on our discipleship outreach.  Before we can manage our church culture, we need to understand how it is perceived within our community.  Only then can we understand any shifts to be made.  It is important to the process towards an intercultural ministry. Awaken Our Hearts

Daynette

Quick Tips About Intercultural Ministry

One of tchurch-pews Quick Tips About Intercultural Ministryhe best ways to experience God’s culture is to attend a different church.  Not during a mission trip to some far off land, but right in your own community.  A simple google search will pull up an abundant list of Christian communities to visit.  Are you willing to worship with a different congregation?  Are you willing to sit in a different pew and dare to be the different one?

It can be challenging to move outside our comfort zones.  In your home church, you know the service format, the congregation by name, even the songs by heart.  This is your normal.  Sunday mornings at 11:00, continues to be the most segregated hour in America.  Intercultural ministry requires us to move outside our normal and chart a different path.  Our churches should resemble the communities we serve and we must seek disciples in such a way it brings the diversity of the world through the doors of our churches.

I recently asked these questions to a room full of ministry leaders. To my surprise, everyone raised their hand to confirm their experience of worship in not so familiar settings. In ministry, the experience of walking through unfamiliar doors to join others in worship means you are intentionally seeking to worship Christ with strangers.

church-pews Quick Tips About Intercultural MinistryWhy is this important?  As we seek boundless ministry, we must step outside our own boundaries and engage in the change.  You know the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If the only worship experiences you have are through the doors of your own church, then it’s time to drive a little further towards another steeple, another denomination, or even another culture.

We are the Body of Christ.  Religious and denominational boundaries are human made and do not separate us in Christ.   I have been attending a variety of churches for many years and my visits continue to awaken my spirit to worship in newness with others who share God’s love.

Here’s the thing.  The demographics across America are changing.  Are you seeing the same changes in the pews of your Christ community? If not, you may be ready for this exercise towards an intercultural ministry mindset.  Pastors if you are finding sameness around you on Sunday mornings, it’s time to get out and worship in a setting with people you do not know.  Find a seat soon in an unfamiliar pew and worship God. Maybe you do not share the same religion, denomination, ethnicity, etc.   I promise you, you will experience Him not as the leader of the church, but as the visitor…maybe even as the other.   Most importantly you may receive an understanding to help you connect with the new faces who walk through the doors of your church.

church-pews Quick Tips About Intercultural MinistrySince August 2015, I have been serving within a Christ community of Christian Burmese Refugees.  I have learned many aspects of God’s culture with my new community. We come before God to worship, pray, sing and give thanks.  Connected by the blood of Christ welcomed each other into the community.

Regardless of the boundaries we perceive with our eyes, dare to be the different one. When someone new visits your church,  maybe you will welcome them first because you recognize the dare to worship among strangers.  We are called to reach across human boundaries. Even the smallest change can…

Awaken Our Hearts

Are you prepared?

I believe our very nature is to stay where we are, with what we know.  Moving outside our comfort zones often becomes the challenge. Recently someone asked me, “How can we really serve our community in new ways? I believe the answer lies in the question, “Are you prepared to serve the changing demographics of your community?

Over my lifetime, God has equipped me to help church leadership embrace intercultural ministry competence. The mission of Diaspra is to enable congregations to fulfill the Great Commission by intentionally crossing cultural boundaries.

Everything exists within culture and each church, has it’s own culture.  Church Culture can be anything from the experience of worship, to the way we pray, the music, the type of service (blended, contemporary, traditional), media presentations even the demographics of our church leadership.  Everything we present to the world about our church is spoken through the culture of our church.   How is your church culture reaching others?

Culture binds us together and separates us from others.   We must present the gospel in such a way that Jesus is the only stumbling block not our cultural practices?  Over the next few weeks,  I’m going to discuss the  Keys to Unlocking a Successful Intercultural ministry Mindset.  How is your church crossing cultural boundaries for Christ?  I want to hear your thoughts to help us all….

Awaken Our Hearts!

No Room in New Bern

download No Room in New Bern As part of our Christmas events, each year the children of our church participate in La Posadas, a nine day Spanish tradition and celebration of Mary’s nine months of carrying the baby Jesus. The children follow Mary and Joseph door to door, asking for room to stay for the evening. As one of the homes participating, (actually it is my office, conveniently located across the street from the church) I was ready this particular Sunday morning to respond to the homeless couple.

Mary and Joseph will ask, “Do you have room for us to stay for the night?” For those of us answering the door, our line was “I have no room”. Mary and Joseph would then walk to the next location and finally end at the church nativity scene. This simple reenactment brings the Christmas story to life for the children and adults in our church each year.

Last year, I unlocked my door and was waiting for Mary and Joseph to arrive. Before they came, another couple appeared at my door. I wasn’t open for business, but a young couple walked right in.  Expecting Mary and Joseph, I was a little confused to see this modern couple at my door.

There were no little children behind them and she was dressed not as a first century Christian, but as a modern day bride. He was wearing a tuxedo. As I looked at them, she said to me, “We just needed to come in from the cold.” As they warmed themselves inside my office, I learned they were married the day before and were waiting on the photographer to take wedding photos. I could hear God speaking to me about this young couple.

We chatted for a while as I waited for the children to arrive. The young couple, Eli and Tory shared their story, when they met, where they lived, the colors of the wedding (red, black, and white), and their honeymoon plans to Myrtle Beach. They were so wonderfully open and transparent about their lives.

As we talked and waited, Mary and Joseph arrived on time with a large entourage. I confirmed my lines, “I have no room”, turning away the crowd with Mary and Joseph. Eli and Tori commented how wonderful it was to see this Christmas story come to life.

As if on cue, the photographer came in and Eli and Tori decided to take pictures inside my office next to our Christmas tree. The photographer brought lights for added props.  The young couple wrapped themselves in Christmas lights and smiled for the camera.

They were celebrating the moment.  I realized both young couples Eli and Tori and Mary and Joseph were looking for new beginnings. What if I had turned Eli and Tori away from my door? What if I had told them, I was expecting someone else? What if I had not listened or cared?

I understand why God was speaking to me that cold winter morning. He wanted me to see, I have room for so much in my life. Room for compassion, room for new beginnings, room for God to bring people into my life when I least expect it. Our lives must remain centered around our relationship with God and with others. Just like Eli and Tori, I am wrapping myself in God’s light to experience the joy of new beginnings. God blesses us with so many gifts, this was mine.

Before I left to attend church service, I prayed with this young couple. I thanked God for their presence and reminding me what a new beginning looks like.  I asked God to watch over them and bless their union as husband and wife.

Before I walked across the street to attend church, I gave them the keys to my office. Even though I had never met them before, I asked them to lock the door when they were finished taking pictures and place the key under the mat.

After church, my keys were there and Eli and Tory were gone. They promised to send me a copy of the wedding picture in front of my tree. I look forward to seeing that picture. It will remind me of a moment when I listened and responded to God’s call. What a blessing!

Father, Awaken Our Hearts!

The Word, Tea and Butterflies

img_5789 The Word, Tea and ButterfliesMy favorite bible verse is Psalm 90:17 (CEB)  “Let the kindness of the Lord our God be over us. Make the work of our hands last. Make the work of our hands last!”  The women of Westray have allowed me to sit more closely at the feet of Jesus.  Between the study of ancient biblical women, the laughter, the sharing and (of course) the tea and biscuits, we have learned so much together. Thousands of years separate us from the biblical women we studied.

Eve, Hannah, Rebekah, img_5789 The Word, Tea and ButterfliesAbigail, Mary of Bethany, and Leah were just like us.  They were ordinary women and their struggles and concerns were lifted in their faith.  They spoke to us in their stories of strength, action, honor, and commitment to God.

In our last meeting, everyone received a gift of a butterfly. I must confess, the butterflies were LED infused and the smiles on the faces of these precious women in our bible study was…..priceless!  We discussed the importance of growing through our faith and those who help us in our journey.  I thanked them for helping me.  We are all transformed like butterflies as we move from a cocoon-like witness to flying in our faith and landing on beautiful opportunities in our world.  Our goals are the same, to make disciples for Christ and share in His beauty as one body.

The passage to Westray has been so much more than a cultural change and an opportunity to lead a congregation.  It has been a journey of a lifetime that will remain a transforming mark in my spiritual formation.  I will miss them deeply, but my heart sings knowing that these sisters of the faith are praying for each other, their community, the world and …….praying for me.

To the ladies of Westray:  As I am praying for you with my deepest love, I pray God will bless your journey each day and continuously renew us and Awaken Our Hearts!

Daynette

A Love Story

img_5669 A Love StoryPsalm 103 is a beautiful ancient poem, worship at its best and a love story about God and His people.  I hope to attach Sunday’s message with this, but for right now, enjoy the words of the psalmist from the exodus generation against the backdrop of these beautiful children.   There is a message here for us all!

Let my whole being bless the Lord!  Let everything inside me bless his holy name! Let my whole being bless the Lord and never forget all his good deeds: how God forgives all your sins, heals all your sickness, saves your life from the pit, crowns you with faithful love and compassion,and satisfies you with plenty of good things so that your youth is made fresh like an eagle’s.  The Lord works righteousness; does justice for all who are oppressed. God made his ways known to Moses; made his deeds known to the Israelite people. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, very patient, and full of faithful love. God won’t always play the judge; he won’t be angry forever. He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin or repay us according to our wrongdoing, because as high as heaven is above the earth, that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him. As far as east is from west—that’s how far God has removed our sin from us. Like a parent feels compassion for their children— that’s how the Lord feels compassion for those who honor him. Because God knows how we’re made. God remembers we’re just dust.

The days of a human life are like grass: they bloom like a wildflower; but when the wind blows through it, it’s gone; even the ground where it stood doesn’t remember it. But the Lord’s faithful love is from forever ago to forever from now for those who honor him. And God’s righteousness reaches to the grandchildren of those who keep his covenant and remember to keep his commands. The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. You divine messengers, bless the Lord! You who are mighty in power and keep his word, who obey everything he says, bless him! All you heavenly forces, bless the Lord! All you who serve him and do his will, bless him! All God’s creatures, bless the Lord! Everywhere, throughout his kingdom, Let my whole being bless the Lord!

 Common English Bible (CEB)Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Signs In Our Times

Visiting the people of Westray has become one of my favorite adventures.  Yesterday’s visit was full of signs to help us find our way.  In the UK, is it common for properties to have their own names like Skaiil and HaGock Field.  It is quite a nice tradition, speaks to the uniqueness of the property, and helps you find just the right person.
During yesterday’s visit, there were signs everywhere.  img_5689 Signs In Our TimesThese were the signs at the entrance gate.  The crossed topped gate, house sign and “free roaming” sign all brought a smile to my face.  I knew right away this person valued Christ, family and home.  This is the Hobbit House for her granddaughters.  img_5689 Signs In Our TimesIt is a playhouse, not in a tree but rather covered in grass.   img_5689 Signs In Our TimesAt the end of the shell walkway, the third sign was meant for us and written in chalk on slate at the entrance of the front door.  img_5689 Signs In Our TimesI believe this is part of her normal routine to let her guests know she is around somewhere close.  The evidence of large pieces of chalk were sitting on the windowsill.  She was expecting us.  Within minutes, she was back at the house to talk and share a warm pot of tea.img_5689 Signs In Our Times
What would we do without signs?  They tell us where we are, which direction to go, and what to expect.  Matthew 12:38 says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”  Even in ancient times signs were asked for and wanted by those seeking direction. We must look at the signs God is giving us to do the work he has gifted us to do.  We can find them in the quiet place of prayer, in the busyness of our day, or in the one moment when we hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit.   We must always be open to the message, look up, pray and follow the signs placed in our being.  This journey to Scotland was placed in my heart in 2013.  Today, I am here.  I am not alone but with many friends who prayed, supported the call and shared the signs given to me.  We are blessed to live in community with each other.  I am thankful for each community who has shared their signs with me.  What’s next?  img_5689 Signs In Our TimesIs it up the hill, across the road, or around the bend?  I pray you will see the signs and follow where He is calling you.

Awaken Our Hearts,
Daynette

What Separates Us?

img_5682 What Separates Us?This question brings us to words like age, gender, and ethnicity. Maybe you would agree with me that those answers are as wrong as snow in the Summer months. What separates us in actuality are barriers placed in our own minds and in our hearts. Matthew 15:21-28 introduces us to a woman who is not concerned about the divisions of the culture which labels her as a gentile. She is not troubled about how others have defined her. She is in need of The One who loves all people in all places. The disciples urge Jesus to send her away. Even they do not wish to be bothered by this seemingly nameless woman. To them her need is not relevant in their world. But how can that be? How could they be in the midst of Jesus and not see her need?
Forward two thousand years later and we can ask ourselves the same question. How can we be in the midst of Jesus and not see the needs in our world? Too often we define ourselves by what we are not. I am not this and I am not that. I can’t possibly do this or accomplish that. In those “not definitions” we miss what is standing right in front of us. Westray enjoys its own baker. Fresh bread, pies and cakes in the town is a common and welcoming sight. The Syrophonecian Woman in our bible study today looked beyond the eyes of the disciples and found herself in the eyes of God. She knew, as one of the ladies commented today, “a peedie grain”, the least of the least from Christ’s table was enough to remove the darkness. She interceded on behalf of her daughter, across barriers placed by others which could have separated her from His blessing. This woman was a witness to the disciples and she witnesses to us today.
What separates us is not our age, gender or ethnicity. It’s not our religious denominations or our preference for traditional,contemporary or blended services on Sunday mornings. Just like the disciples, what separates us is in the mind of our hearts and the hearts of our minds. I pray always for a “faith that is great” in my living ,in my praise,and in my worship!

Awaken Our Hearts,
Daynette

Who, What, When, Where & Why

468930_3869252621297_1479619013_o Who, What, When, Where & WhyIn 2012, I stood right on this cliff in Westray, Scotland and prayed with three wonderful friends.  Isn’t it a blessing to know that Jesus shows up when we gather together as faithful hearts?  No fuss, no requirements, He is there.  He doesn’t focus on who we are.  Our economic or social status is not important.   He doesn’t emphasize what we are.  Our age, gender, ethnicity, or familial status is irrelevant.   There is no mention of when we gather together.  Morning, mid-day, or even nighttime all fit in perfectly.  He doesn’t even bother to tell us where.  Inside the church, the store, in the office or on a cliff, it all becomes sacred ground.   What he does tells us is who and why.  Matthew 18:20 is one of the simplest rules of engagement for hearts of faith gathered together.   Sometimes I think we make it all so complicated.  It is a fallacy to believe more people make our prayers significant.  We only need to look at this message to know, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  This simple meeting makes a blessing.  During last week’s Orkney Bible Festival in Kirkwall, Karl Martin talked about enjoying a monthly Sabbatical Sunday.   A Sunday morning to step not inside the church, but into the lives of others.  He encouraged us to go and tell, pray and mission with others outside the walls of the church.  What a better place than in the world to find our 2 or 3. No matter the details, gather in His name and pray with someone today!  As promised, He is there.

Awaken Our Hearts!
Daynette

Shortest Flight In The World

img_5623 Shortest Flight In The WorldYes, that’s me getting ready to hop on the “Shortest Flight In The World”. Authenticated by Guinness World Records. The popular trip from Westray to Papa Westray, Scotland is a 2 minute flight. Hard to believe until I stepped onto the plane, took off and then landed on the next island.  There’s even an official certificate to verify my trip. The short event was smile worthy especially when the pilot looked over his shoulder, displayed the pocket card and explained the emergency procedure right from his seat. The plane then took off for the second part of the journey, a 14 minute flight to Kirkwall.  Eight passengers aboard, we flew over the beautiful Orkney Islands. It was a fun trip as I headed to the Bible Festival in Kirkwall. img_5623 Shortest Flight In The World

The festival is a weekend long event.  The churches in Orkney gather together, regardless of denomination and share a weekend together. The speaker was Karl Martin from Central Church in Edinburgh. He is passionate about Christ and his message centered around making disciples.

A great evening blessed with joy and joyful people.
I am finishing preparations for the Sunday morning message.  Matthew 18:15-20. Here’s a question.  What shifts us from conflict to care?  It has everything to do with our faith, our relationships and our conversations!

img_5623 Shortest Flight In The Worldimg_5623 Shortest Flight In The World img_5623 Shortest Flight In The World img_5623 Shortest Flight In The World

 

A few photos from my walk to the store this morning. Enjoy the weekend. Please continue to pray.  God will…..Awaken Our Hearts!

Daynette

What’s Your Pleasure?

img_5617 What's Your Pleasure?

Eve was front and center in our women’s study today.  Living in perfection, she denied she lived in a place where the waters were beautiful and calm. From her surroundings to being hand crafted by God, she enjoyed the perfect life.  It is hard to imagine living in her perfect environment and enjoying that perfect relationship with God. Actually, I am not certain Eve knew it was all that either.  In reality, she listened to another voice who told her, maybe you need something else to keep you afloat.  He coaxed her to try something desirable to her eyes, something to possess with her hands, something to make her grand in her head?

Eve took her eyes off of God, just long enough to grab the fruit from the tree in middle of the garden.  It was the one thing God had forbidden her to touch.  Yet, there she was enjoying what pleased her.  We all know what happens next.  God shows up, she blames the serpent and Adam blames Eve. It wasn’t a pretty ending, and the story continues even today.

When were you last tempted to step out, take your eyes off God’s will for your life and coaxed to the middle of the garden? The voice that spoke to Eve is still using the same messages to convince us there is something better than what we already know. We start to compare what we have with what we want and desire.  Looking around us, behind us, and in front of us, we start to tread water instead of moving forward.
I have a little angel which hangs just above my refrigerator.  It says, “When in doubt, just look up.”  When Jesus was tempted in the garden, didn’t He say,  “It is Written.” He silenced that voice with God’s word.  He looked up! So what’s your pleasure? It is written in the pages of His word and we have more than we will every need in the teachings of Christ.
So just enjoy the photo of the life buoys from Westray, Scotland, you won’t be needing them today!

Awaken Our Hearts!
Daynette

Twirling for Christ

img_5606 Twirling for Christ

Meet part of my new church family.  As you would expect, these little ones are full of energy and smiles. What a blessing to work with them over the next few weeks.  It reminds of how much I love seeing my church family on Sunday mornings. The opportunity to worship God together blesses me each week. Each Sunday, there is always precious time to walk around to meet and greet guests and members before the service begins. On two particular Sundays, I had the pleasure of speaking to two little girls who happily witnessed the act of discipleship and connected me to His joy.
On one particular Sunday morning, a little girl was wearing a beautiful red, white and blue dress. Sitting on the front pew, she was patiently waiting for the worship team to complete our pre-service duties.  As we finished up, I sat next to her and commented on her colorful dress. Her response to me was…”It twirls”. As I smiled at her, she pushed her legs forward to stand up and gently twirled and twirled in the front of the sanctuary. The evidence of her smile was pure joy as she displayed the benefits of her beautiful dress.
On a different Sunday, I was meeting and greeting friends, when another little girl shared her story about her friend who had come to church with her that morning. As I shook both girls hands she said, “My friend doesn’t know what to do, so I am going to show her.” Later during the service, the pastor asked the children to join her at the front of the sanctuary for the children’s message. This little girl walked down the middle aisle with her friend, hand in hand. They sat together, listened together and then walked back to their seats, again hand in hand.

This little girl innocently witnessed to our entire congregation. She brought her friend to church and helped her experience God not from a distance, but up close and personal.What wonderful examples of discipleship these children shared.

Each Sunday morning when I walk through the sanctuary to talk and connect with our congregation, the uniqueness of each interaction confirms the beauty of our relationships with each other as the body of Christ.

When we take the time to see each other, do we recognize each encounter as a moment to share joy or even anticipate an unexpected surprise waiting to be unveiled?  I wondered to myself, what does my discipleship look like?  Am I walking hand in hand with others to show them Christ?  Am I sharing His Joy?

Maybe as an adult, this behavior would be unusual at the front of the sanctuary, but God gives us so much Joy! Maybe, just maybe we should remember to just stop and twirl.

Awaken Our Hearts!
Daynette

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