Covenant Relationships: The Power of Prayer

This is an excerpt from my 2010 book, Living Life with Strings Attached.  It’s a short little guidebook that walks through the Strings Attached Pledge and the development of covenant relationships.  Enjoy!

job and his friends

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” – Job 42:10

I love this quote from Job. Let me refresh your memory about the story.  This particular verse actually takes place within the Epilogue of the story of Job. Job has been through (literally) Hell on Earth; he has been faithful, but prideful; he has questioned God; and he has seen the error of his questions and repented before the Lord.  The Lord is angry with Job’s friends for speaking out against Him. He tells them to offer burnt sacrifices and Job will pray for them and that Job’s intercessory prayer will be heard. It is heard and Job’s friends are restored in the eyes of God. Job also, by praying for his friends, is restored.

How many times have you said to someone going through a tough time, or needing a little encouragement, “I’ll pray for you.”

I do it, often multiple times a day. It’s the standard Christian good bye.  “Hi, how are you today?”

“I’m fine, thanks!”

“Oh great…I’ll pray for you!”

That’s wonderful! But the real question is: how often do you REALLY do it? Do you REALLY pray for them?

I will be totally honest – I am preaching to the choir here! I have been really convicted of late to change this part of my Christian walk.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to me, too):

The next time you are confronted with an opportunity to pray for someone…STOP RIGHT THERE and do it! Right then! There are a couple of ways to do this:

First, you could simply say to the person you are talking to, “I would love to pray with you about that. May I pray with you right now?” If the answer is yes, well, then you know what to do.

Sometimes, however, the answer will be no. Prayer is a very intimate experience and some people are simply not ready to share that with you. They may covet your intercessory prayers on their behalf, but they are not ready to be privy to them.  This is ok, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t pray RIGHT THEN.  Just take a moment alone, and lift that person up in prayer. Your moment doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be intentional. I find that not only does praying for others encourage a life of “praying without ceasing it also helps me to remember the prayer requests of the people who I run across in my daily life.

Thinking of the Book of Job, I often wonder at Job’s friends. They showed great loyalty by sitting with him.  They sat for 7 days and watched their friend suffer. They debated and thought and tried to coach Job through a solution to the problem.  Sometimes, perhaps they were not far from striking the theological truth. Sometimes, they were just plain ole wrong. But never once did they offer to do the one thing that all good friends should do. They never once offered to pray for Job.

I wonder what would have happened if they had?

Vision-Casting: Developing Your Methodology

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013So, we’ve dug through scripture to determine our biblical foundation.  We’ve lined that up with the cultural and contextual teachings that drive our ministry.  We’ve laid a foundation and built walls to form our structure….now for the fun stuff! What do we do?  How does our ministry function in the world?

 

Jeremy Pace from Resurgence calls this our furniture.  He puts it like this:

Furniture should complement and enhance the function of a room. Likewise, yourmethods (the how to’s) should be based on your theology and philosophy and should fitwithin the boundaries set by them. Remember, furniture is only functional for so longbefore it wears out and either needs to be replaced or reupholstered. The reality is thathaving a solid foundation and a clearly defined framework allows you to be creative andnot limited to how you go about doing ministry

furniture

To begin “furnishing” your ministry, ask yourself these questions:

•Based on your theology and philosophy, what are the methods that you will use to
see the vision fulfilled?

•Does your current furniture fit in the new rooms? Do you have a toilet in the living
room or a bed in the bathroom?

•How does your philosophy of ministry look organizationally?

•Do you have the right positions in your organization?

•How does each ministry/program fit within the philosophy?

It’s important to remember that the methodology should not drive the ministry.  Your philosophy and your theological foundation drive the ministry.  Don’t become so attached to a “how-to” that you find yourself “remodeling the room because you like the couch.”

Chicago-modern-colorful-sofa-sets

 

 

Testimonies and Timelines

Strings Attached Retreats 039

Sunday night I had an opportunity I don’t get very often.

I was asked to share my testimony with a group of about 30 prayer warriors.

All the ugly parts.
All the painful parts.
All the scary parts….and…
All the beautifully redemptive parts.

It is a gift to be given such an opportunity.

But it is hard….

To share my testimony is to become vulnerable in front of a stranger.  To share the full force of what God has done in my life is to open up and expose some terrible missteps and pray that you still offer me grace after you know who I’ve been.

It is a fearsome opportunity to show that God can and does deliver, heal and redeem in fantastic and wonderful ways.

Storyline

I have been working through Donald Miller’s book, Storyline.  It is an incredible adventure into discovering God’s plan for your life and your purpose in His Kingdom.  It’s been fun and interesting and hard and scary all rolled into one, but as I look over my timeline and use the positive and negative turns of my life to discern a theme, I see what Jesus has been telling me all along.

I am a wounded healer.  I have been redeemed. And I am to use my story of healing and deliverance to draw others to the same well of healing and deliverance.  Jesus will use my brokenness to heal others’ brokenness.

theme of my life

Sunday night was a confirmation of that theme in my life.

Of that purpose in my life.

Thank you to those of you who were there listening. It was a fearsome gift indeed.

Vision-Casting: Your Philosophy is Your Filter

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013Last week we talked about building the framework, or more aptly, the foundation for your ministry.  We began (or continued) working through the questions that every ministry leader should ask as they begin the process of deciding how their ministry should function in the world.

The theological foundation upon which you build is extremely important to defining your over all goals and mission on the field.  It has been a lengthy and prayerful process for me to work through taking the better part of a month and lots of wise counsel and prayer from my spiritual mentors.  Take time to nail this first part down, before moving on,

Once you’ve determined the scriptural basis for your ministry, it’s time to begin building the grid work which will become the filter through which all opportunities and ideas should pass when making decisions: the philosophy. Jeremy Pace of Resurgence likens these to the walls of a home.

You begin with the load-bearing walls.  These are immovable, unchangeable within the structure (else the structure falls down). They are the primary grid which make up the shape and form of a home.  Ask yourself the question:

•What are the non-negotiable, prescribed truths of Scripture that set the boundaries?

The next step is to begin constructing the interior walls.  These determine what you are and are not about.  Ask yourself these questions:

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization need to explicitly articulate because they are overlooked?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization practice faithfully (almost without thinking)?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does the culture and context of your church ignore or fight against? These you will want to make more explicit.

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives are paralleled within your culture and context but need to be connected? (These too you will want to make more explicit.)

These questions will begin to define the type of culture your ministry will subscribe to and thus become the filter for everything that you do.

snail crossing finish lineSo I am on to building these walls.  I said this before, but I think it bears repeating, this has not been a speedy process for me- although I must admit I thought I had already done most of this work.  What I have found is that as I dig, God opens up questions in my heart.  He opens up visions of something more in places and less in others and is awakening me to a renewed sense of purpose through my ministry.  I hope and pray that as you work through these questions with me, he does the same for you as well.

AVFM: The Load Gets Lighter…for when burdens get heavy

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

highway-rainbow

A few years ago, I was working long hours at a very demanding position, commuting 2 hours a day, leaving home before anyone arose and returning in the late night.  I missed my family! I was totally bound by the concept that if I worked harder, tried harder, excelled more, I would finally be in a position to relax with my family and enjoy life.  

On one of those mornings, as I cried on my way to work, I said my usual prayer to my Heavenly Father and the message came to me very clearly.  I pulled off to the roadside and had a moment of silent, joyful revelation.  

Shortly thereafter, I spoke with my family and decided to give up my “dream job” and come home to the people I really treasured.  In that process, I found a position I love doing work I love with people I love!. . . And it was a regular work week—I could spend time with my precious family.  

That was almost ten years ago, and I’ve learned to treasure every extra moment.   It is my prayer that you enjoy the fruits of my lesson well-learned:

The Load Gets Lighter

Weary from my travels,
And the trials of each long day,
I looked into the heavens
And prayed, “Lord, I’ve lost my way.

If you could please remember me
As you look down from above,
And show me some sweet kindness
And bless me with your love,

I know my life would flourish
And happiness would flow.
Just now my thoughts are sadness
And my sorrow only grows.”

His Hand then touched my shoulder.
He whispered in my ear.
“I’m gladdened that you called to me.
I always have been here.

Now, I can help you carry
The heavy load you bear
And light your road with sunshine,
Spill jasmine in the air.

Now, go from here with singing,
And know you’re not alone.
For when your journey’s ended,
I’m here to take you home.”

 

© Carlene Welch, 2012

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Vision Casting: Building the Theological Framework for Your Ministry

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013I have been fasting and praying this first few weeks of January seeking God’s guidance and direction as I take the time to build out my philosophy of ministry.  It’s been three weeks and I am still working through the first (and most important) step.  I have sought the prayers and guidance of wise mentors in my network, and I have spent time searching scripture and asking hard questions and…


I am still not finished.

I thought I would share the questions I have been working through.  But first, a little refresher as to what we are doing here from Jeremy Pace at Resurgence:

Laying a theological foundation for your church, ministry, or organization can be a lengthy and difficult task (this is not an understatement!), but the reality is that you want your foundation to be firmly and accurately laid. Your desire is to glorify God with your ministry, and God is most glorified when we faithfully work from the foundation he has laid in Christ Jesus revealed in the Scripture. This assumes that you know the Scriptures well and have a proper way of understanding them.

 

•What is the theological foundation from which we build?•What is the primary biblical imperative (and surrounding indicative/s) for your 

church/ministry/organization?

•Are their multiple imperatives and indicatives? Where are they found in the
Scripture?

•Is there a single passage of Scripture that encompasses the main starting point for
your church/ministry/organization?

•How can you connect the contours of Scripture to outline the foundation in two to
three paragraphs?

As you work through these questions for your own ministry (or family…or self…every Christian should have a philosophy of ministry as we all should have a ministry of some sort), be attuned to the questions that these questions raise in your heart.  These questions have started me down a path of exploration with Jesus to really uncovering what He is doing through me.  Between this exercise and Donald Miller’s Storyline project, God is walking me through some deep questions.

I think this is gonna take a while.  🙂

snail crossing finish lineI would love to hear what questions and answers you come up with.  Will you share some with me?

I wrote this post in originally in December of 2010. Since then, my husband and I are blessed to have found a community of believers who live life alongside us in a way that naturally brings us closer to God. Still, this post sums up the necessity of strong community and God’s desire for us to experience it as part of our walk with Him.

Strings Attached Ministries

“Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so dull and insignificant.  As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of god.  That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.”- Henri Nouwen

Finding ways to engage the community of believers is the central teaching of Strings Attached Ministries.  Learning to plug into and act as a vital part of the Fellowship of Christ is key to truly deepening your relationship with God.

We have focused in the past weeks on deepening our quest for…

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Visioncasting 2013: The Year of the Verse

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013

I’m doing something a little different this year in setting my theme for the year.

Generally I choose a one word theme for the year.  This is a popular thing to do, particularly in the blogging community, to choose a word to meditate on that will define the course of your writing for the year.  One year, I chose ‘relationship.’ Another, ‘Sabbath.’ Last year was ‘solitude.’

This year in seeking God’s word for me this year, he brought to me a verse instead.

It really started while I was attending a class at Adullam School of Warriors on Wednesday night.  The instructor, Stan Tyra, wrecked me with a lesson on honor.  And then this morning, in my devotional time one of the verses God brought to me a verse that reinforced his message.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:8-12

The gist of it is this:  Honor.  That’s it. Period.  Whether you think a person deserves it, whether you think it is fair or not, especially when it requires a supernatural act of will to do so.  Honor because it is what you, as Christ’s beloved, undeserving, grace-lavished child, are called to.

The vision of how living this verse could change my family grabbed hold of me.  I posted it to the refrigerator. I’ve prayed it over me in one way or another every morning since.  So as I prayed for a word, God gave me this verse and so I started out this post thinking to say that I didn’t have a single word for the year, but instead a theme verse. Perhaps even a life verse.  And I do.

But I suppose I also have a word:

Honor.

What’s your word this year?

A little footnote:

I don’t usually read the Amplified version of the Bible (probably because all its paranthetical clauses drive me crazy and remind me too much of my own writing. 🙂 ) But I loved the way the Amp Bible breaks this verse down.  I thought maybe you would like it to:

Finally, all [of you] should be of one andthe same mind (united in spirit), sympathizing [with one another], loving [each other] as brethren [of one household], compassionate and courteous (tenderhearted and humble).

Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God—that you may obtain a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection].

10 For let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good—whether apparent or not] keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from guile (treachery, deceit).

11 Let him turn away from wickedness andshun it, and let him do right. Let him search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. [Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!]

12 For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), and His ears are attentive to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil [to oppose them, to frustrate, and defeat them]. – 1 Peter 3:8-12

Vision-Casting for Your Ministry- Pt 1

It’s that time of year again….
12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013
You know the time of year when you put on your rose colored glasses and look bright-eyed into the future…

The time of year when you take a serious look at all that you are discontent with, and, with hope rather than our usual resignation look forward to a better you…

A skinnier you.
A healthier you.
A wealthier you.
A more deeply in-tuned to the Spirit you.

At this time of year you can google “New Year’s Resolutions” and literally get 135,000,000 results.  I’m actually working through Donald Miller’s Storyline this year and loving it so far.  The thought is to use a story to create a narrative that compels you to reach your goals and there is a an awesome online resource that can help you through that- you can go start your own storyline or simply root me on as I write my story here.

And guess what? Your ministry needs a fresh vision every year.  Not resolutions that will get shelved by Valentine’s Day and not a re-branding that confuses all the folks that follow and support you, but a fresh look at the plan God is working through you.  You need a strategic plan just like any other business.

For me, this starts with a question my friend and mentor asked me a couple of years ago.

“What is your philosophy of ministry?”

Your theology determines your philosophy, which THEN determines your methodology.

So your philosophy of ministry then is the attitude that acts as the guiding principle for your ministry.In Christian terminology, we’ll call that your ‘calling’.  What is your ministry called to do?

This question is such a vital part of planning your strategy for, well, anything- events, engagements, blog posts, books…whatever it is you are doing- this question should be the VERY first step.

A philosophy of ministry isn’t a one-line mission statement, although it is what shapes and forms that statement.  Philosophy of ministry is a well-thought out framework that becomes the filter through which you filter everything you decide to do.  It’s an amazing resource when the calendar begins to fill up and distractions start flying at you.  And while it requires some thought and prayer and a little bit of elbow grease, it is well worth the work and thought.  In the coming weeks, I will post my own philosophy of ministry as we talk through this subject of vision-casting for your ministry.  But until then, maybe you would like to start on yours?  The guys at the Resurgence have a great free resource that will walk you through it.  Over the next month, we will be working through the development of a strategic plan for your ministry- starting with the writing of your philosophy of ministry.

So let’s travel the journey together, shall we?

How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 2

Good speakers are everywhere.  They are right under your own noses in your Sunday School classes, in your congregations, in your women’s groups, they are down the street from you, across town or across the country. With a little patience and the posts in this series, you will find the perfect speaker for your next event.
2.0-Speaking_Microphone
Last week, we looked at the foundation you need to lay to begin preparing to book a speaker.  Today we talk about the nuts and bolts of booking one.

So you’ve determined what you want your audience to come away with, what you need, when, where and how much you can spend. You’ve even found a few great candidates through a speaker’s bureau and online. Now what?

1. Review your options and interview your speaker candidates

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you would  be surprised how many groups will try to handle most of the business of booking a speaker via email.  Insist on interviewing your speaker candidates at least once.

  • A professional speaker will be a real partner in this process. Often they will ask questions about the needs of your audience and what they can accomplish for you. Ask your candidates for references and, if they are speaking in your area, ask if you can attend the program and observe them in action.
  • Assure that a potential speaker has addressed groups similar to yours. Talk with them about their experience. Ask for a biography, testimonials and videos of their presentations, preferably before a live audience.
  • Find a speaker who will tailor his or her presentation to your group.

2. Select your speaker

  • Hire a professional and you’ll hire an ally. Professional speakers understand that your reputation is riding on their performance. Their experience with hundreds of audiences can add to your peace of mind and to the success of the event.

3. Get it in writing

You should have a letter of agreement or contract that clearly outlines the expectations of both you and your speaker. Consider:

  • Travel arrangements and transportation– will your speaker fly or drive? Booking a local speaker is a great way to save money in this area. Be prepared to reimburse mileage, travel expenses or a flat transportation fee.
  • Accommodations and meals- I prefer to stay with a congregation member.  If this is the case, make sure to create a space for your speaker to be alone. We’ll talk more about how to make a speaker feel welcome in a later post.
  • fees, reimbursements and payment terms- I think I’ve covered this sufficiently.  Don’t think you need to pay an arm and a leg for a great speaker, but do plan to pay something.   Work out how you are going to pay, where the payment is sent to and what format it needs to be in.
  • Whether you want the speaker to attend social events – this is especially important during conferences. If you are going to request the speaker attend events (dinners, meet and greets and the like) outside the scheduled speaking time, let them know ahead of time, while you are discussing the contract.
  • If the speaker may sell products and if so, how this will be handled- This is most often how I make ends meet.  Often speaker’s will lower their fee if they are given the opportunity to sell merchandise.
  • An agreement on any audio- or videotaping of the presentation- Oh, this one has gotten me in trouble before.  Specifically discuss whether it is ok to record the presentation or not and whether it is ok to sell the recording of said presentation later.
  • Cancellation policies- What happens if the conference is cancelled or if the speaker gets sick? Talk about these things beforehand. They do happen. It doesn’t have to be a crisis if it’s discussed prior.
  • Audio/visual requirements- What kind of equipment (microphones, projector, sound, video, etc) does she need?
  • and legal implications, if any, your contract may contain.

4. Work with your speaker

Share information about your group or . This will help the speaker become familiar with your organization, while facilitating a customized presentation.

  • Send your newsletter or anything which would include key people, buzz words or insider news and views.
  • Give the speaker a clear outline of what you expect.
  • Be specific about the size and demographics of your audience.
  • Let the speaker know in advance about other speakers on the program. This gives the speaker the opportunity to build on (and not duplicate) what the other speakers say.

5. Set the stage

  • Make sure the room is set up for optimum impact. Consider the number of chairs and how they are arranged. Also consider room temperature and lighting.
  • Stay on schedule. Although a professional will be able to “make up” time or slow things down if needed, keeping your program on schedule will allow your audience to get the full impact of the program you have created for them.
  • Your speaker should be able to provide you with a good introduction of themselves and their topic. The introduction should be short, energizing and create positive expectations.

6. Evaluate the results

  • Have your audience complete evaluations on the speaker and his/her presentation. This will allow you to gauge your results and plan for future programs. Send copies of the evaluations to your speaker.

So there you go, the steps to finding your best speaker ever!  I hope it helps make the process easier for you!  If you have any questions on this post, please feel free to comment below.