Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shepastor: “Let us… Marching Orders”

Hebrews 10: 22-24

22Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water
23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds

In this passage of scripture, the writer encourages us with three, “let us” phrases:

(1) Let us draw near to God… Even as preachers of the Gospel, we can be drawn away from the true source of our strength, joy, peace, and fulfillment in life. Hectic schedules filled with family obligations, counseling sessions, preaching engagements, board and community meetings, individual projects and a myriad of other things can drain us of vitality. When we are tired, our guard is down. Over burdened hearts and minds leave little room for the refreshing Word that comes only from spending time with the Lord. So often we stand and deliver words of faith, hope and encouragement when our own reservoir is depleted. Frustration, doubt, fear and even guilt can begin to loom over us like a dark cloud. Marching orders? Draw near to God! Move forward, not backward. Move towards the Lord – seek His face, study His Word, not just for sermon preparation, but to discern His leading in every situation and circumstance in your life. “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8

(2) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess… Are you easily discouraged? You are “swerving.” Do you allow doubt to cloud your vision, dowse your enthusiasm, strangle your joy? If so, you are swerving. Like a car careening down the road out of control, if we don’t nurture and build our relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ, with continual prayer, personal study, fellowship with other women and men of God and healthy activities, our faith will begin to falter and our grip on “the hope we profess” can become loose. Our positions as preachers, teachers and leaders can set us up for swerving. We are so busy pouring out into the lives of others, if not careful, we can end up on empty, swerving off of the path of faith.

“The Ministry” has had many casualties - women and men who started out with energy, vision, promise and purpose but somehow swerved and fell backwards. Seasons of drought – plowing, planting, praying and seeing few results, or “super success” – times of bountiful blessings and abundance with the temptations of pride and self indulgence, somehow loosened the grip of their hold to God’s unchanging hands and they fell backwards. Marching orders? Hold fast to the profession of your faith, remembering that the God “who promised” is faithful. God is faithful – He will not forget your labor of love. God is faithful – all His promises are true – God is faithful. Earthly abundance cannot compare to the blessings He has for those who endure until the end!

Don’t you want to stand with the great cloud of witnesses and proclaim, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…”? As Bishop Millicent Hunter declares, “Don’t die in the winter!” As the late Rev. Dr. Bill Jones declared, “Don’t die in shallow water.” You’ve come this far, don’t give up now!

(3) Let us consider how we may spur one another on… We need each other. We need support, encouragement, challenge and at times confrontation to help us to be all that we are called to be. The dynamics of “community” healthy, God led community can “spur us on” to “love and good deeds.” Isolation contributes to unhealthy patterns of thinking. We become inward focused, susceptible to depression, resentment and unforgiveness. Too much time alone can cause you to dwell too deeply upon the past, hurts, mistakes, regrets etc. In loving community, we have the opportunity to process our feelings, share our thoughts, receive feedback and guidance that may help us make better choices and decisions. In community we can help each other to move forward, keep the faith, persevere, remain hopeful, let go of the past and forgive. Marching orders? Encourage one another to love and do what is right in God’s eyes.

“Onward Christian soldier, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before…”

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shepastor Highlights Conference Messenger, Dr. Wilma R. Johnson – “I Trust in God”

One of the most moving experiences of the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry” Conference was the appearance and message of our beloved sister, The Reverend Dr. Wilma R. Johnson, Senior Pastor of the New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Johnson, along with two of her associate ministers traveled by car to be with WTIM of Greater Cleveland.

The extraordinary thing about her coming is that Dr. Johnson had just begun chemotherapy for a re-occurrence of aggressive cancer. To look at her radiant face, her strong demeanor and her evident towering faith – one would never know that she was actively engaged in a battle for her life. What a gift she is to the body of Christ in general and women in ministry in particular! Joy and peace emanate from her trust filled spirit. Dr. Johnson truly is one of our female clergy giants!

Below are excerpts from her powerful message, “I Trust In God”
Read on and be blessed…

Shepastor Highlights Conference Messenger, Dr. Wilma R. Johnson – “I Trust in God”

I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
For, come what may, from day to day,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.

I trust in God, I know He cares for me,
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
Tho' billows roll, He keeps my soul,
My heavn'ly Father watches over me.

Dr. Johnson likened the struggles of many to that of the Charles Shultz Peanuts character, Charlie Brown…

(paraphrased…) When Charlie Brown faced difficult questions in life, he’d often turn to Lucy. On one of those occasions, Lucy said, ‘Charlie Brown, life is like folding chairs on a cruise ship. Some unfold their chairs and sit down at the back of the ship and contemplate where they have been. Some unfold their chairs and sit down at the front of the ship and consider where they are going. You just have to figure out where you are going to place your chair.’ To which Charlie Brown, with great frustration replied ‘Lucy, I can’t even get my chair unfolded!’

So many go through life just trying to figure out how to get their proverbial chair unfolded!

Dr. Johnson went on to encourage us to resist the domination of frustration in life. We have to step out by faith and know that our heavenly Father is watching over us. God is with us to sustain us, take care of us, keep us, guide us and supply all of our needs.

We can take great comfort in knowing that God is watching over us. He knows our pain, our toil, our fears, our struggles, our questions, and is able to carry us over and through every situation and circumstance.

Following the message, we had a two-phase moving and anointed altar call. First, the women gathered around Dr. Johnson, laid hands upon her and prayed for her healing. Then we prayed together for the healing of each other. What an awesome moment! With shouts of joy, tears of triumph and lifted hands in praise – the benediction was announced and we dispersed, having been empowered by God’s Holy Spirit and encouraged by one another!

This ends the series of highlights for the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry” Conference. Comments from conference participants will be shared on the WTIM website at

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shepastor: Highlights from Conference Plenary Session Delivered by the Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, “Woman to Woman: The Historical, Theological and Societal Influences Upon Our Relationships”

What factors influence the way women interact with each another? How have women’s roles and relationships over time impacted our view of sisterhood, trust, bonding, men etc? What issues separate us? What have erroneous, flawed interpretations of scripture done to damage our support for and perceptions of one another?

Today Shepastor highlights an excerpt from the conference Plenary presentation, delivered by The Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, Instructor of Biblical Hebrew for Ashland Theological Seminary. With great depth and insight, Dr. Allen challenged us to consider why the words of others take on greater meaning or value than our own words. When we embrace the words of others to a greater extent than our own words, their views, interpretations, actions or inactions tremendously influence our perceptions.

The greatest words or “Word” that we can embrace to help shape our world view is the Word of God. When we correctly interpret God’s Word, it will shape, influence and drive our self-perceptions as well as our relationships with one another.

Read an excerpt of her message below and be blessed…

Shepastor: Highlights from Conference Plenary Session Delivered by the Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, “ Woman to Woman: The Historical, Theological and Societal Influences Upon Our Relationships”

In a postmodern world our tendency is to face conflict, especially over issues as emotive as faith, by saying there is no one, grand meta-narrative; therefore we are all free to “agree to disagree”. Another tactic utilized is to convince one another that one must change sides in order to “win” an argument. I must convince you I am right and you must abandon your ideals or vice versa, but God comes along and says “neither ideal will work”. Instead of human ways to see faith we must see humans through faith and in God’s terms that means God’s Word is the great neutralizer. The leveling field is Scripture. When we view ourselves through the terms of theology, history or sociology we place the lens through the human vantage point, but God’s Word has the power to equalize our reader response ideas, our ecosystems created by humanity and our baggage we bring to the table. In order to overcome the opinions and constraints set by humanity we must reclaim the Word of God as a valid and worthy text: the one great meta-narrative. We do this through refocusing people upon both the particular and universal in any exegesis and with a careful eye on translation. The words then are not only relevant to one era, mind-set, situation or world view and instead we see how God’s transforming work has been done and is ongoing in a sinful world. It will always be our temptation to reduce God to our image, but God being the great God through the work of Jesus Christ does not argue with our desire, but simply pulls our heads up to see our own face in the image of God.

How have the views of others shaped your self-perception and world view? Have you replaced the opinions of others with God’s view of you? If so, how has that changed you? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shepastor Highlights: Panel Discussion, “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry”

Today Shepastor continues to highlight the, WTIM - Women Together in Ministry of Greater Cleveland “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference. This week’s blog focuses upon the Panel discussion that bears the same name as the conference.

Our panelist were,

· The Reverend Marilyn Turner, Associate Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Center for Missional Life and Leadership
· The Reverend Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, Senior Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church; Cleveland, Ohio, Newly Elected President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
· The Reverend Dr. Valentino Lassiter, Senior Pastor, East View United Church of Christ, Shaker Heights, Ohio
· The Reverend Pat Hernandez, Director, American Baptist Women In Ministry

Each panelist was given the opportunity to respond to the questions below…

“Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry”

-Through your own observation and experiences, what factors influence how women relate to one another?

-How have historical, societal and theological influences both positively and negatively impacted women’s relationships?

-Frequently, men are blamed for oppressing and hindering women’s progress. Many women, however, have experienced oppression, hindering and lack of support from other women. What can clergywomen and clergymen do to honestly, openly and sincerely address this issue?

-What can and should the Church do to help women build and nurture healthy relationships amongst women?

What an engaging, thought provoking and heartfelt conversation we had! Each panelist shared from personal, historical and cultural experiences. Rev. Turner shared the praise report that many wonderful women have played a role in her ministerial development. However, she has also experienced the pain of being called by two different churches and then later receiving notification that the church (each one) was “not ready for a female pastor.”

Rev. Hernandez shared the experience of facing a female panel of interviewers (for a different position) who treated her coldly and scolded her as being “unprofessional” for sharing a personal experience that was significant in forming her view of ministry. Rev. Hernandez went on to unpack the implications that women are often expected (even by other women in leadership) to leave their femininity at the door if they expect to make it in a “man’s world.”

Culturally speaking, Dr. Lassiter discussed the dilemma of the African American community as men and women were demeaned in the larger society. The church became the place where they found their, “somebodiness.” African American women feeling the need to nurture, build and protect the esteem of African American males, supported male leadership and rejected any woman or women who appeared to want to usurp their positions of authority.

Dr. McMickle shared the riveting story of one of the first Episcopalian female priests, who upon serving communion to a female parishioner was bitten and spat upon with spit mingled with her own blood and told, “That’s what I think of female priests!” The parishioner faced no repercussions for her cruel act and the priest was moved to another parish. The incident, however, did not drive her out of the ministry, but made her more determined to stand for the rights of clergywomen.

Dr. McMickle further challenged us to consider the question, “How can any group that makes up approximately 70% of an institution be oppressed by that same institution?,” referring to the reality that women make up the majority of churches. All panelists and the audience agreed - as more courageous men and women determine to stand against the discriminatory behaviors of churches, inevitably, the barriers will fall down.

Conference pictures on the web…
Conference web album now available! Check out pictures below of the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry” Conference

WTIM: "Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry" Conference Augsut 2011

or visit and click on the web album link.

Post your responses or send them to me by email at

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris