About Richard Wood

Richard Wood is a native of Wilkesboro, North Carolina and currently serves as an associate pastor in Sanford, North Carolina. He has served congregations in the areas of education, youth ministry, children’s ministry and interim pastor over the last 15 years, and has led conferences on youth ministry, youth Sunday School and technology in ministry all across North Carolina.He is responsible for the technology needs of the partnership along with assisting churches with their technology needs

How have you heard God answering your call for help?

godhelpus

Each of us is a unique creation of God. Each of us has been called by God in a unique way. God knows each of us by name and he knows how we best respond to him. He speaks to each of us so we can comprehend. As each of us plead for help, God may give us similar but different answers.

What revelation has God given you during this pandemic? Is it a new reveal or is it a reminder of a previous revelation?

I would like to hear what you have heard from God.

 

These thoughts above are from Rev. Jerry Chiles, one of our partners in ministry for the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Metroplex. He has served in various churches across the Southeast as an associate minister. For more information about how he can help you, contact him by email.

God Help Us!

By Rev. Jerry Chiles

In March 2020 we lifted our voices to heaven crying, “God help us! Deliver us from this pandemic called Covid-19.” At that point in time, we had no idea what would be the extent of the pandemic. Over and over, we cried out to God to deliver us.  When relief did not come, we asked, “Why not God? Why have you left us to struggle, unable to return to your house and be with your people?” Similar other cries of deliverance are found throughout the Bible in Joshua 7:7, Psalms 79:9, Matthew 6:13, and Matthew 26:39.

What do we do, when we cannot hear a word from the Lord? Maybe we are just not seeing the word the Lord has given. Open our eyes Lord, so we can see you acting.  Here are four answers I have seen.

What if the word of the Lord is, The Church is not a building? Is God saying to us that buildings are not important? He is saying, “My people are to be primarily in the world and not in a building”. Jesus said, John 17:18 “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” How many Christians, who normally would be in a building, have been doing God’s work in neighborhoods and other unique places?

What if the word of the Lord is, I have provided you new ways to communicate to a world already proficient in technology? In Isaiah 43:19 we hear these words, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” How many times have we said ugly things, as we struggled to become proficient in technology when God had already put the gifted people in our midst to teach us?

What if a word of the Lord is, I have already shown you what is good? “He has showed you, O man, what is good. ….to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8   This pandemic has helped us see a bigger world. He has called us to see people in need of food and housing and recognize the plight of people different from us. We must find ways to give people dignity, worth, and equality.

What if a word from the Lord is, All people from all tribes and nations, saints and sinners are welcome at My table?  In Matthew 9:10 Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners. In Matthew 26:6 he ate with a leper. As we begin to break down barriers to His table, we will experience resistance. In Matthew 9:11 the Pharisees asked, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Who does God want you to invite to His table?

We now have vaccines. Maybe it will not be long, before we have herd immunity and can return to some sense of normality. Is God calling us back to where we were, or is he calling us to move into a new world?

These thoughts above are from Rev. Jerry Chiles, one of our partners in ministry for the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Metroplex. He has served in various churches across the Southeast as an associate minister. For more information about how he can help you, contact him here.

Can We Talk?

This week I found the file for the first workshop I led on communication, complete with acetate overhead sheets, from 25 years ago! It is interesting to note changes. There was no mention of internet, email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or any form of social media. There was no discussion of cultural bias, gender identity, or sexuality. Although there were deep political divisions in 1996, no one considered political polarization a critical issue to be considered at work or church. Today it seems we have given up on having conversations with anyone with whom we do not already agree. Having a meaningful conversation must have been so much simpler then!

And yet, I was asked to lead a workshop on communication for a group of social workers and caregivers in a non-profit agency. What were the concerns? Learning to listen to each other and trying to decipher from a conversation what was really going on in another person’s life. Some things never change. I’d like to share some of the principles and tools I shared then, just as applicable today, and a few more I’ve learned along the way.

  • Take time
    Don’t try to carry on a meaningful conversation while distracted. (Texting while watching TV and eating dinner?) People know when you are not really paying attention.
  • Focus
    Listen to what they are saying without rehearsing, or researching, your next response. Ask yourself “what are they trying to say?”
  • Suspend judgement
    Certain words and phrases can set you off, obscuring your ability to hear. Set aside what seems unreasonable or unacceptable to you long enough to understand the complete thought or feeling process of the other.
  • Build rather than argue
    “Yes, but…” signals an argument has begun. A better alternative is “Yes, and…” which moves conversation forward. (Thanks to Susan Sparks for that).
  • Clarify
    As “technique-y” as “What I hear you saying is…” can be, it can head off a lot of misunderstanding. “Help me understand how you came to see it this way?” is also helpful.
  • Speak for yourself
    Putting words into their mouths is not helpful. Quoting others is probably not helpful. Articulating your thoughts without threatening, accusing, or negating the other person is helpful. This is often called “using I statements.” Some great ideas from Brian McLaren include:

    • I can understand how you might see it that way and wonder how I can help you understand where I’m coming from?
    • Wow, I really see that differently…
    • I understand Jesus/the Bible to be saying…

For people with whom we have permanent family relationships, those with whom we have longstanding relationships we wish to maintain, and those with whom we have a spiritual relationship, we do well to preface and conclude our conversations with the reminder that, unless what brought us together is on the table, our connection and affection predates and will outlast this conversation. Reducing that fear can make our conversations an avenue of strengthening our ties rather than severing them.

Dr. Paul Raybon, our partner in ministry in the Western Carolinas, can help you and your ministry navigate congregational unity and effectiveness. He is Associate Pastor at Hominy Baptist Church near Asheville, NC and works with churches and leaders as a coach and consultant in communication, visioning, administration, and spiritual formation. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at paul@barnabaspartnership.com

Who’s “We”?

By Dr. Paul Raybon

One of my favorite boyhood jokes goes like this:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto were surrounded by an Indian war party; they sent their horses Silver and Scout away to safety, and now were down to their last bullets. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says “I don’t think we’re going to make it out of here, Tonto!” Tonto replies: “Who’s ‘we,’ Paleface?”

Though the language is out of touch with modern sensibilities, like any good joke, it begins with our expectations for how things should be, and then reminds us that may not be the case. Two people in the exact same situation can experience it very differently, and that difference hinges on identity.

2020 will go down in history as a “plague year” in so many ways. 2021 is already off to a shaky start, but we have expectations that things are really going to turn around when the pandemic ends. Our patterns of life will return to some sense of normalcy; we will get to spend time with friends and family; folks will return to church and we’ll “sing and shout the victory!”

But I’m wondering. When we all get back in the same rooms together, some for the first time since last March, what will it be like? As we begin to share our stories, I think we will find that many folks in our churches experienced 2020 very differently from each other. Some were isolated at home while some went about their lives with little change. Some were without work, some prospered. Some doubted the validity of COVID, some suffered mightily. Some found their political perspectives validated by victory, some see their views reinforced by defeat. Common ground may be hard to find. Congregational identity and fellowship could be at risk. Will “we” fall victim to the social discord that has divided our nation? Who’s “we?”

We don’t yet know the answer to those questions. But if we are not prepared to address them, we may be setting up our congregations for a period of discord or spiritual impotence.
So, what can we do to prepare for that wonderful day when we will gather in Sunday School rooms and fellowship halls? Here are a few ideas that I’m pondering:

Model and teach healthy communication

Even before you gather, your communication should exemplify best practices and good theology “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Most people have never talked about how they talk to one another. Invite someone to come and lead a session or two on healthy communication.

Create conversational experiences

Not just for visioning processes! This can happen in special gatherings or ongoing small groups. There are several models to consult, and having people gather for focused conversation with clear guidelines and trained facilitators is a healthy way to encourage listening to and learning from each other’s stories.

Do ministry together

You already know this, but don’t forget that working side by side in worthwhile work can create new bonds and restore damaged ones. Even when very large groups are not able to gather, small work parties will be able to work in open spaces. This can also be an effective means of integrating folks who have come into the fellowship during the pandemic.

Focus on common faith and worship

Gear worship and teaching to remind the Body of what makes us a body. What connected us before 2020 has not changed.  “Is Christ divided?”  Celebrating the Lord’s Supper/Communion and baptism together will be especially sweet, savor it. Hearing each other’s voices joined in song will be powerful. Take time to honor that experience.

Create new traditions

We will all be glad to experience the traditions of worship and fellowship that we had to forgo in the time of pandemic. We do well to remember that every tradition was once done for the first time. What can you do that will mark this moment in the life of your church and create a reminder of the faithfulness of God and unity of God’s people?

Revisit mission and vision

Even if you completed a visioning process in 2019, the world really has changed in the last 12 months. Congregations have learned lessons about new competencies and old shortcomings that we did not know a year ago. We have made and lost connections with people in our communities. How will these changes affect how we fulfill God’s purposes?

Who’s “we?” Who are we now? Still the same, now and forever, the redeemed children of God called together to bring God’s grace to the world!

Dr. Paul Raybon, our partner in ministry in the Western Carolinas, can help you and your ministry navigate congregational unity and effectiveness. He is Associate Pastor at Hominy Baptist Church near Asheville, NC and works with churches and leaders as a coach and consultant in communication, visioning, administration, and spiritual formation. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at paul@barnabaspartnership.com

 

Intercession – The Church’s Power for Ministry

by Larry Glover-Wetherington

I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:1-3 NLT)

As I observe the prayers of the Apostle Paul, I notice that he asks for prayer that he might have opportunities to share the gospel; he prays that people may be established in their faith; that they may experience the fullness of the good news; and that they will not be deceived by others perverting the gospel. He prays against “the principalities and powers” of the unseen world. As in the scripture above he agonizes in prayer over the new churches. Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.(Gal 4:19 NLT), and he prays that they will make disciples. Paul’s ministry is baptized in intercessory prayer.

It is in intercessory prayer that Jesus finds his highest calling. In his heavenly ministry, Hebrews 7:25 says, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

This is where the church finds its highest calling as well. It is through the intercessory prayer of the church alone that the church can participate in God’s work, and nothing avails without it. This is that part of abiding in the Vine where Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing”.

There is so much that needs prayer, it is easy to be overwhelmed to the point of not praying. Where do we begin? How do we proceed? I believe the clue is to pay attention to our heart.
My wife and I routinely watch the evening news. I have noticed at the end of the hour that I usually have a deep sense of grief and sadness from the reports of the pandemic, immigrants in multiple places in the world, some for political reasons, some fleeing persecution. Numerous wars and conflicts are ravaging people’s lives, and there is the continual racial injustice in our country. It occurred to me one evening that instead of just being sad and feeling like there is nothing I can do, perhaps the sadness is God’s way of calling me to compassionate intercessory prayer for God’s suffering and broken world.

These thoughts in the blog above are from Rev. Larry Glover-Wetherington, one of our associate partners in ministry living in Durham, North Carolina. He has served in various churches positions across the Southeast. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at director@TransformYourMinistry.com.

Prayer – Christ’s Intention for the Church

by Larry Glover-Wetherington

The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest (Luke 10:1-2).

The Greek word for “pray” here means to ask, beseech, plead, implore, make request, pray with a sense of urgency. It is in the middle voice, which indicates that we are to be in a continual back and forth conversation with God about God’s mission. When we read in the Gospels everything Jesus said about prayer, and when we see what the gospel writers said about how Jesus practiced prayer, we can only conclude that Christ intended for the work of the church to be done by prayer. The disciples made the connection between Jesus’ prayer and the wondrous things he said and did.  Let’s note just some of those observations.

THE ROLE OF PRAYER IN JESUS’ MINISTRY

Early in Jesus’ ministry Luke says, But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Luke 5:15-16).

On yet another occasion, the disciples noticed Jesus in prayer: He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples (Luke 11:1).

Jesus explained the central purpose to his prayer life. He said, I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does (John 5:19-20a).

How did Jesus see what the Father was doing? He saw it through prayer. That’s how He did his work in ministry; that’s how he intends for the church to do its work. It is only through prayer that we can discern what God is doing, and how God is inviting us to join in what God is doing.

THE ROLE OF PRAYER IN THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH

We also need to note how the early church went about its ministry through prayer. Our record of the church for its first 70 or so years is the book of Acts. The opening scene is Jesus giving the disciples final instructions before he ascended to heaven. He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, and he said to them, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

As they began to experience persecution, Peter and John were put in jail overnight and ordered never again to preach in the name of Jesus. After their release, they reported everything to the church. Luke says, So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. (Acts 4:24). They began by hallowing God’s name. Then they proceeded to tell God what the religious authorities had said, and they closed their prayer with this request, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:29-31).

We find Peter later going up on a rooftop to pray, and he receives a vision and ultimately a command to go to Cornelius’ house. He goes, and the Holy Spirit falls upon the Gentiles, just like the Day of Pentecost That event caused a big controversy, and Peter goes to Jerusalem to explain. I can almost hear him, saying, “I was just minding my own business and praying, but let me tell you what happened.”

Space does not allow me to recount all the other instances of the church in prayer in the book of Acts, not the least of which was the launching of Paul’s missionary journeys. Just like Jesus, the early church came to understand what they were to do and say as they heard it and recognized it from God. Luke does not conclude the book of Acts. There is the assumption that God’s mission would continue, and that the church would continue to do its work through prayer. Perhaps during this time of being restricted by the pandemic, the church can engage the ministry of prayer. After all, God is not quarantined.

These thoughts above are from Rev. Larry Glover-Wetherington, one of our associate partners in ministry based out of Durham, North Carolina. He has served in various churches positions across the Southeast. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at coach@TransformYourMinistry.com.

Trusting in a New Day

By John Daniels

I recently wrote an article describing some of the ways the pandemic is changing the way we do church.  I concluded the article with the trust lessons I have both learned and continue to learn.

I was reminded of my first team building experience with a trust fall.  I was the first to volunteer to fall into the trusted hands of my group and it was an easy and fun experience.  I was not prepared for what was to follow, changing the position from the falling person to the group doing the catching was a tough transition.   Suddenly the immense responsibility of catching someone started weighing on me.  What if a team member doesn’t pay attention? What if someone thinks a slight “oops” in the catch would be funny?  What if everyone at the same time thought someone else will do the catching?

Trust requires action.  I have experienced new understandings of trusting God to be in control of his Church and his world in this crisis.  I would also hope that God and the church I serve have found me to be trustworthy.   I need to be prepared to get the team ready to make the catch when hearing the command “fall.”  I do trust God in this pandemic and I thank him for the gifts and the grace required to be ready for the catch.

These thoughts above are from John Daniels, our associate partner based out of Wilmington, North Carolina. His primary focus is working alongside churches in administrative challenges and opportunities. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at jdaniels@fbcwilmington.org.

Learning in a New Day

By John Daniels

Mid-March rocked my world.  We closed the church office for what we thought was a multiple week pause only to discover that a few weeks would turn into months.  Things are different!

How can we continue to do the business of the church?” became the question that needed an immediate answer.  Months later I realize that I am continuously asking and answering that same question.  When the regular framework for doing the business of the church is interrupted, we are forced to learn new things.  Learning how to increase our digital presence in the world, learning how to work from home, learning how to conduct a Zoom committee meeting, learning how to make a calendar that is flexible, learning how to streamline communication, the list goes on and on.

This COVID-19 transition has lasted longer than I hoped, yet it has lasted long enough for me to learn new things and ask new questions.

  • I have learned that availability is necessary, but it does not mean that I have to be tethered to a desk at the office.
  • I have learned that connection is necessary, but we do not have to see each other in person or shake hands for it to be real.
  • I have learned that calendars and TTD lists are important, but getting things done well with intentional priority are necessary in this time of transition.  Policies and procedures are indispensable, yet there are times that call for extra ordinary solutions to problems that may arise.
  • I have learned that God truly is in control of the church and her resources.  I have come to realize that prior to coronavirus the business of the church had become route and forcefully scheduled.  I now find a new peace and joy with making sure that necessities get done that require effort, time and some tender loving care.

I wish I could predict what comes next, but one thing I know, I must continue to learn and trust God.

These thoughts above are from John Daniels, our associate partner based out of Wilmington, North Carolina. His primary focus is working alongside churches in administrative challenges and opportunities. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at jdaniels@fbcwilmington.org.

I Don’t Know What to Do

By Rev. Jerry Chiles

I have survived so far in this COVID-19 pandemic. I think I’m OK, but have some bumps and bruises. I find myself not knowing what comes next. I hear about lawsuits to allow churches to reopen, and I listened to the health experts who are very cautious.  What do I do? This is no man’s land; a place where we become paralyzed.

We want to go back to the place we feel safe and comfortable. Yet we wonder, if that place still exists. We see the need to move forward, but don’t know what that looks like.  We are afraid of failing.

Moses faced similar circumstances in the Exodus. The children of Israel grumbled against Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die?” Moses became frustrated, “What am I to do with these people.” (NIV). Moses knew they could not go back. He had a vision of their destiny. Did he take some missteps? Yes, but he moved forward with the Lord’s help.

Be assured that failure is not the enemy, failing to act is the enemy. If you step out into the unknown, will you make mistakes? Yes. In a blog by Robyn with Partners in Mindful Living it says, “The big truth is that failure has gotten a bad rap. It’s the only way we humans move forward, make progress, and grow into functioning, reasoning adults.” In Love Does Bob Goff says “Failure is just a part of the process. God doesn’t want failure to shut us down. It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.”

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” – Deuteronomy 3:22 NIV

These thoughts above are from Rev. Jerry Chiles, one of our partners in ministry for the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Metroplex. He has served in various churches across the Southeast as an associate minister.

In the Middle of the Crisis

By Rev. Jerry Chiles

You might be asking yourself, “Why am I here at this junction of history? Why am I having to go through this crisis? I am exhausted. God why are you doing this to us?”

God is not the one who is doing this to us. Is God present in this crisis? Yes! Can God use this crisis to show us a better way? Yes! There are times in life when ordinary people have the opportunity to do extraordinary things. It is no accident that we are present. This crisis will help us define our ministries. Will we step up and make a positive contribution or will we do the minimum and try to wait it out?

What does God expect of us? I think he expects us to self-care, to be present with people, and prepare our congregations to move forward. Does he say it will be easy? No! But he promises to be present with us.

While we have given up some things, we have also discovered new things. We had to embrace social media as never before. We had to discover how we can be present without being in physical contact.

One of the hardest decisions we face is what will we leave behind and what we embrace as we move forward. It is natural for us to long for a time and place of the familiar and safety. Moses wanted to stay in the dessert and gave God excuse after excuse as to why he could not do it. After he said yes, he took lots of grief from his people who often asked to return to Egypt? Joshua was afraid but God told him, “Do not be afraid of them”. Barnabas brought Saul under his wing stepping into the unknown and took criticism from his fellow Christians.

So how do we discern what God is calling us to be and do in and after this crisis? Each of us must decide God’s calling. However, God does not call us to go back. He calls us to join him. In Isaiah 49:18-19 he challenges us to ‘see a new thing’. In the New Testament Jesus talked about new wine in new wineskins, new garments, new commandments, new treasures, and a new creation. In Revelation they sang a new song.

It is not enough for us to embrace the new. We must encourage our congregations to embrace the new as well. Some of the congregation will move quickly to follow this new way, while others will be slow to move and some not at all. It must be said up front that failure may be part of the new way, but remember failure is not the enemy.  Failing to act is the enemy.

Be encouraged! We will get through this crisis. Be encouraged! God wants the best for us and His church. Be encouraged! You are not alone. All of us are afraid about what to do. Be encouraged! There are members of your congregation who are seeking God for the new way, too. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV we find: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. “

These thoughts above are from Rev. Jerry Chiles, one of our partners in ministry for the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Metroplex. He has served in various churches across the Southeast as an associate minister.