Tag Archives: Pastor’s breakfast

Sharing Breakfast and Life

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing

“I was not really looking forward to the morning event.  I wasn’t even sure it had much to do with my call and work,” confessed Joy Sawatzky, a chaplain at Living Branches.  “What happened was a nice surprise.  I like surprises.”

The “morning event” was a breakfast sponsored by Living Branches and Franconia Conference exploring questions of spirituality across generations.  On February 14, a panel of leaders answered questions about calling, spiritual practices, and hope.

“What happened was heart-felt sharing from three different generations around call and how that was and is lived out, not just in the lives of those on the panel, but in the table conversations afterwards as well,” reflected Sawatzky.

Panelists Krista Showalter Ehst, John Ruth, Paula Stoltzfus, James Krabill, Josh Meyer, and Ray Hurst expressed curiosity about other generations, pondered over advice they would give to their younger selves, suggested practices that are important in the life of the Church, and confessed how their priorities in ministry have been shaped by their life experiences (listen to the podcast).

After the panelists shared, pastors gathered around tables to share their own stories, challenges, and questions.  The take away—a hope for the future of the church and a hope for more of these conversations.

Living Branches began to explore sponsoring conversations on aging after a pastor told them, “Our church is aging, however our energy is focused on family and youth; we would appreciate thinking and talking together about issues of aging. Help us.”   Living Branches believes that as a member of the community and a participating ministry of the Franconia Conference, they have a calling to connect with and resource their community and churches around the issues of aging, says Margaret Zook, Director of Church & Community Relations at Living Branches.  “We believe that joy and purpose in life is enriched through conversations at all stages of our life.”

Credentialed leaders are invited to two breakfasts this April:

  • April 19, 8-10am, at Souderton Mennonite Homes. Chaplains from Living Branches will present the documentary “Being Mortal” and facilitate a conversation around faith and end of life issues.  (RSVP to Margaret_Zook@LivingBranches.org).
  • April 25, 9-11am, at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. Anne Kaufman Weaver will lead a conversation around her research in resiliency for women in pastoral leadership (RSVP at franconiaconference.org/events).

“Taking time to be together to learn, to network, to eat together, to drink coffee and tea together helps keep our leadership and relationships vibrant and lively,” says Franconia Conference executive minister Steve Kriss.  “While our schedules are busy, this time apart, even for a few hours, is an important respite and a significant time to strengthen both skills and relationships among us as credentialed leaders in our conference community.”

For questions related to upcoming events or to request resourcing for your congregation, contact Emily (email or 267-932-6050, ext. 117).

Leading without fear: being missional Christians in a fear-filled world

(adapted from Mark & Kathy Weaver Wenger’s message at the Pastors & Spouses Appreciation Breakfast on December 6, 2011)

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”  (Luke 2:10)

Kathy and Mark Weaver Wenger speak about leading without fear. Photos by Tim Moyer.

Fear is one of our deepest instinctual responses from the “reptilian” part of the brain.   To live without fear is unrealistic.   Impossible.  We may as well try to live without pain or suffering.

“Be afraid, be very afraid” – The fear-industry is Big Business that sells us lots of things – insurance, weapons, health products, relationships, consumer products.  Fear, dread, worry, concern, anxiety.  It’s a powerful motivator.

“Do not be afraid”  is specifically mentioned 70 times in scripture.  Some examples:

  • The Lord to Abraham – “Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward.”  (Gen. 15:1)
  • Moses to the Israelites as the Egyptians closed in for the kill – “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.”  (Ex. 14:13)
  • The Lord to Joshua after Moses’ death – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Josh. 1:9)
  • The angel to Joseph—“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.” (Matt 1:20)
  • Jesus to his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Fear is usually portrayed negatively.  It’s a bad thing, to be controlled and to be avoided.  We are told to “lead without Fear” and that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”  (1 John 4:18)   But a fuller reading of Scripture gives another twist to the language of fear that we don’t pay much attention to:

  • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
  • “Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)

Fear God???  What is going on?  This sounds contradictory and confusing.  Is God an enemy or cheat or torturer or tyrant or bully?

We get a sense of the “fear of God” in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Aslan is a Lion, the Christ-figure.  His roar shakes the mountains.  Aslan is not a “tame lion” Nor is he a “safe lion.”  But above all else, he is good and he is loving.  He’s the King.

What does it mean “to fear God?”  C.S. Lewis says it is to “feel awe and wonder and a certain shrinking.”  It’s mystery.  It is to acknowledge that God is sovereign and recognize and defer to God’s power, love, majesty, and superiority.  It means respecting, reverencing, honoring God as sovereign and Lord.

Maybe this ancient language of “fearing God” provides a CLUE for “Leading without Fear in a Fear-filled World.”  Being in right relationship with God is the key.  To grasp deep in our souls (deeper than reptilian brain) that God is sovereign, God is the “Untamed One,” the “Not-to-be-played-with-Lord,” of the Universe.  And that God is Good, God is Love.

And that God comes close to us at Christmas.

We can be come immobilized or possessed by terror when we forget God’s greatness and goodness to us in Jesus Christ.  “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

In the Bible, God’s words of reassurance, “Don’t be afraid,” often preceded a great event.  How many times have we missed God doing something good or great because we were afraid of something or someone, instead of trusting God?  The angel’s reassurance to the shepherds turned them loose to find Jesus and tell the whole neighborhood about God’s good news.

Take a moment and reflect:  What is a fear that gnaws at you?  What anxiety keeps you from venturing into deeper water with God?  What are you afraid of as a pastor, or as a pastor’s spouse?  What are your co-workers and neighbors afraid of?  What keeps them stressed and up at night?

The arrow of Christmas is pointed directly at addressing and shrinking those fears,  putting them into living relation to God, the Lord of Universe.  The One who comes to us in Christ Jesus to save us.  The One who will never leave us.

A parable: When I (Mark) was five, we lived in Ethiopia. Our family went on an evening picnic with several other families along the Awash River. After supper the grown-ups got to talking; we children raced and squealed in a game of tag. The sun set and dusk began to lower over the African landscape. Heedless in my dashing, I ran off the top of a bluff, tumbling about twelve feet to the bottom of a dusty dry creek bed. When I stood up, it was utter darkness. I could see absolutely nothing. I started howling at the top of my lungs, “I’m blind, I’m blind, I’m blind.”  My dad heard my cries and came running. He couldn’t jump off the bluff; it was too high. So he had to take the long way around. He scooped me up, held me, and took me to the river. He washed my dust-coated eyeballs and I could see again.

Leading without Fear is born by calling out to a great God who in fact is reaching out to us.  Leading without fear is undergirded by the character of God, the words of God – Do not be afraid.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23)


Pastor’s & Leader’s Breakfast Podcasts
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Christian Leaders Discuss Ways to Build Bridges with Muslims

March 17, 2010

The Why, What & How of Social Media: Engaging Your Community in the Context that is Revolutionizing the Way the World Connects

November 4, 2010

The Naked Anabaptist with author Stuart Murray Williams

October 21, 2010

Celebrating Shared Leadership Across Gender Lines

September 29, 2010

A Place to Call Home: Our New Immigrant Neighbors