Blog Archives

Connecting leaders, past and present

December 27, 2012

On Sunday evening, December 16th, the Wood Fellowship Hall was filled with energy and conversation.  Approximately 250 people circled around tables to share a meal and think about our future as a congregation.

This was the first (but not the last) gathering of a group I dubbed “The College of Deacons and Elders.”  The intent of the night was to connect leaders in the church – past and present – together in order that we might build consensus around where God is calling us as the body of Christ.  There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in the experience of our past officers.  Those whom God has called to serve as leaders in the church have something to offer even after their term on the session or diaconate has ended.  Sunday night was a chance to harvest this collective wisdom.

After supper, I shared with the group some of my vision for our church – a vision that has been shaped as I have spent time these past few months listening to various members and groups within our congregation.  Our conversation centered on four areas around which I solicited feedback from the “College.”  Those areas were:

Priorities for Ministry

I suggested that our primary task as a church was to worship God.  From that worship grow three “spheres” of ministry that are equally important and valued.  I believe our focus (and our staffing) should be organized under these three spheres:

  1. Mission – Defined by where we meet Christ in the world rather than where we take Christ to the world.
  2. Community Life and Care – Focused on building networks of care and opportunities to grow in fellowship.
  3. Christian Formation – Claiming the purpose of Christian Education, which is to shape members into disciples of Jesus Christ.



My observation is that we are generally a very healthy church in terms of stewardship.  However, we need to pay attention to some new trends on the horizon.  Notably, that more and more people give out of a sense of passion rather than a sense of duty.  This has implications for the way the church communicates its mission to the congregation.

Building Partnerships

It is no secret that we are increasingly busy people.  This is true within and outside of the church.  Paying attention to this, I see great value in forging partnerships among the variety of ministries that take place under the banner of First Presbyterian Church.  Doing ministry in partnership (instead of every group or committee carrying out their own program) will better use our time and resources, as well as create a larger impact and exposure for our programs.

Releasing Passion and Increasing Participation

As a large church filled with talented and faithful people, we need to find ways to connect more members with our mission and ministry.  We also need to make sure that we retain our identity as a church and not “run off in a thousand different directions.”

To that end, I proposed that we spend the next year discerning and articulating five to six “distinctives” or “pillars” that will ground us in our identity as Christ’s body.  What is our particular calling as an uptown church?  Where does God need our witness?  How can our gifts and history and abilities best connect with our city and world?  These are the kind of questions that will drive us in discovering our “disctinctives.”

Once we are comfortable claiming who we are I believe we will be in a position to create “a culture of permission” – where someone who has an idea or a passion can pursue it without having to navigate a lot of “red tape” from the committee structures of the church.

It is my hope that the next time we gather the College of Deacons and Elders (in January of 2014) we will be in a position to share these five or six disctinctives and make sure that they reflect who we all understand God calling us to be.

This first experience of being with such a dynamic group of leaders was, for me, a confirmation of both my call to serve First Presbyterian Church and of our calling as a congregation to be bold in the ways we embrace Christ’s call for us in the future.




Youth Ministry Architects

December 4, 2012

Youth Ministry Architects

The Youth Ministry Architects visited us recently and spent a lot of good, quality time talking with us about our activities and how to make the First Presbyterian youth ministry more sustainable and fruitful. This is what they said …

You have questions? We have answers

November 6, 2012

Our Confirmation class has the opportunity to engage worship in a new way!  They attend worship and are given the opportunity to ask questions of the Minister that preached the sermon for a particular Sunday.  Here are a few of their questions and responses from the Minister that proclaimed the Word.  We will continue to put these out there for the congregation to see as we all seek to wrestle with God’s call for us.

Confirmation Worship Questions

Rev. Peery, From 9/30/12

Scripture:  Mark 9:38-41

How can we encourage those who are different from us to serve in Christ’s name?

Great question!

I think the key to your question is found in the word “encourage.”  Sometimes I have seen Christians (of every kind) make the mistake in believing that they can “make” someone who is different than them serve in Christ’s name (or believe in Christ).  I don’t think it is our job as disciples of Jesus to “make” people do something or believe something.

What we can do is be clear about what it is that we believe.  Then we can be clear about what motivates us to do those things that Christ wants us to do: share love with others, forgive, feed the hungry, offer welcome to those who don’t have many friends.   We don’t practice those acts of compassion just because we want to be nice people.  We do those things because we are grateful for the life we have in Jesus Christ who lived, died, and was raised for us and for the whole world!

There is an old song I used to sing at Camp Grier called “They will know we are Christians by our Love.”  I think being the best Christian we know how to be is the way we can encourage others to follow in Christ’s path.

Rev.  Peery, from 10/14/12

Scripture:  Mark 10:17-31

Are we really supposed to give up everything to follow God?  I like my stuff.

I like my stuff, too!

There are lots of things that Jesus says that are…quite simply…HARD.  Jesus sets the example for how to live the ideal life that God had in mind when God created us.

And no one BUT Jesus has ever been able to lead that kind of life.  The rest of us – always – fall short of the ideal.  So the question is, do we just give up?  Do we not even try?  Or – instead – do we do the best we can to be faithful and depend on God’s grace to pick us up when we’re not?

One of the questions I always try to keep in my mind about “my stuff” (money, car, iPhone, 1982 UNC National Championship coke bottle) is this: which do I love more?  God?  Or my stuff?

And one of the ways we practice making sure that we have our priorities in order is by giving our “stuff” away.  The fancy church word for that is “stewardship.”  That’s why we pass the offering plate.  Not just to take up money to pay for running the church, but to create a spiritual discipline of giving back to God some of the stuff that – by the way – came from God to begin with!!

Rev. Peery, from 10/28/12

Scripture:  Mark 10:46-52; Job 38, 42: selected verses

Why did God ever take a bet, even if he knew the outcome?

Why didn’t Job stop loving God after everything that happened?  Why would God make a bet on the happiness of a man’s life?

Both of these are great, and difficult to answer, questions.

I’ll start answering them by talking about the library.

When you go to the library (whether in person or online), the first thing you do is to look at what section you are in.  If you want to study history, you don’t check out a cookbook.  If you want to read a novel, you don’t browse the encyclopedias.

Now imagine that the Bible is a library.

There are 66 books in the Bible.

Many of those books are in different sections.

The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) talk about Jesus’ life.  These are in the non-fiction section.

The Psalms capture a whole range of feelings about what it means to follow God that are summed up in just a few short verses.  Psalm is in the poetry section.

The book of Revelation reads like a sci-fi adventure.  It is in the fantasy section.

The book of Job starts out with God making a bet with Satan and then ruining a man’s life for no reason other than to prove himself.  Do I think that is the way God does things?  I certainly hope not!!  But what if you don’t read the book of Job as if it were history?  What if God and Satan didn’t ACTUALLY sit down and ruin Job’s life?  What if Job is a story that is written to try to make an important point?

Does that make it less true than the other books in the Bible library that are non-fiction?  I don’t think so.  What the Bible reveals to us is God’s truth: about who God is, who Jesus is, and who we are.  The Bible is not a history book.  It is the Bible.  It’s bigger than history!  It is the revelation of God’s word!

The character of Job is a remarkable person.  He sticks with God even in spite of his sufferings.  He loves God through the difficult times.  He just keeps waiting for things to make sense.  And when they don’t – he finally flies off the handle and expresses his anger at God (read chapter 30 to see what I mean…).  It makes for a good story.  It sets up “the point” of the book: that the only one who is able to make sense of the world is the one who created the world.  That would be…not Job, or his friends, or us…but God and God alone.

Sounds kind of heavy, huh?  Like God is distant and cold and removed from all of us.

Maybe…but don’t forget that the way we know God is through Jesus…who came to the earth, lived among us, loved us, died for us, and was raised for us.

So while we may not ever know all there is to know about why things happen the way they do in our lives or our world, we do know what God thinks about us: because we see how much love has when we look at Jesus.

Can I get an AMEN???

Hello world!

October 19, 2012

Welcome to! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!