• Pastor Dan

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

(Isaiah 9:6)

During the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while the world is frantically shopping and spending money, the Church observes Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation and spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Each of the four weeks of Advent symbolizes a millennium of Old Testament history, anticipating the coming of the Promised Messiah.

When our children were young, we did a couple things during the month of December to celebrate the Advent season ourselves.

First, we hung an Advent Calendar on the wall with Scripture readings for each day of Advent, from December 1st through December 25th. Each night before dinner, one of the children read the Scripture passage for that day. Secondly, we placed an Advent wreath on our dinner table. We lit the Advent candles on Saturdays and discussed the traditional meanings of each candle. Then after lighting the candles, we ate dinner by candlelight. The kids especially enjoyed the candlelight dinners.

The symbolism of Advent wreath and candles is very meaningful...

  • The wreath is a circle, symbolizing God’s unending love.

  • The evergreens that decorate the wreath symbolize eternal life

  • The first candle is the “Prophet’s Candle” and symbolizes hope.

  • The second candle is the “Bethlehem Candle” symbolizing faith.

  • The third candle is the “Shepherd’s Candle,” and symbolizes joy.

  • The fourth candle is the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizing peace.

  • And the fifth candle (the white candle in the center of the wreath) is the “Christ Candle,” symbolizing Jesus, the Light of the World

We enjoyed celebrating Advent as a family. It was a way to pass on our faith. As God gave the nation of Israel several feasts to help them remember some mileposts in their history and look forward to the Coming Messiah, Advent is similar. Through Advent, we remember the first Advent of Jesus 2,000 years ago and we look forward to His Second Advent in the near future.

What I like most about Advent is the reminder all month that Christmas is not just about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, stockings, and presents. Christmas is about Christ.

How will you focus on the Christ of Christmas this Christmas season?

For a free "Reflections on Christmas" Devotional, click here

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  • Pastor Dan

My wife and I are proud parents of three married children and proud grandparents of seven wonderful grandchildren, ranging in age from one year to twelve years. It’s fun to watch children grow through various stages of life. In their early years, they learn to eat, and crawl, and walk, and talk – first simple words, then complete sentences. Then comes the school years – learning to read and write, add and subtract, music lessons and sport teams. This is followed by the teen years – driving and dating. There were days of anguish, and days of sheer pride and joy. It has been rewarding to watch our own children mature, begin their life’s work, get married, and start families of their own. Now we are enjoying our grandchildren as they progress through the same stages of life. God has truly blessed us beyond measure.

Just as children grow physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially; so, believers also must grow and mature spiritually. But spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically. Like physical growth, spiritual growth takes time. There are no “silver bullets” for spiritual maturity. There is no magic formula, or book, or conference, or website, or spiritual experience that will magically produce spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity requires effort, discipline, and time. Spiritual growth is a process.

Churches must not leave the spiritual growth process to chance, assuming it will somehow happen on its own. We must be intentional and strategic in developing a spiritual formation process.

First, it is imperative that we know what we are aiming at. What is the target? What might a profile of spiritual maturity look like? Winning a game of Bible Trivia or Bible Jeopardy is not the goal of spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is more than acquiring a wealth of Bible knowledge. Spiritual growth must be holistic. It must impact every area of a believer’s life – mind, heart, and will.

Therefore, I encourage turnaround leaders to develop a profile of a mature disciple. This profile should include convictions (Biblical beliefs), conduct (spiritual disciplines) and character (Christlike attitudes). Below is a sample “Profile of a Mature Disciple,” which I have developed.

Secondly, once a profile of a mature disciple has been identified, a strategy to accomplish the goal must be developed and implemented. Typically, the strategies for spiritual formation fall into two categories: a traditional model of Sunday School offered on Sunday mornings; or a contemporary model of Small Groups offered throughout the week. Other strategies for spiritual formation may include midweek Bible courses, shorter four-to-six-week electives, weekend seminars, and mentoring programs.

Whichever model or strategy is utilized, turnaround churches must be intentional and strategic in developing mature disciples. Remember, church revitalization is not just about numbers, it is also about personal growth and spiritual revitalization.

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  • Pastor Dan

If you are a Denver Broncos fan, you will remember one of the most memorable comebacks in football. In football lore, it is simply remembered as “The Drive.” It took place in the final minutes of the 1986 AFC championship game between the Broncos and the Cleveland Brown. With 5:32 remaining in regulation time, his team trailing 20-13, and the ball on the Broncos’ own two-yard line, John Elway engineered a fifteen-play, ninety-eight-yard drive to tie the game with only 31 seconds remaining on the clock. Then on Denver’s first possession in overtime, Elway marched his team sixty yards down the field in nine plays, and the Broncos won the game on Rich Karlis’s thirty-three-yard field goal

If you are a Buffalo Bills fan, you remember the AFC wild card game in 1993 between the Bills and the Houston Oilers. Houston was ahead 35-3 in the third quarter. They were so far behind, fans began heading home to escape the cold weather in Buffalo. But backup quarterback, Frank Riech, led the Bills in the largest comeback in NFL history to win the game 41-38 in overtime. In football lore, the game is known as “The Comeback.”

In the 2017 Super Bowl, halfway through the third quarter, the Atlanta Falcons were leading the New England Patriots, 28-3. But quarterback Tom Brady passed for 466 yards (a Super Bowl record) and the Patriots outscored the Falcons the rest of the game, 31-0. They never led in the game until the final play, winning in overtime, 34-28.

Each team’s comeback is credited largely to the leadership of their quarterback. Just as football teams need strong, courageous leadership to spark a comeback, so plateaued churches need strong, courageous leaders to lead their own comebacks. Churches on the brink of extinction need strong leadership to bring spiritual renewal and revitalization.

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true in the corporate world and in churches. It is especially true in turnaround churches. Very few, if any, will experience revitalization without courageous leadership.

Turnaround leaders come in many sizes and shapes. Some studies have suggested that turnaround pastors tend to be high D’s or I’s in the DiSC personality profile. However, I believe that God can use anyone He chooses, regardless of his personality or his leadership profile. Each pastor has a unique blend of God-given personality traits, spiritual gifts, passions, talents, abilities, and life experiences that help mold and shape him or her in the man or woman God chooses to use for this high calling of church revitalization.

When God called Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land, He gave him some words of encouragement: “Be strong and courageous.” In fact, God repeated those words of encouragement three times in just four verses (Joshua 1:6-9). This is good encouragement for every turnaround leader today – Be strong and courageous.

While leaders demonstrate many good qualities, courageous leaders are marked by the following seven characteristics.

  1. They are men or women of faith – committed to a personal relationship with God.

  2. They are sacrificial – willing to sacrifice their time and resources for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

  3. They are visionaries – able to catch and cast a vision of a preferable future.

  4. They are change-agents – introducing and implementing needed changes to minister more effectively in today’s culture.

  5. They are risk-takers – willing to step out and introduce new and innovative strategies in ministry.

  6. They are peacemakers – willing to confront divisiveness in the church in order to promote peace and unity.

  7. They are authentic – willing to be open, transparent, and vulnerable.

While many church growth experts believe that new leadership is required in a plateaued church in order to turn it around; I suggest that renewed leadership can also lead a church in renewal and revitalization. Whether you are a new or a renewed leader, Be strong and courageous.

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