VOLUME 1 | DECEMBER 2020
Monthly News & Updates
The Executive Council of KACP would like to hear from you and receive your feedback on the newsletter. The goal is for each member to stay connected and informed. Each month we will share relevant information in Ministry Trends and Best Practices, Current Events, Social Action, Health and Wellness and much more. You can also visit the KACP website or the app to access.
BISHOP'S CORNER
Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Sr.
The Christmas season is upon us. It's the time of gift-giving, marvelous dishes, and warm fellowship with families and friends. We make our list, and either online or in person, we descend on stores to buy our gifts and be ready for the birthday of our Lord. That is the description of Christmas we shared and lived last year, but much has changed in just twelve months. We will not crowd into malls or even the homes of our family members or friends. Many of the places we would frequent have been given early times for closing, and some have just gone out of business. This Christmas will be different, very different.

The virus has changed our lives and made us come face-to-face with the truth that we are ending the year with over 300,000 persons succumbing to this disease. The state orders have discouraged our collective gatherings and even now, many of us
are preparing for the serious adjustment that this moment will require. My wife and I have accepted that this year's celebrations will in no way resemble prior years, and we have to be ready to embrace that truth.

I think this might have been the thought that gripped Mary and Joseph when it became clear to them that the delivery of the baby would take place in Bethlehem. I'm sure they were not thinking scripture; they were thinking their reality. Mary saw mothers give birth and knew the midwives and family would be in anxious anticipation. Yet for this moment in her life, for this special day, for this dream come true, none of the usual expectations would hold. She would be in a stable and she would be there by herself. This was not what she planned or expected.

Nothing in Mary's world resembled the way she thought it would be. When the angel announced the birth, he did not give her a warning about the birthplace. She had to go through a mentally shaking and physically frightening experience. We are living in such a moment. These last ten months have shaken our confidence in the traditional and disrupted our concepts and expectations of life like a minefield exploding before our eyes. Many persons will approach this with sadness and melancholy. Many will grieve throughout the entire time. We are, like Mary and Joseph, grieving the loss of our expectations. Our minds have been working overtime to ensure that we survive what we are facing, but often we feel guilty because we cannot make things change and conform to our will and our wishes.

What can we do this holiday to see things in a different light and to celebrate the birth of the Lord? I believe this is a message we must put out and share with others. This is not just for our thinking. This is for our doing. I believe the first step in dealing with the disappointment is to accept it and plan. Mary knew that they were not going home right away. She knew that even if they decided to go, she was in no state to make the journey. She had to accept the facts and then plan. The baby was coming. Her son was about to be born. Things had to be put in place, and preparations had to be made. She had to make a plan and begin to execute that plan.

I think we need to encourage persons to accept this year as it is presenting itself. We do not need to cling to a moment that we can't recreate, but we need to create a plan that will look at what we want accomplished. I have to accept that the virus is changing things. I have to accept that my Christmas dinner will be for my wife and myself. We have to accept that we will not hear the sound of our children or our grandchildren on Christmas Day. But I must also plan for what we will do and how we will do it. I must plan for what I will do that will put a smile on my wife's face. I have to make a plan. Mary and Joseph were having their first child, and they wanted the experience to be as great as it could be under the circumstances. God gave them the wherewithal to make that happen, and God will do the same for us.

Mary and Joseph teach us to keep an eye open for the unexpected. That night shepherds came to the manger, and sometime later, Magi appeared with major gifts. If we are not careful, we can become absorbed in our disappointment and miss what has an appointment to bless us. Even though this was not the place they wanted to be, the visits made them aware they were right where they needed to be. They could lift their heads and sing and shout. The shepherds told them about the angels, and the Magi told them about Herod. They were being blessed because they were open to being lifted by the unexpected sweeping into their lives.

Finally, in this season with so much changing, remember the line spoken of Mary, "and she kept all these things in her heart and pondered them." She allowed herself to think with God about all that was transpiring. As we approach this season with some trepidation, ponder all your thoughts and invite God into the discussion. Enjoy the conversation you have with God and let God help you plot the course for the new year. Jesus was born in a barn and lived to save the world. We will come through this experience, but we will use this year to make a tremendous impact on the lives of those we shepherd and love.

Merry Christmas!
SOCIAL JUSTICE
Bishop Dwayne C. Debnam
Reason to Celebrate

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!  Over the last few weeks, so much attention has been given to the chaos in Washington, the economy and of course the pandemic.  Perhaps for a few moments, despite the importance of those mentioned concerns, we can give our attention to appreciating the one who has brought us through all of those and other concerns.  In a few days, we will celebrate the birth of God’s gift to the world. 

My question is HOW WILL YOU CELBRATE?  Will you celebrate with a meal, a sermon, a song or perhaps a Zoom family fellowship?  The challenge being laid forth is simply this, let’s refuse to allow ourselves to be distracted by our context and
limit the time and attention that we give to the One who is sovereign. This year has been one of the most shifting years in many of our lives; however, what has been constant is the presence of our God.

Even in the midst of the growing economic and educational disparities in the land, in the midst of a political party that has clearly chosen party, power and position over the needs of the people, we must BRING HONOR TO WHOM HONOR IS DUE.  Our role as faith leaders is to continue to point persons to the consistency of our God, and so as we celebrate this year, let’s not lose sight of the reality that the God whom we serve has been nothing less than God in our lives.  Let’s not overlook that despite the reality of colliding pandemics, we have seen the strength of our Savior. 
MENTAL HEALTH

What's Next

This year has been a learning experience for us all. Our resilience has been tested and strengthened by the colliding pandemics of racism, economic downturn, covid-19 and a country that is divided. With all of these happening simultaneously, some have wondered in their quiet time and have whispered aloud a word of defeat “what’s next?” Typically, we say this when we have been through a great amount or tests, trials, pain and hurt. The confusion of walking in faith and still wondering if we heard God or was it something we did out of our own desires and strength can leave us afraid to move ahead. Tapping into your faith and doing what you
Dr. Carla J. Debnam
have never done before is what is necessary in navigating the new normal brought on by crisis, change, challenges and even our choices.

Asking the question what’s next can be a catalyst for transformation and just the motivation needed to get into a creative and growth mindset. When your vision gets stretched, it is a sign that where you are no longer is sufficient for where God is taking you. It is important to recognize these times of transition and to embrace them with hope and joy. While the events, actions or decisions that prompted the need to change may be unpleasant and unwelcome, the benefits may be greater in the long run. Initially, when we were faced with Covid-19, we were fearful, concerned and stressed. After almost a year of living with the changes and adjustments, we have a new sense of what matters most - our families, our health, our friends, our congregations, and our communities. 
Many of the experiences we have taken for granted like the ability to gather with friends, travel, worship, attend concerts and plays and enjoy dining have been modified or cancelled altogether. Yet with these challenges, we can still look forward to what’s next. Our hope is not in circumstances, situations, past experiences or in our own abilities to adapt to change. Our hope is in God. Jesus is the same in every season. We must cling to our hope now more than ever and not give up because weeks have turned into months and we are almost at the year mark. Stay uplifted because of God’s great mercy; there is hope and a future we can look forward to enjoying. Rejoice in Emmanuel knowing that God will always be with us no matter what’s next.
Faith and Action
Pastor William Mathis
Leading Into the New

Recently, someone reached out, challenging me about an early year declaration of 2020 being a year of perfect vision.  She indicated, based upon her locale, geographically and circumstantially, this has been an awful year due to COVID-19.  Although, as hard as she has tried, she has not received perfect vision to either navigate this pandemic nor her family’s pathway forward into God’s promises for their lives.  Then came her poignant question, was the chorus of “spiritual” leaders and/or God mistaken?  In that moment, I felt both challenged to justify the proclamation, whether it originated with me or not, as well as embolden to represent God and meet my sister at her need.  These are the realities of the time in which we live and 
seek to do ministry at a distance, especially when we are void of context of many people who are and/or will be our parishioners and yet have to contend with what is out there under the guise of ministry.  My response to my sister was vision is not simply given, it is obtained.  Perhaps God, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has provided us the space and time, unrestricted by the hustle and bustle of normal life, to reflect, spend focused time with Him and our lives.  The focused time we spend with God and our lived-experiences better equips us to deconstruct, reconstruct, and construct His intended pathway forward to our fullness of joy, our obtaining perfect vision.    

Archbishop Wilbert McKinley said, “A general vision is a mode or manner of seeing or conceiving; an unusual discernment or foresight.  It is a direct mystical awareness of the supernatural.  Spiritual vision is a revelation from God; it is an appearance or exhibition of something supernaturally presented to the mind, by which you are informed of future events.  A visionary is one who is disposed to receiving impressions on the imagination; one who forms impracticable schemes; He may also be one who is confident of success in a project, which others perceive to be idle or fanciful.”  As Archbishop indicates, God invites each of us, in the midst of our circumstances (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic) to obtain perfect vision in which we choose and make ourselves available to be embolden by the Spirit.  Ask we are emboldened by the Spirit of God, we are empowered to see and seize our pathway forward to obtain the promises of God for our lives, despite and in spite of life’s challenges.  Vision is not something that we are waiting around to receive but instead it is an active engagement with our experiences in which we are empowered with spiritual creativity for advancing and flourishing in our life and life more abundantly, obtaining our perfect vision.   

One of the most important lessons I have learned this year is that we must want what we have.  By no means does this imply a lack of vision but instead an understanding that our vision is borne in and out of what we have and what we are doing with what we have, our experiences.  What we have is more than enough, actually it is everything God has declared and prepared for our lives and it is up to us to want and work it, expanding it to yield the "exceedingly, abundantly, more than we can ever ask or think."  Nothing and no one is perfect, and neither are the experiences of life. However, we are challenged by God to see and grasp our experiences that are God's real opportunities for us to flourish.  Things may appear imperfect, insufficient, and/or down right impossible to comprehend and navigate; however, diligently seek God in your experience and you will obtain perfect vision, unlocking the door of God’s opportunity toward the fulfillment of His promises for your life.  Remember, with God comes His reward.  God serves as your transistor, a semiconductor that amplifies, oscillates, or switches the flow of current, making His strength perfect in our weakness.  

Whatever is your present reality, God has made all things new!  As you go forward into 2021, lead boldly into the new by exercising your faith.  Choose to be candid and honest with the reality of your experiences, and in so doing, seek God. You will be empowered by His Spirit to create your new heaven and earth out of whatever you have .  God awaits and desires to come and tabernacle with you, making His Word flesh, realized in your life and space—it is up to you. 

Lessons for Leaders
Dr. Robert F. Cheeks, Jr.
Creative Ministry Hacks During the Pandemic

Let’s be real, the way we’re living during this coronavirus era, is the new normal. As more days pass by, we will be taking additional safety precautions in the near future. However, this time should not be lost. In fact, there are churches out there that are using this time to stay connected and grow. Although you are not able to physically meet, there are a variety of ways you can remain connected with your church family, and grow your church. Think about it this way—mostly EVERYONE is stuck at home. If someone was thinking about checking out a church, now is the most convenient time to do so. How are you making it easier and user-friendly to engage potential
and existing members?  It is much easier, and now the norm, to watch service online than to physically drive to a church. Growth during this coronavirus era is not just a pipe dream, but a real possibility with your creativity!

So how are you making the most out of this time? Are you utilizing all of the tools and resources at your disposal? If your church is looking for a couple of ideas to remain relevant, then you’re in the right place! Use these ideas to further the connection you currently have with your church family, while also promoting a fun and spiritual place for new visitors to join!

Here are a few creative ministry hacks.

1. Create New Structures 

Structures deliver the results they were structured to deliver. You can’t shove a new strategy into an existing structure and assume the old structure will deliver the new result. A new structure requires new strategy to support. New wine poured into old wineskins won’t work. Pre-Pandemic ministry was designed to deliver in-person ministry (i.e., in-person worship services, in-person events, in-person youth/teens/young adult ministry, etc.). That’s what it will always deliver. When the pandemic hit, Shiloh Baptist Church, McLean, Virginia immediately communicated a strategy, developed a structure to accomplish the strategy, and then implemented a plan. For Shiloh, the new structure shifted from individual ministry programs to the involvement of the total membership sharing in a spiritual journey and discipleship path together.   

2. Stay Connected 

When Paul and other apostles wanted to bring instruction or encouragement to a local church but could not do so in person because of distance or imprisonment, they sent letters, many of which are now part of the New Testament. These leaders did not forego their ministry; they simply adapted its form to what would work in the moment. They stayed connected. Declining churches tend to focus on themselves while growing churches focus on their targeted audience. During the initial Covid-19 shutdown, Shiloh sought to remain engaged and maintain a personal connection not only with the church but also with those we desired to reach. This required launching out into the deep of the digital world. Think digital. Strategize ways to reach all people right where they are by implementing technology that is readily available (e.g., social media, Video conferencing apps, or conference calls). Enlist volunteers to assist members who are technologically challenged. Once you have established a connection, please be mindful of inclusivity, attention spans, lighting, camera clarity, and what your audience hears or sees in the background. 

3. Be Unconventional

On numerous occasions, Jesus displayed unconventional ways in advancing the Kingdom God on the earth. Though centered on the will of God, Jesus worked in ways that did not fit the norm. Jesus accomplished His assignment in a way that did not resemble the ways of the religious, political, or community leaders of biblical antiquity. Do not be afraid to minister to others in ways you may have never seen. Now is the time to blaze the path God is sending you on. Be different! For instance, in all of my years at Shiloh we’ve never offered a talk show style ministry moment during a Sunday morning service or during the week. We did not have a model for offering a series of empowerment television segments to help encourage people during a difficult time, but we did it anyway. The attendance and feedback was so overwhelmingly received that we will air a second series!  Our volunteers became delivery services to deliver daily needs for seniors, and those with preexisting conditions, fearful to leave home. One month, my wife and I used Zoom and conference calling to extend “virtual hugs” to all members and friends. We changed our website and advertisements images to reflect the home worship experience. We hosted periodic drive-in services with FM Transmitters to safely bring the church together without entering the building. At the drive-in services, our Youth and Teen ministry utilized our original interactive videos to engage the youth/teen while sharing with their parents at the drive-in. By offering virtual membership to our viewers during our online services, we have exceeded the expectations. We have received new disciples all throughout the eastern region. Praise God!     

If God gives you an idea that is unique and you do not find that it was already done, trust God and just do it. I encourage you to create new structures, use what you can to keep everyone connected, and always be unconventional. We’ve never been here before. So do what you’ve never done to reach who you’ve never seen and to obtain what you’ve never had. These unprecedented times call for unprecedented ways to advance the Kingdom of God and share the Gospel of Jesus! 
Lessons for Leaders
Dr. Ronald C. Williams
Year-End Ministry Review: 
Embracing a Theology of Disruption

Year-end church review and vision casting are the results of prayer and strategic planning. Providing a strategic assessment framework for ministry is best when grounded in prayer, scripture, and a sound planning and documentation process. These are just a few of the hallmarks of successful church leadership. 

Assessment frameworks provide a roadmap for collecting, interpreting, and converting ministry data into useful information for improvement. The year-end church review is simply the forum for sharing assessment results of what has occurred and a process for casting vision for the coming year, bringing Habakkuk 2:2 to life in the process. When properly executed by involving ministry
participants in every phase of the process during the year, the results of assessment are not a surprise. This participative approach to engaging ministry stakeholders in assessment activities will help members come to the end of the year with more solutions-oriented vision than complaint-inspired commentary. This year, even with all its disruption and uncertainty, is no different. 

There is plenty of information available about how to construct and share church annual reports, such as recommendations from UnSeminary and other groups found by a search of the web. However, the degree of uncertainty experienced in 2020 is cause for additional consideration about how we collect, share, and interpreted data and how the experience informs visioning. It is helpful, in this climate of perpetual disruption, to have what John Piper, music minister at Church of the Cross in Grapevine, Texas, calls a “theology of disruption.” In an October 2015 meditation entitled “Interruption is God’s Invitation,” he shares a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community:

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks. . . . It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s “crooked yet straight path.”

No one can honestly say they imagined having 2020 year-end church meetings and reviews in virtual formats because of a global pandemic that is taking the lives of over 3000 people daily in the United States alone. No one expected the total disruption of familiar activities like Christmas Eve and Watchnight services. No one anticipated that, while trust in the newly released vaccine is rising, we would start far below what is necessary to combat community spread. For these reasons, a “theology of disruption” will serve us well by giving us an appreciation for God’s “crooked but straight path.” 

Here are just a few theological propositions that may inform your approach to 2020 year-end church meetings and reviews:

1.      God can handle any situation we face, even if we question our ability to survive.

Our survival was in question because all we recognized as normal and necessary suddenly ceased without warning. However, the Apostle Paul asserts that “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17, NIV) There is empirical evidence of that which has been “held together.” 
 
2.      Our unwavering focus on God will create an emotional covering in times that challenge our vulnerabilities.

There is an unimaginable calm and contentment in situations that represent an existential threat. The prophet Isaiah declared that “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You (26:3, NKJV). We may have felt as if we were losing mental equilibrium; but, our willingness to submit and be vulnerable to the will of God (i.e., the definition of trust) is the rationale behind God’s granting of shalom.

3.      God’s sovereignty is secure and a worthy foundation.

We must admit, God’s sovereignty sometimes produces circumstances that are difficult to face and completely outside of our choosing. However, it is His purpose that always prevails and the plans that are revealed in His purpose are always for our good.

There are many plans in a man's heart,
Nevertheless the Lord's counsel — that will stand. (Proverb 19:21, NKJV)
 
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11-12, NKJV)

A stable leadership approach in unstable times must be informed by a biblically-based theology of disruption.
PASTOR'S READS
A guide for pastors and church leadership in the post-quarantine world, providing hope and vision for the future of your congregation. From thousands of surveys of church leaders and in-person consultations, Thom Rainer and his Church Answers team have gathered the essential wisdom you will need to face the challenges and opportunities that the quarantine crisis creates for the local church, including:

  • New and better ways to lead the gathered church
  • A wide-open door for growing the digital church
  • A moment to rethink the facilities
  • New strategies for church growth . . . and much more!
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.
A Note from the Managing Editor
Dr. Ronald C. Williams
Information and communication are the lifeblood of decisive action. It is with this understanding that the Kingdom Association of Covenant Pastors offers the KACP Newsletter as a conduit for information that will provide valuable support for every aspect of pastoral life. The newsletter is provided as a reflection of the values our fellowship has upheld since its inception--a commitment "to the call to preach, to lead, to care, to build, and to better the body of Christ." In addition, "We do this with the understanding that our vocation has its share of personal and professional challenges and the awareness of the need to encourage, assist, edify, and celebrate one another in kingdom work."
Please join us as we share information on relevant topics of the day. Since our desire is to encourage and edify, we welcome input and ideas that are consistent with our mission. If you have a desire to submit an article for consideration, please use the Contributing Authors Application through the link provided and read the Authors Submission Guidelines for further information. All applications and articles are subject to approval by our editorial review board. Submit inquiries to Renita Fulton at rfulton@kingdomassociation.org.

We are exited about your engagement and look forward to sharing valuable information as you share the gospel of Jesus Christ