Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whiteboard: Christmas Cantata

Okay, so the astute reader of The Whiteboard will probably notice that the picture looks pretty familiar this week.

I didn't do that much to change things up this week -- "lit" the fourth Advent candle, and changed the word "THIRD" to "FOURTH" -- but that is because things have gotten pretty busy here in the church! We have the Christmas Cantata this Sunday (and the special early showing at the Westminster Retirement Village on Saturday!) and the Christmas Eve Service on Wednesday December 24.

So, I tell you what. Since I skimped out on The Whiteboard picture this week, how about I give you a sneak preview of the artwork for the Cantata...because trust me, I wasn't going to be able to draw this one anyway!

Joy at FCC Scottsdale

What a joy filled Sunday we had at FCC Scottsdale!

On December 14 (the Sunday of Joy!) we had so much to be joyful for at the church! At our Annual Congregational Meeting we elected a full slate of Officers, Ministry team leaders & Elders, we formally approved a 2015 Budget that anticipates a $15,000 surplus, and we formally introduced "The Dream Fund" as a way to put our abundance of resources to work for the Lord in the coming year. We also recognized Sandi DeFeo for her leadership of our congregation as she ended her term as Moderator at FCC Scottsdale!

Then right after the Annual Meeting we had the DWM Christmas Luncheon complete with all kinds of wonderful food (and those deserts, oh my!) and an amazing Variety Show featuring the talents of the members and friends of FCC Scottsdale. What a great day!

Here are some pictures of the joyous occasion:

 Our out-going Moderator Sandi with her Gift of Appreciation
(custom designed by our very own Bob Stall!) in thanks
for a wonderful term as our Moderator.
 The inscription reads: "With our sincere appreciation for
dedicated service! You are a blessing to this congregation."
At the bottom there is a verse from Thessalonians 1:3.
Sandi, Julie and Tavit got our Variety Show started
with some beautiful Christmas music.

David blew everyone away with his trumpet playing! 

A packed house took in the show. 

The Praise Team Ladies helped close out the Variety Show in style!

Thank you to the DWM Ladies, the Variety Show organizers and participants, 
and everyone who helped to make it such a joyful day at
First Christian Church Scottsdale!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Whiteboard: Third Sunday of Advent

This Sunday we will celebrate the gift of Joy!

And I really mean it.

You see, this Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent, which is "The Sunday of Joy."

This Sunday is also our Annual Congregational Meeting, and let me tell you church, we have some things to be joyful about!

For starters, our Stewardship Campaign was so overwhelming successful that we are forecasting a $15,000+ surplus for our Budget next year!

What's more, we have a full slate of Elders (including 2 ex-officio members) and a full slate of Ministry Team Chairs to approve!

And then to top it all off, we also have the DWM Christmas Luncheon on Sunday which will not only share some of the finest Christmas cuisine you can imagine but will also feature a Variety Show that will showcase the musical talents and stylings of several members and friends!

Now that is what I call "The Sunday of Joy!"

I look forward to seeing you there!


John 1:6-8, 19-28 -- John the Baptist

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’
He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’
John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’
This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Global Ministries Sunday

As we celebrated Global Ministries Sunday at the church, it was such a treat to have our Missionary to Lesotho Mark Behle as our guest preacher.

For nearly 30 years Mark has served as a Global Ministries Missionary throughout Africa. He is presently serving in the Planning Office of the Lesotho Evangelical Church, one of the oldest Protestant Denominations in Africa, and a proud Global Ministries Partner Organization. 

Mark shared a series of stories (what he called "Ebenezer Moments", taking after 1 Samuel 7:1-13) about the faith and faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in Christ the whole world over. 

You can listen to his full sermon on the church's website by clicking here.

In the Fellowship Hall, Kay Jones displayed a gorgeous lace tablecloth that had been loving knit for her many years ago by Dr. Gene Johnson -- a long time friend and one of our Global Ministries Missionaries. 

On the center of the table Kay included this note: 
The maker of this beautiful tablecloth was Dr. Gene Johnson,
who along with his wife Sue spent several
years as Missionaries in the Belgian Congo.

Gene and Sue were presented an award of
affirmation at the Global Ministries Dinner
held during the 2013 General Assembly.

Gene crochets during meetings. 

After the worship service a small group of us took Mark Behle to lunch were we learned more about Lesotho, Mark's own personal "Ebenezer Moments," and the ways that we at FCC Scottsdale can further support the good work of Global Ministries!

Great News!

The response to this year's Stewardship Campaign (theme: Worship, Mission & Ministry) has been thoroughly overwhelming!

I shared the news this past Sunday, but wanted to make sure and share it again for anyone who might have missed the announcement.

But first, a little bit of background: The Budget Proposal that had been approved by the Administrative Council contained a $15,000 line for "Additional Fundraisers." We have been doing this for the last few budget cycles (remember "Dinner with the Stars" in 2013?). That "Additional Fundraisers" line has been used to keep our budgets balanced, but it does mean that we have been passing Deficit Budgets for the past few years. Okay, you got that? Now lets get out of the weeds.

Here is the Good News: Enough people increased their pledges for 2015 that we fully taken advantage of the $10,000 Matching Gift! (Remember: We had an anonymous donor who agreed to match any new pledge or increased pledge dollar for dollar up to a total of $10,000).

But there is even more Good News: We didn't just come up with $10,000 worth of new and increased pledges. In fact, we blew past that total. You see with the help of our Narrative Budget approach and the Matching Gift we were able to raise $30,000+ more than we were anticipating!

$30,000+ worth of new resources to support Worship, Mission & Ministry at FCC Scottsdale?!? That is amazing! That is incredible! That is overwhelming support for what God is doing here at FCC Scottsdale! (By the way, that number keeps going up. I had to write "$30,000+ because we continue to receive pledge cards and that number just keeps getting bigger!)

So what does that mean for our church?

Well, for starters it means that our days of passing a Deficit Budget are behind us! I'm excited to say that we won't need that $15,000 "Additional Fundraisers" line in the 2015 Budget that we'll be adopting at our Annual Meeting this coming Sunday.

More importantly, it means that we are actually forecasting a Budget Surplus for the coming year!

Which is why the Executive Team of the Administrative Council here at the church has already started talking about "The Dream Fund."

You see, we want to make the best possible use of those resources that our church members are so faithfully sharing with the church. Now that we have extra resources pledged for the coming year we want to started dreaming -- What new things can we do in 2015? What old projects can we resurrect? What ministries can we form? What partners can we start supporting again? What new outreach projects can we get started?

You'll be hearing more about The Dream Fund at the Annual Meeting and in the coming weeks (here is a sneak peak: It is going to literally involve a box where people will be invited to fill out "Dream Sheets" and submit their ideas for consideration by the wider church!). But for now I need you to start dreaming.

This is an incredible time in the life of the church. I could not be more proud of our church! I could not be more overwhelmed by the support that has come in through our Stewardship Campaign! And I can't wait to see what amazing things we will be able to do, to the glory of God, with the abundance of resources that you all have entrusted us with at the church!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Whiteboard: Global Ministries Sunday

This Sunday at FCC Scottsdale we'll celebrate Global Ministries Sunday as we welcome our Global Ministries Missionary to Lesotho Mark Behle as our Guest Preacher.

Mark has been serving in Africa on behalf of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for nearly 30 years now and he'll be sharing stories of his experiences there as he testifies to the transforming power of God's love and the work of Christ in the world.

Mark was featured in a lengthy interview on the Global Ministries webpage, and I'm reprinting that interview here so that you can get to know him a bit better in advance of Sunday's worship service.

Mark Behle

Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa
Give a gift for Mark Behle's Appointment

How would you describe the mission of our partner in Lesotho?
The Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC) is one of Africa's oldest Protestant churches, founded in 1833 by missionaries from the Paris Evangelical Mission society. The LEC is Lesotho's oldest denomination and today has several hundred thousand members in over 100 parishes which include hundreds of outstations. The LEC is the Lesotho church partner of Global Ministries.

The LEC has long been involved in ministries of evangelism, education and health. The church has around 580 primary and secondary schools, a seminary and bible school, two hospitals and one health center, a major printing works and book depot. For many years they have had a women's Desk and in recent years they have established an HIV/AIDS office. The church is well-known for speaking out for justice and righteousness and has, in times past, suffered for speaking truth to power. The church seeks to meet both the spiritual and physical needs of the people of Lesotho.

How do you fit into their mission?
For my first 15 years in Lesotho I taught math and religion at one of the high schools of the LEC. In this position I was assisting the church in meeting the educational needs of the young people of Lesotho.

Since December 2011 I have been working in the LEC Planning Office where I assist the church with coordinating projects of the church as well as working with the Planning Commission in developing policy and terms of reference for church bodies, looking at church structure and other issues to improve the overall work and function of the denomination. The church has often lacked adequate resources for doing this work and I was asked by the LEC to move from my teaching job into this position.

What led you to engage in this calling?
Many years ago, during a period of time trying to discern what I should do with my life, I found an opportunity to teach math in Africa through our mission board. I understood this to be my calling in that I was and am able to use the gifts, talents and interests God has given me. Having been raised in the church, the church was always an important part of my life and in my work with Global Ministries over the past 27 years I have been blessed with the privilege of helping to connect churches in the United States with the wider church, particularly here in Lesotho.

Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
In the past year I have been strengthened by Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

What are some of the challenges facing the people of Lesotho and the LEC?
One is the problem of adequate resources to meet the many needs of the church and its institutions. Many of the facilities are old and in need of repairs or rehabilitation. There is also the challenge of moving the church forward in the area of information technology. Another issue is the need for spiritual renewal and reform. Also, the HIV/AIDS crisis continues to impact on life throughout the country. The church also needs additional pastors and evangelists, as well as increased staffing at the Morija Theological School.

What lesson have you learned working alongside the staff and students of the LEC that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
The most striking difference in worship within the LEC is the celebratory nature of the offering. It is often prolonged (group by group) with much joyful singing and even ululating. The people of Lesotho are thankful for the opportunity to give and they express that thankfulness very openly and joyfully!

What is a common phrase used in the local churches?
Khotso e be le lona. (Peace be with you)

Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in Lesotho?
Quest for Peace by Craig W. Hincks
Singing Away the Hunger : The Autobiography of an African Woman
What's So Amazing About Grace?
Mere Christianity
Basic Christianity

Mark also shared an idea for a Sunday school lesson related to Lesotho (PDF) that teaches children how to make these unique hats.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In the mail

Well, look what showed up in the mail this week...

That's right, FCC Scottsdale was the featured congregation in the Annual Stewardship Letter for the Hope Partnership! That letter went out to 6,500 households!?! What a blessing to be a part of a church that is at the forefront of something new and has become a leader in our denomination!

If you can't quite make out what the letter says in that photo, here is a full copy of the text:

November, 2014
Dear Friends,
If your congregation were given the challenge to do one thing “out of the box” in just 21 days, what would it do?
First Christian Church, Scottsdale, Ariz., accepted that challenge and started “The 5th with First”--a combined worship/outreach project service or, as they call it, “workship.”
On the fifth Sunday of the month, the congregation steps out of its comfort zone and meets in the park across the street for a brief prayer service that includes scripture and communion and then heads out into the community to do “faithful, faith-filled holy work.”
Partnering with local groups, the workship team has assisted neighborhood homeowners in cleaning up/fixing up their property; assembled back-to-school packs; and done housekeeping chores and meal preparation at the local Ronald McDonald House.
For those who prefer to stay at the church, an abbreviated worship service is held there, followed by a service project in the fellowship hall, which recently involved preparing “healthy packs” for local school children on the free or reduced lunch program who do not have enough to eat on weekends.
“Workship is when we live out our faith by going out into the community to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors,” says First’s Pastor Brian Frederick-Gray.
First Christian Church, Scottsdale heard the call to take the 21-day challenge as part of their participation in Hope Partnership’s The Journey—a two-year cycle of services that helps church leaders discover the courage to lead their congregation through missional transformation by guiding them to seek answers to the right questions, unleash creativity and develop teamwork in their congregation. The process includes intensive training experiences, coaching and CARE (peer) group participation.
Services like The Journey are funded in large part by gifts to Hope Partnership’s annual fund—Vision Gifts. Vision Gifts support Hope Partnership’s vision to empower courageous leaders as they guide the Church into life-giving expressions of ministry for this era of God’s mission.

Please consider making a Hope Partnership Vision Gift today by using the enclosed envelope or giving through our website,, or by calling 1-800-274-1883 and asking for TaShana or Kim, who will gladly assist you in making a gift with your credit card.
We invite you to accept the 21-day challenge, to do something “out of the box” and consider including a Hope Partnership Vision Gift in your year-end giving.
Gilberto Collazo                                    Ellen L. Mitchell, CFRE
President                                                Vice President for Donor,
                                                                Investor and Church Relations

If you would like to learn more about FCC Scottsdale's journey with the Hope Partnership, then click here.

If you would like to learn more about "The Fifth With First" then click here.

If you would like to make a donation to help support the work of the Hope Partnership and to fund the work of congregational vitality throughout the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) then click here.