“The church is called to undertaking this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.” Book of Order G-3.0400.
It it is not often that one quotes from the Presbyterian Book of Order in ones sermon. Yesterday was one of those days. I was preaching in the morning about how we (the church) are the living embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven, but not totally revealed (a whole another subject in itself). As as church we are called to be ones of unity, living out the embodiment of Christ, and are to be sent (John 17:20-26). Blah, blah,blah… I could just keep writing on what I preached on, but I won’t (because you can buy the CD, actually you can’t, we are not that high tech). But the point is that we, as our congregation are to shed our labels. No longer do we want to be the know as the Hispanic New Church Development or the poster-child of Hearts and Hands in our Presbytery, but point to Christ in all things that we do.
It could be quite easy to do the status quo and make our way through ministry, but is that what we as a church is called to? The Book of Order says that we need to fulfill the mission of the church, otherwise known as evangelism, to the point of its own life. That is a radical thought! How many churches can say that they do that or even willing to consider that: put the risk of closing the church doors on the line for the sake of the mission of the church.
And Trusting in God Alone…uh.. smart elders would want to have everything nice and structured and organized. Maybe a nice pie chart and everything else, maybe a plan b or c. In order that we can be best assured of success. That is not what this is saying. It is saying “JUMP! and I’ll catch You”. Trust in God, and not to what you can see, make logic of, or touch. Put full faith in God. Remembering that God is the author of life or in charge of everything… That’s right God is in control and not me.
Doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ. Going beyond ourselves, huh? What does that look like? A new service or maybe two? Outreach to the underprivileged? Stretching the congregation to areas that they have never even dreamed that they are capable of? THAT IS WHAT IT MEANS!!!! It is not about what we are comfortable in doing or even willing to do, but beyond that. I loved having a fifty year old former elder who worked for NASA come and be present with wild and reckless Junior Highers. That was beyond himself and it made a difference in the kids lives. And in it all transforming themselves and others in fuller knowledge and depth in their own relationship with God.
In other words: GAME ON!!!
A church in Florida recently challenged its married members to participate in the “30 day challenge“. The theory is that they wanted stronger marriages in their congregation. I guess it could be done through sex, but what about… uhh… communication? While I do see the point, reading a recent article in Christianity Today entitled The Life You Always Wanted (In Bed). It states that the church in Florida has grown by fifteen percent since the challenge has been extended. I guess when I preach this Sunday that is what I am going to preach about, church growth…BAM!
It seems that the idea of the church as becoming a sex therapist is a growing trend. With all the books that are being published, curriculum developed, and it being used as a tool for evangelism. Granted, we the church need to care for the WHOLE person, and sexuality is becoming more overt. Maybe it is the traditionalist in me that wants to steer clear of this area but it needs to be discussed. How can we discuss healthy marriages without talking about the pink elephant in the bedroom. We can’t. But it must be done with a degree of tact.
I can see it coming already, tomorrow Pastor Ron is going to announce his next sermon series is on sex. And it will cause more than a few members in the congregation “to throw up a little in their mouths”. Quote courtesy of his daughter Alicia. Yeah… I see this is one that he will pass on, but I am preaching on Sunday…hmmm…15% growth….hmmmm
Out of God’s will?
Lack of loyalty?
Is Ed Young talking about me or others like me? This video piece irked me. While I do see where he is coming from the way and wording that he uses bothers me. I have one that has been involved in a New Church Development within the PCUSA. Ed is concerned about members of staffs at some time developing new “church plants” (If you watch the video he uses air quotes, nice). While there does tend to be a vacuum of people that would go with this person, would the term “church pirate” be appropriate. After all the member of one particular church is a member of the kingdom of God rather the 8th Presbyterian Church. That person’s gifts may be valuable to that new church start. A leader cannot merely lick everyone and claim them as theirs. What type of theology is that? I do not know one NCD pastor whose goal it is to take members from churches around them to start another. The desire and passion is ALWAYS for those that are on the outside. It is called having a missional mindset. One that believes that we are to be constantly sent to be part of God’s redemption for the world. We are called, gathered, and SENT. Churches are not holding tanks for people rather a place to equip people to ministry throughout the world that is the basis of trinitarian theology.
Who Ed Young is describing is me in many ways. A staff member that left to be a part of a New Church Development down the road. Was there an initial vacuum to be with me? Of course. Was there enticements for people to join me? NO. Three years down the road how many are still with me? 3. Why? The initial reasons for their leaving was more than my departure. More than that most of those are NOT attending ANY church, and that pains me more.
In the end… I am dissapointed in the words by Ed Young and feeling a little hate about church planting from him. An article that was written in response to this said that Young like church planting… just over there. And that is so true, plant a church as long as it does not effect me or my congregation. What happened to kingdom building?
I was reminded tonight in my class by our professor. “Don’t not pray to avoid the storms of life but pray for the grace to dance in the rain”. Think of that image. Too often we pray to avoid the items in life that cause conflict or pain. Whether that is the problems that arise in life (finances, relationships, etc) or issues (ordination standards, inclusively, etc). Rather pray to dance in the rain.
For the past couple of days in San Jose it has been well over a hundred degrees. In the park across the street there is place that children are playing in streams of water that shoot up. The sounds of laughter and giggles radiated through the park. They did not care how hot it was but were refreshed by the water and had shear joy in what they were doing. Like those children we need to enjoy the storms of life. We do not need to gear up for battle but enjoy what God is doing in the world and know that you cannot move the storm clouds but God can. Do we need to get worked up over items that we cannot change… probably not.
Remember to dance in the rain.
I spent the day driving from Southern Cali to Nor Cal for General Assembly today. Can you say wow? For the whole five hour drive the temp did not drop below ninety five degrees. Jenn tells me from home it is overcast and a bit chilly. I want to be home in Oxnard, the climate of that city rocks.
For most of the trip I was either listening to Louie Giglio or Francis Chanteach. For the first time in a couple of weeks i got to decompress a bit. Out of my mind were the finances of both church and home, relocation of the church, lay leader training program curriculum, among other issues. Francis was teaching on the church. More specifically the individualistic manner in which we operate. That we expect the pastor to be all things to all people. The counselor, preacher, theologian, handy-person, janitor, etc. When actually a pastor/ leader is to equip others for service (v.12).
11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
I am realizing that I do not have all the answers, nor should I. But the team that God has assembled around me is to equip others. We, the church, is a community and we need to stop depending upon other people to get the work done. When we tithe that does not mean that is all that God requires for me, and leave it up to the professionals. We all need to be involved in service. Pastors and staff just come alongside members to help and guide. It is not all us, but everyone that needs to serve.
One of my internship classmates passed this on to me.
Major Barbara “Barb” Sherer, of the U.S. Army, who was deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division, said it was when the troops were told to unpack their chemical-weapon suits that they knew the war was real. “I had a soldier ask me to bless his vehicle before we headed out,” she recalled. “I don’t normally bless things, but I
thought, ‘There’s no harm,’ so I did it. We all gathered around and blessed the vehicle.” “ I said, ’Lord, bless this vehicle. Bless its driver, keep him alert and awake and able to face difficult situations and bring him safely home,’” she said.
Chaplain Sherer said she saw the impact of this simple act on the faces of the troops, and decided to bless every vehicle. Even a fierce sandstorm could not deter her from putting on her stole and trekking to every one of the unit’s more than 100 vehicles. She wasn’t prepared for what happened during the second or third blessing. “I
saw the driver staring at me intently, even through the sandstorm, and saw the look on her face as she mouthed ’Thank You.’ ’Then I got it—It’s not about some lovely, touchy thing. It was a reminder of God’s presence for that individual. Barbara said she continued putting hands on vehicles to bless them, sometimes under the hot midday sun that turned metal hoods into hot plates. Then one day, as she stood by her own Humvee, a soldier walked up, put a hand on the hood and closed his eyes for a few moments. He said he’d had seen her pray for everyone else’s vehicle and he wanted to pray for hers. “In that moment, I knew I would never see a blessing in the same way again.” (Reprinted from Presbyterian News Service GA)