A good friend this morning challenged me as he asked how I was doing after 6 months of pastoring at Hope. As I carefully thought of my response I realized that painting too bleak a picture may cause him to panic. However, too positive a picture would cause him to doubt my authenticity…or sanity.
Over the past 6 months there have already been numerous surprises as Pastor at Hope. Funerals, day cares, new people coming, people leaving. We’ve had worship nights, Vacation Bible School, an amazing outpouring of people at Easter and numerous other events.
Of course, we have also seen personally the ups and downs as well! Bringing Lillie into our house has had its share of challenges and blessings as well. Carissa and I have been surrounded by so much love, support, and prayer from the Hope Family that we can’t even fathom how we would’ve handled this transition! I have a pile of Thank-You notes on my desk right now to hand out to numerous people. But, thank you to all the support and prayers from the congregation!
There are even some events that I can see on the horizon that I’m personally very excited about. This June I have been able to take a large step back and assess what God is brewing in and through the lives of Hope Church. I can see new services, new ministries, and new opportunities on the horizon.
Without a doubt many have received a marvelously written letter by our Deacon Board. Ministry transitions cause some to seek out new opportunities. Hope has always been a generous congregation. Far beyond what other churches might consider, Hope has been a leader in giving. I have no doubt based on the character of our congregation that we will all rise to the giving challenge that is before us.
In considering our challenge, let us lead in an abundance mentality versus a scarcity mentality: we have an abundance of opportunity as a church on the Southwest part of Lincoln. We have an abundance of amazing leaders. We have an abundance of experience in highs and lows. And, we have an abundance of resources to share as an entire congregation. Many other churches would be thinking out of scarcity mindset which paralyzes ministry growth: there is only so much out there so we must hoard and stop growing.
Out of Scripture and in real life remember: healthy things grow.
Hope is regaining its health as a church. Know that in the possible opportunities and the looming challenges, I see God working in and through our church body. As a leader, I seek these things which I see throughout Scripture:
Blessings and God’s love,
Whew. I wrote the title of this as a sarcastic open to allow the creative writing side of my brain open up. However, it is an appropriate title as one can read the joy and anticipation of the exclamation mark or one could read it as anxiety and worry. “It’s summer! I can’t wait to hit the beach”. “It’s summer! I have nothing ready for this weekend!” Both can be interpreted from the same remark based on context.
Language is interesting in this way. You can say the exact same sentence with two completely different contexts. There is even a State Farm commercial which makes light of this truth in numerous hilarious commercials. Yet this paradox comes more powerfully this summer than before for me personally…and perhaps you as well.
On the last week of April we found out that Ezekiel (our third son who is 20 months) had a 3- month-old half sister out in the world. We said “wow” out of joy, worry, anxiety, and shock over and over that night. Lillie was out there. In fact, over the course of the month we have said “wow” numerous times. Some of these we will share as we know more about Lillie. Some of them we will keep with our family and let her decide when and who she will share her details with.
After three days of waiting which seemed like an eternity, I received a call during Consistory that she was coming to our house as emergency placement. She was a beautiful little girl who I couldn’t wait to hold and love and cherish. She needed lots of protection, consistency, and safety.
Never at one moment did Carissa or I debate accepting her into our family.
I marvel at stories of birth, but I feel a special joy when I hear stories of adoption.
In this story we see one truth of the Bible: consistency in paradox.
I am created. I create. God holds all things and will restore all someday.
I am a sinner, I am saved. Jesus loves me throughout both.
I am lost, I am found. The Holy spirit guides me through my life.
This consistency in paradox is a great comfort in all parts of life. The unfinished work of salvation often times puts us in awkward emotional rollercoasters where we feel out of place in this world. Resident aliens. Yet God’s consistency holds fast when we flutter. Jesus’ love reminds us of our adoptive heavenly family when I feel unworthy. The Holy Spirit’s prompting gives comfort when I receive an unknown infant and then worry that she may go away the next day.
Know in this busy season filled with barbecues, vacations, weddings, and all the unexpected sorrowful events Hope Community Church should be the consistency of church family in the ups and downs of life. This is a reminder to those who need this consistency, and a challenge to all to be Jesus to our brothers and sisters.
Keep your presence at church as much as possible in this summer season. Your growth closer to Jesus will keep you buoyed amidst the seasons where you have a hectic weekend…and when an unexpected infant is dropped in your lap.
Blessings and God’s love,
YEAR 1 20 in classroom 3 in discipleship
YEAR 2 40 9
YEAR 3 60 27
YEAR 4 80 81
YEAR 5 100 243
#2) I've done small groups before. Discipleship isn't small groups: it is intentional, small--3 to 4 people--and focused on both learning scripture, holding one another accountable, and serving our church and community. Small groups are a step better than casual church attendance. But true transformation occurs through discipleship. Consider those moments where you grew beyond expectation; were they moments where you were in a giant group or with one or two people who walked alongside you in a season?
#3) But I go to church. Why more? Because Jesus shows this is the way to become more like him. You grow by transforming your thoughts and entire life into following HIM and then teaching others to follow HIM! Going to church doesn't make you "good" or give you a ticket into heaven. It is passionately transforming your life in all areas towards the one who gives true life!
Check out this youtube video that I didn't create, but thoroughly enjoy to gain the vision fo how a community focused on disicpleship looks:
I'm always amazed at the desire and want of well-meaning Christians to help, but when the opportunity to help presents itself, there is little ability to actually give care. I attribute this to the "Golden Rule affect". Matthew 7:12 rings in from our Sunday School days and we begin helping the way we think we would want help. When, instead, the lesser known silver rule should apply: "treat others the way THEY want to be treated".
I learned this "Silver Rule" while in pre-marital counselling with my wife, Carissa. I might think she wants me to do ______ to serve her, when if I actually ask, it's something completely different.
This applies to missions as well. In the mid-1900's missions didn't always mean bringing the Gospel or assisting with a need that they had. Instead, missions often meant turning the people you were serving into something that looked and acted like me. In my time in Uganda we heard of well-meaning Christians who would give electronics to the people there...only to not know that there was no electricity to run them. This obvious miss is not good for the ones serving, or the served.
Consider the biblical story of Mary and Martha. One "served" while the other one served. Martha, busy doing things that very well needed to be done kept herself and all those who watched knowing that she was giving care. Mary, in contrast, sat with Jesus. Unknown to all except Him, His final week on earth was coming near. Mary gave service by being present, by listening, by being near Jesus at this time.
As I have challenged our church body over the past two weeks, who is it that God is calling us to be serving? The sick? The poor? The well? The rich? All are in need of service, but we must understand and know the person before attempting to be serving them.
How ridiculous would it be to eat at a fancy restaurant and have the waiter assume what we would want to eat? Consider how you are giving service to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and those God places in your heart. Are you "serving" them, or are you serving them?
Be blessed this week, and be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.