My Post-Christian Son

I’ve noticed a big difference between the assumptions my 6-year-old son makes and the ones I made at the same age. I used to assume that everyone went to some kind of church. Johnny is surprised to learn that someone goes to church. He realizes that he lives in a post-Christian world.

I hadn’t realized this until my wife was radio “channel surfing” this morning. She came across a Christian radio station and they mentioned “the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Is that a CD mom?” he asked.
“No. It’s on the radio.”
“Yeah, but is it the iPod playing over the radio?”
“No, it’s really on the radio. It’s a Christian radio station.”
“It’s about time!” Johnny replied.

My kids have an innate awareness that this isn’t a Christian world in a way that I never did. It will be interesting to see how that affects the way he sees being a follower of Jesus along the way. He’ll probably help me learn to be a pastor in a post-Christian world too.

Categories: Church Leaders, Daddy log - parenting, Following Jesus, Reaching Out, The World We Live In, Undercover Pastor | 1 Comment

163440 Bible Content Exams served

The annual Presbyterian Church “Bible Content Exam” happened again today. And as of this evening, my web tool for studying the Bible – mainly for people taking that test, has been used 163440 times! I never would have imagined that 9 years ago. It’s very cool that I get to help so many people learn God’s word and also get a step closer to ordination.

Categories: Bible, Church, Undercover Pastor | 2 Comments

Come, Labor On!

I have the week off from church so we were planning to worship at another church as we generally do.  but t his week, Lydia is sick with some kind of stomach flu.  Rather than leave Eleanor and Lydia at home alone, we decided to have “home church” today.

I put on some recorded hymns as we ate breakfast.  As the boys and I worked on cleaning up the kitchen, the hymn “Come, Labor On” came on.  Now I’ve always wished that that hymn had a better tune.  It sounds like a funeral song, but the words are great.  They speak of our response to God’s grace.  We had already heard “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” with its line,

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all

That’s true, and I really feel it.  I personally feel the call to service my Lord with my whole being.  That’s where “Come, Labor On” comes in.

Come, labor on.
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around him waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
“Go work today.”

Come, labor on!
Claim the high calling angels cannot share;
To young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on!
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
Through feeble agents, may we all fulfill
God's righteous will.

Come, labor on!
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”

Taken the wrong way, this hymn might sound like we have to earn the love of God. But that’s not what it means at all. God’s love for us and self-giving for us in Jesus Christ is secure.  Now, God has chosen to use us to do his work. And serving in God’s fields, bringing Good News and joy to others is generally pleasant work. Also, there’s nothing like the feeling that God is pleased with you – “Well done! Well done!”

It always puzzles me when others I meet don’t feel the same desire to serve the Lord. If you don’t know him, I get it. But when Christians say that they’re through serving God or too busy to serve, or it’s not a priority, it confuses me. I can understand saying, “I really want to serve God, but I can’t figure out how to do it with the kids and the job, etc.” That I understand. Sometimes, people need permission to rest a bit! Or a different way to serve that they haven’t considered yet. The song has a word for that too: “No arm so weak but may do service here.” Anyone who desires to serve God can do so.

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Categories: Following Jesus, Undercover Pastor, Worship | 1 Comment

Speaking of habits…

Looks like I kicked the blogging habit. Let’s see if I can get back into it. I’ve been learning a whole lot in the last few months. More soon, God willing!

Categories: Undercover Pastor | 1 Comment

Keeping Habits

People talk a lot about breaking bad habits, but keeping good habits can be just as hard – sometimes harder.

I know this because I just did my old weight program at the gym for the first time in just about a year.  Now I could make plenty of excuses.  I stopped last year because I got sick a few times in a row (thanks to kids and preschool).  Then I had to work at the preschool during one of my two times available for the gym.  And then we had a baby.

But those aren’t the real reasons.  I just got out of the habit.  It happens.  I used to have the same problem with church (now I’m pretty motivated to be there :-)  You’re in a good groove and then something happens to interrupt the routine.  Even if it’s a really good thing to do – maybe especially when it’s a really good thing to do – it’s hard to get back into the routine.  And the time just gets away from you.

I’ve finally come to a point where I need to get my exercise so I believe I’ll do it.  I guess that’s the secret.  You really have to internalize the desire to achieve a goal or to have something good in you life in order to make the effort again and again.

So I faced it.  I dealt with the ground I’ve lost in a year.  And I’m ready to go back!

Do you have any good habits that have gotten away from you?  Let me know…

Categories: The Good Life | Leave a comment

Why would God confuse us?

In his well-known daily devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes

“Ye know not what ye ask.” Matthew 20:22
There are times in spiritual life when there is confusion, and it is no way out to say that there ought not to be confusion. It is not a question of right and wrong, but a question of God taking you by a way which in the meantime you do not understand, and it is only by going through the confusion that you will get at what God wants.
(You can read the whole devotional at myutmost.org)

I understand that confusion thing.  My life as a pastor and the life of the church I serve are both a bit confusing right now.  Along with some amazing things that are happening, there are some other things happening that are really confusing.  Things are complicated…

I’ve prayed about it, and I have felt reassured.  God seems to be saying that we will be transformed by this confusing journey.  I will be transformed as a pastor – growing into what I am meant to be.  And our church will be transformed as well – letting go of our fear and growing into the mission we have been given.  But first, we have to go through the confusing time and see, in time, how God comes through or us.  In that way, we’ll learn faith – both the church and I will.

God has done this before and I expect that God will do it again.  In the middle of it, it’s confusing and stressful.  Later, it’s clear and peaceful.  I believe that God will continue to do this until it’s not stressful for the church or for me – until we can trust not only after the confusion is resolved, but in the midst of it.  OK, God.  Your will be done!

Categories: Church Transformation, Faith, Listening to God, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

Busy-ness vs. Thankfulness

I’ve been busy lately. There are a lot of big things happening at our church plus we have three kids, two of whom are starting new schools this year (one at preschool and one at kindergarten) plus one eight-month-old!   I’ve been working really hard and feeling tired. Sometimes exhaustion can rob you of your joy.But when I take even the smallest amount of time to reflect, I am so grateful. I was exhausted on Sunday because I had to preach twice, write a grant application to allow our church to have a half-time Pastor of Latino Ministries, because we have to work hard to find teachers for all the kids who are now part of our church family, and because a bunch of church people went to Ancil Hoffman Park to play after church on Sunday. If you had told me that I would have these “problems” a few years ago, I would have said you were dreaming. They’re all blessings!

Sometimes my kids are exhausting too. They have places they need to be. They want to run and play. They make messes. The baby is clingy. That’s all tiring. But it’s great too!

My wife needs help, and the house needs work. But it’s amazing that I am married to Eleanor. She’s incredible. And we now have a house that’s big enough for our kids. I’m grateful for that too.

Some things in life aren’t the result of blessings. I won’t list those, but we all have them. There are things in life that we have to deal with and we may never know why. Still, even when I’m dealing with those things, it helps to focus on the blessings God has given me in my life. I, my family, and our church have truly been blessed, and I am grateful. Tired and grateful. 🙂

As we sang on Sunday morning, “Come, thou fount of every blessing!  Tune my heart to sing thy grace.  Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”

Categories: Thankfulness, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

In memoriam: Edith Whitney, 102 years of life and faith

Edith Whitney at 102

Edith Whitney at 102

My grandmother died almost two weeks ago now at 102, and I now have the bittersweet task of officiating at her memorial service.  My grandmother didn’t have an easy life.  As a polio survivor, her reaction time was slow and her sense of balance was unreliable.  She lived with a lot of pain at various points in her life.  But her faith kept her going.

Sometimes as a pastor, I find myself trying to package the good news of the gospel in ways that people can hear it.  So many words we use have been co-opted or redefined in ways that turn them into bad news.  But the truth can be so very simple.  My grandmother made it simple.  In a journal my sister gave her there was a place to fill in “something I would like you to know about me.”  Here’s what she led with:

I found Jesus.  Without Him, life would have no meaning.  Someday He will come for me and I will go to my real home.  Don’t grieve for me, but rejoice for I will now be happy. No more pain, tears nor handicaps.

It was so simple for her.  She never doubted that she would step out of this life and into the waiting arms of the Lord when her day came.  Now it has come.  We will shed our tears because there is a hole now in the place she held in our lives.  But she is now free.  Her pain is gone.  Her tears have been wiped away.  I can be happy for her and miss her terribly at the same time.

Please pray for me as I lead the memorial service this Saturday.  It is an honor but also a difficult task.

Categories: Church Transformation, Discipleship - learning from Jesus, Faith, Family, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

Pain and Pastors

The word pastor comes from our job as shepherds.  Of course, Jesus is the real shepherd, but we pastors try our best to represent him well as we seek to care for his flock.  Jesus taught us that he’s the kind of shepherd who cares if a single sheep goes astray and wanders into danger, away from the flock (Luke 15:3-7).  But it turns out that being that kind of shepherd hurts a lot.

Right now in our church, we have people hurting, someone dying, people grieving (including me and my family for the loss of my grandma), people struggling to make it financially, people in difficult relationships, people with ongoing health problems and pain…  Lots of stuff.  And I’m finding it harder to handle than it ws five years ago.  The thing is that these aren’t just “people I know.”  They’re friends and part of my church family.  When your family is suffering, you hurt too.

Now the trick to dealing with all of this is to realize that I am not really the shepherd.  I can reach out, but I can’t heal people’s pain.  Only the real shepherd, Jesus himself, can do that.  I try to offer my hurting friends and family to Jesus for his care.  But he hasn’t made me of stone so it hurts along the way.

Even Jesus himself cried, so I know that I’m not doing it wrong.  People teach “detachment” and “strong boundaries,” but if they keep us from loving and connecting with people, they’re not from God.  Still, even Jesus had to face situations in which people he loved wouldn’t receive him (e.g., Mark 10:17-22)

I’m hurting right now, but only because I’ve allowed myself to care about people.  I do not believe that a life free of pain because it’s free of caring is worthy of a Christian – particularly a pastor.  Pain comes with the job and so does joy, in its season.

Categories: Church, Discipleship - learning from Jesus, God's love, Leadership, Pastor to pastor, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

Dreams vs. Reality

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of my first day as pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church.  I can still clearly remember talking to the pastor nominating committee at my face-to-face interview with them back in 2003.  After they asked me their questions, I asked them a few, including what would you to see happen in the next 5 to 10 years.  Now that’s a pretty safe sandbox to play in, right?  Five to 10 years is a long way out.  You can really dream.  And they did.

They started with some basic, practical ideas.  We’d like to have some younger people in the church.  We’d like to be able to meet our current budget.  (They church was a long way from that back in 2003 and was using a bequest to make up the shortfall.)  We need a new generation of leaders.  Then the big dreams started – we’d like to have an associate pastor.  We need a new church building – but let’s keep the existing one too.

Everyone was excited about those ideas then.  But it hadn’t occurred to me that part of the reason dreaming is fun is that the dream is not going to become real.  You don’t have to deal with the details, the scary parts, or what you might lose if the dream came true…

What’s happened at our church is that it looks like we will actually need a larger space in the not-so-distant future.  What will we do?  Dreams are a lot of fun.  Solving real space, staffing, and budget problems is real work!  Our church leadership will have to be very careful to bring along the whole congregation as we work toward being the church we’re called to be!

Categories: Church Transformation, Leadership, Pastor to pastor, Undercover Pastor | 1 Comment

Flu and Thankfulness

I’ve got the stomach flu, and it has completely ruined my plans.  Sure, I should have been prepared when my son Johnny got it a few days ago, but I lived in denial.  I’ll spare you the unplesant details, but the part of this that’s interesting is that on Wednesday, someone in our Revelation Bible Study asked us all to pray for gratitude.  That’s an unusual prayer request.  We get plenty of heath, home, and financial requests, along with the occasional relationship issue or strugling church project, but someone said that we need to be more thankful.

Here’s the connection.  Thinking about my poor soon who couldn’t keep liquids down for a full 24 hours, I prayed that we would have the kind of thankfulness that you have when you’ve been coughing for weeks and can finally breathe freely or the kind of thankfulness that you experience afetr getting over the stomach flu and can finally eat and drink again.  We get a glimpse of it and then promptly go back to beign dissatisfied with whatever we’re prone to be dissatisfied with.

I am on the road to fresh thankfulness for being able to eat, drink, and think clearly once again!  I pray that it will last a bit longer before I get back to financial, child rearing, and church future concerns again.  Hey, may I won’t go back at all!

Categories: Thankfulness, Undercover Pastor | 1 Comment

Crossing the Stormy Lake

Kayaking in Donner Lake with my sonsDuring my vacation this year, I had the good fortune of being able to spend a week at my grandmother’s cabin at Donner Lake.  And this year, my aunt had left a kayak for us to use.  The previous night I had tried it out and taken my sons on a short loop in the lake.  It was a lot of fun.

My Dad suggested taking a trip to the channel at the end of the lake – maybe a mile.  There’s a state park there and we could row into it.  That sounded like fun so after dinner one night, we went out.  We started out playfully, following the shoreline around to the channel, but it took longer than I expected, and night was falling.  Stubborn Determined person that I am, I decided to go all the way anyway.  So we went all the way.

By the time I started back, the sun was behind the mountains and a wind had come up.  I didn’t want to be out on the lake at night without a light – invisible to the motor boats on the lake so I had to get back.  I decided it would be faster to head straight across the width of the lake rather than follow the shore, and I began to row as fast as I could.

In the middle of the lake, the waves were significantly bigger, and for a moment, I was concerned that my foolish plan had endangered my boys.  But they were never worried because Daddy was in the boat with them.  Fortunately, we made it back to the dock in plenty of time and without any incidents.

I found myself thinking about Jesus’ disciples going for a similar boat ride with him (See Mark 8:23-27.)  A storm came up and the disciples got scared.  I think I would have also.  Jesus was sleeping, not rowing.  But I believe that the point of the story was that if Jesus is in the boat with you, you don’t have to be afraid, as my sons were unafraid to be in the boat with me.  The good news is that the one in the boat with us isn’t just a decent kayaker, he’s the one who has the power to calm the seas!

Categories: Daddy log - parenting, Discipleship - learning from Jesus, Following Jesus, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

The front or the back of the line?

Eleanor and I were headed for a rare cup of coffee without the kids and during the five-minute drive, we encountered two different people who were angry over someone getting into the lane of traffic ahead of them.  Eleanor and I actually let a couple of people in and then found a great parking place!  Is it better to be in front or at the back?  Usually we’d say “at the front,” but I was reading my Morning and Evening devotion by Charles Spurgeon today, and he took a contrarian view.  (His writings are in the public domain now, and you can read today’s devotions for free at The Spurgeon Archive.)

July 18th’s morning reading from Morning and Evening:

“They shall go hindmost with their standards.” — Numbers 2:31

The camp of Dan brought up the rear when the armies of Israel were on the march. The Danites occupied the hindmost place, but what mattered the position, since they were as truly part of the host as were the foremost tribes; they followed the same fiery cloudy pillar, they ate of the same manna, drank of the same spiritual rock, and journeyed to the same inheritance. Come, my heart, cheer up, though last and least; it is thy privilege to be in the army, and to fare as they fare who lead the van. Some one must be hindmost in honour and esteem, some one must do menial work for Jesus, and why should not I? In a poor village, among an ignorant peasantry; or in a back street, among degraded sinners, I will work on, and “go hindmost with my standard.”

The Danites occupied a very useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up upon the march, and lost property has to be gathered from the field. Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth, and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith, and restoring her fainting sons. Every position has its duties, and the slowly moving children of God will find their peculiar state one in which they may be eminently a blessing to the whole host.

The rear guard is a place of danger.There are foes behind us as well as before us. Attacks may come from any quarter. We read that Amalek fell upon Israel, and slew some of the hindmost of them. The experienced Christian will find much work for his weapons in aiding those poor doubting, desponding, wavering, souls, who are hindmost in faith, knowledge, and joy. These must not be left unaided, and therefore be it the business of well-taught saints to bear their standards among the hindmost. My soul, do thou tenderly watch to help the hindmost this day.

There are some big churches who seem to be marching in to conquer the Promised Land with great resources,  filled with capable people who seem to have it all together.  But many of us smaller churches find ourselves in the tribe of Dan’s position – bringing up the rear and gathering those who have wandered away or who have been left behind in the march. We have an awful lot of people in our congregation who have been hurt by churches. Welcoming them is a really important calling, and one that smaller churches may be uniquely qualified to handle.

It may not be glamorous, but Jesus had different ideas about position and status than we do. In Matthew 19:30, he tells us that “many who are last will be first and many who are first will be last.”  I believe that helping those who have been left behind by those ahead is something Jesus celebrates.

Categories: Church, Church Leaders, Church Transformation, Leadership, Smaller Church Ministry, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

It’s official – I’m my father

I believe I’ve blogged about this before, but lately in Northern California, we’ve had high heat and smoke everywhere from the many fires burning in our state.  This, along with high energy costs, leads to a new urgency to…  wait for it… keep the door closed!

I don’t want to cool the neighborhood!  (Of course I took engineering thermodynamics so I know that we’re actually creating more heat in the neighborhood, but that’s beside the point.)

Are you familiar with any of these classics?

In or out!
Don’t just stand there in the doorway!
You’re letting all the cool air out?

If you know others, feel free to comment.

But even as I face the inevitability of becoming my own father, I’m thinking about what it means to become like my Heavenly Father…  Is that as inevitable?  I thought my dad was nuts with his obsession with turning off light switches, demanding that the refrigerator stay closed, and all the energy around keeping the back door closed.  But I now see the wisdom of it – or the necessity of it.

Some of what God tells us to do has seemed unnecessary to me in the past – some of it’s still confusing.  But many other things have gone from being annoying to wise and helpful.  Much as I have become like my earthly father in many ways, I now hope to become more and more like my Heavenly Father as God helps me to grow in wisdom.  That’s probably the best thing that could happen to my wife and kids too!  But I’ll still be making sure the the door stays closed.  🙂

Categories: Daddy log - parenting, Ethics and Holiness, God as Father, Undercover Pastor | 1 Comment

Put my crayons up high, Dad

Cup of CrayonsLately, my son Joshua has had some trouble with drawing on the floor, walls, furniture, and windows with crayons.  We’ve always had an understanding that crayons are only to be used on paper, and he can answer the question, “Where do we used crayons?”  “On paper, Dad.”  But temptation strikes, and our little artist feels the need to decorate everything around him.

The last time this happened, I had a talk with Josh.  Since he knows that it’s wrong, why does he keep doing it?  “Dad, could you put the crayons up high where I can’t reach them?” he asked.

I wish most adults were so wise!  When you’re experiencing temptation and falling for it again and again, the best thing you can do is to either get it away from you or get yourself away from it!  Joshua has uncommon wisdom for a three-year-old.  Hopefully more of us will learn from Joshua and deal with the things that cause us to stumble by “putting the crayons up high”!

 

Categories: Daddy log - parenting, Ethics and Holiness, Following Jesus, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

The ultimate water cooler for really lazy people…

When I was a kid, my dad had to make a rule that you could never take the last ice cube from the little ice bin on our freezer drawer without opening and refilling a fresh tray of ice.  So my sister and I always left exactly one cube.  Then Dad changed the rule to “you must leave a few ice cubes.”  So we would leave three.  Poor Dad.

Anyway, in the business world it was the same deal with the water cooler.  If you didn’t want to install a new bottle of water, don’t be the one to empty the cooler!

Well someone finally solved that problem.  This new water cooler sucks water out of the air, runs it through ultraviolet light to purify it, chills it, and then serves it up!  Five gallons per day.  Who wouldda thunk it?

This is even better than Tammy Faye’s air-conditioned doghouse!

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the company and do not recommend that you purchase this item 🙂

Categories: Random, Tech, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

Worship space decisions revisited

In response to my earlier post about the difficulty of making space in a smaller church, Becky made this suggestion:

Have you thought of starting a new (small) church? I love the idea of small churches being so appealing that they multiply like bunnies.

It’s really a reasonable thing to think about too – a different model for ministry.  Assuming that God continues to bring growth, there will probably come a time when our church would make the decision to start a new church rather than growing endlessly…

In fact, someone who has been through a similar transition with a church suggested that we consider allowing the older people to have their more traditional church and taking the younger people to start anew church.  But we believe we are called to be a multigenerational church – which is counter-cultural and not the easiest way to grow a church in a world where many seek “instant community” through a common context.

You could still split a church to form two small churches that could seek to serve God in their own separate ways.  I think if we served a large geographic area, that would be a very wise thing to do. But right now, I think we want to stay together and gro together.  Also, we have a pretty big vision.  We see more unmet need in our community than we have resources to address.  We have more ideas for ways to help people grow and serve than we have people to lead them.  And we have have yet to reach a critical mass of younger families and young adults.  We thank God for the pioneers who don’t have to be part of a larger group, but we know that people are more comfortable in a community when there are others their age in the mix.  We strive for diversity and also for enough people that people can also find others who share things in common with them.  (Right now, several parents are helping each other with childcare, for example.)

So I won’t rule it out, but I don’t think that we’re being called to start another small church right now.  It will be very interesting to see what God does.

For those who are interested, we decided yesterday to start a Sunday evening worship service at 5:00 p.m., followed immediately by the Alpha Course (at least for the first 12 weeks).

Categories: Church, Church Leaders, Church Transformation, Smaller Church Ministry, Undercover Pastor | Leave a comment

Thankfulness: Not So Obvious

Yesterday afternoon, my kids were starting to get a little bit of cabin fever. It was hot, and the air had been smoky for most of the day, but by late afternoon, the air had cleared a bit and a cool breeze was blowing. “Why don’t you go outside and play, Johnny?” I suggested.

Lots of toys to play with!

“There’s nothing to do!”

“You could ride your scooter or kick the soccer ball or pull weeds or throw your rocket football or play hide-and-seek with your brother or ride your bike or play with the hula hoop or look for bugs.”

“That’s boring.”

We have a great yard right now and a nice patio, and plenty of toys for the kids to play with. But they stop seeing that and see anything familiar as “boring.”

As I was thinking about how sad that was, I realized that I do the same thing! I focus on whatever is missing in my life at this moment and forget or discount the blessings that God has provided in my life.  Just like Johnny!

This morning, I asked the congregation to think about their blessings and then asked how many had thought of something that hadn’t recognized as a blessing before.  In one service, a bunch of people raised their hands.  In the other, almost none.

We have a choice.  We can be thankful for the blessings we have or we can decide that they’re

“boring” and concentrate on what’s not right.  It’s a matter

of an “attitude of gratitude,” and life’s a lot more pleasant and satisfying that way.

Categories: Daddy log - parenting, Following Jesus, God's love, Thankfulness | Leave a comment

Small churches have a unique call

I had a wonderful opportunity to address pastors and elders from small churches at the Presbyterian Church’s biannual General Assembly on Monday.  I really do believe in the ministry of small churches.  By their definition, we are Trinity are now a medium-size church, but we’re still a lot smaller than many of the churches around here.  We can respond faster and get things going on short notice to respond to needs in the congregation and the community.

You can read an article on my talk “Pastor Advocates Speedboat Ministry” at the Presbyterian Outlook Website.  Feel free to comment!  The comments on this site were broken, but KC Wahe clued me in and they’re fixed now.

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Decisions, decisions!

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been troubled in my spirit…  Is that good Bible language for spiritually messed up?

Our church has experienced a lot of growth lately and we’re having growing pains.  That’s partly because our building is way too small.  It was built in a time when a) churches didn’t have parking lots – they expected to fill the whole property with buildings and b) neighborhood churches were the thing.  There was a plan for a bigger building across what is now grass and parking lot, (it would never be approved under current building codes), but the small “chapel” that was built first was the only worship space that ever made it off the drawing board.  On Christmas Eve or Easter or at the memorial service of a beloved person we can fit 144 people in the pews (6 per small pew), but nobody will sit at that density the rest of the time.  The more realistic four per pew yields 96.  The subtract the first three pews that nobody wants to sit in (maybe they don’t think I bathe) and you have 72.

We almost always have more than 72 people.  Adding the Trinity Cafe, our video venue with coffee and snacks, we can get 120 people on a good Sunday at our 9:00 service.  At 11:00, people don’t sit in the cafe so it’s stuck at about 100 tops.

So we need to do something to make space to grow God’s family!  How do you do that in a small building?  The simplest plan is to add another worship service.  That means either reworking the Sunday morning schedule and maybe shrinking the existing services and fellowship time to make it all fit.  Or it could mean installing seating that would allow more people in the same space (you can fit 20% more people in separate chairs than you can in pews).  Or it could mean moving an existing worship service off site to a bigger space.

The things least likely to mess up what we’ve got going already are adding a new evening worship service and changing the seating in our sanctuary.  Adding a service is a big commitment and it requires a number of committed people to keep it going.  Buying new chairs is expensive (maybe $20,000 to get 150 nice-looking, comfortable seats with wooden legs that hook together).  I find both of those daunting – mostly because the needed resources are out of my control.

There’s that word again!  We’re called to make leaps of faith and to allow God to do great things, but God rarely writes the plans in the clouds of the sky or delivers the plan engraved in stone tablets.

We meet tomorrow to see what the group’s discernment (fancy theological word for looking for God’s will) has been.  We may be able to make a decision and then move ahead with making it happen.  I’ll keep you posted.

What we’re not going to do is sit idly by and allow the momentum that God has provided to die.  We do not plan to “quench the Spirit.”  We will do something and it will be risky.  But – whether it succeeds wildly or fizzles – God will be there with us.

If you read this, please pray for us (and me personally) as we step out in faith!  Where are you headed, Lord?  We want to follow you there!

Categories: Church, Church Transformation, Following Jesus, Smaller Church Ministry, Undercover Pastor | 2 Comments