Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Does a Church Planter Do?

It is now the 18th week of this church planting adventure, and the key activity continues to be ... NETWORKING! But I find that most people don’t initially grasp the magnitude of this activity. Relationships and trust are the foundation upon which this community of faith will grow. Relationships near and not-so-near must be patiently nurtured for things to happen in the future. Let me give you five concrete examples from my pastoral work this last week. Although they are five very different forms of networking, they each have the potential to be significant contacts down the road:

(1) Jacob – the general manager of the local Caribou Coffee. Fantastic young guy! Quite musical (went to college on a full ride music scholarship on trumpet). Embraces the values of excellence and hospitality which Caribou is about. Brainstormed the possibilities of doing several joint events together (Hey! Why not have the best coffee at all our fellowship gatherings or hold Bible Studies at their place?!)

(2) Kelly – Director of Children’s Ministries at Brooklyn UMC. Sharp as they come, and a young dynamo of organization! Showed me all of the magic they have prepared for Vacation Bible School next week. We threw around the idea of sharing the VBS props with the other UM churches along the corridor. (Hey! Why not let every church have more by working together?!)

(3) Jennifer – a 45-minute phone conversation with an unchurched mom of young kids in Big Lake. I called as part of my Spud Fest volunteer-sign-up duties. Ending up hearing all about their exciting out-West vacation plans for 17 days over the 4th; lead into church-talk and an open-ended invitation to call and talk more about church stuff in the future (Hey! In-roads into a family’s spiritual life sometimes begin with volunteering elsewhere and talking about other things!)

(4) Lyle – retired United Methodist pastor serving on the Metro West Builders Association. No one does graciousness or hospitality better. Invited me to join the Builders for lunch and before I even knew what was happening, the entire group and I are talking about land, buildings, ministry dreams, and financing for half an hour (Hey! It may be worth much more than a free lunch down the road!)

(5) Joanie – looking for a job as a Worship / Music Director in a church near Maple Grove. Vivacious, experienced, and genuine. Were able to connect thanks to the MAC Bulletin Board (email version). Now, I am no where near ready to hold formal job interviews, but a shared cup of coffee now allowed each of us to share visions, passions, and faith-views long before deadlines are coming due (Hey! If she is not the right fit, she may know another who is and now she knows all about us!)

What do church planters like me do in the early stages of getting a faith community going? We build relationships which may or may not amount to anything. We go and scatter the seeds of God’s grace along the pathways of life, hoping that some will grow to bear much fruit (Matthew 13:1-9). In a nutshell, we do a lot of networking.

Know anyone you think I should talk to?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Time for Wonder

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."
Isaiah 6:3 NIV

Today just feels like good day to sit back and ponder the wonders of God's world. Here are some pictures I took while on a family vacation along the St. Croix River Valley a couple of years back. While camping at Taylor's Falls, we had time to explore God's creation in many ways ...

Hot air ballooning is such a peaceful way to get above it all, and take a bigger look at life from the perspective of angels ...

All of life flows with the life touch of the creator, sparkling and dancing even in the quietest of hillside streams...

Those who walk slowly, with eyes open to wonder, may discover beauty where others see only rocks ...

Sometimes it is only by being quiet and still can we drift to places where majesty lives ...

Even the rocks cry out what the Lord has done for us!

And do you know what the St. Croix River is named for? It is named for the rock formation shown here, a permanent reminder of the love of God through his Son, Jesus.

Take a moment to rediscover the holy for yourself this day. Where do you sense the wonder of God around you today? I'd love to hear what you find ...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kingdom of What?

I am curious ~ what visions for the world get you absolutely stoked? In this political election year, are there any issues that you just dream our next President will embrace and bring about? What kind of emotions do these potential realities stir in you? Do you believe that this kind of change is even possible in your lifetime?

At the beginning of one of the books of the Bible are the following words: “The time has come,” He said. “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 NIV

Now, the Gospel of Mark reads quickly and is full of action-based accounts, but even this passage moves a little too quickly for me. We are at the very beginning of Mark, and these are Jesus’ first recorded words. Granted, they are probably only the thesis statement of a much longer speech, however Mark writes it under the assumption perhaps that everyone understands what “the kingdom of God” means. The focus is NOT on the meaning of the phrase, but rather on the timing of it. NOW is the time! TODAY you must repent and believe!

I wonder if people today have a grasp of that phrase “the kingdom of God.” I think the common vision, common hope, common fear, common wonder and understanding of that kingdom has been lost to us modern American Christians. I think the beauty of it, the longing for it, and the anticipated relief of its coming is not a part of the daily life of today’s faithful, let alone today’s unfaithful. Without it, however, does the fact that Jesus proclaims its immanence (its closeness at hand) really matter!?