Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's Really Happening

For over a year now, we have been thinking about, planning for, praying over, and preparing to move to Big Lake to launch this new ministry with the people of the area. All those words, however, (thinking, planning, praying, preparing) are not quite the same as it really happening. Now granted, they are vital, necessary, and active in themselves, but there is a distinct difference when things are really happening. For us right now, things are really happening!
Tomorrow morning, the moving van arrives with all of our stuff to move us into our new home in Big Lake! Tomorrow morning, what has been thought about, planned for, prayed over, and prepared to do will really be done ... we will be living in Big Lake. We are excited! We are thankful! We are tired! We are there (well almost)!

Starting a new church has some of those same dynamics – for over a year we have been actively thinking, planning, praying, and preparing (all vital and good); and this too will eventually give over to “it’s really happening!” We are not quite there yet either, but getting closer! Even the almost-but-not-quite steps of really-happening ministry are exciting right now.
For example, our first two community events have been taking shape over the last two weeks: a mini-VBS is scheduled for Saturday, August 23rd from 9-noon, and a Good Cents money management course will be tested out starting the following week. Actually purchasing over $750 in VBS supplies might have something to do with making it feel more real; actually recruiting Launch Team members and giving them specific jobs to accomplish to pull these events off might be another part of it; actually telling people “this is what we are doing” versus “here’s what we are strategizing, what do you think?” is another. I know, I know ... but when the real thing is only a month away, it feels more like it’s really happening than ever before! Cool!

The Older Testament prophet, Jeremiah, bought a piece of land from his uncle long before he actually occupied it. War, deportation, and strife would take place before it would really happen, but Jeremiah had believed and had faith in God who proclaimed, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jer. 29:10-12 NIV)

I now know the feeling Jeremiah had seventy years later, the night before he walked onto the land which God had promised him. “Wow! It’s really happening! Faith in God pays off! Though I’m not surprised, I am so pleased.”

P.S. We’d love it if you’d leave us a house-warming blessing; just click on the word “comments” below and drop us a quick thought from your heart!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who Am I by Casting Crowns

Got this YouTube video clip from a friend and thought it was great! Can imagine doing something creative like this in the worship services at our new church. What do you think?

(By the way, can anyone tell me how to add this YouTube directly to this blog, instead of just the link? I have tried several things but this is the best I can do right now. Thanks!)

Bring the Holy to Their Doorsteps

Thank you all for your prayers for a smooth closing on our current home last week ~ all indeed went rather smoothly (but it was a ton of work!!). For you pastor-types out there, here’s something you might copy (as we did).

Remember the great old Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart? Well, just as George Bailey did when the Martinez Family moved into their new home, we gave the buyers of our new home a one-minute blessing before they crossed the threshold for their final inspection. A loaf of bread was presented to represent the bread of life and prayers that they never go hungry, and a blooming plant was gifted to represent the happiness we prayed would take root and grow here for them over the years. The ritual was witnessed by the couple, the couples’ parents, their realtor, and a few of the new neighbors (who we intentionally invited over to welcome them to the neighborhood). I think my wife and their realtor were the most choked up by it all, but the family certainly seemed to appreciate it as well. Perhaps, by bringing simple spiritual rituals to the unchurched in every day affairs, we can spark an awareness of the holy which has been missing. Regardless of their reactions, we seek to bless them with unconditional prayers of blessing and support.

So, we are now homeless for two weeks. A closing date has finally been set on our new home and church-planting is literally working out of a box on the floor right now! Our old email address is no more; our new email address is not yet, and our current email address is ... let’s just say, inconvenient! The same can be said of almost everything else we have taken for granted over the years. Two days ago my soul was feeling strangled by the inefficiency of it all, frustrated by moving at the speed of tar on a July driveway. But angels came and fixed things up, including my impatient spirit.

Preaching each week at neighboring United Methodist churches has been richly relational; connecting with fellow church planting colleagues at our bi-monthly Great Challenge Leadership Academy was wonderfully strengthening; and organizing our first community event for the end of August has been solidifying (nothing like something practical to move one from the abstract to the concrete!).

Small steps continue to move us forward. The support of family, friends, and colleagues continue to strengthen us. The love of the Lord continues to compel us. We wish the same for you.

I'm not trying to get my way in the world's way. I'm trying to get your way, your Word's way. I'm staying on your trail; I'm putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not giving up. I call to you, God, because I'm sure of an answer. Psalm 17:4-6 MSG

Thursday, July 3, 2008

So, What's New?

We have been going through a busy couple of weeks recently. Church-planting has been focusing on two areas these days: 1) volunteering in the community, and 2) strategic planning.

Volunteering was intense over the weekend; SpudFest was Thursday thru Sunday. I think I put in approximately 37 hours on those four days alone: setting up, checking IDs, grilling hamburgers & hot dogs, hauling tables, cleaning up, and a lot more. I loved getting to know the people on the Board better, meeting their families, and being out there with the crowds of people. At first I was uncomfortable not knowing what to do or how to help out, but by the end, things were better. As I told the people at Cross Winds UMC (where I was preaching on Sunday morning), we in the church must be the ones to bear the burden of being uncomfortable; we do this by going out to the unchurched, instead of expecting the unchurched to come to us and consequently feeling uncomfortable in our space. It was a weekend of practicing what I preach! Here are some pictures with others from the Spud Fest Board.

Strategically, we have been working on just what is new in this “New Method for a New Day.” Two distinctive qualities for today’s busy families have surfaced:

The Good Life! – Courses, activities, and programs designed specifically for those not connected to a church community. These courses will offer practical instruction / support with a Christian edge. They will most likely be held off-site, and in public spaces whenever possible. Courses which may be offered include:
Good Sense (money and budgeting)
Good Sex (sexuality, dating, and relationships)
Good Grief (disaster, death & dying)
Good Night Moon (family dynamics & communications)
Good Job (career exploration)
Good for You (healthy lifestyles)
Good Heavens (basic spirituality)
Other Good Life! events:
Good Times (friends and family activities)
Good Neighbor (community support projects)

E-Life! – a personal, flexible, intentional program for the spiritual stuff of life. A guiding method will provide the framework upon which participants fill in the details their way; comes with 4 levels for upgrading one’s spiritual life, starting with discovering the spiritual side of real life issues, all the way up to “High Risk: High Reward” Christian living. It is especially designed for young adults and young families who want it all on their time.

In church lingo, the first is all about needs-based evangelism, while the second places a strong emphasis on methodical spiritual development for adults. Of course, we will strive to offer worship, children’s programs, youth ministries, and all the rest with excellence, but evangelism and adult faith formation will have a distinctively new and strong focus in this setting.
Stay tuned for more on these and other experiments with new methods for a new day. And feel free to add to the idea pool with your own ideas, reflections, and ruminations. What do you think church needs to do to be relevant for today’s 25-45 year olds?