Thoughts on the local church- Pt. 2

Standard

Good morning, everyone!  In my previous post, I spoke of identity, specifically that our primary identity for the duration of our existence is one of being found in Christ.  I really enjoy Colossians 3:3 as I consider such a truth, which states,

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Now, if this is true, that before I am a father, husband, or pastor, I am first and foremost God’s child, then my primary community is that of being a part of God’s family.  And every other role that I play in this life ought to be a reflection of being a part of such a family.  Let me give a quick example.  If I am a Christ-follower who has been entrusted by God with children of my own, then I believe that I am to raise those children, as God’s steward, in a way that is constantly keeping in mind that I am God’s child and a part of God’s family.  Not only should every interaction with my children flow from my relationship with Christ, but they should also flow from my relationship with Christ’s Church, my brothers and sisters in Jesus.  And my goal would be to raise up my kids as a part of that family.

Now here is where I see some disconnect.  Many Christians seem to believe that their primary community is that of their own biological family, or of their social circles, or possibly even of their group of coworkers.  Thus, being a part of God’s family falls outside of our commitments that we make to whatever we find to be our primary community.  I simply get the sense that this is backwards, or short-sighted.  Rather than view my family (Ali, Aletheia, Azariah and Ainesis…oh yeah, and Samba) as being my primary community that sometimes interacts with my secondary community of the people of God (the local church), I’d rather see myself first and foremost as a part of God’s family and that my responsibilities to my family fall under the umbrella of being a part of that community.  So what might this look like practically?

First, I always want my kids to be engaged in the local church.  And not just my kids, but my whole family, Ali and myself included.  I want everything that we do together to be a testimony to the fact that we are a part of a group of believers, namely New Horizon Christian Church.  This means I want our Sunday mornings to be devoted to our church family.  I want to do everything within my power to make sure that our family spends at least that time with the folks who are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  But it goes beyond simply worshiping together on Sunday mornings.  My desire is for our house to be a place where we are in constant fellowship with other believers.  This is why we have the great desire to be a part of a Life Group weekly, meeting with and studying Scripture with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Not only do Ali and I have the opportunity to be with these folks, but they pour into our children as well.

This is why we look for opportunities to be with believers often, whether on weekends or simply having people come to our house for a visit.  It is because we view our church family as our primary community.  We love having people come and sit at our dining room table, or play on the floor with our kids, or play board games, or eat dinner together.  Again, please understand.  We love this because it gives us yet another opportunity to remind ourselves that we are part of something greater, something bigger, than our mere household.

To be honest, this is the view of the local church that I see in Scripture.  Life was lived as a part of God’s people, meeting together, eating together, worshiping together, praying together, reading Scripture together, etc.  When reading through the book of Acts, for example, one never gets the sense that being a part of the community of faith was secondary to anything.  It seems to drive everything that believers were doing.  Thus, Hebrews 10:23-25 seems to make a lot of sense:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I would love for these verses to define our church family at NHCC.  Rather than being a group of families who sometimes find the time to be with one another, I’d love for us to be one big family who sometimes, unfortunately can’t be around each other because we are working or sleeping.  This is a paradigm shift for many.  But here’s why I think this is so important…because I think our lives are supposed to reflect our eternity.

The Bible states that our human relationships (marriage, etc.) will not look the way that they do now.  As much as it pains me, I don’t think I’ll be married in heaven.  And I don’t think that I’ll be a parent in heaven.  And yet, I will be a part of the global community of believers.  I will be a brother in Christ to those countless saints who have given their obedience to our Lord Jesus.  I will worship God on the throne for all of eternity, as one person, a drop in the great sea of believers.  If that’s where I’m going, may I engage my life now as a part of such a community, and may we teach our children to do the same.

Thanks for listening (or reading) everyone. : )

-The Pastor

Advertisements

Thoughts on the local church- Pt. 1

Standard

Good morning, anyone and everyone who may find themselves stumbling across this post!  It has been quite a while since I have been able to find a bit of time to blog, in fact, I believe my last post was written shortly after the 2016 presidential election.  Normally my week is filled with family, sermon prep, classwork, errands, etc.  This particular week is filled with all of that, except for sermon preparation (thank you Oscar).  Since we have a Family Fifth Sunday this week, I get the week off for preaching and will fill some of that time with blogging.

That being said…

What does it mean to be a part of the local church?  In our culture of distraction and busyness, this can be a difficult answer to find.  Busyness seems to me to be a sort of idolatry.  There are probably many reasons God saw fit to create a Sabbath rest, but one of those reasons has to be our constant temptation to be busy.  In fact, is it possible that we think we are doing something wrong if we aren’t busy?  And then, in moments of rest, we find distractions.  Nearly every night when it’s time to go to bed, you know, time to actually get rest, I fill my time with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Netflix.  In others words, I distract myself from what I need to do.

So, in a culture that values busyness and distraction, what does it mean to be a part of the local church?  To find an answer, I think its important first to see who we really are.  As followers of Jesus, what is our primary identity?  Are we husbands and wives?  Dads and moms?  Siblings?  Sons and daughters?  Friends?  Teachers, data processors, pastors, analysts, secretaries, carpenters?  Or are we something else completely?  When I have questions about my identity, or find myself sometimes in an identity crisis, I turn to Ephesians 1.  Notice some of the things that Paul writes about Christians…

…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ…

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ…

So who am I, first and foremost?  My identity is found in being a child of God, deeply loved, adopted, predestined, forgiven, purposed and known.  Before I know myself as a father, a husband, a pastor, or any other role that I fill, I must know myself in Christ.  If this is true, if my primary identity is found in Christ, then it would make sense to me that my primary family is that of the Body of Christ- the Church.  As a son of God, I have brothers and sisters, who also find their primary identity as being saved, redeemed, loved and forgiven by God through His Son.

Now, does this mean that my roles as a husband to my wife, father to my children and pastor to my church family are unimportant?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I believe that they are given greater meaning as a result of my primary identity being found in Christ.  This means that everything that I do as a parent, as a husband, as a pastor, as a friend, will be run through the filter of being a part of the body of Christ.

What I take this to mean, then, is that everything I do, both inside and outside of the church building, ought to be done for the purpose of building up the Church (the global body of Christ), but more specifically, my local church family.  This is most likely why Paul, when writing about church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5, talks about the necessity of “purging evil” from the church’s gatherings.  Keep in mind, the evil that a person does in the world not only impacts himself, but also impacts the gathered church.  Thus, Paul says to no longer associate with such a person.

Let’s think clearly on this matter.  If our primary identity is in Christ, then we ought to always live within such an identity.  There is no time off.  We simply never stop living within that primary identity.  And, if all of this is true, and if our being found in Christ means that our primary people into which we fit is the Church, then there is never any time off from being a part of the Church as well.  All of life is meant to represent our being a part of Christ’s body…the global Church and the local church.

Finally, I believe this drastically changes the way that we look at some of the most basic tenants of the Christian faith.  Why is evangelism important?  Why do we pray for one another?  Why is worship, both individual and corporate, more than simply meeting together for an hour a week?  Why do we sing in each other’s presence?  Why do we preach and teach?  If we allow our existence as a part of God’s family to be on the periphery rather than being a core part of who we are, then all of these elements of the faith will fall far short to what they are supposed to be.  It is crucial that we find our identity to give meaning to all of our practices as lovers of God, but also that we see that all of these practices are meant to connect us to our brothers and sisters in Christ as well.

Hopefully I will have a bit more time this week to write a few more parts of this.  Why is corporate worship important and worthy of being a huge priority in our lives?  Why is the church called to spread the gospel to those who haven’t heard the name of Jesus?What should true, biblical fellowship look like?  These and more coming soon.  Thanks everyone for reading : )

In Christ,
The Pastor

The God of Efficiency

Standard

Hey everyone,

I was reading through Marva Dawn’s book on worship and came across these few pages.  I was convicted but encouraged at the same time.  I hope that this hits you as hard as it hits me!

PS- I’ve added some bold print to particular sentences and phrases that spoke more “loudly” to me than others.  Enjoy : )

-Ernie

 

“The escalating disruption of intimacy and community chronicled in the previous chapter is augmented by the technological society’s idolatry of efficiency.  Our culture is characterized by an enormous push to do everything faster. We want faster vehicles, computers, and cooking equipment.  We must solve all our problems with an instant technological fix.  Things must be on time. The press for efficiency is compounded by the media, which continue to accelerate the speed of life as news reports get shorter and less substantive, commercials get more hyped, the bombardment of sensory impressions increases in velocity.  Because the Church seeks to minister to people formed by the technological milieu, it easily succumbs to its principal criterion of efficiency.

When this technological mind-set invades the Church, it can be extremely destructive of true worship in multiple ways- especially if we “must” finish the worship service in an hour.  The liturgy becomes clockwork, service elements are eliminated, free expression of praise is stifled, the sermon is cut so brief that no deep biblical explication can occur, hymn verses are chopped off, the Eucharist becomes less communitarian, and there is no time for common prayer and sharing of concerns and thanksgivings.  Worst of all, there is no time for silence or the surprising workings of the Holy Spirit.

Second, the bombardment of hyped media impressions creates the need for worship to be similarly “upbeat.”  There is no place for sorrowful hymns of repentance, mourning dirges for a crucified Savior, despairing cries for hope in the troubles of life, contemplative anthems that call for deeper thinking.  The speed of the technological society easily invades all our worship tempos.  Many musicians think that the only way to make hymns interesting is to play them faster.  When we rush through worship too hastily, the music is sung and the words are spoken of so quickly as to preclude much attention to meaning.  We lose the majesty of many hymns, the moving pathos of the laments of Lent, the profound significance of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, the lessons that can be gained by close listening to a slow-paced reading of the Scriptures.

Third, a need for efficiency in “fellowship time” between worship and Sunday School eliminates time for caring.  Fellowship becomes a mere matter of coffee and cookies in the narthex between events.  Some churches try to deepen these moments by calling them koinonia (the Greek word for sharing in common), but it is the same coffee and cookies!  We talk about the weather and the latest ball scores, but we don’t really want to know the answer to “How are you?”  If our worship practices create the sense that the things of God must be tightly timed, this efficiency increasingly destroys our relationships with each other within the Body of Christ.  It augments our tendency to think that we don’t have enough time to provide transportation for the elderly, to listen to others’ concerns, to welcome the child who needs to learn that she is also an important part of Christ’s Body.

Above all, the technological society’s push for efficiency has robbed most congregations of the Sabbath rhythm, the setting apart of one day in every seven for ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting, a whole day set apart for God and for each other, a day of delight and healing.  Consequently, Christians mimic the frantic lifestyle of the world around them and have no understanding that God has designed a wonderful rhythm of rest and work, of refreshment and then response.  In that rhythm, we don’t have to rush out of the worship service at precisely noon, since there is no work to do on Sunday.  The day is set apart for worship, for relationships, for growing in our sense of who God is and who we are as individuals desiring to become like Jesus and as a community of his people displaying his character to the world.

A last instance, intended to lead to personal and communal reflection on examples in your own local situation, is that worship planning and preparation are subjected to the need for efficiency.  Pastors are burdened with so much “administrivia” that they have no time to focus, as Acts 6:4 suggests, on prayer and the ministry of the Word. (This change is indicated by the fact that we call their places of work “the office” instead of “the study.”)  Seminaries spend less time teaching about worship and the heritage of the Church because all the other curricula demands concerning the mechanics of running a congregation.  George Barna, who researches marketing trends, insists that clergy need to keep up with the latest technological developments to use computers and media well in the parish.  “Church leaders must be technologically literate,” he proclaims, and he adds that “the very fact that the congregation is using the new technology sends an important signal to the surrounding community.”  Should we not be more concerned to send to the culture around us the important signal that our worship leaders spend their time in personal spiritual preparation, deep study of the Scriptures, and the inefficient work of prayer?  Instead, worship- which would and must be the most important work of the Church- gets planned and carried out with less prayer underneath it, inadequate reflection on the texts, little care, minimal substance, and clocked efficiency.”

  • Marva Dawn in Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time

An Open Letter to New Horizon Christian Church

Standard

Dear Church Family,

What a couple of days it has been.  Over the past 72 hours, we have gone from many polls seemingly pointing to a huge win for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the General Election over Republican nominee Donald Trump, to a November surprise on election day that showed Trump beating Clinton.  If you are anything like me, you probably stayed up and watched the coverage, simply to follow the drama of it all and see how everything would turn out.  What a night, filled with emotions of joy for those who were supporting Trump/Pence and emotions of sadness for those who were backing Clinton/Kaine.  Some are incredibly optimistic about the next four years for our country, while others wait in horror for what they expect to be a time of national misery.

Add to all of this the fact that we now have social media, which means that we can immediately post our thoughts, our concerns and our “expertise” at a moment’s notice, without necessarily thinking through not only what we are saying, but the impact that it may have on our readers.  Church family, it is getting ugly out there.  People are making various claims with no basis of understanding (Trump voters are all uneducated bigots who don’t care for minorities, women and the LGBTQ communities/Hillary voters don’t care about babies and want to be able to kill them up until delivery).  These sorts of blanket statements are being made so carelessly, causing a stronger divide than what was already in place.  The winners are gloating while the losers are reacting out of fear and anger.  We as a people tend to speak out of a worst case scenario mindset (e.g. minorities, women, and others will have to live in fear over the next four years).  It simply seems like tensions have reached a boiling point.  It is something we have been dealing with for years now, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  Healing is lacking from both ends of the political spectrum.

So how are we, the Church, supposed to act?  What does it look like, in the midst of all of this, to be a City on a Hill, that gives light and peace to a world filled with fear and turmoil?  Here are a few thoughts that might start us moving in the right direction:

Please understand that we find ourselves in a unique moment of our history.  It can be difficult for Christians to differentiate ourselves from the world around us, and yet we have just been served a moment in time where the difference can be huge.  Our society, at the moment, is engaging in a brutal war of words and philosophy.  Hate is quickly being spread by supporters of both political parties through name-calling, oversimplification of complex issues, and sometimes flat out dishonesty.  If you, as a follower of Christ, have ever looked for an opportunity to be different from your surroundings, you may be finding yourself in such a situation right now!  So take advantage.  Live and speak in such a way that you will be set apart from that what is going on around you.  Instead of hate, spread love.  Instead of tearing down, build up and encourage.  Instead of drawing lines of division, look to accept those who differ from you.  By doing this, Christ will be glorified in you and people will take notice, not of you, but of the God you worship and represent!

Know your limitations.  Something that I am seeing from a lot of younger students, both in high school and college (and from some adults as well), is an attitude of omniscience.  This means that they leave little room for doubt in their own beliefs and also that they believe that they know the inner workings of the minds of others.  They make claims that they know exactly why someone would vote for a particular candidate and cannot imagine that they could be wrong in their knowledge.  Please know that only God is omniscient.  This means that God alone truly knows the motivations and reasons behind a person’s behavior.  I cannot state why someone would vote for Trump or for Clinton because these are complex decisions that involve many different motivations that go into a person’s choice.  So it would be best for us to completely avoid acting as though we have any inkling of an idea as to why people made the choice that they made.  To claim that someone voted Republican because they don’t care about people of color, or to claim that someone voted Democrat because they don’t have a job and want to collect welfare shows a lack of maturity, not only in life, but in faith as well.  So know your limitations and avoid making claims that you cannot prove.

Please do not discount fears and concerns.  A lot of folks are truly terrified of where our country will be going over the next few years, and they have every right to be nervous.  I cannot say what a woman should feel if she believes her incoming president disrespects women.  I cannot say what a Muslim ought to feel is he believes that our incoming president wants to limit his rights as a citizen of our country.  Recognize the fears of others rather than dismissing them.  These fears will often become a gateway for some incredible conversations!  Look to discuss rather than dismiss.

Please be sensitive in your comments, likes and shares.  I know that this seems crazy, but the fact that you “like” a particular post of Facebook can speak volumes to someone about what you believe or support.  As soon as someone sees you liking a status that is filled with hate, sarcasm or bigotry, they will immediately believe that you support such things.  To go along with this, we should most likely limit some of our statements that are over-simplistic and only cause division.  “He’s not my president,” is not only untrue, but extremely divisive in a time when healing is needed.  “See you later Obama,” does nothing to advance any sort of kindness to those who might legitimately miss our current president.  Be careful about what you post, comment, like and share.

Finally, have some hope, and be sure to share your hope.  First of all, know that God is in control, even when it seems like he is not.  Read through your Old Testament, through some of the prophets who were tasked with speaking to Israel and Judah, and you will find that God was moving the chess pieces of the world even though it seemed to His people that He was nowhere to be found.  I know that many people did not like this election, and felt that God could never use either of the two major presidential candidates.  And yet, God has used and will use leaders to bring about His will for our world.  Place your hope in the fact that God’s Kingdom remains intact though worldly kingdoms collapse as dust.  You may find it to be easier to doubt, but God is at work in our lives, and for that reason alone, we as followers of Christ must remain hopeful.

Again, please recognize the weight of the situation in which our church family finds itself.  The world is lacking hope, and as a result are lashing out at one another.  You have the ability to calm nerves, to restore hope, to reach out in love and kindness, and to spread the joy of Christ, a joy that will not be removed by the situations of our world.  Would you devote yourselves to praying for our nation?  This includes praying for our outgoing president and his administration, praying for our incoming president and his coming administration, praying for those who are living in fear, praying for a nation which is seemingly torn in two, and praying for all of those who do not see eye to eye with you.

You are called to be Christ, to bring peace.  May we all go out of our way in order to extend such peace to others.  Romans 12:18 states, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Will you take this challenge seriously?  Will you swallow your pride in order to hear others and accept those with whom you disagree?  If so, you will exhibit the love of Christ amid a time of great hardship.

I’m praying for all of you and am so blessed to be a part of our church family.

-Pastor Ernie

 

 

Reflections on CIY Move 2016

Standard

It is bittersweet knowing that Ali and I may have just returned from my last CIY Move for a decent while.  It’s sweet simply because it can be taxing on our lives to head out for a week away from home and away from our daughter, Aletheia.  It’s sweet because van rides are not always my favorite things to do, even if it is only a little over 4 hours.  It’s even sweet because, strange as it sounds, I miss being in the church office during the week, working on lessons, writing emails, all of the stuff that I probably wouldn’t admit that I like had I not had a break from it in a while.

But it is bitter.  So bitter.  Being able to spend a week with 25 of our high school students this past week, away from sporting events, away from difficult family situations, away from significant others, has simply reminded me how much I love those students!  Yes, it can be difficult, but it’s so wonderfully rewarding just to be able to hang out with these folks!  As I was returning our rental vans this afternoon when we returned, I had a chance to be alone in one of the vans, and it got my mind wandering off to what a great week it was.  I just kept cycling through all of the parts of the week that I appreciated, quickly discovering that there was not much that I didn’t enjoy!  Here are just a few thoughts that I had:

  1. Before we even get to CIY, I have to mention our church family, because I kept thinking about all of the folks who have supported our students financially and also through prayer during the entire week.  Every year we ask if there would be any adults in the church who would partner with our high schoolers, not only in prayer, but offering a financial gift in order to help them get to Move.  Our church’s generosity simply cannot be ignored.  People gave, and gave, and gave.  Then, a couple of students who are going on the trip decided to sponsor other students.  WOW!  How cool is that?  I love being a part of a church filled with givers and prayer warriors!
  2. Secondly, a word about CIY.  It was incredible programming this year.  From getting the students more involved in small groups to the wonderful sermons that were preached, CIY has to be able to pat themselves on the back.  Not only all of this, but they also worked through Ephesians, which is simply a phenomenal book that is so relevant to the lives of teenagers (I know, all books of the Bible are relevant, but man, Ephesians!).  Our kids should be walking away from the week feeling challenged but also encouraged.  How could you not be built up after reading something like, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” (Ephesians 2:13).  I think that all of our students had some pretty major takeaways that they can be building on in the years ahead.
  3. How can we get more of Mark Christian in our lives?  The speakers were all amazing, but every morning we got a chance to hear from this pastor who works at a church in Joplin, MO.  Seriously, he is one of the major reasons that we keep heading up to Michigan for CIY.  He is authentic, genuine, honest, challenging, loving, caring, everything that every pastor hopes to be. Don’t believe me?  Go ahead and click on a few of his sermons and see for yourself.  You might be watching for a while once you hear from him.
  4. It was incredible to see some of the transformation that has begun to take place in many of our students.  Not only did we have two stand up who were called into vocational ministry, but we had a large handful rededicate their lives and the entire group stood up in order to say that they all felt called to Kingdom work, meaning that they wanted to devote their lives, no matter which career they pursued, to following and serving Christ.  I was so blown away by this.  Can we even imagine if in the small town of Heyworth, Illinois, we had 25 high school students seeking to transform their school, their church, their friendships, their families and their town?
  5. I found out a lot about our students during CIY Move.  They have some pretty major plans, which I love to hear about.  A few wanted to get into nursing and use their gifts to serve others in foreign nations throughout their lives.  Another of our students took a look at the state of counseling today and wanted to begin helping people who are in emotional distress by pointing them to Christ.  One wants to join the military in order to ensure the freedoms that we often take for granted.  Some want to teach, lead worship, work with children and orphans in ministry and many other pursuits that I can’t even remember.  Our students are thinking big, and I am a huge fan of that!
  6. We brought our 7-month old son Azariah with us to CIY this year, which can always be a bit of a gamble.  However, our students took care of us, literally.  Both guys and girls stepped up wanting to hold Azariah, feed him and even change diapers.  This was a massive weight taken off of Ali and me.  This is the sort of help that we have grown to hope for from adults, not from high school students.  We were so encouraged by students who stepped up to help us.
  7. On that note, a quick shout out to Kevin and Jen Campbell who watched our daughter Aletheia for the week and also from Kade, who watched our house and dog for us!  We are surrounded by wonderful friends!
  8. Finally, my last reflection is on the behavior of our students.  CIY can be a frightening time because we have all these high school students away from their parents and pretty much under our supervision.  That is intimidating every time that we head to Michigan.  But over the past few years, our students simply amaze us.  We don’t have to deal with much as far as behavioral issues go.  Our students seem to be there in order to learn and grow and that is all that we can ask of them.  High school can be a pretty rough time, especially when you take parents completely out of the equation, but NHCC’s students always step up to the challenge and show us the potential for high schoolers!

I am going to miss taking our students to CIY.  But I am excited to continue watching them grow into disciples of Christ, seeking His will for their lives and bowing in obedience.  I truly believe that they can have a massive impact on this world and I am thrilled that I get to be around to see what they can do!

-The Pastor

Selfie Versus Panorama

Standard

selfiestick2

2016 has lasted about 5 hours thus far and I’ve already felt the desire to get back into the habit of occasionally blogging.  And of course, this happens most frequently when I have some things on the mind, and New Years Day is a good day for having things on the mind.

Today’s topic: selfies.  No idea when these really took off as a “thing,” though perhaps they have always been with us since the invention of the camera.  The cell phone has seemingly made the art of taking pictures of ourselves quite popular and much easier to perform.  Selfies have become the rage as of late, even further made possible by the invention of the selfie stick.  I remember first seeing one of these monstrosities while at Disney World in the summer of 2014 and I laughed (a lot). I could not have imagined it possible that people would actually spend money on a stick on which you could attach your phone in order to take a better picture of yourself.  And yet, here we are.

Please don’t misunderstand.  If you were to peruse my Instagram account, it’s not like you would never find a selfie.  I promise you, they’re there.  But it seems like we have become obsessed with taking our own picture.  Not a few times a year, but instead on a daily basis for some.

So are selfies in and of themselves a bad thing?  Of course not.  But, just like anything else that we can enjoy, even our picture-taking can become corrupted, can’t it?  Some things really cause us to focus on self rather than on others (or even on Christ) and it is at this point that we find such things to have become detrimental.

This is completely compounded by the fact that many of us tend to live our lives from a “selfie mentality.”  Hang with me here for a minute.  I simply mean that we want to be the focus of the frame.  We don’t want to share any ounce of limelight and so become completely infatuated with self and ignorant of others.  We shouldn’t live this way.  Everyone is aware of that.  Even the most humanist person around would admit that we are missing something if we truly only consider ourselves and forget about others.

In the New Testament, Paul seems to speak directly to our culture while addressing the church in Philippi.  In Philippians 2:3-5, he writes:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”

Seems that instead of having only our lovely faces in the frame, Paul encourages us to include others as well.  It could be said that we should be taking panoramic pictures rather than selfies, fitting in as much of the landscape and people around us as possible.

So here’s the challenge for 2016.  Love others, include others, meet the needs of others, find the beauty in others, help others, and live with an attitude of humility.  Let’s widen the borders a bit and see just how many people we might be able to have join us in our thoughts, prayers and actions.

And my goodness, let’s take a few less selfies…

-The Pastor

 

The Necessity of Volunteers

Standard

go_grass_sky

In just over a week, NHCC will be putting on the first Ministry Fair that we have had in at least the time that I have been a pastor there.  There have been two primary motivations behind putting together the fair.  First of all, we hope that our church will become aware of all of the various ministries that we have to offer.  We want all of our parents of 4th-6th grade students to realize that we have a ministry specifically designed for their kids.  If we have any adults who might want to dig deeper into their faith, we have many Sunday School classes and small group opportunities available to them.  We also want folks to know that if they should find themselves in financial trouble, we have a Benevolence Team who will most likely be able to help.

Our second goal is to help make our church family aware that there are many areas of need within these ministries.  We have so many ministries currently up and running at our church that simply need a few more people to be willing to step up and volunteer their time, efforts and resources in order to help these ministries thrive.  As a youth pastor who interacts with a whole lot of volunteers, I’ve had quite a few thoughts as we prepare for this ministry fair and would like to share just a few with you.

1. Pastors always seem to get the credit.  This is something that I’ve observed quite a bit over the past six (nearly seven) years of being in full-time youth ministry.  Pastors are the ones who tend to receive praise when the church is headed in the right direction, and I think that’s a shame.  One reason for this is that I’ve come to understand that without volunteers, ministry would largely cease.  In the realm of youth ministry, I’ve come to depend on our volunteers.  Currently at The Hype (our Wednesday night youth group), we have about ten adult volunteers who come out ever Wednesday night in order to spend time with our students.  They spend at least 2-3 hours every week building relationships, worshiping together and even leading a small group of students.  As I have repeated many times to our volunteers and our students, the small groups are the most important part of what we do on Wednesday evenings.  More important than the meal we eat together; more important than the sermon I preach; more important than the songs we sing.

Suppose one day that all of our volunteers decide to step down.  All of a sudden I’m looking at a Wednesday night with 40-50 students all by myself.  I can’t build relationships with all of those students.  I can’t lead small groups with all of those students.  In fact, there is very little that I could do with all of them!  I greatly depend on our volunteers to help the vision that we have for The Hype ministry become a reality.  And this happens all across our church.  Two pastors cannot effectively lead worship every week, yet with volunteers, it is made possible.  Two pastors cannot effectively lead all of our congregation in small groups, yet with volunteers it is made possible.  Pastors may receive the praise, yet we are fully aware that we are completely reliant on the large number of volunteers who step up and give of themselves to serve the people inside and outside the church.

2.  I think that it’s always important to keep in mind who you are helping when you volunteer your time in various ministries at the church.  It’s easy to simply think you’re helping out the leadership of the church, the pastors, elders or ministry leaders.  However, it is so important that we all keep in mind that we are serving others that need to be served.  What I mean by this is that when someone signs up to teach Sunday School, they are not only serving the Sunday School Ministry Leader by filling a much needed teacher spot, but they are serving the students that they will be teaching.  The new teacher is able to invest in relationships with a handful of kids while teaching them some incredible truths out of Scripture.

The reason I bring this up is because I think a lot of people might find their motivation for volunteering in doing a personal favor for me, or another pastor, or a ministry leader.  However, if this is the motivation, then the volunteer will find no satisfaction in the act of serving others.  They’ll find themselves serving out of obligation rather than out of the joy of ministering to the needs of other people.  Serve because there are plenty of people who need to be served.

3. Finally, remember that the ministry opportunities that are provided at your church are a way for you to fulfill your calling to love others and care for them.  As Pastor Luke pointed out a few weeks ago in a sermon, loving others is how we love God.  It is the natural outpouring of our love for God.  So when we serve others and take care of their needs, those actions are the manifestation of the love that we have toward our God.  The various ministries at our church provide a great opportunity for folks to love others AND love God!  I love seeing our church body step up to the challenge of loving others, contributing our gifts, our abilities, our resources and our time in order to show our love of God and neighbor.  It is our hope that the Ministry Fair on February 15 will provide the opportunity for folks in our church to serve and be served!

-The Pastor