100% Organic

18 01 2009

01172009-organicFirst of all, I apologize for my silence.  I have wanted to share this for a while now, but felt it was best to wait until my wife had a chance to first share it with the board at our church and we had had a chance to personally let people close to us know.  But, for the most part that has now been done.

So, what’s the big news?  Well, my wife and I have decided to make a change in our lives.  I have basically gone to the same church all my life.  However, God has opened up a door and called us to do something different.  We are going to be a part of an organic house church that meets in our neighbors’, Darrell and Robin, home.

My wife, who was on the board at our old church, did a great job of explaining our feelings and reasons in her resignation letter to the board.  So, check that out for some background.

I will just add a few things to that.  First, this transition has been much more difficult than I expected.  Communication with friends/family at our old church has been challenging.  It has been hard to control the message so that feelings are not hurt and misunderstandings do not result.  But, we are getting through that fine.  In no way is our decision based on anything negative about our old church.  This should not be viewed as a threat of any kind.  This should only be viewed for what it is: a mission to build God’s kingdom in our neighborhood.

What is so exciting to me personally, is that my entire mindset has changed.  My thinking when I encounter people in my neighborhood has changed in a big way.  Before, the thought of inviting people to join me at my church hardly even crossed my mind.  Not necessarily because there was something wrong with my church, but for a couple other reasons.  Either I didn’t think they would go to a church building, or because I felt that the church I went to was too far away (we live about 25 minutes away from it).  So, I never really invited anyone to join us.  But, now, my thinking has completely changed.  Now, every person I come in contact with in my community, I think about how I can reach out to them, how I can connect with them.  Someone that I never would have thought about inviting to a church building a half hour away certainly might be interested in living life together, “being” the church together, if you will, right here in a house on their own block.  Instead of an acquaintance that I occasionally wave to while passing by, they now become someone that I have to figure out how to relate to, how to be in relationship with.  And, “being” the church doesn’t necessarily mean getting together once a week at Darrell and Robin’s house next door and talking about God.  It means, getting to know people around us, meeting them where they are at, and being in relationship with them regardless if they are interested in coming to Darrell and Robin’s on Sundays.

Afterall, it’s organic.  It’s alive.  It’s fluid.  It moves.  It doesn’t really keep a schedule.

Anyway, I am sure I will have much more to say about this is the days and weeks to come.  But, I wanted to get some of this out because it’s been stored up inside me for a while now.  I am excited and at the same time scared of what God is doing.  I ask for prayers that my family and I will be willing to do what he desires in the days ahead.  But, mostly, I am just excited.  Excited to see where this organic church is going.

Afterall, it’s organic.  It can grow.  It has feelings.  It has a message to share.  It loves.

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Evangelism

1 12 2008

My wife and I are in an evangelism study group at church.  This week, as a class, our task was to, in 3 sentences or less, explain to someone what we believe.  In other words, when an unchurched person asks us what we believe, what is a short, concise response that will perhaps open the door to further witnessing.  Here is what we come up with.  I welcome your feedback.

“I believe that God loves us and created us for a relationship with Him which is a free gift available to all who chose to accept it.  We were all born sinners, but God sent His only son, Jesus, to pay the price.  He overcame death on the cross so that the relationship with Him can be restored forever”.





4 questions, 4 answers

11 11 2008

Tonight we met with a small group of friends from church.  We were asked 4 questions related to our local church.  Here are the questions and my answers:

11102008-church1.  What brought you to our church?

I was brought to our church by my parents shortly after birth.  Except for the first three years of my married life, it has been my church home ever since.

2.  What is the most meaningful experience you have had at our church?

The day I married my beautiful wife almost 11 years ago.

OK, the first two questions were easy.  The next two, not so much…

3.  What is your dream for our church?

A church that is reaching out, one with a wide variety of people – diverse. A church that is not completely traditional and isn’t afraid to think outside the box.

4.  What gifts/passions do you have to make your dream a reality for our church?

I had two answers.  First, I am a great helper.  I am not a visionary thinker, but I can get behind someone who is. If you persuade me on an idea, I can execute whatever tasks required to make it happen.

Secondly, I have always been good at identifying the outsider, the marginalized one among us.  And, mostly, I am good at bridging the gap and reaching out to them (although not always).








Fear

5 08 2008

Last Sunday morning my wife and I got into the church service a little late.  We ended up sitting on the front row.  The last couple of Sundays, during the service, we have started having what is called a “Children’s Moment”.  All the kids are invited to come up to the front for a mini sermonette.  It’s just a 5 minute illustration used to help teach the kids a biblical lesson.  This week’s was about FEAR and was based on 2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

So, the woman leading the “Children’s Moment” started asking the kids for examples of things they fear.  The kids’ responses were what you would expect – monsters, the dark, getting into trouble, etc.

Then for some reason still unknown to me, she points over to me and says “What is something you are fear?”  At first I assumed she was pointing to someone behind me.  She kept pointing in my direction and finally I kind of innocently mouthed the word, “Me?” to which she emphatically nodded her head.

Out of about 500 people or so, why on earth had she decided to single me out?  Did I look like I had fears to share?  Did I look like I belonged up there sitting with the children?  I have no idea why I was chosen, but I thought I better say something.  All of this went through my head in an instant, but it didn’t get me any closer to an appropriate response.  In a fraction of a second I tried to think of something to say.  Then, in a flash, I blurted out my response.

“I have a fear of being called on to respond in front of the entire church”.

I brought the house down with that one.





Is the church still reaching?

28 07 2008

Yesterday morning, in our Bible Fellowship class, we all answered one simple question:  “Why are you here?”  There were probably 8-9 couples in the room.  Each one answered.  There were several, including myself, that said we were there because we had grown up in that church, and it was a natural place for us to be.  Others had moved in to town from various places and came to that church because it was similar to what they had known in their other locations or because they happen to know someone there.

There was only one person that said they were there because someone from the church had invited them to come.

My question is…why aren’t there more people there as a result of a personal invitation?  Is it because we aren’t inviting? Is it because they are not accepting our invitations?  Or is it because they came and didn’t find what they needed?

I think, sadly, it’s a combination of all three.

The church needs to be a place where we are excited to invite others.  It needs to be a place with a lot to offer for all kinds of people.  A place that plugs people in the moment they walk in the door so that they are immediately caught up in the spirit of the people there.  Otherwise, what is the point?

So, why aren’t we inviting?  Why aren’t they accepting the invitations?  Why aren’t they finding what they need?

Something is broken.  What do you think it is?





Kiva

16 06 2008

A few weeks ago someone at church told me about a website called Kiva.  The Kiva mission statement is simple:

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva - loans that change livesBasically, it’s a website set up for people to loan money to entrepreneurs in 3rd world areas.  The entrepreneurs have to pay the loan back in its entirety.  Then, once the loan is repaid, you can either reclaim your money or re-invest it in someone else.

What an awesome concept!  It’s a way to actually make an impact in the world and the problem of poverty.

Yesterday, for Father’s Day, my family gave me $25 to invest a Kiva borrower.  I stayed up late last night looking for just the right person to loan my money to.  Since it was Father’s Day, I really wanted to find another dad out there who needed a loan to support his own family.  I found Faizali Safarov, a married father of 3 who makes his living as a taxi driver.  He needs a loan of $750 to make repairs to his taxi or he will lose his only source of income.  I threw in my $25 and by this morning, he had raised all of his loan amount.  Now, he has 12 months to repay me and the other dozen or so lenders that pitched in.

I am excited about watching my small loan make a difference in someone else’s life.  I can’t wait for the money to be repaid so I can re-invest it in someone else.  I know it’s only $25, but I can keep loaning it out over and over again and helping more and more people with it.

Why don’t you go check out Kiva and make an investment today?





Volunteer application: Are you gay? Check YES or NO

13 06 2008

Gay volunteersI read this article yesterday that really rubbed me the wrong way.  The article is found in a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender news site, so I realize it is not necessarily an unbiased account.  But, still, I am frustrated by what I read.

If you don’t have time to read the article, let me boil it down for you: A couple of guys showed up to volunteer at a free hotmeal program at a neighborhood church.  They felt this was a good way to give back to a ministry that had once provided them a free meal when they themselves were in need.  They were there just long enough to unload a truck of food before abruptly being questioned about whether or not they were gay.  When they acknowledged their homosexuality, they were immediately asked to leave.

What’s up with that?  Is that really the right message the church wants to send?

Let’s all stop and think for just a second.

The church should be trying to minister to those in their community who are in need.  The church is supposed to be a place where all types of people can come together in love and service to God.  In short, the church is supposed to be an outpouring of God’s love to the people in its community.  So, how exactly are the actions that this church took in line with that purpose?

It’s not like these guys showed up wanting to preach a sermon or teach a Sunday School class.  It’s not like they were enlisting to sing in the choir on Sunday.  No, these guys were simply looking for a place to give back to the community they are a part of.

Someone please pinch me and tell me there is more to the story than what is written here.  Were they doing something that warranted the internal investigation that the meal director felt obligated to conduct?  Was it something they did?  Was it something they said?  Surely, they were kissing in front of children or talking dirty to homeless men in the food line.  It’s got to be something like that, right?  Something that makes them ineligible for volunteer service to the hungry. 

It’s got to be something more than the simple fact that these guys are gay.

Maybe the church needs to add a section in their volunteer application form.  Are you gay?  Check YES or NO.  Oh wait, they don’t have a volunteer application form.  That’s because, up until now, there were no specific eligibility requirements to volunteer at the free hotmeal program.

I really think this church needs a giant do-over.  If they could just stop and think for one second about the real message they want to send before taking action, I am confident they could have handled this better.

Here’s an idea.  How about loving and ministering to these guys?  What a golden opportunity to love and care for some guys who would probably not have ever entered through the front doors of their church for any other reason.  How about reaching out to them, befriending them, and partnering with them to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of people that surround them?  How about working to build a little trust in these guys so that they feel at ease enough to invite their friends to come with them the next time?  How about using this situation as a launching pad to start reaching out to other homosexuals in the community?

But no, a golden opportunity is missed.  Missed because of fear and because of arrogant righteousness.  And, even given a chance at a do-over, I am not convinced that things would be handled any differently.

Maybe the leaders at this church need to go back and re-read the letter to pastors put out by the Nazarene Board of General Superintendents (I blogged about it here).

I think the guys’ quotes tell me all I need to hear:

“I said, ‘I don’t know how this has anything to do with feeding the homeless or people in need,'” Erichsen says.

“They just outed us and came right out and said we were not wanted there,” Footh says. “This was one of the ugliest things like this to ever happen to us. They made us feel like we are not good enough to help other people because of our sexual orientation, and to me that is totally wrong.”

So, anybody, like me, think this church just lost its only chance to have any positive impact on these guys’ lives?  Anybody, like me, wonder if their own church would act in the exact same way?

And, we wonder why people think the church is full of hypocrites.  To change its perception, the church is going to have to change its ways.  This was a missed opportunity to get started.