Back in October of last year, the leadership team of the church all got together to pray and discern what God was asking of us for 2018. We felt that God was calling us to step out in 3 areas; relationships, evangelism, and discipleship. Out of this time immersed 3 goals that we adopted at a community to guide our corporate emphasis this year. Those three goals are:
Intentionally invest in 5 relationships.
Reach 700 people with the Gospel message.
Everyone would invite 1 person to church.
Take these goals with you as a background for your phone:
Intentionally invest in 5 relationships.
We were not meant to live isolated lives. We were designed for community. Do you have people that are investing in you? Do you have people in your life who you are investing into? We only have so much time, so are you investing in what really matters the most to you? Take some time to think about who are the people in your life that you want to be intentional with this year.
Reach 700 people with the Gospel message.
There are 350 people that are regularly involved in our programming. From our children’s program, to our youth group, to Sunday morning, to our small group network. As a church leadership we are committing to being gospel-centered and each person that comes through our doors will come into contact with the message of Jesus. Our challenge then is for each of us, all 350 people, to then take that message and share it with 1 person in our life. What is God doing in your life? What has God done for you? Take a moment to share that story with one of your intentional relationships.
Everyone would invite 1 person to church.
I like Plattsville Church. And I assume that you did to. Why else would you be here? But something happens to Christians who have been in church for a long time. We forget that there are others who need this church family too. Would you consider inviting someone you know to come to church with you? Surveys have shown that the large majority of people who don’t go to church would be willing to attend if they were personally invited by someone they know and trust. Invite someone to come with you and see what God can do through you.
I was going to be preaching this Sunday, April 15 on the necessity of Rest. That God gives His people the luxury and even the command to rest.
And then we all ended up staying home because there was an ice storm, and we were “forced” to rest.
How delightful! (Seriously, I was actually chuckling in the morning!)
But to further that thought, I want to take a moment to challenge myself (and you) in the rest that God prescribes. Luke 10:38-42 describes how Martha and Mary love Jesus, and though they love in different ways, Jesus commends Mary for not being distracted by other things, and for sitting at His feet, resting but learning.
This Sunday may have forced some of us to do that. To face head on our inability to rest (did anyone find themselves stir crazy and needing a distraction come 3pm??) or our inner peacefulness as we delightedly waited on Jesus to meet with us in a day set aside from our normal schedules.
For me, I realized I have gotten out of the practice of resting. I was dying by 3pm for a distraction. Anything would be better than just wandering a home aimlessly for hours on end. ( and if you didn’t have hydro, I bet you were feeling even more frustrated by your lack of distractions!)
It was very self-revealing, desperately needed. I came to the end of the day so thankful that this very ice storm that caused so much havoc, was the agent of revelation for me about my need to learn (again) how to sit and listen to Jesus as Mary did.
How do you actually do that? I think there’s a number of ways–for me, the worship music I listen to helps sooth my need for other thoughts, and pushes me towards a quiet contemplative time with Jesus. Maybe even just asking Him for help is a good place to start too!
Someone once shared with me a helpful list of ways that you might reconnect with God as you rest with Him, and it’s called the 7 pathways to God. Find which one you prefer, and then do it. Perhaps as we practice rest, the peace and joy we feel in being refreshed will overflow into our families and our neighbours lives….
Relational Path- sit with a group. Pray with a group. Worship or study with a group.
Intellectual Path- Study, study, study. Get out those books and be convinced.
Serving Path- painting, baking,teaching, doing….if this is deeply spiritually connecting for you, then find ways to serve others.
Contemplative Path- sit. Be quiet and think. Meditate on the Goodness of God. Be still and know.
This past Sunday, we looked at Genesis 1&2 and Revelation 21&22. The story doesn’t begin in Genesis 3. When God created the world he looked at it and said, “It is very good!” God’s plan, from Genesis 1:26 to Revelation 22:5, is that we would participate in stewarding God’s work here on earth. What skills and talents has God given you so that you can participate in His kingdom? Let us know, because we want to be a part of your participation…
This past Sunday we looked at Psalm 68, that God is a father to the fatherless, a defender to the widow, and he places the lonely into families. Here are some extra thoughts that got cut from the Sunday message.
On Sunday it was my last official Sunday as Plattsville’s lead pastor. A position I have held for over 4 years, and one I have loved every single minute of it. Plattsville is a really unique and special church. They have something special within them about how they practice grace, how they show love, and how they support.
So on Sunday for my final sermon here, I re-preached the passage I preached for my first sermon here: Philippians 1.
Here in Philippians Paul is writing to a church he deeply deeply loves but has been called away from. And he writes this:
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”
I unpacked this passage a little bit and why Paul was so thankful to the Philippian church.
Paul was so grateful to the Philippian church because of how they supported him. Paul was in prison and in that day and age meals weren’t covered or provided. You needed to rely on others for your daily sustenance and support. And the Philippian church were part of daily providing for Paul.
Paul was also deeply welcomed into the Philippian church family. All you need to do is to read his letter and how often he mentions them as dearest friends, brother and sisters, or partners in God’s grace to get that these are just people to him – they are his people. They are his family. He loves his church because they welcomed him.
And lastly, Paul loves the Philippian church because they have been his partners in sharing God’s grace. Paul makes that explicit in the first few verses, and keeps on mentioning it throughout his letter. He loves the church because of what they did together.
And on Sunday I shared with you all that I love this church for the same reason. That you supported me, that you welcomed me, and together we partnered with God in the business of God’s grace. I shared story after story after story of how you did that. And that bcause of how you supported, welcomed, and partnered I am eternally grateful.
That was my main point really: that I’m grateful to each and everyone of you, because this is a special church. I challenged each of you to commit to this place, because this is a special place.
And to close I ended the same way I started almost 5 years ago with these words:
Paul writes, ““Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” I actually believe that this passage is prophetic for us. Meaning that I believe it will be true for us. That, like Paul, in years to come, when we’ve been living out this grace business for a while, I’ll be able to say to you like Paul did to the Philippians. Plattsville church every time I think of you, I’m filled with thanksgiving. With joy, with excitement. It’s never a struggle to pray for you, and my prayers to God are always filled with joy at the amazing privilege and honor it is to be your pastor. This is because you and I have joined in this grace business of God together. We’ve jumped in with two feet, supporting one another, loving one another, and deciding that from day one we would be about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ
And that’s exactly what happened.
Big Idea: I am so grateful for you.
I’ll always consider myself part of this place and your pastor.
Paul loves Phillipi because of how they supported him, welcomed him, and partnered together with God.
When someone is hurting, you don’t get to take the focus.
Being changed by Jesus and changing lives with Jesus.
You have a special place in my heart.
This is a church that supports one another, journeys together, and is about God’s grace.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? How have you been welcomed here, supported here, or partnered together in sharing God’s grace? What are you thankful for in this place? Are you willing to commit and see what the future God has for you?
Challenge for the Week: This place rocks, and you should commit to being here.
So on Sunday we looked back at some of the different lessons God has really taught us in the past 4+ years here. Because I believe that what God teaches us in the past is what often prepares us for our future. The trouble is that we are so forgetful. We forget what God has taught us, we forget the lesson, and we move on.
So we wanted to halt that memory loss by remembering 4 key lessons God has taught us as a church over the past number of years.
The first was to focus on your great work. I believe that God has something that each of us are to do that is lasting and impactful. For some this great work is launching a business, writing a book, starting a ministry, or being a great dad, being an amazing wife, being the best grandmother possible. Each of us are graced for different things, the point is not to give up on what God has given us. We remembered an amazing story of Nehemiah where when a good opportunity comes along he says, “No I am doing a great work I cannot come down”. This is what we need to do, focus on the great work God has for us.
We also remembered that our lives leave a legacy that can shape generations. We looked at Jacob and Esau and how one decision by Esau changed and shaped Jospeh so that when he was in the same situation as Esau he knew how to act. And lives were changed and generations were saved. We can have the same impact if we choose our choices intentionally, if we do the hard stuff of living like Jesus.
We then looked at something hard but necessary to do: forgiveness. The truth is that forgiveness as a Christian isn’t optional – it’s kinda part of the job description. But it’s really hard to do, but that’s why it’s so life changing. So we remembered and reflected on how forgiveness, while hard to give, is necessary and challenges ourselves to give forgiveness to someone.
And last but not least, we looked at the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat. And we reflected on a main point we had worked through earlier this year. That when difficult and darkness come that we need to always remember who is in our boat. God is always with us, and we can’t let the storms steal our focus from him.
So that’s what we learned on Sunday. The main point was really don’t forget what God has taught you. And we challenge each of us with a simple challenge: to put one of these lessons into practice. Because the way we ensure we don’t forget what God teaches us, is to live it out. Things we practice and use, we remember and don’t forget.
So we closed with a challenge. To put one of these four lessons into practice: to focus on your great work, to ensure you leave a legacy, practice forgiveness, and never forget Jesus is in your boat. Because it’s when you start to live differently that lives are changed.
Big Idea: Don’t forget what God has taught you
What God prepares in us in the past, is what enables us for his future
If we want to find where God is leading us, it begins by remembering what he has done within us.
I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. – Nehemiah
The choices you make today can be the thing that determines someone’s life years from now.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice to end the cycle of revenge and leave justice in the hands of God. Brian Zahnd
Always remember who is in your boat.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What sermons do you remember most? What lessons has God taught you that have been significant in your lifetime? Is there one of those lessons that Andrew shared that resonates? What can you do to take a next step? Who can help you with that?
Challenge for the Week: Put one of these lessons into practice.
On Sunday we had a great celebration, that our church has been here 60 years. We have been blessed with 6 decades of change and influence in our community and partnering with change in people’s lives.
And so we celebrated, we threw a party, we had a BBQ and bouncy castles. But more than that I also shared on Sunday where I believe we are headed for the next 60 years. And what I believe is this: that the future that is coming is greater than anything we have seen before. That we will be saying, “Who could have seen that coming?”
Because while I know lots of people like to talk about the end of the world, the difficulties of the church, and how the future is dark – that isn’t how Paul talks. Instead, Paul believes, like I do, that there is always good and grace on the horizon. So on Sunday we opened up this passage of Scripture from Ephesians 3 which says, “By his mighty power at work within us, God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or even to hope.”
God wants to do more in our lives that we have ever hoped, dreamed, or even imagined. The words there translated “infinitely more” means literally vastly more than more. God has vastly more than more in store for you.
And this is something I have believed about this church from day one and still believe it is true.
When I came here to be the lead pastor, we had to preach for a “call”. Which basically is a terrifying process where you preach and then everyone votes on you afterwards. Just a small bit of pressure…but it obviously went well.
But this was the verse I preached then. That I believed regardless of whatever happened in the vote, that God had good things in store. And I still believe that. That while lots of people like to pronounce doom and gloom; God is pronouncing life, love, a better future than could ever be imagined. This is your future, and this is mine.
So on Sunday we simply closed with having people state it aloud. To actually say, “God has infinitely more in store for me than I could ever hope or imagine”. Because there are lots of other voices that are saying different things, but I think we need to listen to the Spirit’s voice. The Spirit that says, I have infinitely more in store for you than you could ever hope or imagine. And that…that is good news.
Big Idea: God’s got more in store for you, me, and this church.
If you don’t appreciate the markers you reach, you often stop reaching them.
“Who could have seen that coming?”
The future that is coming is good.
God’s love is so beyond us that we cannot grasp it, but we can experience it.
Because when you trust in the future he has for you – you find it.
Listen and trust in the future God has for you.
Your dreams are too small for God, God’s got bigger in store for you.
Are you willing to let God loose in your life?
Your future isn’t dependent on you but on what God has in store for you.
“God has infinitely more in store for me than I could ever hope or imagine”
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? When you look into the future do you see hope or difficulty? Do you believe that God might have infinitely more in store for you? Are you willing to let him loose in your life? What might that look like to trust in his voice? What next step might you take? Who can you ask for support as you continue to follow him?
On Sunday we looked at the last of the strands of DNA within our church. We looked at how we here practice, “Unity in Diversity”.
And this value is one that is so needed and also so rare in our current church culture in the West. In the West we are so quick to divide, to call out “heresy”, to be angry and aggressive in person, on Facebook, in blog comment sections, and online in general.
What we looked at on Sunday is how a culture of division, and raising “secondary” issues to “ultimate” issues has taken hold. That people are quick to say, “if you don’t believe in…[insert current hot topic position] you aren’t a true Christian.”
In essence, the church is taking the easy route of dividing, and isolating – rather than loving and holding onto unity.
But this is not part of our DNA here at our church. Instead, we hold strongly to relationships over difference. Instead, we practice unity in diversity. Or as St. Augustine reportedly said, “Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things”.
We then explored not only how this is part of our DNA, but part of the calling of God found in many places but especially Galatians 5.
In Galatians 5 we read of how Paul is furious with how some in the church in Galatia are raising secondary issues (circumcision) to being a primary issue. In essence, they were taking a non-essential and saying it was an essential. And Paul has some brutally strong language for those who confuse those categories (just go read verse 12…wow!). And Paul warns the church that one divisive person, one angry person, one person who confuses the categories of essential and non-essential can infect an entire church. They can pollute it, damage it, and harm its witness.
And I think that’s the trend we see around us in the wider church culture. But the point for us and our church is to not ever let that drift happen here. Our focus is to continue to practicing unity in diversity. Or as Paul says to do what is most important, “Faith expressing itself in love”
And that’s where we ended. I challenged us to just put that verse into practice. That is how we keep the main the thing “the main thing”, by ensuring that we express our faith in love. So I challenge everyone to love someone difficult this week. To actually move away from dogma, discussions, and debates to praxis – to faith expressing itself in love.
Because here is the truth, it’s much harder to separate from someone you are actively seeking to love. So put love into practice today.
Big Idea: Hold onto unity in diversity.
If you don’t talk about it, you won’t live it
Within Christianity as a whole in the West we are not all that generous towards one another or gracious.
We are shrinking what we believe orthodoxy is, to the beliefs we personally hold.
Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things
We are committed to one another even if we disagree.
Hold onto unity in diversity
You come together because of your shared belief in Jesus
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What would you say are some of our core values? Have you noticed the trend towards dividing and debating in Christianity? Have you ever fallen into it? Why do you think it’s happening? Do you think that “holding onto unity in diversity” is important? How come? Who can you love this week? What can you practically do?
Challenge for the Week: Love someone you disagree with this week
On Sunday we had a great day. We were able to baptize some people, which is always amazing and I got to share on Metanoia. Metanoia is a word that is all about changing direction, and taking a new step. Which is exactly what we saw when people were baptized.
The trouble is that metanoia is translated as “repent”. This isn’t wrong it’s just that in our world today “repenting” is tied more to feeling emotionally bad about your sin, than changing direction.
So on Sunday I unpacked what metanoia really means. That it is about transformation, and not just feeling bad about sin but embracing the life that God has for you. Metanoia is all about making changes, embracing the path God has for you, and making some course corrections. It is not about feeling guilty and shame, it’s about embracing the Kingdom and life before you.
So when Jesus says in Mark 1:15, “”The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” What he wants isn’t for you to feel bad, but to live differently. The focus is on the change and transformation you can experience in your life because of Jesus and his kingdom.
And I shared all of this because I believe that in our church, we are built on Metanoia. We are built on seeing change, we are built on pursuing transformation. Part of our DNA is believing that Jesus can change your life, and you can partner with him in changing others. This is what Metanoia truly means, not feeling bad, but embracing the way of Jesus.
Rowan Williams puts it this way, “When the bible uses the word repentance, it does not just mean beating the breast, it means getting a new perspective”.
And that’s what matters to us here: gaining a new perspective on life because of Jesus Christ. So our main point was pretty simple: we care deeply about transformation here. And we must never let this go, because this is not only part of our DNA but God’s DNA. God cares about transformation, new direction, and new hope. And we get to be part of it.
So I closed with a simple challenge. If God is about transformation, what might he want to change in your life? What might you be called to leave behind, or to embrace? What changes is he looking to lead you into? What might courageously following him look like? What might be just one next step?
Because, metanoia is all about changing direction, and taking the next step. So what might that look like in your life?
Big Idea: We care deeply about transformation.
If we don’t know who we are we can drift from whom God has made us.
We are a grace-first church.
Church isn’t someplace you go, it’s a people you belong to.
Metanoia means a change of mind that results in a change of direction.
One of our core values here is transformation.
When the bible uses the word repentance, it does not just mean beating the breast, it means getting a new perspective. Rowan Williams
We celebrate people making life change.
We should practice some metanoia.
Metanoia involves embracing what God has for you, the kingdom in front of you.
Metanoia is more than feeling bad it’s about living differently.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? When have you ever been lost? When you think of “repent” what jumps to mind? How have you seen transformation valued here? What is God calling you to embrace or leave behind? What next step can you take? Who can help you?
Challenge for the Week: Take a next step towards Jesus’ path for you.
On Sunday we opened up a brand new series exploring the different aspects of who we really are. We looked at the ways in which God has designed our church, and some of our “DNA”. I believe that God creates not only unique people, but unique churches with something unique to offer.
So over the next few weeks we want to explore and reveal some of what makes this church, “us”. And we began by exploring grace.
We looked at a really important parable in Matthew 18. Here Peter essentially asks Jesus how many times we should forgive one another. Peter is asking this question in response to realizing that communities aren’t perfect. No church or group is perfect, we all let one another down and sometimes even hurt one another. Peter asks how are we to deal with that? What are the boundaries on forgiveness? How far does grace extend?
And Jesus tells a story of a man who was given an extreme amount of grace as his debt was removed, but then squeeze out this tiny debt from another fellow servant. In essence the story is one we know well: someone abuses grace. The man though who abused the grace given is eventually thrown into prison and suffers for the rest of his life.
And Jesus ends with this deeply challenging saying, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
And what we unpacked on Sunday was how, if you refuse to give grace, you can’t be saved by grace. That if you reject the grace that is given, by refusing to give it to others, you can’t be captured by it.
Terrence Malik, in his beautiful film The Tree of Life, puts it this way, “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life … the way of Nature… and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.” And that’s true.
But the reason I love our church so much is that it has chosen the way of grace. Grace is given first. And this is harder than justice or law first, but it’s the only way to truly live. Because Jesus always gives us grace first, he died while we were sinners and didn’t deserve what he gave us.
The point is that for me, I believe a huge value of our church is showing grace first. And that we can’t drift from this. And while it may sound tempting and biblical to stand up for TRUTH, for righteousness, for the law, and for justice (which usually means punishing someone) – it isn’t right. Jesus gives grace first. Grace is what everything proceeds from, and we need to follow that lead. Which is why I love the church.
The truth is the past few years at this church have been very good, but this isn’t because I’m good, it’s because the church is gracious. I shared stories of how the church has given me grace over the years, and why that changed me, and changes lives. And I ended with this main point: Keep choosing grace. Because grace is like a muscle, the more you use it the easier it is to give it. The less you give it, the harder and less likely you will be to give it.
So we ended with a simple challenge: to show someone grace today. To not wait but to show someone grace in an everyday way. To let something go, to give something undeserved, to actually take a step. Because the truth is grace changes lives, and it’s the reason I love this church, and I believe it’s our calling to not just believe but live out.
Big Idea: Keep choosing grace.
If we don’t know who we are we can drift from whom God has made us
Our DNA: Grace, Transformation, Harmony
Grace matters most to me, because I think it matters most to God
There is no perfect community, because all community involves broken people
The really contentious point of grace isn’t receiving it, but giving it
If we reject grace, we can’t be saved by grace.
Grace is the thing that makes relationships work.
When relationships lose grace they become built on law and legalism but that’s not a relationship. That’s a contract
Jesus is a grace-first God.
Grace needs to be a habit, not just a belief
When you stop practicing grace you start to drift from it
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What would you say are some of our core values? How has someone in this church showed you grace? Why do you think grace is so transformational? Why do you think grace is so hard to show? Who might you be called to show grace to today?