60th Anniversary!!

I hope you can make it on Sunday, as it is our 60th anniversary celebration. We will be having a free BBQ, cake, bouncy castles, rides, and lots lots more. So you don’t want to miss it. Oh and I’ll be speaking too – but don’t forget about the BBQ. So bring a lawn chair, come out to church, hear about our future, and celebrate in the park afterwards. All the details are below. Hope you can make it!

60th Annivseary

3 Strands of DNA ~ Grace, Gift, and Our Church DNA

grace-1362672On 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.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaKeep choosing grace.

Teaching Points:

  • 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?

Challenge for the Week: Show grace today

3 Strands of DNA

On Sunday we are starting a brand new series here called: Our DNA: Three Strands ~ Grace, Transformation, and Harmony. We are going to be exploring some of what makes us – “us”. We want to be looking inward and to really examine some of our core values.

Because the truth is if you don’t know what you value, you can drift or lose them.

Holding onto who we are isn’t just important, it’s imperative, because just like how you were designed – I believe God has designed our church in a certain way. We all are unique with unique gifts to the world. And I believe the same is true of our church.

So that’s what we are starting on Sunday looking at the first of our values: grace. It might not be a surprise but it certainly does matter. Hope you can join us.

3 Strands of DNA

An indifferent church isn’t a church


I read this quote a little while ago, and just couldn’t agree more. I have lots of thoughts on it, lots of ideas how this should shape us. But I think my thought’s will convolute the power of this simple quote. So all I would say is this: we should read this thought, and let it drive us into action because its true.

If a local Church falls into indifference as to what is going on in the rest of the world, it is certainly not a Church. John D. Zizioulas



Do churches actually welcome broken people?

1436392_90820824I want to quote something from Robert Farrar Capon, a brilliant writer. He writes this:

Jesus didn’t shy away from sinners, so why should the church? And don’t tell me the church welcomes sinners.  I know better. It welcomes only sinners who repent and then never seriously need forgiveness again.

And unfortunately I think that may be true. And you might even be able to confirm that, to share stories of how the church let you down, or let someone you know down.

But today I don’t want to use this quote to jump all over the church, and its failings. Because I think that misses the point. It’s so easy to read that quote and say, “yeah the church is screwed up.” To get all high and mighty and condemn those people in the church who don’t get grace, and forgiveness.

But here is the truth: the church is people. And if you follow Jesus you are part of that people, for better or worse.

And this quote loses its convicting and compelling power if it becomes about “other people”. If we are part of the church, we should use this quote to examine our own lives. We should stop, and reflect and ask the Holy Spirit, “Is there anything I need to change in my life”.

Because what I think the Holy Spirit is asking me through this quote is to really examine my life.

  • Do I truly welcome people where they are at, no agenda, with love?
  • Am I truly okay with broken people, or do I expect them to get “fixed”?
  • Am I in anyway being an obstacle to the Holy Spirit working in my community because I’m not really ready to welcome sinners?

Because this quote isn’t about “other people rejecting sinners”. This quote is about each of us asking ourselves, “am I living like Jesus with welcome and hospitality?” And that’s a lot harder question, a lot more personal question, and a much more worthwhile one.

The Future of the Church Isn’t Our Youth…

1205206_64700205It’s been pretty customary to hear for years this phrase, “The youth are the future of the church”. And I certainly understand and agree with the sentiments behind that statement. But it’s actually a bit misleading on two fronts.

First, the youth aren’t the future of the church…they are the church now. Since when are committed followers of Jesus not fully functional members of the church family? Being part of the church is about a decision to follow Jesus together, not about your age, stage, or whether you are out of high school or not. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are not the future of the church, you are the church. Period.

Secondly, this statement “the youth are the future of the church” is misleading in a much more subtle, and dangerous way. Because the way this phrase functions is to assume that the youth are the guarantee of the future of the church. That if we lose the youth, the church’s future is in danger. So we must pour money, time, and effort into developing the best and most current youth ministries.

But this is wrong for two reasons. First, it distances us from the youth themselves. Rather than being persons to be loved, they become a means to what we want (a church in the future). And secondly, and most dangerously, this idea is actually idolatry.

Let me be clear about why this idea of “youth being the future of the church” is idolatry. Because the future of the church is not guaranteed by getting youth to come to church, it is guaranteed by Jesus Christ. The sustaining and growing of the church is not dependent on wonderful youth ministries, but on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to his bride. And while in some ways this point can seem like semantics, it’s actually important because it’s about priorities.

If we assume that “youth are the future” of the church, we can mistakenly forget that the most important thing isn’t getting youth to come to church, but for all of us to come to Jesus. If anything supplants Jesus from the centre of our thought and practice, we will go off course. Youth ministry is absolutely important (I was a youth pastor for 8 years), but it is not primary. Jesus is at the centre and primary. And whenever anything good, like youth ministry, being missional, family ministry, or any other new thing, pushes Jesus to periphery and takes centre stage we’ve missed the point.

Bonhoeffer puts it this way.

The future of the church is not youth itself but rather the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the Word of God; it is the task of the church not to capture the youth, but to teach and proclaim the Word of God.

This is what I mean by priorities. We need to first be centred first on Jesus, and not anything else. It is so easy for the desire to have a cool youth ministry, a missionally based church, or any other desire to move Jesus from the centre. This is what we must guard against, if we want to see the future of the church come to pass. Of course youth ministry, being missional, and relevant are all good things. All I’m saying is that they shouldn’t push aside the best and most important thing – a person – Jesus Christ.

Does Life Flourish Around Your Church?

Plattsville_Missionary_ChurchI had the unique opportunity with working with two different churches outside of my denomination, and normal connections in the past month. Both times working with the church was the first time I’d encountered or met them. But the two encounters couldn’t be more difficult.

The first was difficult, at times troubling, and it was draining. The second church was gracious, open, and quite life-giving.

What I noticed was this. Life around the second church seemed to flourish, whereas,  life seemed to wilt around the first.

And of course, there could be a whole host of reasons why at this particular time one church seemed more life-giving than the other. Bad days, imperfections, and mistakes happen to us all.

So I’m not judging either church, but instead thinking about how we should judge or evaluate churches.

Traditionally churches measure budgets, buildings, or numbers. What if instead we started measuring the flourishing of life around the church?

Isn’t that a better metric? A truer metric?

Jesus says he will bring life. So it seems to me that if Jesus is being followed deeply, truly, and freely – life should flourish.

I think it’s a good question to ask about the churches we lead, participate in, or are a part of. I also think it’s a great question for us to ask personally, as people who are the church. Is life flourishing around us? Do our neighbors feel like we are a drain, or a welcome part of their lives? Is Jesus so active in our lives, that life seems to spring around us?

The point is simple: life flourished around Jesus, and it should flourish around his followers as well. It’s not always easy, but it is something to strive for. Something I know I want to strive for in my life and in my church. What about you?

Evaluating Church

1441915_68829979Let’s be honest, we evaluate everything. We do, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. The trouble is rarely do we evaluate what we are evaluating. Let me explain, as this is particularly problematic with church.

We do evaluate church, and it happens all the time, and I know you do it too. On the ride home you talk about how the sermon was maybe good or flat. You talk about the worship and whether it was anointed or off. We evaluate and measure things.

My contention is not with evaluating the church, it’s with what we evaluate the church by. I would say that in the pastor world the standard three things we evaluate the church on is this: budget, buildings, or attendance. Is our budget growing? Are our facilities top notice? Is our attendance growing? And then we start evaluating how we are doing by our programs (i.e. preaching, worship, youth min. etc)

And none of these things are intrinsically bad. We need to be thinking through our budgets, buildings, people, and programs – but these are not the best criteria to evaluate the church. These are not the best criteria to make sure that our church and communities are pointed in the right direction. Because hear me clearly, what the world needs is not bigger budgets, better buildings, more churchgoers, or cooler programs. What the world needs is more devoted followers of Jesus. We need more disciples.

Neil Cole writes this:

Ultimately, each church will be evaluated by only one thing – its disciples. Your church is only as good as her disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs, or property are; if your disciples are passive, needy, consumeristic, and not moving in the direction of radical obedience, your church is not good.

Cole is seeking to take our focus off of the things the church often does (programs, preaching, etc) to the thing the church is called to make – disciples. And I think this is how we need to be looking at our churches. I think these are the kind of questions we need to be asking:

  • What kind of disciples are we making, and do they look, live, and love like Jesus.
  • Are we doing a better job at that – than last year.
  • Are we releasing and raising up disciples and sending them out?

And rather than just using our budgets, buildings, or numbers to evaluate where we are going, what if we ask this simple question: how are we doing at making disciples? Because for the church to be faithful to Jesus, it needs to be faithful to its calling – to make disciples.

And I think if we ask that question it will point us in the right direction. It will help us to be more faithful. It will help us to not get caught up in all the good things around us and miss out on the most important thing – making disciples.

And so it’s a hard question as a pastor to ask, but I think it’s the right one. And I think it’s one that points in the right direction, because it points to Jesus and the church’s calling. And I think that matters.

Why I Still Believe in Church…Even When Its Imperfect

1013561_30930609On Sunday we challenged a pretty close and dear North American myth of Christianity. That all you need is “me and Jesus” to follow him.

This idea that you can follow Jesus without committing to a church, or a community of believers is pretty common. Our culture values autonomy, individualism, and freedom of choice so it’s no surprise its affected religion. The truth though is that you need a community to follow Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t a solo sport, and it’s not healthy Biblically to follow Jesus on your own.

And this is a difficult truth to hear. Richard Rohr once said, “Before the truth sets you free, it makes you miserable.” And this is true.

Because the truth is you need others deeply in your life to follow Jesus well, deeply, and for a lifetime. Faith is passed on in community. Faith is grown in community. And faith is found in community.

So while I know it’s not popular to say: I believe we still need to commit to the church. Yes the imperfect, messy, and occasionally hurtful church. I know it’s not a popular belief, but I believe it is true. God is still using the church, imperfect as she may be.

St. Cyprian once said, “You cannot have God for your Father if You have not the Church for your Mother.” And this is true.

So on Sunday we looked at the last statement in our SevenFold Way of Following Jesus Series.

I am participating in a community of followers of Jesus on mission to the world.

And I believe that we do actually need to commit, participate, and join in God’s mission through the church.

I’m not saying that you need to join our church, or a church that looks, acts, or is structured like ours. But I do believe we need to join a local body of believers to participate in God’s mission to change the world.

You see, Church is not somewhere you go, it’s a people you participate with. Church isn’t a destination you go to, It’s a calling you live. And it needs to be lived out with others.

So we need the church, and the church needs you. And I hope you might be able to agree with this statement for you and your context:

I am participating in a community of followers of Jesus on mission to the world.

Because I think the church and community matters, and I hope you do too.

Community is the deepest and most foundational reality that exist. Leonardo Boff

Teaching Notes

Big Idea: I am participating in a community of followers of Jesus on mission to the world.

Teaching Points:

  • Before the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable. Richard Rohr
  • Myth: That you can follow Jesus on your own
  • Following Jesus is not a solo sport
  • You cannot have God for your Father if You have not the Church for your Mother. St. Cyprian
  • Church isn’t a destination you go, It’s a calling you live. And it needs to be lived out with others
  • We need to: Commit, Participate, and Transform the World
  • Church is not somewhere you go, it’s a people you participate with.
  • You are needed
  • God what have you given to me to give to others?
  • This idea that Christianity and consumerism are completely compatible…is the great insanity of our times. Win Butler
  • The church exists to transform lives.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Have you ever had a bad experience with church? Have you ever had a beautiful experience with church? Why or why not do you think being a part of a community of believers matters? How might you more deeply commit, and participate in church? What next steps can you take?

Discussion Question for Families:

Talk to you kids about the importance of community. Ask them who other than you as their parents, are adults that they really respect. Ask them why, and then think about how you might have them invest more in your kids, because raising kids takes a community.

Challenge for the Week: Commit and participate in a church, to transform lives.

Do we need the church?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday we are going to be looking at why we need church.

I know that’s not a popular topic, mostly because many people have had bad experiences with church. So have I. But I still believe we need it, and here is why.

God chooses to use his church to change lives.

The church can be messy, misguided, misinformed, and sometimes just plain wrong. But that’s because the church is made up of messy, misguided, and imperfect people. And despite the failings of the church, I still believe God wants to use his church.

So that’s what we are looking at on Sunday. Why it is important to connect with community of followers of Jesus – otherwise known as the church. Now the church you connect with doesn’t have to be ours, structured like ours, or styled like ours. But I do believe that if we want to change lives, if we want our lives to be changed we can’t do it alone. We need one another. We need the church.

But what do you think about this? I know the church brings up a lot of emotions for people. So think about it over the weekend – do you believe we really need the church?