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Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 3

Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 3

Gemechis Buba

(a bio of the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba from the LCMC website is found at the end of this report).  


Gemechis Buba is a favorite speaker at LCMC events.  He is always very Biblical and very Christ centered and a joy to listen to.  He prays powerfully and is a man full of the Spirit and truth.  In my mind, Dr. Gemechis Buba sets the theological agenda and gives us the Scripture, the other speakers come along and tell us how to implement what he said.


Dr. Buba began by bemoaning the loss of many seminaries and Christian higher education schools to liberal theology.  Liberal theology, which believes that all people will be saved regardless of their commitment to Christ or how they respond to his call to, “Follow me,” kills mission.  If everyone is saved there is no incentive for the Church to “Go into all the world and make disciples.”  Liberal theology is now being exported to other countries in the world and it represents a great danger to our historic faith.  


In the Church, we need more leaders faster.  Our future depends on how many leaders we are training today.


We need to put more boots on the ground for Jesus.   Gemechis’s father was a pastor, a district president, in prison for his faith in Ethiopia during the brutal communist regime.   At that time, the church was in retreat.  Property was seized.  People were jailed or killed.  The communist government looked like it would last forever.  But his father never stopped developing leaders so that when things changed, the church would be ready.  It was people like Gemechis’s father that built leaders for the church, who God used to fan the explosive growth of the church today.  Leaders make leaders.  Leaders grow churches.   


Today, churches are “scared of the magnitude of the mission field.”  We must overcome our fears and move forward in faith.  Why should we be different than the Ethiopian?  We aren’t even in prison yet.  We must make leaders.  We must advance the kingdom and build the Church.  We must get ready for the future that God has in store for it will surely come.  


The theme of the Gathering was “Ambassadors for Christ” based on Paul’s concept found in 2 Corinthians 5.  


An ambassador, per the diplomatic websites, is a “chief of mission.”  


An ambassador is a master at building relationships.  An Ambassador for Christ must be a master of building relationships with:

With God.

With Host Culture.  This means we must understand where we are.  Protocols.

With colleagues 


How do I become an ambassador?   I must make an absolute commitment to the discipline of learning.  Ambassador’s learn - furociously.  Our primary teacher is Jesus.  “Learn from me.” (MT 11). 


An ambassador must have absolute confidence in his king and in his kingdom.  We do not merely compare religions like the liberal theologians, we promote our own.  We do what we do so that people meet Jesus.  We don’t want to be a “center for cultural Christianity.” Ambassadors need to be able to explain what their mission believes.


An ambassador must have an absolute obedience to the Scriptures, especially in times of trial.  Mt 4:1.  The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. He relied upon the Scriptures during his trials.  “Ambassadors are not to change/debate His policy.  We are here to implement his policy.”  “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  


An ambassador is ready to lay down his life for the mission.  The ambassador communicates the mission faithfully, even in dangerous environments.  Our mission is not to please the world, it is to please Jesus.


Jesus said, “the workers are few, harvest plentiful.”

As world population expands - 7 billion today - did we increase the number of ambassadors?  No.  We need to be like farmers - use combines.  We need to maximize our capacity for mission.  Look at the growth of the Church in China, India, Indonesia.  It isn’t the clergy.  It’s disciples making disciples.  


We’ve lost the thrill, art, ability of discipleship.  Where is the thrill in the church about discipleship?  What do we do at Zion with new believers?  We don’t know how to make disciples.  And when someone does come to Christ, we’re so quiet about our joy.  

The churches have gone to courses about discipleship but we don’t know how to do it.  We are living in a major discipleship crisis in the church today.  Teach us, Lord, how to do it.  We must pray the Lord of the harvest.  


Ambassadors have betrayed Him in the mission field.  Sometimes we believe we are smarter than the king.  We’re more educated than a 1st century carpenter.  Our scholars think they know more than the Bible.  Here we go back to where we started.  The future of the faith is not in liberal theology.  It is in preparing our people to make disciples of Jesus and releasing them to go and make disciples.  Thanks for reading.  PJ  


he Rev. Dr. Gemechis D. Buba is currently serving as the Missions Director of the North American Lutheran Church. He is originally from East Africa, Ethiopia and is currently living in Columbus OH with his wife Nassisse Baro Tumsa and Labsi Gemechis.

Dr. Buba received a Bachelor of Theology with high distinction from Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary, where he served as a Professor for two years. After working on his Masters of Theology in Church History in the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, he moved to the United States for further studies. In 2003 he received a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Christian Education from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. In 2006, Dr. Buba earned a Doctorate Degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, specializing in Missional Leadership.

Ordained in 2001, he has served as a Seminary professor, mission developer, Senior Pastor, Vice President of Southeastern Black Lutheran Pastors’ Conference, an assistant to the Bishop of Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, two term president of the world wide union of Oromo Evangelical Churches Inc., founder and president of Leadership Development Systems Inc.

Dr. Buba has led, chaired and lectured on multiple international events through revivals, leadership development conventions, theological conferences, evangelistic gatherings, church assemblies and academic forums.

He has traveled extensively and served across the nations of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, USA, Australia and New Zealand. In his journey across this globe he has ministered the Gospel of Jesus Christ in three languages: English, Oromo and Amharic. He has authored and translated numerous articles, booklets, books and produced materials for Christian educational use.

Above all, he is proud to be called a Child of God, which is the highest privilege and authority in the Kingdom of God. 


Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 2

Reggie McNeal.  

(Reggie’s bio piece from the LCMC website is placed at the end of my report for your information).  


Out of the three keynote presentations, I unashamedly enjoyed Reggie’s the best.  If I had the money, I’d gladly pay the fee for Reggie McNeal to come to Des Moines and evaluate our ministry and help us move forward.  I know this isn’t the case with everyone.  I talked to one colleague who felt that Reggie is unfair to large churches and is unnecessarily cynical and caustic about the Church.  Full disclosure here:  I don’t think the Church in North America has must of a future in it’s current manifestation and so I agree with Reggie’s more “extreme” views.  This will definitely color my opinion of his presentation.  I apologize in advance if my interpretation of his remarks is not accurate.  Although it sounds like he’s used to being misquoted.  


Every church has problems.  But, “Healthy churches deal with a better set of problems.”

“We gotta get out of the church business and get into kingdom business.” 

If you want to be ambassadors, shouldn't you represent the home office well?

90+ times Jesus talks about the kingdom.  

We need to learn to talk about Church as a verb, not a noun.  You don't go buy music at the record store any more.  Nor do you go to a bank.  You “bank.”  The Church needs to be known by what it does, not by it’s location or it’s building. 


The Church is important but it isn’t the goal or end of everything.  We’re not here to worship the Church, rather, the Lord of the Church. “We start the Bible in the garden with no church, we end in a city without a church.”   The Church is a vehicle that gets from place to place.  The Church is an avenue of blessing.  Our job as the people of God is to bless the world.  It’s a continuation of the covenant God made with Abraham in Gen 12.  (“By your name all the nations of the world will be blessed.”)  The wording is different than Genesis 12:  we are to be ambassadors, the light of the world, a city on a hill, the bringers of hope to the hopeless, etc.  It’s all about grace.  It’s all about blessing people.  


Reggie suggests that we regularly encourage our congregations to practice blessing people - “Go out and bless 3 people intentionally this week.  Not randomly.  But with intention.”  


He also encourages churches to keep track of and celebrate “God sightings” on a regular basis.  Where have you seen God at work this week?  


“How can we bless you?”, ought to be what every church asks of it’s members, neighborhood and what individual Christians ought to ask of people they meet.


What is the Church?  “Airports are connectors, not destinations.   But without them you don't get to where you need to go.”  The job of the Church is to connect people to Jesus and to mission.  Mission is not so much programmatic,(although it may be expressed programmatically),  as it is 


“We are doing more and more stuff at the church house while these kids are going to hell.”  To hell with more programming.  Near almost every church there is a school with kids who are struggling.  Maybe it’s an under-resourced school.  Maybe there are kids with broken families or special needs.  But there are enough schools for churches to ask them, “How can we serve you?”  Reggie told the story of one Episcopal priest who talked to the local principal and said, “How can I bless you.”   She thought she was nuts.  She was advised by others to test him.  So she asked him to be the crossing guard.  He did it.  And there began a beautiful relationship between the local church and the local school.  The school calls the church for everything.  The church is a blessing to the school.  


 Ask yourselves this question:  “Is our city any better because we're here?”  Has the church made any difference in the life of your community?  If it hasn’t, aren’t we doing the Master of the Church a dis-service?  


Reggie says that some react negatively to the concept of the church blessing the people of the world  He says they ask:  “What about the Word?”  In other words, what about evangelization.   Reggie responds:  “The Word is a whom.   So, be doers of the Word.”  What did Jesus say in John 13:   “Behold I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done.” (Wash feet).  And, “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples:  by the way you love one another.”  


Be doers of the word.  What did the early church in the Roman world do?  There were a tremendous number of girl babies left to die because they were not boys.  The early Christians took them home and raised them as Christians.  Years later, when all the Roman boys were looking for wives, who did they marry?  Christians.  


And again, in Rome, when the plague came through town.  Who stayed and tried to minister?  The Christians.  Many died.  But those who were ministered to and survived could not help themselves but to become followers of Christ.  They had been shown a very great and beautiful love. 


“The church needs to move from an internal to an external focus;  from a program driven to a people development culture.”  Programs are useful in that they help to develop people.  Which is the goal.  Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the goal here.  Perhaps we’ve become a program driven church which values having programs more than the end of the program:  the development (transformation of people).  


For instance, why do we evaluate, even within families, on the basis of participation instead of result.  Example:  Most people think that having a God conversation with your kid goes like this:  “How was Sunday School today?  Are you going to Youth Group on Friday night?”  


A youth director in the Twin Cities said that he no longer started at the point of saying “What kind of program do I want to have?”  Rather, he asked,  “What kind of kids do I want to send into the world?”  It’s about mentoring.  And also about mentoring mentors.  Turns out, mentors grow because kids ask questions.  We need to ask more questions in church.  


How can we get churches to ask the right kinds of questions?  Just expose them to the virus.  For instance, for your sermon, interview the principal at the local school.   Ask, “How can the church bless you?”  Then people want to help.


We also need to learn to change what we celebrate in the church.  Instead of celebrating what we did in church, how many people we had or how much money we raised, why not celebrate what we do in community?


Regularly ask your congregation these kind of questions:

What are you learning?

What are you experiencing?

How are you growing?

What did you learn about God?


It’s time for pastors to move from being institutional managers to a movement leaders.


Consider that your congregation is already deployed in the world in various industries and sectors for mission.  

Release business leaders into the marketplace. 

Release artists into the society. 

Release teachers into the classroom and school.  

Keep asking people, “How can you bless?”

Teach your flock “How to be a person of blessing.”

How do we serve our community?


It’s time for a new scorecard.  Our old scorecard evaluated us on how much money and how many people we brought in.  It’s time for something different. 


Begin by asking what kind of resources the church already has = prayer, people, time, facilities, money.


Figure out how to deploy what you have.  For instance.  If your church is a church of prayer, why not follow the example of one church and put up a prayer booth at your next local fair?  Or go to teachers/schools, police and fire stations.  Tell them you’re praying for them and take requests.  Tell them simply, “We’re asking God to bless you.”  If you need a standard of evaluation, why not ask your membership to self report their community service hours?  Or ask, “Is your marriage better this year than last? “  Or, “Is your relationship with your children better than before?”  This kinds of transformative experiences are the things we should be evaluating.  It’s in these kind of things that people’s lives are changed.  


“Every hour you spend at church is taking you away from your primary mission field.”  These are hard words for a pastor to hear.  But if we’re serious about the Great Commission, I think we have to realize that our job is to equip our people to be missionaries.  And their mission fields are as diverse as our people.  


Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have to financially support church structures?  We could give our offerings away.  Reggie suggests we find a way to give money away.  Take an extra offering, even $1 per person.  Decide who in the community needs it.  Report out.  He tells the story of one man who gave $1000 tip to a waitress at a Waffle House.  He said that both the waitress and the giver cried and cried.  It’s the kind of thing that changes people’s lives.  Shouldn’t our goal in teaching people to give be to grow generous people who will give to what's important?


At that point, time ran out and the session ended.  I followed up by going to Reggie’s breakout session.  Twenty three registered for the session (including myself).  But over 50 showed up.  There were people sitting on the floor all around the walls and up and down the aisles.  Proof, I think, that people were intrigued by his remarks. 



Question:  Isn’t it true that once you do something more than once it becomes a program?  

Answer:  Yes.  So what we’re really saying is to customize your programming for each person.  Intentionally suggest to people what kind of classes or programs will benefit them and why.  


Be sure to follow up with people.  If you ask, “what do you want God to do in your life?”  You are obligated to go back and ask people, “how it's going?”

Question:  How do you keep the kind of outreach you’re talking about from becoming “just another community service project.”  


Answer:  Keep the people development piece, that's what keeps it from being only a community service piece ...   Help people develop a response.,.. I’m doing this because Jesus loves the kids, or because I've been blessed.”  Also, we need  to train people on whether this environment is a seedbed or an open door.  In other words, are we building a relationship so we can tell them about Jesus or is it time to tell them about Jesus now?  


Always try to keep your outreach projects inter generational.  Send the seniors and the high school kids out on a project together.  They will come back best friends.  


Question:  What kind of leaders do we need in the church today? 

Answer: To be part of the Apostolic ministry, leaders need to be genuinely spiritual.  They also need to be entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks and fail.  And they must have a Kingdom vision (a vision bigger than their own congregation).  


Contrary to things that I’ve seen recently, Reggie insists that the development of the vision belongs to only a few people because only a few people can turn the wheel on a ship.  Where you want masses of people to be involved is in implementation.  Implementation is where you  want 100s of people to be on board.  Not in the development of the vision itself.  


Why is vision making left to the few?   Because in vision making with many there will be the necessity of some kind of vote.  Because as pastors we are in the job of creating winners.  And every time you take a vote you create losers. You lead a spiritual movement by listening to the Holy Spirit, not to the crowd. 


Reggie says to dream big.  How would our community be different if the church did this one thing?


Question:  What is a missional community?

Answer:  Missional community- not house church.  Under 2 dozen.    A micro church, no governance they see themselves as missionaries to their community. 

There are two models:  1.)  They may move to poor side of town together.  The get to know people, just be there and be apart of the community.  Then they teach their members how to create intentional spiritual conversations.  



2.) A community of missionaries that lean on each other for resources and ideas about how to reach the community.


Both may: 

Worship maybe once a month

Meet together based on the rhythm of the constituents

Be connected to a network

Be trained by established churches


They exist to help people get trained and get deployed in their community as missionaries.  


Final comments:  You're not going to meet a soul where God isn't at work in his life.  Find out how to partner with God to bless that person. Introduce that person to Jesus and see where Jesus goes next in that persons life.  That's what is so much fun, to watch Jesus and what he does with people. 


Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ  


Rev. Reggie McNeal

Dr. Reggie McNeal enjoys helping people, leaders, and Christian organizations pursue more intentional lives. He currently serves as the Missional Leadership Specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas, TX.

Reggie’s past experience involves over a decade as a denominational executive and leadership development coach. He also served in local congregational leadership for over twenty years, including being the founding pastor of a new church. Reggie has lectured or taught as adjunct faculty for multiple seminaries, including Fuller Theological (Pasadena, CA), Southwestern Baptist (Ft. Worth, TX), Golden Gate Baptist (San Francisco, CA), Trinity Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), Columbia International (Columbia, SC), and Seminary of the Southwest (Austin TX), . In addition, he has served as a consultant to local church, denomination, and para-church leadership teams, as well as seminar developer and presenter for thousands of church leaders across North America. He has also resourced the United States Army Chief of Chaplains Office (the Pentagon), The Chaplains’ Training School (Ft. Jackson), Air Force chaplains, and the Air Force Education and Training Command. Reggie’s work also extends to the business sector, including The Gallup Organization.

Reggie has contributed to numerous publications and church leadership journals. His books include Revolution in Leadership (Abingdon Press, 1998), A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 2000), The Present Future (Jossey-Bass, 2003), Practicing Greatness (Jossey-Bass, 2006), Get A Life! (Broadman & Holman, 2007), Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church (Jossey-Bass, 2009), and Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

Reggie’s education includes a B.A. degree from the University of South Carolina and the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees both from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Reggie and his wife Cathy make their home in Columbia, South Carolina.


Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 1

Report from the LCMC National Gathering

Part 1:  Personal Reflections in Praise of LCMC


I wish I could’ve taken the entire church to this year’s National Gathering of Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ.  Seriously.  It was that good.  Speakers included our National Service Coordinator, Mark Vander Tuig; North American Lutheran Church (NALC) missions director and consistent LCMC fav speaker, Gemechis Buba; Reggie McNeal, the Missional Leadership Specialist from Leadership Network; and 3DM discipleship guru, Mike Breen.  I’ll devote one whole blog to each speaker and what they said.  I want everybody to know what’s changing out there beyond our congregation and the changes are significant.  I think we’re living in the middle of an enormous paradigm shift within the church in North America.  To me that means that these aren’t the easiest of times but they could very well be some of the funnest and most interesting to be the Church.  


This first post will be very personal.   This is our fifth year as a member of LCMC.  This is the third year I’ve had the pleasure of going to a National Gathering.  Each time I experience such a sense of relief and renewal that it’s hard to describe.  But I’ll try.  


Why I feel such a sense of relief:  Things were so bad in our previous denomination that I felt either hopeless or completely isolated at every meeting or convention we had.  There was no sense of camaraderie, no sense of being involved together in the most noble of pursuits, bringing the Gospel to the world.  But now I experience just the opposite:  here are men and women who have sacrificed a lot for the sake of the Gospel.  Many have left larger churches in another denomination in order to serve smaller, struggling churches in LCMC.  Most are earning less than they did before.  Many are living off early withdrawals from their retirement or pension.  Some have no visible means of support, but God provides.  Many are starting new churches with no salary.  Many have been beaten up verbally by angry people for taking Biblical stands.  I’m so glad to be part of such a devoted group of Christ followers.  There is an amazing sense of “being on the same team.”  


Why I feel such a sense of renewal:  It’s amazing to me as I walk down the halls to see the joyful reunions of friends who haven’t seen each other for a year or perhaps more.  More amazing is watching people praying for each other in a quiet corner or just right in the middle of a hallway.  I love being a part of LCMC because we pray about every thing and believe that God hears us and will act.  


I’m still amazed that I know so many people.  It seems that many of my seminary colleagues have jumped ship and joined LCMC.  Those are also tearful reunions for me.  It’s like two survivors from some great disaster meeting years later, neither realizing that the other had survived.  “You’re here!  We’re alive!”


It’s good to see old friends.  One thing that comes about because of the unique culture of LCMC is that your peers are really significant in your professional and spiritual development.  Since we don’t have a top down structure and there is no one telling you what to do or asking you to do reports, this annual gathering serves as a way for us to report out to each other the things that God is doing in our lives and ministry.  It’s a chance to share our joys and our sorrows and our frustrations.  It’s a time to listen to others and learn from their successes and failures.  


Mark Vander Tuig said it best during the opening of the gathering:  “The most significant conversations will take place in the halls over coffee and we like it that way.”   Or something to that effect.  


It was great to catch up with friends.  Some I’ve worked with and some I’ve met at previous gatherings.  This kind of networking is an important part of LCMC culture.  This is where you find out who needs work, who is hiring, who is planning on retiring, who is planning on starting a new ministry, who needs advice and who has advice to give.  This year I networked like crazy and made important contacts with our brother pastors in Congo and Myanmar, both significant countries to our current ministry at Zion.  I also learned a lot from conversations about having a multi-ethnic staff and how to work with ICE to get an R-1 visa.  


Did I mention Congo and Myanmar (Burma)?  LCMC continues to grow abroad and this year we elected our first international member to the board.  Amazing.  I think about how different this association is from our former denomination.  There isn’t a sense that we’re to help those poor people “over there.”  Rather, those people “over there” have a lot to teach us and we are equals, truly brothers in Christ.  I love that.  I couldn’t help but tear up when all the international members took the stage.  There are now 11 LCMC churches in India who joined the association at this year’s gathering.  A new church in Myanmar (Burma).  Amazing.  Great things are happening in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and it’s exciting to be part of it.  I imagine that one day, international membership might even surpass North American membership.  That will be an interesting and significant shift.  I can’t wait.  That will really help us understand the Church as something that is bigger than we are, a truly global enterprise.  


This was the second time we’ve met in a convention facility instead of a church.  There are simply too many participants for most churches to be able to host the gathering.  This was also the first time we’ve met in a city where we didn’t have a strong group of churches.  We don’t have a single church in Denver.  A few in the surrounding suburbs but not many.  So we’re meeting outside our usual enclaves and I love it. It was a great facility with easy access to the airport and the facility lent itself well to accommodating all the breakout groups and kept us well supplied with coffee.  What more could you ask for?  


I think a lot of the things that make LCMC so exciting come about because it’s a mere 11 years old.  I’m not sure that older institutions could re-make themselves in this fashion.  I hope I’m wrong about that.  Because the whole concept of being in a denomination has to change.  At one time in our history denominations had a significant role to play in spreading the Gospel and discipling people.  I think those days have passed and we’re now on to something different.  


The thing that causes me to grow the most each year at the gathering is the quality of the teaching and the topics addressed.  I get so much out of these talks.  And each year the talks seem to get more and more relevant.  We must be in mission as a church or we will cease to exist.  The association is pushing us into mission.  I think in LCMC we realize that a lot of our congregations in North America might not survive.  If it’s even possible, they got involved in doing mission too late.  But we believe that each congregation is significant and has a unique way to present a faithful witness to Christ.  And sometimes, churches might even be called to die as a part of that mission.  It’s amazing what we have the freedom to talk about in this paradigm shift.  I can’t wait to share with you comments from the various speakers.  God bless.  Thanks for reading.

Trying to keep up with a move of God

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Wednesday Night Tutoring Program Gets a New Name, New Structure

Every Wednesday night we're pleased to welcome to Zion nearly 200 children who are either refugees or the children of refugees.  Many are reading at grade level and speak English well and they are incorporating themselves into WOW, our “regular” Wednesday night program for kids, or the junior high or high school groups.  For the others, we try to work on homework or English reading.  This is our third year.  We've been blessed with tremendous growth, we started 3 years ago with 4 kids, and that fast growth has always been an organizational challenge.  Over the summer a group of committed people met to revamp the program.  Out of those meetings, which continue even now, came the new name.   We continue to try and "organize" in a human way what the Holy Spirit is doing.  

Instead of calling the tutoring program, Whiz Kidz, the new name is STARs.   Whiz Kidz came out of our beginnings as the first church based manifestation of the tutoring and discipling program of Freedom for Youth. We’ve never been able to keep up with the student/tutor ratio of that very good program, so we’ve decided that we have to go our own way.

STAR is an acronym which stands for the four purposes of the program:  

S - Serve.   We serve these children as if we are serving Christ himself.  Jesus wanted us to welcome the little children and in his name we do.  Many have needs for the basics of life and we try to meet those needs: food, clothing, shoes, coats, etc.  Many simply need a friend or role model and we try to be that as well.  

T - Teach.  Thanks to an influx of tutors from many different churches and a great number of Des Moines Christian High School students, we are now able to offer better opportunities to do homework with the kids and help them read.  Our content continues to be in the hands of a professional educator and we work closely with Samuelson School to discuss needs and techniques as many of the kids are in the ELL program there.  

A - Advocate.  Many of the parents of these kids don't know how things work in our country.  So we advocate for the kids in order that they might have the best opportunity to acclimate to our society and thrive in this good land.

R - Reach.  Everything we do is motivated by the love of Christ for us that pushes us beyond ourselves and into the lives of others.  We desire more than anything else to see these kids in the kingdom of God and so through song and drama and teaching, we seek to invite them to follow Jesus.  Our evangelism techniques are sometimes subtle and sometimes very overt. We try to match the approach to the activity and to the kids. Some are Muslim and some are Buddhist and some are Animist and some attend other churches and some now attend Zion and many have no faith background whatever.  It is a mission field ripe for harvest.  

Here is what a typical evening looks like: Vans leave to begin collecting kids at 4 p.m.  We have 2 full vans from an apartment complex about 20 minutes away.  By 5 p.m we are collecting kids from local complexes.  The kids play outside or, when it's cold or inclement, watch a movie inside.  At 5:45 everyone lines up for dinner.  At 6:20 we go to the sanctuary for our opening worship as a church together.  Afterwards, WOW kids go off to their activities and STAR kids stay for a presentation.  Then it's time to break into small groups and begin the learning phase.  We usually finish about 7:45 and start the buses running back home.  The last vans are back at Zion about 9 p.m. It is a day full of joy for those of us who volunteer.  

Would you like to help?   We can always use help as the number of kids continues to grow.  Would you like to work as a homework or reading helper?  A group leader of six or seven kids?  A van driver? (We especially need help in the late afternoon, 4-5:30 p.m.).  We need your help in the kitchen - there are many mouths to feed and many plates to wash.  We need your financial support as well.  It costs money to pay for the gas for the vans, for the food bill (about $1 per plate - amazing!)  We also need your prayers.  Please pray for the continued safety, success and salvation of these priceless children and that they may see Jesus in us.  Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

3 More New Things Happening At Zion

3 More New Things at Zion


1.)  A Movement to Work Together as Churches for the Sake of the Kingdom

In June, thanks to our reputation in the community as a church that is doing something incredibly positive, I was invited to share our testimony at the United Way Urban Core initiative (see my blog from June 2). 

 Now let me tell you what happened next.   Borrowing liberally from my friend, Pastor Al Perez’s comments:  As a follow up to that meeting, last month 16 pastors and Christian ministry leaders from diverse backgrounds and denominations met at Zion and had an open dialogue on how the church in Des Moines should move forward. This meeting was to bring together the best diverse group possible so that we could pinpoint our identity, our objectives, and how often it should meet. Needless to say, it was awesome! The bonding and relationships that were fostered left many of us excited and very confident of how we should move ahead.  We learned about some history in Des Moines that allowed us to understand why we have the division we have in our city. Soon, there will be opportunities opening up to hear from many different churches and ministries about what we will do together and how we can support mission and ministry together in our city.  This was the meeting that we wanted to have from the beginning but had no definitive direction or purpose for meeting. I am thrilled at what the Lord is doing with Pastors and Christian leaders. Please be praying also that the evil one will not thwart our plans.


Our third meeting was just a couple weeks ago and we met together with members of the former Black Ministers Alliance, now the Pastors/Ministers Alliance and other Black pastors.  There was a lot of truth telling and reconciliation began to break out.  I think we’re all conscious of the fact that before we can do ministry together as His One Church in the city of Des Moines, all of our pastors and churches need to publicly confess our sins and repent in a very public way together for a not so glorious past.    


I am personally excited and optimistic that with the leadership of Pastor Perez and others we will see a new attitude amongst the churches of Des Moines. 



2.)  Working with Johnston and Des Moines Schools to Create a Neighborhood Education Plan

When we began getting involved in our neighborhood intentionally about two years ago with the battle cry, Jesus Says, “Go!”, we created a list of 25 possible projects to work on that would immediately impact our community in a positive way.  One of those was “Create neighborhood education strategy.”  That sounds very impressive and it was one of those items that people had a hard time wrapping their minds around.  Why would a church seek to create an education strategy for the local school?  For the simple reason that we have so many immigrants in our local schools that the ability of those schools to provide English Language Learner (ELL) services is over taxed.  We haven’t enough money as a church to pay for more ELL teachers, but we thought we could seek to find ways to move some of the new students to other school districts.  It’s a long shot, to be sure, but we’ve met all the major players we need to make it happen and so far no one has said no.  Our current plan involves enrolling at least 10 ELL students in the preschool at Zion, called WEE.  Since Zion is in a unique position, being in the city of Des Moines but actually in the Johnston School District, we thought that if Johnston would agree to take those 10 kids after preschool at Zion into Kindergarten at Johnston, that would be a victory.  The big challenge is for the Des Moines schools to let go of those ELL students and the federal money tied to them.  So I ask for your prayers.  If it’s successful on a small scale, perhaps it could serve as a pilot program involving more suburban districts and perhaps even as a model for other districts.  We believe the most important thing is the education of the children rather than the money.  Please pray that everyone might have that same goal.  


3.)  Refugee Roundtable

Being a follower of Jesus is more than sharing the Gospel and welcoming people into the new community which is the church.  It’s also about helping them to meet their physical needs.  


At Zion, we subscribe to the philosophy that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish.  At least in the long term.  We believe that we need to honor the dignity of every family by helping them provide for themselves.  Many of our new immigrant families need jobs.   So we convened the first meeting of what, for now, we’re calling the Refugee Roundtable.  It is an idea we had two years ago and we’ve been joined in bringing it into reality by Nick Wuertz at Lutheran Services of Iowa who chairs the meetings.  


People new to this country need a lot of things but the most important thing they need is a job (a way to fish).  The idea is simple: let’s get those who serve refugees like the settlement agencies and those who support the new arrivals, including churches, together with employers and representatives of the immigrant community. 


The first meeting was a great success.  We’re now working on our second meeting which will take place at Zion before the month is over.  I’m looking for great things to come from these meetings.  Employers in Iowa are looking to hire, the new immigrants represent a large labor force looking for work, if we can find out how to teach the necessary skills to fill the jobs and figure out how to bridge the gaps, like transportation or translation, we’ll be able to work together to provide for the welfare of many, many families.  


I’m so optimistic about this Round Table.  I’m amazed at the quality of the people who are giving their professional lives to serve others.  I’m confident that God will use this group for His glory and for the benefit of all. 

Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  The Lord continues to amaze and impress.  PJ 

Three New Things Happening at Zion

What’s Happening at Zion:  Three New Things


Wanted to draw your attention to three new things we’re involved with this year.


1.)  Marriage Class:  How Do We Think?  Men, Women and Marriag
Everyone agrees that men and women just think differently-right? Emotions and decision making are part of a marriage-right? Know any “Christian” marriages that have grown apart?


Join Dr. Richard Newkirk as he presents an overview of just how the brain impacts our thought process - both men and women. Dr. Newkirk will discuss some of the common problems experienced in marriage as well as the importance of encouragement and communication. Learn how to keep your current or upcoming marriage strong and vibrant. This class is for all (not just those married) who desire to learn more about healthy relationships.

Dates: Sept. 12  and 19 2012
Time: 6:30 - 7:45 p.m.
Cost: None
Presenter: Dr. Richard Newkirk


We started this class last week on September 5.  The feedback has been amazing.  As a church we hope to offer more to our community about how to have a healthy, successful marriage.  When I think about what would really impact our community for good, strong marriages top the list.  Strong marriages produce healthy families and healthy families make our whole society better.  Feel free to come to the last two sessions.  You are most welcome.  


2.)  58: The Film

Coming to Zion September 23

5:00 potluck dinner, 6:00 showing

I’m really excited about showing you this film.  It shows followers of Jesus all over the world doing things that impact their communities for good.  I’m particularly fascinated by the suggestion that we could end extreme poverty globally in this generation.  When I see the how much the participation of the church in the AIDS crisis has done, I really do believe that this idea is more than pie in the sky.  Come and see the movie and find out.  


Here’s the promo information:  

58: THE FILM is the inspiring true story of the global Church in action. Witness bravery and determined faith in a journey from the slums of Kenya to the streets of
New York. Confront the brutality of extreme poverty and meet those who live out the True Fast of Isaiah 58 and create stunning new possibilities for the future.

Travel from the sun-scorched plains of rural Ethiopia to British shopping centers, from Brazilian ganglands and the enslaving quarries of India to western churches, businesses and conferences.

58: invites audiences to discover the incredible work of God through His people in our hurting world. Meet ordinary people, hear their stories, and see their struggles and their victories as 58: shows the relentlessly loving God at work through His Church bringing hope to the darkest challenges of our day. Experience eye-opening reasons to lift our expectations of the future.

Woven with Biblical truth, this film draws audiences into life-changing examples of the True Fast of Isaiah 58 - a young British woman prevailing over the pressures of consumer society, Ethiopian Christians working to restore their environment, an American business owner promoting Fair Trade coffee and connecting his local community with the work of ending poverty, a local pastor in India working to be a Good Samaritan to those enslaved by bonded labor, and the sacrificial generosity of New York youth giving up their own food for the sake of those with even less.
These impatient revolutionaries and ordinary prophets present viewers with an empowering vision of the Church rising up to its remarkable potential to end extreme poverty, by bringing God's words through Isaiah to life in our time, in our day.



3.)  Unpacking Atheism Seminar/Webcast

Coming to Zion October 14th at 6:00 p.m. 

Increasingly, our own neighborhood is becoming the mission field.  The days of counting on people to at least know their Bible stories or even what a church does are gone.  We need to train our congregations to be able to engage the world and people around them.  And increasingly, this means training them how to respond to those who believe there is no God.  I really hope that you’ll attend this seminar and that if you have teenagers, you’ll bring them along also.


Here’s the promo:

Join us as Lee Strobel, Mark Mittelberg and William Lane Craig as they offer a balanced and accurate assessment of Atheism through their own personal experience, interviews, and the riveting stories of Atheists that have converted to Christianity.

What could be more important than arming your congregation with clear and compelling answers to the questions of our times?

Atheism is on the rise! If you haven't been confronted by it, you will be! 


Your children are already being challenged by it. Here are some sobering facts:


• 1 in 4 Americans under 30 now describe their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular”

• young people are dropping out of church at 5-6 times the historic rate, often because of intellectual doubts

• books by the New Atheists have gone mainstream, many becoming international bestsellers


Even if you and your church have not yet run into militant atheism head-on, the effects of it are seeping into our culture and, increasingly, into the church. We must confront this challenge! We need to be ready — and help our church members become ready — to not only “give an answer” (1 Pet. 3:15), but also to “take every thought captive” for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

Thoughts on Hospitality

Mother Teresa said that Jesus travels the world in distressing disguises and that when you minister to people and welcome them you minister directly to him and welcome him.


The book of Hebrews tells us that followers of Jesus should provide hospitality because by so doing, many have entertained angels “unawares.”  


If people come to our worship services and don’t feel welcomed, no matter how good the music or the sermon or the programming or the class, they won’t be back. 


Hospitality is huge in Christian life.  But I don’t think we’re very good at it.  I think we’d all prefer to keep to ourselves.  Bringing in other people is always risky.   


The Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:13, commands the followers of Jesus to “practice hospitality.”  Besides welcoming people to our church, how do we, as modern day followers of Jesus practice hospitality?


Pastor Tina and her husband Mark opened their home to a young lady in recovery who desperately needed a home and parents.  This is a hug risk, of course, but Jesus calls us to come and die to ourselves and to our fears and trust him in radical acts of love.  Some of which are as simple as opening up our homes. 


Zion recently opened up the entire church facility to about 50 people who had a fire in their apartment building.  They were supposed to stay with us for 3 or 4 days max.  It turned into weeks.   While we had to make some changes around the church, it gave us all the opportunity to serve Jesus in this special way.  


I received a great gift of hospitality this summer.  Friends of ours took my wife and kids to the beach for a couple of days and left me  alone in their house with nothing to do but sit and pray and read my Bible.  Even the simple act of letting someone use what we’re not using can be a blessing and an encouragement.  


What am I saying?  Simply this.  As Christian we often tell people we love them.  But when we invite them in, open our homes, give them our food to eat, when we sit with them and listen to them and open all that we have to them, then, those words, “I love you,” mean something.  


It’s one thing to open our homes to those we know and love already.  But it’s a higher calling to open our homes, our lives, our church to those whom we don’t know yet, but who, through us, might encounter Jesus face to face. 

Posted by John Kline with

Resolution Passes! Next: A Continuous Forward Motion in Joy

Today Zion Church did something historic and faithful.  We voted unanimously to call a Mizo and English speaking pastor. Here is the resolution:


WHEREAS Zion Lutheran Church desires to meet the needs of our Mizo members for Pastoral Care in their native language, have a staff position to act as community and cultural liaison within our ethnic neighborhood, and provide cultural guidance to programs at Zion; RESOLVED that Zion create a position of Associate Pastor to fill the duties above, and in line with the job description for this position.


We have a strong candidate in Myanmar (Burma) that I’ll tell you about later.  Our next step is to interview and then formerly call the pastor at a special congregational meeting scheduled for September. 


Why do want to take this extraordinary step as a church?


  • Biblical Faithfulness.  God will be honored by calling a Burmese pastor.  The mystery of the Gospel Paul says in Ephesians 3:6, is that the Gentiles are now co-heirs with the Jews in God’s salvation plan.  That means that every nation is invited to enter the Kingdom of God.  Heaven will not have a Jewish section and a Gentile section, an African section or and Asian section, we’ll all be there together, falling down and worshipping the Lamb together.  When we worship here on earth as we will in heaven, we show the world and ourselves that Jesus is Lord (John 17) and that the Gospel is our new community which tears down the things that have formerly divided us (see Ephesians 2 and 3).  It is God’s intention to unite all things in Christ, and that includes the races.  See the miraculous story of the spread of the Church in Acts:  it spread across the world, uniting groups formerly divided by race, origin, belief, age, income, education, ability, etc.  When we open our hearts and our church to those who are different from ourselves and share our love of Jesus the Savior, we bring a smile to His face and do something beautiful for Jesus.
  • Authenticity in our Neighborhood.  If we wanted to remain a white, mostly suburban church, we should have sold the building by now and moved away.  But we are committed to stay in this neighborhood.  If we are to minister to this neighborhood with integrity, we need to look like the neighborhood.  The neighborhood to our immediate east is defined by Zion on the West and Thai Village and the Vietnamese Community Center on the east.  All the statistics we have indicate that Asians will be a major part of our immediate neighborhood for the next generation.  Having an Asian pastor helps us reflect to the neighborhood that we are serious about welcoming them to Zion and to the kingdom of God.  
  • Consistency for Our Membership.  I asked the Friday morning men’s group  a year ago how they thought people in our church would react to being a multi-ethnic church family.  They all responded the same way:  “Why should our church be any different than our kid’s school or our workplace?”  And they’re right.  Twenty five percent of our city is non-white, why wouldn’t our church reflect that?  I personally wonder if the segregation of most churches is a reason that our young people think we’ve failed to accurately reflect Jesus in our churches.  Having a Burmese pastor shows our membership and our world that we are serious about ministering to the people we serve.
  • Spiritual Growth.  The most exciting benefit to being a multi-ethnic church is that we will all grow spiritually.  Why?  Two BIG reasons.  1.)  When you teach, you grow.  There are things that the Mizo members can teach us and things we can teach them.  We will grow together in Christ because we’ll be teaching each other what we believe and that will stretch us.  None of us is perfect, we’re all human.  All of us are sinners.  But our experiences of God in our various contexts will serve as a curriculum that will help us share the great and glorious Gospel with each other.  2.)  Because we’re different, we’ll have to stretch together and learn how to live out the Gospel of forgiveness and grace.  We’ll actually have to do what the Bible says:  bear with each other; speak the truth in love; forgive as the Lord has forgiven us; be patient, be quick to reconcile.  We’ll learn all these things.  We’ll have to have a relationship that is open and honest and full of integrity.  Our leadership will have to be completely transparent.  And we’ll have to learn how to communicate as Jesus loving people across different cultural platforms.  All of us will.  And this will help us grow immensely.  We’ll have to live what it is that we believe every time we come together.  As a pastor, I can’t think of a better exercise to make us practice what it is that we preach.  
  • We will grow our future membership.  What I mean by this is simply that there are many people in this city, both believers and those we are still considering the reality of Christ, that are waiting for the kingdom to be realized in this particular way.  They will respond positively to a church that seeks to bring the nations together under Christ.  I forecast that many are tired of being segregated and are longing to worship God with brothers and sisters from all over the earth.  Calling a Burmese pastor will help us grow the church numerically as well.
  • A Preview of Heaven.  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together we call it a “fore-taste of the feast to come,” meaning that we will celebrate it all together when we reach the bright shores of Heaven and are One with Him who is One with us and with the Father.  How better to celebrate this feast together as people from every tribe and race, tongue and nation.  This visual will be a powerful reminder for us all at Zion that our true home is in Heaven and we shall be there together.  
  • Ability to Teach Other Churches.  Not a month goes by when we don’t get an inquiry from a pastor or a church about what we’re doing.  We even get donations to help us!  Other churches want to know how to do the things that we’re doing.  It is God who does them, not us.  What we have to share is a testimony about how great our God is, and how faithful He is, and about how, if you surrender to Him, He will come and show every church how to do mission and how to integrate with others who are different. 


What are the Benefits of another pastor?

  • The first is obvious:  calling a Burmese pastor will helps us minister to a people group that is now as much as 25% of our church membership.
  • Calling a Burmese pastor will help us increase communication across our entire church.  Right now our situation is this:  for nearly 300 Burmese members, we have only 2 translators.  Those translators work full time, have growing families, and also have to translate for everyone who has to fill out paperwork, receives mail, or wants to buy a car or register something in their ethnic community.  They are so busy that communication across the entire church suffers.  I can’t make a home visit or go to a meeting without a translator.  If we really need them, they have to drop everything and come and help.  Having a pastor on staff will allow us to have a translator available to us full time.  Translation is important.  It’s a major deal to invite the 1:00 service to come to a meal or event.  Everything has to be translated at this stage.  Sometimes, we’re not able to get it done in a timely matter and we are all deprived of each other’s company as a result.  We need a full time pastor to help us bridge the communication divide.
  • Integration.  We need to be one church, not two.  Think about all the things we could do together:  mission work, church suppers, Family Camp, family exchanges, prayer requests, celebrations, picture directories...etc.  The list is endless.  But we need help, full time help, to bridge the language and cultural divides.  Having a Burmese pastor on staff will help us bridge these gaps, and help us all get educated in cross cultural relationships so we can figure out how to work with our members from Liberia, Sudan and other places.
  • Neighborhood Outreach.  The pastor we will call will speak Mizo, our particular dialect, but also English and Burmese.  Our Burmese refugees are made up of many different ethnic groups and if they speak a common language, it’s Burmese.  That means that with the help of the new pastor, we might be able to communicate to many more families at Samuelson School and within our Wednesday night programming as well.  Imagine our frustration when some of the neighborhood kids who come on Wednesdays are asking about baptism and we can’t communicate with their parents!  Having a Burmese speaking pastor might help us breach this gap in many, many cases.
  • For the edification of the entire congregation.  Imagine what it will be like to learn from a pastor who grew up and ministered across the planet from us.  Imagine what his testimony is like, living and preaching in a country that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, but actively persecutes the Church!  How much we have to learn and how we will all be built up and edified together as a church with his teaching!   


Conclusion:  The Future of the 10:30 Service.

We didn’t feel called to be a land lord.  We didn’t want to rule over our 1:00 Mizo service.  So when they came to us asking for help over a year ago, we asked them to simply join the church.  We continue to believe that God doesn’t want another ethnically specific church in Des Moines.  We believe He wants to make us one.  Zion was a German speaking congregation for 60 years.  We nearly died.  In order to do mission in our world, we need to speak the language of the nation.  The Mizo kids are learning English quickly.  Our Wednesday night neighborhood kids, too.  Where will they worship?  Probably not in the church that only uses the anguage of their parents.  Who will they marry?  Probably not someone who speaks their dialect.  We have a unique opportunity to provide these kids and their future families a place to worship together in English.  So we’re offering the 10:30 service to become more “global” in it’s style.  Call it the World Beat Service, perhaps.  We already worship monthly with Pastor Gakunze’s Swahili speaking congregation.  Why not add everyone in the neighborhood into that mix.  The songs will be in English and other languages, the sermons, too.  But we’ll be one.  Worshipping together the One God.  And this, I believe, will be something beautiful for Jesus.  Thanks for reading.  PJ 

An Extraordinary Year

To God be the glory!  

Here is a list of many of the amazing things that Zion did together as a congregation during our fiscal year July 1, 2011- June 30, 2012.  This list is a testimony presented to you so that you can celebrate and give glory to God for his faithfulness.  There is no way that the list is complete, so if you see something that got left off, don’t take offense, just please let us know so that we can add it and celebrate it.  

I know it seems amazing that our congregation could be used to do so much in just a year. But with Christ all things are possible.  I’m so excited to share this list with you.  My prayer is that the next ministry year will be just as amazing.  To God be all the glory.  Thanks for your support, your prayers, your patience, and your participation.  

Peace, Joy, Love.

Pastor John


  • Art Camp for over 90 kids.  
  • Summit Serve youth service trip to CO.
  • South Africa Mission Trip
  • Camperships for neighborhood kids to go to Bible Camp. 
  • Transporting neighborhood kids to swimming lessons for LSI
  • 300 backpacks for FFY
  • Zion hosts Camp Child Serve (June-Aug) for third year. 
  • Summer Outreaches to DTA
  • WEE becomes a part of the Zion family. 
  • Church cleaning day with Mizo
  • Pastor Brent’s call and ordination
  • Beaverdale Parade and Z-Fest/food and fun.
  • DMOM sale
  • Care Team goes into high gear.
  • Started ESL classes
  • Started bringing neighborhood kids to Sunday School 
  • LCMC National Gathering/Zion hosted the New Ministries Seminar
  • Zion pastors asked to Negotiate settlement between two Muslims in dispute
  • Oktoberfest
  • Church establishes pre-paid Funeral/Plots pricing for all members with Merle Hay funeral home.  
  • New Carpet in Lobby
  • Angel Tree/Dove Tree/Xmas Baskets
  • Christmas Eve Dinner, including the local Imam and Muslim guests.
  • New Fellowship Hall wall
  • Mhezi Mission Trip to Tanzania
  • Arabic Alpha starts for Arabic speakers.
  • Camp In 
  • Dominican Republic Mission Trip
  • Narcotics Anonymous starts at Zion.
  • Awaken comes and does performance
  • Began Monthly worship starts with Gakunzi’s church at 10:30 service
  • Staffed Samuelson Family Fun Night
  • Sent 3 tutors into Samuelson Elementary
  • Pharmacy/First Aid Seminar for Mizo
  • New Men’s Breakfast does Quest for Authentic Manhood
  • New website
  • Financial Seminar for Mizo
  • New sound board, equipment
  • Dispensed 72 paris of shoes given as a donation by Wildwood Hills Camp for refugee kids.  
  • Community Gardens open at Zion! 
  • Finished our first phase 3 of ChristLife
  • Clothes Closet expansion
  • Whiz Kidz ends with 184 kids
  • Began running 2 vans with Samuelson Express
  • New bulletins/newsletters
  • ACS - new Zion data base
  • Alcoholics Anonymous group starts
  • Vacation Bible School with 150 kids! 
  • Wednesday Afternoon Outreaches
  • Zion became a Polk County emergency shelter and part of the Counties emergency plans. 
  • Iowa Workforce Development gave us an ICAP computer to help people find jobs.
  • Backpack buddies provides meals on weekend for 24 kids in need.  
  • New Rain Garden
  • Provided Furniture for more than 50 families new to our area.  
  • Assisted with rent, food and utilities for 30 families in need.
  • The usual:  weddings/funerals/baptisms/confirmations/first communions
  • Invited Inn
  • Street Outreach provided prayer, food, supplies, 
  • Quilts made with love for needy families.
  • Wednesday pm Meals serves a record number of hot meals
  • Another successful year of WOW, Sunday School
  • New Members
  • Sierre Leone mission trip 

Head First Through the Cross Cultural Wall

One of the hardest things about pastoring a diverse church with different people groups in it is developing a cross cultural competency.  Mark DeYmaz talks extensively about this in his great book, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church.  We are all learning about each other’s cultures and learning how to live and act together as the body of Christ.


For example, when doing things with the Mizo, you have to understand that they will avoid saying “no” at almost any cost.  In their culture it’s rude or disrespectful to say “no” to someone.  So you have to listen very closely to what they do say.  If they don’t say, “yes” very emphatically, and you have a sense that they aren’t really excited about what you’re proposing, it could be that they are trying not to say “yes” directly which really means, in their culture, “no.”  If you push on assuming “yes” when it isn’t ever said, you may find yourself disappointed.  


In our Iowa culture I’d say that one of our cultural monikers is that we want to avoid conflict at almost any cost.  In Iowa, it’s seen as very rude to disagree with someone or to raise your voice.  Almost no one honks their horn when driving to reproach another driver.  We just try to get away from the disagreeable person as fast as possible.  This leaves a lot of conflicts unresolved.


Pastor Gakunzi asked me if he could use Zion to hold a theological conference.  At least that’s what I thought he was asking me.  Since the calendar was free and we want people to use the building, especially for talking about Jesus, I said an enthusiastic “yes!”  He also asked for help with food for two meals for the participants.  No problem.  We’ve got great people for that.  


Turns out I got it wrong.  I didn’t understand where he was coming from culturally.  Gakunzi and I both assumed the other understood what we were saying.  And what we both assumed to be true turned out, to our mutual embarrassment, not to be what either of us expected.


When Gakunzi asked if Zion would help him hold a theological conference, he assumed I would be the host.  I’m the pastor, after all.  He assumed that I’d preach at the conference.  He assumed I’d make some arrangements.  He assumed a level of participation that my schedule simply couldn’t support.  


When Gakunzi said “theological conference” I assumed he meant a conference like we’d have in the Lutheran Church:  some lectures and a nice lunch.  Very academic.  Very orderly.  Very mundane.  Turns out, conference in his mind is more like revival in ours.  


So we had a bit of train wreck in our cross cultural conversation.  But we realize it now.  We’ve laughed at our mistake and our assumptions and next time we do this, by golly, we’ll be on the same page.


Growing together to be the body of Christ, regardless of race, age, ability or class, requires us to manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit together:  to be patient with one another, to be loving, to be joyful for each other, to assume the best intentions about one another.  


The theological conference this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Zion may not be as well attended as it should be.  I didn’t realize what was expected.  But we’ve grown.  And in growing we’ve become closer rather than farther apart.  Closer to being one body of Christ together.  I think Jesus laughs at our attempts.  But he knows that all we want to do is bring him the glory.  


I’m sure there will be more going head first through cross cultural walls ahead of us.  I’m sure we’ll get confused and I’m sure things will, from time to time, get complicated.  But without taking the risk of all that we will never manifest the kingdom together.  And I think our Master would have us take the risk.  Don’t you?  


Later in the summer I’m going to get some information about crashing through another wall head first:  the generational wall.  Grace and I are headed to a conference on how to make the church’s ministry more intergenerational.  We believe that in order to truly be the body we need to honor and integrate across all the lines the world uses to divide us, including age.  Hope to come back with some good stuff.  Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ 


Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

  • after Jesus’ own heart, 
  • with relevant, Bible based teaching,
  • with passionate and authentic worship,
  • of prayer,
  • with a heart for our city and the world,
  • where the love of our Lord is evident in the way we live and minister together. 

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