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When I Was Homeless, You Gave Me a Home

When I Was Homeless, You Gave Me a Home

 

Matthew 25 doesn’t actually say, “When I was homeless, you gave me a home.”  But it does say that strangers, aliens, visitors, who have no where to go, are welcomed.  Maybe we could paraphrase Jesus by saying, “When I had nowhere to go, you gave a place to lay my head.”  There just isn’t any debate among the followers of Jesus that finding shelter for those without shelter is a Jesus honoring task and falls under ministering to “the very least of these.”  

 

Two weeks ago we got to see God really move in providing for his people.  

 

At the beginning of the week we were notified about the plight of a young woman with two small children in a dangerous living situation that had nowhere to stay after June 30.  So we prayed and asked God to help and then broadcast her need to the congregation and the world on e-mail and Facebook.  Within hours we’d heard back from two families, one from Zion and one from Hope, who were interested in helping.  We set up a meeting and now, we’re pleased to announce that the young family has free housing for at least the next six months between the two families.  This should allow for ample time for her to get back on her feet and find a suitable long term solution.  And of course, we’ll be there to help.  Someone is even interested in hiring her full time.  

 

Then, at the end of the week, God provided a break through in another situation.  A man we’ve been helping by providing transitional housing just got a letter from Des Moines Municipal Housing offering him a place.  We immediately went down and saw the nice apartment and secured his future home.  One of the best things about his new arrangement is that there is a social worker on site who will help him get connected to more of the benefits he might qualify to receive.  We’re so glad that Municipal Housing found a place.  We’re so honored to have helped keep him find a place in the meantime  for the year it took for an apartment to become available.  

 

For over five months we’ve been working as a church with a young addict.  It’s been a beautiful thing to watch her emerge as a sober, happy person.  She has struggled valiantly through prayer and a stubborn desire to be free of her past and addiction.  Every day is a struggle.  We are so grateful to God for bringing her into our lives.  She needed a church to walk with her.  She needed multiple families and people to help her through these times by giving time, rides, sometimes money, and most of all, love.  I’m so thankful to Pastor Tina and her husband Mark, who stood up for this lovely woman in court and volunteered to open their house to her.  It was an amazing act of bravery and courageousness.  Sometimes to serve the least of these like you’d serve Jesus you have to throw open your house and offer everything you have.  

 

I’m thinking about Christian life as  stewardship of what we’ve been given.  Nowhere does Jesus say we’re to pay our 10% and be done with it.  Instead, Jesus frequently tells us that if we are truly to follow him, we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross.  In other words, he wants it all.  But why shouldn’t he?  We often tell people that all they have is a gift from God.  Sometimes, He might want to use it to help others.  Sometimes He might want it all back.  But if  it was his in the first place, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

 

Sadly, we too often get caught up trying to set limits on God.  It’s his church, we say, but we resist with all our might “giving it away.”  It’s all his money, but we too often find excuses for not letting him use it.  It’s all his time, but we have so many pre-prepared lectures on healthy boundaries and needing time for ourselves or time for our families.  I’m sure all of these have a grain of truth in them.  But when the Master calls, the servants respond.  We are the servants.  He is the Master.  We live to serve him whenever and wherever he calls us, and with whatever he’s given us to 

 

These are really wonderful stories with happy endings.  I’m reminded how God is always faithful.  Sometimes you have to hang on for a long time, but He has a plan and He never stops providing.  As a church we’ve decided to keep doing what we felt God was calling us to do:  to be the arms and hands and legs of Jesus and help people in need.  He has always been faithful and we can testify to the miraculous things He’s done in our midst.  Trusting God with the little you have tends to grow your faith, and I think exercises like these grow the faith of the entire congregation.  We’ve learned to trust God to provide together and I think that’s grown us in unity and faith.  At the end of the day, there is no denying the relationship between a vibrant, growing faith and obedience.  If you want your faith to be alive and grow, you have to do what God says.  You have to care for the least of these.  And that means you have to step out in faith and take risks.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ 

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Vacation Bible School Reflections 2012

Vacation Bible School Reflections 2012

 

It was like a preview of heaven.  There were all ages, all races, all abilities, all classes, and all educational levels worshipping God in spirit and truth.  It was an amazing experience and one that I think will change our church forever.   Years from now, I think we’ll look back and consider that Bible School 2012 was one of those significant events that defined who we are as a church and how we do ministry.  

 

What made it so amazing, even miraculous?  Well, the kids, of course.  We had a lot of guests and that was great.  We had a lot of kids whose parents regularly attend our church.  We also had a lot of kids whose parents may not attend our church but the kids come on either Sundays or Wednesday nights and it was amazing to see them all together.  It seemed like nearly every day the number of kids grew as they went out and invited their friends.   I think it was the biggest Bible School we’ve ever had: 120 or more kids.  The best thing for me was getting to see the kids interact with each other.  Here they all are and they are the future of the church, especially this church.  These are the future worshipers of God Most High and it was great to see them showing us what that worship will look like.  

 

The volunteers were amazing as well.  I’m so grateful to the many, many volunteers.  We had perhaps the best response to any VBS we’ve ever done.  This year we even had extra hands and it made everyone’s job so much easier.  Thank you for serving, from the bottom of my heart.  It was wonderful to watch the volunteers bond with the kids.  Some of the volunteers had never experienced that kind of joint worship which we do on Wednesday nights with the “church” kids and the “neighborhood” kids.  I think it really helped a lot of people to see where we’re headed as a church.  It was a beautiful sight to see the volunteers interacting so well with all the kids.  I think it helped us as a church create more relationships between adults and kids.  Maybe in the fall, when the vans pull up and a swarm of neighborhood kids stream out, we’ll know each other better and see the individuals instead of the groups. 

 

The leaders did a fantastic job.  I’m so grateful to so many.  Did you know that this year the team wrote their own curriculum?  And it was among the best I’ve ever experienced.  Thank you to the writers, the set designers, the graphic designers and the worship leaders.  And the worship was amazing.  This year we were treated to have an amazing team led by one of our amazing pastors, some amazing singers, and one of our returning college students and two of his friends from Nashville.  Thank you.  And the food!  Wow.  Thanks to the amazing kitchen crew who pulled off wonderful food and quickly.  Thanks to the amazing skit actors who helped bring the Word of God alive.  

 

I was also impressed to see so many junior and senior high school students helping.  Thank you.  You did a fantastic job with the kids.  Thanks for doing a beautiful thing for Jesus.  

 

I’m also extremely grateful to the Zion families that drove out to pick up kids they’ve “adopted” and that have moved out of the neighborhood and are living downtown at Oakridge.  Thank you for sticking with these kids.  Thank you for bringing them to VBS and to Wednesday nights.  Thank you for being a stable and safe part of their lives.  

 

I guess my overall sense about this year’s VBS is that love, peace, joy, patience, self control, faithfulness, kindness,  broke out and were on full display for everyone to see.  We showed the world what it means to love each other as Jesus loves us, and what it means to be One in Him. He was truly exalted.  I love what I saw and I look forward to seeing even more of it as we continue on this journey together into God’s future. 

 

Don’t forget our next opportunity to have fun together:  Art Camp:  July 16-20.  Details on the website.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ


Why the Lead Pastor Is Not at the 10:30 Service for Much of the Summer

Wednesday nights during the school year, we have a joyous time offering Jesus and English language tutoring to a bunch of refugee kids and other kids who were born here.  Some of our most challenging kids are from the Karenni people group.  There are a bunch of them.  They are overwhelmingly boys, through and through.  They like to be up front during the worship time.  They jump up and down to the music and then summersault off the stage.  They like to climb the walls behind the stage.  They frequently drive the volunteers and other dinner guests we might have at church to distraction.  Which isn’t surprising.  Most of them have no contact with our society outside of school and Wednesday night church.  

 

But they have come so far.  The teachers at the local elementary tell me that many of them have started to pray before they eat their lunch.  And, in His Infinite Wisdom and Mercy, the Almighty has laid these kids on my heart.  They need Jesus.  They need discipline.  They need someone to care about them.

 

Wednesday nights are over for the summer.  So is Sunday School.  The Wednesday and Sunday volunteers have done an amazing job soldiering on with ever increasing numbers of kids.  I am very, very grateful.  But what will happen to these Karenni kids over the summer.  Sure we have a few outreaches.  Sure we have Bible School and Art Camp.  But I can’t help feeling we’ll lose some of the amazing growth we’ve seen if we don’t keep at it. 

 

A few weeks ago at church I shared my concerns with a dear lady.  She told me that God undoubtedly wanted us to continue.  But how?, I asked.  After all, our volunteers have done a heroic job and need a rest and frankly, we can’t field a relief team right now.  There just aren’t enough of us.  She was quite sure we had to keep at it.  

 

Keep in mind, please, that the Karenni kids are more than likely to be recipients of our Back Pack Buddies program where we supply food for the weekend to kids identified by the school as being in need over the weekend.   They need food, too.  

 

So three weekends ago, a solution presented itself.   We were having a joint worship service at the 10:30 service with Pastor Gakunzi’s church and a big lunch afterwards.  Why not invite the Karenni kids?  No one I talked to about this really thought they’d show up.  But they did.  About 10 boys.  I put them in the front row at the 10:30 service.  They joined the kids on the stage for worship in English and when the Swahili songs started they still danced.  Then the preaching started and my wife, seated at the other end of the row, turned deathly pale.  She knew what could happen next.  Kids swinging from the chandeliers.  Kids summersaulting off the stage.  Kids climbing over the back of the pews.  Yet more people getting fed up with ill behaved kids.  I found one other person willing to help.   The preaching was in Swahili and translated.  We all thought I’d have to take the kids out.  But I didn’t.  God showed up.  (In church, imagine that!).  The kids watched the preacher.  After a while they started to imitate (but not in a mean way) his hand gestures.  It was as if they’d never realized that the hands could be used in talking.  The little boy next to me picked up my hands and started to form them in similar gestures to Pastor Gakunzi’s.  It worked.  We all made it to lunch and everyone ate as much as they could and ran off to play on the playground.  God is good.  All the time.  

 

So the next week we invited them back.  There was a guest preacher from South Sudan.  He didn’t mind if I missed the 10:30 service so I could talk about Jesus with a bunch of kids.  After all, his job is planting new churches.  Miraculously, previously that week, during a board meeting, I discovered seven minute Bible studies online in the Kayah language.  We sent the van.  It came back with five kids and five adults for Sunday School.  We stayed with the big group until the offering and then left when the Arabic Alpha folks leave for their Arabic teaching.  We went to the cafeteria and watched a Bible Study in the Kayah Li language on the big screen.  Then we talked about it.  The adults asked for ESL classes.  The kids heard about Adam and Eve and sin.  One young boy, Tawh Rey, said, “Pastor John, Everything was good.  Adam and Eve ate the apple and everything changed.  It became bad.  Can it ever be good again?”  Oh.  Let me tell you the Gospel.  Thank you, Jesus.  And they listened.  

 

Last week they came back.  Ten kids and 3 adults and one helper from the 1:00 Mizo service.  Pastor Tina is preaching for the next three weeks so I’m free at 10:30.  Let me tell you about that helper, Zuali, a young lady in High School, and my helper in this Sunday School venture.  She is so good with the kids.  

 

I am so pleased to tell you that we have ESL classes for the adults.  The teacher would even like to go every day with the adults during the summer.  The ten kids watched another lesson and then we did the salvation message with them.  I know that later this summer there will be some baptisms.  I’m so pleased, so amazed, so thankful.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, Zuali.  Thank you, Zion.  Thank you, for your patience.  Thank you for letting your pastor do missionary work over the summer.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ  

 

For more about the Karenni people, please see:  http://www.karennirefugees.com/

 

 

P.S.  Would you like to help?  I’m taking volunteers!  

A Big Gift

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This week Zion received a major gift of $10,300 from a local philanthropic group called 100+ Men on a Mission.  

 

100+ Men on a Mission, as it’s name implies, is a group of 100+ men in our community who meet quarterly.  Each man pledges $100 each quarter to a charity that the majority of men vote to support.   The names of three charities are drawn from a hat at each meeting.  Those three charities are permitted to make their case.  Then the men vote.  The winner receives $100 from each man.  It’s a great concept and you can read more about it on their website:  www.100menonamission.com

 

Matt Lenaghan, one of the guys in our church, spoke eloquently on our behalf at the 100+ meeting.  We’re thankful to 100+ Men, to Matt, and to God for his provision in this unique way.

 

Zion received the funds this week during an ice cream social at Douglas Terrace Apartments.  Douglas Terrace was a good location for the event because that’s where Zion’s latest outreach efforts to our community started two years ago this month.  It was a moving experience to be with the kids we met back in those early days and with the new kids who have moved in recently.  We took the opportunity to register kids for Bible School and Art Camp this summer.

 You can see the flier we prepared for this event here.


So how will the money be used?  It is our intention to use part of the gift as a challenge grant for another van.  We intend to challenge the congregation this summer to raise $5,000 which will all be used to purchase a badly needed second van.  The response to our outreach efforts continues to be amazing.  But we need more transportation capacity to get people to Zion.  This spring we started renting a second van and it’s expensive.  Even with two vans it takes 2 hours to get everyone to church on Wednesday nights.  Sunday mornings we’re running our van twice, having a second van will certainly make things easier.  

 

Some of the money will be used to purchase some supplies and furniture that are needed for our Wednesday night tutoring program.  

 

Some of the money will be used to purchase some beds for needy people in our community.  It seems that not a day goes by without at least one request from Zion for a bed.  Hopefully we can meet our current need for beds (about 12) and have a few extra for the coming months.  We’ve been so blessed to receive so many gently used beds from people.  Right now, the demand is far exceeding our supply so it will be a wonderful gift to be able to get caught up.  

 

Some of the money will be used to prepare for fall when we resume Wednesday night community meals and the Back Pack Buddies program that supplies kids identified by the local school with meals on the weekends.  

 

We are very thankful and very blessed.  One of the best blessings is the joy that comes when someone from the outside sees what you’re doing as important; important enough to give $10,000 toward.  That’s been a big boost at the end of the school year to us and motivates us to prepare with diligence for the fall.

 

And our outreaches continue this summer.  Remember the almost weekly activities for kids as well as Bible School and Art Camp and our two scheduled outreaches to Douglas Terrace on July 1 and August 26.  

 

Please keep Zion in your prayers.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ

And Now For Some Good News...

And Now For Some Good News...

 

This past Thursday afternoon I was privileged to be invited to come to the United Way offices in Des Moines for an extraordinary meeting.  Pastor Al Perez and a group working with former Des Moines mayor Tom Urban assembled a group of pastors, ministry leaders and representatives of various community non-profits to talk about the challenges facing our city as we seek to minister to those who live in our city’s urban core.  The urban core, our city’s inner core, is really a crossroads where you can literally meet people from every tongue, tribe and nation.  

 

Tom Urban shared about how that core is composed of the following demographics:

 

25%  Hispanic

25% African American

x% African  (No one is really sure yet what the percentage of those coming directly from Africa will be but all agree they are a different demographic from African Americans).  

11% Asian

30 % Anglo 

 

Mr. Urban continued his presentation by saying that because of years of study and research, we already know how to do everything that needs to be done, and, that there are no more new problems in the urban core.  They’ve all been identified.  We’ve studied them, analyzed them, even come up with solutions for most of them.  

 

So why do we still see people in such dramatic need in the urban core of our city?  Why haven’t the solutions been put into place to solve all the problems we’ve identified over the last four decades? 

 

His honor concludes that the problems haven’t yet been solved because of limited funds.  There just isn’t enough money in the world to solve all the issues that need to be solved.  He believes that we must achieve both scalability and persistency in our efforts.  I’m not sure what scalability and persistency are but I believe him.  New efforts to solve problems are launched but only have funding for a few years.  Then they fold and we’re back to square one.  

 

I’ll stop here and interject my own comments.  Mr. Urban has devoted much of his life to solving problems in the city of Des Moines.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude because of those of us who approach these issues today stand on his, and others, shoulders.   He comes from a solid Quaker upbringing and loves people very, very much.  But I think our problem is bigger than money.  I think every pastor at the meeting would say that ultimately the urban core is dysfunctional because of human sin and the very real fact that we live in a fallen creation.  In that way, the problem is bigger than the urban core itself.  It extends to the suburbs and even to the countryside.  It’s everywhere. 

 

I’m sure it’s a controversial opinion to hold, but I’d say that the failure of non-profit groups like the United Way is that they simply can’t call the problem what it is:  sin.  But we’re preachers, calling out sin is our stock and trade.  Now I completely understand why they can’t call sin, sin.  It’s for purposes of funding and to a create a broader unity in finding solutions.  They believe they must embrace a more secular approach in which Jesus is seen as someone who divides instead of unites.  The irony is that if the problem is sin, Jesus is the only solution.  He’s the only one who takes away the sin of the world.  He’s the only one who can make all things new.  

 

During our meeting there was a real demonstration of this which proves my point entirely.  Tom Urban shared with us that if a third grade student can’t read at grade level, there is an extremely high probability that they will go to prison.  In fact, the State of Texas plans it’s future prison cell needs based upon third grade reading statistics.  I guess they plan on building a future cell for every kid who can’t read.  One pastor was sharing how he and his church were working to address this problem with a new curriculum to teach students to read at grade level.  Another pastor got up and said, basically, “You forgot one thing - God.”  And then that pastor went on to share how he and his family have taken in 19 young men who were bound (according to the statistics) to prison and how these young men are on target to graduate from either high school or college.   This pastor reminded all of us that God is the one who transforms the sinner to a saint, through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And that Jesus still changes the lives of even hardened criminals and young people on the wrong track.  Even atheists come to know Jesus and are changed.  

 

So, I guess you could say that the result of the meeting will be an attempt by a whole bunch of pastors and churches and ministries to work together with more secular non-profits in order to teach kids to read, meet the needs of our community, and by so doing, show our city Jesus so that he might transform all of us.   

 

Pastor Perez says we’ll have some more meetings shortly in smaller groups so we can identify what needs to be done in our area and figure out how to do it.  And, for the more cynical among my readers:  don’t worry.  There isn’t any money in this.  

 

I have to tell you that I’m really, really excited about this.  One of the things we’ve been dreaming about at Zion is how people could come together from every center of influence in our community and work together to solve our city’s problems.  Here it comes.  Watch out, Devil, here we come.  We’re coming together across racial lines, denominational lines, cultural lines, and we’ve even got those who aren’t supposed to say the name of Jesus on board.  We are united.  We have a common goal.  This is what Paul talked about in Ephesians.  This is uniting all things in Christ to put all things under his feet.  

 

Here are a few random observations from the two hour meeting:

  • I was overjoyed to see so many of my friends were also invited to be there.  These are amazing men and women of God who have such a fire in the belly to make disciples and bring about the redemption of the world through the work of Christ.  It’s always amazing to me who God brings into my life and the significant role they play not only in developing me and my faith, but the faith of others as well.  
  • One of the things that was universally recognized by the group of at least 75 was that in the past there has been such a veil of darkness over our city.  I was amazed to hear even more stories about how Des Moines has been known as “The Pastor’s Graveyard.”  People come here with great passion for the kingdom and for some reason, most seem to fail.  There has been such a spirit of divisiveness in our city, a spirit of competition and territorialism between churches and groups and even within churches.  (I follow Paul, I follow Apollos...).  
  • I was so blessed to hear from so many wonderful ministries in our city truly doing the Lord’s work with very few resources:  Asian Open Bible Church, Trinity/Las Americas (where Zion serves supper 3 times a year); the ministry of Pastor Andre Brooks, just to name a few.  
  • Tom Urban urged us to overcome our biases in order that we might work together.  Amen.  For the greater glory of God and for the redemption of all things.  

 

One of the reasons I was asked to be there was because of the work Zion Church is already doing.  With several other ministries, I was asked to share the story of what God is doing in us and through us in Lower Beaver.  Al Perez held up Zion as an example for others.  He introduced me by saying that when you walk into our lobby, the first thing you see is mattresses and furniture, ready for giving away to those in need. He said that’s one way you know that Zion is really serious about serving people.  As pastor, I’m really, really honored that our ministry together might be seen as being where it needs to be: on the front lines of what God is doing in our city.  To God be all the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ  

A Word to Graduates, 2012

I want to talk about authority.  What you believe makes you who you are.  Example:  If you believe that the world exists to serve your needs, you will become a greedy, opportunistic, self serving ego-maniac.  If you believe that it is important to help people in need, you will become a more generous and caring person.  

But whatever you believe, you believe on the authority of someone else.  Example:  If you believe that because you’ve trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are going to heaven when you die, you believe that because Jesus said it. 

If you believe that two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule makes water, chances are you believe that because your chemistry teacher told you so.  

Graduation from high school is a one of life’s passages.  It usually means that you are leaving the shelter of home and the certainty of Mom and Dad and striking out on your own to pursue your own career or further education.  I think graduation represents a change in your life because it is a natural changing point for what and who has authority over you in your life.  

C.S. Lewis, a famous Christian writer of the last century said this: “Don't be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you've been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I haven't seen it myself. I couldn't prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority -because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.” 

C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

So, who has authority in your life?  

We are defined by who has authority over us - whom we give authority over us.  Because we believe what they tell us.  

Hopefully, right now, your parents and your family have authority in your life.  You are now stepping out into a new stage in life and there is a high probability you will put much of what they taught you to the test.  In some things you will choose to accept their authority and continue to live according to what they taught you.  In other areas, you will choose to test whether or not what they taught you has authority in your life or not.  In the end, you will own what your parents worked so hard to teach you or not.

Who will be the new sources of authority in life beyond high school?  There are many.  Make wise choices in whom you grant authority in your life.  Here’s a brief list:   

1.  Roommates/peers.  You are about to enter experiences in which you will make friends that last a lifetime.  The college years tend to be like that.  The friends you make now might well be the friends you keep for the rest of your life.  So choose wisely.  Don’t try to impress other people.  True friends are impressed with who you are already and don’t want you to be something else.  Don’t try to fit in, just be yourself.  True friends will find you where you are.   For some strange reason I find it also true that some of the friends you meet your first year you will try to get rid of your second year.  I’m not sure why that is, but true friends will make that “first year cut” so to speak.  

2.  Girl/boy friends.  You may very well meet your future husband or wife in college.  There does tend to be a lot of pairing up in college.  So stay pure.  Don’t date anyone you haven’t gotten to know as a friend first.  Ask yourself before you date, “Would I consider spending the rest of my life with this person?”  If not, don’t date that person.  It only causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings down the road.  It is always better to be alone than to be together with the wrong person.  Don't commit to a relationship with someone before you answer the authority question in your life (who will have authority in my life?).  It’s unfair to your husband or wife to be under one person’s authority one day and another’s the next.  Be sure the person you’re committing to has also resolved that  authority question as well, and that together, you are submitting to the same authority.   Otherwise, you’ll have issues down the road.   

3.  Mentors.  College years provide the opportunity to meet significant people who can help to shape you as a person and possibly open doors for your in your future.  It is a real gift to have someone who is older and wiser and who is interested in helping you as you struggle with the authority question and find out who you truly are and what you truly believe.  Always be looking for a mentor.  Get more than one if you can.  However, if you can't find one, become one for someone else one day.  The world is suffering from a lack of people willing to invest in other people for their good.  

4.  Professors.  Your college professors will have an incredible amount of influence over you.  Some of them will seek to indoctrinate you. They will try to make you disciples of themselves or Keynes or Hayek (if you study economics, for instance),  liberal or conservative.  You will go through a period of time over the next several years where you try on many different hats and try out many philosophies.  Guard your heart.  So many of the things that are so important during this time of growth and testing during college will turn out not to be so important later on.    

5.  Jesus.  Some of you will have classes in the religion department at your schools.  Be very careful of what they tell you about what you believe.  Professors are usually given a lot of authority by their students.  But when it comes to faith, many professors misuse that authority in order to destroy what you’ve been taught in church.  They do this by going after the Bible.  They try to discredit it.  They treat it as if it were just another piece of literature, like a book by Dicken’s, and not as God’s holy word.  One favorite technique to try to make the Bible unscientific.  We tend to give scientists more authority than anyone else.  The Bible doesn’t ask you to disbelieve science.  But frequently science is used to make you disbelieve the Bible.  Some professors will teach you that apostle Paul was uninformed about modern research into the nature of human sexual activity.  But remember, God has been around since before any of his critics and He will be around long after they have passed.  When presented with a choice between human reason and God’s will, choose God’s will.  It has survived.  Religion professors tend to be very intelligent.  But most of them lack any experience.  What your pastors have taught you comes from seeing God’s word in action in the lives of real people every day.  The professors will tell you that people don’t get miraculously healed and that people can’t change.  I can tell you that people are healed and changed every day by the word of God.  Because Jesus is alive.  He is risen.  And the world has never been the same since Easter.  

Jesus says, “Follow me.”  So now he’s leading you into another great adventure as you go off to college with him.   You're leaving home and have all sorts of choices now.  In the end, his authority trumps all the other authorities that will lay claim on your life.  The Bible tells us all other authorities will be brought under his authority.  Remember what Jesus says at the end of Matthew?  He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...”  My prayer is that Jesus will always be the final authority in your life and that you will involve him in every decision you make.  

Here are five things I’d encourage you to do as you move on to college:

1.  Learn history.  I don’t believe there are any new ideas.  Throughout history we have asked all the questions and considered a variety of different answers.  These times we live in are not so different from other times that people who have gone before us have lived in .  As a race, we have faced similar problems before and great minds have provided answers.  Find those answers.  Consider the struggles of past generations as you seek your answers for the future. 

2.  Find a young, vibrant, Bible believing church that loves and accepts students like you and attend regularly.  Don't go to a denominational campus ministry.  Why?  Because you come from a rather young, vibrant, Bible believing church and you need to continue being nurtured in the way you have been brought up.  Denominations are dying because they no longer teach what they profess to believe.  They have exchanged the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ for a lie and there is no life in most of them.  As a believer, you are meant to be part of a church.  Seek your friendships and your relationships there among people who share your beliefs. 

3.  Seek out quality. Keep the best forever.  Seek out the best people to be your friends.  Not the most popular or richest, but the one’s that have the best character, the greatest loyalty, and who hold themselves and you as their friend, to the highest standards.  Seek out the best ideas, the best thoughts, the soundest theories.  Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

  1.   Pray and ask God to reveal to you what you’re good at, what gifts he’s given you, and then ask him to let you go on to use those gifts and to do those things that He made you to do for his glory.  In other words, ask him to help you find out what you were made to do and do it with all your might to the glory of God.  The people who achieve joy in this life do so because they are doing what God made them to do. You don't have to be a pastor to serve God. Rather, serve God in all that you do.

5.  Read your Bible and pray every day.  

Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ 

Posted by John Kline with

Why We Want to Call A Burmese Pastor

Part I:  Quick Overview

Look at all the exciting things that God is doing at Zion Church!  

  • The pews are filling up with those people who ministries and individuals within in the church are helping out of homelessness and other forms of poverty. 
  • There are now 150+ kids from local apartment complexes, most of them refugees, who regularly attend our Wednesday night programming.  As many as we can transport coming to Sunday School.  
  • We are now serving 267 hot meals on Wednesday nights.
  • We have Arabic speaking Muslims attending on a regular basis.  They come to us for information about Jesus (Arabic Alpha), for help in getting established in our community, and for fellowship.
  • We are in the local elementary school every week helping to tutor kids.  We also provide transportation to an ever growing group of children to and from school.  We now provide weekend meals for 24 children identified by the school as not having adequate nutrition apart from the school breakfast and lunch programs.
  • We live and worship in a changing neighborhood.  More and more of our friends and neighbors are from other countries or are otherwise different from us. 
  • We are celebrating one year together with the Mizo people from Burma.  We have a service at 1:00 p.m. on Sundays in the Mizo language.  We provide pastoral acts like weddings, sermons, visitations, prayers, communion, guidance and assistance for nearly 300 Burmese/Mizo members at Zion.  
  • We have a good history of joint projects with our Burmese members including their financial participation in the new van, the new soundboard, the new carpet, cash gifts to the church, and our joint work in the community gardens and cleaning projects.  We are now ready to take our relationship to the next level.  It’s time to hire a pastor who will help us all bridge the remaining gaps so that we can truly be one church together and will be able to minister to needs our Burmese members have that our current pastoral staff cannot meet.  

Part 2:  Benefits to Zion of Being a Multi-Ethnic 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 but 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 Culture House and Museum on our 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 what we believe and that will stretch us.  Neither of us in perfect, we’re all human.  All of us are sinners.  But our experiences of God in our various contexts will serve as 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 or members of another 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. 

Part 3:  The Benefits of a Burmese Pastor

  • The first is obvious:  calling a Burmese pastor will helps us minister to a group that is now as much as 25% of our church.
  • 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.  They are soooo 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 hep of the new pastor, we might be able to communicate to many more families at Samuelson School, 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!  Oh!  How much we have to learn and how we will all be built up and edified together as a church with his teaching!   

Part 4:  The Details.

  • Our Denomination, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, Supports us Fully.  We’ll need help with the visa and immigration papers for this pastor.  LCMC has pledged to support us fully and are very, very excited about the ministry Zion is doing in our neighborhood.  They seek ways to encourage us.  
  • How Do We Pay For This?  Regular offerings from the 1:00 service which are currently being “saved” are more than sufficient to pay for new pastor’s salary and benefits.  Each month, funds will be given to the General Fund from the 1:00 service to pay for the expenses related to this new position.
  • Procedure.  The procedure to call this pastor is pretty straight forward.  Here it is: 
    • solicit list of candidates (on going)
    • work on job description (on going)
    • assemble call committee.  The call committee will be made up of 1:00 service members, Pastor John and someone from the BSO.  
    • interviews (mostly phone and Skype).  Will be done by the call committee.  
    • offer/acceptance.  They say “yes!”   
    • visas/green card.  Paper work.  
    • credentialing.  We’ll work with LCMC to get our new pastor certified with the LCMC. 
    • Job Description.  The job description will include the following:
      • minister to particular needs of Mizo members
      • preaching/teaching/pastoral acts for entire congregation
      • aid in integrating Mizo with entire congregation
      • neighborhood outreach and mission
      • new effort for fully integrated student/children ministry

  • Who Will Provide Supervision?  Pastor John as lead pastor and a joint task force of the BSO and 1:00 service.  

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 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 culture.  The Mizo kids are learning English quickly.  Our Wednesday night neighborhood kids, too.  Where will they worship?  Probably not in the language 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 


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End of April Update

Here are the facts as I see them.   In my opinion, as lead pastor, we’ve been crazy obedient to our Master, Jesus Christ.  We’ve taken all kinds of risks as a congregation and I think that God is glorified because of it.  I’m amazed at how much work God has done.  The facts are these:

  1. Fact 1:  We have become a multi-ethnic church.  We now have 25% minority membership, predominately but not limited to, Asian members.  We also have Iraqis, Sudanese, Liberians and Congolese in attendance.  Are we excited about this?  You bet.  Our neighborhood has changed.  On one end of our neighborhood we have Thai Village.  On the other end we have Zion.  We also have the new Vietnamese cultural center in the Triangle on Douglas.  This all makes sense and I believe it is all by God’s design.
  2. Fact 2:  We’re ready to call a pastor to minister to all of us, but especially to our Burmese members.  They are, after all, the fastest growing segment of our congregation.  Worshipping over 100 per Sunday and contributing regularly to our common good, the Burmese membership is an amazing blessing.  A pastor who speaks Burmese, Mizo (our particular dialect at the 1:00 service), and English, will solidify us as a congregation and allow us to make a major advance in unifying the congregation.  Imagine what it will be like to have someone on staff who can help us integrate the entire congregation together!  
  3. Fact 3:  Our African immigrant membership continues to grow.  We are growing in Liberian and Sudanese members.  What is remarkable about these members is that when I ask them, “Why did you come to Zion?,” they all answer the same way:  “God said to come here.”  So we continue to believe that God is up to something and knows what he’s doing, even if we don’t fully understand it yet.  In the meantime, Pastor Gakunze’s church and ours have begun to worship together at the 10:30 service monthly.  Gakunzi preached on Palm Sunday and was a big hit.  I think God is up something with this and look forward to what he has in store.  
  4. Fact 4:  Our Wednesday nights are off the charts.  Last count, we were up to 150 kids from the apartment complexes which complements our current program of 30 Zion kids well.  We’re serving over 200 meals each Wednesday night.  Praise God!  The week before Easter we were able to do a Gospel presentation for the kids that really hit home.  I used kids to act out the crucifixion, and as I was about to drive home the nail into Dede’s hands, an enormous number of children stormed the stage to see.  It was a very moving experience for many of our volunteers.  I imagine that next year at this time we’ll be having baptisms for some of these kids.  And I’m grateful to our Master for being able to be a part of what he’s doing here at Zion.  Two weeks ago we started a new joint opening with our regular WOW program. Pastor Brent and a bunch of middle and high school students lead it.  It is amazing and the kids are responding beautifully.  
  5. Fact 5:  Two weeks ago we launched a new concept:  seminars for the church and the neighborhood.  Our first one was on how to parent your child in the digital age.  We had an expert from Houston come in and explain to people what was appropriate and inappropriate in terms of your child’s use of technology and why.  What do you do with Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace?   We invited the church and sent out over 1700 direct mail invitations.  We had 40 people attend and we learned a lot.  We’ll do it again.
  6. Fact 6:  We’re back in the baby business!  I hadn’t seen babies for a while and thought that was odd.  We had two new borns in church on Sunday and found out we have 2 more on the way in the next few weeks.  Wow.  
  7. Fact 7:  The volunteers are starting to arrive from beyond Zion.  I’m amazed at offers to help from outside the congregation.  Tutoring, clothes closet help, organizational help, and even some money are coming in.  I think it’s a trend and I’m grateful.  If we are to be a successful bridge to our neighborhood and the suburbs, we should expect to see it.  It’s coming.  Let me convey this story to you:  Last Wednesday night I was concerned because we didn’t have enough money in the kitchen account for more groceries.  Our exit offering from the weekend after Easter was a flop (duh, so was attendance!).  I was after the Lord, chastising him for his lack of provision, when a volunteer from Waukee came in and said her neighbor heard what we were doing and gave us a check for $500!  God provides.  
  8. Fact 8:  Have you noticed how our own middle school and high school students are responding to the new ministries we’re doing?  They’ve jumped in with both feet.  Ask Brent.  The response is overwhelming.  I think this is proof that helping others will leads to spiritual growth.  It isn’t just the content of what we teach that is important, it’s providing the opportunity to put what we teach into practice.  

Thanks for reading.  Be encouraged.  God bless.  PJ 

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Tags: update

The Difference Between Being "In" Mission and "For" Mission and the Homogenous Unit Principle

You'll forgive me, I hope, for sharing some thoughts that may not be fully formed.  These thoughts have dominated what clear thoughts I've been able to have lately and it's time to submit them to public scrutiny.  

 

When we left our former denomination and joined LCMC, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which is more a movement than a denomination, I told people that now, out of the denominational bubble we had lived in, we would have to "do mission or die."

 

I'd like to amend that phrase.  I think that based on what we see at Zion Church these days, it must be said that we have learned that we must "do mission and die."  To be fully devoted to mission means the death of self.  To be fully devoted to mission is the summation of what Jesus said about following him, "You must deny yourself daily (die to self), pick up your cross, and follow me."  To live in mission is to everyday give up your life for the sake of making disciples.

 

What does this mean for a church?  It means a daily dying by everyone in the church to comfort, stability, preferences, procedures, etc.  I means living in a state of risk, maybe even danger (emotional or physical) for the sake of the mission.  It means learning to love and be patient with others, even and especially those who may be different than yourself.  

 

This is a great challenge.  Imagine that all your life you've gone to church with your friends.  They are people who look like you, talk like you, have similar incomes and schooling.  Now, suddenly, we're doing mission and here come people and their kids who have a different education, perhaps a different language, perhaps different child raising philosophies, perhaps a different skin color and for certain, a different life experience.  It's scary.  It's risky.  It's messy.  Mission is messy.  Following Jesus is messy.  You have to leave things, even comforts, in order to "go" and follow.

 

It occurs to me that there is an enormous different between being a congregation "for" mission and "in" mission.  Here's what I mean.   A lot of churches have great mission programs.  You go as a group and fly in to some place and then after ten days or two weeks you fly home again.  You are changed by the experience and you begin to see that the world is a bigger place and that God has plans and is busy all over the planet.  But at the end of the day you get to come home.  To safety.  To the "normal."  To comfort.

 

It's like my favorite police dramas on TV.  Here are guys who, because they are public servants, don't make much money.  They work hard, are consumed by their profession and catching the bad guy.  But at the end of the show, they go home to this gorgeous house and drive an amazing car.  It just isn't that way in the real world.  Work follows you home and if you're serving full time plus, you probably have a small place that hardly ever get's cleaned and a beater car.  

When my family and I were abroad as missionaries, we were full time in mission.  We were always watched.  We stood out.  We knew that we were always on stage for Jesus.  We lived in a culture that was very much different from our own.  There wasn't any going home.  

 

When you're "in" mission, you are continually on stage for Jesus.  We aren't asking our church to go and fly in for a while and do great ministry, we're asking the church to be "in" ministry 24/7.  We're saying, "Look, our neighbors need Jesus, move over, let them sit in the pew next to you, let them eat your food, share your space.  Let's do life together with our neighborhood so that, as our Master says, ‘People will see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.'"  We're not asking you to fly in and fly out.  We're asking you to live mission.  To be missionaries.  We're asking you to give up your seat, perhaps pay for someone else's kid's dinner, volunteer for some extra hours, and agree to go through life with people who are different than you are.

 

Most successful churches in the US are built on a subtle idea that is so normal for us we don't even think about it.  It's called the Homogenous Unit Principle.  The idea behind HUP is simply this:  to grow a church big and fast, get people who are the same together.  It works.  The trouble is, it leads to a church that is more than likely to be "for," rather than "in," mission.  Because everyone is similar in the church (education, income, race, experience), it's hard for "different" people to come and feel comfortable.  So in order to do mission, the church has to fly in and fly out, either around the world or across town.  

 

Our situation is different, therefore our call from the Lord is different.  We must be "in" mission.  We must find a way to welcome our changing neighborhood into our building and we must, because of the Great Commission, find a way to meet people who are different form ourselves with the Gospel.  It's an amazing, beautiful, exciting, thrilling adventure.  But it requires of us to be "in" mission.  All the time.  24/7.  There is no leaving and flying back home.  We live here already.  

 

No doubt all this change is very hard.  For generations, we had a common understanding about how church was done in our society.  Church is where you went to hear the Gospel.  You heard it and then you went home to hopefully live it.  Because of the death of mainline Protestantism, Globalization, and other factors, we have to do church differently than before.  One of the biggest changes must be that in church you don't just hear the Gospel, you also have to live it out right there, because the church, the local congregation, is the frontline of mission in our society.  

 

People like mission "neat."  They like to go do it and then go home to what they think is reality.  We're asking you to change your reality.  We're asking you to live mission, be "in mission," to let mission be our new reality together.  There is no going home, we're already there.  

 

What would Jesus have us do?  What would he say?  When we see the hundreds of kids hungry for a meal and for the Gospel, how can we not change everything?  And the amazing thing is that as we change for their sake, our Master will change us for His sake.  We will grow in spiritual maturity, in wisdom and in Christlikeness.  What more could you ask from your church?  

 

Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ 

I'm Back

I’ve been silent for a long, long time.  In fact, I’ve had trouble blogging, even posting anything to FaceBook or Twitter for the last six months.  Why?  Because I lost my nerve.  Around twelve families left our church during these six months and the one thing that all of them had in common was that they blamed me for their departure in some form or fashion.  I did something wrong to them or didn’t do what they needed.  Simply put, they didn’t see Jesus in me.  It sort of took the wind out of my sails, as you can well imagine.  Every pastor’s nightmare is that people will leave the church and maybe even lose their faith and stop believing in Jesus because of him.  None of us want to give our Master a black eye.   So when a group decides to leave it’s a big deal.  The onus is on the pastor.  How can I interpret these events in any other way than “I failed?”

And because I failed, I stopped speaking.  My thinking went like this:  “If I’m so offensive, maybe nothing I say is worth hearing.”  It caused me to question everything.  It caused me to stop and over-think everything I said and did so that I could hardly utter a word in confidence.   “How will this be interpreted by people?”  I’m emerging, like a ground hog, from six months of self examination and reflection.  

Pastors deal with the dying every day, no matter how big your church is.  Because we’re all dying.  Some of us just haven’t realized it yet.  Most pastors know that they are dying, too.  They  know that one day, sooner than we think, we’re going to stand before our Master and he’s going to pass sentence on us.  Either our Master will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or, “Depart from me, I know you not.”  When a pastor says, “Because God says,” on a Sunday morning, we realize that we will have to answer if we’re wrong.  It’s why we pray so much.   I’m not sure most people realize that pastors take eternity and judgement and salvation very, very seriously.  Because we know what’s coming, most pastors would never lead a church down a path they didn’t think the Lord of the Church was calling us to go down.   

My Dad, a retired pastor of over 50 years, wonders what the Lord will say to him for some of the weddings he wasn’t sure about but did anyway and which later failed.  There is so much pressure to give people what they want.  And there is such a high price to be paid when you don’t.  

People have become so quick to turn their backs on churches and pastors these days and walk away.  Every pastor I’ve talked to in our city has seen a surge of solid, long time members get angry about seemingly small things and then leave.  There is a real restlessness out there. Things that a decade or two ago would have been quickly forgiven and forgotten are now causes for separation.  It’s almost as if people are looking for reasons to be offended.  They also report an increase in hostility toward pastors and a general loss of respect for the office.  

I wonder if we’ve been trying to please people too much and not our Master?

It is an awesome task to stand in front of people week after week and speak the word of God.  Our Savior told us that the world would hate us because of him.  I think most of us pastor types just assumed the attitude of the church would be different.  

I commend to you the following blog from a pastor’s kid who gave up on the church.  I think a lot of people do give up.  They see the way we quarrel and bicker in the church and they are just turned off.  There are consequences in failing to hang together, be patient, speak the truth and being willing to change.  Our inability to maintain community no matter what sends the world a message that we don’t practice what we preach.  Please know that if you have been wounded by a pastor, a church, or church people, I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the entire Church of Jesus Christ in all times and all places.  But don’t give up.  If you believe then you belong in Church.  

http://www.catalystspace.com/content/read/why_i_quit_the_church/

Anyway, I’m back now.  I’m still hurting, I’m still wondering how things could’ve been different, I’m still sorry for the mess, but I also realize that my role is not to make people happy.  It’s to live out my life as a leader in the Church before an audience of just one, the One. To be faithful to him above all else, no matter what the cost.   At the end of the day, it’s his opinion that matters.  At the end of the day, when I look around our congregation, I don’t see destruction and devastation.  I see trees loaded with fruit.  For six months I’ve been consumed with destruction and have totally missed the fruit in front of me.  Please forgive me.  From now on, let’s talk about the fruit.  Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ 

Posted by John Kline with 2 Comments

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Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

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