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Showing items filed under “April 2012”

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 

Posted by John Kline with
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.  


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

Easter and No More What ifs

Happy Easter!

Easter is a celebration about the triumph of Jesus over sin, death and the devil.He was absolutely obedient to the Father and was raised from the dead by the power of the Father.  Jesus was the pioneer.  The promise for those of us who follow him and have been spiritually united with him is that we, too, will be raised from the dead to live with the Father and the Son and the Spirit in eternity forever.  

This is an amazing promise and ought to fill us with hope, joy, love, peace and an overwhelming desire to love God and our neighbor and share this good news in every word and deed.  It is the kind of news that captivates your imagination, changes your life, and gives you meaning and purpose.
But so many Christians and so many churches seem so hopeless.  It’s like they’ve lost the power of the resurrection.  It’s like they are uncaptivated by the excitement of eternal life later and new life now.  

What if the followers of Jesus lived in the power of the resurrection?   What if....?

What if the Church wasn’t afraid? 

a. We wouldn’t be afraid of what people would say to us - we could preach the Gospel without fear and with joyWe wouldn’t be afraid to share our faith and we wouldn’t be afraid of being rejected by the world or by our friends.We wouldn’t spend so much time worrying about money but would trust God to provide.We wouldn’t be afraid of losing everything and even dying for what God wants.

What if the people who went to church strove to be genuine and real?

a.  There would be no “posers” trying to project to everyone that they were better than they really were.   No false humility, false piety, just real people struggling with real sin in light of a real savior. People would speak differently:  there would be no passive aggressiveness, no gossip, no lies.  They would say what they mean and mean what they said.They would seek to help each other in their spiritual struggles and bear one another’s burdens.

What if the church always thought long term?  

 a. It would be like planting a garden that would be enjoyed by future generations and not just us.  
 What if the church thought more about what was good for the kingdom than what was good for the congregation?   We would always be thinking God sized thoughts that were bigger than ourselves. We would always think about developing future leaders. We could be free to “tithe” members to new churches that were starting. We’d be more interested in multiplying churches and leaders than in keeping the doors open. We’d be free at last to lose ourselves in pursuing a greater goal than just our own survival.

What if the church learned to listen to God?

a. We’d have amazing prayer times together.  We would know the direction God wanted us to go and could stop struggling internally for power and pride.    We might experience times of “inaction” as we waited for the Holy Spirit to reveal his course for us.  

What if the church were all about Jesus Christ and not about us? 

a. We would put Jesus and his Gospel first, last and always. We would learn how to separate our preferences and personal piety from what Jesus  called us to do.
 What if the church thought about thriving and not just surviving? Then 10% of the congregation would no longer give 50% of the budget - we’d all up our stake in what God was doing here.

What if church were fun - full of celebration, innovation, and creativity? 

a.We’d all invite our friends because we couldn’t wait to show them how much fun it was to worship Jesus and follow him together.Our kids couldn’t wait to get here each week and wanted to come even when nothing was going on. We’d all experience a great sense of freedom - the sense of obligation to be here would be gone.

What if the church really believed that people could be changed by Jesus? 

a. We’d always have to believe the best about people because God wasn’t finished working on them yet.  We’d stop being so judgmental.  We’d start seeing miracles every week.


What if the church were an environment in which all these things could happen? 

a.  Why can’t it be?

Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ 

Posted by John Kline with

Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

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