Friday, April 17, 2009
Vision is when we invite God to show us what could / should be. That invitation is full of His responding to us by inviting us into His hopes and dreams for us. A great church, a great team, and a great leader enters into this “tent of meeting” with God often. In that place of intimacy with God our church no longer guesses, tries to be clever, or relies on it’s own strength; in that place His creativity, His will, and His resources are put on the table. And we then respond in joy, hope, love, obedience and faith to that which our Father wants us to do.
So I want to take a second to share with you a few things that I have been sensing in that time when I am with God in that “tent of meeting.” As leaders of our church I am inviting you to join with God in these dialogues through prayer. And I will explain each of them below.
1. We need to praise God and gush over his goodness. To do this sometimes we have to build an alter of remembrance for what He has done. It is too easy for us to forget His goodness. So let me take a second to remind you. From the pastors viewpoint. The 1st time I stood to preach at 5 stones I was overwhelmed with the feeling that this place is hanging by a thread, and that it could be gone in a week. I argued with Him when he pointed to Nehemiah, but looking back He was so very wise in starting with us there. Because not only did Christ start 5 stones, but after a time of turmoil He was about to rebuild it. So there we were…burnouts, wounded, a budget going over a cliff, gossip, back-stabbing, blame, fear…and many of us wondering if we wanted to be here anymore. Then, slowly and methodically He moved. He brought Nate in and we have watched him grow as a man of God in ways that have thrilled and awed us. We watched Josh Derr jump in with Kim and carry youth ministry, even while God was readying Josh Sumpter to become our youth pastor. The eldership formed with John and Dan initially and then Jody and Glenn entering in as well…slowly learning our roles and praying for our church. The deacons [servant board] after being shell-shocked with post traumatic stress syndrome was refreshed, and new people joined, and even more are now joining in a role that once was avoided like the plague. Lenore and Amy have prayed for us with invisible hours akin to the widow’s mite, and their words have helped undergird the strength that we are now feeling. Cindy and the whole children’s team have endured and emerged stronger than ever…how many churches get a free staff member….we are blessed beyond belief. Sarah and Dan have restarted women’s and men’s ministry and we are slowly moving into momentum in these new ministries. Our services have become more and more dynamic through the unappreciated and often unseen loyalty , tenacity, and commitment to excellence of Jon. Then Tony and other people have jumped in and now we have a worship environment that is more and more creative and intimate with our God. Amy Stephenson has created our atmosphere of hospitality and warmth, and her team make our rented space our home. Sandy has made our VBS truly missional joining with other churches, and we initiated the one-service last year with other churches and we had over a 1,000 last year and will have more this year. Heather has led our charge to be missional and we are going and loving people in more and more dynamic ways every day. Jeremy and Paul rebuilt our blogs and websites, did our invite cards, and a million other things. Jody has a team of dancers and God is carrying them around the nation and now the globe with worship-dance impact. We have repaired our relationships with Ezekiel church and Park Street, and others that were wounded in our time of captivity. We have started tithing to our denomination for church planting, we were given great officing space right across the street from the Chapel…and miracle of miracles we sold the ugliest building in Ashland when nobody believed we could! We gave over 10,000 dollars to Pumphouse after the fire; paid for thanksgiving for the Archway people; and are giving away nearly 1,000 a month to people in Ashland in need. I don’t have room for all the stories of what we have done for people! We have become a generous, outwardly focused church…we are becoming missional. This year we moved Nate to full time, brought Josh Sumpter in and now have a church that can really take care of people and families on every level. We were a church with a few college students but this year we have served the University in incredible ways. We moved in the freshmen, gave away all kinds of stuff, feed them at finals and sustenance meals, are about to have a senior service, students are preaching and have internships with us, adult mentors have jumped into the “grow small groups” and doubled attendance from last year, we will soon have some college deacons, filled the chapel with thousands of dollars worth of Bibles, and have helped the Well, FCA and other groups have a better worship environment. Wow! At this point I will slow down, not because I am out of stuff to say or people I could list but I’m not sure you will keep reading. So let me simply say PRAISE GOD!!! I mean really, look at how kind and compassionate He has been in rebuilding and restoring us. Our small groups are becoming a team under Nate Shultz; discipleship is growing deeper with Will; things are becoming what God wants. Our budget is healthy, more and more visitors, we Baptized almost 20 people this year, and are seeing people come and come back to Christ. I’m not making things up or trying to “spin” something from a perspective…this is Gods reality at work. Look at how good and gracious, how strong and mighty, how great is our God. Breath out a word of AMEN! We are not what we were, and we are becoming the Bride He wants us to be. We have passed through being victims, past through just surviving, past through our selfishness and are becoming servants to the community and college. Behold….look hard! Look at what he has done and say thanks.
2. That said there is more coming. And that more will be the things I write that I am asking you to pray about. They aren’t plans yet, they are simply prayers. We will then wait on these prayers and see what God says back as we move forward with and through Him and His strength. These things will take faith and obedience, they will take faith, courage and hope. They are impossible without Him, [as it should always be] for all things are possible with Him.
a. It is time. I have been waiting for 21 months for the day I felt I could say this and I will say it again this Sunday. It is time to grow. The time has past by for just surviving and stabilizing. We have built a good foundation and now is the time to grow deeper into God, deeper into community with each other, and deeper into the lives of the lost around us. It is time for each of us personally and as a church to really focus on these three things.
i. Set aside time for just God. It is time to grow strong in DEEP relationship with Him.
ii. Set aside time for deep community with our church family teams and small groups
iii. Set aside time for people who don’t know God. Really focus on your top 10 list. We now have a church that is ready for them. We aren’t perfect…but we are now strong enough to take care of more than ourselves…it’s time to take care of them. God loves them, and that is why we are here…to continue the ministry of Jesus as His hands, feet, and mouth.
b. It is time to fix a few things. This week we are bringing in some consultants to help us. They are a gift from God, apostles in a sense, and we will learn some wise things from them. Our sound system, the projectors…etc almost all our “stuff” that we use to create a “sacred space” for worship and ministry on Sunday is either cheap, broken, duct-taped, borrowed, or held together with bailing wire. We want to honor our space as the Temple was honored, and we desire to bless A/U which is going through a rough time financially. So here pretty soon we will do some fundraising to fix everything we use on Sunday and to also have better stuff for the center of religious life to use as our partners in ministry. Pray about what your part in this will, could, or should be. Doing things well is a part of stewardship and we want to do things well and bless others in how we do it and share it.
c. Lastly. Our offices are getting pretty cramped. We have an open office in the national office across the street that we pay 250 a month for. Me, Nate, Cindy, Josh…and an intern all try to use it. But it is getting pretty cramped. We need space for youth ministry, more offices, meeting space for the elders, deacons, and prayer teams. A place for the band to practice. Place for storage… And something MAY be on the horizon. I don’t yet know what God is doing, but I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing. I have been praying for us to have a place for us to spread out our stuff and do what we need to do, a place for our youth, a place for prayer and counseling, a place for small groups and fellowship, a place for meetings, a place for outreach, a place for younglife to borrow, and all of this in the context of being close to A/U. Where oh where could such a place be? Well, I have been praying for over a year for the old carpenter’s shop. I have prayed and waited, poked around and had conversations, prayed some more and waited. Nothing seemed to be moving, so I just kept praying and claiming and begging God. But I don’t want to pray alone anymore. So I am asking you to pray with me. The National office hasn’t rented it out yet and we aren’t yet at the place to be able to afford it at what they need. But what can God do?! I don’t know but I am asking him, and I am now asking you to ask him to. It is the perfect location, the perfect layout…we just need God to make the perfect timing, and the money available. Pray that IF this is His will, he will make it known. And if He makes His will known…H e will make a way for it to become reality.
That’s it friends. It has been such an honor being here. Moving here was not easy. It has cost me friends, a house, much heartbreak…but God through you is restoring my heart, my faith, my friendships. I have grown stronger as WE have grown stronger. And for that I deeply thank you.
God is good, all the time…and all the time God is good.
PS: I couldn’t mention everything, everyone has done in anything short of a novel. Rest assured if your name wasn’t listed above…God knows what you have done and He is well pleased. His pleasure with you, is enough. Believe me I know, for I have experienced it.