Posts Tagged ‘Church Order’


January 19, 2011 1 comment

Sunday was our first big church meeting.  We discussed realities on the ground: finances, the common bubble faced at 75 people, lives being changed, etc.  After this, we gave people a chance to gather in groups and discuss some questions and talk about where our church is and where it might go regarding space issues.  I didn’t join in a group so that they could talk without my…whatever…presence or influence or…I don’t know.  I thought they would talk more freely without me in the circles.  We got their responses and then we prayed as a church.

Tuesday night the leadership team met to go over what we heard on Sunday.  They know where I’m at and how I’m feeling, so I listened again.  My silent prayer was: God, speak through your people and your Spirit to give us guidance and wisdom.  They all agreed that the time to move is not yet upon us.  This was not what I was expecting.  In fact, this is not what I was hoping for.  If I’m honest, I thought we should get to moving because it would bring all kinds of added benefits besides space and less to pay in rent.

But they disagreed.  There was concensus around the room and I took that as my answer.  So here’s where we left it: we will stay where we are and make a new, concerted effort to grow.  The area we live in has 35% of the people not connected to a church, and so…we’ve got a lot of work cut out for us.  We want all those people to get the opportunity to engage God and the Son, Jesus Christ.

I think I’m learning a valuable lesson (after failing it miserably in the past): submission.  Perhaps we made the best move in our decision last night.  Perhaps not.  But since the leaning of the church, and the concensus of the leadership team feel that way, I would be a fool to push my differing opinion.  I submit to what the church is saying.  In fact, though this may be difficult to comprehend (it certainly is to me), there is a distinct possibility that I could be wrong.  Shocking, I know.

Sometimes, I think leadership means not getting too far out in front of the people you’re trying to lead.  And moving right now would apparently be just that.

One great thing that came out of our time as a church and a leadership team is some ownership.  I believe that many people, perhaps for the first time, had this thought: hey, if this church is going to make it, it’s up to me.

I’ve been praying for that.



January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

We had 95 people in worship yesterday!  I know.  Where did that come from? Right?  I’ll tell you:

Makenna Sue Slagh, one of our youngest worshipers, brought about 25 people.  She was baptized and brought the family.  It doesn’t hurt that her dad has 6 brothers.  We knew it was going to be a full day, so we pulled the chairs a little tighter and set up some wooden chairs in the back as well.  It was just great!

95 is terrific, but normally we’re not that large.  It was full, and a little crowded.  Felt wonderful and helped me see the future a bit.  It leads us well into this next week when we meet after worship for a church meeting.  We’ll be talking about our space issues and what’s next for Embody.  Here are some of the things that go into our conversation:

1. How we talk about it: this is our first big meeting and our first big decision. So HOW we make our decision is almost as important as what our decision is.  We don’t want our church to be a congregational church – meaning that all decisions are made by everybody (there’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s not to be our way).  Also, we don’t want to be episcopal – meaning that one person makes the decision and everyone else just goes along with it (also good, but not to be our way).  We’ll be presbyterian in our “polity” – meaning that there is a leadership group that makes the decision after hearing the heart and mind of the congregation. 

2. Prayer.  I’m going to ask everybody to pray in preparation for the meeting and we’ll pray during and after.  God will point us in the direction.

3. We are preparing Embody to think about the issue by giving them a survey. It allows people to answer some questions anonymously and to think through their answers on their own.  We’ll also have the results to tabulate.  Hopefully, many people will participate.

4. We aren’t just “willy nilly” having a meeting.  This really is an important decision and we really DO NEED the hearts and minds of the church to be shared. 

5. We’ll be sharing important information about our finances that give rise to our need to have the conversation.

6. Finances aside, we need to keep our church growing.  We’ve reached a point where many church plants plateau and end up dying.  They get comfortable with the people they have and close off and end up closing the doors.  We want to grow (not for numbers’ sake) because we want more and more people to know the goodness of God and the difference God makes in lives.

OK.  So, now that you know that…please pray for us.  I’ll let you know how the meeting goes.

Communion Police

December 7, 2010 1 comment

I’ve begun asking some questions about communion or The Lord’s Supper.  I know what my professors at seminary would say, and I respect them a lot, but is there something beyond what we can explain in textbooks?  I would venture a guess that many of my professors would probably say, “yes.”

In a church plant you have to walk some fine lines when it comes to church order and practical theology.  There are certain rules and ways of practicing the institution of communion that make good sense and make for a healthy life together as a church.  They can,  however, make things tricky in our setting.

For instance, when you create a welcoming space for worship where those who don’t believe are welcome to participate in the life of the body without believing, it can sound odd to then say, “everything but this.”  Now, you can say, it’s like a carrot, but at the very least it’s tricky.

There’s a part of the liturgy that invites all people who are baptized and members of a Christian church to participate in the meal together.  Confession time: I don’t say that.  I say something like this: “If you believe Jesus is the Son of God and put your faith in Him for salvation, you’re welcome to participate.  If not, that’s OK, because that’s where you are right now – you can feel free to come foreward also and receive a blessing.”

We don’t have communion police, and I don’t withhold the meal from those who I know to be questioning those very things.  I understand there are many who might say we are eating and drinking condemnation upon ourselves, but my hope is this: that there is something mystical in the elements or in the act of coming forward or in making the move with the feet and hands and mouth that creates a connection with Christ.  Is there something in the this non-Christian taking that step?  I think God blesses that and meets them there – somehow.

I’m holding the cup and as each person comes forward I’m praying for their faith and for the efficacy of Christ in their life.  What happens in holy Communion?  I’m not sure, but I’m praying for some miracle in the lives of those who participate.

Beyond 23.5 Degrees

October 16, 2010 1 comment


I was in Chicago.  It’s a lot of fun there.  Ah, the “Windy City”.  I got to really experience it from the window of my hotel room – overlooking the Fed Ex hangar at O’Hare International Airport.  I’m in denominational meetings regarding discipleship and Christian education.  Swanky hotel, cheap prices due to the downturn, funky chrome bathroom fixtures…you get the idea.

Sitting around the table are: a retired music teacher, a Canadian pastor, a college professor, the wife of an almond farmer who can write great resources for discipleship, and myself.  We’ve been together as a team for quite a while and our deep desire is to find ways to encourage people in our churches toward growing in faith and in Christ.

It’s a little frustrating.  Denominations are funny things.  We feel like doing things “together is better”, but that is a challenge because doing things “together” means working through systems.  Money plays in, too.  It can be a mess. 

So, sitting around the table are people passionate about helping people grow, but they are fenced in by stipulations and resources and red tape.  Each person is trying to come up with new and innovative ways to impress upon people of all ages that they NEED to take an intentional step in faith toward.  Oh, and they need to do it for free.

The difference between this group and the local pastor is that they don’t have the personal contact with the individuals they hope to influence.  Also, there’s no way of knowing if you’ve made a difference.  I think that if they could do one thing…just one thing it would be this: tilt the earth beyond its normal 23.5 degrees so that each person is at the very least leaning in the direction of Christ, and hope…and pray that every person will take a stumbling step toward a deeper walk with Christ and create some momentum for the individual and the local church.

Problem is: only God can tilt your earth.  And God has done just that.


October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Starbucks did it.  They gave us a new language.  Do you know what a “venti” is?  If you do, you’re drinking too much coffee at a single sitting.  If you don’t know what it is, try ordering a big coffee.

The world cup did it.  If you found yourself asking the question, “What is offsides?” you are entering a new language.

Alexander the Great did it.  He spread a language that would eventually be known as Koine Greek…a common language for all the known world to share.  And, consequently, paved the way for good news to be spread throughout the world.

The church did it a long time ago.  When they were in a position of power in the world (the argument about whether or not the church should ever be in “power” can happen elsewhere) they were able to force a language upon the world.

It won’t work anymore.  The church is no longer the power center of our culture.  That is scary to some and exciting for others.  I’m excited because it allows God’s people to speak into the lives of the powerless in a real and fresh way.  Here’s the problem: the church doesn’t know how to talk the language of the masses.  It’s plugging its ears and covering its eyes and not willing to recognize the plain and obvious truth: People don’t understand the old language.

When the preacher says, “sin”, people don’t recognize what that means…they don’t get it.  But what they do get is “selfishness”.  They get that they’re selfish, but not sinful.  The language of the church must MUST MUST join the new common language of the world.  The story mustn’t change, but the way we say it must.

Ed, Julie, Adam, Jim

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

There are four of us.  Ed, Julie, Adam, and myself.  We’re the first “Leadership Team” in Embody’s existence.  We will begin meeting within the first year of the church’s existence, and I’m sure that’s waaaay too late for such a first.  In fact, it probably would have been good to have that group start a lot earlier, but it didn’t, so…  I don’t know.  It just didn’t.

It seems like a big deal, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t it seem like this should be some momentous thing – the Leadership Team being formed?  But nobody’s baking a cake, and I’m not expecting the Holy Spirit to make firey tongues show up over our heads.  I think it’s just time for people other than just Jim to have some say in how we become who God is calling us to become.

“What does a leadership team do, Jim?”  Glad you asked.  Not sure.  I know that we’re going to pray together and probably study together.  The first Tuesday of each month will be an hour of that.  Then, the third Tuesday we’ll meet for 30 minutes for a “stand-up” meeting to get some business and decisions taken care of.  These are the people who will help make a decision about when it’s time to go to 2 services or which way to serve the community or exactly what things need to happen to move Embody into the next phase of ministry.

“How do you pick these people, Jim?”  Glad you asked.  That I know.  I look for these types of things: Have they been around for a significant amount of time?  Do they resonate with our vision and values?  Have they been financial givers?  Can I trust them?  Will they speak their mind in love?  Can they handle a stressful conversation with grace?  Do they love Jesus?  Do they trust Him?  Have they been people who pray?  Are they growing Christians?  And perhaps toward the top…this question: do they have a teachable spirit?

I need people who see the world in the same general way I do, but I need them to see it through different lenses.  I need them to have different gifts from my own.  I need them to be good at the things I’m not.  I need them to love me and to let me love them.  I need them to be OK with me being who I am, and I need them to be OK with who they are meant and created to be.  I need men and women who, with will follow Christ into the question mark with abandon.

Now, I guess I have to be all the things I need from them, too.  Come, Holy Spirit!

Jenna’s Big Day

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Jenna got baptized Sunday.  It was exciting.  There were maybe 90 people in the room and we had to put chairs out.  Her parents, grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and siblings were all in attendance to support her parents in their task of raising Jenna.  They were also there to say, “We do.”  That’s what we all said.

In the Reformed tradition we baptize infants as well as adults (if they come to faith later in life).  It might be a little different from your tradition, and I think that’s OK.  I grew up as a Baptist, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of baptizing an infant.  But, people begin to understand things a little differently as they grow and think and read for themselves.  I think that if I’m honest, I can understand both sides of the conversation pretty well, and if push came to shove on the matter, I would probably just pick myself up off the floor.  You couldn’t get me to argue with you.  I would probably just agree.  That means I think both ends of the conversation have merit.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about Jenna and the moment when we all said, “We do.”  It came as the congregation responded to this question: “Do you promise to love, encourage, and support Jenna by teaching the gospel of God’s love, by being an example of Christian faith and character, and by giving the strong support of God’s family in fellowship, prayer, and service?”

They all said, “We do.”  It was family, and it was a lot of Embody folks, and also a significant number of people from our parent church, First Reformed.  It means a lot to a parent to hear a group of 90 people make that promise to your little girl.

Two things: 1) We have to live up to that promise now.  It won’t be easy, but we have to be intentional about playing a role in Jenna’s life and witness.  We have to take seriously our vow to her and to her parents.

2) It was a moment when, whether people were thinking of this or not, we made a promise to do our best to be here in 18 years when she is on her way out of her parents’ door.  We insinuated in our vow that we would be a church that will support her and raise her up.  If she were to have understood what we were saying, she could have inferred that we promised that we were going to be an organism of the faithful that will grow just like her and as she grows to become an intelligent and lovely young lady, we will grow to be a congregation of faithful people who are continually growing in faith and in number.

I’m looking forward to watching both Jenna and Embody grow and become who God has planned for us to become.