Posts Tagged ‘First Church’

Sermon Notes

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Pastor Dan from First Church and I swapped pulpits today.  I told Alex that I wanted to know what Dan preached about, so I was asking him to take notes during the sermon.  The passage was John 2:1-11, Jesus turning water into wine.  Following are the notes he took, separated by commas:

old scripture, dan doesn’t understand it, cind of a part of a puzzle, Angels talking about what Jesus might do, wedding in Gallale, Jesus, Deciples invited, talking about wine the best is Jesus blood, smart guy named rodney – studies gods and goddisis, jurny found 1 temple with 100,000 skulls, sacrifice them to the gods, mean guys thats wat people in the olden days were like, they came to Isreal to do bad stuff, wedding whole comuniys there, wine gone, weddings usaly 7 days of food, wine dude screws up, peple laugh at them, its not there foult, there misreble, Jesus comes up with a plan, they have no more wine, Jesus: I’m no longer just belong to you, I belong to the world., saves them, first mericle, turns water into wine, happiest day of his and there life, take big stuff to him, take little stuff too he cares about everything, what matters to you matters to God, this scripture takes along time to understand

Those are the notes he took.  Not bad.  Kind of proud of the little guy for paying such good attention.  I can see that kids of that age are definitely able to pay attention and get a lot out of a sermon.  I should never discount their presence and their ability.  Perhaps we should start expecting a little more out of children in worship and in life.

At what age do we start allowing children to lead us in one way or another?  At what age do we allow children to make important decisions alongside the adults?  I have a bit of a grip with the church, and it’s this: I hear complaints from pastors all the time about the missing generation (people from 18-28).  Seems we lose our children for about 10 years after graduation and only get them back (maybe) when they have children of their own and remember the importance of raising your children in the company of other believers.

I don’t have the answers to this challenge, but I propose this: why not treat them like part of the church before they’re 28?  Why separate them all the time?  Why not incorporate them in important decisions, ask them their opinions, take their point of view into council?  Why not have a teenager on every important task force or ministry team?  Help them prepare for being an adult in the church by taking them seriously.

Maybe, just maybe their involvement will give them enough ownership in their own faith and faith community that they’ll know how to act as an adult believer when they come of “age” … whatever that means.  Perhaps we should be taking a few sermon notes from them, huh?


White Socks in Sandals

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I got hooked on a series of books – and this after not even finishing the first book.  Good book.  I’m sitting at Barnes and Noble, where I came looking for #2 in the series.  I’m not going to tell you what the series is.  Chances are that you’ve never heard of it, or the author, but just to be safe I’m not going to tell you because I want you to think I’m reading high-falutin’ pastor books.  You know the type – theologically rich and full of practical, useful advise for church planting or pastoral care.  Nope.  Sorry.

Anyhow, I found the book and was going to start working on the sermon for Sunday morning when I came across two men from our parent church – First Reformed in Holland.  One is a retired minister.  The other is the past vice president of consistory (that’s the leadership board of the church – for those who aren’t into the RCA lingo).  He’s retired from working a big-wig corporate job.  Two men who, I know for a fact of my gut, have been praying for Embody and rooting me on.

At one time these two would speak and things would move.  They would write a memo or a sermon and the world would go spinning.  The corporation would take notice or the congregation would be moved by the Word of God.  They had a certain power – all given to them from someone else.

Now they sit (I can see them from where I’m sitting) looking like just a couple of retired guys in their mid 60’s.  One’s been retired longer than the other – he has the clothes figured out a little better than the guy who’s still dressed like he could go back to work on casual Friday.  They sip coffee and, though I can’t hear them, I would imagine chatting about two very different things.

Weather and sports and family is one thing.  I can see them laughing.  Then, you can see that the conversation is turning deeper.  They lean in, the coffee an afterthought.  Their heads nod understanding back and forth.  Each caring for the other in their listening.  I can only imagine the secret pains and joys passed back and forth.

These are the men who have run our country from behind desk and pulpit.  These are the men who have attained the height of success in their field.  Now they are 60 something and finally have finished the precursor to the real meat of their story.  They’ve attained some wisdom and experience, some wounds and scars.  They’ve learned the perries and thrusts of the battle with spirit and flesh.

And now, finally they are ready.  Ready for that most important task of their life – passing it on.  They can share 60 years of experience with some young man, some young and eager business man or pastor who will, like them, draw the future by their words and their understanding of a great God.  They can pass along to someone the things that only years can teach.  All it takes is the willingness and ability to see in some younger person the possible future of the world and tap them on the shoulder and then walk with them.

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.

Snow-headed Saints

I don’t know how many people worshipped with us on Sunday.  250? 300? 350?  I don’t know.  All I  know is that it was beautiful.  There were so many grey heads out there, I thought maybe it had started snowing.  In reality, it was foggy and cool when the forecast had called for a pretty good chance of rainstorms that morning.  So, I’ll take the fog…and I’ll take the snow headed saints.  There were loads of people with brown and black and blond and no hair, pig tails and buzz cuts, but it’s the white hair that most encourages me.

I got a big hug from my friend Betty (plenty old enough to be my grandmother) who said something that absolutely blew my mind.  She said, “This is a big day for me.”  It’s not what I was expecting.  My egocentric mind expected that she would think it was a big day for me (Jim) or for our church, but that’s not what she said.  She said it was a big day for her.  This is proof to me of what I’ve known for a year and a half about Betty – she is praying like crazy for me and for our new church.

She has owned this ministry to such a deep level that all the preparation, all the potluck food, all the weather, all the audio and video, all the songs chosen by Lee, all the games planned, and every person who showed up were weighing on her heart.  I’m confident that Betty prayed far more than I did for our big outdoor service.  It was a big day for her.

The day was great.  I can’t say it large enough to express it here.  The greatness is measured (in my opinion) by the number of smiles, the friendships created, the God worshiped, the good feeling and mojo that covered the whole area.  But I think the greatest thing that happened for me personally was hearing what Betty had to say in the middle of that parking lot hug, “This is abig day for me.”  God, help me pray that hard about things.

Half a Rant

Where Andrew Peterson and the Captains Courageous are Playing

What do you do the day before an enormous event?  Tomorrow we’re having a joint worship service with our parent church.  The worship will be outside and we’ll follow it with a huge potluck meal and then games for everyone.  Should be great fun.  Of course there’s a big chance of thunderstorms…but I can’t control that.  We do what we can and make a decent plan B.

So what would you be doing on the day before something like this?  Here’s what I’m doing: going to a summer celebration at Cran Hill Ranch (RCA summer camp) that is topped off by a concert from one of our favorite artists: Andrew Peterson.

Here’s my rant: I have delegated all the things that need to be done.  My job, then is to preach and lead worship.  I can’t control every detail.  What kind of church would we be starting if we began putting into the DNA of the congregation that you just let the professional minister take care of everything?  I’ll answer that: not a church that any pastor would ever want to serve.  So, I surround myself with people who are gifted and passionate.  I help them with the things I can help them with and then let them do their thing.  I release them for ministry without too many constraints.  People are made to serve; why would we restrain them. 

Here’s what’s going to help more than anything this week – I listen to an artist who talks about the Kingdom of God.  There are far too few of those in the “Christian” arts.  Sorry.  That’s a rant for another time. 

So…Andrew Peterson tonight!  If you heard his music, and that of some of the guys he has around him like Andy Gullahorn, you’d be totally jealous right now.

Get me to the church on time…

June 9, 2010 1 comment

Sunday I got the chance to make an announcement at First Reformed Church.  I invited everyone to be a part of our our big joint worship/meal/game shindig this week.  Here’s the math:

Set up audio/visual at Embody at 8am.

Drive to First Church at 8:45

Sit through long organ prelude (good, but long)

Make announcement at 9:37

Get to car and head back to Embody 9:39

Arrive at Embody9:57

Meet with worship team to pray 10:00

Worship starts promptly at 10:08

OK.  That’s not really the point.  The point is this: as I’m sitting at a red light, in a hurry to get to the next spot by the next deadline I see something nifty.

In the rear view mirror I see a man obviously dressed for church.  He’s eating a poptart at the red light.  His wife is leaning forward looking in the mirror putting on makeup.  I forget the name of the makeup.  It was the kind you put on your eyelashes.

It helped me remember that everyone is showing up to worship from somewhere, and from something.  These two were in a hurry…maybe late like me.  Someone else might be in the middle of a big fight.  Others are frazzled by the kids.  Some are sad because they know they are going to go to church and see a bunch of kids when they aren’t able to have their own.

My challenge: help people come from wherever they are and entering the presence of God where they can honestly approach, hear, and respond to the living God. 

Kind of helps if I show up on time.

Yay, you’re going to let me be myself!

One week from the moment of this post I plan on taking a nap.  It will have been a busy day full of all our church activities x6 or so.  Our plan is to have about 300 people out at our church building for a joint worship service of Embody and First Reformed Church (our parent church).  After worship we’ll have a huge potluck.  After the potluck we’ll have a few hours of playing games and fun activities.  It’s a big BIG undertaking. 

As a church planter, here is what I’m good at: providing an atmosphere that is warm and inviting, inviting others to participate, preaching, and having good conversations. 

Here is what I’m not good at: organizing and planning.

Here’s what thrills me: being involved in the process of people recognizing God in their midst and encountering God in a way that challenges them to trust and take the next step with a living, engaging God.

Here’s what scares the bajeebees out of me: trying to make all the details of this happen.

Here’s the story: after worship today a group of about 6 women met to discuss details.  They began firing great questions at me regarding what will happen next week.  It didn’t take long before I had to make this confession – “I have to admit to you all that this area is my weakest point.”  Then I began to ask this – “Could I just let you all work the details?”  But I didn’t get that far.  I got this far, “Could I…” Then I was interrupted by a wonderful woman who extended a bucket of grace to me by saying, “Could you just walk out of the room and let us do our thing?”  or something to that effect.

I walked out of the room and put my forehead into the shoulder of a good friend and said, “Thank God for the body of Christ.  I am not gifted to do that stuff, but they are.”

It’s a tough balance to walk: the tightrope between delegating according to giftedness and relinquishing all responsibilities.  I am grateful for a family of faith that will allow me to be who I am and not force upon me the things that don’t fit with who God has made me to be.   

                                                                      * Bonus points for anyone who can tell me where the name of this post came from