About Impact

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Growing Up


Our Sunday School Class was recently discussing how the Church today faces some cultural challenges that are different from what the Church faced in the first century. One of the big differences we discussed was our highly individualistic culture. We view everything in the world through the eyes of “ME” instead of the eyes of “community” like I shared with you last month. We adopt the perspective from a very early age that everything is about ME.

This is natural for infants. When they want something, they cry. I’m hungry…cry until I’m fed. I need a new diaper…cry until I’m changed. I need attention…cry until someone holds me. I’m tired…cry until you rock me to sleep. This progresses as the infant grows. A child sees a toy or something they want yells, “MINE!” But as a child grows they reach a stage in their development in which they have to wrestle with the fact that there are others in the world and they have to learn to think about others too. Children learn to share and they continue to grow.

But while we may learn to share, we don’t always learn to move beyond ourselves. Our culture is constantly feeding our need for instant gratification. Our culture has trained us to look for the easy and convenient way to have our desires fulfilled. What can you do for me? How are you going to make me feel good? How will you fulfill my desires and meet what I perceive as my needs?

Unfortunately, this very worldly perspective is carried into the Church all the time. What can this local church do for me? How is your congregation going to make me feel good every Sunday? How is your worship service and programing going to fulfill my desires? How are you going to meet my needs. This is the wrong perspective as a disciple of Christ, but we are all guilty of it from time to time. We allow ourselves to become a bunch of babies refusing to grow up in Christ. It is time to grow up, church!

Evidently the church in Corinth struggled with this as well. Paul writes to them in 1 Corinthians 3 saying that even after hearing his teaching he still needed to give them milk because they were still like spiritual babies, not growing. The writer of Hebrews warned about this struggle as well. In chapters five and six we find the original readers of Hebrews had been taught long enough that they ought to be able to teach others, but they weren’t doing so. The author seems to be pretty upset about it as well: “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…”

Do not fall prey to the world’s teaching to satisfy every desire above all other things. We don’t see Jesus living this way and we can’t live that way. Sunday morning is not about us! It is about bringing glory and honor to God our Savior. We must stop looking for worship services and church programs to make us feel good; instead we must start bringing everything we have, whether great or small, to the throne of God in worship. We must stop looking for people who look like us or are the same as us; instead we must start looking for and celebrating the image of God in those around us. We must stop looking for the local church to do the programs we want, sing the songs we want, or to do things the way we prefer; instead we must start listening to the Holy Spirit and follow His prompting to go deeper, serve well, and reach out to others.

Church, I’m begging you. We must stop being babies! This year seems like a good year for us to move past the childish things, to stop drinking only milk, and to start eating solid food. Growing up is not always easy, but we must take the next step towards becoming more like Jesus. As the author of Hebrews says later in chapter six. “And God permitting, we will do so.” May 2016 be a year of growing for us as a church family of disciples.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Community

I love people! Enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about life with someone is one of my favorite things to do. I have been known to spend hours visiting with someone I’m just meeting for the first time. This is one reason why I loved doing campus ministry. Great ministry happens with college students while you are hanging out at the campus coffee house. I love to do my office work at a coffeehouse because there are people there, and you can talk to them. People are awesome!

People annoy me! I go grocery shopping and Cranky Carla is yelling at the sweet lady in front of her with two crying kids to move faster through the check out line. I watch Speedy Sam cut someone off on the highway and then honk and flash his favorite finger out the window. We have become a culture that worships instant gratification and demands things to be done our way in our time frame. Everything else is an inconvenience…including other people.

I confess that I love and hate people. How can that be? It’s simple. Community is hard, very hard. We were created to be in community with God and with others. Our souls, our body, our minds crave it. (This includes introverts!!) Numerous studies have proved this. However, for some reason very few of us are willing to put in the hard work that is required to experience genuine community. Real community doesn’t run away when it gets hard. It sticks together and fights to stay together. Real community doesn’t sit on the sidelines. It runs to the field working and playing hard. Real community doesn’t take the wide, paved road. It takes the narrow, rocky path and makes sure everyone survives the journey. NO MATTER WHAT!

When Jesus calls his disciples, he calls them to live in community. It is part of the call. For three years these guys did everything together. You can’t tell me that they always got along perfectly. But they were committed to Jesus, which meant being committed to each other. If we are going to be disciples of Jesus we have to practice community. It isn’t an option. It isn’t up for debate. But it doesn’t happen magically on its own. You have to do some work and be intentional about building relationships.

I want to offer this challenge: to intentionally seek community this month. Last month I talked about disciples being committed to the Text. Jump into a one of the new Adult Bible Classes starting and practice community while studying together. If you are already attending a class, find time to share a meal with a family in the church. Let’s not be a church family that picks and chooses what parts of discipleship we are going to obey. Let’s be a church family that is following in the steps of our rabbi. Who’s with me?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lessons from Pomegranates


While I was serving as a campus minister in California, I would walk and pray around campus several times a week, hiking the hills on the back side of campus. The route lead me past the school’s garden, which included a handful of pomegranate trees. I know people who refuse to eat pomegranates. It is just too much work because they have so many seeds and very little fruit. They miss out on the sweet taste of the fruit and the many health benefits that pomegranates hold. I, however, love pomegranates!  Even though it takes a lot of hard work, the goodness of the sweet fruit is worth it.

Last month I shared a little bit of what it meant to be a disciple following and learning from a rabbi. It was hard work. Disciples were expected to know the Hebrew Text, what our Bibles call the Old Testament, and know it very well. Starting at age five, children would go to school and start studying and memorizing Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Students who were really bright would go on to study and memorize the entire rest of the Hebrew Text. Yes. Memorize. By the time you were 12, you most likely had the entire scripture memorized. I struggle to memorize a few verses, but the word of God is so sweet and good and so important that these students memorized every word.

“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” Psalm 19:9-10

In Torah, there are 613 commandments that the early disciples committed to memory and devoted their lives to following. Science has shown that there are approximately 613 seeds in a pomegranate. What an incredible picture for us! Disciples are a people of the text. For the apostles it was the Hebrew Text. For us disciples today it is the Hebrew Text AND the New Testament. We must be a people of the Text, the Bible. We have to be a people who are getting the text in us. Even though it is hard work to dive into the Text and allow it to get into our hearts, it is absolutely worth it.

When you break open a pomegranate, all of these seeds fall out. If I was to be broken open, what would fall out. Would it be the words of Jesus? Would it be the Text? Or would it be my words, because I didn’t want to put in the hard work to get to the goodness of God’s word. I want to be a person of the Text. I want the words of God to be in me, a part of who I am. Would you join me in being a disciple of Jesus and a student of the Word of God?

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Discipleship


Fall in Michigan is certainly different than fall in California. One of the things I am looking forward to most about returning to the Midwest is the beauty of the autumn colors. In California, autumn is very much like summer, but hopefully a little cooler. There is nothing major that marks the changing of seasons like the changing colors of leaves blanketing the ground.

New seasons can be both exciting and uncertain. They are always a time for growth! My role as the Discipleship Minister at Bangor Church of Christ is to help all of us as a church family grow as disciples. Over the next few months, I would like to take the time to remind us all what it means to be a disciple of Christ that is living out the Kingdom of God.

When we think of disciples, we often think of twelve ragamuffins who followed Jesus around. Simply put a disciple is a student, but what a disciple looks like is drastically different than sitting in a classroom for a few hours every day. A rabbi would only chose disciples who he believed held the potential to be like him and were the best of the best. He would then invite that disciple to “Come. Follow me.” The disciple would then spend every minute of every day following the rabbi everywhere he went attempting to do everything the rabbi does just like the rabbi does. A good disciple looked just like his rabbi in how he lived, spoke, and taught.

Jesus approaches his twelve disciples and says “Come. Follow me.” In that simple statement he is telling them he believes they are good enough, the best of the best, even if they have already been passed over by other rabbis. Jesus is asking all of us to come and follow Him. He believes we can be transformed into greater reflections of Him. The invitation has been extended. Will you join me as together we strive to follow our rabbi in all things and try to live like Jesus?

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Ministry Adventures

When I started considering joining Impact's staff several years ago, there were two things about the organization that resonated deeply with me; their commitment to discipleship and to doing ministry in teams. While the language may have been different, these were two things I had been committed to in my personal ministry and now that my time with ICM has come to an end, I have become even more committed to them.

I have loved having the opportunity to disciple college students in their pursuit of Jesus, learn to live out their faith, and find ways to use their gifts, talents, and passions to share Christ and do Kingdom work.

I am thrilled to share with you that my next chapter in ministry will allow me to continue to disciple others towards doing Kingdom work. Beginning in early September I will begin my role as the Associate Minister at the Bangor Church of Christ (BCC) in Bangor, MI. I will be overseeing the different ministries of the church, equipping people to serve in those ministries, and making sure each team is functioning well. I am very excited about the opportunity to disciple people to take steps in their relationship with Christ and to serve like Him.

I am looking forward to serving alongside of my fiance, the senior minister of BCC, the elders, and the BCC church family. There is a great need to share the love of Christ with the Bangor community and I am excited to see how God will use us to further His Kingdom and make His name known in Bangor and the surrounding areas.

Thank you once again for your continued support and encouragement during my time at Impact and through this transition. I am so grateful for your partnership as we seek to pursue, model, and teach Christ together.