Tag Archives: ministerium

Is your church too small?

12 Sep

Why are there so many Christian churches and denominations?  Can’t you all just get along?

Maybe the fact that there are so many churches and denominations is proof that Christianity is false.  Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21 that not only his twelve disciples, but also those who would become his followers through the ministry of the twelve, would be one, unified.  Does the presence of all the various denominations mean Jesus’ prayer request has failed?  He prayed that we would be one, and yet there are thousands upon thousands of Christian denominations and independent churches.  How are we to think about this?

To answer that, we continue looking at an event that happened in Deuteronomy 3:12-20.  With the defeat of King Og, Israel has conquered the land on the eastern side of the Jordan.  You can read about that in verses 12-17.  This is the first fulfillment of the promise God gave to Abraham to give his family the land.  500 years have gone by, and this is a huge moment, as a couple of the tribes are given their land on the east side of the Jordan

Look now at verses 18-20. This section shows how God is commanding the tribes of Israel to help each other.  We’re now at a part in the narrative where God is giving direction about what is to happen next as the people enter the Promised Land.  Up until this point in Deuteronomy, Moses has been retelling the nation’s history to the new generation. They are encamped on the east side of the Jordan.  So far 2 ½ tribes have been given their inheritance land on that side of the River.

Now Moses is about to convey what they should do next.  It would be very easy for those 2 ½ tribes to settle down, build houses, start farming, and finally relax.  God says NO.  The fighting men from those 2 ½ tribes must continue across the Jordan and help out their brother tribes.  Once their brother tribes have been established, then the 2 ½ can go back to their families and make their start.

It is an “all for one and one for all” mentality.  God is a God of unity, and he wants his people to be unified.  We Christians have many tribes too, and we tend to fight against each other rather than support one another.  This is why I am convinced that Faith Church, while remaining faithful to our EC “tribe”, must also be incredible supportive of the other churches in our community.  This is why we have sought to be involved to a high level in our local Ministerium.  It is why I’m so glad we’re renting to The Door and seeking to work together.  We need each other.  We should not be territorial.  We’re all part of the same family.

I encourage you to read John Armstrong’s excellent book, Your Church Is Too Small.  I was greatly encouraged and challenged by it.  I had been youth/associate pastor at Faith Church for six years, and senior pastor for about 2 years before I read Armstrong’s book.  During those years, Faith Church had very little interaction with any other community churches, except for our sister churches within our denomination.  Personally I felt competition with other local churches.  A family from Faith Church might move on to a different local church, and it would leave me frustrated and angry, with a bitter feeling toward that other church.  Then a good friend put Armstrong’s book in my hands, and it was life-changing.  One day, perhaps a month or so after reading the book, there was a knock on our church office door.  It was a local pastor whom I had never met.  He was representing the local ministerium, as they had reorganized and were seeking to include every church in our school district.  I marveled at the timing, and felt God was at work.  I jumped at the chance to practice the principles of unity Armstrong teaches in his book.

When he refers to “church” in his title, he is not talking about our individual local churches.  Instead he suggests that we Christians widen our view of church.  It is okay to have tribes, different denominations, within the larger church.  We are not called to uniformity, as if all of us need to become one uniform denomination with totally uniform beliefs and practices.  Instead we are called to unity.  We can practice the selfless and support that we see God requiring of the tribes of Israel.  We can work together, share, help one another.

I have said for years now that, in our school district, Conestoga Valley, though there are many churches, it cannot be said that we do not work together.  I am so thankful for our ministerium, and how our wide variety of churches support one another.  Together the churches of CV launched a social services organization called Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services, that has taken off and is making a wonderful impact in our community, especially through feeding the hungry and clothing those in need.  Our ministerium runs two Homes of Hope, helping people transition out of homelessness.  Every year we give the CV School District social worker thousands of dollars in benevolence funding for families in need.  We provide an annual scholarship to a graduating senior going to college to study ministry.    Our CV Ministerium pastors pray together, study the Bible together, and we bring our congregations together for worship a couple times each year.  I could go on and on.

So how about you and your church family?  Is your church too small?  How can you practice the selfless unity God expects?

Crumbs, Lists, Notes, and more – Monday Messy Office Report 11/10/14

10 Nov

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy on Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. Crumbs and other telltale signs that people were here.  Brownie crumbs on the counter, leftover from the brownies served during coffee break yesterday.  A scribble page (which we keep in our sanctuary pews for kids) with lots of scribble on it.  You know the kind of scribbles you make when a pen is not working and you’re trying to get the ink flowing again?  There was also something missing from my office.  When I walked into my office to gather up my laptop and coat on the way out the door after worship and classes yesterday, my phone was gone.  It wasn’t the first time that has happened, so while it is initially startling to see that it is gone, I remembered the previous occurrences and wasn’t worried.  All these pieces of evidence, the crumbs, scribbles, and missing phone, all point to one group of people.  My kids.  I’m glad that my office becomes their hangout after church, and I’m even glad to clean up after them, though it would be nice for them to learn to take care of that themselves!  That will be a talk for another day.

2. Notes and things.  All manner of notes were in my office today.  One is from a faithful volunteer who was giving me a record of the visits that made the previous month.  I am super-thankful for the people in our congregation who visit others, especially the hospitalized and homebound.  Faith Church is medium-size, and though not large, it is not sustainable to think that I, the pastor, could visit all our people on a regular basis.  There was also in my office a check, paying to reimburse the church for a book that one of our classes is studying. This is one of two months throughout the year that we pause our regular classes and offer month-long electives.  One of the those electives is studying a book on marriage, another a book on being a mentor-leader, and a third is a class about relationships.  The classes have been wonderful!  I also found a recommendation form for one of our congregation who is going back to school.  You might not realize it but pastors are often called up to make recommendations.  I have done so for high school students doing class projects, getting their Eagle scouts, for people applying for jobs, for school and for other organizations.  It is a pleasure to support our people that way!

lists3. Lists.  I knew these were here, but I thought I would tell you about them anyway.  One is a list of leaders from the church who have responded to say they are coming to a leader’s drop-in that we’re having next month.  The next is a list of ministerium members who are coming to next month’s ministerium meeting at a local restaurant (who needs a count).  There is also a list of men coming on our Men’s Retreat at Twin Pines in a couple weeks.  And finally some Advent lists, as the joyous Season of Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  This year we not only have a list of people that lighting the Advent Wreath each Sunday, but we also have a list of people that are creating original art for each week using our art panels.  Then we also have a list of people that are speaking at our Christmas Eve service.  For years we did this on Good Friday, often using the Seven Last Sayings of Christ on the Cross.  But since we have started participating in the ministerium’s Community Good Friday service, we were missing the opportunity of hearing from our own people.  Christmas Eve became the perfect spot for this, and on that night each speaker will give a mini-sermon from the vantage point of one of the main characters of the Nativity Story.  I can’t wait!

And for those of you who are list-makers, I thought this article was helpful.

Well, now it’s time to clean up this mess!

Worship in the Park and Summer Vacation

6 Jun

worshipintheparkThis weekend is the first of two Worship in the Park Sundays that Faith Church has been holding for the last 3-4 years, and thankfully the weather is forecast to be beautiful!  We set up our worship band in the High Pavilion at East Lampeter Community Park, and enjoy worshipping God in the gorgeous surroundings of the Park.  Our Township does a wonderful job keeping the park fun and attractive.  So we invite all of you to join us!  Added to the surroundings, our Bishop will be with us.  Bruce Hill has been a pastor and leader in the Evangelical Congregational Church for a number of years, and he has been our Bishop for the last three.  He is a creative leader with a bold vision and a heart for God and his Kingdom.  In preparation for his message on Sunday, perhaps you’ll take a few minutes and read his address to our denomination’s National Conference last week.  During worship in the park, we’ll also celebrate communion and take a special offering to support our missionaries.

Warmer weather means not only Worship in the Park, but also summer vacation.  My family will travel to Texas next, as we are looking forward to vacationing with family.  That means on June 15, Phil Bartelt will be continuing our series in 1 Corinthians, and I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a few weeks.  It has been a blessing to have Phil, Lisa, and their kids as members of Faith Church now for almost a year!  On June 22, we have another special opportunity, the Conestoga Valley Ministerium Pulpit Exchange.  Pastor Tom Eshleman of Groffdale Mennonite Church will be with us, and I will be preaching at Zion Lutheran Church of Leola.  Tom has been pastor at Groffdale since September, 2009. He, his wife Jennifer, and their three children came to Groffdale in 2005 as associate/youth pastor. Prior to that he taught elementary school in Harrisonburg, VA. Born and raised in Lancaster, PA, he holds a BA degree from Eastern Mennonite University and a Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary.  I wish I could be there to hear Tom, so I’ll have to check out the podcast!  I’ve gotten to know Tom a bit through the ministerium, and I’ve come to appreciate his obvious passion for Christ.

June is a busy month at Faith Church.  Ballroom dance has started back up on Tuesday evenings.  The Summer Lunch Program begins on the 16th, and we could still use your help volunteering for that.  It’s going to be a great summer!