A True Kingdom Effort

This morning something really cool is happening in Berlin.  Two churches from different denominations are coming together for worship.

SonRise Church and the Ocean City Worship Center have spent the past four weeks doing a series on the Kingdom of God.  Their pastors planned the series together and each one preached it at his church.  This morning the series is culminating in a joint worship service led by pastors, musicians, and others from both churches.

SonRise is a Southern Baptist Church and the Worship Center is affiliated with the Assemblies of God.  But rather than focusing on their differences, they’re focusing on what they have in common: their Object of worship, Jesus Christ.

Pretty cool stuff, huh?

Published in: on September 30, 2007 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Review of “Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be”

The other day I finished reading Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be by John D. Roth.  It’s one of the best church books I’ve ever read–it definitely deserves re-reading.

In order to avoid the common mistake of telling the Anabaptist story by starting in the sixteenth century, Roth opens up by relating the story of Jesus and His first followers, and summarizes the first three centuries of the Christian faith.  He then moves to the conversion of Constantine, the Roman emperor, and explains why that was a defining moment in the history of the church.

Roth provides an overview of the next thousand years, then explains the events of the Protestant Reformation.  Only then does he introduce the Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter of the story.  Indeed, only against the background of the early church, the Catholic church, and the Reformation can we really understand Anabaptists as the reformers of the Reformation.  Only in this context can we see the striking parallels between the early church and the sixteenth-century Anabaptist movement, and between the sixteenth-century movement and the position we find ourselves in today.  (The parallels with today’s Mennonite church can be seen in various periods all throughout the history of the Anabaptist movement.)

As I continued reading, I was really appreciative of the scope Roth uses to tell the Anabaptist-Mennonite story.  It really is unique!  He gives us the how and why of Anabaptists’ break with the Protestant reformers, gives a straightforward account of their persecution (neither exaggerated nor understated), and explains the scattering of the Anabaptist-Mennonite church across the globe and how this dispersion has affected the faith.

Consistent with the insight and depth of the book, Roth brings us up to the present day (very present–the book was published only 10 months ago) and helps us understand what impact our past has on our present and our future.  He explains the trademarks that distinguish Mennonites from other Christians and helps us to see them as the framework for understanding the future path of the church.

I won’t get into the details of Mennonite history and theology here, since this is just a review of the book and not a retelling of it.  But I strongly encourage you to check it out for yourself.  It’s a very informative, well-written, sensibly organized, fascinating handling of the Mennonite story.  It’s an easy read, but thought-provoking as well.  Several times I was struck by Roth’s insight and had to put the book down to reflect on the powerful truths he illuminated.

Whether you’re intimately familiar with the Anabaptist-Mennonite story or have never even heard of it, this book would be a great place to learn more about this amazing chapter in the story of God’s dealings with people.

Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  

CrossWay On Purpose – Session 13

On Wednesday, 12 of us had a good discussion in Session 13 of CrossWay On Purpose. We started out by talking briefly about some Mennonite distinctives–that is, things that make us Mennonite as opposed to another denomination. We had an icebreaker, reviewed last week’s discussion, and got down to business.

Most of our time was spent talking about how we can prepare ourselves so we’ll be ready when we reach out to others. We considered a hypothetical situation: Suppose a hundred first-time guests showed up this Sunday–what would we do? How can we be prepared to welcome the new people we connect with, and help them to have a positive experience? The ideas flowed, and included the following:

  • We need to have a servant mentality and attitude. This means we need to be attentive to people’s needs, be flexible, and be ready and willing to help in any way we can.
  • We need to have our facilities ready. This would include having enough chairs to seat everyone in the sanctuary, having parking lot attendants to guide traffic, having clear signs in place to guide people where they need to go… and even (if not especially!) tending to details such as having an ample supply of toilet paper.
  • We need to have equipped greeters posted outside and inside at both doors. Greeters need to be friendly, greet people with a smile, and offer helpful information such as where the kids ministry is located.
  • We need to have worship bulletins that are attractive, easy to read, informative, and interesting. And we need to make sure we have plenty to go around!
  • We need ushers who are ready to set up extra chairs and provide for other practical needs that might arise.
  • We need to have space and workers for a nursery and for kids ministries.
  • We need to be organized so that we can work as a team, each person knowing and doing his or her part.
  • A nice touch would be to have gifts for all our guests. We could easily do something simple and economical yet nice, such as give away CrossWay mugs filled with candy, a pen, a flier, etc.
  • It would be helpful to have something like coloring/activity books for kids whose parents choose to keep them in the worship service.
  • We need a follow up plan. This could include things like a follow up letter with a self-addressed, stamped First Impressions card inviting our guests to offer feedback on their experience.
  • We need people to clean up the facility after everyone has cleared out.
  • We need to be flexible and expect the unexpected.

After this discussion, we tossed around some ideas for how we can reach people in practical ways. This conversation will be continued next week, our last Wednesday night session of CrossWay On Purpose, when we plan our first church wide outreach event. We closed with a time of prayer.

Published in: on September 28, 2007 at 7:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Eastern Shore Priorities

This morning on the way to the office I saw this amusing K-Coast bumper sticker:

“MY KID SURFS BETTER THAN YOUR HONOR STUDENT”

Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Bible Horror Movie

One of the really cool things I enjoy about being married to Carolyn is having a wife who reads the Bible with me.  We’ve done different kinds of Bible study/reading together.  The past few months we’ve been reading through a chronological Bible, which arranges the Bible (or at least attempts to) according to the order in which events actually occurred.  (The way Scripture is ordered, a lot of events overlap or jump back and forth in history.) It’s been pretty interesting.

Carolyn has a bunch of great insights into the stuff we read–insights and funny comments.  It’s so interesting to read the Bible with someone and get another person’s perspective on what we’re reading.

Recently we were reading in Ezekiel 37 about the dry bones that came back to life.  I’d encourage you to click on the link in that last sentence and read the story for yourself, but here’s a brief summary: God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a field full of old human bones.  The bones started moving and pieced themselves together into a bunch of skeletons.  Then muscles and tendons and guts formed on them.  Then they got covered with skin.  So there are all these dead bodies lying there.  Then God summons the wind, and He uses it to blow the breath of life into the bodies and they come alive.

I’ve read that story and heard it preached about several times (usually in a message about revival), but never thought of something until Carolyn pointed it out when we read it recently: This story sounds like something out of a horror movie!  If someone decided to make a film out of this passage, it’d be an R-rated horror flick.  Spooky, gory stuff!  Carolyn pointed out that even after they come alive, she pictured them looking like an army of spaced-out zombies.  I’d probably run!

I mean, try to visualize that actually happening.  It’s pretty creepy. Eeww, even.

Published in: on September 26, 2007 at 7:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Where Do People Get This Stuff?!?

My wife saw a pretty funny bumper sticker yesterday:

“If it ain’t King James, it ain’t the Bible.”

Ahh, the irony is almost unbearable!

Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  

CrossWay On Purpose – Session 12

Last Wednesday we had a great discussion with the 10 who were present for CrossWay On Purpose.  It really seemed like God was answering our prayers for clarity and direction.

We started out by looking at a picture of the Rosetta Stone.  I felt kind of guilty because the previous week I’d dumped a ton of information on everyone, but didn’t really give them the key to sort out and understand all the data.  So in this session I gave them the Rosetta Stone, the key to making sense of the giant lists we’d compiled over two or three months.

This “Rosetta Stone” was a much simplified list, with key phrases in bold red.  They were put in order to progress logically.  There were five lists, each pertaining to one of the purposes of the church that we found through our survey of Scripture.  On large sheets of chart paper, I made an even shorter list of key words that were drawn from the key phrases.  I know this sounds confusing, but the idea was to condense all the information and whittle away at it until a clear picture began to emerge.

And it happened!

This is what we came up with:

(1) One of God’s purposes for CrossWay Church is to come together to experience worship of Jesus. Key words: experience, come to, worship, together, love, respond, seek.

(2) One of God’s purposes for CrossWay Church is to have true authentic connection in a community.  Key words: unity, belong, pray, edify, community, connected, fellowship, accountability, authenticity.

(3) One of God’s purposes for CrossWay Church is to show our love by using our gifts to minister to others.  Key words: love, works, pray, serve, use gifts, minister.

(4) One of God’s purposes for CrossWay Church is to go and spread the Word.  Key words: go, evangelism, spread the Word, declare, witness, missional.

(5) One of God’s purposes for CrossWay Church is to learn, love, and live God’s Word while we strive to be like Jesus.  Key words: learn & love & live God’s Word, be like Jesus, Christlikeness, growth, know, joy.

It’s starting to come together!

We also reached a decision about the direction of CrossWay On Purpose.  We’re going to meet for two more Wednesday nights.  This Wednesday, we’re going to talk about practical ways we can love God & love people.  It will take time to develop our vision and strategy, but in the meantime, we can’t sit around doing nothing.  We know without a doubt that it’s God’s will for us to love Him and love people, so that’s what we’re going to do.

The following Wednesday, we’ll discuss some ideas for outreach events.  We’ll nail down a plan for our first event, and get all the details worked out before we leave that night.

To continue with the mission of CrossWay On Purpose beyond our Wednesday night meetings, we’ll start getting together after church on the first Sunday of every month, beginning in November.  This will actually be a leadership meeting, where we’ll have lunch, further discuss and plan what we started in CrossWay On Purpose, address other issues and needs, assign tasks for carrying out plans, and pray.  Everyone who wants to come will be welcome at this monthly gathering.

Since we won’t be meeting on Wednesday nights after next week, we’ll be able to start up some fellowship groups.  Our mens group and womens group both took a break to participate in CrossWay On Purpose.  Now that we’re moving to one Sunday afternoon a month, hopefully those groups–and other kinds of small groups–will get going during the week.

Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  

So Long, Peekaboo

The little guinea pig at the Training Station has gone away to guinea pig paradise.  Peekaboo, who was about six years old, died during the night.  Some people were surprised he made it through the summer, as he was showing signs of aging.  When the little children showed up for preschool this morning, many of them got their first lesson in death.  I heard several parents at the same time holding their kids on their lap and explaining, “Peekaboo has gone to be with [insert pet name].”

One little girl very dramatically flipped her hands out to her sides and loudly announced, “Peekaboo is gone!”

There was a sign on the table where Peekaboo’s cage had been, explaining what happened and that he was a good friend and we’ll all miss him.

Hopefully, we’ll have a new guinea pig soon to pick up where Peekaboo left off.

Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 4:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Jesus Christ

Our series “Creed: God” continued yesterday with a look at God the Son–Jesus Christ.  No matter what our need or struggle or trial or longing is, the answer is ultimately found in Jesus.

If you’re lonely, He says, “I am with you always.”  If you’re grieving, He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  If you’re worn out by life, He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.”  If you’re hungry for a fuller, more meaningful life, He says, “I am the bread of life.”  And the list goes on and on.

What we need and long for is Jesus.  He is the second person in the Holy Trinity, which we began exploring last week.  Since Jesus is God, He has the same attributes of God the Father that we’ve already examined.  He is eternal, merciful, loving, just, powerful, infinite, gracious, holy, etc.  But something unique to Jesus is that He is fully human and fully divine.

Colossians 1:15-19 says: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.”

John 1:14 reads: “The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

As we see, Jesus is God the Son.  He was there at creation–in fact, He was actively involved in creation!

And what was Jesus’ mission when He came to earth?  He answers this Himself quite concisely in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  He lived a perfect, sinless life and died a horrible death in our place, to pay for our sins, to be the One through whom mercy and justice met on the cross.  But to show that He is who He claimed to be, and to prove that He has the power to keep His promises, and to give us a positive hope, He came back from the dead and was seen by hundreds of people!

(Interesting fact: According to the methods that we use to determine what did and did not actually happen in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most attested to fact in ancient history!  If we claim that there’s not enough evidence for it, we essentially have to toss out everything else we think we know about ancient history.  Click here to read just one of many articles on the subject.)

The response He asks of us?  To trust in Him and follow Him.

Trusting in Jesus and following Him both require that we know Him.  This was important to Jesus.  He even asked His disciples pointedly: “Who do you say that I am?”  We are still faced with this question today.  Some say Jesus was a good man and a good teacher.  Others say He was a prophet.  Still others say that He was a misunderstood rabbi or even a myth.  We say that He is Lord and Savior, because that is what He Himself said.  To claim otherwise requires that we deny what Jesus, His closest followers, and even the Old Testament all said about Him.

We closed the service by gratefully remembering and honoring who Jesus is and what He has done for us, by celebrating communion together.  We recalled His promises to come back and bring us to be with Him, and we celebrated that in the meantime we get to live and love as God’s family and spend each day with Him.

Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 8:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Good Ol’ Eastern Shore Culture

The past couple nights Carolyn and I have gotten to enjoy some good ol’ Eastern Shore culture.

On Thursday we went to opening night at Sunfest in Ocean City.  It’s cool having opening night on a Thursday, because even though there were a lot of people, we were actually able to get a parking spot not far away.  We enjoyed the cool and unusual exhibits, but the best part was the crab ball sub smothered in Old Bay, hot sauce, and cocktail sauce.  A close second was the frozen chocolate-dipped cheesecake, a tradition that Carolyn and I indulge in twice a year at Springfest and Sunfest.

We bought some roses made of birchwood chips, which Carolyn saw once before and really liked.  She got a premade arrangement for a friend of hers at work, and put together a really pretty bouquet for a friend at my work.  This place had a lot of interesting colors, but they also had some green roses and some black roses which looked kind of weird.

Last night we hit the opening of the Berlin Fiddlers Convention.  I must confess that my real motivation for wanting to go there was for the pulled pork nachos.  The only place I ever get to eat those are the Fiddlers Convention and the Delmarva Chicken Festival.  And wow, they are GOOD!!!  We sat down and ate them near the entrance, and from the looks and comments and questions we got, I think it was pretty good advertising for the place where we got them.

Entertaining as Sunfest and the Fiddlers Convention are, the most entertaining thing at these large public gatherings is always the people.  It’s so interesting the way people are so different!

It was also pretty cool because I’ve been wanting Carolyn to meet some of the Training Station kids I’ve told her about, and we ran into one of them at Sunfest and another one at the Fiddlers Convention.  Last night we also saw several friends from SonRise that we hadn’t seen in a while, which was great.

Now we just need to make sure that we don’t miss the Crisfield Crab Derby next year.

Published in: on September 22, 2007 at 8:25 am  Leave a Comment