Archive for April 2014

The Movement of God


    We are blessed to be inheriting both an old church building and a parsonage for our church plant. This is a blessing, as most church planters search and strive for years to have a building. Some church planters I know have rented a variety of buildings as rents are raised, or policies changed.
     This is a problem we don't have. There is no church yet, but there is a building. This gives us the ability to house events in our building (art shows, large dinners, rained out block parties, weddings, funerals etc.), and to eventually have a beautiful space to house worship services.
    The flip side of inheriting a building, is that we now have a building to care for, with all of it's faults and quirks. There are years of things to go through. Every single wall needs to be painted. Everything needs to be cleaned. There are utilities to pay for. In short, there is a whole lot of work to be done, in order to even have people meet in our building.
    We were unsure of how all of that work would be paid for, let alone executed. So when a friend of mine, who runs a mission trip organization called City Connexx, asked if we had projects for mission teams, my response was an enthusiastic yes!
     That yes turned into 2 mission teams. The first arriving in June, the second in July. These 2 large groups pay for their own projects, and are full of enthusiastic teenagers to complete some of these projects that would take us months to complete.
     One of our regrets of leaving our current ministry at the end of May was the inability to take our teens on a missions trip this summer. At the advice of a friend, we decided to coordinate for them to also come to Hammond. After all, we had 2 other teams coming, the best teens in the world might as well come too! I'd be able to put their mission trip together before we leave, which would make for an easier transition, and the teens wouldn't have to miss out on a missions trip.
    Then, a couple weeks ago, I was contacted by an associate pastor on our new district, and he is bringing a group for a service project in June as well.
   Overall, we have 4 groups coming! The projects we once thought we had no way of accomplishing, are going to be completed by the end of the summer. plus we get the joy of meeting and working with teens in formative ways. It's the blending of many things we love.
    Initially I thought our summer would be quiet and laid back. I was so wrong. Initially I struggled with how we'd get projects done, but God provided above and beyond.
    God truly is up to something. We know the days ahead will not always be easy, but it is so clear that the Holy Spirit is moving; we are jumping into that movement, and trying not to mess things up.

Perfect Fools

No Comments »

     It took us a long time to really decide to make the move to church planting in Hammond. Partly because we really love the church where we serve. Building these deep friendships with people, finally feeling like you know where everything is, and having a deep pride in your community, is a hard thing to leave.
    The other reason it was difficult to decide to church plant was purely economical. This fear raises to the surface when you look at your stack of monthly bills, and you know that those are not going away when you move (in fact, they'll probably increase), but you are not making an income from the church.
    The vast majority of people I know, don't go into ministry for the money. If you do, you'll be incredibly disappointed (unless of course you'd like to be a prosperity preacher, and that's a whole different issue). I have always said I am in ministry because I'm called, I love God, and I love people, not for the money. However, looking at how to make ends meet with potentially nothing, or solely on a spouse's salary, is a daunting thing.
     Thus, it was a huge leap of faith for us to say "Ok God. We know you are calling us here, and we will take this leap, whatever that means for us."
     There was a helpfulness in having so many cheerleaders in our corner, telling us we'd be ok. Telling us it is evident that God has called us here. Telling us their own stories of struggle and God's provision. Encouraging us, that all we need is enough for today. Urging us to just pray for enough, and staying humble enough to be grateful for the little that comes our way.
    Despite my best attempts, part of me doubts. My mom has a greater faith than me, and she continues to tell me that God will take care of us. But, there are still times where I look around our house here in Mundelein, and I think "are we out of our minds to pack up what we have known for our entire marriage, and dive into a ministry with no idea of what that will even look like yet?"
    The answer is probably yes. It is a foolish choice, it's crazy, and we are a bit out of our minds. We don't have a bunch of money in savings, or 401k's, or stock portfolio's. We have 1 car currently, because my car is broken down in the driveway waiting for repairs it will take us a while to save up for.  Our net worth is like $-20,000 or something like that. In the World's standards, we are absolutely out of our minds.
    But, we don't live by the world's standards.
    One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Buechner, he says, "The life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself, and only a life given away for love's sake is a life worth living. To bring his point home, God shows us a man who gave his life away to the extent of dying a national disgrace without a penny in the bank or a friend to his name. In terms of men's wisdom, he was a Perfect Fool, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without making something like the same kind of a fool of himself is laboring under not a cross but a delusion."
       There is a great chance we won't have a penny in the bank, but I think we will truly discover what we need. We need to pay our bills, and be responsible to pay off our debt, we need to eat, and we'll find a way to do all of those things whatever it takes. I pray for that. That God provides for those very real needs, but honestly... I find myself praying less and less for that, and more and more for God's kingdom to come. Despite my fear of making ends meet, I find myself praying that God would give me His eyes and heart for His people. I find myself praying that the investments I make are kingdom investments. That despite having little, we'd be generous and gracious people.
     The reality is, that I already see this Kingdom coming. I already see God at work in The Mission Church of the Nazarene. The stories are endless of God's provision already, and I plan on dedicating a post to that soon, but as a teaser we have four different groups coming to serve with us this summer. Four! Which is astounding, and humbling.
     Most importantly, what I've seen is a change in my heart. In my priorities. In the things I desire in this life. My faith in God has grown, my conversations with people transformed, and I am again reminded to hold the material things of this world loosely in my hands. I'm reminded that I can not live on bread alone, but that I must live on the word of God. I'm starting to see myself desiring more than ever before, to give my life away for love's sake.
       We may be perfect fools, but at least we are in good company.

Picture Tour

No Comments »

      If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are several thousand words. These are a variety of pictures from the church building and parsonage. There is a lot of work to be done. Consider these the before pictures.This is also a great reminder that the church isn't a building or "stuff". We are grateful for the building and the stuff, but we envision lives transformed, and that is so much more than stuff collecting dust. We pray that this building and the resources inside are a conduit for the kingdom.



A City Church Moving Back Into the City

No Comments »

     The Church of the Nazarene started as a city church. My Nazarene friends have probably heard those stories multiple times, about how our founder Phineas Bresee started the Church of the Nazarene in downtown Los Angeles.
    A story you may not know, is how that same Phineas Bresee traveled to Hammond, Indiana in 1906 to declare a church established there, prior to the Church of the Nazarene being the Church of the Nazarene. This was truly a church of the city, though the city of Hammond 1906 was vastly different than the city of Hammond 2014.
    That first church in Hammond grew and it planted a church on the southern side of the city called "Woodlawn Church of the Nazarene". The church was started in 1933 with the church building being built later. This is a picture of the Woodlawn church, located on the corner of Woodlawn and 171st in Hammond.

    Hammond First Church however, combined with the Woodlawn church in the late 80's due to crime in the City. Eventually this new church also moved joining another congregation. This leaving the city can be seen in multiple places throughout the country. The Church of the Nazarene went from a church of the city, to a church of the suburbs.
     There is much more to this history, closings, church plants, mergers, but at current there are 0 church of the Nazarene's in the City of Hammond, a city of nearly 80,000 people.
    A lot of speculation can be made for why churches move out of cities, a lot of blame and finger pointing can happen, and none of that is helpful or kingdom building. The reality we are faced with, is a city with great need. There is a city full of people in need of people to reveal where the Kingdom of God is at work, and the ways they can partner with that kingdom.
     You may have guessed this already, but the above "Woodlawn CotN" is now "The Mission Church of the Nazarene". It's gone through many facets, and many changes as a building. It's housed a variety of people and had multiple identities, but the truth is that a building is not what makes a church, people are.
     Walking through an empty old building with stained glass windows reminds us all the more, that this is not the church, God's people are the church. Buildings come and go, identities for that building come and go, but God has not abandoned the city. The prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit is moving. We can sense it, we can see it.
    Our prayer for The Mission Church, and how it got it's name, is that it would be a place for people to come and find healing, hope and grace, AND that we would be a people joining God on His mission to the world. That we would be a congregation who thinks outside of itself, that looks outward; that the walls of the church building are just a way to keep out the elements and not a barrier that would keep us contained, for we are the church, and wherever we go, the church goes too. We have a great mission for the people of the city of Hammond. We do not walk alone, we do not work alone, for we know that God has been on a mission for a long time, long before Hammond First Church ever met in 1906, God was seeking to reconcile His people to Himself.
    We seek to bring the Church of the Nazarene back to the city, but more than that, we seek to bring people back to the heart of God. There is no greater mission than to partner with the Missio Dei to bring about the redemption and reconciliation of all creation.
     May the Mission Church of the Nazarene partner well with the Missio Dei and may the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit permeate the city of Hammond. This is our prayer.

The Mission Church of the Nazarene is Conceived

No Comments »

    I could say that The Mission Church is born, but it isn't that far along yet. Currently it is just an old building full of stuff that needs to be sorted and walls that need to be painted. Mac and I are the only members right now, and we aren't even there yet. Today, it is just a church in dreams and hopes.
   Much like parents awaiting the birth of a child, we have prayed, we have cried, and we have longed to see what it will be like. What will it look like? Sound like? Feel like? We can only dream at this point, and maybe much like parents our hope right now, is just that it will be healthy. A healthy congregation who loves God and the people of the neighborhood.
   In some ways like first time parents, we are also grieving the life we have known thus far. The freedoms that come with a salaried position, the comfort of knowing the people around us, the warmth of people we know and love, and knowing that everything will be ok. It really feels like we are leaving a world of safety, and stepping out to a world where we have no idea what we are doing whatsoever. I guess that is exactly what we are doing.
    So, why give up everything we know, our comfort, our security, to step into the unknown? Because we know that living a life obedient to the call of God is the best life, even if it's scary, even if it's new, even if it's sad. That God is a God of love, and he loves us and the people of Hammond, and for whatever reason, He thinks we are the people to share His love there.
    I know lots of people are wondering about the details of how all of this came to be. It's truly a long story that spans years, that truly shows the faithfulness of God.
     It starts with my call into ministry. I was called to be a youth pastor, and there is no doubt in my mind that that was truly the call of God. If you had asked me, I would've said I'd do that forever, and I truly meant that. My call was partially to tolerate all the people who asked me when I'd become a "real" pastor, because in my heart of hearts I knew I was one.
   One day, a friend of mine said to me, that someday I would lead a church plant. I laughed at him, and promptly called a couple friends. "Do you think that I will lead a church plant some day?" They both agreed, and my world was uprooted. My call was so sure, but all at once it seemed as though others were seeing something in me, that I didn't see myself.
    Years later, and many youth ministry positions later, I received an email from that same friend about a need in Hammond, IN. A position for a compassionate ministries center executive director had opened. I looked into it, and loved the old church the ministry was in. The location was perfect, but something was missing. This was not the Church, this was just a ministry trying to keep it's doors open, and I was called to be a pastor.
   Despite getting a job offer, I turned the position down. I felt renewed in my call to our current ministry, I felt that God was still leading me to plant a church, but that evidently, it wasn't there.
   That's when I received an email from the DS in northwest Indiana. He had decided to close the ministry, because the heart of compassion should be the church and not a non-profit.
   This threw our world into a tailspin. Our dream is to plant a church, and someone wants to just give us a building and a parsonage in order to do so. A church to be a center of compassion and hope for the community, and he wants us to lead it.
    We prayed A LOT! We cried, and wrestled with God, because of our great love for where we are, but ultimately we knew, that this is where we should go. That there is a community in need, and that we are the ones being called to go and love.
    The Mission Church of the Nazarene in Hammond, Indiana will be starting in June with our first missions trip team coming to us from Nebraska. We have no idea what this church will look like, what it will sound like, what it will feel like, but we do know this, that following Jesus is never a mistake. That sometimes it is filled with heartache, sometimes it is hard, sometimes it means stepping out into the unknown, but that it is never a mistake.
    Just like a new child coming into the world, the situation may be messy, the timing askew, the process of birth painful, that new life isn't a mistake, and it is new life that we seek to bring to the people of Hammond, IN.