sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Tag: community

Why #givegrace?

© All rights reserved by mollie | corbett | photography

© All rights reserved by mollie | corbett | photography

This past Sunday we gathered as a community to eat together and to hear about how our financial resources continue to allow us to live into God’s call for our life together as a congregation. Some of us met each other for this first time — over half of attendees at the meal have been with us twelve months or less — others were able to finally catch up with friends and neighbors.

We have much to celebrate. Our children and youth ministry continue to grow and each weekend we have many guests that are looking for a place to call home. Those that are new to our community speak to our welcoming atmosphere as a primary reason why they choose to return. Our new people describe our congregation as loving, kind, and filled with energy. Wherever I go in Shreveport folks tell me that they have heard great things about our church.

We are blessed in so many ways!!

As I walked away from our time together on Sunday afternoon I began to wonder about the impact that our congregation has had, is having, and will have in the future. I began to wonder about the stories that illustrate our impact, that tell of the many ways that we are encountering God in this place and of the ways that this place is helping each of us see God in places unexpected.

I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we have received it!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we cannot help but respond in generosity!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we know that our congregation is needed in this city and beyond!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because there are so many children, youth, and adults experiencing God’s unconditional love!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are finding healing from our addictions, freedom from the things that keep us bound, and redemption into new life, abundance, and joy!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are a unique community called by God to provide a place for ALL people!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because everywhere I go I meet people who have disconnected from the church and are looking for a place where they can be who God has called them to be!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because our identity is rooted in service of neighbor, especially those who would be easily forgotten, who have been ignored!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we have been called to be a diverse community that reflects God’s love for ALL people, no matter our story!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are a community willing to live in the tension of unanswered questions and the messiness of life stories!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we believe God is found in unexpected places!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because our only requirement to come to the table is to be hungry for Jesus!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we know that being a follower of Jesus is more than just showing up at church or talking about Jesus, it’s about loving ALL and growing in that love!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because only together we can live into our call to welcome, love, and serve!

I am so thankful and honored to be one of your many leaders. Leading in this season towards a fruitful and life-giving future is challenging but extremely rewarding. Leading in this season inspires me because our unique community is sorely needed.

So why will you #givegrace in 2017? Tell me in the comments here on the blog or in the Facebook comments. I cannot wait to read of all the ways that inspire you to make our 2017 ministry possible!

A Generation of Missionaries: Opening Thoughts

iStock_000008485686SmallOn January, 26, 2013, our founding pastor, The Rev. Rob Weber, gathered this community together for a “State of the Church” address. So this gathering is the continuation of a conversation that began at our birth and has continued since then, this gathering serves as a way to remind, maybe recalibrate, our life together.

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Mark 1:17 (NRSV)

If you are joining us online or on Ellerbe Road for the first, second, or third time I am glad that you are here today. Our goal each weekend is that you hear a “word from the Lord.” I promise that although this weekend is not typical for us that indeed it is part of what it means for us to be a community of faith. In fact being here today means that God sent you this way, and that you get the opportunity to hear clearly what God seems to be “up to” among us.

What a great opportunity for God to stir your spirit about being part of what will become a movement in this city and beyond! For as Rob told us in 2003 we are indeed here to “become a community [that] follows God where God is leading.” This weekend is key to that becoming.

2014 was a year of change . . . As I have said to you already, I totally understand, 2014 was a year of loss and grief for me and my family also, but it is my prayer that we have begun the process of healing, of seeing possibility in the midst of our questions and of uncertainty. More importantly for me that we do not pay attention to the voices that tell us that somehow all these changes are the evidence of something “wrong” with us, with our ministry, with our call.

Change and transition, although at times difficult, are essential to our life of faith. The hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ tells us that there is new life on the other side of difficulty, struggle, and pain. In fact the great spiritual writers remind us that only through struggle do we grow in God’s love.

Here we are reminded of Saul who on his way to persecute the church he experiences a blinding light where the Risen Lord was found. At that moment he is transformed, he experiences a change of heart and life! In the days that followed he in the midst of his blindness is shown a new way, a way that will propel him as one of the great missionaries of the good news of change. Difficulty, struggle, and change turned to God’s purpose, turned towards new life!

The one thing that has not changed is the need that our community has for Jesus Christ. The south side of Shreveport has grown and will continue to grow in the next decade. Demographic information tells us that there will be steady growth in population, significant growth in families with children, and that those living around us and coming our way are highly educated, affluent, professional, and show a uncharacteristically low religiosity.

We are in the midst of a people that are hungering, looking for ways to make a difference, yet for a variety of reasons have not connected with the church as a place where they can grow spiritually in a way that makes a difference in the world.

The mission field around us matches the reason why we were planted in this community over 20 years ago: seekers who are hungering to become servants. People, you and I, who recognize that their lives need restoration even if they cannot name why or how, a people hungering for a different kind of community that pushes them spiritually, intellectually, and socially. Today we are, as theologian Frederich Buechner reminds us, at a place “where our deep gladness meets the world’s need” we are in our place of calling, of vocation.

In today’s scripture Jesus calls everyday people to join him in God’s mission: to “fish for people.” Jesus calls his disciples not just to follow, but that in the following, they are able to find salvation. That they be transformed into a different people, a people that go and engage others in the work of the kingdom. It is this call, a very specific call, to tell others to turn their lives and hearts – to change their actions – to be transformed! That becomes the impetus, the cornerstone of the mission: marching orders to the healing, reconciling, and transforming work of God in the world!
Next- A Generation of Missionaries: Our Call from the Beginning
*At the beginning of our time together I spoke to you about three of the lenses that have influenced my life. I do plan on writing about those as a separate post at a later time.

Disciple Them! – Gospels in 90

Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Wash them ceremonially in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 (The Voice NT)

It turns out that the real challenge in our life together as a congregation is the issue of discipleship. Guiding others to learn the “practices and postures” that Jesus taught is difficult work. No amount of sermon hearing and hymn singing can truly accomplish this task. In fact I would venture to say that worship reinforces and reminds the community of what they need to be modeling and learning in weekly gatherings with a small group of fellow believers.

As I look at our congregational life I recognize the need for us to become a pathway for these opportunities for disciple forming. The pathway to these in our midst is not clear. There are many in our congregation who gather for these conversations, they gather at the church, in their homes, and even in their workplaces. It is exciting that these actually exist in our community of faith. What is missing is the path to these, the open invitation for new comers to know that we are the kind of congregation that encourages and makes the way of discipleship a priority. We also need some new groups to form as a large portion of recent attenders and members have not plugged in to these opportunities. Along the way we need to be better at communicating the importance of these communities of discipleship to the life of faith.

As a congregation we are recognizing that as we grow deeper in our life with Jesus, as we engage in the ministry of Jesus in our community, and as we keep each other accountable to our life with God and one another that we are tilling the ground of God’s kingdom in our midst. As we continue this journey through the story of Jesus I am thankful that we are experiencing these stories and their effect in our lives together . . . now let us “disciple them” making a commitment to become the kind of congregation, the kind of community of proclamation, that becomes a pathway to communities of discipleship.

Bible in 90 – Day 20: Prophesy

In those days the word of the Lord was rare; prophesy was not widespread.

I Samuel 3:1b (TANAKH)

Some years ago I was speaking to a group of people about prophesy. We tend to think of prophesy as a type of fortune telling exercise. The seer will look at someone and tell them what the future will hold. The mystery of what is yet to come, revealed.

Many are interested in such exercises. They might read their horoscope, look forward to the message in the fortune cookie, or call a psychic hotline trying to figure out what their lives will hold.

If we think of these things when we think of prophesy we will miss out on its power in the old testament and its power today. Prophesy is about seeing the current situation through the eyes of God’s intention for the world and calling truth to power. This type of social critique does not just tell us that there is a problem but reminds us that if those in power, those that can make a difference, do not do something to alleviate the suffering, the injustice, the disobedience, God will act to make things right.

Are we living in days were the word of the Lord is rare? Were prophesy is not widespread?

There is certainly much god-talk in American society, but god-talk does not a “word of the Lord” make. In fact it seems that real prophetic word, real social commentary, real calling that leads to a repentant people is hard to find these days.

I can honestly say that I have remained silent many times myself when I should have said something, when I should have taken a stand for the common good, when I should have made sure that “the word of the Lord,” was not rare in my community.

We need prophets today, we need to stop the god-talk and get to the god-doing. We need to listen to the voiced of those who are normally not heard.

Maybe the “word of the Lord” is not so rare . . . its just that we are not listening to it, maybe prophesy is widespread, its just that we are not paying attention!

Bible in 90 – Day 19: Anarchy

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he pleased.

Judges 21:25

Leadership is needed. Even in the smallest of groups we need someone to guide, gather, and make sure that the purpose of the gathering takes place. Without leadership it is easy to loose the way.

Sometimes our approach to the Christian life reminds me of the Israelites in the book of Judges. No king, no leader, so people just did what they want it. Time and time again this approach led to disaster of one kind or another. God would raise another leader but soon, once that leader was gone, the people would “forget” what God had told them.

We like to say in clergy circles that we are there to empower the laity for ministry. Each of us interprets it in different ways. I think at its core its about reminding the people of the covenant, of telling the story of faith, and calling the people to the promises made.

So it means that we are not to just let the people of God do what they want. Guiding the church in whatever way they see fit, being the kind of church they want to be, just patting people on the back and hoping that our “care” will be enough for them to become God’s people in their community.

Here comes the difficult part. Sometimes this means that as we care for souls, as we call them to the covenant, some will choose to not live into the covenant that we are calling them to. Some might tell us that their spiritual life is not of our business, others just want to “hear a good sermon” and go home, still others want “good programs for their kids to go to” without any desire to be real disciples of Jesus. What are we to do then? Are we to just let them do what they want?

I don’t believe so for our churches and I certainly do not believe so for our pastors. You see we have a similar problem in our clergy ranks. Time and time again we want to do our thing, not wanting to be accountable to one another for our growth in love, not wanting anyone to “question” our progress in our “going on to perfection.” If we as clergy are not willing to grow in our discipleship then how can we expect our churches to do so?

I trust that God will continue to raise leaders for the church to be reminded of their story, be gathered to praise God, and be empowered by the Spirit to be about God’s work in the world. I also know that there are many in our communities who long for God and are waiting to find a place where they are formed in another way, where they fill their deepest hunger.

May we be a led people, clergy and laity alike, may we live into the covenant, may we do as the Spirit pleases!

Bible in 90 – Day 2: Covenant

Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!’

Genesis 28:20 (TANAKH)

In a recent post I spoke about being attentive to three important communal covenants that I have made: baptism, marriage, & ordination. These are key relationships that continue to shape me by being means of grace in my life.

As I continue to read Genesis I’m struck by the continual reminders of covenant. God is a God of covenant making with Adam & Eve, with Noah & his family, with Abraham & Sarah, with Isaac & Rebekah, with Jacob . . .

At each step of the way God reminds all of them of a covenant made and the promises that accompany that covenant. Their mistakes, their unfaithfulness, the struggles of life do not negate the covenant instead the covenant serves as a continual guide and reminder of God’s intention for those with whom the covenant has been made.

In baptism I entered in a covenant with God to be part of the community of faith with Jesus as our Lord. In marriage I vowed to live in partnership with another and only that other for the rest of my life. In ordination I joined the community of the ordained to be about leading the Christian community towards kingdom life.

I wonder if we realize how important these covenants are? Do we recognize in making them that “surely the Lord” is in them?

Sometimes we make covenants without realizing their importance and what it means to live in them. In order to recognize their importance I think we need to do a better job of formation in what it means to be part of these covenants. We also need to learn the great story of faith, for our covenant making is the continuation of God’s story in our lives.

Even when we don’t realize it, God is present in our covenant making. Part of our task as God’s people is to shine a light on that presence, to proclaim the good news in the covenant making, and remind those who are entering these covenants that the promises made are means of grace in their lives.

I continue to be surprised by what I encounter each time I engage the story of faith. I look forward to this continued journey!

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