Saturday, September 22, 2007

Follow Me

We will be looking at Matthew 9:9-14 this coming Sunday (Sept. 21) at Willow Community Church. I love this passage because it explains why God became a man. Matthew first tells about his decision to follow Jesus and then tells us that Jesus didn't come to here to be a doctor to the healthy but to be a doctor to the sick. The implications from this account are enormous! After I recount the story of my own personal calling into ministry, I will explain the purpose that Jesus has for the church and for each Christian that attends the church. Notice I didn't capitalize the word church. That is because I'm not talking just about Willow Community, I'm talking about the entirety of the body of Christ on earth. I know that there is a school of thought that teaches that the church is a place to be separated from the world we live in in order to be faithful followers. But I strongly subscribe the school of thought that the church exists to be a part of the world and not separate from it in order to be the doctor to the sick that Jesus is.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Names

All right, here's an observation I just made: Church planters choose interesting names for their new ministries.

I went to a meeting with a bunch of pastors from the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church, the denomination Willow belongs to. I love being in a denomination that is proactive about getting the truth of Jesus Christ to communities that need to know Him! It is truly amazing to me that here in mid and western Michigan four or five new churches are planning to open just this next fall!! Among the churches being planted are; The Deep, Journey, Rivertree and Overflow. Those are just the new churches I heard about today, or had heard about in the past but just now found out that they are up and running and will be in full service to their communities in the very near future. Impact, Engedi, Greenhouse, Compass and Epic are just a few that have launched over the last one to three years and are also doing wonderful work in their communities. I also have a friend that is working at a church plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana called Level 13. I think most of the above mentioned ministries have "community church" or "a Wesleyan Church" or "a Wesleyan Ministry" after the first name or as a tag line on a business card or letterhead, but for the most part they are called by just their first name. For instance, Willow is actually called Willow Community Wesleyan Church, but we, in daily use, just call it Willow.

Now for a few questions: What do you think the name of a church says about it's people, mission and community? Should a church have the denomination name attached? Is it good to have to explain what the name of a church means in order for people to understand the mission of that church? Does a name have anything to with the identity of a ministry? Does any of this matter at all?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sunday Sunday, so good to me,
Sunday Sunday, it was all I hoped it would be
Oh Sunday morning, Sunday morning couldn't guarantee
That Sunday evening you would still be here with me.

Sunday Sunday, can't trust that day,
Sunday Sunday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Sunday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Sunday Sunday, how could you leave and not take me.

Oh... wait... that's not the way that song goes... but I think I like this way!

I love Sunday!! Everything about it! I love getting up early and spending time alone with my Savior and God. I love replaying the words that I'm about to speak over and over in the shower, in the kitchen, in the study... I love opening up the church and being the only one in there! I love spending time with Pastor Dave before anyone else arrives for lead worshiper's rehearsal! I love lead worshiper's rehearsal!! I can't believe this, but I have even learned to really love preaching!! I love the response of the congregation during and after each service! I just love Sunday!

Over this past winter and spring, Willow Community Church worked very hard at putting our purpose for our existing on paper. You would think that wouldn't be too hard to do, but you try putting your own personal purpose into a sentence that is easily remembered and yet captures the entire reason that you exist. Now try doing that for an organism as large as a local congregation.

The hardest thing about this job was whittling down all the things that the Church does into one sentence that is easy for everyone to remember and articulate that states why we we exist, not what we do. Through a series of exercises, we discovered that there are really only two reasons for the Church in the first place: 1) We exist for the faithful who know Jesus, OR 2) We exist for the people who do not yet know Jesus.

As a pastor, I thought this would be a no-brainer. Boy was I wrong! There were very, very good arguments against making our statement follower based and there were very, very good arguments against making our statement non-follower based. The key passage in the Bible that we looked at to draw us to a conclusion and yet hung us up at the same time was Matthew 28:19&20:
Mat 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mat 28:20

and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Since this passage ,and several others, speak to both the people who do know Jesus growing in knowledge and people who don't yet know Him at all coming into a relationship with Jesus, we decided to include them both into our purpose. We decided that we, as a church, are supposed to help people understand their purpose in order for them to know how to share their faith and bring people to Jesus. So, after all the hard work and hours of prayer for wisdom, we now know why we exist:

Willow Community Church exists to draw people to the Truth of Jesus Christ!

Now, everything we do, from Sunday morning worship to outreach to children's and youth programing must work from the above statement. How does the Sunday morning experience draw people to the truth of Jesus Christ? How does the outreach program draw people to the truth of Jesus Christ? How does the children's and youth ministries draw people to the truth of Jesus Christ?

I have been amazed at how each ministry, that has put the hard work into working out their own purpose statement for their own programs into action with the church's stated purpose, has found that they know what they have to do and are now eager to change into what God created those programs for!

I feel strongly that every person has a reason to be on the earth. I feel very strongly that each church and congregation has a reason to exist. I feel strongly that churches who actually realize and understand their purpose will be so much more effective at drawing people to Jesus than those who don't to the work. I feel equally as strongly that the hard work that must be done in order to find that purpose will pay off in a huge way! In the next few posts. I'll chronicle some of the ministries that have done the hard work to come up with a statement and how they are going to put that statement into action! So come on back and see God work right before your very eyes!