When following Jesus doesn't make sense: the story of Lincoln Center.

>> Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday morning I taught at Lincoln Center Church between Dike and Grundy Center. This 126 year old Christian Reformed Church is a small rural congregation composed of mostly older folks who love God and hope to see the ministry of their congregation continue. As many of you know, we are moving towards a merger with them where they would become a part of Orchard Hill Church. In so many ways this does not make sense, yet we believe God is leading us to do this!

As I was driving home from the morning of teaching and interacting with this congregation, I had a very clear question come into my mind-- How do you follow Jesus when following him seems to make absolutely no sense?

I was telling my wife, Linda, about this question at lunch when she asked me if I'd heard Tim Boettger's teaching that morning. I had not. She said that this question was exactly what he'd taught on. I still haven't heard the teaching but I visited with Tim yesterday and he told me about it. He used the verse John 2:5, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

He taught about how the 10 lepers were given an instruction that made no sense. They were instructed to go into the city and present yourself to the priests. Lepers did not do that. They stayed outside of the city and they avoided contact with the priests. Why would Jesus ask them to do something that made no sense and was contrary to their practices and laws.

At this point, they had to choose. Do we follow Jesus and do this or not? They chose to follow His instructions and were healed as they walked toward the city. One remembered to return and thank Jesus. So, often Jesus asks us to follow Him when following does not make sense at the beginning of the walk. Tim gave several personal examples. I have many examples of this following Jesus when it doesn't make practical or common sense in my own life and the life of our family.

I followed Jesus into starting a faith-based ministry where our family income would be determined by the donations of people in the Ed-Co School District. We had four little children and needed lots of diapers and food. This move did not make sense but we believed God was leading us. Over time, the appropriate funds were donated and Linda and I learned to trust God as He supplied our needs in many different ways.

We moved to Cedar Falls leaving a ministry involving hundreds of students to begin to work in a youth group at Orchard with 8 students. To so many friends and family this made no sense; however, we really felt God's clear leading. Today between Orchard and Nazareth these churches regularly touch more that a thousand junior high, high school and college students. Somehow, our coming to Cedar Falls was a part of that.

When asked by Orchard's leadership what I'd like for a job description in Cedar Falls, I felt led by God to ask them to allow me to work for Orchard only 1/2 time so that I could build a coalition of churches reaching kids as a group of churches. This also didn't make sense for several years as I struggled to get churches to work together. Today it seems so obvious that God was leading. Even this weekend's Love Cedar Valley with 3 or 4 dozen churches working together may have been aided by this following of Christ when it made no sense.

So, back to Lincoln Center. We're pretty certain that God is leading this merger for many reasons but it still doesn't make a lot of sense. John 2:5 says, "Whatever He says to you, do it! Here's some of the evidences that we see God leading us...

Lincoln Center's Council had 5 different options for their future and they prayerfully decided the merger was the God-led option.

Their council continued to pursue this option even as I clearly explained that they would cease being a congregation and would become a ministry of Orchard under the authority of our Leadership Team. They would be giving up congregational control in order to gain a greater ministry. They would sign over their assets to Orchard and surrender control of their future.

Lincoln Center's Congregation voted twice to leave their denomination and pursue joining with Orchard--93% and 74% even when we had no idea exactly what that would mean for them and their church.

Their Christian Reformed Classis prayerfully blessed this move as did four Christian Reformed pastors who visited their Council. If those events were not surprising enough.

Listen to this. Something quite unique happened one month ago. A talented young married couple who are trained for ministry and were a part of Orchard's ministry in the past, came for an appointment.

They came to see me because while living in Denver, Colorado they had felt God calling them back to Iowa to participate in rural ministry. God has given them a huge heart for older people and rural ministry. Their question was, "Does Orchard have a place for us to participate in rural Iowa ministry?" I couldn't believe it. We needed help with Lincoln Center (maybe the most rural church I'd even known) but I had no clue who could do it and here was God possibly sending the answer before we had even formed the question.

I believe at Orchard, we are learning to follow Christ even when it makes no sense. I hope the congregation is ready for this. It seems to be an exciting and challenging way to live. It's really just a part of us being fully devoted. I could make a whole list of things we are doing that don't make sense but seem to be led by God. We could begin with the five focus-communities that He has led us to commit to. It's His leading and we are simply trying our best to follow.

Hang On!


Investing In Our 6th Communities!

>> Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let's eat lunch!
Grandpa telling a story to 7 of the grandkids!

Yesterday was a great day for having fun and investing in one part of the 6th Community that God has put into my life. I spent the entire day with my 10 grandkids and some of my children. The other children had to work. The kids came to town for a time of cousin-friendship building. My day began at 6:30 feeding a bottle to Jackson, our 4 month old grandson from Ames.

The rest of the day was invested in playing outside, inside games, going to the park, wrestling, eating and having good discussions with my kids. It was a great Spring Break Tuesday.

The idea of serving and sharing in our 6th Communities is so important to the future of our church mission.

The term "6th Community" came during a breakfast discussion with Neil McMahon. It was one term that would tie our caring for others in everyday life with the idea of our church's goal.

Orchard's Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to change lives for Jesus Christ within and between our five focus communities. Those communities are:

1. Cedar Valley
2. Grundy County area
3. Walnut Neighborhood in downtown Waterloo
4. Gorongosa, Mozambique
5. Pignon, Haiti

We are committed together to make a long-term difference in these five communities and to allow God to help us learn from each of these communities of people. I'm learning so much from each of these communtities. I plan to return to Gorongosa, Mozambique in June. I want to visit and train many of the pastors I was with 2 years ago and I want to spend time in the place where our school is being constructed. I want to be a symbol of God's encouragement to the people in that region.

Our 6th Community is the place where you and I spend our time and have been given influence by God. This probably includes your family, your workplace, your neighborhood, your sports team (or the other parents of your kid's sports teams). I pray that Orchard folks will be praying and investing in their 6th communities. It will make all the difference.


Global Leadership Summit Coming!

>> Friday, March 4, 2011

Long Drive/Short Meeting

Wednesday I drove 10 hours round trip to Chicago for lunch and a 3 hour meeting. It was worth the drive! I drove 9 of the 10 hours in silence: praying, thinking and planning.

The lunch was delicious and the meeting insightful. I met with Bill Hybels and about 20 church leaders who will host the Global Leadership Summit in their local congregations this coming August. Orchard would be one of the smallest churches at the table. I love getting to know the humble and good people who lead some of the largest churches in the Midwest. I love hearing their hearts for God and their congregations. I love the opportunity to discuss common challenges that Christ’s church is facing.

I came back enthusiastic about this year’s Global Summit. We will be getting information out as it becomes more public. For now, simply mark your calendars for August 11-12, 2011. I hope that we can reach 500 people in attendance at this year’s Cedar Falls sight.

I Love My GPS!
This trip reminded me how much I enjoy the GPS on my Ipad. It’s a life-saver. Without GPS I used to believe that I knew where I was but had trouble getting to the destination. Now, with GPS, I never know where I am but I always get to my destination. It seems like a great spiritual lesson. Follow Jesus one step at a time and let him get us to the correct destination!


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