Last Wednesday night I got back from England and I still find myself processing all that I did and learned while I was there. I am amazed how beneficial my time was in regards to me and my view of church. The picture to the right is of an old church building in Calais, France. Actually it was one of the very few that we saw there. The building is quite impressive and I remember that when I saw it I was amazed. I thought much about what had gone on in that church and found myself wondering what the circumstances were around the time it was built. What is it that makes it so impressive? What inspires the awe? As I ponder those questions I realize it is the complexity and size that inspires the awe. Can you imagine what all it took to build it, the skill and time that it took. Especially considering their lack of machinery that we have today. My mind is simply amazed. I know that it is nothing that I could duplicate or accomplish.
While in Bicester I spent time with a small church, a house church of sorts. The church is in its early stages of starting and growth. The leadership is committed to keeping the main thrust of the church small and in simple groups. Even though they currently have around 20 people a part of the church they are going to multiply into three smaller groups with a larger group get together every three weeks. I was blessed to spend one night of worship with them and during that time I was greatly encouraged and challenged in my walk with the Lord. The greatest thing about the church was its simplicity and with the simplicity the great amount of impact for the kingdom. To do what this small church is doing is not rocket science, anyone could do it.
When considering much of the churches I have been a part of I realize that they are like the picture of the church above. They are complex and awe inspiring because of there complexity and size. I realize that the average church goer is intimidated for one reason or another and think there is no way they could do it. They feel as though the work of the ministry must be left to the professional clergy. There is all the programs we run and the large budget that comes with the programs. Many end up in larger and larger buildings as they grow. The ability of the musicians and the amount of technology involved requires so much money and skill. The crazy thing is that as much significant work of the Spirit happens in the little church I got to go to as the large complex and expensive churches.
Coming away from my experience in England I realize that we make church way to complicated. In Acts 2 it says the early church met in the temple and daily in their homes sharing meals together. That is so simple and yet the models we have developed are so complicated that we read book upon book trying to figure it out. Please do not take that I think that what we do in America is totally wrong and we should jump from the building before it falls. What I am saying is please don’t think that the music, technology and other things we do are essential to being a church. Those are nice things we do but are not essential. Rather we are to come together to help one another grow in the faith and practice the ordinances together. Church is not rocket science it is fellow believers in community helping one another know Jesus more and live out the mission We have been called to.
So friends as we go to church be in awe concerning the work the Spirit did in your life that day through the Word and through other sojourners not because of the complexity and hugeness of the building or of the things that went on in the worship service.
Filed under church, England
Well I have been in England for a little over a week and tomorrow I will get back on a plane to Ohio. I must admit that I could not be more excited to get back to Ohio. Before talking about why there are a couple other tidbits to share.
First my stay in England has been wonderful! The Caton’s have blessed me so much over the last week. The work of God in their lives comes through in their hospitality. The only thing that could have made the time better would have been to have Amy here as well! I have been blessed by watching them love and raise their two precious little girls, who are learning well what it means to love people from their parents(by the way interacting with them everyday made me miss my own children so much). I will always be thankful for any time that I get to share with the Caton’s during this short life on earth!
Second today will be a lot of fun checking out Oxford. Perhaps I might even feel a bit smarter walking around the city! While in Oxford we will go to Christ’s Church and Eagle and Child, a pub that C.S. Lewis and Tolkien spent time hashing things out. There is something about being surrounded by so much history that causes me to reflect and learn lessons from the past. I expect that today will be very contemplative and a day in which I spend time thanking God for so many blessings in my life.
I am thankful that although Steve and Sarah are Americans they have tried to get me to experience much from British culture. Here are just a few of the things that have tweaked my brain in England. They have roundabouts which are fun but then they traffic lights for pedestrian crossings. That is different for me. Then when they talk about pies it probably has meat in it, that was confusing. Houses and living space are much smaller here but yet just like Americans they have more in their little house than they need. Most do not use their Garage for a car but for storage, just like home. Everyone calls their backyard a garden. This seems to sound much more fancy but they are backyards just like home. The final thought to note is that English tea is not all that exciting. I am glad that they have their tea and we have our coffee. There are more but that is enough for now. England is a wonderful place I am better for being able to spend some time here.
Why am I missing Ohio so much you may be asking yourself. Truly there is not a whole lot that is special about Ohio. First I deeply miss my family. I miss conversation with them and I miss their physical touch. I can not wait to scoop each of my children in my arms and give them each a big bear hug. I can not wait to lay down in bed and hold Amy in my arms. I can not wait to share with her all I have learned and experienced while here.
The second reason I miss Ohio so much is because of the church. I am blessed to share my life with so many wonderful people. I am so excited to gather with them on Sunday and then on Wednesday and catch up on life. To hear how things are going and how God has been at work in their lives. I am excited to sit with some of the church and hash through the things I have experienced and how it will impact my life and ministry. A dear brother and sister of mine have moved into a new house and I can not wait to see it. I am so excited for them. Some day my family and I will probably be called away from Centerville, OH and when that day comes although we will be excited our hearts will grieve leaving such amazing family.
As I sit in Starbucks and wrap up this post I am compelled to finish by talking about someone special. Even as I think about this person I am brought to tears because they mean so much to me. Thank you Amy for loving me and supporting me in all I do. You have handled this time with me away with such grace and strength. I know we have missed each other so much but you are willing to sacrifice and take on so much because of God’s directing our lives. You are an amazing woman who lives her life to honor God…Thank you! I love you and will see you in a couple of days!
Amy, Alexa, and Emma had a girls night last night and sent me this crazy picture! As a father away from home I am so grateful to get pictures like this that allow you to see your family is not only okay but doing great while you are away from home.
As I woke up and looked at this picture that was waiting for me I could not help but be thankful for the church we are a part of. This week when I would call Amy there have been numerous times that the church has been there or been encouraging Amy in some way. They have done things like staying the night with her, watching the kids, going out to eat, including her and the kids in mother’s days plan, and just plan hanging out. These things have made the trip go much faster for Amy and helped the kids have a lot of fun. These are truly the things that make the bride of Christ so beautiful and amazing. Praise the Lord for not only saving me but also bringing me into a new family.
I know for some the church brings back painful memories for some reason or another or it brings back memories of long and boring services. To the second I would say I am sorry that you have not been able to experience the beauty and wonder of the bride. To the first I apologize that you have been through such a painful ordeal with the church. To both I would encourage you to go back to the Bible to see what it says about the church and what it is to be like. Then begin being the church recognizing that it isn’t a service or social club but rather it is us who have come to Christ. When we come to know and trust Jesus not only is our relationship with God restored but we are also given a new family that we are to invest in. Be the catalyst that gets your church loving each other more and gets them to spend time together doing the things they do in everyday life. Do something as simple as invite someone to dinner this week.
Lord thank you for the Bride that my family and I are a part of. Thank you for the church I have been fellowshipping with this past week in England. I have learned much and been encouraged to grow with Jesus more.
Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Calais, France. We took the Sea France ferry from Dover. You could not walk on the ferry so we took bicycles which made for a bit of a frightening experience. I would not say that the ferry is a cyclist friendly experience. Wait till you see some of the pictures. This picture is from the ferry as we left Dover looking back on the white cliffs.
Last night and tonight we are staying in a nice little hotel that is next to a beautiful park. While in France we are spending time walking and praying. The town is quaint and I love seeing the differences between the US and France. One thing I love is that motorcycles are everywhere here. I would fit right in! The strange thing is the language barrier.
Last night Steve and I ate at a restaurant and the waitress spoke no English. Steve is Better at saying their words so I did a lot of pointing and hoping that she understood. The meal was great and took quite a while with the multiple courses. I guess it was about 10:30 pm when we finally left dinner to walk back to the hotel.
Steve and I have had a blast talking about ministry. I have been challenged to think deeply about life, groups, ministry and church. I am already so thankful for this experience and what i am learning! This afternoon we are doing some reading, journaling and praying.
Thanks for all your prayers! So far I have really enjoyed and France and love listening to the French speak!
This morning I arrived at the Dayton International Airport to begin my travels to England at around 10:15 am. Amy and I enjoyed breakfast at Panera after dropping the kids of with our church. She dropped me off quite early so she could get back and worship with our church and kids.
This morning there have been a couple random thoughts in my head that I wanted to share before talking about prayer needs. The first is about the days that Amy and I dated before marriage. Believe it or not it was a simpler time when anyone could walk down to the gates at the airport. A few times we would end up at the Dayton International Airport and watch planes come in while we talked and such! By the gates it was always so quiet and peaceful. I am so thankful for Amy and have been so blessed by God to be one with her. Our love continues to grow and mature.
The second thought was a lot less meaningful. Remember a few months ago when they changed the way they did security checks and started using an xray like machine. I went through one today for the first time. I had thought some about it and was like wow they are going to see me naked, ha! Anyway I went through and saw what they do and the pictures they see and was like, wow people like to make a big deal about everything! People are just silly. In the end it was nothing and I was sad they didn’t see my smiley face boxers I wore for them! Just kidding!
Now on to the point of this blog post. How it is you can join me by praying for this trip:
1. Praise God for how he provided for this trip. Just yesterday I got confirmation that all was taken care of! Thanks Lord!
2. Pray for Amy and the kids while I am away. Pray for nice weather so the kids can be out running around and playing. Pray for the kids (especially Emma) that they will be okay without my presence. Pray for Noah as he will be the man of the house while I am gone. Amy is amazing and I know God will encourage and strengthen her by His presence and by His church and family.
3. Pray that I will be able to be an encouragement to the missionaries in England. I want to be used by God to refresh them and encourage them with fellowship.
4. Pray that God will give me wisdom in asking question about the culture and ministry there and how those things can help ministry be effective in Centerville.
5. Pray that God will impress on me deep conviction if Amy and I should begin to pursue ministry abroad.
God is amazing and I know that He has fruit to be birthed from this trip. I am so thankful for the love and support that you all have given me and my family.
Thanks for your prayers! I look forward to sharing with you all when I get back.
Leadership is influence and therefore you are the lead influencer of your growth group. If you are anything like me you may find yourself asking what do I do? How do I influence them? What areas do I focus on? How is this group going to get healthy? In order for growth groups to be healthy, growing both spiritually and numerically leaders need to have a path to follow, stepping stones if you will to guide the group. A tool by which they can evaluate the direction and progress of their group.
There is one thing that is bound to happen without a plan in place. More than likely as a leader you will hear the expectations that are placed on you and you will become overwhelmed. After becoming overwhelmed we then become discouraged because you believe there is no way you can live up to the expectations. As a result you simply begin to emphasize the things that fall within your strengths. If you are a really friendly person and love to hang out with people then more than likely your group will be strong on caring for each other but really weak on the teaching aspect. Or maybe you love to teach, ex- plaining the word of God to your group and as a result your group will be really strong on truth but perhaps weak on outreach or care of group members. The goal is balance, having groups that are equally focused on praying, care, outreach and teaching. When this balance comes groups will become healthy and reach their potential for growth.
This series of articles intends to lay out an organic path to help your group move towards balance and health. The reason “organic” is used is because the goal is not to give you every nut and bolt on the how to’s but rather to give you the overarching principles. The leader then can take and apply these principles to their group with its setting and uniqueness’ and find the most success. The encouraging thing is that this path does not require a certain kind of leader. Whether you are and intro-vert, extrovert, organized or disorganized is irrelevant. What matters is whether or not you work hard to implement these different aspects into your group.
The path we have laid out has two major sec-tions, first covering leaders and then covering the group. When we talk about the leader we want a pray-ing leaders focused on empowering disciples.
I was talking to a pastor about small groups and he said one of the greatest benefits to groups is the ability to develop leaders or as stated above to develop “empowered disciples.” The leader also needs to be connected to and dependent on Jesus for the ability to lead or else we will have groups that are not Spirit led. The growth of disciples will only be real if it is the work of the Spirit in our lives.
The second part of the plan focuses on the group. This part has been further broken down into the the following five categories:
A Praying group: Groups need to be praying together. They need the Lord to be at work in their lives and they need to ask. Groups need to pay attention to the climate of the group by the types of prayer requests that are brought up. We learn the burdens of the heart through the requests of the people.
Word Focused: The word of God will help us grow in the way that God wants us to grow. Groups will not be about what we think but what God thinks. People’s needs and situations need to be ministered to by the Word of God.
Covenanted Together: Acts 2 tells us about the early church and the commitment they had to one another. They were so committed that they met daily and were willing to sell their possessions to give to others. Members of groups need to be taught what commitment looks like and the leaders need to model it for them.
Caring Environment: Groups is the primary place that we care for the needs of one another. Everyone needs to grow to under-stand that if they are not connected to a group then there is a good chance that needs that arise in their life may go unmet. They will go unmet not because we do not care but because they are not committed to a group. Groups will always be best situated to celebrate with those who celebrate and to hurt with the hurting. Each week members should walk away knowing that they are loved and cared for.
Reach Out: The church is called to share the gospel and to spread the kingdom of God. The groups need to be mobilized to do that. This can happen through service projects in the community or by reaching out to their neighbors in love and praying for opportunities to share the gospel with them. Groups can also hold events that are conducive to inviting those not connected with the church. Then praying that they would experience the love of God and want to become a part of the group.
This is an organic path that leaders can implement to help their group become healthy. This is hard stuff but as each area is encouraged and grows within the group the leader will be greatly rewarded as they see members loving God and each other more. Take some time and begin to think through your group. How is it doing in each of these areas? Begin brain-storming ways that you can help your group grow in the areas that seem weak. Ask members of your group to think through these areas and to give you feedback as to where they believe the group is strong and week.
Over the next few weeks each of the areas mentioned above will be laid out with more detail and with suggestions on how to have your group grow in these areas. One final encouragement is in order. If you as a leader is not regularly praying for your group as a whole and for each member then that is the first thing you need to do. Leader invite God to lead your group, beg Him to invade the hearts of every member, that your group might see the mighty acts of God and bear every good fruit that He has planed out for them.
In about two and one half weeks I will be getting ordained. To be honest I have really mixed emotions and have had those emotions since I first thought about getting ordained. Truly the name of this blog, “Wrestlings” describes my thoughts on being ordained. If I didn’t have to be ordained in order to get my license to marry then then I wouldn’t be at the point of being ordained.
Throughout my time at seminary I never really planned on getting ordained. If you know me then you realize that I am not a big fan of formal occasions, which is why I didn’t go to my graduation from seminary. So the thought of being ordained was just another formal occasion to me. Secondly I always viewed ordination as getting the approval of man to support the calling of God on your life. My rebellious spirit said I didn’t need that, I was confident in God’s calling on my life and that was all I needed. For a few years I boldly proclaimed I had no need to be ordained. Dumb and arrogant on my part I know.
Then the change of heart came. The government in Ohio makes you be endorsed by a denomination in order to get a license to marry and with the Southern Baptist Convention the church is given the responsibility of ordination. This led to me approaching Mark Simpson, my pastor to see about getting ordained. As I worked with him on this, my stance towards ordination changed dramatically. This change I owe in large part to Mark’s hard work and the respect that he has towards the process.
The process that Mark put together helped me to see the value of being ordained. The first thing I realized was that ordination wasn’t so much about being approved by man but rather men encouraging you in the calling that God has placed on your life. When I think about the men who will be apart of the ordination council on November 13th I realized these are men who have watched me in ministry and have the ability to speak into my life in regards to the work they see God doing. They can encourage me by helping me see my strengths and by exhorting me to work on my weaknesses. I already found myself encouraged on the night that the church approved me being ordained as I heard a couple comments people made about their whole-hearted approval of the event.
The other part of the process is writing a doctrinal paper. This is a hard thing for me to do because there are other things I would like to be doing. I have told Amy a couple of times that although writing the paper is tough for me the process of writing it will be very valuable. I believe the reason it is so hard to be motivated doing the paper is because I don’t remember facts to well so my fear is that within a couple weeks of writing the paper I will forget much of what I wrote. That is simply how my mind works. I know that it is not a lack of valuing doctrine that makes the paper hard. I strongly believe in the value of doctrine and how believers need to make the effort to know what they believe and why (1 Peter 3:15). I thank God for this paper and how it is challenging me.
Now that my heart has changed and I am excited to be ordained. So what is it that continues to give me mixed emotions. Sitting in front of peers who I have ministered among is what makes me nervous. I know they are going to seek to encourage me but it still makes me nervous. I have a deep fear of failure and for me I see this as another opportunity to fail. I know that is quite pessimistic but that is me, love me or leave me! The other thing that gets me a little worked up is being the center of attention. Oh my the thought of a service that will be to honor what God has done in my life in regards to ministry makes me a little sick to my stomach. These are the times that my introvert tendencies come out.
Despite these mixed emotions overall I am really excited about being ordained. I know this sounds a little funny but this ordination is another step in growing up. The responsibility of the call will hit me between the eyes on that night for which I thank God. Please be praying for my family and I through this ordination and as we continue to seek God’s direction in our life. I may not know where I will be serving long term but I know that my life will be poured out in service to God. The ironic thing is it is only by His power that I will effectively minister for Him.
In the end I thank the Lord for how He has used the state of Ohio to get me to pursue ordination and I thank Him for Mark and his respect for the process of ordination.
In Acts 13 we read about Paul and Barnabas being sent out by the church at Antioch. The Holy Spirit led them to do this but they took the time to pray for Paul and Barnabas and in essence to honor what God was sending them to do. They understood the need that Paul and Barnabas had for the Holy Spirit to work through them. On November 13th when I am ordained it is a moment for me to declare that I am dependent on the work of the Spirit in my life to be fruitful in ministry.