You did it again. Once again as part of our annual Christmas generosity you’ve been such a blessing to so many, and we’re only getting started! This year, once again you responded to the opportunity to take tags from the Giving Tree, purchase gifts for those who would not be able to do so on their own, wrap em, and get em delivered. And, once again you’ve made an incredible impact.
We don ‘t have exact totals because this is a hard thing to keep track of but we know that you supplied gifts for 36 families! You also purchased gifts for 46 residents of the Berwick Nursing Home who get little or no visitors. You put together 60 bags of food and supplies for those using the free medical clinic and we’re just getting started!
This weekend is our Big Big Day and Big Big Day is actually Big Big Opportunity. It’s an opportunity to keep one eye on eternity as we navigate the holidays by intentionally being generous. Once again this year we’re partnering with the Eriti people from an underground church in China to translate the Scriptures for their people. As God provides $26,000 will go there. We’re partnering with our very own Pat and Kerry Oppel to help them get to Papua New Guinea, we’re going to bless our staff and begin our expansion fund. It’s a huge opportunity for us and I can’t wait to see what God does.
This is not only a big weekend for ebc, its a big weekend for you and me. It’s our opportunity to put our values ahead of our consumption and make a statement that will pay dividends for all of eternity.
Also, we’re finishing our mini-series Fear Not this weekend. I can’t wait to dive into that with you. This weekend is a great weekend to bring a friend. See you then! Thanks for honor of being your pastor.
We are a blessed family, a trophy of God’s grace. God has allowed ebc to become one of the fastest growing churches in America. This year we’ve baptized almost 60 new followers of Jesus and that’s more last year but hopefully less than next year. However, growth is a two-edged sword. The reason we exist is to help people meet God for life, and that is happening. The more the better. However, behind the scenes its a different story. Our building, while certainly the best in our area, is stressed beyond capacity serving three times the number of people it was designed for on a weekly basis. Our staff and processes are overwhelmed as we are still using processes that were set up when we were a church of 600 – 700 people.
For those reasons, and our desire to reach the whole Columbia, Montour area we are working through some options to re-tool to accommodate people on a journey to new life in Christ.
There are basically two viable options in consideration. One is to reorganize on our own and the other is to merge with a like-minded church to share resources and continue the journey. The merging option has gotten the vast majority of public attention, but we’ve spent a great deal of time thinking through the goals that processes necessary to move forward on our own. Here is a list of the strategic goals that would be a part of that process. Each one of these goals would be accompanied by a series of steps as well as funding to accomplish the goal.
Become a regional church by moving to a location more convenient for Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville to attend. (Probable location between west Berwick and Central Road area.)
Invest $350 – $500K in current building (new Kidz Zone, Student Ministry, Stage A/V) immediately to insure continued growth while in transition.
Find new Kidz Zone curriculum that is sustainable to reach 250 kids.
Add fourth and potentially fifth worship gathering.
Establish preaching team of at least two and potentially three people. (Scott to preach 35 – 40 times per year.)
Engage 60% of regular attendees in meaningful service.
Transition Sr. High student ministry to week night event to free students for service on weekends.
Engage 60% of regular attendees in life groups.
Offer FPU at least twice per year.
Establish new Foundations class to follow Essentials
Establish leadership teams for Kidz Zone and Student Ministries
Redesign Koinonia focus
Provide funds and volunteers to three vital local organizations.
Adopt a community internationally.
Establish invite plan with deep invite culture.
Raise necessary funds ($2.5 – $4 Mil) for new building at location between west Berwick and Lightstreet
Liquidate current facility
Reorganize staff to achieve strategic plan
Hire hybrid IT/AV/Graphics/Social Media person
Hire assistant for Pam
Develop job descriptions for each staff member
Develop HR policies
Fund benefit packages for staff
One thing is true, regardless of which option we choose, the best days for the ebc family are yet ahead. Our task becomes to choose the option that would accomplish the most fruit for God’s glory with the most efficient use of resources available to us. It’s not an easy or a cut and dried decision!
Please continue to pray and participate! Talk to me or an elder, share your perspective, it matters!
Thanks for honor of being your pastor.
A whole bunch of life is about learning to skillfully balance tensions. When to speak and when to listen, investing and saving, trust and discernment. I’m learning that maturity is really about how I balance the various tensions present in my life. Leading a church is the same way. We balance tensions between reaching more people and helping those already reached grow deeper, between planning and spontaneity, between purchasing high quality equipment and stretching limited resources, on and on the balancing act goes.
There is one area in particular though where the balancing act is particularly difficult. In our culture its so hard to balance the tension between moving forward and taking time to rest and refresh. The Bible threads a needle in this area. Paul talks about pouring his life out as a drink offering (2 Timothy 4:6), and Jesus modeled and taught regular times of separation from activity for rest (Mark 6:30-32). God built a full day of rest into creation and even chose to rest himself.
The problem is that most of us just don’t disconnect and rest, especially at this time of the year. Especially at ebc, we move hard and fast through November and December and then January through Easter is the busiest time of the year for us. We ask more of our volunteers and staff and “pour ourselves out” for the mission that has been entrusted to our care. And, all of that is great. But, what we don’t do is balance the tension very well between going hard after the mission and “coming away and resting.” We tend to miss out on unhurried time to enjoy being together.
So this year again we are choosing to provide intentional time for families on the last Sunday of the year to simply enjoy time together. We are providing resources for families and small groups to use while they enjoy the gift of unhurried time together. Watch your program and the website for those resources.
My hope for us again this year is that we’ll value not only hard work and passionate pursuit of the mission entrusted to our care, but that we’ll spend some time enjoying each other and reflecting on God’s faithfulness to us as we draw 2014 to a close and anticipate all that He will do through us in 2015.
My heart is hurting as I watch the events unfold in Ferguson. Since I have a son who is a police officer I tend to have an unfairly visceral reaction to stories about the police. I hear about these kinds of things from his perspective and, well, he’s my son.
However, Voddie Boucham, is a great thinker, leader and pastor that I trust. He’s also an African American male who has suffered injustice seemingly because of his race. So, I was particularly interested when he blogged about his thoughts of what’s happening in Ferguson. I’m giving my blog space to him this week and I encourage you to read carefully. This is good stuff…
In early August my wife and I, along with seven of our nine children, left for a month-long ministry tour in Africa (Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa). It was a couple of days before we got settled and had any access to media. As such, I was taken aback when I began to receive Google alerts, emails, and Facebook and Twitter messages either demanding that I comment on “Ferguson,” or condemning me for failing to do so. The only problem was, I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Who, what, or where was Ferguson? Why was it such a big deal? Why was I being condemned (along with other “high-profile” evangelicals) for “failing to speak out on such an important issue”?
I eventually got up to speed. Or at least I found out what all the fuss was about. Over the next several weeks I viewed this issue from a unique perspective. I was an American in Africa watching an issue ignite ethnic tensions in my homeland. It was almost surreal.
Who Am I to Speak?
My first response to Ferguson was to say nothing. I was on the outside looking in. I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t know the communities or the issues surrounding the tensions. Second, I chose to remain silent because people were demanding that I speak—even condemning me for my silence. In this age of “I sure would love to hear your thoughts on” I get tired of the sense of entitlement with which people approach those whom they deem to be popular or high-profile Christians. No one is “entitled” to my opinion. Nor is my faithfulness to God determined by how quickly I respond to “relevant” issues.
As a pastor, I have a responsibility to my flock. If those for whose souls I care (Heb. 13:17) want help thinking through these issues, I am obligated to them. I have a duty to walk them through issues like these to the best of my ability, and with sensitivity to their particular needs. What worries me is that Christians in the age of social media care more what “popular” preachers have to say on issues like this (and whether or not they agree with other “popular” preachers) than they are about taking advantage of an opportunity to work through challenges in the context of Christian community. More importantly, it worries me that so many Christians view themselves primarily as members of this or that ethnic community more than they see themselves as members of the body of Christ.
The Plight of Black Men
Rest assured, I do believe there are systemic issues plaguing black men. These issues are violence, criminality, and immorality, to name a few. And all of these issues are rooted in and connected to the epidemic of fatherlessness. Any truly gospel-centered response to the plight of black men must address these issues first and foremost. It does no good to change the way white police officers respond to black men if we don’t first address the fact that these men’s fathers have not responded to them appropriately.
There is indeed an epidemic of violence against black men. However, that violence, more often than not, occurs at the hands of other black men. In fact, black men are several times more likely to be murdered at the hands of another black man than they are to be killed by the police. For instance, in the FBI homicide stats from 2012, there were 2,648 blacks murdered. Of those, 2,412 were murdered by members of their own ethnic group. Thus, if I am going to speak out about anything, it will be black-on-black crime; not blue-on-black. I want to apply the gospel and its implications in a way that addresses the real issue. If a few black men being killed by cops requires a national “dialogue,” what in the world does the overwhelming number of black-on-black murders require? If the police do not see black men through the proper gospel-centered, image-of-God lens, what does the black-on-black murder rate say about the way we see ourselves?
In addition to violence, black men are plagued with criminality. Low-income black communities like Ferguson know all too well that black criminals preying on their neighbors makes life almost unlivable. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I know all too well what it’s like to have bars on the windows and doors for fear that thugs will break in to steal or kill. I remember being robbed at gunpoint on my way home from the store one day. It was one of the most frightening and disheartening events of my life. The fear, helplessness, and anger I felt stayed with me for years. And it taught me an unfortunate lesson: the greatest threat to me was other black men.
The underlying malady that gives rise to all the rest of these epidemics is immorality and fatherlessness. We know that fatherlessness is the number one indicator of future violence, dropout rates, out-of-wedlock births, and future incarceration. And in the black community, more than 70 percent of all children are born out of wedlock! Fatherlessness is the bane of the black community.
Nor is this plague forced on us. It is as common as morning dew, and as overlooked as dust under a refrigerator. Where are the marches against this travesty? Where are the protestors who demand better? Where are the black “leaders” who . . . oh, that’s right, they have just as manyillegitimate children as anyone else. Again, it is common knowledge that this is the most immediate root cause of the ills plaguing black Americans.
But What About Racism?
I have been pulled over by police for no apparent reason. In fact, it has happened on more than one occasion. I was stopped in Westwood while walking with a friend of mine who was a student at UCLA. We found ourselves lying face down on the sidewalk while officers questioned us. On another occasion, I was stopped while with my uncle. I remember his visceral response as he looked at me and my cousin (his son). The look in his eye was one of humiliation and anger. He looked at the officer and said, “My brother and I didn’t fight in Vietnam so you could treat me like this in front of my son and my nephew.”
Again, this experience stayed with me for years. And for many of those years, I blamed “the system” or “the man.” However, I have come to realize that it was no more “the system” when white cops pulled me over than it was “the system” when a black thug robbed me at gunpoint. It was sin! The men who robbed me were sinners. The cops who stopped me were sinners. They were not taking their cues from some script designed to “keep me down.” They were simply men who didn’t understand what it meant to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve as image bearers of God.
It does me absolutely no good to assume that my mistreatment was systemic in nature. No more than it is good for me to assume that what happened in Ferguson was systemic. I have a life to live, and I refuse to live it fighting ghosts. I will not waste my energy trying to prove the Gramscian, neo-Marxist concept of “white privilege” or prejudice in policing practices.
I don’t care what advantages my white neighbor may or may not have. If he does have advantages, God bless him! I no more fault him than I fault my own children who have tremendous advantages due to the fact that they were raised by two educated, Christian parents who loved, disciplined, and taught them. Ironically, when I think about THAT advantage, I am filled with joy and gratitude to God for his faithfulness. People are supposed to bequeath an advantage to their children and grandchildren (Prov. 13:22). Why, then, would I be angry with my white neighbor for any advantage he is purported to have? And what good would it do? How does that advance the gospel? Especially in light of the fact that growing up with the gospel is the ultimate privilege/advantage! It is the advantage that has granted us all “American privilege”! Are we guilty for being citizens of the wealthiest republic in the history of the world? I think not!
As a father of seven black men, I tell them to be aware of the fact that there may be times when they may get a closer look, an unwelcome stop, or worse. However, I do not tell them that this means they need to live with a chip on their shoulder, or that the world is out to get them. I certainly don’t tell them that they need to go out and riot (especially when that involves destroying black-owned businesses). I tell them that there are people in the world who need to get to know black people as opposed to just knowing “about” us. I tell them that they will do far more good interacting with those people and shining the light of Christ than they will carrying picket signs. I tell them, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’” (Rom. 12:19). And I tell them that there are worse things than suffering injustice. That is why we must heed Peter’s words:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Pet. 3:15–17)
In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth.
My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. The overwhelming majority of police officers are decent people just trying to make a living. They are much more likely to help you than to harm you. A life of thuggery, however, is NEVER your friend. In the end, it will cost you . . . sometimes, it costs you everything.
I’ve been on one of those personal and spiritual growth spurts the last few months. You know how that is. You can go for a period of time seemingly stagnant and then growth comes again. One of the main things driving this growth is the conversations we’ve been having about our future as a church. Regardless of which option is chosen moving forward I’ve had to address the tyranny of personal pronouns in my life. More accurately personal possessive pronouns. Let me explain.
I love what I do. I love ebc. I love being the Lead Pastor of ebc. I love preaching. I love leading. I love shepherding. I’m living my dream. As we’ve spent the last year or so actively looking toward the future I realized that my inappropriate use of personal possessive pronouns was severely limiting my vision for what might be best for ebc. In every scenario of ebc’s future, as I would work it out in my mind, my role continued largely unchanged doing what I love to do. I found one little word moving through my mind again and again. That dangerous word is the word my. This was my ministry, my dream, my church, my preaching, my leadership, over and over again, my, my, my. The problem is, it’s not mine. The gifts I have to preach aren’t mine. The position I occupy isn’t mine. The church I lead isn’t mine. The people I love aren’t mine.
I began to understand in a much deeper way that I have a role caring for the bride of Christ. It’s his bride, not mine. I began to think of it in terms of my bride, Bren. I expect that other men will treat Bren in a certain way because she’s my bride. When I’m not with her for a time it remains true that she is married to me and therefore is deserving of a certain kind of treatment from others. The same thing is true with the church. The church belongs to Jesus. He’s coming back for her. It’s inappropriate for me to think of ebc as my church. It isn’t. He has asked me to lead her and care for her and keep her on mission until he comes again.
As I began to see the possibilities for ebc beyond preserving my own limited role I became excited at the possibilities for God’s glory.
My guess is you struggle with the tyranny of the personal pronouns too. We all tend to assume ownership where it doesn’t really exist. On the other side of false ownership lies a freedom that comes from resting in the sovereignty of God and his ultimate care for his bride. When we make decisions that result in greater glory for God, the net result for us is joy. I’m crazy about joy. I love joy. My guess is you do to. So, when you find that destructive little word my floating through your thought process you might want to back up and check it. On the other side of removing it you might find more joy.
I’m always up for a good elephant hunt and this weekend at ebc we’re going on a family elephant hunt! Okay, so I’ve never been elephant hunting, but this weekend we’re going to go hunting for the elephant in the room at ebc! Whatever you do, make plans to be with us at any of our four gatherings. David Ashcraft, Sr. Pastor of LCBC will be joining us and I will be interviewing David during the sermon time.
These are special days for ebc. The possibilities for our future are exciting and I want you to join us at the center of the action. Next weekend we’ll get back on track with our walk through Philippians and our Habits of Happiness series.
So Saturday at 6:00, Sunday at 8:15, 9:30 or 11:00. It’s an elephant hunt at ebc…. we’ll be shooting the elephant in the room! Can’t wait to see you!
While living in Huntington Beach California a friend invited me on a three day deep sea fishing trip off the coast of Mexico. We were to leave the port of San Diego on a Sunday night and fish until Tuesday night. I was pumped. I love boats and boating and the water. I raced home from my weekend speaking commitments to meet my friend for the drive south from Huntington Beach to San Diego. We got some dinner at the harbor and boarded the boat. It was about thirty feet. there was six of us plus the crew of three. I sat at the back of the boat and watched the city lights dim as we pulled out of the harbor into the Pacific. We talked of the fish we’d be hauling on board the next day as the crew taught us the basics of how to use the equipment on board. Our target was tuna and we were hoping for a great catch. As we chatted I noticed that everybody else, except the crew had a little patch behind their ear. I didn’t. I didn’t think much of it and we all went to bed. We’d arrive at our spot sometime during the night and we wanted to be ready to start fishing as soon as the sun started to rise. I noticed I didn’t really feel well while lying in my bed so I stayed up on deck and tried to catch some shut eye. As the horizon disappeared I realized I didn’t feel very well at all. I tried to stay very calm, and close my eyes. I’d never been sea sick before and I gotta tell ya, it wasn’t very pleasant. A crew member noticed my predicament and told me that he’d had folks on board offered him $10 thousand dollars to get them to shore. Only problem was I didn’t have $10 thousand dollars. It got worse. We arrived at our destination and the boat just rocked in the waves. Up and down, side to side. Normally I would have thought that was cool, not today. I’ll spare you the details, but it wasn’t pretty. As the sun came up a crew member told me to keep my eyes on the horizon. I did what he told me. Over time I settled down and the steadiness of the horizon calmed my stomach. I caught six beautiful tuna and we had a great time.
Odds are you might be working through some turbulent waters just now. It could be because of the expansion we’re working on at church. It might be because of your marriage or work life. Lots of things cause turbulence in our lives. But we don’t need to suffer from sea sickness….. we can keep our eye on the horizon. For those of us who trust Jesus, he is the horizon, and he will provide peace in spite of whatever is causing your stomach to church.
Philippians 4:6-7: Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
The Horizon doesn’t change and it will give you a fixed point of reference from which to steady your soul. All of God’s promises are true for you and for us. The best is yet to come.
Our church is in the middle of a great opportunity. We’re one of the fastest growing churches in the country, our building is full and we need to figure out how to keep helping more and more people meet God for life. As we’ve discussed, we have three options; we could do all we can do to forge our own future as best as we can. We could establish some kind of strategic partnership with someone that could help us learn how to handle the next thousand people that God will entrust to our care, or we could join our resources with another church that has already been where we are and work together to expand up and down the Susquehanna Valley.
When most people first hear those options the one that seems most obvious is option one. “Obviously this is working” they’ll say, “Just find a way to keep it going.” Therein lies the issue.
The first issue we have to deal with is sustainability. That simply means we can’t really sustain the pace at which we’re going. Our staff is already doing more than they can do long term. In order to provide sustainability we would have to eliminate things we’re doing that are sapping resources from the things that are most effective. Those decisions will be very difficult because we’re not doing anything that someone is not passionate about. We could always hire more staff, but the problem with that is that we’re already paying 55% of our revenue in staff expenses. That’s a healthy percentage, but hiring more people would consume more of our revenue than is healthy therefore consuming funds needed for ministry.
The second issue under option one is our facility. It’s in need of expansion and updating. We estimate that expense will be in the millions. The reason we have avoided a capital campaign is because we haven’t wanted the distraction that they can be. Without the right expertise in raising capital funds, raising those funds become all encompassing and therefore a distraction from the mission.
The third issue is that the urgency of our mission doesn’t provide the luxury of only sustaining what we’re doing. There are thousands of people up and down the Susquehanna Valley who desperately need meet God for life.
So, we’re faced with the need to expand when our systems, staff and structure are unable to keep up with what we’re already doing. In addition we’re facing facility issues that are complex and expensive.
Option one is a viable option and we’ve spent more time over the last few years on it than any other option.
But I think its important that the whole family understand the complexity of what option one really entails.
All that to say that the most important thing we can do in the next few weeks while we work hard evaluating our options is pray. This Tuesday the elders are asking that the whole family devote the day to fasting and prayer. Resources are available to guide you through your participation.
We are a blessed family. Producing fruit for God’s glory is the highest call of humanity. God has been relentlessly faithful to us. As we trust him and obey him more fruit for His glory will be produced. Nothing could be better. Our best days are yet ahead. Please feel free to contact me directly (email@example.com) with any questions or comments.
There is a huge elephant in the room at ebc right now. It’s an imposing gray color with long, white tusks protruding from both sides of it’s enormous trunk like civil war cannons. Sometimes the elephant moves and when it does everything shakes. It’s instinctive to grab on to anything that feels stable to make us feel more comfortable, to help us feel at ease. Occasionally the elephant snorts and swings its massive head and when it does we just want it to go away. The last thing we want to deal with is the mess of this imposing pachyderm with its leather-like skin, sometimes pungent odor and ever present uncertainty.
But, alas the elephant is here. As a family we stand gloriously at the precipice of a future filled with more fruit for the glory of God than we’ve dreamed possible. But between the familiarity of today and the promise of tomorrow is this big stinking elephant. We see it everywhere we look and sometimes all we can see is the big gray blob.
Transition, change, improvement always brings with it a big ugly elephant that plants itself right in the middle of the room. Everybody has to walk around it and deal with it standing there.
But you can control the elephant. You can’t control that its there, but you can control your response to it. You can choose to see past the elephant and focus on what is just behind it. Do you see what is behind this big elephant at ebc right now? Just beyond that big thing is a church reaching even more people up and down the Susquehanna Valley. It’s a church that has solved its facility issues and has the capacity to reach two to three times as many people as its reaching today. It’s a church that is reaching out to children and students and has the capability to meet them where they are and help them meet Jesus. It’s a church that has even more stories of marriages healed, addictions defeated, new life received. It’s a church planting new churches in under served areas around north east and central Pennsylvania. One thing ebc has done a lot of in the past 13 years is deal with the elephant in the room. This one is nothing special. We know how to do this, we’ve done it before and this time will be no different.
The mission is too important to let an elephant stand between us and more aggressive pursuit of those who most need new life. The best is yet to come. I know that ebc is going to thrive, just as it has in the past, for the glory of God and joy of his people. And, I’m grateful that you’ll be a part this great journey.
Here is my encouragement to you from God’s Word:
Ezra 10:4: Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.
I can’t wait to start preaching again this weekend. Our new series is called “Habits of Happiness” and it will take us through a really cool letter Paul wrote to some friends in a major city called Philippi. We usually do one or two book studies each year and I had decided several months ago that this fall we’d walk through Philippians. Then my circumstances changed. I had been promising Bren for some time that the year I turned 50 I would follow up on some neglected medical stuff. I’m not much for bothering doctors. I figure they have important stuff to do and my little aches and pains weren’t all that important. Well, as it turned out there were four things that needed surgical attention in my abdomen. So I spent this summer having blood work, and tests, and more tests, and sitting in doctors offices. Finally a few days in the hospital put me on the road to a new me. It wasn’t how I envisioned my summer and I didn’t always choose a good attitude about it all. Bren tells me I’m not a very good patient.
However, because I knew I would be preaching through Philippians this fall I spent a lot of time just reading through that letter. The more I understood the circumstances from which Paul was writing (he’s in prison, among other things) and the attitude with which he wrote, the more impressed I became with how he chose to be happy in spite of his circumstances. So I started looking for the clues to Paul’s incredible ability to choose to be happy no matter what. Paul’s faith was so transformational, his attitudes were so shaped by his identity and position in Christ that he developed a sturdy and unshakable attitude that enabled him to thrive no matter what was happening around him.
I already have the first couple talks written and I can’t wait to get to them this weekend. I think God is going to do some great things in the next nine weeks as we walk through Philippians from the perspective of learning from Paul about how to be happy. I’m certain this series will encourage you if you know Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus yet this series will help you understand some of the key differences between walking alone and walking with Him.
I hope you’ll invite your friends because I’m praying that God is going to use this series to reach a lot of people.
Thanks for the honor of being your pastor, see you this weekend!