It’s been an emotional couple months at ebc. Last week 75.46% of our family voted to affirm a recommendation from our elders to join forces together with LCBC. ebc is still the same family, we’re on the same mission, using the same philosophy but now we’re adding incredible horse power and an incredible team of like-minded people who are passionate about helping people meet God for life.
That’s awesome, but, let’s be honest. It’s also hard. ebc will be transitioning to an LCBC campus and in the process we’ll be changing our name and a number of our systems. it’s natural to have mixed emotions about that. It’s important to be honest about what we’re feeling as we walk through this next chapter together.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about this weekend for our ebc family. A special guest is going to be joining us to help us move forward together. He’s going to encourage us.
So, I’m going to be brief, and I’m going to make one simple request here. Please come to a gathering this weekend. You’ll be so glad you did. Saturday at 6:00, or Sunday at 9:30 or 11:00. I can’t wait to see you here.
Thanks for the honor of being your pastor.
It’s been a crazy season at ebc. On August 31st we started a family-wide conversation trying to discern the most appropriate next steps for our church. After many years of steady growth it was time to make some changes to plan for and accommodate more people. This process was actually the culmination of years of prayer and discussion by our leaders. Ultimately, three options were outlined; we could hire some new staff or consultants and reorganize internally. We could find another church with which to partner in some sort of affiliation. Or, we could merge together with another church to pool our resources to continue to reach people. After months of meetings, small group interactions and discussion, on Christmas week, our elders unanimously recommended that our church family merge with LCBC, a church that has had a great influence on us over the years.
January and February have been filled with activity to provide the information needed to help us make this decision together. Five busses of people have traveled to LCBC York to see a campus in action. We’ve hosted three town hall meetings where our staff and their LCBC counterparts fielded questions from our ebc family. Pastor David Ashcraft and his bride, Ruth, have traveled to Berwick numerous times to meet with our folks and to preach on a couple weekends. We also partnered with LCBC for one of their series so we could have some sense of what it would be like. I’ve visited almost every small group in our church, and had countless one on one meetings to help our family process this recommendation.
I’m pretty sure that you, like me, are ready to put this stage to bed.
There remains only one step in our journey. This weekend at all of our gatherings our ebc family will be asked to affirm the recommendation of our elders to merge with LCBC. We believe the merger is a huge win for ebc and for our mission.
There will be a paper ballot, and everyone over 18 years old that is a member in good standing, or a regular attendee (defined as having attended at least half of the worship gatherings for at least the last three months), will be invited to vote during the gatherings.
But what is a “vote of affirmation” anyway? Some have been concerned that by having a vote the elders are giving away their authority and passing off a hard decision which is really theirs to make. While it is true that the elders are burdened with making the decisions on behalf of a church family, sometimes it is good leadership to ask the question; “This is where we think we should go; will you come with us?” That’s what a vote of affirmation does. It’s not saying that you would have made the same decision, or even that you necessarily agree with the decision, but that you will come along and support the decision to merge.
So it’s another big weekend for ebc. I hope you’ll come be a part of it. I hope you’ll work through the prayer guide that has been available and that you’ll come ready to participate.
I love being your pastor, it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I love my church!
My guess is you’re a lot like me in that you’re ready for our church to make a decision on our LCBC opportunity. It feels like LCBC is all we’ve talked about for the last few months. But there is one thing that we all have to do to finish this process well. We are all responsible for the condition of our own heart. Maintaining a heart that honors God never happens by accident, its the result of being intentional. I have put together a prayer guide to guide our family through this last week before our affirmation vote. It will be available this weekend at all of our gatherings. Please join me in taking whatever time it takes to work through the three stages to prepare your heart to participate in this affirmation.
Thanks for the honor of being your pastor!
Here’s the prayer guide:
It has certainly been an interesting couple of months at ebc! We are involved in a journey that most other churches would not consider. That’s a good thing. But now it is time to make a decision as a family whether we will affirm the recommendation of the elders and the staff to join forces together with LCBC or not. This is a big deal and we’ve all developed opinions as we’ve walked through the investigation stages together. As we establish personal opinions its natural for us to dig trenches around our perspectives and wall ourselves off from those who may have come to a different conclusion than we have. This prayer guide is designed to help us tear down those walls and prepare our hearts to make the decision that is before us. It is organized in three stages and it will take some time over the next week for you to work through.
The first stage will help us soften our hearts so we can hear from God and live in unity together regardless of whether we agree on this issue.
The second stage will guide us to pray for our church family and the mission entrusted to our care.
The third stage will open our hearts to hearing from God rather than just hoping for our preferences.
I’m so grateful to be on this journey with you. Let’s reflect the beauty of Jesus, not only in what we do, but how we do it.
We can trust God with our church. Fear, pride and worry all shout louder in our hearts than the voice of God. They shut down our ability to trust and cause our hearts to harden around our own limited perspectives. Spend some time with the following passages and remind yourself that you (and we) can trust God.
Matthew 6:32b-33: … your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Philippians 4:19: And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Deuteronomy 31:6: So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
As we reaffirm that God is trustworthy we will experience the freedom to be honest with God about the condition of our heart. Even when our hearts are hard and we have walled ourselves off from other Jesus followers we are still loved and accepted. God is still safe and forgiving and wants to free us from the prison of worry, fear and pride.
Nancy DeMoss has written a book called “Brokenness; the Heart God Revives.” In it she helps us investigate our own heart attitudes. I have adapted this list from her book. Take the time that it takes to work through it slowly while you relax with God. Ask God to show you the truth about yourself as you remember that you’re safe with him.
Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Think through each point:
• Proud people focus on the failures of other and can readily point out those faults. Broken people are more concerned about their own spiritual need that anyone else’s.
• Proud people have a critical, fault finding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but view their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate – they have the kind of love that overlooks a multitude of sins; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
• Proud people are especially prone to criticize people in positions of authority – their pastor, their boss, their husband, their parents – and they tend to talk to others about the faults they see. Broken people reverence, encourage, and lift up those that God has placed in positions of authority, and they talk to God in intercession, rather than gossiping about the faults they see in others.
• Proud people are self-righteous; they think highly of themselves and look down on others. Broken people think the best of others; they esteem others as better than themselves.
• Proud people have an independent self-sufficient sprit. Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for God and for others
• Proud people have to prove they are right. They have to get the last word. Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
• Proud people claim rights and have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights and have a meek spirit.
• Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights and their reputation. Broken people are self-denying and self-sacrificing.
• Proud people desire to be served they want life to revolve around them and their own needs. Broken people are motivated to serve others and to be sure others’ needs are met before their own.
• Proud people desire to be known as a success. Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others successful.
• Proud people have a feeling – conscious or subconscious – that “this ministry (or this organization) is privileged to have me and my gifts.” They focus on what they can do for God. Broken people have a heart attitude that says “I don’t deserve any part in this ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.
• Proud people crave self-advancement. Broken people desire to promote others.
• Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated for their efforts. Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.
• Proud people get wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked. Broken people are eager for others to get the credit, and they rejoice when others are lifted up.
• Proud people are elated by praise and deflated by criticism. Broken people know that any praise of their accomplishments belongs to the Lord and that criticism can help them grow into the spiritual maturity.
• Proud people feel confident in how much they know. Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.
• Proud people are self-conscious; they worry about what others think of them. Broken people are not preoccupied with what others think of them
• Proud people are concerned about appearing respectable, they are driven to protect their image and reputation. Broken people are concerned with being real; they care less about what others think than about what God knows – they are willing to die to their own reputation.
• Proud people can’t bear to fail or for anyone to think they are less than perfect. This can drive them to extremes – workaholic tendencies, perfectionism, and the tendency to drive others or to place unrealistic expectations on themselves or others. Broken people can recognize and live within God given limitations.
• Proud people keep others at arm’s length. Broken people are willing to take the risks of getting close to others and loving intimately.
• Proud people are quick to blame others. Broken people accept personal responsibility and can acknowledge where they were wrong in a situation.
• Proud people wait for others to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or a break in a relationship. Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled no matter how wrong the other party may have been.
• Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when corrected. Broken people receive correction with a humble, open spirit.
• Proud people find it difficult to discuss their spiritual needs with others. Broken people are willing to open and transparent with others as God directs.
• Proud people try to control the people and the circumstances around them – they are prone to manipulate. Broken people trust in God – they rest in Him and are able to wait for Him to work on their behalf.
• Proud people become bitter and resentful when they are wronged; they have emotional temper tantrums; they hold others hostage and are easily offended; they carry grudges and keep a record of others wrongs. Broken people give thanks in all things; they are quick to forgive those who wrong them.
• Proud people want to be sure no one finds out when they have sinned, their instinct is to cover up. Broken people aren’t overly concerned with who knows or who finds out about their sin – they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.
• Proud people have a hard time saying “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?” Broken people are quick to admit their failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.
• Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing their sin to God (“Dear Lord, forgive me for all my sins…”) or expressing spiritual need to others (“I need to be a better Christian…”) Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing sin: “Lord I agree with You that I love myself more than I love my mate; I confess that I’m addicted to television; I’m a glutton; I have a critical spirit; I am angry…”)
• Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin. They are disturbed over the problems caused by their sin – for example, the financial bondage created by their overspending, or the problems in their marriage that have resulted from selfishness and immoral choices. Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin, they are more concerned about how their sin has grieved the heart of God than about the problems it has created in their lives.
• Proud people are remorseful over their sin – sorry that they got caught or found out. Broken people are truly repentant over their sin, and the evidence of their repentance is that they forsake the sin.
• Proud people are blind to the true condition of their hearts. Broken people walk in the light and acknowledge the truth about their lives.
• Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of respect. Broken people compare themselves with the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for his mercy.
• Proud people don’t think they need to repent of anything. Broken people realize that they need to maintain a continual heart attitude of repentance.
• Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure everyone else does (In fact, right now they are making a mental list of the people they think need to read this list!). Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Spirit.
Jesus prayed for you and I. Here is part of what he prayed:
John 17:920-23: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
Key issue for stage two: Ask God to show you, apart from everyone agreeing with your perspective, what is your part of intentionally developing and growing the unity of our church family?
1 John 5:14-15: And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.
James 1:5-6: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.
Ask God to settle your heart around His will for His Kingdom and His church at ebc.
Then, relax and trust God.
This is a fascinating time at ebc. We’re right smack dab in the middle of thinking through the biggest organizational initiative in our history. Our elders have recommended that we approve joining together with LCBC to continue our mission of helping people meet God for life. The merger would change not only who we are, but how we do a lot of what we do. It’s a big deal. So, since sometime around late September of last year this big potential change has been looming in the midst of everything we do as a family. It’s the central aspect to many of our conversations. It has become the focus of our gatherings. Answering questions about it has become the driving force in my every day. Frankly its hard to overstate the importance of this journey both in terms of what it will cost us and in its potential for our mission. It’s a big deal.
It’s just not the biggest deal.
As important as it is for us to do all we can possibly do to investigate this opportunity together, to find an answer to every question, to hear every fear, to understand every implication. The potential merger is not the most important thing to our ebc family right now. While the merger is really important and deserving of our very best efforts it is not a life and death issue. Our mission is. While we walk through this process of moving toward the family affirmation of the elder’s recommendation there is something bigger going on. We’re still working to help people meet God for life. We’re still receiving numerous first time guests each week and those guests are coming back again. We want to meet those guests where they are in their journey and help them meet Jesus. We still have hundreds of Jesus followers who desperately need to take their next step in their walk with God.
So while the elephant in the room is our opportunity to merge with one of the most successful, vital churches in the country, that opportunity is not the most important thing right now at ebc. While we need to be hyper vigilant as we investigate what God may have for us with LCBC, let’s not lose sight of the fact that, this weekend, maybe seated right next to you, is someone that needs to know that Jesus loves them, and He accepts them right where they are. They need to know there is a brand new beginning for them and God brought them to that seat, right next to you, not to hear what you think about LCBC and the merger, but to see Jesus in you. That’s the most important thing.
Thanks for the great joy of being your pastor. There is no other place I’d rather be than right here with you, working on this mission.
Last Sunday evening we had a Town Hall Meeting for student and kidmin. Ministry leaders from LCBC along with our team were here to get to know one another and to answer questions. Unfortunately not all the questions could be answered in the time we had available so I asked Brad and Ang to compile all the questions and answer them. This document will also be available for the next few weekends in the foyer. Please make plans to get on one of the bus trips! We also have two more town hall meetings planned. One will be focused on adult ministries and one on worship and arts. If you have any questions about either of those two areas please come and ask them!
Frequently Asked Questions about KidMin and Student Ministries
With the elders at both ebc and LCBC recommending an adoption of our church into the LCBC family, people have dozens of questions and we want to do our best to inform you of the exciting possibilities ahead. Here, KidMin Director Angela Oliver and I are providing answers to questions asked at the Student Min/KidMin Town Hall meeting January 24. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask any of the staff. Healthy dialogue is a great thing and we would love to provide as much information as we can.
- Brad Travelpiece, ebc Director of Student Ministries
How does LCBC’s kidMinistry work?
LCBC’s kidMinistry experience, kidVenture Island, is designed for children ages six weeks through 4th grade to have fun, feel safe, learn about Jesus, and connect with peers and leaders. Beginning at age two, kids participate in Large Group Gatherings where they sing, dance, and listen to age appropriate Bible lessons. The huge win is that they then connect in small kidLife Groups with other boys or girls their age and caring leaders so they can apply the Bible Story to their everyday life. LCBC believes that every child needs a place to belong and someone who believes in them, and Life Groups are the best way to provide this.
Why aren’t 5th graders in kidMinistry?
LCBC believes the best way to meet the needs and interests of 5th graders is to include them with other preteens in Student Ministries. Fifth graders would be a part of the Middle School environment JCrew (fifth through eighth grade), which we hope to offer during each of our three weekend gatherings. Through dynamic teaching and Life Groups, we can create a place that is hugely beneficial for both 5th graders and 8th graders.
I have heard that LCBC’s kidMinistry only teaches about salvation a few times a year. Is this true?
This is a misconception that we looked into thoroughly. Their leaders explained that LCBC makes it a priority to teach kids every week about knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him. In addition to that, in order to better prepare parents to disciple their kids, LCBC holds “Salvation Weekends”. Multiple times a year, parents are encouraged to attend with their child as the Salvation message is emphasized as the central point of the lesson, with additional resources distributed to parents of children who decided to make Jesus their forever friend. So their kidMinistry is always encouraging kids to come to know Jesus, and multiple times a year that becomes the entire focus of the gathering.
How can Kindergarteners through 4th graders all learn from the same lesson?
In kidVenture Island, Kindergarteners through 4th graders share the same Large Group time, which includes worship, activities, and the Bible Story. LCBC is very intentional about crafting that lesson to be simple enough for a Kindergartener but engaging enough for a 4th grader. It is within their kidLife Groups where questions and activities are tailored to their appropriate age, and the concept of the lesson gets applied to the context of their lives. These groups, broken up by grade and gender, are where the most growth happens.
What if children/students don’t always attend the same gathering each weekend?
While LCBC encourages families to make it a priority to get your child to the same gathering each weekend so that they can build relationship with the same Life Group leader week after week, your kids will not have a problem feeling accepted and growing in another group if you attend another gathering.
Do kids and students have opportunities to serve at LCBC?
Absolutely, as early as Kindergarten, kids are encouraged to use their gifts to serve others. Whether as a part of the kidWorship team, a helper in Oyster Bay (LCBC’s environment for 2-year-olds), or a technology operator, there are plenty of ways for them to put their faith in action and make a difference.
What will happen to events such as Kidz JAM and VBS?
LCBC is intentional about investing resources, time, and energy into making the weekend gatherings great first and foremost. The kidMinistry leaders, however, have told Ang they love how the Kidz JAM program makes inroads into the community and are interested in evaluating if that is something LCBC could adopt. VBS is not necessarily off the table either, but LCBC looks to give kids the same high-energy experience they love at VBS every weekend rather than once a year.
We’ve been told that ebc has the best KidMin, and at the Town Hall meeting, David Ashcraft said he believes that LCBC has the best KidMin in the country. Which is it?
Scott has certainly painted our KidMin with a broad brush as the best in the world, and our KidMin has been one of the stronger ministries of our church for the last several years. However, partnered with LCBC, we would have an opportunity to adopt a program that is even more effective in reaching a larger number of families over a wider area and helping each child come to know Jesus better. LCBC has learned from leading churches across the country, and they have developed a program that is not only effective, but also sustainable. Ang would be part of a team that could support her and provide resources for her as she in turn equips leaders to mentor and care for kids week after week.
Student Min Questions
How does LCBC approach Student Ministry?
The Student Ministries of LCBC is focused on creating fully devoted followers of Christ. Everything they do is designed to help students feel welcome and accepted exactly as they are while being challenged by Jesus to live differently. This happens in fun, dynamic, high-energy experiences which include games, relevant teaching, and Life Group discussions with peers and a supportive leader. The Life Group leaders are the heroes of the ministry, as students open up and learn from them what it means to follow Jesus in their day-to-day lives.
Why doesn’t LCBC offer any experiences specifically for High School students during weekend gatherings?
Studies show 73 to 78 percent of students across the country involved in a youth group leave their faith after graduation. In order to change this trend, LCBC removed their weekend high school gatherings so students would merge into the larger church community. High school students get in the main gatherings, are encouraged to serve, and connect with peers at Circl3, their mid-week experience. This helps students connect to the church as a whole, not just the youth group, which they will leave behind someday. After making this change, LCBC found that they had reversed the statistic – 80 percent of their students were engaging their faith after graduation rather than ditching it.
What night of the week would High School meet?
All of the current LCBC campuses host Circl3 on Wednesday nights from 7:30-9:00 pm (doors open at 7:00). This is late enough for most people involved in sports practices to still join us and even bring teammates. And while no night of the week will work for everyone, they have found Wednesday to be a great chance to reconnect with students in the middle of the week. We would also evaluate whether that night is best for our group.
What would happen to Middle School FUSE?
LCBC has a strong desire to do a few things very well rather than doing many things at a lesser quality. So rather than holding two unique Middle School gatherings and having some students go to one and some to another, leaders focus their attention on only the weekend gathering, JCrew, so they can make it as great as they can and encourage all of their 5th through 8th graders to join them there. I hope to have a JCrew gathering at each of our weekend gatherings, and I believe that any student who has enjoyed FUSE would love JCrew.
How would the teaching be handled for Student Ministries?
A large part of the teaching provided in our gatherings would be done via video, created by a team of Student Ministries leaders across the campuses so that the best age-appropriate material is presented. During the times when I would be teaching live, the main points and direction of the lesson are provided to me, while I have freedom to add stories and my own spin on things to make it my own. With less time required to prepare for teaching, I am free to invest more time in the students and leaders here in Berwick.
Would our students have opportunities to attend Impact or other retreats and events?
The LCBC team creates retreats for students every year. They have Fall Retreat for High Schoolers, Avalanche for 7th and 8th graders, and Blizzard for 5th and 6th graders, with one weekend of Blizzard being for boys, another weekend for girls. In the past they have not attended events such as Impact, but High School Pastor John Wilkinson said they are not closed off to new ideas in this regard.
Does LCBC offer missions trips for their students?
There are anywhere between 15 and 20 Summer Serving Experiences available each year for high schoolers, all broken into four different tiers to help ensure students are prepared for whatever trip they go on. The deadline for registration has passed for 2015 trips, but our students and leaders could join trips starting in the summer of 2016.
Isn’t it true that we’re already a successful church? Why are we considering giving that up?
Yes, God has been tremendously gracious to ebc, and on our own we can continue to do well, but we believe together we can do better, especially in reaching more of the region. Our attempts at making sites have been less successful than we had hoped, but with LCBC’s resources and expertise we could plant vibrant church sites throughout this area.
Why would our name be LCBC Columbia Montour?
LCBC typically names their sites after the area where their site is located, and we want to make a statement with our name that we are trying to reach this whole area, not just Berwick.
When would the fourth gathering be added?
We don’t have a concrete answer for this yet, however, one strong possibility is launching a second Saturday night gathering this fall so that we can make Saturday a more viable option. This also makes it easier for volunteers to “sit one, serve one,” meaning they could attend one gathering that night, and serve during the other gathering.
What does it take to be a Life Group Leader with kidMinistries or Student Ministries?
First, you’ve got to love Jesus! There is an application process to ensure that we are putting the best people with our kids and students. In kidMinistries, even older kids can help lead groups of younger kids when paired with an adult. Anyone in 11th grade or older could qualify as a JCrew leader, and anyone 23 or older can lead in Circl3.
What happens to our elders if ebc is adopted by LCBC?
While there would eventually be an opportunity to become a part of the LCBC elder board through their normal process, our elders would, for the forseeable future, step into other serving roles within the church as we all join together in our mission to reach lost souls for Christ. The LCBC elder board has eight members, each serving a four-year term, but it is not a representative board so none of our elders would automatically have a seat as an LCBC elder.
What happens to our staff if ebc is adopted by LCBC?
All of our staff members have been offered and accepted positions with LCBC. While some roles would change, the possibilities ahead are exciting. While some roles would change, we are excited about the possibilities of what God could do through our family for His Glory in the years ahead.
This is a weird season for ebc. We are in an uncomfortable land between our past and our future. God has been gloriously gracious to ebc in granting us the privilege of producing fruit for his glory. His blessing has landed us at a place where we are trying to determine our next steps so we can continue to produce fruit for his glory.
This land between will last through February 22 at which point our ebc family will vote to affirm, or not affirm, the direction our elders have recommended, which is to merge together with LCBC to become a regional church reaching people throughout our region.
I’ve been in a land between before, you probably have too. It’s a time of waiting and thinking, seeking and questioning, praying and pondering. It can be a time full of anxiety because the future is uncertain. It can be a time of sadness because the past, as great as it may have been, is over.
It we let it, the land between can bring out the worst in us. It can make us fearful and suspicious, it can cause us to retreat to a place of comfort and safety.
Regardless of the outcome of the affirmation vote our job as a family for the next few weeks is to navigate the land between in a way that displays God’s beauty.
So how do we do that? There are a couple of things that I think are important just now for us as a family.
First, own your junk. We’re different from each other. We each have a different personal style, we have varying paces at which we’re comfortable moving, we have different appetites for varying levels of information. For example, I tend to move faster than most people are comfortable moving. That’s my problem. I have to own that. I can’t expect the speed of the family to match my speed. So it’s important for me to let other leaders have lots of influence over the speed at which we move. My need for speed is part of my junk and I have to own my junk. The assumptions I make about people and processes are part of my junk. What I assume about other people or organizations says more about me than it does about them. I have to own that. In Psalm 139:23 David gives us an example of what this looks like. He asks God to search him and know his heart and to reveal any hurtful way in him. That’s David owning his junk and you and I need to do the same thing. What is your junk?
Second, assume positive intent. Extending the grace to others that God extends to us means that I’m going to enter a dialog assuming that the person I’m communicating with means well, that they’re trying to do the right thing. Assuming positive intent opens dialog, assuming negative intent closes dialog. Assuming positive intent helps me to hear things that I may not be noticing. When I don’t assume positive intent I get defensive and when I’m defensive I don’t hear what people are saying to me, I only think about how I can protect myself from them. This doesn’t mean that we ignore those times when someone may obviously mean us harm, but it does mean that our first reaction is to assume positive rather than negative. In my own life this has been transformative.
Last, double check your information. There are so many opportunities for all of us to make sure we really understand the opportunity that is before us. Get good information. Have a conversation with a staff member, attend the town hall meetings, go on one of the bus trips to LCBC. Ask every question you have and get good information.
This is a defining time in the life of our church family. The result is not the only thing that matters. We have an opportunity to glorify God not only what we do, but how we do it. So join me in owning your own junk, assuming positive intent and double checking your information. This is an important time in the life our family, let’s do all we can to do it well.
Thanks for the honor of being your pastor.
Since we as a family are considering joining together with a large church it seems wise to me to respond to some of the questions I’ve been getting about large churches. People generally have very personal opinions about things like church size and church style and those opinions are generally rooted in some very personal experiences. There is nothing wrong with that until we expect others to share our opinion or until we want our opinion to be more than just our opinion. One of the things that I commonly hear is that large churches have a factory mentality that is impersonal and fails to grow people in their faith. but is that perception actually true? Here is some research which was completed by Rodney Stark of Baylor University where he compared responses from those who attend churches with attendance under 100 with those who attend churches with attendance over 1000. Take a look, I think you’ll agree that the perception that larger churches are a mile wide and an inch deep is not accurate:
This is a big week for ebc, one of the biggest so far actually. Last week, as you’ll remember, we shared some of the mountains we’re trusting God to help us climb this year.
We want to baptize 75 new believers.
We want to upgrade our facility to enable us to continue reaching people.
We want to establish the foundation to enable us to become a more regionally effective church through launching campuses in under served areas.
You can hear the whole talk here.
We want to upgrade our facility to enable us to continue reaching people.
We want to establish the foundation to enable us to become a more regionally effective church through launching campuses in under served areas.
You can hear the whole talk here.
Moving forward is always a two-edged sword because it requires change and change is messy. Our ebc family is not new to change. In fact, we’re seasoned pros. But navigating change in a successful way that honors God takes a couple things. So, I’m asking all of us, starting with me, to employ a couple strategies to work together to preserve our family vitality as we move forward together.
First, seek to understand before you develop your perspective. Change always has two key components. One is the rational and data that is driving the change, and the second is our emotional response to the change. Both are valid and they’re almost always in competition with one another. This weekend we’ll be launching a whole host of ways you’ll be able to get all the information you would ever want to help you form a solid opinion. Please participate in those opportunities.
Second, separate your emotions from your judgment. Have you ever noticed how two totally reasonable people at an AYSO match can see exactly the same thing and have diametrically opposed perspectives of what actually happened? The reason for that is because emotions cloud our perception and judgment. Emotional judgments are rarely good judgments. However, emotions are important, and they should not be ignored. It’s important to identify what you’re feeling and even why you’re feeling it. We will all have some things to mourn as we walk through moving forward. That is nothing new to ebc and this iteration of progress will be no different. We will also have things about which we’ll be very excited and there will be a great deal to celebrate.
Third, as we’ve been doing together for years, separate your personal preferences from what is best for the mission of Jesus at ebc. One of the flaws I find in myself is that I tend to assume that what I’d love to experience personally is also best for the mission at large. You might do the same thing. The problem is obvious, the mission is not here for me, I’m here for it. And, if you’re already in Christ, so are you. Wanna grow deep in your faith? Jump into the mission with both feet, you’ll grow faster than riding the Phoenix at Knoebles.
I love reading Joshua’s story in the Hebrew Bible. God had made some rock solid promises to his people, but he was maturing them through some tough stuff before they realized the payoff of the promises. The leadership mantle had been passed from Moses to Joshua and God was ready to provide the promised payoff.
Here is how The Message translates part of Joshua Chapter one: In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”
There are basically two takeaways in my mind. One is obvious, the other not so much.
The obvious one is that Joshua is commanded to be faithful to every part of God’s Word to them, all the time. The emphasis is not on knowing the Word, but on carrying it out (Which, obviously, requires that you know it, but not just know it.). So, for you and I, we need to live the Scriptures, all the time. Okay, got it.
The second, and perhaps less obvious, is that even though God has made iron clad promises and he’s going to keep them, Joshua, and the whole nation, still have to be strong and courageous. Even though the outcome is promised, how it happens and who participates is not (Moses was already disqualified). “Strength! Courage! Give it everything you have…!”
Our next chapter together as a family is going to require both takeaways, absolute, unshakeable, faithfulness to God’s word in our practice, and strength and courage, giving it everything we have. I’m ready, and I hope you are too. Our best days are yet ahead, God says so.
I love you. Thanks for the honor of being your pastor.
Happy New Year.
It’s early on New Years Day as I tap away on my laptop and my mind is flooded with gratitude. I’m thankful for a lake of new mercy that greets me every morning. Because of that mercy I never get what I deserve. I’m thankful for the river of grace in which I spend every day swimming. Because of that grace I enjoy mountains of pleasures that I don’t deserve. Pleasures like the love of a bride whom I adore that has stuck with me for 30 years. Pleasures like the joy of having three launched sons (and a new soon to be daughter-in-law!) who love Jesus and are making their own lives. Pleasures like having the job of my dreams as I lead people I love to reach the Susquehanna Valley and beyond with new life in Jesus. Because of that mercy and grace my heart is filled with hope as we launch 2015. I can’t wait to tackle the challenges and opportunities of this year with you. There is so much to do!
As we begin this new year together I want the first thing I say to you to be THANK YOU! You did it again. Our Big Big Day opportunity for generosity was successful. We have more than we need to do what we were hoping to do. We will be sending $26K to our friends working to reach their people through an underground church. We are working with the Oppels to get them to Papua New Guinea. Our staff has been blessed and there are still funds remaining to invest in updating our facility. I don’t have the final figure yet, but you were generous yet again. Thank you!
I also want the second thing I say to you to be THANK YOU. Thank you for allowing me to be your pastor. I love our church, our mission and you. I’ve learned so much more from you than you’ve learned from me. Our church family is a trophy of God’s grace. 2015 is bringing with it unprecedented opportunities to pull together for this cause for which Jesus died.
Enjoy this holiday, then lets strap on our work boots and get to work.
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.