- Pray that God would break us of our addiction to all things temporary and open our hearts to primary joy in him and secondary joy in what he provides.
- Pray that we would realize that the mission of the church is not about us; and then act that way.
- Pray for eyes to see truth and hearts to break at the need and hands to serve.
- Pray for the best process for where we are right now as a church to grow each other in discipleship.
- Pray for welcoming hearts that celebrate when God moves the heavens and gets someone to church that surprises you. Then go welcome them to sit with you.
- Pray for generous givers.
- Pray that God would make you uncomfortable and discontent with half hearted love for him and his mission.
Our church is a missional church. To us, that means that we don’t exist for ourselves we exist for a mission that is outside of ourselves. We exist not to satisfy our own theological curiosity or to supply a pleasant social life with like-mined Christian people. We exist to introduce the communities we serve to God and to help them live life in response to his revelation of himself.
Fundamentally, that’s what is different about us. Most churches drift toward being about themselves. They’re about pleasing the people that are a part of the group by giving them what they want (that’s why churches fight so much, it’s hard to agree on what everyone wants). I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not us. It’s not what God is asking us to do. And it’s certainly not something to which I’m willing to give my life. My guess is your not either.
So, why are we a missional church? Or maybe a better way to say it is why must we be a missional church? Or still better, why can’t we be anything but a missional church?
The short answer is this: It is inappropriate to separate the mission of God from the study of God.
Far too often the church has separated theology (the study of the character and nature of God) from missiology (the study of God’s mission).
God has revealed himself in his Word. Through the Bible we know that God is holy, sovereign, all-knowing, omnipresent, gracious, just, loving and all-powerful. Knowing those truths about God is important. Having a sense of the vast, perfect nature of God is vital to following him. It’s a good thing to study God’s revelation about himself and we should do that.
However, it’s worth asking why God chose to reveal himself in his Word. Is God’s desire that his creation be able to have some intellectual understanding of who he is, or is there something deeper involved?
Here’s the thing. The Bible doesn’t just present a God that is. The Bible presents a God that is on a mission. The Hebrew Bible (OT) and the New Testament alike reveal that God’s revelation of himself is for the purpose of inviting us to a relationship with him (Duet. 6:5; Luke 10:27). The invasion of earth by God himself in the form of Jesus shows that God is not only on a mission, but that he is willing pay dearly for that mission.
God reveals himself to invite us to love him, to find, in him, new life. Better life.
A missional church refuses to separate what God reveals about himself theologically from what he does missionally. In fact, our theology gets wacky (that’s a technical term) when it’s separated from the mission, and our mission gets soft when it’s separated from our theology.
When my goal is simply to learn God becomes an abstract figure to be studied. When my goal is only to help people I have nothing of substance to offer them that has any real hope for them (except just becoming like me and who would want that?!).
But, when I learn about God in the context of his passionate mission to save me I become consumed by a relationship that changes me as I offer a hand to others who need the same thing.
That’s why we’re a missional church and we refuse to be anything but a missional church.
This Sunday is the first of our Rediscover Church concerts. Hyland will be in Berwick on Sunday to perform in our auditorium on Sunday evening. We even have two of our own worship guys from Hazleton opening. It should be a great show and I think you should come.
The question is why are we doing this? We are a missional church. To us, that means that we want to meet people where they are and point them to God. So, everything we do is done in a way that those who may not know the God of the Bible can come to meet him and know him. We are providing concerts as an experiment in helping people meet God for life. You may know of some folks that you’d be able to invite to a great concert that would not come with you to a church service. This is your opportunity. The journey from being far from God to experiencing new life in Christ is often a journey of many steps over a period of years. Concerts are yet another way to connect people who need to know Jesus.
We hope to do a couple of these over the next several months. I hope you’ll take advantage of them and invite some friends who enjoy good music and, who knows, maybe a journey will start for some people that will result in some awesome eternal fruit.
Oh! We think its going to be a sell-out crowd so do what you can now to secure your seats. I’m grateful to Tim Karnes and his team for doing so much extra work to bring this opportunity to our family.
I love pastoring a church that is willing to do whatever it takes to meet people where they are with truth of Jesus.
In just a few weeks parents will be proudly watching as their pride and joy crosses a stage in right of passage we call graduation. In our culture graduations come in all shapes and sizes starting with preschool right on through graduate school. Graduations are a great reminder that full time parenting is a temporary position with one goal: The Launch. There are hundreds of launches between the diaper stage and the wedding day. As Bren and I have celebrated and mourned the various stages of empty nesting we’ve agreed that the only thing worse than launching would be not launching.
What many parents don’t realize is that the launch countdown starts when our kids are in diapers with the attitudes we instill in them. Do we foster dependence or independence? Do we allow our kids to experience the consequences of their decisions or do we step in and help them blame someone or something else when something goes wrong?
As I’ve reflected on our parenting journey I’ve been impressed by at least two things. First, I’m utterly dumbfounded at how fast parenting becomes a part-time gig (Don’t tell Bren, but I wish we’d have had more kids!). And, second, preparing for launch is much more about mentoring the heart than managing behavior.
As parents we’re so tempted to spend our parenting energy managing behavior because we’re judged by how our children behave. But, parenting by behavior management is short sighted because it doesn’t teach personal responsibility or decision making skills.
There are countless ways to turn every day parenting decisions into mentoring opportunities that will build decision making skills and instill an attitude of personal responsibility into our charges.
When my oldest son was about six years old we loved McDonalds (Okay, I still love McDonalds but don’t tell Bren that either.). Happy meals are awesome! On one occasion Jake brought his happy meal toy to me and asked if he could play with it. I don’t remember exactly what it was except that it was an action figure of some movie character from that time. It would have been easy to give a simple yes or no response based on my authority as a dad and Jake would have had to obey because I’m in authority over him. But rather than that, I reminded Jake that God wants us to have the best possible life and that he gave us help to make decisions about how to do that. Then I showed him Philippians 4:8, and asked him what he thought the best decision was. He thought for a moment and decided that particular toy wouldn’t help him keep his thoughts happy. In fact, that toy made him feel kind of mean. That was that.
Mentoring the heart is harder than managing behavior. It takes lots more time to guide decision making, grant freedom to make mistakes, and then provide support (but not rescue) when decisions result in difficult consequences. But, mentoring launches men and women who are prepared to make a valuable contribution to their communities while living with the truth of eternity behind every decision (Col. 3:1-4).
If you’re a full time parent, and if your kids still live at home you are, today you’ll have lots of opportunities to manage behavior, or you can prepare for launch by mentoring the heart.
Philippians 4:8: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
I’m feeling melancholy today. A bit sad, but not in a depressed way (us folks who have struggled with depression always clarify that because being sad or feeling down is very different from dealing with depression). My oldest son, Jake, left this morning for Ocean City, Maryland where he will be working as a police officer. We were fortunate to have an unexpected year with Jake after his college graduation as he worked through a process with the military. That ended today when he pulled out of the driveway in his truck, packed full of stuff, to move into his new place at the beach. We loved having the unexpected time with him. My boys have become great friends of mine as they’ve become men and I love having them around when they’re able to be here. I’m happy for him, but I’m sad to see him go. Beyond that, however, I’m really sad for Mike and Julie Gaugler. Some ebc’ers will remember Mike, he was a staff pastor here about ten years ago. A vibrant young man with a powerful teaching gift, I’ve known Mike since he was in high school. Julie, his wife, lived with Bren and I while they were courting. We had many late night conversations together as they were becoming a couple. She is very special to us, the closest thing we have to a daughter. I remember officiating their wedding, visiting them in their first apartment, moving them into their first home, rejoicing with them at the birth of their children. Mike is now pastoring a great church in Shamokin Dam, outside of Selinsgrove. Just over a month ago Julie got sick. They didn’t think too much of it, the flu comes and goes. But, this got worse, very fast, and Julie ended up in a helicopter being flown to Hershey Medical Center where she stayed for one day less than a full month. Just this past week Julie was transferred to a long term care facility with the best prognosis being that she would become stable, but severely brain damaged and be transferred to a nursing home for 24 hour care for the rest of her life. The worst case prognosis is that she will not stabilize and her body will lose its fight to survive. Frankly both options stink and I’m sad about that. I’m angry at sin. I’m empathizing with Mike, who is trying to learn to be a single dad and pastor his church without his precious partner Julie. I’m upset for their three beautiful kids, who have to try and figure out how their mommy being in this condition can actually be an act of God’s love.
So I’m sad today. But today is a good day. It’s a really good day. As I peer through the sadness I can sense the party. I can almost hear the dishes clanging and the band playing and the brilliant, overwhelming glory. The stunning absence of pain, the calming clarity where confusion previously camped. The sadness I feel today is worth it because its reminding me of the momentary nature of everything I can see. Because of Jesus, no matter what happens with Julie, or my boys, or my bride, or my body, or my finances, or my health, God’s promises are true and I can lean into any circumstance knowing that the best is yet to come.
It’s the truth of our church passage for this year… I hope it’s sinking deep into your spirit.
Colossians 3:1-4: Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
I get to pastor the best church in the world. I’m right in the middle of a raging flood of grace as God uses ebc as a trophy to show off His glory. This week as we get back to work after a very busy, very fruitful Easter weekend I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to God for our church family. We will never know the true fruit of our labor until we get to heaven, but we do know that at least 10 people became Christ followers last weekend, we know that literally hundreds re-focused their hearts on Jesus, we know that hundreds of kids were loved and valued and heard the gospel message from people who loved them.
So thank you to Kim and our KidzZone team to all your work at all three locations. Thank you to Colleen and our guest relations and assimilation teams for meeting so many people where they are and welcoming them to our family. Thank you to Tim and the worship and A/V community for your labor in producing and leading us in worship, thank you to you, for inviting and praying and being on mission. I get to pastor the greatest church in the world and I’m so excited because I know our best days are yet ahead. We’re only getting started. Yea God.
I’m really excited about this weekend. Easter is a big deal in our culture and we have a huge opportunity to provide glory for God this weekend by making more and better Christ followers.
Please join me in praying for the hundreds of ebc’ers that are inviting family and friends to be a part of our Easter experiences at all three locations. Pray also for those being invited and those that will attend that don’t know Jesus yet. Then pray for our staff and the dozens of volunteers who will be serving our family at all three locations. Nothing that we do on Sunday is more important or more vital than the praying we do before hand. Pray that God will welcome many new brothers and sisters for us in His family!
I love that our family is so guest friendly. This Sunday we’ll have an opportunity to show biblical hospitality to many folks who’s impression of God will be based on how we love them. Let’s love them with outrageous love of another kind!
This Sunday is not about ebc. It’s not about filling all three locations with numbers. The numbers aren’t the point. Every number is a person. The people matter, the numbers don’t. Easter is about the glory of God as he speaks to each person where they are. It’s about Christ-followers being overwhelmed with God’s gracious power displayed in the resurrection. It’s about God rescuing the doomed for his glory as he shows himself through his bride, the church.
I can’t wait for Sunday, but not because it’s a big event for our church. I can’t wait for Sunday because it’s a huge opportunity to join God on his mission.
Thanks for the incredible honor of being your pastor.
For those of us in the rural country side of Pennsylvania, Lent is everywhere. A few weeks ago many in our communities marked the beginning of this 40 day fast with a spot of charcoal on their head. Local church fish sales, Friday specials at our local restaurants and friends who remind us what they’ve given up for lent are constant reminders that so many of us respect this annual run up to Easter. Here at ebc Lent is not something we formally recognize as a family but, is there something of value there for us? Maybe.
There is no observance of Lent in the New Testament. Jesus didn’t teach about it, the Apostles didn’t observe it after the church was launched, in fact, the observance of lent doesn’t show up until about 325 AD. At that time lent began as a three day fast. As the observance was stretched to 40 days it excluded Sundays and one meal a day was permitted, in the evening, so long as that meal didn’t include meat, fish, eggs or dairy. As the practice progressed through the centuries the permitted meal was allowed earlier in the day, then as time wore on, the practice morphed into finding something of value to give up and really didn’t include fasting at all. The purpose of self-denial as a lead up to Easter was intended to help focus our hearts on repentance of the sin that the celebration of Easter obliterates.
It doesn’t really trouble me that lent (or Easter or Christmas for that matter) is not mentioned in the Bible and in fact was not a part of Christian experience for a few hundred years. The Bible is both prescriptive and descriptive. The fact that some things are not mentioned or required by the Bible is not the same as prohibiting those things. The church is expected to find ways to effectively make more and better Christians in the particular time and culture in which it exists. There is very little actual church practice that is mandated in the Bible.
So, if Lent is helpful in focusing our hearts on Jesus’ pursuit of us, if it helps to drown out the noise of day to day living while bringing the glory of God more to the forefront of our minds and hearts it could be a good thing.
The danger of lent is the same as the danger in any religious observance. It’s easy to act it out in a mindless way that accomplishes nothing of value, to go through the motions. Its easy to observe lent out of religious duty and obligation.
So it may be very valuable for you to observe a run up to Easter in a way that heightens your gratitude for the utterly incredible gift of new life in Jesus that the resurrection makes possible.
But, be careful. God is not impressed with our acts of service or our religious duty. He’s looking through you to your heart.
I pastor (yes, it’s a verb in this case) the greatest church ever. I was blown away by the number of ebc’ers that checked box number three on our response form last Sunday. So many of you asked for help in finding the next step for you to give yourself away. Awesome! I promise you that nothing will make your happier or give you a greater sense of satisfaction that living beyond yourself for the glory of God. Here are a couple simple things to help you do that.
First, pray. Just ask God to guide you to something that is strategic for His Kingdom that fits who you are. God doesn’t want you to serve out of obligation as you try to be something he didn’t design you to be. Relax, and let God guide you.
Second, what are you drawn toward? Giving yourself should be challenging, but it should also be fun. Let me give you an example. I’m passionate about fatherhood. I’ve recently decided to put together an organization to equip fathers to raise their sons to be men. There is quite a bit of work involved in that, but because I’m so passionate about helping dads the work is energizing to me, not draining. The same will be true for you. What you’re passionate about is not a mistake. Pay attention to it. Are you and athlete? Do kids melt your heart? Are you sensitive to newcomers? For you, is it auto mechanics? Find that area where you’re passionate and focus on that area.
Third, What are your specific gifts? What are you good at? If you’re not sure what your gifts are take our ebc essentials class. It’s only three weeks and one of the weeks gives you all you need to know to figure out your gifts.
Fourth, take a test drive. Don’t start by making a huge commitment. Try it for a couple weeks and see if it fits you. It doesn’t have to be in the church. God will use you to reach those outside his family and to help mature those inside his family. It’s important to pursue relationships in the church and in the community.
The most important thing is to not get discouraged. It’s Okay if you try something, or several things and they don’t fit. In fact, it’s awesome when something doesn’t fit because you’re learning to narrow down what it is that will flip your switch.
Just get started, take the first step and watch what God will do! Keep us posted on your progress and let us know how to help you!
We live in the age of outrage. Homosexuals are outraged, straight folks are outraged, republicans are outraged, democrats are outraged. We’ve raised being outraged to an art form. We even prepackage our outrage and use it to further polarize ourselves from each other. Then we use our outrage to raise funds from those who are outraged in the same way we are. Our outrage is instant and requires almost no information about those with whom we’re outraged.
The sequester debacle, the gun-control debate, the insert your own issue here, are all reasons for us to be outraged. I realize there are times when the only appropriate response is outrage. However, if we start with outrage where do we go from there?
If you’re a Christ follower, turn down the instant outrage, let go of the doctored photos that make those on the other side look silly. Get over misrepresenting other perspectives to make them look stupid. You’re not helping.
You don’t influence people with your finger in their chest as you use inflammatory words to belittle their position. That may win the moment, but it will never win the day because it’s not real leadership.
Real leadership starts with valuing people, hearing them, understanding them. That’s also what gives you credibility as an ambassador of Jesus, which is your highest calling.
Value people, and the issues that ultimately matter will take care of themselves.