Saturday, December 28, 2013

God Has a Plan

In my morning devotions I have been reading the Psalms. Today as I read Psalm 18 I was struck by range of emotions in the Psalm. David writes in verses 1-3:

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.

We can almost feel the intense love David has for God. David's love for God and faith in God's power becomes a place for him to find refuge in difficult times.

As 2013 comes to a close, many of us could make a list of troubles and difficulties that we experienced. For those of us who know the Lord, we could also make a list of ways in which God was there for us during those difficult times. Like David we can attest that the Lord is worthy to be praised.

But the Psalms goes on to talk about the depths of despair that David went through before the Lord delivered him. David talks about "ropes of death wrapped around him" (verse 4) and the "snares of death confronting him." Wow. Most of our problems do not take us to the edge of death and back. But David knew such deep turmoil in his soul because of the range of troubles that he had been through. Perhaps that is why his love for God also bloomed so brightly. Those who have been through great difficulties learn the capacity for great love.

When we go through difficult times we are often tempted to be angry at God for letting us down. David went to through a living hell (verse 5) and yet he did not get bitter or angry. Instead he said, "God-His way is perfect" (verse 30) and goes on to say that "God . . . makes my way perfect. (verse 32). Difficulties can make us bitter or they can make us better. Our faith in God is what enables us to go down the path of betterment instead of bitterness.

Though we do not always understand God's plan for our lives, we can rest in the assurance that God does indeed have a plan. God's ways are perfect and as we learn to love Him more, He can make our ways perfect too.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Baby Changes Everything - Guest Post by Bill Davis

Today, as we continue in the Advent season, let us remember the love of the Christ Child. There is a song that says; “A baby changes everything”. There is so much hatred and deception in our world. The word of God is based on truth and love. Jesus Christ is the gift of God’s love and salvation.
Romans 5:8 (NIV); “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus Christ, the son of God, is humbly asking us to receive Him and accept His gift of Salvation. He does not force Himself on anyone but goes where He is welcome. Matthew tells us in Chapter 10:15what will happen if His word is not accepted;
“I tell you the truth it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.”
We might substitute the word “person” for “town”. Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed by fire and brimstone. This is a strong comparison to those who hear about the gift of Jesus but do not accept it. Too many “believers” remove the wrapping from God’s gift but do not fully obey His teachings. We must consume the gift of Jesus and feed on His words for nourishment. Jesus says He will never leave or forsake us. But before this gift is ours, we have to completely accept it and try our best to live it and show God’s perfect love in our own imperfect way to our own imperfect world.
Today, give a special gift of love to someone. Make a difference in someone’s life. Think of several people you know and give them a call, email or text them. Tell them you are thinking about them, you love them and in the spirit of the Season, you will be saying a special prayer for them. Maybe this gets you out of your comfort zone but remember Jesus’ words.
John 13:34-35 (NIV); “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

Bill Davis lives in Anderson County, SC, where he often speaks at churches and encourages evangelism and discipleship efforts across the region.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Four Christmas Messages from Angels

Preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett at Faith Fellowship Church in Bloomfield, CT, on Sunday, December 22, 2013.

               Angels have always served as God’s messengers.
               They still exist today and continue to serve as God’s messengers.
               Though angels are very real, we should never pray to angels, or worship them, because only God deserves that honor.
               But we can learn some important truths about life by looking at how angels impacted the Christmas story.
First Angel - The Message to Zechariah
Luke 1:11-13 - An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.

               Zechariah was a priest at the Temple and was offering incense at the altar when he saw an angel.
               Because of the large number of priests and limited number of times incense was offered, this was probably a once in a life time experience for Zechariah.
               Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had not been able to have any children and now were too old for it to happen naturally.
               As Zechariah prayed, he asked God to do a miracle and give him a son.
               There are moments in our lives that are so special, they will never happen again. We should learn to cherish such moments.
               Likewise, we all have supernatural experiences that are once in a life time moments with God. We should not take them for granted because they cannot be recreated.
               Other times God puts a desire in our hearts that just will not go away. We should keep on praying, even if it seems impossible for it to happen.
               An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah while he was praying, which startled him and he was overcome with fear.
               Zechariah was so shocked that he did not believe the message the angel told him.
               It is ironic that Zechariah was praying for something important to him but when God answered, he was startled and afraid.
               But if we are honest, we would have to admit that the same thing sometimes happens to us. We pray and then are surprised when God answers.

The First Message of the Christmas Angels for us today is: We should pray in faith believing that God hears and responds.

Second Angel - The Message to Mary
Luke 1:26-29 - In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, "Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you." But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

               Mary was Zechariah’s wife’s cousin.
               In the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the same angel came to Mary and gave her the same message, which was that she would also have a son.
               The angel calls Mary “highly favored.”
               Some churches teach that Mary was sinless or had some other special spiritual quality that made her “worthy” to bear the Christ child.
               Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary was extraordinary, as a matter of fact the Bible is actually silent about the background and life of Mary.
               The Bible is silent about Mary because the focus should be Jesus, not on Mary.
               If any of the visitations of Mary that people claim to have are real, Mary’s first message to them would be to stop praying to her and worshipping her, because Jesus alone is worthy of worship.
               Mary was an ordinary person whom God chose to help accomplish His extraordinary plan.
               God still uses ordinary people to do remarkable things.
Luke 1:38 - I am the Lord's slave, said Mary. May it be done to me according to your word. Then the angel left her.

               Mary’s response to the angel was that she was willing to submit to God’s plan for her life even though it made no sense at all.
               She got to see God do some amazing things and her life was blessed because of her willingness to obey God’s plan.

The Second Message of the Christmas Angels for us today is: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things if we are willing to be obedient to His plan.

Third Angel - The Message to the Shepherds
Luke 2:8-11 - In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.

               The angel proclaimed good news to the shepherds and the same good news is proclaimed to us today.
               The good news is that we no longer have to endure lives of emptiness but we can have hope and purpose.
               The good news is that we no longer have to bear the guilt of our sins, or fear hell, for our sins can be forgiven.
               This good news is for all people. How have we responded to it?

Luke 2:15 - When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."

               The shepherds may have been uneducated and poor, but they were smart enough to go check it out, accept what they found!
               Are we smart enough to check out the Gospel and accept it?

The Third Message of the Christmas Angels for us today is: The Gospel is the Good News about Jesus and we have no hope without it.

Fourth Angel - The Message to Joseph
Matthew 2:13-15 - After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him. So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod's death.

               These verses happen sometime after the actual birth of Jesus, probably about two years later.
               The traditional Christmas story as we know it is over by the time these verses happen.
               King Herod had been alerted that a new “king” had been born and he was afraid of the competition.
               Not wanting competition for the title “King,” Herod ordered the murder of all the baby boys two years old and younger in the area where Jesus had been born.
               That was an incredibly cruel act, but when people in power feel threatened, they often use their power in terrible ways.
               Regretfully, our lives are often filled with pain because the people around us feel threatened, especially those with power over us.
               An angel warned Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt.
               There was a large Jewish population in Alexandria, Egypt. Joseph would have been able to find work and friends among the Jewish community there.
               Joseph took his family and moved to Egypt even though it was disruptive to his life. Joseph was not able to return to Israel until after King Herod died. Even then he moved to Nazareth, instead of his home town.
               Having to move a couple of times and settle in a different town than he may have wanted to was probably very frustrating, but imagine the consequences for his family if Joseph had not had God’s help in this terrible situation.
               The reality is that trouble is going to come to each of our lives at some point, why not have God’s help when that trouble finally comes?
The Fourth Message of the Christmas Angels for us today is: Following God does not mean we will never face problems in life, but it does mean that God will help us in those times of trouble.

God has given us Four Christmas Messages from Angels:
1.      We should pray in faith believing that God hears and responds.
2.      God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things if we are willing to be obedient to His plan.
3.      The Gospel is the Good News about Jesus and we have no hope without it.
4.      Following God does not mean that we will never face problems in life, but it does mean that God will help us in times of trouble.

Friday, December 20, 2013

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

I seldom post things on my blog that I find somewhere else because I prefer to develop original material. But I found this online sometime ago and really liked it. I regret to say that I do not know who the original author is, but if someone else knows, please put the author’s name in a comment below so he or she may receive credit for this creative new twist on an old Christmas favorite.

Twas the week before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-Pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the culture, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as we celebrate 'Winter Break' under our 'Dream Tree'
Sipping our Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose our words carefully, choose what we say
not Happy Holiday!
Please, all Christians join together and
wish everyone we meet
Christ is The Reason' for the Christ-mas Season!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

When I Liked Being A Mini-Savior - Guest Post by Dave Jacobs

Russ was a coach-spiritual director who helped me navigate my transition from pastoring to full-time coaching. At least ten years my senior, Russ had been a faithful pastor for 19 years and then felt the Lord leading him out of the pastorate and into being ‘a pastor to one’ as he liked to explain it.

Ellen and I had the opportunity to attend a couple of his two-day spiritual retreats. Russ would gather 12 people at a Catholic retreat center. We’d practice silence, reflection, and have discussions about spiritual formation. One of the things I heard Russ say more than once that stuck with me over the years and has become something I use with my coaching clients to explain to them an important part of my philosophy of coaching.

Russ would say, “It’s not my job to do your thinking for you. It’s my job to help you think.”

When I was a pastor I wasn’t very good at helping people think. I was good at doing their thinking for them.

Pastors are trained and expected to be the one to go to when you have a question or predicament. I don’t know about you, but I kind of liked this. It felt good to appear to have solved someone’s problem either through my advice or by pointing them to the perfect place in the Bible. There was a bit of an ego-stroke when a member of my church would come to me and ask, “Dave, what should I do? What does the Bible say?” I didn’t see it then but I can see it now. I liked being a mini-savior. “Come unto Pastor Dave all you who are weary and heavy laden and Pastor Dave will give you rest.”

Sometimes people want the easy way out. They want someone (the pastor) to tell them what to do, what to think, what to believe. The easy way is not always the best way. It’s hard to think for yourself. Thinking takes time. Thinking takes prayer. When you think for yourself you run the risk of coming up with the wrong conclusions. It’s easier to have someone do your thinking for you.

If I could go back in time, one of the things I would change about my approach to pastoring would be to focus less on being the answer-man, the mini-savior, and more on helping people think for themselves. When my people would come to me with questions I would counter with questions of my own. My questions would be designed to help them think, help them hear, help them see what the Father was doing in their lives.

I would not avoid giving advice at all costs but I also would not enable my people to lean on me more than they should. I would want to help my people ‘grow up’ which is hard for them to do if someone else (me) is doing their thinking for them.

Thanks Russ for depositing in me, “It’s not my job to do your thinking for you. It’s my job to help you think.”

Questions for reflection:
  1. How might you get better at asking questions?
  2. What ‘push-back’ might you anticipate from your people when they come to you for advice but instead get from you thought-provoking questions?
  3. How will you know when it’s time to give advice versus helping someone think for themselves?

This article originally appeared at:
It is re-posted here with permission.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Frustrations and Joys of Church Planting

My wife and I are involved in a new church plant in Hartford, CT. Our church rents a large room on a college campus for our Sunday services. Though the church is not just for students, they do make up a large portion of the congregation.

A couple of weeks ago we were planning a special service. My co-pastor, who also happens to be my son-in-law, was going to be licensed to the ministry during the service. We had invited a number of special guests to be part of the service. We were pretty excited about it. When we arrived at our normal room to set up things before the service started, the building manager, who has been very helpful in our efforts, informed us that there had been a last minute change in plans by someone in the administration. They needed the large room we normally use to accommodate the administrator's situation. With only 30 minutes until the service began, we had to move all our stuff to a different building and quickly set it up. We had never been in the building before so no one in our congregation knew where we were. The alternative meeting location was on the third floor of a building across campus and down several maze-like hallways. The room was not set up for a service. Honestly, it seemed like the morning was going to be a disaster. People were calling and texting each other trying to figure out where to go and how to find the new location. It was highly stressful and it seemed that our plans for a big service were rapidly evaporating.

Once we got everything set up, and got the service started, we were only running ten minutes behind schedule, things were starting to look up. People kept trickling in as they began to figure out where we were at. In fact, we ended up having a record attendance that morning! The service itself went great. As we prayed over Logan to license him, all the stress seemed to melt away. In the end, God got the glory, and His Word was proclaimed during the service. But it sure was stressful along the way.

Church planting is like that. Unexpected things happen that raise stress levels. God works through them and blesses the situation anyway. Then another challenge happens, and God works through that too. It happens again and again, but each time God works through the situation and brings glory to His name. The frustrations of church planting are many, but so are the joys. The joys make it worth it.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Following Instructions

A few days ago I wrote about helping a church planter with his secular job that enables him to support his ministry role (read that post here). During that experience I also learned something important about following instructions. As you may recall from my earlier post, the church planter's secular job is to assemble movie displays for theatres. These are not simple "open the box and put the display on the wall" kind of affairs. These are "open the box and spend three hours inserting tab A into slot B while attaching strap C to holder D" kind of projects. Clearly whoever designed these displays were brilliant engineers with a flair for thinking of ways to make cardboard look like a whole city block. Since I am not an engineer, it took a while to even understand the difference between tab A and tab J and holder D and holder Z. WOW, it was complicated! But, by following the directions one step at a time, and with the help of the church planter, who had already assembled many similar displays, we got the project done. And it looked pretty good when it was finished.

There are a lot of parallels between my experience in display making and real life. Life is complicated. We do not just "open life up and set it on a shelf." In order to make life work, there are a lot of things that have to be done in the correct order and at the correct time. If we skip a step, life ends up lopsided, or looking weird. We need a set of directions for how to get through life. And it also helps if we have a friend or two who are a little more experienced in life than we are who can help us figure it out along the way.

Fortunately, life does in fact come with a set of instructions. We call it the Bible. I know many people think the Bible is out of date and no longer relevant to our post modern culture. But when I read the Bible each morning, I see people dealing with many of the very same problems that I hear about on the news each night. Financial issues, family problems, war, crime, messed up governments, churches that are doing the right thing, and churches that are doing some terrible things. Yep, all those stories and more are in the Bible. Perhaps if we started reading it, we would learn how to get our lopsided lives straightened out. And when we get involved in a church, we can find a friend or two that is a little farther a long in their life journey than we are, and they can give us some tips along the way to help us get through the rough spots.

Though life is complicated, if we follow the instructions God gave us in the Bible, and have some mature Christians friends to help us out, life can end up looking pretty good when we get to the end.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Third Sunday of Advent - Guest Post by Bill Davis

As we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent, let us look at what many denominations call the Angel’s Candle. We remember the story of how the angels, a Heavenly host, proclaimed the good news of the birth of Christ.
Luke 2:9-11; “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The Angel’s Candle has become known as the Candle of Joy. We know that Christ wants us to have a life full of joy and happiness. The search for joy and happiness is one of the basic elements of human life and is found in a close relationship with God. There will always be pain and even suffering, but one goal in the Christian journey is to reach this level of joy through scripture and our walk with God. Joy in God has no end or limit. 
John 15:9-11; “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
God wants His children to be happy. He wants them full of His joy and to show this joy to others. One of the main premises of a Christian life is to be filled with His spirit and love in your heart.  As you share His love with others, it will only grow within you.
Bill Davis ministers through Lighthouse Ministries, speaking in churches across Anderson Country, South Carolina. He also serves as Executive Pastor of The Bridge Church, an outreach of Anderson University.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fundraising for Church Planting - Guest Post by Nathan Cartel

I know Saturday night is not the optimum time to post a blog, but there’s a storm outside, I lost my rhythm this week due to illness, and I really want to finish out my current blog series on the hidden struggles of church planting.  So consider this a bonus blog, or an apology one.  Whatever suits your personality better.

When I started this series, I intended to end on money.  It is certainly one of the greatest struggles for me, if not other church planters.  In the first post of the series, I said one of the reasons I love my job is that I get paid to do it. The truth is that I don’t get paid very much.  I didn’t enter church planting to get rich, but there have been a few months we were downright poor.  I think I will finish out with around thirty-eight thousand dollars for my total salary and housing this year, which sound alike a lot, but I have a family of six, and that number is just above the poverty line for a family our size.  Three years ago we were below poverty levels.  People just assume churches pay their pastors.  Very few think about how that money gets to them.
Since day one I have had to fundraise for my salary.  In the early days I also had to fundraise to pay church bills, but by the grace of God those days are over.  Incrementally over the past five years my church has upped the dollar amount they pay me every year, but according to the BCNE, New England church plants take five to ten years to become self-sufficient.  Self sufficient means they can pay all their bills and their staff on their own, with no outside assistance.  Vita Nova is about two-thirds on the way to self-sufficient.  My salary is the one thing left to fundraise for.
Fundraising is an amazing and heart wrenching act.  It tests your faith as you have to depend on God each month for a pay check.  But it also tests your patience, and you have to wait on forgetful people and organizations to give the money they told you they were sending.  It tests your resolve as you talk to people about your vision and mission and what God is up to, then ask them for money.  Its tests your endurance as person after person says they will pray about it.
The worst part about fundraising, though, is asking people to give and getting a positive response with no check to follow.  They say we will partner, and then never do.  I can not tell you how many people told me they were going to give and then never did.  I assume they didn’t want to hurt my feelings in the moment, but when you are counting on money to come in that was pledged, and it doesn’t, you can get deflated really fast.
Church planting in New England is a long and expensive prospect.  That makes fundraising all the harder.  If  I were to plant a church in the Bible Belt, within two years it could potentially pay me and other staff.  The cost of living would be about half what it is in Western New England.  I could by a house in the suburbs of Cincinnati for less than a third of what a small cottage costs in Amherst.  (My friends are looking to buy in Ohio and seventy thousand will buy them a home.  My mother in law has a small Cape in Amherst and it cost her two hundred and fifty thousand dollars!)  Then there is gas prices, food prices, everything costs more in the North East.  Often people don’t understand why a salary needs to be so “high,” why so much church funds need to be raised, and why it takes so much longer to be a church and not a plant.  Funding a New England church planter can seem like a loss for the kingdom when looking only at the bottom dollar.
To continue the efforts of planting in New England a church planter needs new contacts, longer partnerships and more everything.  That makes fundraising hard.  Especially for someone who is a native New Englander with very few ties to churches I was not launched out from or planted myself.  (I do have a few, just not as many as I need.)
I love what I do, even if I don’t get paid much, but fundraising is a huge stress on a church planter that very few others think about.  Others go to work and know there will be a pay check at the end of the week.  Church planters work in faith and trust God will give them enough to survive.  That is incredibly scary but incredibly faith building.  It is an adventure and stressor every paycheck.  It stretches us and hurts us at the same time.  I don’t want to whine, but to let you all know, if you said you were going to give to someone, make sure you are consistent and honest. Their dinner may just be on the line.
*If you are wondering how you can help, I am in the process of planting a second church in Greenfield Ma.  It is a poor town with poor people.  We are a poor church plant.  We could use funds, sound gear, pipe and drape, and donations for salary.  You can visit Vita Nova’s Website orPaypal.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Theater Displays and Church Planting

There is a spiritual movement happening across America. It involves thousands of young pastors willing to leave the security of larger established churches in order to start small missional churches in homes, storefronts, college campuses and other less traditional venues. These new expressions of the church often appeal to younger generations. They tend to focus more on community outreach and service to others than on forming committees that oversee programs that merely meet the needs of church members.

We call this wonderful expression of faith "church planting." It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of faith. And to be honest, it takes a lot of money. Some young ministers are able to make connections with the right people and organizations that are able to fully fund their new missions. But a majority of church planters are unable to find all the funding in advance. They operate on faith, trusting God to provide along the way as they go. Sometimes God provides through sponsoring churches. Sometimes God provides through individuals. Sometimes God provides through jobs in secular venues. When a pastor takes a second job in a secular venue, as well as serving in the church, we call him a "bivocational" pastor because he has two vocations.

While many pastors in established churches have a negative view of bivocational ministry, church planters often embrace such a ministry as a way to interact with the community and gain "real world" experience. To be honest, bivocational ministry rarely leads to a lucrative bank account, but it does help the church planter survive financially until the church becomes strong enough to provide adequately for the pastor. In many church planting situations, it is the only avenue available for a new church planting pastor.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon helping a young church planter at his secular job. I had not planned on helping him, it was one of those things that just happened. His secular job is to set up movie displays at local theaters. He had mentioned to me previously about some of the cool displays he had built to promote various movies. Yesterday he had a particularly big project for an upcoming movie, and his wife was going to help him with it. He asked if I wanted to come along and help too. Since I had the afternoon free, I decided to join in the project. For more than two hours we sorted parts and pieces and followed pictorial instructions to create a massive 3-dimensional cardboard display to promote an upcoming children's movie.

At some point along the way I asked how much he was making to put the display together since it seemed like a lot of work. I was surprised at how little the pay was. A part of me wondered why a college educated young man with significant skills and experience would work so hard, for so little, when he could make far more on the staff of some established church back in the Bible belt. But another part of my mind knew the answer. He was doing double duty as both a pastor and a theater display installer for the sake of the Kingdom. God had called him to plant a church for young adults in the Hartford, CT area and one way God was providing the funds for it to happen was through this low paying job assembling displays. This young man saw it as a means to fulfill God's calling in his life. It says something about his commitment to the Kingdom. His small congregation may not appreciate his sacrifice, but I do, and so does the Lord. One day, when he crosses over into Glory Land, he will hear those words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into your reward." What more could a young minister long for?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lower the Lights in Order to Raise the Voices

Yesterday I had the honor of worshipping in two different churches. Both of them are focused on reaching young adults. The two services were quite similar in nature. Both happened on college campuses. Students made up the majority of both congregations. Both churches had young pastors.

One of the services featured a portion of the service that was done by candlelight, since it had a Christmas emphasis. I noticed something remarkable when the lights were turned off in preparation for the candlelit portion of the service. The volume of the voices singing suddenly increased significantly.

Though students in both churches sang during the worship portion of the services, when the lights went off, they sang much more robustly. Perhaps the students felt more self-conscious when the lights were on, not wanting anyone to see them singing? If so, then clearly the darkness allowed them to express their musical passion more fully than they did when the lights were on. Perhaps all the other distractions in the room went away when the lights were out and they were simply able to focus more? Clearly something happened that allowed the students to focus more clearly in a dark room.

Though I do not want to read too much into one experience, perhaps this is something that we should think about in our churches. If a darker room with fewer distractions allows congregants to worship better, then we should consider lowering the lights and raising our voices to the King of Light.