Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies

A few Sundays ago, our church put aside the regular liturgy to celebrate and challenge one another with/through testimony. The following video is of a small segment of the service that was very powerful. If you are unable to read the writing, I have included it below the video.







Paralyzed by Fear/Boldly proclaiming Christ

Never met my dad and had 18 surgeries/My heavenly Father’s got my back

Depressed from a failed marriage/Peaceful and assured in Jesus

Isolated “Good,” pastor’s Kid/Faith became my own at age 12

Depressed, Burned out, single mom/Depression lifted when I met Jesus

Lonely and hated myself/I know and feel God’s Love

Guilt and shame when I failed/God loves me no matter what

Living for self, sports and parties/Spiritual leader of my family

Burdened with guilt from abuse/Jesus carries my burden

Almost died from alcohol and drugs/called on Christ and he set me free

Lost my dad, rebellious, and lonely/Hopeful and heaven-bound

Bitter and guilty from a sinful past/burdens lifted by accepting Jesus

Unemployed for 2 years/learned god’s provision and power of prayer

Angry, bitter, self-righteous/freed to love humbled by grace

Depressed, suicidal, and addicted to pornography/healed by God’s love

Accepted Jesus at 4, baptized at 8/missionary to my friends

Abandoned by mom at 13/adopted by god and Christian parents at 18

Cardboard Testimonies

A few Sundays ago, our church put aside the regular liturgy to celebrate and challenge one another with/through testimony. The following video is of a small segment of the service that was very powerful. If you are unable to read the writing, I have included it below the video.

Paralyzed by Fear/Boldly proclaiming Christ
Never met my dad and had 18 surgeries/My heavenly Father’s got my back
Depressed from a failed marriage/Peaceful and assured in Jesus
Isolated “Good,” pastor’s Kid/Faith became my own at age 12
Depressed, Burned out, single mom/Depression lifted when I met Jesus
Lonely and hated myself/I know and feel God’s Love
Guilt and shame when I failed/God loves me no matter what
Living for self, sports and parties/Spiritual leader of my family
Burdened with guilt from abuse/Jesus carries my burden
Almost died from alcohol and drugs/called on Christ and he set me free
Lost my dad, rebellious, and lonely/Hopeful and heaven-bound
Bitter and guilty from a sinful past/burdens lifted by accepting Jesus
Unemployed for 2 years/learned god’s provision and power of prayer
Angry, bitter, self-righteous/freed to love humbled by grace
Depressed, suicidal, and addicted to pornography/healed by God’s love
Accepted Jesus at 4, baptized at 8/missionary to my friends
Abandoned by mom at 13/adopted by god and Christian parents at 18

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Beginning Internship

OK, so today I had my first official internship meeting with my supervisor at Elgin Community Church. It was a wonderful meeting and I feel blessed to dive in more fully and deeply to the existing ministry in the local community. When I came back home, I checked my e-mail first thing, as is my regular process. Adam had sent out a church update announcing the beginning of the internship and encouraged the congregation to refer to me as "Pastor Andy."

Now, this is what I had expected. We had discussed the title, its use, and the importance of its use in the church at an earlier date. It is exciting to know that I have been called by God to join in ministry with the body of Christ in obedience and play in some way and form as a leader. My initial emotional reaction to the title was fear: I am now on a pedestal and I could fail. This is the fear. Even as I write though, my emotions are transforming into excitement. I know that I have been gifted and equipped for this work. I know that the Holy Spirit is alive, active, and powerful in my life. I know that I am a small but important part of the larger body of Christ. It is a great work that God has called pastors to, but no greater than the call to each and every individual. A pedestal, ideologically speaking, does not exist.

The ministry, mission, and vision at Elgin Community Church are exciting. The guidance and leadership under the senior pastor is thoughtful and strong. The obedience is marked with humility. The people work as a family, struggle as a family, take joy as a family, and care as a family. This does not mean that we are a perfect church, but it does mean that we are working and attempting to be obedient to the call to "be a blessing." It was an exciting day.

A Right to Affirm the Creeds

On Monday night I was challenged by a statement that Dr. Blumehoeffer made: "The creeds are more than something you just say: you EARN the right to say them!" The earliest Christian creeds were based on a question and answer form such as, "Do you believe…?" and, "Yes, I believe." These creeds eventually became professions and affirmations. The point of creating such creeds was to differentiate beliefs from those who had "gone out from us," for example the Gnostics and Marcionites. These were not literary tools thrown into the middle of a worship service, but were proclamations and testimonies themselves that proclaimed certain beliefs to be accepted and others to be rejected.

I am interested in this because I was challenged last year when meeting with a pastor in the area about a potential internship (not the one I am at now). The church was interested in beginning a more "contemplative" service to supplement the already existing contemporary service. The discussion eventually turned to elements that would be incorporated into this type of service. Following traditional liturgy, I naturally thought that there would be incorporated into the service a pronouncement of a creed or some other reading that affirms the basic beliefs of the worshipping community. Without trying to sound to insulting, the pastor's response will similar to that of the movie Officespace: "Umm….yeah…about that….we don't use those."

This statement threw me out-of-whack. My defenses shot up, and I was positive that this was the wrong church for me because of that statement. Now looking back, my decision to not intern here would probably be the same, but for different reasons (some the same). Many evangelical-protestant churches fear the use of traditional-liturgical elements because of abuses or inappropriate uses of them (i.e. reading without thought, separation of clergy and laity, making creedal (dogmatic) statements about things that do not require it). But there are many more evangelical-Protestant churches that are in the process of giving life to the creeds in the way that they were originally intended. And when this happens, the Christian community is blessed and acts as a witness to those who have either purposefully gone-away from belief, those who have never heard it, or those who have been agnostic towards it. We have a right and an obligation to state clearly those core doctrines and beliefs that we possess. In a world where truth is either cloudy or rejected all-together, we need to become 'good' at stating the beliefs of the Christian Tradition. Relax, many good creeds have already been written that we can utilize and be blessed through.

Beginning Internship

OK, so today I had my first official internship meeting with my supervisor at Elgin Community Church. It was a wonderful meeting and I feel blessed to dive in more fully and deeply to the existing ministry in the local community. When I came back home, I checked my e-mail first thing, as is my regular process. Adam had sent out a church update announcing the beginning of the internship and encouraged the congregation to refer to me as "Pastor Andy."

Now, this is what I had expected. We had discussed the title, its use, and the importance of its use in the church at an earlier date. It is exciting to know that I have been called by God to join in ministry with the body of Christ in obedience and play in some way and form as a leader. My initial emotional reaction to the title was fear: I am now on a pedestal and I could fail. This is the fear. Even as I write though, my emotions are transforming into excitement. I know that I have been gifted and equipped for this work. I know that the Holy Spirit is alive, active, and powerful in my life. I know that I am a small but important part of the larger body of Christ. It is a great work that God has called pastors to, but no greater than the call to each and every individual. A pedestal, ideologically speaking, does not exist.

The ministry, mission, and vision at Elgin Community Church are exciting. The guidance and leadership under the senior pastor is thoughtful and strong. The obedience is marked with humility. The people work as a family, struggle as a family, take joy as a family, and care as a family. This does not mean that we are a perfect church, but it does mean that we are working and attempting to be obedient to the call to "be a blessing." It was an exciting day.

A Right to Affirm the Creeds

On Monday night I was challenged by a statement that Dr. Blumehoeffer made: "The creeds are more than something you just say: you EARN the right to say them!" The earliest Christian creeds were based on a question and answer form such as, "Do you believe…?" and, "Yes, I believe." These creeds eventually became professions and affirmations. The point of creating such creeds was to differentiate beliefs from those who had "gone out from us," for example the Gnostics and Marcionites. These were not literary tools thrown into the middle of a worship service, but were proclamations and testimonies themselves that proclaimed certain beliefs to be accepted and others to be rejected.

I am interested in this because I was challenged last year when meeting with a pastor in the area about a potential internship (not the one I am at now). The church was interested in beginning a more "contemplative" service to supplement the already existing contemporary service. The discussion eventually turned to elements that would be incorporated into this type of service. Following traditional liturgy, I naturally thought that there would be incorporated into the service a pronouncement of a creed or some other reading that affirms the basic beliefs of the worshipping community. Without trying to sound to insulting, the pastor's response will similar to that of the movie Officespace: "Umm….yeah…about that….we don't use those."

This statement threw me out-of-whack. My defenses shot up, and I was positive that this was the wrong church for me because of that statement. Now looking back, my decision to not intern here would probably be the same, but for different reasons (some the same). Many evangelical-protestant churches fear the use of traditional-liturgical elements because of abuses or inappropriate uses of them (i.e. reading without thought, separation of clergy and laity, making creedal (dogmatic) statements about things that do not require it). But there are many more evangelical-Protestant churches that are in the process of giving life to the creeds in the way that they were originally intended. And when this happens, the Christian community is blessed and acts as a witness to those who have either purposefully gone-away from belief, those who have never heard it, or those who have been agnostic towards it. We have a right and an obligation to state clearly those core doctrines and beliefs that we possess. In a world where truth is either cloudy or rejected all-together, we need to become 'good' at stating the beliefs of the Christian Tradition. Relax, many good creeds have already been written that we can utilize and be blessed through.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Conclusion on Evangelism Study

This morning will be the completion of the series that our church has been doing on evangelism through the book Just Walk Across the Room. As you can tell by the blogs that I have been posting, it has been challenging and rewarding.

Prior to beginning the small group study, Jamie and I were both very worried of and anxious about the material. When I analyze the anxiety, it is clear that the basis is in the realm of reason and rationale rather than experience. My past experience of sharing faith with others in a similar form to that of the material of this study is actually quite positive. Rarely was I turned down and refuted, and rarely (if ever) did I feel inadequate or feel that what I was doing was NOT accomplishing something wonderful! So where does my uneasiness come from?

I have realized that my thoughts of and beliefs in evangelism are opposed to my practiced (or at least do not mimmick one another). In other words, there is discontinuity between what I believe and what I do. I believe that the message that we proclaim as Christians is a message for the world. We join in with the work of God in the Kingdom of God through service and living among people, but it would be utterly ridiculous to deny function of preaching in the Kingdom of God. Sharing the story of God's work in restoring creation and God's work in our own lives is what we need to share. Yet, as I said, the tension rests when trying to take the belief and put it into practice.

The good news is that this tension is being talked about and struggled with. We are struggling not only to interpret proper forms and methods of evangelism, but our belief about it and other corresponding beliefs (salvation, relationships, boundaries, etc.) And if we truly believe that the Holy Spirit is working and active in the entire process, then we can rest assured that the struggle is not worthless and blind, but guided and important.

So as somewhat of a conclusion to this material, I realize that it has truly been a blessing. I have not always agreed with the material, but I have been challenged. I feel a new desire to seek first the Holy Spirit's promptings in the daily activities of my life. I have taken the time to really look at my own story of how God's love, grace, and redemption have changed me and continue to do so. I have met a great mentor who will continue to challenge and encourage me. I am very thankful to have been a part of this church that is willing to struggle with how we best follow our call in obedience to our Loving Father, Saving Son, and Guiding Spirit.

Conclusion on Evangelism Study

This morning will be the completion of the series that our church has been doing on evangelism through the book Just Walk Across the Room. As you can tell by the blogs that I have been posting, it has been challenging and rewarding.

Prior to beginning the small group study, Jamie and I were both very worried of and anxious about the material. When I analyze the anxiety, it is clear that the basis is in the realm of reason and rationale rather than experience. My past experience of sharing faith with others in a similar form to that of the material of this study is actually quite positive. Rarely was I turned down and refuted, and rarely (if ever) did I feel inadequate or feel that what I was doing was NOT accomplishing something wonderful! So where does my uneasiness come from?

I have realized that my thoughts of and beliefs in evangelism are opposed to my practiced (or at least do not mimmick one another). In other words, there is discontinuity between what I believe and what I do. I believe that the message that we proclaim as Christians is a message for the world. We join in with the work of God in the Kingdom of God through service and living among people, but it would be utterly ridiculous to deny function of preaching in the Kingdom of God. Sharing the story of God's work in restoring creation and God's work in our own lives is what we need to share. Yet, as I said, the tension rests when trying to take the belief and put it into practice.

The good news is that this tension is being talked about and struggled with. We are struggling not only to interpret proper forms and methods of evangelism, but our belief about it and other corresponding beliefs (salvation, relationships, boundaries, etc.) And if we truly believe that the Holy Spirit is working and active in the entire process, then we can rest assured that the struggle is not worthless and blind, but guided and important.

So as somewhat of a conclusion to this material, I realize that it has truly been a blessing. I have not always agreed with the material, but I have been challenged. I feel a new desire to seek first the Holy Spirit's promptings in the daily activities of my life. I have taken the time to really look at my own story of how God's love, grace, and redemption have changed me and continue to do so. I have met a great mentor who will continue to challenge and encourage me. I am very thankful to have been a part of this church that is willing to struggle with how we best follow our call in obedience to our Loving Father, Saving Son, and Guiding Spirit.