ALPHA – Church As Community

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Community lives and grows together.  It doesn’t happen by accident, and it isn’t maintained by circumstance. It takes a lot of work.  It takes a lot of effort. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is a good example of a church family that has in its history placed a high value on being a community of faith together.

The reality is that for that to carry on in the future, it will require work ahead. This work is not centered in any one particular person of the congregation, but in the person of Jesus Christ and the Gospel that he gave us to proclaim.  Without care, community can become complacent and eventually lost. That’s the danger of churches.

A community is maintained with generations working together and care for insuring that the next generation is raised up in the faith. The sad reality of most congregations is that there are gaps. The norm of modern society is that in most cities only seven to fourteen percent of the population is engaged in the life of a church community. This change began with those born between 1946 and 1964, otherwise known as Baby Boomers. With this generation, studies show was the beginning of a sense of distrust of “the establishment.” Unfortunately, this is linked to the Church. The following Generations—Gen-X and the Millenials—have stepped even further away from the institution of the Church.

The reasons are wide ranging from the Church is hypocritical to the Church is irrelevant.  They don’t really know what they are often missing because they have only been exposed to the conflicts or the scandals that have been reported over the years. They have been kept from the fullness of the Gospel. That is where we step in. A reality that is evident in society is that there are many searching for community. A place to belong, which is the theme of this year’s Back to Church Sunday, is what they seek. Welcome Home Welcome Back.jpgDepression is at epidemic levels as has been highlighted by Time, Newsweek, and other news magazines. As we are more digitally connected, people are lonelier than ever. As the Church, we can fill that gap. ALPHA is merely a tool to help with that, but it can only be successful with you. It is a tool that develops community by being community and welcoming others into the community.  For those that have left the faith, it can be a welcome back. For those that have never known the Church, we can welcome them home. Please pray on how you can be a part of this as we plan the next session. Talk to Pastor and join in as we look to the holding the next class. As we seek to be the Church to Washington, let us be the intentional, Christ-centered, Mission-driven community that our God has always meant us to be.

 

Family Matters – September 2017

Family-Matters

I promised last month that I would talk this time about the first reason that raising a GOOD kid is not a copy and paste process – each child is unique and uniquely called by God.  Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us “[God] appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers.  He did this…in order to build up the body of Christ.” Each person (which includes our children) has a purpose and call assigned from God Himself; and in order to prepare us to live into this call, God has equipped us with spiritual gifts.  Spiritual gifts are not simply the things that we are good at or even strongly enjoy doing (those are talents and passions).  Spiritual gifts are given to us through the Holy Spirit and are meant to benefit the church and the advancement of God’s purpose. They breathe life into our worship and bolster our faith.  Spiritual gifts are the compass that points us in God’s direction.  So, how does this tie in to the good kid thing?  A good kid is a kid chasing after God’s calling.  To do that, he or she needs to know what that calling is.  To know what that is, they need to discern their spiritual gifts.  That’s where we come in, because this is an area where most people need a little guidance.  This is the part where the little boy grows up from dreaming of being a superhero to joining the Army.  When that little boy comes to us and tells us “I want to be a superhero when I grow up” we probably aren’t going to start googling “superhero training classes” or looking into the best places to find flame retardant unitards. We know that, as he matures as a person, his superhero dream will morph into a new reality.  However, we can stop and talk to him about what part of being a superhero sounds the most exciting and fulfilling to him.  Is it the helping people part?  Or maybe it’s the special powers and responsibilities that appeal to him.  Perhaps maybe it IS all about the flame retardant unitard.  Getting insight into WHY being a superhero sounds exciting to the little boy can give us a glimpse into the kind of things the future could hold for him.  The same can hold true for his spiritual gifts and God’s calling on his life.  What part of his churcFamilyh life excites him?  What does he look forward to doing each week or in the future as he gets older?  When he sees himself as an adult in the church, what is he doing?  Helping him discern those things can help lead him in the right direction – in God’s direction and the best way to start in on that process is to figure out our own fit.  As parents, it will be much easier to guide our children in discerning their path and purpose if we are confident and secure that we are following ours.

 

Kid’s Corner

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When baptized as infants or young children a promise is made by our parents and sponsors that they would insure that we have the Word of God placed in our hands, would be taught in the faith, and would be brought to worship regularly. Unfortunately, these promises are not always maintained by parents and sponsors, but we as a congregation try to assist as we can to help the parents and the sponsors in maintaining their promises through Sunday School and Confirmation.

That is the point of this logo. We, as we grow in the faith, seek to confirm the faith that we have been baptized into, in doing this we affirm that baptism, inform our minds in Christ, and transform our hearts through the working of the Holy Spirit as we study and grow in the Word of God. We are saved by the Cross of Christ and that alone.

These promises don’t just stop as we age. This is truly a life long process. The Small Catechism was not meant to be just Confirmation-2017-18usedas a tool for youth, but a lifelong devotion to be able to deepen faith and grow deeper in understanding the Word of God. It is a great opportunity for families to grow together in a positive way.

This motto is not just for those that are children in a family, but for all of us as children of God. We are a part of this glorious family of God. This is a gift that many of us may take for granted, especially if there has never been a time in our lives that we have not been a part of the church. For those that have not grown up in the promise, the words that are revealed to us in the Catechism as well as in our study of the Word is freeing and renewing.

Listening for the Holy Spirit

One of the greatest joys as a pastor is to see the Holy Spirit working.  That work is present in our midst. As we seek to be a congregation that is reaching out it is going to create some positive waves, but also some negative. So, be very wary of talk that has no relevance to the mission of Jesus Christ. In ministry, I have found it interesting in who and how Satan unwittingly uses otherwise good people to do his dirty work. Gossip is one of his favorite tools. The thing about gossip is that it is usually half-true. It may have elements of truth in it, but in all reality, it has no other purpose than to paint another person in a negative light. So, that is why it is so damaging.

It’s amazing how damaging it can be to a congregation and the work of Christ. This was something that Martin Luther saw in his day and has been going on since the Fall. That is why we often hear it spoken out against in Scripture and why it was a part of the Ten Commandments, it’s part of that little bit of bearing false witness. In Luther’s Small Catechism, we read in the further Gossiping Ladiesexplanation of the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” he writes of how we should put our neighbor’s words and actions “in the best possible light.”

Now, we all know what it’s like to hear that juicy story about someone else, and many may have at one time or another been a part of that juicy story. I am also fairly certain that most of us don’t enjoy being that juicy tale that is going around. It doesn’t feel good as people whisper around you, looking, and then quieting down when you enter a space.

Growing up, I was always told that if you can’t say something to someone directly, it is best not to say it at all and if you hear something that troubles you, it is best to go directly to that person. Often, you will find that it is not exactly as was told or you’ll receive more information that will help clarify things better. It is amazing how the things that we are taught as children can still be handy as we grow older and thinking that age brings us greater wisdom how often we forget and leave these lessons behind.

As followers of Christ, we are called to a greater calling and are given a greater voice to listen to than the gossip and the stories that flow through the grapevine. We are given an opportunity to listen to God and hear his calling for us in our lives.  Forget the Twitter feed or the latest gab on Facebook, but hear the glorious message of our Lord. The promise that he has given us in an advocate.

The Holy Spirit’s guidance is never to attack or harm another, even if they are doing wrong against you. In fact, the opposite would be true as we see throughout the Gospels how Jesus responded to those who wished to harm him or others like the adulterous woman in John 8.

As we listen for the Holy Spirit, we find an abundance of glorious blessings laid out for us. Jesus promised him to us (John 14:15-31; Acts 1:4-8) and that he would guide us and strengthen us. The great thing in the promise is that we have been given him through our baptism and when we feel weak or in need of help all we have to do is pray and he is there.

Satan has and continues to work in whispers. Because only God is omnipotent and omniscient, Satan can not and does not know our thoughts, but he is very intuitive and very persuasive. Like he did with Eve in the garden, his words are similar to us all, “Did God say….?” He also loves to divide us in relationships, “Did you hear what so and so said?” It all seems so innocent, and when we find that we have hurt another, we seek to justify  – ala “I was just telling what I had heard was true. I’m not the only one that shared it.” Sounds a lot like Adam and Eve’s excuse for eating of the forbidden fruit, “It was the woman!” “It was the serpent!” The outcome is still the same, a broken relationship.

In Christ, however, we are given an opportunity to mend those relationships (Matthew 18:15-20). When hurt we can seek to repair the damage, and when confronted we can seek forgiveness and repent. It is wonderful how that has been laid out for us. It requires no sacrifice beyond the one thing that we are called to let go of anyhow, the sacrifice of our pride. Jesus humbled himself and, though we are not necessarily called to be nailed to a cross, we are all called to bear the burden of the cross. We are called to bear this humiliation and are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40;Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). In that, we can find peace and know that we are following the Holy Spirit of our God. Let us be a light in Washington, Daviess County, Indiana, the United States, and the World.

 

Alpha – July 2017

alpha-logo-set-1mainAs we continue this process of Alpha with the first course coming to fruition this month, I am excited. God has put on my heart a sense of urgency, but not a sense of hurry. This first round was just a taste as we look to how we can reach the many people in our community that do not know the love of Jesus Christ. Now is the time for planning. I have discussed with those that have been a part of this first term to share with others what they gain and invite others to become involved when we do the next course. The next course will ultimately have the goal to reach out to the community and will require a lot more helping hands.

The term Alpha comes from the first Greek letter of the Greek Alphabet. We know that our Lord Jesus Christ describes himself as the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13), the beginning and the end. So, it is with Alpha. Alpha is meant to offer a beginning, a starting point for people into the faith that is Christianity. It is a step off point. For “seasoned” Christians, it still explores some very deep topics and may give even better insight and help a person recommit themselves to the faith in Jesus Christ.

For Good Shepherd, I see it as a new beginning that will lead her faithfully into the next 50+ years of ministry after many of us will be long gone. Looking ahead Alpha will be one piece as I will begin deeper biblical study beginning this Fall, in this, I desire your input and your assistance. As we plan the next course and start the new worship service, which will be Wednesday Evenings beginning at 7:30 pm on July 12th, the question is when to start the next course and how will that look with normal seasonal worship trends, Advent and Lent. If we continue on Wednesdays, we will run into a conflict with traditional services that have run, though are less attended in recent years.

Also, I will need assistance in helping to do the course with helpers, kitchen, prayer team, and greeters. To do these things does not require that one have gone through Alpha, only a love of our Lord Jesus Christ and a desire to see lives changed. If we begin in the Fall, I would need someone to cover for me in October as I attend the LCMC Annual Gathering. These are things that are on my heart and my mind because once we begin reaching in the community, I don’t want us to lose momentum. That is the not hurried, but urgent sense that is upon me at this time.

The necessity to be a light in our community has a high level of urgency in it. It seems that more and more regularly we are reading in the local paper about large drug busts. It breaks my heart as I see some of the pictures and recognize them from interactions in the community at local businesses.  I am also heartbroken knowing how many children are living in poverty knowing that this is more than just a financial issue, but spiritual and the spiritual, in my opinion, is much more detrimental.

My heart yearns for bringing together families within our community as we grow together even more as a family of Christ.  We come together in Word and Sacrament and share our faith with those that do not fully know the joy that it brings. The freedom we receive that washing and renewal in the waters of Baptism and the newness of life that we receive in Christ’s precious body and blood.

We have been reminded as a congregation of our age as we have seen many enter the Church Triumphant in recent months, but there is still life in us, and we have a great field that is ripe and ready for harvest. This is just the beginning, and there are much greater things ahead for us. We are a family, and each of us has something to share from our beginning to our end. I look forward to you joining me in this mission, and I am excited to see how God can use you.

– Pastor Chris

 

Family Matters – July 2017

Family-Matters.jpgAs parents, we tend to have one common goal, right?  We want to raise GOOD KIDS.  But really, what does that even mean?  For some, it might mean that their child is especially polite – he always says please and thank you, yes sir and no m’am and is especially aware of the comforts of those around him.  For others, it might mean that their child is exceptionally bright – she is an early reader, a knower of facts and has an intellect and understanding far beyond her age. Still others might define a good kid as one that simply stays out of trouble – he may not always be the best or the brightest, but he’s trust worthy and honest. In each of these examples the measurement for what is good is based on a set of attributes and criteria that we have set as good.  With all of these different examples of what GOOD is – how do we know if we are, in fact, raising a good child? The answer is that we must simply look to the Word of God.  What does God say about goodness?  In Galatians 5:22-23, the Bible lists goodness as one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  This leads me to believe that a truly good child is going to be cultivated and grown by GOD – the goodness will be something within him, inside his heart.  True goodness will propel that child towards God and God’s calling on his life.  God will mold him or her into a brand new creation designed to carry out HIS special purpose in our world.  Sometimes, this will cause the good child to look a little different than what we would imagine.  Some of those qualities we expect will be present (kindness, self control, peace – all of those are fruits as well), but other qualities will be missing.  A good child will NOT be blindly obedient if what he or she is being ordered to do is counter to God’s Word.  A good child will NOT remain quiet in the face of opposition – she will stand up for the truth.  So, how do we raise good child?  Proverbs 22:6 gives a pretty straightforward answer. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (ESV).”  So then the hard part – how do we do that?

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Kids – July 2017

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VBS!

Join us July 20—21st for VBS!

5:30pm—8:00pm

We are looking for volunteers to help with all aspects of VBS as well as inviting local area children to partake in this wonderful event.

Sunday, July 23rd will be a special Camp Sunday with a service centered around our VBS program.

 

Volunteer sign ups and Student Registration available.

goodshepherdlcmc.org/vbs

Summer Bible Fun

Here’s a challenge for this summer! I will have a special prize for all those that are second grade and under that can recite all the books of the Bible in order from the Old Testament through the New Testament, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed.

For those that are in third through the fifth grade it will be a little more with the books of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Apostles’ Creed, and the Nicene Creed.

Now for those that are in Confirmation, here is your challenge—recite for me the Small Catechism and there will be a prize for you, also.

Here are the prizes:

2nd Grade and under

 $5 Walmart Gift Card

3rd Grade and up

$10 Walmart Gift Card

Confirmands

$20 Walmart Gift Card

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Christ Over Coffee – July 2017

christ-over-coffee-2-0-e1498489228505.pngI love having a plan. So, many of us do. Now I am not one of those rigid planners that have to have everything set to go a certain way, and if it doesn’t, I become stressed. I’ve learned in my life that I need to be flexible, but a plan helps to guide me and helps me to be more flexible. The last few years, to be honest, I have not had as clear a plan. Much of that is because of circumstances, babies being born, young children, and things going on in the churches I have served that made planning difficult (that I will not get into in this article). It has been wonderful seeing and feeling God at work among us at Good Shepherd and Washington. I love the saying that I have heard recently about our little city, “Washington, IN, the Washington, D.C. that works.” Kind of a fun play on words since we are in Daviess County.  In my twenty months of living here, I love this little part of the country and the many great people that I have gotten to know. I have also seen the difficulties and struggles we have as a community. In this, I know that we have community and city leaders that have a plan, but ultimately I know God has a plan.

In my planning, I understand the ultimately God is in control and he will determine whether or not the plan that has been put in my heart will come to fulfillment and I pray to see it through.

As I reflect, one part of my plan is the teaching and training up of the members of Good Shepherd to be emboldened in the faith. This is for all ages because I believe that God has placed each of us here for a reason and with a purpose. He has also called me here for a purpose as pastor and, if it is as I believe, that is to preach and to teach. God put upon the Reformer’s, Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon, hearts a clear calling for the Church and her leaders. A factor of that is a reclarification of our baptismal value, i.e. that through baptism we have all been set apart and called to be proclaimers of the Word. Then a further calling in which there would be those called within the Christian community to preach and to teach. In that calling, you have placed me. In our Augsburg Confession (1530), Article 7 states about the Church, “It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.” As pastor, I have been issued the call to preach the Gospel in it’s purity and ensure that the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. In doing this, my prayer is that I am empowering all who worship with us to carry the Gospel into the community. I, also, am excited to be planning for the next year and looking ahead multiple years in which to teach those that are currently within our fold and those that are yet to come.

It is always nice to look ahead as we seek to fulfill that calling out into the world. It is a great gift in which we can seek out our Lord’s calling for us. How are we bringing Jesus into our community? How are we being faithful to our calling? One thing we can always find comfort in any of these questions is that our Lord is in control. If we find ourselves off course, we can ask for forgiveness, pray, and move forward. The past need not define the future. I, for one, know the weight of the past and the burden of errors made. For the most part, our errors of the past need not affect our future as we progress forward. Of course, some errors of the past are harder left behind if those errors broke civil laws and the consequences bear weight even as you move forward. I would argue that even though there may be things that you’ll have to work through that may make moving beyond more difficult one can still live without having those errors define the future. In fact, they can be a witness to others of how changed one is and can even be utilized as a tool to help others heading in similar paths to avoid. We all have our burdens from sin, some more visible, but as we live in the light of Christ, we move as a people changed, set apart. In this we proclaim Christ and Christ crucified.