Vision and the Small Church

Blogging pastor Chuck Warnock offers some thoughts to chew on about vision and especially as it relates to the small church. He pastors a church not too far from Martinsville.

  • Vision can replace mission as the focus of the church.
  • Vision often is the product of one person’s thinking — the pastor.
  • Vision is an ego-feeder.
  • Vision often does not connect to the church’s shared memory and history.
  • Vision is usually about how a church can be bigger, not better.

I encourage you to read the article to see it in context. I love how he finishes the article.

Okay, so I’m vision-bashing a little bit here. But I’m also learning that the small church has a story, a history, a shared memory, and that the future of God is among the people of God. Does this mean we just all drift along like leaves in a stream? No, but it does mean that we are constantly in conversation within the community of faith about what God is doing, where God is taking us, and how we are participating in the mission of God. And that conversation is not a monologue.

It has given me something to think about.

Sunday Thoughts – May 20th

As you’ve already seen, today marks my one year anniversary of blogging and today we celebrated our church’s 58th anniversary. My very post was a short reflection on Homecoming last year.

We had two great services and a great time of fellowship this afternoon. Thanks to all who helped and brought food and thanks to Steve for sharing your music with us. God has been faithful to us for 58 years and we are looking forward to many more years.

Worship Box Score

May 20, 2007
Seventh Sunday of Easter

Homecoming Sunday
Celebrating 58 Years of God’s Faithfulness

Call to Worship – Psalm 97
Songs of Worship – How Great Thou Art, How Great is Our God
Invocation and Prayer
Special Musical Guest – Steve Doss
Offering
Offetory Song – Give Thanks
Message – The New Jerusalem
Song- Shall We Gather at the River
Benediction

One Year Blogging Anniversary

Today I have been blogging for one year. It’s really hard to believe that I’ve been able to continue. At first I thought I wouldn’t have anything to write, but those fears are gone. It seems it’s been just weeks since we passed the 1,000 visit mark and this week we passed the 1,500 mark. Thanks to all you who read this on a regular basis and all of you know who you are.

The Final Homecoming

Today is our 58th anniversary of homecoming. It’s this day that people come back to their home church. There is coming a day and we don’t quite know when it’s going to happen. It’s been promised to us for quite some time. We want to look at the final homecoming. John the Revelator speaks to us about the final homecoming.

Revelation 21
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.

We’ve been taking a look at Revelation over the past few weeks. In Revelation 4 and 5, John writes about the worship and describes the throne as being behind a glassy sea. Now the sea was also gone. When we go to the final homecoming the separation is finally gone.

2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
Look at the wonderful things that will happen.

4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children…9 Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

10 So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal.

Listen to the dimensions of this city.

12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles.

Think about that. 1400 miles cubed. Anyone who has driven that kind of mileage can relate to that distance.

17 Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (according to the human standard used by the angel).
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass.

Think about that. The wall was made of jasper and the city was made of gold. What are the most valuable things to us? What are some of our most precious metals? The most valuable asset on the earth is going to be foundation stones. Is that going to be a wonderful city or what?

19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

All those beautiful stones and those were the foundations of the city and look at what the gates were made of.

21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

This is some city that God is creating. Think about this, God only worked on the earth for seven days; he’s been working on heaven for two thousand years. Heaven’s going to be a wonderful place.

Heaven is a wonderful place
Full of mercy and grace
I want to see my Savior’s face,
Cause heaven is a wonderful place. I want to go there.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s more.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. 27 Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—

What is the ticket to heaven?

but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

That is the ticket to heaven. That’s how we can get there.

Revelation 22
1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

6 Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

7 “Look, I am coming soon! …

20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

So this morning we celebrate homecoming, we celebrate the chance to come and celebrate our church were we have been doing ministry for 58 years. And yet there is a more important homecoming to follow; one that will make eternal significance. I want to make sure anyone who is here has the key to heaven.

The key to heaven is having your name written in the Lamb’s book of Life. It doesn’t matter if your name is written on the roll of Preston Wesleyan Church. That doesn’t matter at all. The question is, “Is your name written in the Lamb’s book of Life?”

How do we do that? Paul and Silas were in jail, thrown in there for throwing out demons. They were singing in the middle of the night, when an earthquake happened. The jailer ran in and was about to kill himself. Paul and Silas said, “Don’t do that. We haven’t escaped.” This so impressed the jailer he stuck around and heard what else Paul and Silas had to say. The jailer finally asked, “How do I get saved?” They replied, “Anyone who believes in the Lord will be saved.”

Not just a head knowledge, but to get it into the heart, where it changes us. We don’t have to clean up our act first, but we need to come to Jesus. We come to Jesus just as we are. He will clean us up. You come and you will be able to celebrate at that final homecoming.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

We have been studying the corporate spiritual disciplines on Sunday evenings. Two weeks ago, we looked at the miraculous deliverance of Paul and Silas from prison. They had casted out a demon from a servant girl and were thrown into prision without a trial. During the night they started praising God and singing. As all this was happening, an earthquake happened and the door of the prison was opened. The jailer was ready to kill himself and Paul and Silas told the jailer everything was alright. The jailer took care of them and wanted to know more about their faith.
Paul and Silas tell him and his household, “Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.” Paul and the early apostles were not afraid to share their faith despite the harsh persecution. The book of Revelation was written for the early church that was enduring the persecution. It was written to encourage the church to continue in it’s mission. Jesus promises that He will return and reward everyone according to what they have done.
Jesus told us to be united in the mission of God and prayed for that in John 17. He gave us His mission at the end of Matthew 28. That mission is to go and make disciples of all nations, to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach them everything Christ has taught us. Paul and Silas were doing this in Philippi. This should encourage us to be united in the mission of God despite the opposition we face because Jesus is coming soon.

Auto Saving Blogger Posts…

From the Blogger Dashboard page:

Auto-savory Blogger Posting

Today we’re adding autosaving of draft posts to the Blogger post editor. Now you don’t have to feel so bad about browser crashes, random laptop restarts, or that hamster vs. gerbil war going on behind your desk that keeps knocking your power cord out of the socket, because Blogger is automatically saving as you type! It’s doing it to me right now. Even if I…*smash*Whoops! I just pretended that my browser crashed for the purpose of illustrating that the above paragraph is still intact, thanks to autosave! So say “goodbye” to lost blog posts. You won’t miss them.

Where was this last week? Oh, well, at least it’s available now. When I get into those long posts about my musical journey, I won’t have to worry about saving it. This is a GREAT feature.

Missional in My Neighborhood

A post to make you think from http://www.erichogue.com/

A determined caller asked, “What can I do to be missional in my neighborhood?”
I love questions that seek to create opportunities to share the simple ‘love’ of Jesus. So I offered a quick list of suburbia ideas for the caller to consider for her ‘neck of the Northern California suburbia woods’

I’ve always felt awkward when I’m resting at a stop light, trying not to look at the homeless panhandler (Icon of God) out my driver’s side window. I know, I know…”they do this as a scam to make easy money off of guilt ridden passers-by.” I don’t care. I want to meet a need, and I want to do it cheerfully and loving.

Whenever I go to McDonald’s or any fast food location of your appetite’s choice, I buy multiple $5 gift cards.

Last week I purchased $25 worth and placed the cards above my car’s visor. Now, whenever I see someone asking for ‘some help’, I quickly pull one of the cards out from the visor and tell them to go get a warm lunch on me.

If the light is longer than normal, it creates a conversation.

I now pray for “Jimmy” on a daily basis…[MORE]

The Ascension of our Lord

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Forty days have passed since we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ ministry continued in those days following resurrection. He appeared to Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the others. Even even appeared to over 500 at one time. The days of His earthly ministry were now done. He tells His disciples, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things. 49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

Jesus gives these instructions to His disciples and ultimately to us. He has called us to particpate in His mission — to be His hands and feet to a world that needs Christ. After Jesus tells the disciples His mission, He blesses them an is taken into heaven. The disciples stand around, wondering, “What now?” Two men show up and say, 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

What I get out of all of this, is that the messengers were reinforcing Jesus’ message to not wonder about how it will all end, but to get busy doing the things that Jesus’ commanded them to do, because He will return — the same Jesus — will return the same way he left. I believe that all of us need to take this to heart. It’s time to get busy and do the work Christ has called us to do.

My Musical Journey – Part 2 – High School

Before I go on in my journey, I need to backstep to tell a story from part 1. While I was in sixth grade, we had a substitute for music. It wasn’t your ordinary music substitute — she knew something about music. She was teaching us about theme and variation and was using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as an example. She started playing it several different ways to demonstrate variation. While she was playing a minor version, I (unknown to me) started humming the harmony. She was about half-way through, when she stopped and asked, “who was humming?” I wasn’t aware that I had been, but I was found out and she asked me if I knew what I was doing (singing harmony, that is). Singing harmony was always something we did in our family, so I wasn’t aware it was unusual to sing harmony by ear. I will always remember that, because God has given me some wonderful gifts to use.
7_french-horn-singleSo my early musical influences were country, gospel music, music in the church, and band music. In the late 70’s something would happen that would change some of that. I told you of my love/hate relationship with the trumpet. In addition to learning that instrument, I learned to play the French Horn in Junior High.

My dad had always wanted to put together a family band that could play country and southern gospel style music. Dad had played the steel guitar and around this time my mom started taking guitar lessons. Dad suggested that I learn to play the bass. I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I hadn’t really enjoyed the trumpet and french horn even though I played them from fourth grade til I graduated from High School.

4499_64_Jazz_Bass_Ash_Closet_Classic_3_Tone_Sunburst_R67127_a

Picture of a Fender Jazz Bass.  The bass that I had was a Penco Bass and it looked just like this.  I have recently learned that the Penco guitars built in the early 70’s were very good in quality.  I know it did play well.  I eventually got myself an Ibanez Roadstar II bass that I play to this day.

My dad purchased a bass guitar for me to play and got me started on lessons. That was the worst part and as they say the rest is history. Bass was my primary instrument for many years. I took to it immediately and my teacher was impressed and quickly taught me what I needed to know. Not only can I read notes (if I have to,) but I can read the chord charts and more importantly, I can play by ear. I honed this skill by listening to recording and finding out what the bass player was doing. I really enjoyed that. The picture is a Fender Jazz Bass which is what my bass was modeled after. It served me well as I began to learn the instrument.

Oh, by the way, I forgot that brief moment in my life when I thought I was going to be a drummer. That was probably around 5th or 6th grade. We even had a set of drums in the house. When the drums got too much, mom would blink the basement lights and it was

391261678158_1

This is not the drumset that I had but it looked very similar. 

time to stop. The good thing is that I developed a sense of rhythm, because I played along with recordings. This spilled over into my bass playing. Some have asked where I get my sense of rhythm and it is from listening and playing to countless hours of music as a teenager.

 About this time, my family switched churches. We had attended Trinity Wesleyan from time to time — especially for special services — revivals, cantatas, sinspirations, and other events — before switching churches. I even remember going to a Gaither Trio concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with the Trinity church. My mom and dad had several friends there and they were wonderful people. 
s-l225A new church meant new musical influences. I would see the “Praise and Worship” gospel hymnal only occasionally for many years. When we switched churches, Trinity had just moved into it’s new building “way out” in the country. It was surrounded by nothing but cornfields. Those cornfields have given way to housing development. The church is now surrounded by cornfields but by people and they are trying to reach those around them. With a new church building came a new hymnal titled “Hymns of Faith and Life.” It was a joint effort between the Wesleyan Church and the Free Methodist Church. It was the first hymnal and at least to this point the last hymnal the Wesleyan Church would publish. Our’s was red and not the brown color you see. It matched the rest of the church; which had red pew coverings and carpet. The hymnal included the standard hymns and gospel songs, but was missing some of the songs from “Praise and Worship.” This made it not as popular. There were the standard responsive readings and The Apostle’s Creed and service music (benedictions and calls to worship.) It even included full services of the Free Methodist Communion and Wesleyan Communion services and The Covenant Renewal service. Part of the reason this was unique is that our denomination is not known for it’s liturgical worship. We would use this hymnal for about ten years until it was replaced, but more about that in another post. I now wish there was a hymnal available like this for use in the Wesleyan Church. One of the hymns that I learned during this time was “And Can It Be?” This has become one of my favorites over the years.
The late 70’s and early 80’s were full of new influences for me. Our youth group attended

gladalbumcover

This album represents the music of my high school years.  It was one of the first albums I purchased.  

IWYC in 1978. This was a large international youth convention held at the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL. I can’t say that I remember much from this convention. I do remember that these early conventions did not feature much in the way of participatory worship. Our college groups would sing, there was a special musical guest and then special speakers. Other than that I don’t remember much about it.

Over the next few years, I would be introduced to groups such as Glad, Sweet Comfort Band, Love Song and others. Glad was not always the contemporary, pop, accapella group they are today. The album that is to the left was quite different. It mixed classical, jazz, and rock into one package. My favorite song from this album was “All Things,” a paraphrase from Romans 8:28. I remember listening to this album and trying to learn the bass parts and some were and still are quite difficult.
We had several musicians in our youth group, so we started a band (which should come as no surprize.) Our youth leaders even encouraged us to do special music, which we did. In this era, there really wasn’t much in the way of “worship” music. Our church was pretty traditional at the time using piano, organ, choir, and the hymnal for worship. Contemporary music was used more in “special music.” On Sunday nights, we would be allowed and encouraged to play our instruments along with the hymns. I even played my trumpet from time to time. It was at this time during “youth week” they would always select me to lead the music, which meant stand up behind the pulpit, announce the hymn number, and vocally lead the hymns. This was extremely nerve wracking for an introvert, but I did it, having no idea where God would lead.
Toward the end of my high school career, our youth group started a coffee house known as “The Timbers.” We had some local bands in and a few of us would constituted a house band that would play. We played mostly songs from Love Song. Songs like “Front Seat, Back Seat,” “Since I Opened Up the Door,” and others. I sang (harmony and lead) and played bass.
In addition to all of the above, I did play and sing in our family’s band. My mom would play guitar and sing. My dad played steel guitar or sang. My aunt played piano or guitar and sang and I played bass and sang. We listened to some of the recordings we made during that time last year and it really wasn’t too bad, matter of fact it was quite good, except for the over enthusiastic bass player who tried to play every lick he knew in five minutes or less. Isn’t great how we mature!
The most important event in this era happened at the regional Toronto Wesleyan Youth Convention in 1980. The guest musicians were Dave Boyer and a group called Stacey, as well as our college groups. The only speaker I remember was Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy was the speaker when I received a call into full-time ministry. It was at this point that I knew God was leading me, but I had no idea how it would work out.
As you can see the high school years were formative, as well as the years that followed. Next week, we’ll look at the college-aged years.