Lafayette…Here We Come!

On November 12th, I received a phone call from my current DS, Dale Mendenhall. The conversation started with Dale saying, “The Bishop has a new appointment for you.” At the time, I was racing to make it to the credit union before they closed so I could deposit a check and get some cash. I quickly said, “Um, can you say that again so I can make sure that I heard you correctly.” Indeed, I had not made an error in my hearing. Dale asked me to call the DS of the new Northwest District, Craig LaSuer and that he would have the details for me.

Later that evening, I called DS LaSuer and he spelled things out for me. The appointment would be as an associate pastor at Lafayette Christ UMC, focusing on youth and contemporary worship. As he spoke about the appointment, my interest was definitely peaking. It’s a strong church in a rapidly growing part of Lafayette. There is a lot of potential for growth. The church has a strong group of young families, awesome children’s ministry, and just too many good things to list.

He scheduled a meeting for the following week with Scott Mann, Christ UMC’s senior pastor. I really enjoyed our time together and felt like Scott is someone I could easily work with. So, the meeting went well and we decided to move on to the next step of the process.

On Monday, November 23rd, Emily, Jocelyn, and I headed over to Lafayette to meet with the staff parish committee (Sammie stayed with my parents, Jocelyn sort of needs to be with her mother at this point). The meeting could not have gone any better. We really enjoyed meeting some of the people from Christ UMC. Both Emily and I felt great about the meeting. After a time of discussion, DS Lasuer came out and said that the church felt really good about it and asked how we felt. Obviously, I felt good too. So, the appointment became official.

Yesterday, the appointment was announced in both churches. It’s a bitter-sweet moment for us. We love Center Chapel. We have been amazingly blessed by this congregation. This is our home. Our families are very close. We see great things happening at Center Chapel…and we see great things on the horizon. It’s hard to leave Center Chapel. Yet, we know that this is the right thing to do. We see this as a wonderful opportunity…for me and for our family. A lot of things have lined up and clearly indicated to us that God is in this.

So, my last Sunday at Center Chapel will be January 10th. My last day here will be January 14th. And I’ll make my transition to Lafayette Christ on January 15th. It’s going to be a big change. It’s going to be a good change.

We’re excited about this. We would ask that those of you who are the praying type would surround our family in prayer during this time. We ask that you’d pray that our house will sell and that we’ll find new housing in Lafayette. We ask that you pray for Lafayette Christ and that this period of transition will go smoothly and that God will bless this congregation. We ask the same prayers for Center Chapel.

Help Me Love Like This…

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

What would happen if we all made our best attempt to love like God loves? What would happen if we were to extravagantly love one another? What would happen if, like God, we extended our love to those who do not love us…to those who are different than us…to those who do not believe like us? What would happen if we loved with no strings attached? Can we love like that?

Church Signs Bother Me

I know we’ve all witnessed annoying church signs. I’ve found myself greatly irritated by the sometimes hate-filled messages that fill church signs throughout modern civilization.

Sometimes the messages are just cheesy (which is just as offensive as the “turn or burn” and “god hates you” messages), like, “What’s missing from our ch_ _ch? UR.  I’m sure that whoever comes up with these messages thought it was cute…but, it’s not. Instead, it just communicates how out-of-touch with reality the author is.

And, let me be honest, I’m sure my church has been guilty of our fair share of cheesy and offensive church sign messages…so I’m speaking to myself here as well. I need to better utilize my influence as one of the pastors on staff to protect our church sign from these offenses.

To make matters worse, they sell books devoted to the subject…and not all of them are making fun of the sophomoric statements. Some of them are just adding fuel to the fire. If your pastor owns one of these books and doesn’t use it as a source of comic relief, you might want to begin praying that he or she will see the light and find freedom from the slavery of sin that is contained in church sign messages.

There is one particular church that I drive by on a regular basis that has messages that make me want to call them and ask for an explanation. The other day I drove by and the sign read, “We use the KJV…God’s True Word!” I wanted to call and ask them what was the motivation. Do they truly believe that other translations are invalid and somehow not God’s true word? Other times their messages focus on abortion, homosexuality, and other hot topics. But, there is never a word of hope, love, or grace. The word is always about hell-fire and damnation. So much for “Jesus loves you!”

This church has also had the ever-so-popular “How do you want your eternity? Regular or Extra Crispy?” Really? Is this the best you can come up with? All that does is make me want to drive straight to KFC and indulge in the sin of gluttony. It never motivates me to think about issues involving the eternal consequences of my earthly choices.

Well, today I drove by a church sign that contained a message that wasn’t exactly offensive, but rather irrelevant (which, again, is sort of offensive). Generally, the motivation behind these church signs is to catch the attention of those driving by…somehow drawing them into the church. So, one should put together a sign that would draw the attention of the non-church-goer. The sign I saw today simply said, “Laborers needed for God’s harvest.”

Okay, so, I believe they are trying to play off the rising unemployment rate and the high numbers of people in our community looking for work. And, given that many farmers are in the midst of the harvest season I’m sure they believed this sign was culturally relevant. They utilized the Scripture from Matthew 9 which says that, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” It’s a biblically sound statement. I agree, God does need some workers to rise up.

But, my question is this…will that sign (or any church sign) draw people into the church? Will someone who does not believe in Jesus or go to church drive by, read this message and say, “Well, I do need a job. I guess I’ll go to church and take part in this harvest?”

It’s my desire that churches around the nation would just stop it with the stupid, catch-phrase, judgmental, Christianese church signs. How about just putting up the times of your worship services and something along the lines of “all are welcome” on the sign? Of course, then our churches would have to create an environment in which all truly are welcome (which is an entirely different subject matter).

Okay, so maybe it’s a lack of sleep…not enough coffee…or just a swelling of self-righteousness that has motivated this rant. But, seriously, enough with the stupid church signs already.

A Wise Leader

Last night, one of the people I consider to be a wise leader shared some insight that I believe is something we need to hear and be reminded of consistently.

Timm Fair is that wise leader. We were discussing a project involving our Mission House (a food and clothing bank here at the church). There were some reservations concerning the financial commitment needed for various projects.

Timm is our administrator. He has his finger on the pulse of our finances. He is a visionary leader and can identify trends and give us a glimpse of what the future may bring.

Timm addressed the concern, affirming that the financial resources are in place for our projects. But, then he made a few statements that I believe we needed to hear…not just concerning this project…but concerning our church and ministry as a whole.

Timm said, “Right now, we have the opportunity to get this right. Let’s get it right now. We don’t want to look back one year from now and say, ‘Oh, I wish we had done this or that.’ Let’s think long-term. Let’s think about what is the best investment for the long-term. Let’s make decisions that have the best long-term impact.”

“Let’s get it right, now.” That just might be a phrase that we all need to put in a place that we will see on a daily basis. Can you imagine what might happen if we all set out to get it right, now? I believe if we are focused on getting it right…we just might find ourselves bringing about a greater good in this world.

Sometimes getting it right means seeing beyond ourselves. Sometimes getting it right means stepping out in faith. Sometimes getting it right means seeing past the bottom-line.

What do you need to do today in order to get it right?