The Twenty #3 – Why church is Relevant for Me

I used to work at a church where “relevant” was tossed around like a baseball. It was one of three words that closed out our mission statement. But, I’ll be honest, these days I cringe a little bit inside when I hear the words “relevant” and “church” in the same sentence.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t think church should be relevant. But, I’m not sure it should be a primary focus. I think the climb up the mountain of “relevancy” can be a slippery slope.

I believe that the concept of “church” will always be relevant because God designed us to live and love and learn in community…in the church. However, that may not always be the case with the institution or organization of the local church. For me, the local church is only relevant if it’s a representation of the Church.

These days, church is more than just a place I go to on Sunday mornings. And that’s what makes it relevant for me. It is family. It is support. It is accountability. It is love. It is compassion. It is encouragement. It is being challenged. It is brokenness and grace in action. It is rest. It’s gathering together with people whose hearts are knit together in some way to worship the One who created them all. It is the Church in action. And that makes it “relevant.”

Is church “relevant” for you? Why or why not?

Throwback Sundays…Enhancing the Gospel

I have had more than one conversation about the very idea of “enhancing the Gospel” in the last week and it’s got me thinking about it again. Couldn’t help but bring back this post today for throwback Sunday.

Using the word “enhance” makes it seem as though we think the Gospel is insufficient or ineffective on it’s own, or that it’s just not quite good enough. Personally, I think the Gospel works in spite of us and the way we communicate its message.

Now I’m not convinced that the above is really what we mean when we use phrases like “to enhance the Gospel.” But, I think if we’re not careful, very quickly the words we use to describe what we’re doing will become the focus of what we’re doing. Meaning, even if we don’t believe we can enhance the Gospel but we continue to use that wording we will eventually get to the point where at least part of us believes that is indeed what we are doing through our creative efforts.

You can read the rest of the post hereI would love to hear your thoughts on the topic!

The Twenty – #2: The Best Community of People I Know

When I left my church, I didn’t know for sure where I was going to end up. Or at the very least was too afraid to admit that I did know but Nashville just seemed like too crazy of an option. But, deep down I did know. I knew Nashville was right because one of the things I felt God challenging me with was truly living in community and it seemed

Now I know I talk a lot about relationships. I write about them. I tweet about them. Etc. But, if I’m honest, relationships don’t always come naturally to me because I have an ongoing fight with trust. And community requires trust. If left to my own devices, though, I’ll often keep relationships and community surface level which doesn’t require a whole lot of trust on my part.

But, after my second visit to Nashville last April, something struck me about the community here…at least the community God surrounded me with during that visit…I couldn’t hide. It hit me as I was driving back to Wisconsin that I had told my story more times in those five days, and to strangers nonetheless, than I had in years. And I think at that moment I knew Nashville was exactly where God was going to drop me even if I was too afraid to acknowledge it. It was a place where I wouldn’t be able to hide.

The best community is honestly the people I get to do life with in Nashville. It’s as small as a few close friends and as big as the church I attend. It’s the people I serve alongside on Monday nights with People Loving Nashville and the homeless people we serve. It’s the people in my Village (a.k.a. small group). It’s Journey. And it’s my friends here who don’t fall into any of those.

They are people who I can laugh with, cry with, rest with, worship with, vent to, be silent with, dream with, pray with, work with, be challenged by, and serve with. It is a community that I believe with my whole heart is the reason God brought me to Nashville. It is a community that I get incredibly excited about when I think of how God has used them and will continue to use them for His Kingdom.

It’s people with some of the biggest, most compassionate and servant filled hearts I know. It’s people with some of the craziest God-sized dreams I know. They each have a different story, yet there are common threads that tie all of our stories together. It’s a community I don’t believe happened by chance. It’s a community…it’s people…for whom I am deeply grateful…I believe that God has written each of them into my story for a reason. And it’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to what I believe in my heart is the Church.

What’s the best community of people you know?

This is the second post in a series of twenty. For more on the background, check out this post.

Because I Love Sharing Stories

For most of my life, Asia wasn’t a place I wanted to visit. In fact, if I’m completely honest, it was a place that I had a lot of negative stereotypes about in my head. I lived in a dorm in high school along with about a hundred students from all across Asia. A few of them became very dear friends, but most of them drove me absolutely crazy at age 15.

So, the fact that God has been breaking my heart for that part of His world over the last 6 months or so is quite comical to me. It’s completely His way. And I love that.

In February a few people from my church, people I am honored to call friends, are headed over to Thailand. My heart and prayers will be going with them and I want to share their story with you. Because one of my favorite things in life is seeing how God uses people for His Kingdom purpose, especially when those people are my friends. And I love love love sharing those stories with others.

But, they can tell their story much better than I, so take a minute and watch the video:

The Story of Journey & Thailand from grateful inconvenience on Vimeo.

Please keep them in your prayers. If you want to be a part of their story…of God’s story in Asia, you can donate here

Throwback Sundays…When Technology Fails

Just a note: I’m really loving this Throwback Sundays series because it’s like a virtual conversation over a good cup of coffee reminiscing about what was but in doing so always dreaming of what will be. And that is one of my favorite things in life.

On with this week’s post. This Sunday is still one of the most memorable Sundays in recent memory for me. Technology failed miserably that night, but worship went on without it. And for me as a visual worship leader being forcibly pushed over the cliff of visual silence and realizing it wasn’t nearly as scary as one would think made me more willing to walk over that cliff on my own.

And I always appreciate when God gently reminds me that He’s bigger than any light, any camera, any projector, or any microphone. He is God. And He has blessed us with those tools but He doesn’t need them and neither do we.

Have you ever experienced a major tech fail during worship? What was the result?

The Twenty – #1: The Most Difficult Thing about Working at a Church

Gary Molander is someone I have great respect for and someone I think you should know. And when Gary posted a list of 20 things he wanted people to write about I got some inspiration. So, welcome to The Twenty series. One post a week. One topic from the list each week. Some of them I already have countless ideas for. Others, not so much. So, it ought to be a good challenge. :)

#1: The Most Difficult Thing About Working at a Church

Looking back I honestly think that the most difficult thing about working at a church for me was what came after I left.

I have struggled since leaving my position at a church to feel like I am living my purpose. And I’ve just recently begun to understand why. I feel called to serve the Church. And for the last 7 years of my life serving the Church has been my job. Though I was only on staff for 2 years at a church prior to that I served in roles that were volunteer staff for lack of a better description. So for 7 years what I have labeled ministry has been very regular, very scheduled, very constant in my life.

Fast forward to now, and I am not doing anything close to that. I am involved in my local church and volunteer a bit outside of that as well, but not nearly on the scale that I have for so long. Yet, I still long to live for something greater than myself…to feel like I am living my God-given purpose.

I’ve come to the realization that I have defined ministry as a job rather than a lifestyle.  I came to equate serving the Church with vocational ministry and ministry with being on church at a staff. I put serving the Church in the box of church staff and ministry in the box of church staff. In my mind the way to serve the Church was to be on church staff and ministry was being on church staff. And the reality is I think many who work in churches today end up doing that same thing without even knowing it.

But ministry is so much bigger than being on staff at a church and serving the Church is so much bigger than vocational ministry. Ministry is life. Life is ministry. At the end of the day ministry is people, it is serving the Church, it is compassion and caring and supporting and encouraging and admonishing and discipling and mentoring and loving. It is life. And it happens in schools and department stores. On blogs and on airplanes. In medical offices and art studios. It happens wherever it is that God places you. And so does serving the Church.

As I retrain my brain and learn redefine the term “ministry” I see that I really am living my purpose. If I am loving Him and loving others. If I am living out my faith, using the gifts He’s given me, then I am living my purpose. I am serving the Church. I am doing ministry.

How do you define “ministry” and “serving the Church?”