Wednesday, September 23, 2009

See You Sunday!

Since I'm not from the Lexington area, I've enjoyed just driving along the major roads in that past few days to check things out. I'm quickly learning my way around and where the best iced coffee and Mexican food is located! So, as I was out exploring the other day, I drove past a church sign that caught my attention! The advertisement on the sign said: "Kids in church? Great Idea! See you Sunday." They then listed their worship times. Genuius. Just after driving past the sign, I found my way into a local sandwhich shop for dinner and was greeted by a teenager. Instead of asking for my order, he asked me if I knew who Megan Fox was and if I liked her. He went on to passionately share that he would "sell his soul" to have 5 minutes with Megan Fox. I had to chuckle! Yes, kids need to be in church! (Don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with Megan Fox or the teenager but selling your soul??).

I wonder if the people in the church were implying (with the sign) that parents aren't briging "kids" to their church? Or, is it a tactic to get parents to know they have a good children and youth Christian education program and worship at their church? It seems to me they are implying that children and youth aren't in church! And, in a way, I think they are right. Clearly, children, youth and adult committment / participation at a church are what makes that congregation what it is. Some churches are known for what they offer children or youth. Some churches are defined by what they offer young adults. Along those lines (and exciting for me)... it is my impression that Zion is known for what it offers families. And, I did see quite a few "kids" in church on Sunday. In fact, the little ones even tried to take over Pastor Tim's king puppet during his moments with the children!

So all of this brought me to this blog entry and wondering why aren't "kids" in church? Logically, my first thought was that we all know this is the most over-committed generation EVER. It's scary! When my son was three we played t-ball and the coach wanted to have practice on Wednesday and Sunday and we had games on Tuesday or Thursday. Well, we just weren't ready for more than one night a week and we switched to karate lessons at his preschool that happened while he was at school on Wednesdays. Even now, on a WEDNESDAY NIGHT (church night) as I look to my facebook page and read status updates, I see parents who have updated that they are getting ready for tonight's practice or are leaving work early to catch their child's game. I wonder to myself why coaches schedule practices on nights or days that are and always have been filled with church activities. But, on the other hand, I can understand that they have to becuase other days are filled with other activities. To me this means that the church must do a better job of understanding these schedules and be open to adjusting their activities. For example, why not push back Wednesday night dinner fifteen minutes? Or, why not have the youth meet on the soccer field before Sunday afternoon's practice for a devotion or Friday night after the football game for some fellowship?

Secondly and because we are so overcommitted these days, I think we have taken up the Israelite practice of worshipping idols. I know I have! An idol doesn't have to be some sort of statue as the Old Testament defines it. An idol can be a thing or practice, like sports, shopping, money, sleeping, being powerful, giving first priority to career over family, or status. These "idols" are very powerful and overwhelming. These things will take away from our committment to church. These things make it easy for us to justify why not to attend or take our "kids" to a Wednesday night program, Bible study, worship, etc.

But, third, one reason we might not get our youth and children to church is the church's fault. I think the church is called to offer programs, worship,and opportunuties to which the community can be excited about and to which they connect. I'm excited to get to be a part of those plans here at Zion and look foward to hearing your suggestions about ways in which we can do that here! Most especially, I am excited for the new contextual worship service that will be starting this Sunday night at 6:30pm!

Kids in church? Great idea! See you tonight or Sunday at Zion!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


So, today in worship, Pastor Tim said some things that got me thinking about our identity as Christians. Obviously, as Christians Jesus is part of our identity. And as Pastor Tim pointed out, Jesus came to serve. Think about it! Even in death, Jesus continued to serve the world. And we know the early church grew through relationships and service to one another. So naturally, service should be what we members of the kingdom are all about!

But, part of our Christian identity and service also has to do with culture. It's like a spectrum; on one end is culture and the other is Christ. Pastor Tim pointed out that Christianity calls us to be almost opposite of culture. In today's culture it is not second nature to serve! We get caught up in our busy schedules, being with our families, or hanging out with our friends ... it becomes all about ME!

I had such an experience this week-end! I had a "shopping date" with one of my friends. She was going to help me make curtains for my freshly painted bedroom and she was also looking for some fabric to go in her guest bedroom. First thing when we met, Eleanore let me know that another friend of hers may interupt our time together via a phone call. She went on to explain that this friend has been unemployeed for the past three years; and recently she lost her car because she could not afford the payments and repairs. This friend had called earlier and asked to borrow Eleanore's car so she could run some errands. Eleanore was not comfortable with that but did feel "obligated" to take her friend to do the errands. However, this was Eleanore's day off of work and she had planned to spend it shopping, having a birthday dinner celebration with her mom, and then was having some friends over later in the evening.

I have to admit it, I secretly hoped that this person would not call and interupt MY shopping trip with Eleanore. I had planned for us to shop and then take Blaine to Chick-Fil-A for some lunch and playground time; while Blaine played on the playground, we could chat away! However, about an hour or two into our shopping time, the friend did call and Eleanore literally had to cut our time short so that she could pick up her friend, run the errands, and then make it to her mom's birthday dinner (only a few hours away). I was disappointed but understood Eleanore's desire to help her friend. Eleanore has a big heart and I have always admired her ability and desire to serve others (i.e. teaching children's Sunday school, working with the youth at her church, her committment to her friends, etc.).

Later that day when I talked to Eleanore, I asked how the errands went. Eleanore explained that it took much longer than she had time for but that they got them all done. But the thing that struck me most was that Eleanore was beating herself up because she didn't go into the opportunity to serve her friend with an open heart. She might as well just not have gone at all because of her attitude. In other words, she felt worse for going with a bad attitude than if she hadn't served her friend at all.

Pastor Tim talked this morning about Israel and how they lost the vision of service and it became about power. Clearly, I lost the vision of allowing another to serve and it became about material things (the shopping trip) for me. But my friend, Eleanore, (despite her self proclaimed bad attitude) never forgot that her identity as a Christian calls her to serve others above self. Despite having and wanting to do other things on her day off, she still went and helped a friend. I am so proud to know Eleanore and I am convinced that her going to help her friend could have made a profound difference in that person's life. It could even mean the difference of employment vs. unemployment for this person. Perhaps if I continue to surrond myself with Christian friends like Eleanore, these attitudes and examples will begin to rub off on me! Though the curtains did turn out nicely, maybe one day it will be second nature for me to serve others first or not get upset when the opportunity to serve another presents itself (even if it is in the middle of MY shopping trip) ...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday Nights at Zion

If you didn't get to check it out last night, Wednesday nights at Zion are awesome! There was great fellowship, great food, great music, and even a great first meeting between the youth and Jillianne last night! There's really something for everyone. You've got to check it out; come next week! Just register for dinner with Bobby in the church office by the Tuesday before at noon!

I was so impressed with how friendly and excited everyone was to be there and see each other. I have to be honest, I was a little nervous. Believe it or not, I really would like to be an introvert; but alas, I operate extrovertedly most of the time. At the end of the day, I am usually exhausted! Don't tell anyone, but, going to an event like Wednesday night dinners is a little intimidating for me because I worry if anyone will talk to me or if there will be anyone there that I am close with or with whom I can hang out! Do you ever feel that way? But, I have to say that last night I felt very comfortable in my introductions and conversations with everyone! I even got a few hugs (I love hugs).

Last night made me think about two things! First, how integral fellowship and fun are to our Christian faith! Acts 2:42 tells us that the early church devoted themselves to many things including fellowship! So it seems to make sense to me that through fellowship we are able to develop deeper relationships within the church and then in effect enhance our own personal relationship with God. I truly believe the church is meant to be a place where we experience in depth relationships and that it can be a place where life long friendships are developed (especially for youth). I've found that when I reflect on my experience as a youth that I generally don't remember the lessons or topics we studied, but do remember the people and the relationships that were important in my life. I remember moments of fellowship and fun on Wednesday nights or Sundays! I remember ski trips and spiritual life retreat and the friends that were there with me.

I heard an anology one time about fellowship that has really stuck with me! Basically, it said that God created family and friends so we could all have relationships that become intimate so we could enjoy one another’s company and companionship. Have you ever noticed in the wild how there are swarms of bees, flocks of birds and herds of buffalos? In some cities they have High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes that get you there faster because your not slowed down by individual vehicles driven by individual people. I beleive God wants you to travel in a High Occupancy Vehicle; when traveling in the HOV lane you pass up most of the jams you would have gotten into alone. The same is true when you’re a part of a healthy fellowship.

A church or a youth group without fellowship would be like a football player without a team; a soldier without a platoon; a tuba player without an orchestra; a sheep without a flock, or like a child without a family. I'm thankful for the strong example of fellowship that I saw at Zion last night and I look foward to forming closer relationship with you.

The second thing I thought about is how important it is to step out of our comfort zone ... even if we don't want to. This is a "biggie" in ministry for me! It's my soapbox! Usually a few things happen when we step out of our box:
1. We find out it wasn't so intimidating in the first place.
2. We have a really good time and learn and grow.
3. Our relationship with God grows.

Fellowship on Zion! Fellowship on!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Days!

Every day, I read an online devotional that comes right to my e-mail inbox! Today's devotion really made me feel good! In fact, the Scripture choice for today was one of my favorites (1 Timothy 4) which I thought was ironic, yet confirming ,of my choice to serve in a new ministry after taking the summer off. Speaking of that, I've always loved the first day of something ... some of my favoites have been: the first day of school, the first day with a new baby, the first day of driving a new car, the first day of the fair, the first day in my (then) new house! And today was no exception; a change for me, the first day of a new job, a new adventure in ministry!

The bottom line is that change and newness can be scary! For me, change has always been scary because it is something different / not normal. It takes me / makes me step out of my comfort zone. But, when I stopped and thought about change, it hit me how long we humans have been dealing with it! Think about Adam and Eve! Even the Israelites faced newness and change (and did not respond so well, might I add). Just take a look at Isaiah 43:18-19 where the writer probably shocked and offended the exiled Israelites by his thoughts on change and newness.

But change and newness are integral to our life and faith. Paul, in the book of Philippians, talks about change and newness. He says: "but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." I think what Paul means (but doesn't say here) is that change and newness are a reality and are at work in every aspect of life. Think about it! As human beings, we are constantly growing and changing; a work in progress. Nature around us is constantly growing and changing. We're life-long learners - there's always something we can learn from each other, our Master, or ourselves! Further, I think what Paul is saying in the third chapter of Philippians is that we can't be afraid of change. We can't be so stuck on "the old way of doing things" that we miss out on something awesome (but new).

Part of the 1 Timothy Scripture, that I so love, says: "These are the things you must insist on and teach ... Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you ... Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers." What an overwhelming responsibility Paul is charging us with! But I have to say, it is one that I am so looking foward to accepting. I am going to have to work hard to remind myself of this daily and that change and newness are good! Afterall, I beleive with all my head and heart that the Christian life is a pilgrimage—a discipleship of discipline—a moving ahead involving a life of change and newness! So, here's to change and newness!