I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

 It’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride for sure, but I can’t even begin to express our overwhelming gratefulness for the many ways you have “been the church” to us over the past couple of months. Your encouraging words, your many prayers, your visits at the hospital, the messages on social media, the meals, your questions of concern – all of your expressions of care – have lightened our load and encouraged our hearts.

 

 Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!

 

 We’re so deeply thankful for each of you! Thanks for “being the church!”

 

 

Joel (and Linda)



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

I’m pondering this question concerning us, so I thought I’d write it down and send it out.

Who has the final authority in our lives? If our will is contrary to the will of God, who wins? If our wisdom runs contrary to the wisdom of God’s word, whose wisdom trumps (sorry if “trump” is a bad word for you. You’re welcome, if it is a good word. 😊)? If our way intersects perpendicularly (crossways) with the way of Jesus, do we change directions or wave (or perhaps try not to make eye-contact) and keep going?

“Being the church” means following the will, the wisdom and the way of Christ. And, God, by his great grace, has made available the means necessary to give our hearts the inclination and the power to desire and choose the will, way, and wisdom of Christ. This “means” is the Holy Spirit of God who longs to fill us, cleanse our hearts (allowing us to desire one thing above all other things) and empower us to follow Jesus – to genuinely “be the church.”

Just wondering, have you said “Yes!” to God’s invitation to surrender your whole heart to the Lordship (the unrivaled leadership) of Jesus and be filled with his Holy Spirit that you might “be the church” (his people) as God intends?

It really is the way to life that’s really life.

 

Just pondering,

Joel



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,
 
We use this space to talk about what it means, not to be a people that “go to church,” but to be a people that live out what it means (and what Jesus had in mind) to “be the church.”
 
Well, Pastor Margaret, our Pastor of Children’s Ministries, painted a pretty clear picture of what it looks like in her most recent monthly report to the church board:
 
The job no one wanted…
Last August, our preteens (5/6 grade) started prepping and planning toward a partnership with Olathe Westside and Freemont Nebraska churches for a 4-day/3-night mission trip.

  • 34 students and sponsors combined
  • GC served as the host church (aka, sleep, eat and training headquarters)
  • Mornings we offered VBS for resident children at My Father’s House
  • Afternoons we partnered with Lawrence First, disaster relief from the recent tornadoes

Although there are many great stories, I would like to share one.

LFC connected us with a nearby neighborhood hit hard by the tornado. There we met homeowner, Terri. Day 1 she explained she really needed was someone to walk her property to pick up twigs, branches, shingles, small pieces of glass and insulation. Until that was done, she could not safely mow the lawn or even walk in certain places. Our students went right to work walking the property and picking up and sorting bags (literally) of debris. Day 2 she was excited to tell us, because of your hard work yesterday, I was able to mow last night—for the first time since the tornado! Then, with tears in her eyes she said, there have been many adults show up with chainsaws and pick-up trucks and this has been so helpful. But every time I mentioned the need to clean this giant yard, it seems to go unheard. You kids need to know, you have taken on the job no one else wanted. I cannot begin to thank you enough!” 

I am so proud of their work, their attitudes and the posture of their servant heart.
 
Pastor M
 
This story reminds me of all kinds of things Jesus said – and did – but it also serves as a very clear illustration and demonstration of what it looks like to “be the church.”
 
Thanks, kids, for leading the way!!!
 
Learning from younger Christ-followers,
 
Joel



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,
 

You have truly “been the church” to us during the past week with all your expressions of love, care and support and we can’t thank you enough.

 

Humbled and grateful,

Joel



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

This past Sunday night we had (I think) 23 people in our family room. We invited a couple of Grow Groups (that were both partially represented) and several other people (not currently connected to a Grow Group). The intention was just to hang out, eat dessert and get to know each other better. I think we accomplished all three objectives.

During the course of conversation, one of the couples who are new the Grace Community asked me about our Grow Groups – “How do they work?” “What are they all about?” It was my great privilege to answer them.

First, I gave them the logistical answers: ideally they’re groups of 8-14 people, they meet weekly in homes on various nights of the week for approximately 90 minutes, they’re built basically on affinity/relationships (not assigned by geography, etc.), their primary purpose is to promote growth (thus the name “Grow Groups”) – growth in relationship with God, growth in connection with each other, growth in knowledge of God’s word, etc.

Then I got to give them the less logistical, but more important answer: “Grow Groups are where ‘church’ can really happen! Sunday morning has a vitally important place in our lives, but meeting regularly with a small group of like-minded Christ-followers who know our name, know our hopes, dreams, hurts and struggles, know when we’re missing, pray with and for us, help care for us during tough times (I.E. show up at the hospital, bring meals during recovery, show up at funerals, grieve with us during times of loss, etc.), celebrate with us during good times, encourage us, hold us accountable, cheer for us and give us a place/opportunity to offer the same blessings in their lives. That’s what Grow Groups are all about!!!

In other words, it’s a place to truly BE the church.

Are they always convenient? No. Is every meeting like going to Disneyland? Hardly. Do I recommend them them? Abso-stinkin-lutely!!!!! Grow Groups can play an irreplaceable role of spiritual formation in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we gather regularly.

 If you have not yet found a group, please let us know. We’d love to help you get connected!!!

 

Thoroughly convinced,
 
Joel


I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

This week there are three congregations – Grace Community, Freemont NE Church of the Nazarene and Olathe Westside Nazarene – collaborating on a preteen mission trip. Fifth and sixth graders from all three congregations are sleeping here at GC. They’ve been doing a VBS for the children living at My Father’s House in Paola and helping out with projects around their ministry campus. They’ve been serving in Lawrence (in connection with Lawrence First Church of the Nazarene) doing tornado clean-up. They’ve been worshiping together, learning together, building relationships with each other and serving together. In short, they’ve been both learning what it means to “be the church” and, actually, actively “being the church.”

(To see more pictures, visit our Hiz Kidz Grace Community Church of the Nazarene Facebook page.)

I’m deeply thankful for those who are making this week possible for our 5th-6th graders and I’m thankful that God is at work in and through their lives – both forming them to be and using them as his Church!!!

 

Joel



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

Once in a while something happens that reminds us of how desperately we need each other and how blessed we are to have each other. Last Friday evening was one of those times.

About 6:00 pm Scott and Jennie Hilligus left their house on their Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, got about a half mile from home and were suddenly and without warning hit by a car that ran a stop sign. Instantly their casual, relaxing, evening bike ride became a panicked fight for life. And instantly the relevance of the church became extremely obvious.

Loving relationships engaged

Care expressed

Prayers lifted

People at the hospital supporting anxious family members

People volunteering to watch family member’s kids

A vast network of prayers coordinated

Offers for ongoing ways to help

Daily visitors at the hospital

And the list goes on…

Despite all the church’s warts and wrinkles, I can’t imagine doing life – especially the rough patches, but all of life – without the love, care, support, encouragement and prayer she provides.

Times like these help us understand better that church isn’t “a place we go” or “something we do” for an hour on Sunday. It’s the people we’ve been called to be – a people who love God with all our heart soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor (each other) as our self.

 

Yay God for his church!

Joel

 



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

From time to time it’s a really good idea to take our Dream, lay it across the grid of our lives and ask the Lord, “Where do I need your help to live into this Dream you’ve given us?”

Take a reflective look,

The Dream

. . . to be a church where we love one another boldly, forgive one another freely, serve one another sacrificially, and communicate with one another authentically.

. . . to be a church where people who don’t know Christ receive priority attention and where they are attracted to him by the winsome, authentic, lavish love of Christ they see us display toward one another.

. . . to be a biblically functioning community of believers where people discover their God-given gifts and employ them gladly for the good of the whole body — where the rich help take care of the poor and the strong help carry the weak, where hurting, struggling folks are not condemned, but cared for and healed, and where all people are valued simply on the basis that they matter to God and, therefore, matter to us.

. . . to be a church where seekers can come and find a safe place where they can relate, and an open invitation to belong, and yet be drawn to a loving Christ who desires to wash away their sin and make them new and whole and clean.

. . . to be a church where it’s okay, even the norm, for people to be real, genuine, vulnerable and transparent, displaying the loving holiness of God that has been poured out into their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

. . . to be a church where new believers are nurtured, cared for, grounded in their faith and grow to maturity, and where mature believers reproduce themselves spiritually in the lives of others.

. . . to be a church that looks beyond itself and beyond its immediate community to its larger responsibility of helping to fulfill the great commission of Christ to the very ends of the earth.

… to be a church that lives every day as an instrument of God’s hope and healing and compassion and justice and restoration and reconciliation and truth and beauty and righteousness and love in the world.

Living like that is called “being the church.” Let’s ask the Lord to help us.

 

The first one on my face before God,

Joel

 

 



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,
 
Wednesday night we had one of our “Conversations.” The topic was “Depression and Anxiety” – two issues that are at near epidemic levels in our culture – and our presenter was Dr. Judy Schwanz. It was a very helpful and insightful evening.
 
There is so much to learn about these difficult issues, but there was one quote from last night that I especially loved, “Depression requires all of us to respond in faith for healing.”
 
The point of that statement is not that we must all conjure up a name-and-claim-it “faith” in order for a person to be instantaneously healed of their battle with depression, but that we really need each other in order to find healing. We need the strength of a loving, encouraging, supportive, grace-giving community. And, of course, that’s not just true of depression; it’s true in every area of our lives!
 
And guess what? That’s why we call this place “Grace Community”!!!!! We have been called by God, and God longs to empower us by his Spirit, to actually be a “grace community” – a community of believers who don’t just attend church, but truly are “being the church” as we walk together into the wholeness and healing of Christ!!!
 
Thankful for a “grace community,”
 
Joel
 
PS – Feel free to come to these “Conversations” when you can. They’re really good!!!



I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,

We call it Community Engagement and it’s one of my favorite things! It’s our attempt at “engaging our community” (thus the name) in ways that bring blessing – help, hope, encouragement – and spread the “aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15). It takes many forms – providing a free community-wide tailgate party at the Spring Hill Broncos football game, fixing, painting and cleaning at the Beadle House (a ministry to single moms), hosting block parties in neighborhoods, picking up the trash after the Fall Festival Parade, providing Thanksgiving meals and Christmas gifts to families in need, providing backpacks for school kids, serving meals to the teachers and staff of USD 230, etc., etc., etc.

This week, however, our Community Engagement will consist of cooking hamburgers! Daffodil Day is Spring Hill’s business expo and we’re going to show up this Saturday (Lord willing) with our grill and provide lunch to about 500 people – free! – just to say, “We love you and GC is here to serve you.”

If you’d like to help this Saturday, or find out more about participating in C.E. events in the future, Bob and Cara Henderson are the ones to whom you should speak. bhenderson@berkshirerisk.com.

We call it “being the church.”

 

Looking forward to smelling like burgers!

Joel