Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I'm tired and I'm sore, and my night has just begun...

Just a short while ago, we finished moving all of my worldly possessions. Wow, I own a lot of stuff. I am no longer a resident of Arden Hills, MN. I now live in East St. Paul, MN. I'm also less than 48 hours from becoming a married man. That is of course assuming my bride to be makes in through the next 2 days. She's feeling the strain of the details at the moment. While I've been moving, she's been taking care of an endless number of things to make sure this is a fantastic event, and I appreciate that. We are being very Christ focused in our wedding. We're having a candle lighting ceremony at the end (similar to that which is done in many churches Christmas Eve) and challenging people to be a light unto the world. We pray that we are a light to those in attendance, and that everyone will take that and share it with others for the Kingdom.

Beyond having just moved and planning a wedding, I have a paper to write, so I suppose I'll get to that. It's only 11:53 PM, almost the perfect time to start a final paper 8-)

Likely I won't post again until we are back from our honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico. I can't wait to get there!

An Atlanta newspaper (Atlanta Journal Constitution has had two articles in it on the Cancun and Hurricane Wilma recovery effrots. The first article and the second article.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

You know you are a graduate student when...

You know you are a graduate student when...
1) You are writing papers Christmas day.
2) You schedule your wedding around when school is out.
3) You have a more intimate relationship with your laptop computer than anything else.
4) Vacation is a trip to a new grocery store.
5) Study breaks are more about studying than breaking.
6) You are on a first name basis with staff.
7) Your car is equal value to 8-12 credit hours.
8) Your book collection's value exceeds that of your car.
9) There is a wooden chair in a cubicle at the library that is form fitted to your butt.

Merry Christmas...

Have a happy celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I got tagged for a meme...

Today I was tagged by fellow Minnesota Orginzation of Blogs (MOB) member Night Writer. It's a simple meme, one that Night Writer refered to as "weird".

So with that, I will list 5 weird habits or things that I do:

1) I don't eat vegetables for the most part. I like corn, peas (never canned), green beans, asperagus if cooked right, carrots and not much else.

2) I have been randomly approached 5 different times by people to do voice overs for commercials on radio. Most often this has happened in the restaurants I have worked in over the years. People like my voice, which I think is weird anyhow.

3) I always put my right sock on first. I always put my left leg through my underwear and pants first. I have no idea why, I just do.

4) I enjoy painting. That in itself is not weird, but I enjoy painting in spite of the fact that I have ZERO talent. I'm serious. I set up a special date with my fiancee last Spring where we did some painting (she was an Art Education major in college). She's artistic in every sense of the word. My art looked so bad, and was honestly so embarrassing, that I put the brushes down and began finger painting. I hadn't finger painted since Kindergarden I'm guessing. The finger painting looked far better than my original. My fiancee can verify this. I'm that bad. Yet I enjoy it.

5) I own nearly 20 pocket knives of various size, shapes, uses and designs.

I'll give some thought to who I will tag with this, and perhaps post that later if time allows. I've got a wedding to finalize details on, I have to move, and I have papers to write!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Words:God­frey Thring, 1877.

Music:Ed­win D. Drew­ett, 1887.

O God of mercy, God of might,

In love and pity infinite,

Teach us, as ever in Thy sight,

To live our life to Thee.

And Thou Who cam’st on earth to die,

That fallen man might live thereby,

O hear us, for to Thee we cry

In hope, O Lord, to Thee.

Teach us the lesson Thou hast taught,

To feel for those Thy blood hath bought;

That every word and deed and thought

May work a work for Thee.

For all are brethren, far and wide,

Since Thou, O Lord, for all hast died;

Then teach us, whatsoe’er betide,

To love them all in Thee.

In sickness, sorrow, want or care,

Whate’er it be, ’tis ours to share;

May we, when help is needed, there

Give help as unto Thee.

And may Thy Holy Spirit move

All those who live, to live in love,

Till Thou shalt greet in Heaven above

All those who live to Thee.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Eagle Brook Church Christmas Service Promo...

I got this in my inbox today from Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, MN.

A Note From Pastor Bob Merritt

Dear Church Family,

In three days, we’ll open the doors for our first Christmas Eve at our new campus—and we have done everything humanly possible with music, lighting, video, faith story and message to prepare for what I think will be our most memorable Christmas Eve ever. You and your family will not want to miss this one. Over 7500 tickets have been picked up which means that we’re expecting 9000 or more people to actually attend our six services. If you haven’t picked up tickets yet, please choose a service other than the 6 o’clock on Friday and the 3 o’clock on Saturday. Both of those are full. You can reserve your tickets online right now.

But here’s the real reason I’m writing this email. I think the people who will be most disappointed on Christmas Eve will be those who failed to invite their unchurched friends and family members to church. I personally have invited a dozen people, most of whom have said they will come. The new building is a definite draw and makes for an easy invite. I’ve even sent a few invitations by mail. We believe this will be the day many have been waiting for all of their lives.

The programming elements and message we have planned will make you laugh, think, reflect and wonder about your life and relationship with God. This one will capture the hearts of young and old, churched and unchurched, and we’re praying that hundreds will begin their new life with Christ in just three days from now. So I can’t say it strongly enough—get there early, don’t come alone, and please pray that this will be the day that hundreds finally find Jesus as their Savior, Lord and lifelong friend.

With great expectation that God will show up,


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Those aren't pews, they're stadium seats

I missed this article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press a few weeks ago when Eagle Brook Church moved from White Bear Lake, MN to Lino Lakes, MN.


New mega-church lures worshippers by embracing trends.
Pioneer Press

Hundreds of worshippers stomped snow off their boots in the lobby of Eagle Brook Church Saturday — and marveled at God's new $24 million house.

"It's wonderful! It's breathtaking!" said Cherie Broberg as she entered the colorful 2,100-seat sanctuary.

It was the crowning achievement of years of work and a whole lot of praying, said the Rev. Bob Merritt, preaching in an arena the size of a jet hangar.

"Miracles happen," he said, his voice choked with emotion. "It's indescribable. Twelve months ago, this place was cornfield, some dirt and a dream."

With Saturday's inaugural service, Eagle Brook Church shouldered its way into the ranks of the state's biggest churches. Mega-churches are the fastest growing kind of church in America, experts say.

The new building in Lino Lakes sits on 91 acres — bigger than some airports. It dwarfs the old Eagle Brook Church building in White Bear Lake. Its sanctuary is smaller than the immense Grace Church of Eden Prairie, but it attracts more visitors every week — 6,000, and rising.

In fact, growth is the main worry of operations director Scott Anderson. "We might not have enough seats," he said, taking a break from mopping the floors of the church's "Café 500" last week.

While many smaller churches languish, this is the kind of problem that plagues mega-churches.

Mega-church leaders, including those at Eagle Brook, believe that the more people in the doors, the better. They avoid anything that might be turn-offs for the unchurched.

A typical mega-church features:

• No pews. Instead, there are comfortable movie-theater-style cushioned seats. Stadium seating ensures good views of the stage.

• No Bibles or hymnals. Parishioners sing hymns by following the words on a large screen.

• Non-churchy architecture, without steeples. They look like high schools, malls or convention centers.

• Few symbols of religion. Stained-glass windows and even crosses are far less prominent.

• A dizzying array of specialized services, with specialists in geriatrics, teens, addiction and early childhood.

• No asking for money during a service — a turnoff for newcomers. There never is "passing the plate."

• High-energy music, with an in-house rock-style band on a stage ablaze with theatrical lighting.

• No pulpits. The pastor speaks informally from a simple stand on the stage.

• A fundamentalist and charismatic worship style, with a politically conservative viewpoint.

When 13-year-old Noelle Lindahl walked inside the natural stone lobby of Eagle Brook, she gushed: "It looks like a mall!"

"Mega-churches are successful because of the increasingly consumerist attitude of the day," said the Rev. Timothy Johnson, director of the Minnesota Church Ministries Association, which represents 90 members.

"They can offer something for everyone," he said.

Johnson said the vast majority of churches in America have fewer than 100 weekly worshippers. "The smaller churches are always looking over their shoulder."

Churches become almost generic, with "brand names" like Baptist, Lutheran and Catholic fading away. "The age of denominationalism is largely over," said Johnson.

Johnson said Christian values can be taught in a setting of almost any size. "But from my perspective, you have to ask, what kind of product do you have at the end of the day?" said Johnson. "Are you really changing the spiritual life and orientation of a person or not?"

The Eagle Brook Church always was focused on that goal, say church leaders. But in the 1990s, the name of the church was the First Baptist Church of White Bear Lake, and the church leaders wanted to grow.

They turned to a marketing technique — focus groups — and determined that the word "Baptist" kept people away. So, in 1997, the church name was changed to Eagle Brook.

Out went traditional styles of worship. The church decided it wouldn't avoid worldly trends — it would embrace them.

The youth service, with louder music, is called "The Edge." The Saturday service had an 11-piece rock band on a 60-foot-wide stage, with three huge rear-projection screens for videos, words to songs and ever-changing designs.

The architecture is airy and modern. "We don't want it to look like a traditional church," said Anderson.

The building opened to rave reviews Saturday.

"I'm so excited — what an awesome worship space!" said Kristi Shannon, who attended the White Bear Lake church.

If the aim was to appeal to younger worshippers, it was working on 15-year-old Kelsey Broberg. "A lot more kids will like to come to church here," she said.

Her friend Justine Coller added, "It's not old-people-ish."

Upstairs in the children's area, staff member Kristine Wendt was passing out free popcorn as fast as it would pop. Mobs of kids romped in a playroom room packed with 11 games — air hockey, pinball, basketball.

"This conveys relevance," Wendt hollered over the commotion.

"It's so awesome to see this, having been part of the vision. I have held back my tears five times today."

Downstairs, in the sanctuary, the audience was treated to a lineup of entertainment — a rock band, a comedy skit and a testimonial — all with a Christian message.

But most parishioners said the core message was what mattered — devoting lives to Christ.

"It isn't about the building. It's about the people," said Amy Lindahl as she dropped off her kids in the day-care rooms. "We put our prayers and hearts and souls into this place, and hopefully God will be glorified."

The next step in attracting people? Cup holders, perhaps.

"We are a Caribou church," said Anderson. "Half of the people come in here with coffee. It's such a part of who people are today, maybe we should add them.

"It all has to do," he said, "with relevance."

Bob Shaw can be reached at or 651-228-5433.

Old photos of my childhood...

This morning rather than working on papers that are severely over due, I spent a couple of hours scanning in some photos that will be used in our wedding next week. This couldn't be put off any longer, or I risked not getting them to the guy who is putting together the powerpoint for us in time for them to be included.

To the right is a photo of me at what I would guess as 8 months. My mother had just cut off all her hair, previously it was down to near her belt line. It's amazing how young my parents look (yes, they WERE very young by today's standard). I'm glad fashion has changed from 1975!

This photo is both sets of my grandparents, my parents, and me of course. Aldon and Barb Meirose on the left, James and Carol Murray on the right. This photo was taken in my Meirose grandparent's living room. The fashion is so Hawaii 5-O

Grandpa and Grandma Murray, Grandpa holding me, Grandma holding my cousin Sara Goodroad. We're the same age, but you can tell even then I was a LOT bigger. Still true today. My grandmother died of breast cancer in 1988.

Grandpa and Grandma Meirose, and Aunt Lori Hevern (Meirose) and Tigger? the dog. I suspect this photo was taken in Forrest City, Iowa, but I'm not sure.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Odds and ends...

The heavy press to finish my school work prior to my wedding is on. Every waking moment for the rest of this week will be consumed by writing papers. Not fun, but part of being a graduate student. That means I'll be a bit sporadic with my postings here, but as I need breaks I might put up some thoughts.

Last night it reached -8 degrees F here in my part of Minnesota. That is cold, painfully cold. I had to stop and get gas for my truck, and the 5 or so minutes it took to fill were brutal. I've experienced colder weather, much colder in fact, but whenever it's in the negative degrees it hurts to be outside, hurts to breath the air. I am very thankful I put the new battery in my truck a few weeks back when we had a cold snap, as there is no way my truck would be starting now. Even at these temperatures, my good old truck fires right up. It makes strange noises, and won't run well if I try to drive off (especially the transmission) it does start right up. I do use a full synthetic oil (Mobil 1 5w30) in my truck, and the past few days I have been plugging in the block heater which helps enormously. For those of you in the South or sunny California, a block heater is effectively a heating element that sits inside of your motor (there are some that attach to the oil pan via strong magnent as well) with an extention cord coming off of it that you can plug into a wall outlet. Most of the year I keep the cord wrapped up in the engine bay near my horn, but 2 days ago I finally pulled it out and plugged it into an extention cord in our parking lot. The good news is that there is a warm up on the way. The news said mid-20's to lower 30's possible by the end of the week. And in Minnesota during the winter, that's shorts weather!

Last night we had the opportunity to attend a party hosted by Horst Rechelbacher for his Intelligent Nutrients employees. IN has their facilities just off of Hennipen Ave. and 35W in Minneapolis, near the U of M campus. If you aren't familiar with Horst, he is the man who started the Aveda Corporation, a global plant-based cosmetic company, which he began in 1978. We had some really good Indian foods that I couldn't name and relaxed and took in the atmosphere. Much of the area we were in is decorated with artwork produced by Horst. Both his taste and his expression in art is interesting, though different from my own preferences. The facility is very new-age/spiritual in that Horst has things from numerous world religions decorating his facility. I think generally he sees it more as art than spiritual, but I could be wrong. He was very friendly, and took time to converse with nearly everyone in attendance.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Influencial and innovative church salary survey...

(HT: Eric Swanson)

Below is a salary structure that many smaller churches could not dream of approaching. But the thing I appreciate from it is that there is hope that I may someday be able to pay back my student loans! Between undergraduate work, and Seminary, the amount of student loans is accumulating at an astounding rate. Keep in mind, many of the people who fit the lead categories below have at minimum a master's degree, and a lot of Senior Pastors have a Doctorate of Ministry, or a Ph.D, so they are very well educated. Also, 10-25% of the reported amount is housing in many/most cases.


For the past 20 years Leadership Network has taken a salary survey
of roughly 100 churches in their network. These churches would tend to
be seen as those with influence and innovation that are leaders in the
church world. This info may be helpful in negotiating your next raise
or you may want to keep this hidden if you are being paid too much! The
complete salary survey is also available under Special Reports on the
Leadership Network Website:

Church Size
The smallest church in the survey had an average weekend worship attendance of 800.
The largest church in the survey had an average weekend worship attendance of 8000.
The average (mean) church attendance was 2942.
The median (midpoint of data set) was 2252.

Annual General Budget Income

The number reported is the actual income for the last fiscal year:
The lowest to income reported was $1,800,000.
The highest income reported was $17,588,121.
The median income was $3,875,000.
The average income was $5,210,427.

Salary Levels
survey asked for cash salary plus housing allowances for various roles.
It does not include other benefits that are often a sizeable part of a
minister’s compensation package. In addition, many churches have
“Directors” which are not labeled “ministers” but serve in an
equivalent role. Where there was role equivalency, these numbers were
included in the survey.

Senior Pastor
• Average $130,004
• Median $126,900
Low $ 84,000
High $192,400

Executive Pastor
• Average $97,803
• Median $96,000
Low $61,437
High $167,300

Associate Pastor
• Average $ 80,441
• Median $ 78,850
Low $ 52,200
High $ 125,000

Worship Pastor
• Average $ 72,454
• Median $ 73,000
Low $ 36,000
High $ 115,900

Teaching Pastor
• Average $ 70,690
• Median $ 62,150
Low $ 47,000
High $ 126,200

Operations Director
• Average $ 71,607
• Median $ 75,000
Low $ 47,400
High $ 100,000

Business Administrator
• Average $70,690
• Median $70,200
Low $41,640
High $121,000

Equipping Pastor
• Average $ 70,300
• Median $ 74,000
Low $ 40,000
High $ 92,500

Director of Programming
• Average $ 69,653
• Median $ 56,650
Low $ 38,720
High $ 115,000

Family Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 69,180
• Median $ 71,475
Low $ 53,098
High $ 90,000

Small Groups Pastor
• Average $ 68,564
• Median $ 63,655
Low $ 43,700
High $ 150,000

Missions Pastor
• Average $ 67,370
• Median $ 66,000
Low $ 25,000
High $ 130,000

Pastoral Care Pastor
• Average $ 64,514
• Median $ 65,000
Low $ 36,000
High $ 90,000

Men’s Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 62,657
• Median $ 56,300
Low $ 50,000
High $ 78,000

Outreach Pastor
• Average $ 60,300
• Median $ 60,000
Low $ 30,000
High $ 100,800

Student Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 55,961
• Median $ 52,929
Low $ 40,000
High $ 74,000

Children’s Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 55,026
• Median $ 53,525
Low $ 35,000
High $ 78,000

Women’s Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 53,758
• Median $ 56,340
Low $ 26,000
High $ 72,400

High School Pastor
• Average $ 51,152
• Median $ 53,100
Low $ 32,287
High $ 69,000

Church Technology Director
• Average $ 51,070
• Median $ 51,000
Low $ 25,000
High $ 87,000

Communications Director
• Average $ 50,277
• Median $ 47,200
Low $ 26,000
High $ 82,000

Media Director
• Average $ 49,508
• Median $ 51,500
Low $ 37,507
High $ 60,200

Human Resources Director
• Average $ 47,087
• Median $ 45,000
Low $ 31,000
High $ 70,484

Middle School Pastor
• Average $ 45,845
• Median $ 46,000
Low $ 27,500
High $ 62,500

Younger Children’s Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 45,714
• Median $ 40,000
Low $ 32,000
High $ 66,800

Older Children’s Ministry Pastor
• Average $ 40,050
• Median $ 40,050
Low $ 37,600
High $ 42,500

Friday, December 16, 2005

Idea for a new TV ministry...

My previous post mentioned that ABC is starting a program where people will be able to submit sermons (among other things) for a show ABC is developing. This got me to thinking this morning about the costs of television ministry. I will come out and say it, TBN causes as much or more harm as it does good in my opinion. In fact, with the amount of money some of the executives and pastors on TBN make, it's hard to believe they can maintain their .org status on the internet, because someone sure is profiting. (granted, there are a few "keepers" on TBN)

I wonder if a collection of churches across the USA could pool together their resources and buy a time slot like infomercials do. I think initially this would have to be like the infomercials where the content provider pays for the programming. My guess is that there might come a point where the ad revenue from this period (assuming they can get a "prime" infomercial time - Saturday afternoon?) would make the shows profitable for the network, to the point where at least the network would consider not charging as they do for the church programming. If you had 60 churches who were willing to do this, that would require each of those churches to pay for 6 weeks a year. I don't know what that cost would be, and if that is too much you just continue adding churches until it becomes affordable. Perhaps some churches could afford more, and they purchase two slots (12 weeks) of programming.

Many large churches are already using high quality video and sound recording, so the cost there would be low presumably.

The manpower to get this off the ground would also not be all that large. 1 or 2 people working on this could pull this together. I would think you would want one person to work on acquisition and review of content, and another who would do scheduling and technical work (editing etc.) as needed. Because churches could choose from the full catalog of sermons previously preached (that they have recorded at the levels needed, and of course this would depend on how dated the illustrations in the sermons are) you would not have to necessarily wait for new materials. This could be an "all-star" sermon collection, the best of the best from each church.

I would watch this. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I would go out of my way to watch this, and I would guess many other Christians would too. With the advent of TiVO and DVR's many people could/would watch them that way too. I also think this would have to be attractive to some businesses advertising wise, which is where I think this could eventually become a revenue producing program (therefore no cost to ministries). Maybe I'm wrong, but I sure would love to see something like this happen. Heck, I sure would like to have the job of acquisition of the sermon material.

A side benefit of this would be at least for a period, we could draw some viewership away from the circus that is TBN.

What are your thoughts? Know of something I am over looking that makes this impossible (don't say cost)? Would you watch this? Anybody you would think might be interested in this?

Things of note...

"Influential — Voices of Faith" is a new program being launched by ABC News. ABC plans to broadcast sermons submitted from churches, synagogues, temples and mosques across the country. The sermon must be 15 minutes or less so that it can run uncut on the show. For more information on this offer, go to ABC News.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — the film based on the C.S. Lewis children's classic — sold an estimated $67 million worth of tickets on its opening weekend, more than the next nine most popular films of the weekend combined.

(HT: FOTF Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Over the next few weeks...

It's been a long couple of days for me. Yesterday I had to take my truck to the Goodyear shop in Arden Hills, MN for a CV joint/half-shaft replacement, and that ran me $290 and took all day. I sat in the Burger King next door to the shop all day and worked on papers, so it wasn't a complete loss. Then I went over to Banana's house and shoveled the very heavy 8 inches of snow we had gotten over the previous 18 hours. Banana and I then went out and grabbed some Mexican food at Los Tejanos Restaurante. I had a couple of steak enchiladas and Banana had Fajitas. Good food, very friendly service. I'm sure we'll be back.

On the drive to Banana's house, I realized I could still feel the significant "thump" that prompted me to bring my truck in. I knew I needed the CV joint, as it was toasted. So I got up early today, and called the shop, and brought the truck in again. Back to Burger King for another day of paper writing. $340 later and I now have two new rear torsion bar mounts, and the clunk is gone. Not good timing 2 weeks before my wedding and honeymoon, but I guess I have to have a safe vehicle.

I have been way behind all semester long. I got behind in September School with the combination of a lot of writing, and the death of Banana's grandmother calling us out of town. That pushed course work into this semester, which delayed my current work. This just kept on adding upon itself, while we bought two rental houses, I moved to a new apartment, and we tried to plan our wedding. Added onto this has been my work at my church, my working at the resturant, and my incredibly heavy semester as a teaching assistant. The result of this is our vacation/honeymoon can't come soon enough. I'm wiped out, and still have a lot of writing before my semester is over. That's the bad thing about graduate school, or at least Seminary. It's as much writing in some individual classes as entire years of undergraduate work. So I'm just venting here I guess, and if anybody is still reading I apologize for dumping. The good part of all of this is that the papers I am writing are quite interesting, and I think I might use some of them here on the blog (eventually).

So if my posting is a bit light and infrequent, please check back mid-January when my life will begin to get back into regular patterns.

Be Thou My Vision...

Words: At­trib­ut­ed to Dal­lan For­gaill, 8th Cen­tu­ry (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Com­di cri­de); trans­lat­ed from an­cient Ir­ish to Eng­lish by Ma­ry E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Jour­nal of the School of Ir­ish Learn­ing, 1905, and versed by El­ea­nor H. Hull, 1912, alt.

Music: “Slane,” of Ir­ish folk or­igin. Slane Hill is about ten miles from Ta­ra in Coun­ty Meath. It was on Slane Hill around 433 AD that St. Pat­rick de­fied a roy­al edict by light­ing can­dles on East­er Eve. High King Lo­gaire of Ta­ra had de­creed that no one could light a fire be­fore Lo­gaire be­gan the pa­gan spring fes­ti­val by light­ing a fire on Ta­ra Hill. Lo­gaire was so im­pressed by Pat­rick’s de­vo­tion that, de­spite his de­fi­ance (or per­haps be­cause of it­), he let him con­tin­ue his mis­sion­ary work. The rest is his­to­ry.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cleaning the Membership Rolls (Part 2)

I posted the first half of this article two weeks ago, and wanted to follow up the the remainder.

The Care List

By Matt Schmucker

How can we lovingly remove members from the roles of our churches without
causing division and hurt feelings among the members who remain? A
pastor may be rightly concerned about bloated membership lists that do
not accurately reflect who is actually involved in the church. But it
is difficult to predict how the very ones he wants to protect—the
active believers!—will respond when he recommends trimming down the
list. In more than one of our church’s members meetings, Iand the other church elders found ourselves faced with members who were
suddenly hurt or even upset when we presented a friend of theirs for
removal (discipline) from membership. Invariably, the upset member said
the same thing: "you elders are moving too quickly; you don’t have all
the data!"

Several years ago, a woman named "Kate," once a
fruitful and active member, grew unhappy with our church. Over several
months, her activity lessened and her communication narrowed. We elders
heard second-hand reports that she was upset about our complementarian
view of men-women roles or about funding for certain missions projects.
Yet she never directly addressed her concerns with any leader. Whenever
a leader asked, she always responded with pleasantries and nothing
forth-telling. Finally, she asked for a meeting with our senior pastor,
where she announced her resignation from membership. Again, she voiced
no particular criticism. Our senior pastor took the notice to the
elders, who then took a motion to accept her resignation to the entire
congregation at the next regularly scheduled members meeting. That’s
where it got messy!

After the elders presented the motion to accept
Kate’s resignation, a member raised her hand and said, "I just had
lunch with Kate this afternoon, and she said she didn’t want to
resign." No further evidence was given. The congregation felt stuck
between the conflicting stories, and it became a very awkward position
for the elders because it raised questions of integrity. Was someone
not telling the truth? Were the elders trying to push Kate out before
she was ready? Was this loving? Was this right?

Kate’s situation involved an actual resignation, but
generally we found that active members tended to object when an
individual was being disciplined for non-attendance. Non-attendance is
one of the most difficult sins (Heb. 10:25-26) to discipline because
it’s common and it does not seem flagrant, like adultery or
fornication. Not many people will object to disciplinary actions taken
against an unrepentant adulterer. Yet it is the member who is on the
periphery of the church, who has not attended in months, who has been
dabbling in other churches, yet who still relates to a few of his or
her old friends in your church that is the most difficult and, frankly,
dangerous. He is neither in nor out! He’s disaffected, but for some
reason he won’t let go.

Two good things came out of the situation with Kate
that have removed much angst among both the elders and congregation.
First, our church now requires a written notice of resignation. It can
be an email, letter, or a sticky note. Yet having something written
eliminates embarrassing moments in members meetings like the one with
Kate and her friend who said she didn’t want to resign.

Second, our church created something called a "care
list." Before we recommend an individual for discipline, we announce
the individual’s name to the congregation in a members meeting as part
of this "care list." So the elders will say something like, "Bill has
not been at church in five months. Elder Bob and pastoral assistant Ben
have both pursued Bill by phone and email. Yet Bill won’t return
anyone’s messages. So we are placing him on the ‘care list.’ If you are
friends with Bill, please get in touch with him. Tell him that we love
him, and encourage him to once again join our fellowship. Otherwise, we
will remove his name from membership for non-attendance in our next
regularly scheduled member’s meeting," which, incidentally, occurs
every other month at our church.

Notice, we state the name (Bill), the reason why we
are concerned (non-attendance), the steps we have already taken (Bob
and Ben pursued him), and what the congregation should expect in two
months’ time (a motion for discipline). We also tell people to speak
with us after the meeting if they have any immediate information—names on the care list are announced, not discussed then and there.

Why go to all this trouble? Too many times, we had seen Satan exploit the newness or suddenness of
a motion for discipline in our meetings. The elders would have worked
with a disaffected member for months and months to no avail, and often
we had done so without informing the congregation of the struggle. When
the motion for discipline was then brought to the congregation, the
information felt sudden to many. Sometimes, the body absorbed the news
without a peep. But sometimes, it shocked their system. And even if the
congregation was inclined to follow the elders’ recommendation, you
could feel a certain reluctance. Unanswered questions hung in the air,
and the whole process seemed to undermine the congregation’s confidence
in the elders. With the institution of the care list, however, we began
to go to the congregation with our concerns about an individual prior to calling for a formal act of discipline.

The care list has grown to include more than
upcoming discipline cases. We now will address other matters like
member needs resulting from health issues or finances. Sometimes
members have even asked to have their own names placed on the care
list, so that the congregation knows they are in a season of needing
special care.

We do not publish the care list, but verbally tell
the members of the church at a members meeting (closed to non-members!)
who is on the list. This avoids potential undue embarrassment.

This simple idea has had many benefits. First, it has removed the
"shock" value Satan regularly seemed to exploit. Second, it has
protected the elders from unwarranted charges. Third and best of all,
it has involved the entire church in praying and pleading with their
fellow member to come back to the church and live out their covenant
pledge. I am delighted to say that, after years of working with the
care list, issues that were once divisive are now used to unite,
strengthen, and protect both the church and leader-congregation

  • Cleaning Up the Rolls (Part 1)

  • Mark 6: Biblical Understanding of Church Membership

  • Other Articles on Membership

  • Other Articles by Matt Schmucker
  • Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    How to prepare a sermon...

    Josh Harris put together the following for his blog. It's so good, I'm putting it here in full.


    Preparing a Sermon

    1. Choose your text and meditate on it.
    • Read the text, re-read it, re-read it and read it again.
    • Probe it, chew on it, bore into it, soak in it.
    • You are not called to preach yourself or your ideas, but charged to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Clarence Edward McCartney: “Put all the Bible you can into it."

    2. Ask questions of the text.
    • What does it mean? Or better yet, what did it mean when first spoken or written?
    • What did the author intend to affirm or condemn or promise or command?
    • What does it say? What is its contemporary message? How does it speak to us today?
    • Remember: Keep these questions distinct but together—the text’s meaning
    is of purely academic interest unless you go on to discern its message
    for today, it’s significance. But you cannot discover it’s contemporary
    message without first wrestling with its original meaning.

    3.Combine diligent study with fervent prayer.
    • All the time you study cry humbly to God for illumination by the Spirit
    of truth. Like Moses, “I pray you, show me your glory” (Exod 33:18),
    and Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9).
    • Stott: “I have always found it helpful to do as much of my sermon
    preparation as possible on my knees, with the Bible open before me, in
    prayerful study.
    • R.W. Dale: “Work without prayer is atheism; and prayer without work is presumption.”

    4. Isolate the Dominant Thought of the Text.
    • Every text has a main theme, an overriding thrust.
    • A sermon is not a lecture, it aims to convey only one major message
    • The congregation will forget details of the message, but they should
    remember the dominant thought, because all the sermon’s details should
    be marshaled to help them grasp its message and feel its power.
    • Once the text’s principle meaning has been determined, express it in a ‘categorical proposition.’
    • J.H. Jowett: “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for
    preaching…until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence
    as clear as a crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the
    hardest, the most exacting and the most fruitful labor in my study…I do
    not think any sermon ought to be preached, or even written, until that
    sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.”
    • Ian Pitt-Watson: “Every sermon should be ruthlessly unitary in its theme.”
    • Don’t by-pass the discipline of waiting patiently for the dominant
    thought to disclose itself. You have to be ready to pray and think
    yourself deep into the text, even under it, until we give up all
    pretensions of being its master or manipulator, and become instead its
    humble and obedient servant.

    5. Arrange Your Material to Serve the Dominant Thought
    • The goal is not a literary masterpiece, but organization that enables the text’s main thrust to make its maximum impact.
    - Ruthlessly discard irrelevant material
    - Subordinate material to theme so that it illumines and supports it.
    • Golden Rule for Sermon Outlines: Let each text supply its own
    structure. Let it open itself up like a rose to the morning sun.
    • Be precise with your words. It is impossible to convey a precise message without choosing precise words.
    • Words to use:
    - Simple and Clear words. Ryle: “Preach as if you had asthma.”
    - Vivid words. They should conjur up images in the mind.
    - Honest words. Beware of exaggerations and be sparing in use of superlatives.
    - C.S. Lewis: don’t just tell people how to feel, describe in such a way that people feel it themselves.
    - Don’t use words too big for the subject.

    6. Remember the Power of Imagination—Illustrate!

    • Imagination: the power of the mind by which it conceives of invisible
    things, and is able to present them as though they were visible to
    others. (Beecher)
    • Remember that humans have trouble grasping abstract concepts—we need them converted into pictures and examples.
    • Exert your greatest effort for illustrations that reinforce and serve the dominant thought.
    • Think of illustrations as windows that let in light on our subject and help people to more clearly see and appreciate it.
    • Beware of illustrations that draw too much attention (to themselves
    instead of the subject) or which actually take people away from the
    main point.

    7. Add Your Introduction

    • It’s better to start with the body so that we don’t twist our text to fit our introduction.
    • Stott: A good introduction serves two purposes. First, it arouses
    interest, stimulates curiosity, and whets the appetite for more.
    Secondly, it genuinely introduces the theme by leading the hearers into it.
    • Don’t make the intro too long or too short. “Men have a
    natural aversion to abruptness, and delight in a somewhat gradual
    approach. A building is rarely pleasing in appearance without a porch
    or some sort of inviting entrance.”

    8. Add Your Conclusion
    • Conclusions are more difficult. Avoid endlessly circling and never landing. Avoid ending too abruptly.
    • A true conclusion goes beyond recapitulation to personal application.
    (Not that all application should wait till the end—the text needs to be
    applied as we go along.)
    • Nevertheless, it is a mistake to disclose
    too soon the conclusion to which we are going to come. If we do, we
    lose people’s sense of expectation. It is better to keep something up
    our sleeve. Then we can leave to the end that persuading which, by the
    Holy Spirit’s power, will prevail on people to take action.
    • Call the congregation to act! Our expectation as the sermon comes to an end,
    is not merely that people will understand or remember or enjoy our
    teaching, but that they will do something about it. If there is no
    summons, there is no sermon!
    • The precise application of your
    sermon depends on the character of the text. The dominant thought
    points us to how people should act in response. Does the text call to
    repentance or stimulate faith? Does it evoke worship, demand obedience,
    summon to witness, or challenge to service? The text itself determines
    the particular response we desire.
    • Consider the composition of your congregation. It is good to let your mind wander over the church family and ask prayerfully what message God might have for each from
    your text. Consider their unique circumstances, weaknesses, strengths
    and temptations.

    9. Write Down Your Sermon
    • Don’t take too long to get to this stage! Get something on paper, don’t
    endlessly noodle on vague notes (this is my temptation).
    • Writing obliges you to think straight.

    10. Edit it Again

    • View hitting your time goal (40-45 minutes for Josh) as just as essential to its
    overall effectiveness as anything else you do. People will take more
    away if you say less.
    • Ruthlessly cut the unneeded and extra. Look for places where you can be more concise.
    • Err on the side of cutting things—especially long quotes.

    11. Pray over Your Message
    • Use the 30 minutes before you leave for church to pray over your message.
    • Stott: “We need to pray until our text comes freshly alive to us, the
    glory shines forth from it, the fire burns in our heart, and we begin
    to experience the explosive power of God’s Word within us"

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    10,000 visitor mile stone approaching..

    Some time early on Monday I am guessing, I will go over the 10,000 visitors mark for my blog here (as of this posting at 9991). While that is not much compared to some of the major blogs, it is nonetheless considerably more than I would have ever expected. I have been blogging for 1.25ish years now, and have enjoyed the process. If you happen to be #10,000 leave me a comment so we know who you are!

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Hurricane Wilma recovery in Cancun for my honeymoon...

    I get married December 30th. (YEAH!) On January 1st we begin a week of honeymoon vacation in Cancun, Mexico, so I have been following very closely the recovery efforts of that region. I chose Cancun early last Spring, long before hurricane season, and long before Hurricane Wilma decided to park her level 4 self over the Yucatan for a day and a half this past October.

    The hotel/club we are staying at is called Imperial Fiesta Club (which also is called Hotel Casa Maya). Within a few days of Hurricane Wilma passing, they had posts up on their web sight stating that they had weathered the storm very well, with only some exterior aesthetic damage. Earlier this week I viewed some video footage online taken from the beach of the hotel, and everything does look great. They have actually gained beach from the hurricane, though many other areas lost some, if not all of their beach. My understanding is that much of the area of km 1-9 of the Hotel Zone gained beach or stayed the same, and most of the rest lost it. Having not actually been there before, I can only say that this is the North end that gained.

    Some hotels were destroyed beyond repair, and are in the process of being torn down. Tens of thousands of trees are being replanted (see palms above). Many hotels, clubs, restaurants, businesses are taking advantage of the damage they received and are making improvements to their facilities while they repair. Many places have or will open in better condition than pre-hurricane. My understanding is that by Christmas, the area will be 75-80% recovered, which is saying a lot considering the damage done. Look at the USA Gulf Coast and how slow recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina are going as a comparison.

    Initially I was very worried that this might have a negative impact on our experience in Cancun, but after watching the recovery efforts, I feel confident that we'll have a great time, and that we won't feel like we should have gone elsewhere. One great resource for current info on Cancun has been the people at the Cancun Care Message Board. The quality and dedication of the people there is far beyond anything else I have found on the web. If you are considering a trip to Cancun, it is a must visit site for info on the region. There are people on the ground in Cancun posting regularly, with photos, links to videos, info on how to get deals and more.

    Washington Post also had a great 4 page article on the recovery efforts of Cancun and surrounding regions.

    Annual Index Shows Who Gives

    (HT: FOTF Pastor's Weekly Briefing email)

    Bible Belt

    According to the Catalogue of Philanthropy's Generosity Index, New Englanders remain among the most tightfisted in the country when it comes to charitable giving while Bible Belt residents are among the most generous. The index, which takes into account both "having" and "giving," is based on average adjusted gross incomes and the value of itemized charitable donations reported to the Internal Revenue Service on 2003 tax returns, the latest available.

    Using the above standard, the 10 most generous states were, in descending order: Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina and West Virginia.

    The 10 stingiest, starting from the bottom, were: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii and Michigan.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Should we say Merry Christmas? (I think we should)

    From H.B. London, Jr. at FOTF's Pastor's Weekly Breifing email:

    On November 29, the Fox News/Opinion Dynamic conducted a survey asking some questions that I thought might enhance your weekend message as you observe the Third Sunday of Advent. For instance, those surveyed were asked:

    — Do you consider Christmas a religious holiday or cultural holiday?
    Religious: 57% ... Cultural 14% ... Both: 12%

    — Do you agree there is a war on Christmas in the United States?
    Agree: 42% ... Disagree: 48%

    — Does it seem that the public display of Christian/Christmas symbols is under attack more this year than normal?
    More: 58% ... Less: 13% ... Same: 15%

    — When greeting people you don't know well during the coming month, are you more likely to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"?
    Merry Christmas: 61% ... Happy Holidays: 26% ... Depends: 10%

    — Are you offended by stores that instruct employees not to say "Merry Christmas"?
    Yes: 45% ... No: 49%

    — Do you agree or disagree that the courts have gone too far in taking religion out of public life?
    Agree: 77% ... Disagree: 17%

    Well, that's a sample of a very far-ranging survey regarding "Religion in Public Life." Personally, I believe it is a witness of your faith to wish people a "Merry Christmas." It's also very appropriate to add "and Happy Holidays." Why not cover all the bases?

    Message from Pastor Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church

    I received this in my in box this morning. I posted on Suday about the opening of Eagle Brook Church in Lino Lakes, MN last weekend.

    E-News & Updates

    A Note From Pastor Bob

    Last weekend, we opened our doors to over 7200 people—our first
    weekend in Lino Lakes. It was such a joyful honor to be able to see the
    looks of awe on everyone’s faces, especially those who have been
    giving, volunteering, and sacrificing to make this happen. Thank you so
    much for being part of it.

    As I mentioned last weekend, we didn’t build this building for only
    us to enjoy. We built it for people who are far from God—people who
    need a place to begin a relationship with Christ, connect with Him
    through worship and teaching each week, and to become part of a church
    family that will be there through the good and bad times ahead.

    Some of those people were there last weekend. We heard from
    first-time attenders who came just because they were curious, and
    neighbors that could see their homes through the windows on the second
    level. Here’s just one of the comments we received through our website
    this week:

    “The new church is five minutes from our home. We
    attended on Saturday at 4:00 and Sunday at 9:00. We didn't like the
    church. WE LOVED IT! Thanks for building it for us.”

    Another man was so excited about his experience at the church that
    he called our offices on Monday and made the decision to say Yes to
    Christ for the first time, right then and there. That’s why we do what
    we do! I can’t wait to see how many more people God reaches through his
    church in the coming weeks.

    We know that traffic was a challenge on Saturday night. Sunday was
    100% better. We attribute it to the snow on Saturday, the first run for
    the traffic cops and that most people came across County Rd. 14 instead
    of going further north to 170th St/CR-4. Those who chose the latter
    route had smooth sailing. The traffic cops did a great job of keeping
    the flow going on Sunday, but everyone can help the flow by choosing to
    come across and leave by way of 170th St./CR-4. (View a map)

    Thank you so much for praying and for being part of our opening
    weekend in Lino Lakes. As we look ahead, don’t forget to reserve
    tickets for one of our six Christmas services, on December 23 and 24.
    To get more information, click here. And be thinking about who you will
    invite to our January series, Life’s Too Short!

    See you this weekend,

    Senior Pastor Bob Merritt

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    Churches closed on Christmas Day?

    In the past 24 hours there has been a minor blogswarm spawned by a number of large USA churches who have chosen to not offer services Sunday, December 25, 2006 - Christmas Day. Tim Challies writes about it HERE, Phillip Ryken writes about it and quotes David Wells HERE, and David Wayne (Jollyblogger) writes about it HERE. I responded on the following:

    Every day is the Lord's day, not just Sunday from 8:00am-Noon. So I think if a church is putting it's efforts into it's Christmas Eve service, then chooses to not have their regular services the next day, that's fine. I realize I'm in the minority here (on this board) but it's not just mega-churches that are doing this. Small 200 person churches similar to mine are doing it as well. Is God less honored by those church's meeting Saturday evening?

    And in the case of Willow Creek, it's not as though their congregation is not being fed spiritually this particular week (though some argue rarely are they being fed...). Willow's meat and potato service is Wednesday nights. That is when they do their teaching to believers. Sunday services are outreach services, for their seekers.

    When I came to Seminary three years ago (wow that's a long time...) I had a friend/co-worker who posed to me the question of why Christian Churches meet primarily on Sunday? He asked a number of related questions, like is there anything wrong with groups who meet Saturday for instance, is one day better to God than the other and many more I no longer remember. He was asking/seeking out of genuine spirit, and I shared with him my belief that EVERY day is God's day, and that we are called to honor and glorify Him each and every day. We are also called to meet as a body of believers and share in community, but that our doing that is not limited to Sunday mornings from 8:00 am to Noon. I gave him some historical background info as to why Sunday is often the preferred day, but I also cited how in other parts of the world that Sunday is not the practiced day of worship, even for Christians. While I respect the opinion of Tim, David and Phillip, on this subject I have to disagree with them.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Dr. John MacArthur as a guest blogger...

    If you haven't read it already, check out Dr. John MacArthur's thoughts about Doctrine and the need for good doctrine over on Phil Johnson's blog Pyromanic.

    A couple of teasers for you:

    Moreover, the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is completely artificial; doctrine is practical. In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine, because there's ultimately no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God's Word.

    So we have imposed an artificial meaning on the word doctrine. We've made it something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily living. That has brought about the disastrous idea that preaching and teaching are unrelated to living.

    The scriptural concept of doctrine includes the entire message of the gospel—its teaching about God, salvation, sin, and righteousness. Those concepts are so tightly bound to daily living that the first-century mind did not see them as something separate from practical truth.

    I suggested to Phil that he could auction off a day of Dr. MacArthur posting on your blog as a great ministry fundraiser. I don't think that would ever happen, and I certainly don't have the cash to bid aginst some who might be in that auction, but it sure would be cool!

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    When the pastor doesn't know what to say...

    I can't say I'm a big fan of all Rob Bell does, but I do frequently find him interesting and challenging. The following article is interesting and worth the read (IMHO), it's good stuff.


    The Storage Room Meltdown
    It was time to preach, but I had nothing to say.
    by Rob Bell

    I could feel my car keys in my pocket, and all I could think about was how far away I could be by 11 a.m. How much gas was in the tank? How fast could I drive? Sitting on a chair in a storage room, I could hear the worship space filling up with people, and all I wanted to do was leave. What do you do when you're pastor of a church, it's Sunday morning, people are finding their seats, you're scheduled to preach, and you realize you have nothing to say? How did it come to this? It started out so great … One minute you have these ideas about how it could be, and the next minute you're leading this exploding church/event/monster. My wife and I and several others started this church called Mars Hill in February 1999 with dreams of a revolutionary new kind of community. I was 28. People who are starting churches, or want to someday, often ask me when I knew it was time to do it. And I actually have a coherent answer: I knew it was time when I no longer cared if it was "successful." I'm serious. I had this moment in October 1998 when I realized that if 13 people joined us, and that's all it ever was, that would be okay. This thing inside of me was so strong that I had to act on it. I felt if I didn't, I would be violating something … or somebody. Better to try and fail … the worst thing would be to live wondering, What if? The dream actually began years before when Kristen and I were living in Los Angeles. We visited a church called Christian Assembly, and what I saw changed everything for me. This community was exploding with creativity and life—it was like people woke up on Sunday morning and asked themselves, "What would I like to do today more than anything else? How about going to a church service?" This concept was so fresh—people who gathered because they wanted to. There wasn't a trace of empty ritual or obligation anywhere in the place. It didn't matter how far away I had to park. The bond I had with the other people in the room. Not "I have to" but "I get to." Not obligation but celebration. Not duty but desire. For the rest of the article go HERE.

    As an extra teaser, further down in the article he writes the following:

    There are many dimensions to living in harmony with God. In one sense, salvation is a legal transaction. Humans are guilty because of our sin, and God is the judge who has to deal with our sin because he is holy and any act of sin goes against his core nature. He has to deal with it. Enter Jesus, who dies on the cross in our place. Jesus gets what we deserve; we get what Jesus deserved. For Jesus, however, salvation is far more. It includes this understanding, but it is far more comprehensive—it is a way of life. To be saved or redeemed is to enter into a totally new way of living in harmony with God. The rabbis called harmony with God olam haba, which translates "life in the world to come." Salvation is living more and more in harmony with God, a process that will go on forever. When we understand salvation from a legal-transaction perspective, then the point of the cross becomes what it has done for us. There is the once-and-for-all work of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and saying, "It is finished." Nothing more to be offered and nothing more to be sacrificed. We claim this truth as Christians. All has been forgiven. But let's also use a slightly different phrase: the work of the cross in us. The ongoing work of the cross in our hearts and minds and souls and lives. The ongoing need to return to the cross to be reminded of our brokenness and dependence on God. There is the healing we need from the cross every single day.

    Wedding shower and weather

    Last night the low temperature got down to -7 degrees F, with windchills in the -20 range. The walk between my apartment and the seminary is 1/4 mile, and even being bundled up it was a very cold walk. Exposed skin is at risk of damage from freezing. I can only imagine what it's like to live near the Artic circle where this is the norm.

    My church hosted a wedding shower for Banana and I last night. In spite of the cold there was a respectable turn out. I suspect some of the oldest members of the church chose to stay home (which I understand) but many others came to support us. It was a lot of fun, and we got a lot of really neat stuff. We played a quasi-Newlywed Game type of game with 3 other couples. All for couples tied, which was unexpected. The gifts and generosity of the church people were outstanding. It's definately one of the advantages of being part of a smaller church, where everyone knows everyone (to a degree), and feel the need or desire to support each other.

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Hey baby it's cold outside...

    As I am writing this, my thermometer is bouncing between 0 and +1 degree F. It's cold outside, bitterly cold outside. Nothing we hearty (crazy) people of the upper Mid-West aren't used to, we just haven't acclaimated quite yet. My truck had been struggling to start all week long, so I was confident that when this cold spell hit it would leave me stranded. So I decided to stop and pick up a new battery on my way home from Eagle Brook Church Saturday night. It was cold then too, but was a respectable 12F. I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Blaine, MN after grabbing a bite to eat. I purchased my battery with a few other items, and headed out into the parking lot to make the switch. I wanted my $5 battery core charge back, and didn't want to have to drive back to Wal-Mart to get it. Plus I suspected that the next morning my truck wouldn't start anyhow, so I would just be delaying the inevitable. So I popped the hood, loosened the cables, and removed the old one. I placed the new one in the tray, and discovered that my battery cables were about 2 inches short of reaching the posts. I hadn't noticed during my purchasing of the battery that some have posts in the middle of the battery, others have posts on the corners. I needed corner posts, and grabbed the wrong battery. So back in I went to make the exchange. By this time, I was freezing cold. My hands were numb, I wasn't sure I still had toes, and my face was frozen to the point talking was comical. If I were smarter (or better prepared, which is embarrassing since I'm and Eagle Scout) I would have had a warmer coat on, and had a stocking cap as well. As it was, I was in a button-down dress coat, with thin leather gloves. Of course the batteries are located at the point furthest from the customer service counter, so by the time I went and got another battery, and came back, I had warmed up. I also grabbed a fleece ear warmer ring which helped enormously when installing the second battery. I made the exchange, paid for my new items, and went back out into the cold. Working in the parking lot, at night, without a flash light is not the best conditions. Once I had the new battery in, I managed to drop my keys down between the battery and the front head light. How they managed to fall into that small crack, I'm not quite certain. I probably would have been pretty frustrated at this point, had I not been operating at a reduced mental capacity because of the cold. I managed to get a needle-nosed pliers down behind the battery and grabbed the keys, saving them from falling farther down, saving me from having to remove the battery again. I cleaned the terminals and cable connectors, and hooked it all back up. I put away all the tools, and hopped into the truck and fired it up. Amazing how much better it starts with a new battery. Almost like having a new truck. I shut it off, trudged back into Wal-Mart to collect my $5 core fee, and then headed home. With it being as cold out as it is at the moment, I didn't make this change a moment too soon. My old battery had served me well. I think I purchased it in 1998 or 1999, and it's fired up every morning, no matter how cold.

    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    Eagle Brook Church opens new facility in Lino Lakes, MN

    This is the opening weekend for Eagle Brook Church's new facility in Lino Lakes, MN. Lino Lakes is a small outer ring suburb of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area. The follow is my experience tonight at the 6:00pm service. Eagle Brook is my home away from home church. I am on staff at another Baptist General Conference Church in Spring Lake Park, MN, but from time to time I am able to attend Eagle Brook because they offer Saturday Evening services. I should also preface this with the fact that for two years I was Sr. Pastor Bob Merritt's teaching assistant at Bethel Seminary, so I'm a bit more influenced than just a casual observer. Now onto the good stuff!

    I took 50+ photos tonight, and you can view some of those HERE. I have sized these down to managable size, but if you are really interested in the full files leave me a comment and we can work something out. Obviously, this is not all of my photos, but the key/interesting ones.

    Tonight I took Interstate 35W North to Eagle Brook. This is a very indirect route, and somewhat confusing in the dark if it is your first time heading to this church, but is apparently the best option coming from the South West. Exit #36, turn left (West) and go 2-3 miles to the blinking red light at the 4 way stop. Turn right (North) onto Main street. You will take Main for quite a distance, almost all the way to the church. You can see a MAP HERE for how to get there. It appears much easier to get there if you are coming from the East on 35E. About a mile from the church I hit traffic. There were police controlling intersections, but I sat at a stop sign for 15ish minutes waiting to make the final 2 miles to the chruch. This traffic was all from people going to Eagle Brook, and leaving the earlier service. Every road leading to the new campus is a single lane road, running through residential area. Lino Lakes has likely NEVER seen traffic jams of this sort. Eagle Brook ended up delaying the service to allow everyone to arrive before they started. The parking lot was well staffed with volunteers directing traffic so cars could find parking spots in an orderly fashion. I ended up parking at the point almost the furthest away from the church, and the walk wasn't that bad considering it was freezing cold and snowing. Bravo to the layout of the parking lots, keeping traffic flowing, and making the walk bearable from all points.

    The building does not look like it is very big (relatively speaking). Perhaps that's just the function of the architexture, but I was surprized that it wasn't bigger looking. My guess is that it's footprint is smaller than the old facility in White Bear Lake, but that's the result of multiple expansions at the old site and less the optimum floor planning because of facility limitations with the old building.

    Because I was running a bit late because of traffic, I hustled into the sanctuary to find a seat. I fortunately found one right in the front row, almost like it was being saved for me. I learned that this seat is immediately adjacent to where some (all?) of the subwoofers are housed (under the stage) which made for a worship experience that verified whether I had any loose fillings. I like bass (ride in my truck with me some time!) so I really didn't mind, but the initial barrage of bass caught me a bit off guard because the intro to the service was a THX effect which roared! Incredible sound system on all levels. Seating was comfortable, soft padded stadium theater style seats. I saw quite a few handicap seats and seating areas as well, which is wonderful planning on the part of Eaglebrook. Everything I saw appeared to be handicap accessable. There was an elevator that appeared to be out of service (or more likely not yet IN service), but other than that it was well laid out with plenty of room for a wheel chair or motorized chair to move through. I did not notice if there were handicap doors (the automatic pushbutton type) but I suspect there are, as the old facility had these.

    Worship was excellent as is the standard at Eagle Brook. Tonight there were 11 people on the worship team, 3 guitars, 1 base, 2 keyboards, 1 drum set, and 4 vocalists. A man (David Olson) and his wife (Sara) who used to help with my church's Youth Ministry (his dad is our church president) were two of the back up singers tonight. It was good to see them again, as it's been nearly a year since I saw either of them, and it was following some really rough times in our church. I caught a few times where the sound needed a bit of tweaking during the worship, though that could be the effect of where I was sitting. Small things though, a vocalist a bit too hot, or an instrument needing a bit less boost. Nothing major, and my guess is 99.5% of the people didn't even notice. I was looking for these types of things. Eagle Brook Church excels at using lighting to set the mood during their services, and tonight was no different. There are quite a few more lights in the new facility, giving them even more control with how to set the mood.

    Following the worship songs, there was a skit that I first saw performed this past year at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The actors (one of who is the new speaking pastor for Eagle Brook - Jason Anderson) did a very good job, and the crowd quickly caught onto the meaning of the behind the skit. Very appropriate for the evening.

    This was followed by a short segment of video of Bob Merritt recorded at the site prior to construction. Bob tied this into his sermon later when he discussed the church's history and development (more on this in just a bit). Bob's actual message started with a bit of self depreciating humor on Bob's part. Bob emphasized how the new facility, as well as everything that goes on at EBC is God's work, not man's work. Bob played up how he's mortal and destined to screw things up, so that only God could be at the base of EBC's successes. Bob talked a bit about 2 Chronicles 12:9 and how God doesn't rely on the particularly gifted, but he wants the committeed. Bob's message was worked around the idea of "Indescribable", which is the word used for God's working in this congregation.

    Bob detailed how over 50 years ago, 19 people followed God leading and formed this chuch (it wasn't called Eagle Brook back then!) In 1993 they were bursting at the seams, and added on a $1.3 million children's wing to the old church to add classroom space for their children's ministry. The new facility has a $2.5 million children's wing. In 1994 EBC expanded their upper worship (the original sanctuary) to allow more space during worship services. This didn't last long, because in 1998 they spent $4 million to build a new worship center (lower worship center) that served them well until this weekend. Bob thanked everyone for pryaing, giving, and stepping up to the plate and swining for a home run.

    This was followed by a young woman giving her faith story. She was saved at EBC last January, after a long period of drug, alcohol, and physical abuse. She was promiscuious, and had gone from stealing sips of wine and cigs to pot, to cocaine, to crystal meth. She (and her mother) were baptised this past Summer, and she kept repeating how awesome God truely is. She said she's been clean since January 23, and that God is sufficient in her times of need.

    Bob transitioned from that into talking about Moses and the "Rod of God". Where when Moses held his staff, it was a wooden instrument of a shepard. When he put it down, it became a snake. While I'm greatly condensing Bob's work, he used this as an illustration about how sometimes there are things in our lives we need to lay down so God can use them, or show them to us. He talked about how the rod represented Moses' identiy, income and influence as a watcher of sheep. Bob asked "What do we have to lay down?" He then mentioned how North American is now the 3rd largest missions field in the Western world (or perhaps the whole world, I cannot remember his exact phrasing). The service concluded with some worship songs.

    Following the service, I toured around the building's first floor a bit. You can see a number of those photos at my Image Cabin site. I took a number of pictures of the children's wing, and saw a lot of good things going on there. The planning was well thought out for this area. First, the area is immediately as you enter the building. Easy to find where to bring your children. Second, the colors were very inviting, bold and bright and exciting for children. There is a single enterence into the young children's area, and another enterence to the elementary children's area, and both doors sit roughly beside each other. Easy to control security this way. Inside each section are seperate rooms for the different ages/stages of children. I didn't see much of the elementary area though. In the birth-K area there were some things that caught my eye. Each room was tailored for the needs of both the staff and the children. The infant room had some very comfortable looking rocking chairs, and lots of toys. Another room had a really cool looking piece of play ground equipment with a slide. Outside the young children's area classrooms was a pair of dish washers, presumably to clean toys and tools used in this area, another excellent idea. The church uses a paging system that displays on the worship center screen an ID# to alert parents if they are needed for something with their child while worship is going on.

    Other things of note: they have a book store just outside the sanctuary. This is nice, as the old book store was split in the middle by a stair well. I see some potential issues though, as the store looked too small. Perhaps it's because it is opening weekend, but I chose not to go into the store and look around because there wasn't room to move in there. I assume they have researched this and know what size other church's have used, but it looked small, and because of it's location it appears that it can't be expanded. There is a new coffee shop/cafe area next to the book store, and on the other side of the book store is the box office, where you can get tickets for upcoming events. Across from these three areas is a nice Information booth, and next to that is the children's wing. I didn't get a chance to go up to the second level, where I'm guessing Jr. and Sr. High areas, as well as classrooms are located.

    Data: The new sanctuary seats 2100 people. The facility cost $27 million dollars. They are expecting 10,000+ people this coming Easter.

    Positives: Sound and lighting were fantastic. Not a bad seat in the whole sanctuary. The new video screens (3) are larger and more visible than the old ones. The new seats are far more comfortable than the old ones. The children's area is lights out incredible, it makes me want to have kids just so I can bring them there. Traffic control (once on campus) was excellent. Staff and all volunteers were welcoming and helpful. The space in the enterence area far exceeded the old facility and allows for the gathering of people. The location of the Children's wing is perfect.

    On the negatives, I will say in EBC's defense they are still working on some things, so I don't know what of the following is still in the works.
    Negatives: No facility map(s) that I saw to tell people where to find things. Finding bathrooms was difficult because there weren't any signs for them except on the doors themselves leading into the bathroom. There were no signs directing traffic to EBC out on the roads other than the one immediately in front of the church (or at least not on the route I took). The roads leading to EBC are all single lane country roads, which is going to make for some real traffic head aches for the near future.

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    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Presbyterian Church Ordains Gay Minister

    (HT: Pastor's Weekly Breifing from FOTF)

    Presbyterian Church Ordains Gay Minister

    There's an effort aimed for the next general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that would allow individual presbyteries to decide whether to ordain homosexuals to the clergy.

    At least one presbytery has already ordained an openly gay minister. Rev. Joseph Gilmore, who presided at the ordination of openly gay Raymond Bagnuolo, said the members of South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., are feeling enormous pride. Gilmore told Family News in Focus radio that what the Bible may have to say about such ordinations no longer applies. "When the writers of the original sacred text — the Bible — wrote all those years ago, they thought the earth was flat. Am I obliged to think the earth is flat?" he asked. "They also thought that there was only one sexuality and that was heterosexuality."

    Earl Tilford, a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, a PCUSA school, called it another step in a long march to apostasy. "It started in 1967 when the Presbyterian Church decided that the Bible was not the Word of God, but that it contains the Word of God — along with a lot of nice suggestions," he said.

    Rather than a contentious split, Tilford suspects the erosion of Bible-based teaching will bring slow death to the denomination. He estimates that even at the current rate of decline in membership, the denomination will be gone in 35 years. "It's hemorrhaging its membership," he said. "If gay ordination and/or gay marriage ever becomes the law of the church, you will see half the members leave."

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    More on Church Membership...

    The following article fits in with my previous post. Church membership is something Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis has been working through as they figure out the importance of Baptistism to their membership requirements. I have edited the article a bit taking out the parts that are specific to that church.


    More Clarifications on the Baptism and Membership Issue

    By John Piper

    How Important Is Church Membership?

    One of the key convictions behind the elder proposal is that excluding from membership a truly regenerate person who gives credible evidence of his saving faith is a more serious mistake than viewing the time and mode of baptism as essential to the qualifications for membership. But that assumes church membership is really important, so that excluding a person from it is very serious. So one of the arguments against the elder proposal is that membership in a local church like Bethlehem does not matter very much because a non-member can worship and take the Lord’s Supper and go to Sunday School and be a part of a small group and be visited by a pastor in the hospital, etc.

    So if membership is not that important, then excluding someone from membership will not seem a serious problem. That would mean that the elders are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. This is one of the most crucial issues you will need to settle in your own mind: How serious is it to say to a regenerate person: “You may not be a member of this church”?

    The force of the elders’ concern and the weight of their arguments will not be felt by those who do not see the crucial importance of local church membership in the New Testament. So consider some of the biblical support. I will point to four strands of evidence. Each of these reveals something in the New Testament which would be minimized or denied if there were no definable local church membership.

    1) Governing powers of the church (voting). Consider the implication of Matthew 18:15-17 where “the church” (ekklēsia) appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority as it relates to membership.

    If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

    If there is no church membership, how can you define the group that will take up this sensitive and weighty matter of exhorting the unrepentant person, and finally rendering a judgment about his standing in the community? It is hard to believe that just anyone who showed up claiming to be a Christian could be a part of that gathering. Surely “the church” must be a definable group to handle such a weighty matter.

    2) Being excluded from the church (excommunication). There is another implication from Matthew 18:15-17, namely, that the unrepentant person is accountable to a group of people. This is an amazing event: formally excluding a person from “the church” so that he becomes to you “as a Gentile and a tax collector”—that is an unbeliever. The same kind of exclusion is found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. How is this possible if the person is not considered a member of something from which he can be excluded? So both the person’s liability to excommunication and the involvement of “the church” in the process imply that the one being charged is a member and the group settling the matter are members.

    3) A commitment to be held accountable by a Council of Elders to believe a basic affirmation and to live a basic covenant. The point here is that without membership, who is it that the New Testament says must submit to leaders? Some kind of expressed willingness or covenant or agreement or commitment must precede submission. Consider the way the New Testament talks about the relationship of the church to her leaders.

    Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.

    1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you (proistamenous humōn) in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work

    1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well (Hoi kalōs proestōtes presbuteroi)be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

    How is this leadership and this submission to function where there is no membership defining who has made the commitment to be led and who has been chosen as leaders? If we downplay the importance of membership, it is difficult to see how we could take these commands seriously and practically.

    4) The privilege of being cared for with the primacy and special benefit of a local covenant family of believers. When the pastors and elders extend their care beyond the membership, it does not mean that there is no primacy to members. Consider Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock.

    Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

    This verse does not say elders cannot visit unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular flock. Does it not make sense that this flock would have definition and limits? Who are we as elders and pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?

    This last point especially, but all four points together, have raised the crucial importance of membership in our minds. We believe it is a biblical implication that there be such a thing as a definable membership in a local church. It is not a matter of indifference, therefore, when a person chooses to attend a church’s functions but not to make the commitment to become a covenant member. It is a serious shortcoming. One of the effects of the proposal of the elders is to raise the crucial importance of membership and therefore to heighten the seriousness of turning away from membership truly regenerate people who give good evidence of saving faith.

    Thanks for praying and thinking with us toward the mind of Christ,

    Pastor John