Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let’s Get the Story Straight

We live in Des Moines, Iowa. Right smack dab in the heart of America’s Heartland. We live in the city, which may not be as “urban” as other urban centers in other places, yet our two local elementary schools, both within 2 miles of the church building, have students who come from over 30 different linguistic backgrounds. In other words, we have a lot of immigrants, mostly from Africa and Southeast Asia. Many have never heard the Gospel.

While we are not as “unchurched” as other big cities, research by other groups tells us that 70% of our county is unchurched. We also know, from our own local experience, that we are living in a time when a second generation is growing up of those who have not gone to church and don’t know what it means to be part of a church.

All of this means that there are a lot of people in our immediate vicinity that do not know the story of Jesus. They don’t know who he is, or what he can do.

There was a time in this city, indeed, in our entire country, when almost everyone knew the story of Jesus. In fact, a very good case can be made, that the generations who went before us knew the stories of the Bible and those stories provided a common narrative for how we related to life and to each other. The Bible’s big story was our society’s story.

But in 2010, soon 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa, America’s heartland, we are living in a time when increasing numbers of people don’t know who Cain and Able are. They don’t know John the Baptist and they’ve never heard of Isaiah or Ezekiel or Jeremiah.

One of the things that unites a people is a common understanding of their story. In an time when there are so many different stories out there, I am struck by the need to rally our people back to basics. Back to the story of the God who created them, redeemed them by his blood, and is with them as Emmanuel, God with us.

How can we tell people who Jesus is when they don’t know the story of how humanity fell into sin? How can we teach them who Jesus is if they don’t know why they need a Savior? How can we teach them that Jesus is the Father’s rescue plan since before time was born when they don’t know the Bible’s big story? It’s time to recover God’s story. It’s time to try to get the church and our community on the same page.

As a pastor, I’m well acquainted with my own congregation’s Biblical illiteracy. Like many churches across this great land, many in our pews don’t get the Bible’s story. I’m not proud of it and work hard to correct it, but the fact remains, my congregation, on the whole, doesn’t see the Bible as one big story, but as little stories that are somewhat disconnected. And I’m not going to exclude myself from this. I fully acknowledge that I probably don’t know the Bible as well as I should, or at least as well as previous generations of pastors.

It’s time to take the congregation, our neighborhood, and our city, back to the basics. To teach them all the message, the story, if you will, of the Bible.

And so we shall. In January, we begin preaching through the Bible. We’ll use some materials by Zondervan called The Story. Basically, The Story is the Bible read like a novel in 31 chapters. It is my hope that understanding the story will ignite a fire in our bellies to really dig into God’s word and to understand that the Bible isn’t a bunch of separate books, but one big book that shows us that God is with us and always has been.

I hope everyone at Zion will purchase The Story book. It is available for kids, for teens and for adults. If you can’t afford it, we will provide it to you free of charge.

If you are in the Des Moines area, we invite you to come and join us. We’ll start on January 16. If you’re not a local, please consider this your invitation to join us by pod-cast. See our website for details. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

For more information about The Story, please see: or the abbreviated version at or

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reaching our Neighborhood for Christ: “Going to the nations.”

There is no doubt that we are on a mission. In the recent weeks, God has really opened a lot of doors for us and we have gone through them. The verses that come to mind are those from 2 Corinthians, “For we are Christ’s ambassadors, as if God was making his appeal through us...” I think there is little doubt that we are called to be a witness in this neighborhood. This neighborhood speaks at least 20 languages, and has people from at least 25 different nations living in it. We don't have to go very far to "go to the nations."

We defined our neighborhood as 43 square blocks. This isn’t meant to be exclusive in any way, it’s simply that you have to begin somewhere. We anticipate that our perception of neighborhood will continue to grow and push out until it includes first the entire city and then the entire world.

Things really seemed to get started when we began doing an outreach to a local apartment complex with mostly immigrant tenants. Over the summer we went four times, bringing bounce houses, playing soccer (and giving away balls), meeting and greeting and serving lunch. Two of our four visits featured food from restaurants in our neighborhood that came to us as a reduced cost but helped to boost the profile of the restaurants in the community.

We also went door to door. We aren’t finished yet, by any means. But we started with the houses that were in immediate proximity to the church building. The ones that shared a property line or were across a street from us. We asked, “How could our church be a better neighbor?” Some people had ideas and shared neighborhood news and concerns. (Who know drainage and weeds could be holy conversations?) Other times they didn’t have much to say but seemed glad for the contact. We gave people information about the church and invited them to services, including the new Wednesday night service with the “free” dinner beforehand. If they were home and talked to us, we also gave them a $10 gift certificate to a popular, new, neighborhood restaurant. Since beginning this, a Christian bookstore in town has given us coupons to hand out as well.

Next, I started introducing myself at local businesses. Always inviting people to church and always offering to be helpful. One local restauranteur, an Iraqi gentleman who has been in business for 3 months, took us up on the offer to help and our church was able to provide a houseful of furniture for a recently arrived Iraqi family. Today, two more families have come forward from the Iraqi community seeking help getting settled in this new land.

Then there are the local churches. These visits are still in progress, but great friendships are being made and partnerships being formed. Neighborhood pastors seem hungry for fellowship and eager to be part of something that more resembles the body of Christ than flying a solo mission. It leaves me excited for the future: what would it look like if we, as churches, called to be one body, could work together?

Our neighborhood has a mall so we went there next. The new general manager has only been there for 3 months so we were his first official neighborhood visitor. We asked, “How can our church bless the mall?” No one laughed or ushered us out of the office. The manager, a Mormon, thinks churches are great partners. We agreed to pray for the mall. Further, the mall agreed to do a coat drive for the kids in our neighborhood who can’t afford coats this year. Plus, he agreed to be part of a neighborhood e-mail chain that will include pastors, business leaders, school principals and other neighborhood leaders so that we could all work together to help to meet the area’s needs and solve problems together.

Next, we started to meet with the local elementary schools and head start program. Turns out, rather than being afraid of us and our religion, they are eager for any help we can provide as we all seek to meet the needs of the neighborhood’s children together. I think that for us, part of our ease of access has to do with the fact that the Area Education Association, which helps to train and equip teachers and administrators, uses our building weekly for meetings and conferences and many of our local school officials have been in our church. We have more schools that need visits but things are really moving along well so far.

There is no doubt in my mind that the congregation has caught the vision. We unveiled much of what we saw God doing and where we felt he was leading us last weekend at Sunday services. The response has been incredible. Lots of comments, lots of helpers, and lots of follow up e-mails. Today, a member of the church told me how she and her husband had lunch at one of the restaurants we’ve been working with and about she introduced herself and how this led to a really inspiring conversation.

Where are we going from here? We believe that God is calling us to continue our relationship with the first apartment complex and reach out to others in the spring. We’re praying through which ones and how right now. We also hope to have a traveling Vacation Bible School that can bring a kid friendly Gospel to various places in our neighborhood, especially our sister church’s campus in the Drake University area.. That means we need three strong teams to organize this winter to deploy for monthly events this spring and summer. We’ll continue to emphasize the tutoring program and seek to add more tutors and students. We’ve seen incredible growth in that program and so thankful to God for his graciousness in allowing us to be a part of his great plan.

I think we really some sort of bus. So we’re praying about that too. Last night we filled a 15 passenger van and a Ford Excursion with kids. We had nearly 25 between the two vehicles and more that arrived in a third vehicle. Over twenty kids are coming just from one apartment complex. I think about what it would be like if a bus could go over to that complex on Sunday mornings as well. How many of these kids, who just love to hang out at church, would want to come back on Sundays? It’s amazing. It’s miraculous. It’s God. So if any of you reading can provide a bus, you know where to find me. God bless and thanks for reading. PJ

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Generations are a Never Ending Frontier

There are a few things I’ve had to come to accept:

The music will always be the wrong style for someone.
The music will always be too loud or too soft for someone.
The sermon will either be too long or too short for someone.
The congregation will either be too casually or too formally dressed for someone.
The weekly worship service time will either be too early or too late for someone.

In short, nothing will ever be just right for everyone.

The built in frustration with ministry is trying to become all things to all men so that we might by all means save some. But just as Paul discovered, it doesn’t always work. The Galatians were foolish, the Corinthians were factional, the Thessalonians were prone to listen to other teachers. Paul laid down his life for these folks, gave them the best he had, and still there were complications. Human preferences and prejudices have always been a hurdle for the Gospel.

But some get it. They move beyond the style and volume of the music; they look beyond the length of the teaching;

Jesus never said it would be easy - some of the seed would fall on good soil, some on the rocks, some in the weeds and some along the path. We just sow the seed we have.

There is little doubt in my mind that a cataclysmic change is coming to the church in North America.
Please read:

But there is also little doubt in my mind that the Lord has already raised up the next generation of church leaders and Christ followers to be his holy remnant and carry on his work and promises on this continent.
Please read:

My heart’s desire is to be an influencer for Christ on the church that is coming. To be this I understand that I must lay aside my preferences as well and perhaps even labor to understand a different way of looking at the world. It’s difficult for one generation to understand another. I think it has always been this way. We don’t understand their music, their humor, their outlook. But we have to try. For the sake of the Gospel. There’s a whole mission field out there. Will you join me on this most fantastic of journeys? God bless. Thanks for reading. PJ

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Managing Perceptions in Ministry is Impossible

What do you do when what you see isn’t seen by everyone?

Example: From where I sit on the bridge of the ship, things are going incredibly well at Zion Lutheran Church and the Lord is doing great things in our midst.

A quick rundown of the stuff that to me, is obvious:
a). We’re seeing a lot of visitors to our events and services and those visitors are coming back again and again.
b).Wednesday nights have just surpassed Sunday mornings for kids, youth, and adult class attendance. We are really blessed and thankful.
c). There is so much enthusiasm and excitement as you walk the halls at Zion.
d). We’re serving more people than ever before at Wednesday night dinners. Like nearly 33% more than last year.
e). Adult classes are well attended
f). There is a real heart for doing mission developing in our members.
g). 20 kids are now coming from the DTA for Bible lessons and tutoring. And they are so full of joy to be here.
h). More classes and kids mean more volunteers and those needs are being met.

I think these are things we ought to celebrate and praise God for in a big way. It’s the Lord that is at work and we need to acknowledge what he’s doing.

But the recent days have revealed a battle of perceptions of sorts. I’m told there are “some people” who see things differently. Namely, a.) The staff is somehow underemployed, and, b.) Our church is obviously dying, having no money and no volunteers. Wow. Now that’s a pretty big gap in perceptions. But it’s easy to see how a person can see that.

For instance, if you attend church sporadically, never go downstairs to where the classes are, never go to Wednesday night church, never converse with anyone who has seen the good things, and haven’t attended any of the outreach or celebration events we’ve done this year, then yes, I can see how you’d come to the conclusions you’ve come to. So I invite you, personally, “come and see.” Jesus is on the move and we’re doing our best to keep up with him. We have had a rough 18 months-2 years financially. But things are stabilizing, praise God. Over these difficult months something wondrous has happened: we’ve changed from a church where five families gave 20% of the budget to a church of many smaller givers who are all invested in our mission. It’s glorious to see how God has even transformed us through these months of “suffering” to be ready for what he wants to do next.

I have to admit that it’s hard for me, personally, to hear misperceptions about our staff, whom I work with every day and love as colleagues and fellow sojourners for the Gospel. My tendency is take it personally. After all, the staff report to me, if they aren’t doing their jobs, I must be a terrible boss and must have made bad choices in hiring them. But I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with here. I think rather that we are dealing with the simple fact that as we grow, as we reach out to our neighborhood and world, our staff does more and more and their roles change. They may not be in the office when you drop by. They might be out picking up supplies, meeting with volunteers, or even working from the quiet of home. Or maybe they’re resting because they were ministering until late in the night. I know they’re doing great work or we wouldn’t be seeing the kinds of things happening that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.

Someone suggested I publish a list of all the things the staff and I do, and maybe when we do them. Get the information to the folks and stop the misperceptions. In this case, though, this most obvious of solutions is fraught with spiritual peril. I know too many pastors and church workers who feel the need to justify their jobs every day by telling people how busy they are. Instead of telling people “how’” they are, they “report out” about what they’re doing. This usually causes the other person to go away impressed. I think it leads to spiritual pride, however, on the part of the one reporting out. I also believe it’s wrong to make people justify their jobs when we are experiencing such blessings from God right now.

Nearly 50% of pastors in our country are in one of the stages of burnout. These are national, pan-denominational statistics. Stress is a major cause of this burnout. The chief stressor in a pastor or church worker’s life, according to studies, is a failure to manage the perceived expectations of others in the church. In other words, it is the opinion of many church workers that people in the church expect 24 hour service, 110% commitment, 110% quality, and they don’t want to pay much for it (after all, you’re called by God, you’ll get your reward). Frequently, I’m convinced that just about everybody thinks they could do our job better than we can. And we welcome them to try.

Church work is hard work. You compromise your family and personal boundaries frequently for the sake of the mission. And mission is risky. It requires sacrifice. At the end of the day, it’s a real blessing to know there are people who didn’t pursue a big job with a great salary in order to serve the Lord by tending and growing his flock.

I give thanks to God for all the great things he’s doing at Zion, for all the great people he’s gathered here, for the many volunteers that make ministry possible, and for the great staff he’s called to equip us for mission. It’s time to praise him for all our blessings and re-commit ourselves to following him. Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mission is Risky

Previously I’ve taken the church to task for a lack of faith that has led to a lack of mission. In other words, if we don’t believe what our sacred Scriptures say about God and what he can do, why would we be bold in proclaiming him? Our issue, I speculated, is a failure to “believe.”

But our reasons for not being the kind of people Jesus called us to be in the world are bigger than that. This week I realized something else. Our failure to “believe” has also resulted in a really terrible thing: a failure to love. Before we do mission to the world we really have to learn to love the world the way that Jesus, our Master, loves the world. Not loving the world for what it can give us or do for us and not loving it in a licentious way, but rather, loving it from the perspective of God. Seeing the world as God’s fallen creation in need of the redemption that our Master has accomplished for it by his death on the cross and resurrection. Seeing it as a wayward child, a prodigal, that needs to be reconciled with it’s Creator Father.

Our lack of love is accentuated by a great fear. We, in the church, I posit, are afraid of just about everything and our fear keeps us from doing the mission we were called to. And so we sit on our hands and wait for people to come to us instead of going out onto the highways and byways and compelling them to come in. John tells us in his first letter (4:18), “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Our failure to love God and our neighbor and the world that our God created have resulted in fear which keeps us from engaging the very people Jesus calls us to engage.

To sum up, mission is risky and we don’t love enough to take the risks we have to in order to reach out to a world that desperately needs to hear the Good News. Think about it. Jesus says, “Go.” That’s risky. Safer to stay at home. He says, “Into all the world and make disciples of every nation.” That’s risky, too. They might say, “no.” They might laugh at us, hurt us, even kill us. Jesus told us to baptize them into the name of God and to teach them to obey everything he’s commanded us. Talk about risky. Have you heard about all the liability issues schools have? Educating people isn’t safe. It’s risky.

So here’s my week which serves as an excellent illustration of what I’m trying to explain:

We want local community groups to use our building. One such group had a huge event at our facility recently and hundreds if not a thousand people came through our doors and saw our Jesus stuff. But at least one of them had a bad experience at the event and, because it was in our building, held me and the church responsible. She was really upset and my attempts to calm her down and point her in the direction of the responsible community group leaders completely failed. Zion and Jesus got a black eye because we were trying to be generous with what God has provided us. Some would look at this and say, “See, better that our building be our building for our use only.” But I don’t think so. Without risk there can be no mission.

After said large event, which lasted for days, the parking lot was a mess. I walked out one evening, when it was all over, and was just, well, er, shocked. There were empty water bottles, half eaten fast food meals in and out of bags, and other assorted rubbish strewn all over. Got most of it picked up, but hey, just a reminder, mission is messy. And let’s face it, a lot of our traditional “church people” don’t want to pick up the mess or even take the risk of the mess because it just means more work. So why take the chance? Because mission is risky.
Got a call a while ago from a woman who wanted someone to go driving with her and help her get her license. Since we had no previous association with her, I felt it was important that we meet her and make sure she was, well, “safe,” as a person before we asked for help from the congregation to drive with her. And wouldn’t you know it, the insurance company told our volunteer driver it was too risky to go driving with this woman and the driver told the woman it was too risky. Then we got the hate letter of all hate letters from the woman who called us “cowards.” And she is right. Without risk there can be no mission. Without risk there can be no love.
Recently I went door to door in the neighborhood around our church. One of the things I wanted to do was to give our neighbors an invitation to make our building and grounds their own. Use our playground. Use our parking lot. Use this or that. I figured our Board would want me to talk to the insurance company before I was so magnanimous. So I did. What a mistake. Turns out merely having neighbors is a risk, let alone inviting them to use your stuff. Turns out there isn’t enough money in the world, let alone the undercapitalized church, to buy enough coverage to be generous with what God has given us to use and give away in his name. So I bought the neighbors gift cards to a local restaurant instead. I suppose if they choke or get food poisoning it will be my fault. Mission is risky. And lawyers and insurance companies can provide a lot of excuses to stay home with the door locked and not do it.

The end result? The conclusion? Mission is risky. Love is risky. Following Jesus is risky. I think there are times when you just have to stare down your fear and choose to live by faith. Choose to believe. So far, our Master hasn’t ever let us down. It’s time to get up off our pews and get out there. Risk or not, our future is in the command of our Master, “Go!”

The original 12 apprentices of Jesus did worry about the risks involved in following him. They tried to anticipate what the costs would be. He told them to “Go. Preach. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” (Mt 10:7-10 paraphrase). Mission is risky. But our Master can manage the risk. We just need to be obedient. Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

Monday, September 27, 2010

Church on the Go

Jesus said, “Go!” While we pay lip service to this, I’m not sure we actually do it. I think most of us are OK with the idea of sitting around on Sunday morning waiting to see who is going to show up. I think about Luke 14, about the idea of going out and compelling people to come to the banquet which Jesus hosts whenever his people get together.

I am overwhelmed lately with lots of images about what it means to be a church on the go. I realize that everywhere we go we should invite people to come and meet Jesus. “Come to our church.” But I also realize that this is a variation on the theme of the previous paragraph. We invite, then we wait. But Jesus said, “Go!”

I wonder if this is part of the church’s decreasing relevance in our society. If you don’t come to the church, chances are, you don’t see it’s relevance. Maybe it’s time for the church to be the church on the go and show people who we are and why we do what we do. What would it be like to take the banquet to the people? To be a church that goes to where the people are instead of waiting for them to come to us?

Every Sunday morning I drive by people who aren’t going to church (and not because they went earlier in the week). What does it mean to take the church to them? I think about the outreaches we have done to a nearby apartment complex. We bring lunch, games, lots of soccer balls, music, bounce houses, and our desire to be the face of Christ. This weekend we added a service project. But we’re still asking them to “come” and waiting for them. What if we just did church there? Or in the park up the hill? Or in a supermarket parking lot? Or at a soccer field before the game? Or at the camp ground? Or downtown on the plaza one lunch time?

What would you need? Well, people with a vision who weren’t afraid to go, for starters. Then I suppose you’d need permits or something, depending on where you’d go. Then maybe a tent or covering for some locations. Maybe some sort of sound system and a some way to power it. How about those bounce houses as an added bonus and a way to connect with kids and draw a crowd? Maybe the whole thing looks and feels more like Bible School than a solemn service. But I’m sure the Lord would honor it because we were obedient to his command, “Go!”

Oh, sure, this approach is fine in the summer, we could have a tent or something and do a service and then later have lunch and Sunday School and then play. But in Iowa you can’t really do that for more than 8 months and maybe only for six. Then where do we go? Well, God gave us an imagination and in the winter the crowds move inside. The mall? Who knows? One thing for sure, being a church on the go may be more like a rave than a set activity.

Lots to work out. But maybe we can try something in the spring. Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

Sunday, September 12, 2010

International Mentorship and Partnership Dreams

It was a pleasure in late August this year to host Pastor Kaspars Simanovics, current lead pastor at Luther’s Church, in Riga, Lativa, my old hometown ( . He and his wife, Ilze, were guests of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa, and Zion.

The opportunity to serve as hosts for Kaspars and Ilze brought opportunities for two pastors from different countries to talk about ministry and exchange notes. I really benefited from the exchange on a personal and spiritual level. Kaspars reminded me of the many things we share in common as pastors. Things like visiting the sick, teaching classes to new, young, and maturing believers, doing weddings, funerals and baptisms. Sure there are differences, like volume (his church is bigger than mine), technology (he needs to get on Facebook, blog), etc. His own experience and his way of pastoring served to stimulate and challenge me. It was a great exchange. We were able to share ideas, joys, and frustrations.

His visit also reminded me of a dream I once had many, many years ago. My wife and I were leading mission trips yearly to Jamaica to a partner church where we had been for several years. The pastor, Glenn Stoddart, and I had developed a good friendship over the years. We had long talks in his cool, dark, breeze block office while our congregations worked on various construction projects and did a children’s ministry together. Together we discussed the art of pastoring, and talked about spiritual things that transcended our different contexts and situations. Our conversations were so encouraging and up-lifting that we dreamed together about how wonderful it would be to be able to work together for half a year in each other’s congregations, just for the shear pleasure of combing our two different sets of experiences and backgrounds for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. We realized that living in the US had shaped me to be of use in some things and that living and serving the Lord in Jamaica had prepared him for other things, but that together, we had a wealth of experience. We each had different resources, different solutions, different approaches. We realized we had much to offer each other and therefore much to offer our congregations.

Glenn and I posited that understanding a different culture may lead us as pastors to have more patience and a better understanding of our own culture and congregation. It would help us both to think “outside the box” about doing mission and facing challenges in our congregations. Not to mention one of the best gifts of such an exchange: a better sense of what it means to be part of a global church.

I hope one day that our dreams come true. I hope one day it will be possible for pastors, who love and respect each other, to work together in each other’s countries and contexts, in order to further develop our Christian leadership skills and build up and mentor and encourage one other.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why did I go to the NALC convention?

Why is Kline here?
Some of my friends in LCMC may wonder, as did a couple of my LCMC friends here at the NALC convention (who were here as official "visitors"), why I came to this event.

I suppose the answer has different parts.

1. I came to the NALC Constituting Convention because I wanted to see history in the making. It isn't every day that a new denomination is born. Let alone, one that will be as significant in North American Lutheranism as I believe this one will be. It's one of those quirky things about me, I like history. And I'm interested in the history of the church in America. This is it. I think it's an amazingly significant event because I believe this could well become the second or third largest Lutheran body in the U.S. It was fun to be able to "report out" about it's birth.

2. We're all in this together. LCMC and NALC our basically sisters and we're going to go through life together. I hope we'll be friends always as well as sister churches. I imagine that we'll need each other, that we'll support each other, that we'll do mission work together, that, as pastors, we'll be able to go back and forth across denominational (or associational) lines. It's nice to know that there are others out there who think like we do about Scripture and mission, even if we may worship differently or have different desires for how structured our hierarchies are.

3. I'm genuinely curious. All through seminary there was a debate raging about whether or not congregations who used liturgy would be able to do outreach. Well, now we'll see. One of the key tenants of NALC is that it is "traditionally grounded." That means a lot, but one of the things it means is that they will follow the traditional Lutheran liturgy. Will contemporary people who didn't grow up Lutheran respond? We'll see. Let's be clear: I don't have a dog in this hunt. I'm making no value judgements here at all. I'm simply curious. I've got opinions, but they are simply that: opinions. Now we'll see if traditional Lutheran churches can be about mission. We'll see because if they aren't, they'll die and the NALC will be one short lived denomination. So here we go. I'm excited. And so is the NALC.

Here's what I really think:

-NALC is a great church for those who love Jesus, want to make disciples, love vestments, liturgy and tradition.
-LCMC is a great church for those who love Jesus, want to make disciples, like to wear shorts and sandals to church and sing Jesus songs that sound like they could be on Acoustic Pie.
-NALC is a great church for those who want a higher authority to tell them what resources are good, what pastors are approved, and how education should be done.
-LCMC is a great church for those who prefer to find their own resources, their own pastors, and make their own decisions about what Christian education looks like.
-If you like westerns: if you relate best to the scouts, who are out there in Indian territory, speaking the language and knowing the terrain, LCMC is you. If you relate best to the calvary, traveling in formation with nice uniforms and having a good sense of order, NALC is you. If you relate best to the politician back in Washington that wants the land acquired no matter what the cost, the ELCA is just right for you. If you're the heroine in love with all three, well, you might need therapy. :) Sooner or later you'll have to make a choice.
-If you went to Luther Seminary or are familiar with their faculty, you'll like NALC if you think Jim Nestingen is the bee's knees and if you think Skip Sundberg walks no water, you'll be very comfortable in LCMC.

Things that struck me were:
-We sang a lot of hymns that I simply didn't know. If you like the LBW, NALC is for you.
-There were a lot, a lot, of pastors in clergy shirts. Like maybe at least 50% of the pastors. LCMC, maybe 5%.
-NALC knows they have a hard row to hoe. They know it will be hard to create mission mindedness in congregations. And by this I mean, the genuine desire for mission that transcends the desire to simply survive as a congregation.
-Their structure is not crushing, like the ELCA's, but it will be heavy. And it will be a challenge and take many, many years to sort out how everything works. My fear is that congregations will continue to wait upon the structure before going out and doing mission. "Just do it." But this will be very hard for congregations who may not be used to acting independently.
-LCMC has 400-500 churches (look it up!) and has, I believe, 2 full time and maybe 2 part time employees, and no property. It is nimble and lean. NALC wants a rented office, and about 5 or 6 (if I'm counting right) full time staff besides the bishop. They have 18 churches today, hope to have 200 by the end of 2011. Neither nimble nor quick. All the benevolence they want churches to give will have to support their budget first.
-A bit concerned about talk within the NALC about the need for "teaching statements" about such things as marriage and women's ordination. Isn't what got us into this mess?
-NALC will apply for membership in the Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Relief. Why? I know it's to make inter-Lutheran connections, but why can't we just do that anyway?
-NALC will pursue relations with North American Anglicans as well as deeper relations with LCMC.
-Finally, they will clarify what it means to have altar and pulpit fellowship with other denominations.

So there you have my report. LCMC is seeking something new, NALC, while moving in a new direction (intentional mission) is using many old and familiar means.

God bless you. Thanks for reading. PJ

Live from the NALC Convening Convention

The church's server won't let me go to my blog to post so I've relocated over lunch to send this out...

Remarks of Pastor Larry Lindstrom, LCMC Board Chairman

We know what it's like to be accused of tearing the church apart.
We need people who are willing to stand up and be counted for Scripture and the gospel. We've been where you are - we were here first. :) We hope to share some things, experiences with you, lessons learned, etc. Let's share our experiences together.

Leadership of LCMC and NALC have already met together. First meeting was in January in TC.

Let's pray together and for each other as siblings who love each other.

For congregations that want to make a stand, there are now 2 very good options.

Sees congregations joining both LCMC and NALC.

Cooperative ventures are ahead.

Both bodies have creative DNA to make the road ahead very exciting.

Elections Report
772 cast for CORE steering committee
Top 4, 2 year term; next 4 to 1 year term. Minutes will be published.
Also CORE newsletter.

Unanimous ballot for officers: passed. declared elected.
Bishop Paull Spring elected bishop
Exec Counsel (see below)
Court of Ajudication (see below)

Brief remarks by Pastor Paul Ulring (who now replaces Mark Chavez as Moderator of CORE.)

Roy Harrisville, Jr., acknowledged for early leadership in Solid Rock.

Most of the people we're familiar with are stepping back. New leadership.

Remarks by Bishop Paull Spring - "Why would I do this? Because I'm committed to what we're after."
The office of the NALC is the spare bedroom at the home of Bishop Paul Spring.

There is a certain sense of remorse that we all share, but a sense of hope and optimism and excitement.

Elected as Lutheran CORE Moderator: Pastor Paul T. Ulring
Secretary: Pastor W. Stevens Shipman
Treasurer: Ralph Wittenburg
Steering Committee: Challa G. Baro, Pastor Eddy Perez, Pastor Karl Andrew Johnsen, Captain Raymond J. Brown, for 2 year terms; John Pleuss, Lynn Kickingbird, Pastor Tom Brandt, Mathison for 1 year term.

NALC Leadership
Bishop, Bishop Paull Spring
Executive Counsel: (Lay) James Hansen, Carol Lattier, Ryan M. Schwartz, Kay Johnson Weaver; (clergy) Pastor Donald Allman, Pastor N. Amanda Grimmer, Pastor Victor Langford III, Pastor Jim Lehmann.

NALC Court of Adjudication
Richard F. Currey
Jon E. Evans
James Gale
Rev. Dr. Jeffray Greene
Pastor Ralph Kempski
Carolyn Nestingen
Rev. Dr. Ronald Warren went live yesterday

Ministry Policies Working Group Report by Bishop Paull Spring

There are policies established for approving seminarians, rostering clergy, call process and mobility.
There are policies yet to be developed that included the ministry of lay people, deacons/deaconesses, etc.

Constitution of the NALC.
Includes a couple interesting items:
a.) apportionment. All churches should, in theory, shoulder an equal share of the national church budget. Does this mean there will be a required percentage paid to the national body? This is unclear at this time.

b. membership in secret societies prohibited. This was surprisingly a lively debate. The constitution prohibits membership. A movement to amend this part was suggested.

In support of amending above - the LCA was anti- masonic, LCMS anti-masonic; could be used against STS or other church societies in the future.
Could be used as a witch hunt in the future. The Holy Spirit will protect us.

In support of keeping the wording: Spiritual warfare - spirits let into a church body - protective to church body
In essence it's to prevent people from keeping secrets that would destroy the church.

Amendment was defeated soundly.

One speaker, in an emotional speech, said she could not support the new constitution . The ELCA had committed a schismatic act in Minneapolis last August. And you can't fight a schismatic act with a schismatic act. She asked that we pray for us who are called to stay and be a faithful remnant.

Another speaker pointed out that the constitution says the bishop is in charge of ecumenical conversations. With the future surely involving working together with other Lutheran groups, this will occupy an ever increasing amount of time. In an amendment referred to the executive council, it was suggested that former bishops in the NALC should become a counsel of bishops (for life) and handle such things for the "presiding" bishop. Referred to executive council.

Point of interest: all future changes to constitution must be approved not only by a vote of a convention, but also by a majority vote of individual congregations. This is similar to LCMC's procedure and guarantees that there will be no repeat of the ELCA's actions in August 2009. What generated a great deal of conversation, however, was a clause that states that after 12 months of inactivity, a congregation's vote is considered to be in favor. In other words, if the congregation doesn't vote, in a year, they are listed as having automatically voted in favor of the resolution. There was much talk about how, after so many congregations had "no idea" about what the ELCA was doing, this could be good practice. So, there are things still to be ironed out.

Several other items that popped up and were referred to the Executive Council for consideration:
can a pastor join NALC without a congregation? In other words, if the pastor wants to leave the ELCA but the congregation is too deeply divided, can the pastor join NALC and stay at the ELCA congregation? (It was brought to everyone's attention that the ELCA probably wouldn't stand for this anyway).
can an individual person join NALC? For instance, if you belong to an ELCA congregation that stays, can you yourself join NALC?
Should the "other" Lutheran Confessional writings be given the same weight in the constitution as Augsburg?

The session ended with the passing of the provisional constitution. We sang the doxology and prayed for guidance. A new denomination is born.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Live from the North American Lutheran Church Constituting Convention Part III

Greetings from Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, President Emeritus, Pastor Francis Stephanos

Pastor Stephans reaffirmed his church's stand on Biblical marriage; and went on to reject the stand of ELCA, ELCIC (Canada) and Church of Sweden on gay marriage and non celibate gay clergy.

He pulled no punches and he urged us not to ever yield to the court of public opinion. "It's a sin. Do not be in fear; do not be intimated by name callers, majority voters. Let us only fear the Lord."

My favorite quote: "We understand that no one can inherit the kingdom of God by majority vote."

"All church leaders must come clean on these issues so that people may learn and be taught the truth."

The light shines boldly and exposes the darkness for what it is.

Christians denounce sin, follow Jesus, and make disciples.

The true church is called to teach the true scriptures. As a guide for all people to see and follow.

The church is a beacon of truth in a dark world. If the church isn't a beacon, it has no good news for those who are suffering from the consequences of sin.

The job of leaders of the church is to love, fear, and obey the Lord.

He lovingly but firmly put us in our place. Responding to an article he read by a professor of theology who commented that the church in the south (the third world, basically) had to retrain it's leaders to be truly inclusive. He responded - "the church in the South is growing - yours is dying. You are losing 2.7 million members a year, 3-4,000 churches a year are closing... the South, he said, has the word of God and the Holy Spirit...

As he finished, the congregation rose and gave him a standing ovation.
Standing Ovation!!!!!

Pastor Ken Kimball, Mission and Benevolence Working Group

It is the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion. You either obey Jesus or you don't.

When the church sits back and doesn't take the mission to the world, God will do something, including afflicting the church so that the seeds will be planted. See Acts 8.

Making disciples is:
a.) internal, discipling, spiritual growth
b.) External outreach
If the external isn't happening, we believe, neither is the internal.
In addition to fidelity to orthodox Christian/Lutheran teaching, a competence in fulfilling the Great Commission must be demonstrated by those desiring to become pastors.

NALC hopes to start a network to support both Global and Continental missions.

Part of this network is a virtual community for the exchange of ideas; a forum to share ideas, frustrations, raise the learning curve (we are all going to go through an enormous learning curve in the next few years). Included in this virtual idea is a website, managed, with a list of mission opportunities for congregations looking for mission partners (vetted through CORE and NALC).

There will be a new emphasis on challenging congregations to give... The Great Commission Give Away it's called. It's time to turn away from anger at ELCA, and get generous. This is a spiritual necessity. Do not forget that what God has given us is His not our own. It is believed that this will strengthen the mission of the whole church. Also help congregations to set an example for their own members and to be connected to the Great Commission. This is admittedly going back to the way we did things 50 years ago. Go back to the older model. Let the congregation decide, not the national headquarters. Its about learning that we are the church together.

Standing Ovation!!!!!!

Pastor Mark Braaten
Congregational Life Working Group

Why do mountain climbers tie themselves together? So that the same ones will go home. Just so, we bind ourselves together to do the work of the church.

There is a list of resources, approved by CORE and NALC. How do we root this adventure of forming the NALC in discipleship? You give congregations a good resource list. Also comes out of loss of confidence in ELCA resources.

Seven regional events around the country are being planned to focus on mission and ministry. They will be using Power Surge acronym from Michael Foss. We want to focus on discipleship, because that will always lead to mission and ministry.
Events focus on networking (local). We hope to clearly and intentional say that we are about Mt 28 and Acts 2. We are going to lift up the name of Jesus Christ in every way we possibly can.

Des Moines is one of the seven sites identified. (Foss's church?)

Some of the old ways we've done things won't be the same any more.
But we will find joy and wonder in the mission of making disciples.

Standing ovation!!!!

Live From the NALC Constituting Convention Part II

Presentation by Ryan Schwartz

The future is partnerships of churches that have a:

Shared confession of faith
Shared understanding of Scripture
Shared ministry priorities
But not necessarily a shared denomination.

Further, current reconfiguration currently sees large numbers of traditional, isolated Lutherans now without congregations or feeling isolated within their congregations(Situation created by 2/3rds vote requirements, pastors who are overwhelmingly in favor of ELCA policies, etc.)
The future will see Lutheran congregational planting to meet these needs at a rate unseen for decades.

Reconfiguration is not limited to ELCA break-up and what NALC is doing, rather, there are 3 million other confessional Lutherans in America. So there are new discussions developing across Lutheran denominational lines, headed up frequently by LCMS.

The Future of Lutheran CORE
CORE will be a "Community" (members drawn from multiple church bodies, associations, organizations) Will provide fellowship for those who remain in ELCA and a way for them to network with others now outside the ELCA.

The NALC will be:
christ centered
mission driven
traditionally grounded
congregationally focused

Me: does this represent an attempt to fix an institution or a future oriented new way of doing things?

Mark Chavez comments:
NALC and CORE will work together, forming a new denomination but at the same time keeping ties with those who are not or cannot leave to form the new NALC. Lutheran CORE is working intentionally working to keep communication with other faithful, confessing Lutherans.

Congregations in NALC are asked to have a minimum of:
one direct relationship with one missionary or agency
one direct relationship with at least one mission congregation in NA

For work on theological education a joint commission is forming. We all need to learn from the best theologians in NA, both clergy and lay.

NALC/CORE will be servants to congregations. Make sure that congregations are connected to all the best publishing houses, resources, missionaries, mission agencies, etc.

NALC National Youth Gathering: Impact. next summer.

How is Lutheran CORE going to work inside and outside the ELCA?
Why would you have anything to do with the ELCA?

We are called to care for every member of the body Christ. This is our way of doing that. We are not abandoning the members who are left behind.

We cannot carve out a place where we are immune from all the destructive influences that are at work in the ELCA or other Protestant bodies. We are sinners and we are going to make our share of mistakes. We have to be realistic about the forces at work within North American culture. We believe in absolute truth, and we have a real challenge presenting that to our congregations.

There are those who believe that they are called by the Holy Spirit to continue to be faithful witnesses within the ELCA. We want to support them.

Some congregations are divided. It will be painful and will take years in some congregations to work through these issues. We want to support them.

The majority of ELCA congregations are not talking about the things we are talking about at this conference. Surely there are many individual members or even pastors of these congregations who know the truth but think that they are alone. We want to support them.

What doesn't it mean to work w/in the ELCA;
We aren't a coalition for reform any more. Since fall of 2005, CORE worked within the framework of the ELCA. That is over now. We have concluded that the ELCA has become so political and one sided in moving away from the rest of the ChrIstian Church. By working within them we are not partnering with them or supporting what they are doing. Working in for the sake of the genuine unity given us by God. We allowed our unity as Lutherans to be defined by a denomination. That is not what the Confessions say. Our unity is not in organizations or structures. Our unity is in our confession of faith in Jesus.

So CORE is changing its name: From Coalition for Reform to Coalition for Renewal: God will bring about, in the long run, reform. When God brings us back around to making disciples, there will be revival, renewal, and reform. So we are looking forward to God's renewal.

I have never been more hopeful for the future of a bold, faithful, Lutheran witness in North America. - Mark Chavez

Now we can focus on the future and the wonderful opportunities God has given us. It is going to be an exciting, joyful ride. - Mark Chavez

Live from the NALC Constituting Convention

The Birth of a New American Lutheran Church

I'm in Grove City, Ohio, at the Second Lutheran CORE convocation and the founding conference for the North American Lutheran Church, the newest group to be formed from the continued disintegration of the ELCA.

General Impressions:
Amazed at how many people are here. Somewhere between 1500-2000.
Disappointed, but not surprised that there is no Wi-Fi, so I cannot Tweet, and wishing I had 3G.
Lots of clerical collars.
Lots of older folks, by which I mean, older than me.
I know almost no one. What does that mean? Simply that this is a much, much broader group of people than the midwestern types I generally associate with. There are people here from all over. The churches are mostly traditional Lutheran, they know the hymns in the green book that we at Zion never sing,

Opening Remarks from Pastor Paul Uhlring
"We have developed a provider of services view of denominations." That will change with NALC.
NALC will link us together as faithful, confessional lutherans... It will be less and quite different than what the ELCA was.
We will learn just how well we can be church with less.
"Ecclesiology is no bureaucracy."
We will look at each other and say, "We can do that."
We must do mission.
"A year from now or whenever we meet next, may there be people who came to faith in Jesus." Nothing is more important or matters more than that.
Let us live in forgiveness and grace. I don't want to be merely against things, lets not peddle dirt and pain around. Resentment is the only poison we take ourselves. Let us be salt and light for JC. Lets be for his heart and desire that all come to know him and be saved. Lets be for serving in his name. Lets connect with those who don't know him.
American Lutheran history isn't good - a history of what people are against. Let's change it. They never figured out what they were for (previous divisions). Let's learn from what has failed. Let's be for, not against.
Throughout let's be known for mission. Let's feast on God's word, the kingdom that is coming and stop eating poison.
These are wonderful times ahead.
Never heard so much good Lutheran theology than in the last year. Lots of discussion.
CORE will continue to gather and connect faithful Lutherans. Many will head off to join NALC.
Many of the best things, thoughts, theology, are happening lately... God is at work.

Visitors were introduced. The list is impressive. The remarks were made that their presence reminds us that we are not alone and that the larger church is interested in what is happening here.

Ev Lutheran Church in America. (ELCA)
Board of Pensions, (ELCA)
West Virginia - Maryland SYNOD, ELCA
Roman Catholic Church - sec for ecumenical affairs, USC
Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mekani Yesus
Anglican Church in NA - 4 bishops
EV Lutheran Chu in Tanzania - a bishop
Letter of welcome and support from the bishop of the Lutheran Orthodox Church

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More than one lost sheep...

Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” ... (LK 15: 3-5)

Some churches pray intentionally, and with fervor, for the lost. We’re learning at Zion but we aren’t there yet. We need to learn. But in addition to that, we need to pray together for the lost ones of our own families.

Sure, we need to pray for the lost of the world. We need to pray for the 10-40 Window. We need to pray that Jesus will convert the nations. But what about our own friends and folks, kin and kids, and cousins?

I thank God that my wife is a believer. It’s a wonderful thing and adds so much to our marriage. But what if she weren’t? And I’m conscious of so many people in church with us who worship without husbands or wives because their spouses don’t believe.

And what about our kids? More than anything else, I want my kids to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and be saved. I want to spend eternity with them and their kids, and their kids - you get the picture. But I know of many whose kids are far from Christ at this moment and are worried sick about what will happen to their precious children.

I have cousins and uncles and aunts who don’t believe that Jesus alone saves. I want them to know the truth. But conversation can only go so far.

What if we prayed for each other’s families? What if we joined in asking God to bring to faith in Jesus Christ our kids, our spouses, our cousins, our friends, our aunts and our uncles?

What if we were able to offer to each other our intentions, our joys and sorrows, our fears, our sorrows, our joys, our victories and our fears? What if we prayed together for the salvation of those who are close to us who have wandered far afield from Christ our Shepherd?

Would you like to join a Lost Sheep Group? Lost Sheep Groups will pray together for family and friends who do not know the Lord. They will either gather together in flesh and blood or over the internet and they will get to know each other and their loved ones who need to know the Lord and they will pray heaven down upon the lost ones in each other’s lives.

I think Jesus wants us to know that the object of the parables is himself. But I also think Jesus wants us to live out the parables. And what better way to seek the lost, than to pray for them by name. He is, after all, the one who said, “Ask, seek, knock and it will given to you.” And again, “Whatsoever you ask for in my name will be given to you.” Let’s take the Lord at his word. Sign up in church or for those of you on the internet, go to the Zion website at and give us your contact info via the “feedback” button on the home page. God bless you. Thanks for reading. PJ.

Monday, June 21, 2010

After the Banquet

So this Sunday Zion went to the Douglas Terrace Apartments (DTA) and put on a picnic banquet of fried chicken, fruit, assorted sides and good things to eat.

For us, this was an exercise in trust and obedience: would we trust the Holy Spirit and go; and in obedience to the Word, Lk 14, “when you give a banquet, invite those who can’t pay you back.”

Thanks to all who showed up to help and especially to those who worked behind the scenes to see to it that we had soccer balls to give away, gift bags with Jesus stuff for the kids, provided live music, and all the stuff we needed to put on the banquet.

Here are my thoughts on the experience and how it impacts the way we do church:

a.) We went in obedience, trusting God and without any expectations about what success looked it, except that He would meet us there.

That makes the evaluation stage on Monday morning difficult. Going without expectations means we had no clearly defined goals except to put on a banquet. Which we did. We have no facts or figures about how many people we served. We don’t know how many people came from our own church, either. I’d estimate we served between 50-60 people who lived in the area. No one was baptized, no one was saved, but we did try hard to embody the grace of God while we played games with the kids and dished out chicken. Perhaps we should be less concerned with statistical evaluation and more concerned with obedience and learn to adjust our expectations appropriately.

b.) “Preach the Gospel always, sometimes use words.”

At DTA, almost everyone is a recent immigrant. Many of the adults don’t speak or understand English. This makes the kids key in communication. It makes it hard to do a mailing, put up understandable fliers or even have a conversation. In this case, the only things we could communicate were via our expressions and body language and actions. Seems to me that in the modern church we’ve put more and more emphasis upon the spoken word. Certainly can’t argue with the centrality of the word. But you’ve got to be it, act it, and live it, too. The words that give eternal life may be less effective from snarly lips.

c.) Sometimes you can’t even give it away.

We estimated that there were perhaps 200-220 residents at DTA. We had a team knock on every single door in the complex. Partly because of language difficulties, partly because we were outsiders, some people would just not come down and eat or play. We played some games of “peek-a-boo” with kids who were fascinated by what was going on below their windows, but we couldn’t go them to come down. Free lunch! “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” It reminds me on a macro-scale of how hard it is to get people to accept salvation in Christ. It’s free. It’s here. It’s the best thing ever. But sometimes, it feels like we can’t even give it away.

d.) Pray over everything, then believe God.

One thing for sure, this event was covered in prayer. It was inspired during prayer, was developed in prayer, was put on in prayer. We prayed and trusted God that people would accept our invitation and come and eat. We prayed and trusted that somehow people would be blessed by God through what we were doing. We prayed and trusted God that on a weekend when we were to get 5 inches of rain, he would somehow provide for the banquet to happen. We prayed and trusted that all the logistics would come together. And everything did come together and people did come and eat on more or less dry ground (because there wasn’t any where else to sit or play). We wound up placing ourselves in a situation this time where there could be no plan B, God had to come through and do it all. And He did.

I do wonder whether or not the church of Jesus Christ has stopped taking risks. Perhaps we’re afraid of looking like amateurs, perhaps we’re afraid of looking like fools, perhaps we realize that people can get hurt easily in situations we haven’t completely planned through. Do high degrees of planning lead to lack of trust?

e.) Don’t be afraid not to be in control of everything.

I tried something new with this event. I tried not to control things or even know about the details. Everyone had their tasks and there was a general vision that was cast and at the right time, the body came together, the supplies appeared and people ate and children played. Sure we had a couple of coordinators. But the overall effect of letting it just “be” was magnificent. When we started to serve food, Zion people just found their places and served. Ditto games. Ditto just being present. It was beautiful.

f.) Let God lead.

God will lead. I think we get program happy and have to “do something.” Why do we do this? Is it to attract people to come to church? Sometimes. Is it to prove our own value? Sometimes. Is it to keep people busy and engaged? Sometimes. What if we just sat around and prayed until God spoke and then we did what he said? It might be maddening from time to time, but it would stop the current trend of loading up people with more and more to do. It would also insure that we were doing what God wanted to bless instead of asking God to bless what we’re doing. Obedience to God requires that we listen to God first so that we know what he wants. I think the church in the west has become too program centric and less effective.

Of course, this leads to another discussion. One about discerning the voice of God. It also leads to another discussion, do you trust the people to whom God is speaking? I think these are the reasons we like to go programmatic. We can do things in general without ever having to deal with the specifics of our own obedience and submission. You can have input into a program. You don’t have so much input when God speaks to someone and you’re asked to come along.
Maybe not everything we do as a church really needs to be done. Maybe there are things the Lord wants to do that we aren’t doing. Maybe we need to let him lead more.

g.) When the body of Christ submits to God’s greater vision, we work together in harmony and there are fewer of the “usual” issues.

The beauty of this event was that nobody wanted to “own” it. It was God’s. We simply followed him. No one argued about where to put up the tables. No one thought the gift bags could’ve been better, no one argued about how much chicken we bought, no one wanted to change venues. No one said we could have had more people if we’d done it differently. It was what it was and it was beautiful. We simply did it. No authority issues because we were all submitting to God and letting the body do its work.

Those who participated and saw it will have their own opinions. I do believe it was a success simply because we were led to do it and we did. People came and were fed. People who live in comparative isolation to the greater culture were visited. People were prayed for whom we hadn’t ever met before. And perhaps a relationship was begun.

Is there a plan to do something else? We’ll see what God says. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Follow Me as I Follow Christ

This is completely raw thought, keep that in mind as you read it, don’t judge me too harshly and if you’ve got thoughts, share them. Thanks.

What is the relationship between an individual church and the pastor’s personality?

I remember one day, many years ago, sitting in a restaurant with a visiting seminary professor who had just completed some lectures at our church. He said that the congregation is shaped by the personality of the senior pastor. If the pastor was frantic, the church would vibe frantic. If he was laid back and easy going, so would the church be laid back. If he was loud and gregarious, so would the church be. If he was a people pleaser and passive aggressive, well, er, you get the picture.

At a conference a few months ago, I heard a pastor with a national following talk about the relationship between his own actions and his church. He was frustrated with what he felt was a lack of generosity in his church and then realized that he wasn’t very generous either. So he changed his own life first. The more generous he became, the more the church started to open up and show generosity. He then began to wonder why his people weren’t motivated to share the gospel. So he looked at his own life. He realized that he had no significant relationships in his life with anyone who wasn’t a church going Christian. So he went out and began to develop relationships with unchurched people and he began to lead them to Christ. His church then began to develop a real heart for the lost.

Now, did these two things happen “all by themselves?” No. I’m certain of two things: 1.) The pastor talked about what he was doing and the impact it was having on his own life. The pastor’s life, after all, is a constant testimonial. So, through preaching, the church itself was challenged to change. 2.) The Holy Spirit had a lot to do with it. He is he great shaper and preparer both of churches and pastors.

This leads me to wonder: Does God use pastors to shape churches or churches to shape pastors? I assume the answer is both somehow. But isn’t that amazing? I’m not just talking about two things being impacted because they are in relationship together, I’m talking about a divine intentionality at work for the benefit of both.

Could it mean that God would allow the pastor to go broke so that he might be prepared to preach to the church about priorities and God’s provision during a recession?

I think it was the anchorite, Julian of Norwich, who asked the Lord to give her a terrible disease so she could be a witness in her suffering.

1 Cor 11:1 “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”

Does this mean that in order to preach, the preacher must have to have experienced what he’s preaching about first? I don’t think it’s a rule, after all, God gave us an imagination. But there is no doubt that the best sermons are preached out of one’s own experiences and that one’s own experiences help enormously in developing empathy.

And there is no doubt that the trials and joys of the congregation shape the expectations and experiences of the pastor as well.

So God’s school of discipleship continues.

What I wonder about is whether there is a way we can participate better with the Holy Ghost in finding the right churches for the right pastors and vice versa.

Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

Sunday, June 6, 2010

We have to go so we can went

From Luke 14: Jesus says, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed...” And later, Jesus said, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’”

Picking up from my blog of May 22:
The Mission: to invite the residents of the Douglas Terrace Apartments to have a picnic banquet at Beaverdale Park with our church and to bless them with food, fun and music.

Update: This week I finally got my courage up, said my prayers, and went to go and try and find the manager of the apartment complex we intend to bless on June 20th. I suppose I could’ve called, but I’m not very good on the phone and half the time people can’t hear me and things just seem to get confused. Besides, I figured it would be harder for them to tell me I’m crazy if I were standing right in front of them.

Now some of you will pick up right away on the fact that I was nervous about going to see the manager. Why wasn’t I confident and faithful that God would work out all the details? I was. It’s just that for the last seven years of my life, first as a missionary teacher in Latvia and then coming back to pastor a church, two rules have seemed to dominate my life: 1.) Everything is harder than it is. 2.) Everything takes longer than it does. So I anticipated difficulty.

Please don’t think I’m pessimistic. I know God wins in the end and it all works out. And please understand I’m not asking for pity. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to resistance even in simple things. It seems like if there is a way for something to go wrong, it will. My friends tell me that’s how you know you’re doing the things God wants you to do: the resistance is considerable.

So you can understand that I was praying for fortitude in spiritual combat for myself and that the Holy Spirit would move mountains.

Now you can imagine my surprise when I pulled into the tiny, crowded, lot, got out of the car and crazy good things started to happen. Every tenant I met greeted me with a smile and a hello. I saw one of the security doors propped open, so I just went in and wandered the halls. Wow. My knees buckled, I got goose-bumps. You could feel the Holy Ghost. It was amazing.

So I wandered over to the office. Closed. “Figures,” I said, still expecting resistance. I pulled out my phone and dialed the 24 hour number with a Minnesota prefix. A male voice answered. I meekly explained who I was, managed to stumble through a rambling explanation of what we wanted to do, and then, there was silence. “Oh boy, I thought, here it comes.” Ain’t it sad when the preacher has so little confidence in the power of God to bring about good things?

“I’ve always wanted to do something like that for the tenants,” the voice said. “Please, do whatever you want. In fact, why don’t you have the picnic on the property instead of making people walk to the park?” My eyes misted over. The answer to every question was “yes.” Yes, we can hang fliers. Yes, we can hand out fliers. Yes, we can bring games. Yes. The manager then told me where to find the duty manager who at that very moment appeared by my side. I explained it all again. “Yes,” he said. Yes to everything. Wow. Praise the Lord!

So the parable Jesus told is pretty clear. The Master says to his servants, “Go.” Makes me wonder if the church hasn’t been to passive. We’ve been sitting around waiting for people to come. Maybe we’re supposed to go out and compel them to come to the banquet.

Don’t get me wrong: working on the banquet hall and training the servers is important. If you’re going to have guests, you need to make them feel welcome so that heart of the Master is reflected in all you do. But at the end of the day we are still left with his instructions: “Go.”

I’m just finishing up the Sunday sermon as I write this. One thing that I discovered this week was that the word “love” in the present tense is used 61 times in the Gospels and not at all in the book of Acts. But the word “went” is used over 150 times in the Gospels and almost always in reference to Jesus. In the Book of Acts, 80 times they “went.” I think the meaning is clear. It’s about Jesus on the move. It’s about the church on the move. Jesus went. The early church went. We have to go so we can went, too.

God bless you. Thanks for reading. PJ

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Part of what I’m thinking about for fall...

What I’m thinking about for Fall is parents and their kids. Especially, how can Christian parents help to build faith into their children? So I asked my Wednesday night class to come up with a list of things that, they believed, helped to “build faith.” (Let the reader be aware, I know the Holy Spirit creates/gives faith. My question was really about what kinds of things might encourage the transaction between the Holy Ghost and our children and other, non-believing people who need to trust Jesus). Here is what they come up with:

Trails and tribulations
Observe – others – responses- behaviors
Bible – stories of faith
Step off the cliff
Small groups (see observe)
Memorizing Scripture
Claim the promises of God
“Being” still
Surrender – Turn It Over to Jesus
Train like a green beret

To this great list, I added the spiritual disciplines as described by Dallas Willard:

Traditional Spiritual Disciplines:



This Fall, I’m hoping we can open new fronts in the fight for faith. I’d like to see us offer a class for the parents of elementary children that is based on the question, “How can I bring my child to faith?” I imagine it to be a class filled with testimonies by others who have grown children who believe.

Then I’d like to see a class for junior high parents about the unique challenges they face and how they might implement new strategies in order to create an environment where faith can flourish. This includes, in my thinking, special emphasis on the on-line lives of their children and how to establish fact from fiction in the lives of their kids.

I know for sure that Brent and I will be working very hard to continue to improve our junior high confirmation ministry.

We’ll also begin new ventures into the faith lives of the post-high school/college students.

Please pray for us. We all pray for these kids and we want them to know Jesus. But we have miles to go before we can sleep... Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Be graceful: Invite those who can’t pay you back.

It’s my quiet time on Monday, May 3, 2010. Even though it’s my day off, it’s been a hard day, with lots of church matters ruining the day. I’m crying out to the Lord for deliverance. “Please, we just could use some encouragement,” I pray. And there is an answer: “Banquet.” Banquet? Like don’t take the best seat at the banquet? No. “Banquet. Go out to the highways and byways and compel them to come.” In a flash, I’m in Luke 14. And there it is. The Jesus evangelism by grace plan.

Oh, I know, as a church, we’re crippled financially just now. So what. Jesus says, “Go! Go out to the highways and byways and compel them to come in.” And, I might add, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, don’t invite your friends and those who can pay you back.” Oh my. It’s all there. Luke 14:12-24. Let’s make Jesus’ parable real. Let’s be graceful enough to have such a banquet.

Now some will jump on the bandwagon that says this is about First Century Jews and how Jesus was offering the kingdom now to Gentiles and those who had previously been excluded. Uh-huh. But it’s God’s Word. It’s timeless. It’s for us. And it’s clear: Go. Invite. Have a banquet for Jesus and invite those who can’t pay you back.

We talk about how important it is to “go.” Mt 28:19 and following: “Go ye therefore into all the world and make disciples of every ethnicity...”

Yet, as a churches, we mostly “wait.” Wait for what? For people like us to find us and decide our worship is cool and our sermons are deep and clever and they want to join the fun? I don’t think that is what Jesus is asking us to do.

I think Jesus is asking us to go find the ones who won’t find there way to Zion Church on their own and give them a compelling reason why they should become our brothers and sisters in submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. We should show them his grace in whatever way we can.

Then another flash: A park. A Sunday (?) afternoon, or was it morning? A group of Zion folks. Some singing, a brief Jesus message. Some home-made sides, some fried chicken, and a whole bunch of immigrant kids playing soccer with us. Just so you know, Travis will be there to lead the kids in the songs.

Right down the street, less than 5 minutes away from church, there are apartment complexes filled with immigrants and their children. They love soccer. They love good food. Jesus loves them and wants them to love him. What are we waiting for? Consider this your invitation to support something that just might be crazy or just might be Jesus. We need you to pray. We need some dollars for fried chicken (I think it’s easier of the church springs for that and organizes it). We need some people to bring a lot of sides. We need kids to show up from churches, sing Jesus songs, say “amen!” during the Jesus message and then play their hearts out with other kids from Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and all over Asia and kick the soccer ball around. Are you with me?

The date is June 27th at Beaverdale Park - 3301 or 3333 Adams (depending upon which city site you trust). The time is 12:00 noon.

Thanks for reading. See you at the banquet. Which happens to be at a park. God bless. PJ

Monday, May 17, 2010

I am working hard not to be grumpy and to let Jesus be in control (really!)

Here is an insight into my self talk: I think, “Gee, the Son of God became flesh and blood for me so that he could show me the face of God, die on a cross on the third day, rise again so that I might live and reign with him in eternity. Isn’t that the best news ever? Doesn’t that just make you want to dance and sing and smile and tell everyone how happy you are and how much you love them and, more importantly, how much Jesus loves them?”

And sometimes I say to myself: “I’d be a whole lot happier if I felt like the people at church ‘got it.’ I’d be a whole lot happier if they showed up more frequently, gave more generously, volunteered more freely. I’m not even sure what value many of them put on their faith.”

Welcome to the twisted mind of a pastor. As a pastor, you know you’ve got what everybody needs: Jesus. But it’s often frustrating how hard it is to give Jesus away for free. It’s hard to even get people to show up sometimes.

There are 10,000 reasons not to go to church: “I have to work; we’ve been running and running, and we just need to rest, we need family time; we have a soccer game, a swim meet, a track meet, a golf tournament, a baseball game, an out of town game, a show-choir competition, a spelling bee; we have to go home and be with our parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins (whatever) for their (insert) birthday, anniversary, graduation, wedding shower, baby shower, etc.” My favorite excuse for not coming to church is when people have out of town company. After all, we wouldn’t want to make our guests uncomfortable by inviting them to come to church with us. Neither would we want to excuse ourselves for an hour to go on our own.

In the Midwest, winter is a problem. Faced with a driveway full of snow, people often times are too tired these days to snow blow themselves out on a Sunday morning. I’d be OK with this spontaneous family time around the fire and an extended family breakfast if it wasn’t for the fact that when the spring and summer comes, the weather is apparently too nice for people to come to church.

Would it help if we built an outdoor amphitheater for good weather services? I’m game, but ya’ll have to start writing some pretty impressive checks.

Most churches try to make church-going as easy as possible. We currently have three services, for instance, starting at 8:00 in the morning. But 8:00 is too early or it’s too traditional or too inconvenient. We try to make church relevant: we try to make it the best hour of people’s week. But that doesn’t cut it either. We're asking for feedback on other service times now on the website. Feel free to click your thoughts. I know that our flock can be witnesses to Jesus on the soccer field. I know discipleship can happen outside the church building. But if you don't get fueled up, how can you minister?

We even try to make church fun. Fun? Isn’t that a strange value for a church to have? Maybe, but Paul said it best: “I have become all things to all men in order that I might by all means save some.” But apparently we aren’t always fun enough.

Sometimes, in my Andy Rooney moments, I wonder if we should make church more competitive. Competitive? Well, isn’t that what’s going on at the tournaments and meets and games that everyone is going to on Sunday mornings? Maybe we could find a way to make church into a team sport, charge fees, and then have a trophy or other award at the end of the season. Oh, but that’s right, the God season never ends, He's a year round sport.

Someone out there is saying, “Tough talk, Pastor John. Way to encourage the flock. NOT.” Why should I even be bothered by this stuff? I ask myself that a lot. The trouble is that I’m haunted, as a shepherd responsible for presenting my flock before the Lord, by this very troubling thought: If they can’t figure out how to work their schedules so that they can go to the tournament and still go to church, how am I to believe that they will be able to work their lives so that when a moment of decision arrives, they will follow Jesus and not just go along with the crowd? The simple fact is, I’ve got a point. Talk is cheap. People say they believe a lot of things. But if you want to know what someone really believes, look at what they do. Our actions always betray what we really believe.

I’d feel better about people not being in church every week if I knew that they were praying together as families, reading their Bibles, sharing their faith with the other parents or kids on the soccer field. But honestly, I have yet to be told anything like this by anyone ever. The scary truth is that in the North American church we are light on prayer and Bible reading and light on private and public worship. And that’s why I get grumpy. Because I want more for my flock. I want them to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection. I want them to be equipped for the living of these days. I want them to be able to stand on the day of temptation. I want them to give themselves fully and with reckless abandonment to God.

So now we come to my control issues. Turns out, only Jesus can save people. Turns out, unless the Holy Spirit enables people to believe, they can’t. Wow. So I have all this passion and frustration because I so desperately want my flock to know and believe Jesus and the whole time, Jesus has the power to do just that. So then guilt overtakes me: I’ve wasted all this time on people. Instead, I ought to flee for refuge and help to the only One who can make what I want a reality: Jesus himself. Jesus, I beg you, help me, my family, my church family, my neighborhood, my doctor, my dentist, my barista, my city, my county, my country, my world; Lord! Help them to get you! Help them to find you irresistible.

May all the time I spend trying to make church acceptable to my congregation, may it all be better spent with You, Jesus, pleading, interceding, begging you on their behalf. Because You can change people, I can’t.

Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

Monday, May 10, 2010

If You Believe in Your Product, Sell It!

So I had this a interesting experience. We’ve been looking at different school possibilities for our kids. So we’ve been booking tours of facilities and meeting with teachers and administrators. Recently, we toured a very impressive edifice. It had everything going for it except one thing: excitement. The kids we saw seemed happy enough, but they weren't really part of the tour and they didn't express to us a desire that our kids should join them in the classroom. What I’m talking about is the staff. We sensed no excitement from them. And what was really interesting: no one tried to convince us that this was the best place in the world for our priceless children.

I can’t say whether they just expected that we’d be awed by the edifice and the place would sell itself. Maybe they felt their excellent reputation in education spoke for itself. Maybe they thought their curriculum and teaching methods would grab hold of us and so captivate our imaginations that we'd have no choice but to sign up. Or, maybe they thought we weren’t a good match for their school. All I know is that all the people I talked to at this place made me feel as if they didn’t care whether or not my kids attended there. Frankly speaking, it wasn't that I expected to be fawned over, I just expected some passion for their school and the impact it was making in the lives of their kids.

As we were leaving, my wife said, “My, they were very laid back about things.” Then she said, “I hope we don’t come across that laid back to our guests at church.” And that got me thinking not just about church but about Christian life in general.

Christians, isn't Jesus Christ the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to us? Isn't new life in him the best product, vacation, experience, or thrill you've ever had? Doesn't it just make you want to go out into the highways and byways and invite people to come to church with you and experience Jesus? Ummm.... Well.... Errrrr..... Ahhhhmmm....

I think what I'm saying is that we don't act like it. We act as if there are other options. We act surprised, even, when people WANT to worship Jesus with us. What happened to us?

I think the answer is we have forgotten our first love. We've learned to put other things in front of Jesus. I'm sure those things are good, but nothing gets to go in the Jesus place except Jesus.

Revelation 2:4 Jesus says to the church (at Ephesus but maybe to us, too?): "Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand." For 200 plus years, the North American church has dominated the Christian landscape. Now, it seems, instead of being the largest sending country for missionaries, we are the largest receiving country for missionaries. And we don't seem to be alarmed by this at all. Our so called main-line churches seem to have abandoned the teaching of the apostles. And I'm not sure that most congregations, regardless of affiliation, aren't rather luke-warm to experience on a Sunday morning. Have we lost our passion to the point where we no longer believe that Jesus is the absolute best thing for people?

You are entitled to your own opinion. I happen to think it's true. I think we've left our first love. And I thank God that he revealed the way back: repentance. Apparently that's where it all begins. Repentance.

The big question in my mind: how does the church repent? I'm open to your feedback. Stay tuned. This will be an on-going conversation. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

Monday, May 3, 2010

What I Learned in Omaha

Why Omaha? Because that was where the LCMC ( ) leadership conference was held on April 25-27, 2010.

I love Omaha. They have truly awesome food in Omaha. Svickova and dumplings at the Bohemian Cafe ( ), melt in your mouth prime rib at Johnny’s Cafe ( ), and while the food is definitely food service, you can’t beat the relaxing atmosphere while having lunch in the Durham Cafe at the amazing Joslyn Art Museum ( ).

The conference was amazing, too. Over 300 in attendance, which is a lot for an association with 400 churches. Listening to friends who have been in the LCMC since it’s birth, it’s amazing to think that a few years ago, 50 people was a lot for one these leadership deals. I asked one guy what it was like, watching this gathering of church leaders blossom and grow. He said it was weird considering that now few people new who he was. I couldn’t help but think that’s how people feel when congregations grow also.

There were many wonderful presentations. But one that really struck me was by my long time colleague, David Housholder ( ). There were a number of points he brought forward which I think are pertinent to our life and ministry at Zion and I want to share them with you now:

Lutheranism in America is about to have a demographic catastrophe. This isn’t new information, but for a denominational group that stopped growing and begin the slide toward extinction in the mid 60s, we are now much closer to the end game. Housholder was bold enough to equate the precipitous fall in Lutheran numbers with the advent of the birth control pill in 1965 and the facts bare him out. He correctly identified three major waves in American Lutheranism: the growth that came through immigration in the later part of the 19th century and early 20th; growth from the early 1900s until 1965 from having lots of kids; and now, the third wave, the real possibility of extinction. See my earlier blogs for the stats and the links to websites that prove this statistical analysis. This means that in order to survive, we must grow through conversion. In fact, according to Housholder, we must grow our congregations by 10% each year purely through adult conversions and baptisms in order to stay alive. Wow. That’s exciting. It means we have to get back to our first love, proclaiming the real Gospel of Jesus. Finally, all the excuses are gone. We HAVE to do mission! Praise the Lord!
For my part, I wonder how well prepared we are to undertake such an enterprise. But I’m so excited to be part of the generation of pastors who must completely change the way we have been doing things for the sake of reaching a world around us that does not know Jesus or understand its need for him. Bring it on, God!
Dave talked about how he was present in Ethiopia at a meeting of evangelists from the Makene Yesus Church (Lutheran/ ). They had charts and graphs and were emphatic that they must baptize 163,000 people this year. Why? Because they baptized 163,000 people last year. And they believe they must baptize 163,000 more every year in order that the line on the graph showing the growth of Christians will meet the line symbolizing the growth of their population on their charts. They want nothing less than an Ethiopia where everyone is a believer in Jesus Christ. What boldness. What an amazing, refreshingly honest, kingdom attitude they have. Wouldn’t be great to desire the same thing? The only time I’ve seen charts and graphs in the American church is when we’re talking about money. Now is the time that we must learn from our Ethiopian brothers and be bold and dream big dreams. Because Jesus wants to reach everyone through us. Can you imagine if every one of our churches had the lofty goal of the total conversion of our states, cities, towns, and neighborhoods? Let the charting and graphing begin! Wow, these are exciting times.

So, while the challenges we face are daunting, they are real kingdom work to which our Lord and Master has called us to. Time to get out there really work the vineyard. Maybe it took the real possibility of the loss of everything to make us do it, but at least we’re beginning. May we be as bold as the Ethiopians in following Jesus into the lives of others. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Praise of Pastor’s Spouses Everywhere

Disclaimer: Since my blog is about all things church, I feel justified in posting this. Naturally, none of the difficulties I reference occur at my present church, but are simply a collection of events from other times and other places and the experiences of other people. I use the pronoun “she” to describe the pastor’s spouse because it is convenient. I acknowledge and thank all those men who are married to women in the ministry.

Sometimes the tending of souls that a pastor does is so exhausting, often times there simply isn’t anything left to give to the tending of other, more material things that simply have to be done in this life. Like flowers, bushes, trees, leaky sinks and window sills. Too often, the tending of one’s own children, marriage and other significant relationships also get passed over because of psycho-spiritual exhaustion. Clergy have an incredibly high divorce rate and one of the highest rates of chemical dependancy in any career. The burn out rate among pastors is extraordinarily high. Frequently, pastors go on to become human resource specialists or insurance salesmen. Can you imagine what it must be like to be married to a pastor? Most mere mortals would never survive being married to a pastor so God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, made a special class of humans, the pastor’s spouse.

The pastor’s spouse understands that ministry runs in seasons and like the seasons, it is impossible to ever be fully prepared for their length. So she has enormous patience with her husband who vanishes for days or sometimes weeks, and sometimes, months, showing up at odd and inconvenient times to eat or sleep.

The pastor’s spouse doesn’t file for divorce when, in his delirium, he looks at her during a conversation and says, “I’m very sorry, dearest, I simply have no ability to converse with you tonight.”

The pastor’s spouse isn’t phased by phone calls or text messages or e-mails at all hours because she understands that the moment of decision in a person’s life cannot be scheduled neatly into office hours.

The pastor’s spouse bears up under disappointment well, always expecting the best but understanding that when dealing with people and their spiritual lives nothing is ever convenient.

The pastor’s spouse realizes that her ambition must be laid aside for the sake of her family and her marriage because if she works during the week and her husband on the weekends and holidays, they will never see each other nor be able to spend meaningful time together. She understands that you can seldom or never go home for Christmas or Easter if your family home is more than a day’s drive away.

The pastor’s spouse knows that you must squeeze every drop of joy when joy is to be found because tomorrow may bring heartache and pain in the lives of others and therefore in the life of her husband and his ministry.

The pastor’s spouse understands when there simply isn’t money in the bank or a raise in salary every year because her family’s welfare is dependent upon the welfare and generosity of other families.

The pastor’s spouse is patient when her “honey-do” list is overlooked for months and sometimes years in order that others might be served first.

The pastor’s spouse has extraordinary self control in order to share the pew with many who are convinced they could preach a better sermon, lead more effectively and do a better job of running the church then her husband.

And when the pastor’s spouse is at the breaking point and needs somewhere to turn, she is content that only Jesus and a precious few friends can ever truly understand her life or be trusted to keep her secrets safe or truly share her burden without being scandalized and calling her “unspiritual.”

And when the pastor is finally put out to pasture, his health broken, his mind exhausted, the pastor’s spouse knows she must nurse him and be content with whatever they have managed to set aside for these years knowing that true retirement and true rewards are not found in this world but only in the kingdom yet to come.

And I have no doubt that when the pastor’s spouse awakens in the arms of Jesus, the Savior will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Though you sacrificed for every one, you did it really for me. Of all my servants, you are one who exhibits so faithfully my decree, ‘I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done.’ Come, enter the rest prepared for you since before the world was created.”

Martin Luther, the great reformer, was late to marry. But he found bliss in his married life to Katherine von Bora, a former nun. He praised her as the book of Proverbs praised the “good wife.”

From Proverbs 31:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not hard, all the days of her life...

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness....

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Thank you, pastor’s spouses, everywhere. You are the person behind the preacher who keeps us accountable, honest, humble, and gives us joy when we come home. Thank you for your sacrifice to Christ and his kingdom. Yours is a unique and often misunderstand and overlooked ministry. Great will be your reward. God bless, thanks for reading. PJ