Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Summer At Zion Church

It’s a busy summer at Zion.
Don’t think that just because the suns out and the weather has warmed up that we’ll be closing the church. We’ll be here to do ministry each week and here’s a look all the things going on this summer. We hope you’ll be participating in many of the exciting events. Some of the things you may recognize from previous years:

Wednesday’s offer the opportunity for your kids to come and have fun at Zion from 1-3 p.m. each week beginning June 8.

Vacation Bible School is looking for volunteers. Don’t forget to register all the kids in your life either in the lobby or online at

And some of the things are brand new.
CANVAS Art Camp.
Something new for us this year at Zion. CANVAS: Crafted by God, Creative for Jesus is an art camp designed to reflect on Ephesians 2:10, “We are His workmanship created for good works in Christ.” CANVAS is an opportunity for children third through seventh grade to learn painting, collage and 3D art from Christian artists and find ways to express their God given creativity. Artist Ann Williams will also be joining us from Lincoln, NE. You may remember her as one of the artists who exhibited at Zion’s art show last spring. The camp is a Zion project led by Grace Kline with help from Cyndee Buck who runs the Express Your Faith art ministry at Lutheran Church of Hope. CANVAS will also be an outreach event with kids from the neighborhood attending. We’re also pleased to announce that a youth group from Hayward, WI, on a mission trip will be helping us. CANVAS will be held July 11-15 between 12 and 4:30 p.m. Lunch is included. Registration is $25 per child and will begin in June. Watch the weekly bulletin and the website for details.

Summer Book Club for Adults
Want some good spiritual books to read this summer? Come join us on Sunday mornings June 21, July 19 and August 23 at 9:15 at Zion. The three books we’ll be reading are, Practicing the Presence of God: Letters from a Skeptic; and The Ragamuffin Gospel. Check the Adult Discipleship page on the Zion website for more details. Conversations about the books will be led by Bob Norris.

Invited Inn
It’s time for more homeless families to call Zion their home for a week. Our guests will be here the week of May 22nd. Make them welcome and if you can help, sign up in the lobby.

Summer Adult Discipleship
All offerings are held in the Fellowship Hall at 9;15 a.m. Sundays
June 12, Rev. Harold Hosch, “The Shema in Our Lives” (Deuteronomy) The Shema is Israel’s confession of faith, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Find out from our scholar in residence the significance of this statement to our life and faith today.
July 10, Shannon Bauer, “Identity in Christ” Shannon Bauer is a therapist currently practicing at a clinic in Ankeny, at Zion, and at Hope Lutheran on the Eastside of Des Moines. Shannon will led us through a discussion of who we truly are and expose who we are truly not.
August 14, Rev. Shola Falodun. Shola’s life experience could be a topic all of it’s own. From life in Nigeria to hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, Shola has experienced much and found God at work in all of it. Come and get to know our very own community missionary.

Outreach Events
We have seen so much fruit from the simple outreach events we did last summer that we’d like to do it again. We plan on revisiting the Douglas Terrace apartment complex on Sunday and brining our bounce houses, some food and music as well as games and things for the kids to do. We’ll be asking for volunteers and hope to know the exact dates of these outreaches soon.

We also plan on doing a new outreach, similar to those at Douglas Terrace, to the four apartment complexes clustered around the Wunder Years Academy (Head Start) at Clarkson and MLK. Wunder Years has expressed a desire to do something for their neighbors and we plan to help. So a party is in it’s planning stages and we’ll keep you abreast of this new outreach opportunity.

Redeemer (Lutheran Church) Neighborhood Outreaches
Zion and Redeemer are sister churches in the same denomination (LCMC) and we dream of one day being able to tithe Redeemer some of our members and a pastor so that they can “re-plant” their church. Redeemer is strategically located in the Drake neighborhood, just blocks from the University campus. There are many apartment complexes very close to the church and we feel that this summer is the perfect time to start a Douglas Terrace type outreach at Redeemer. Four Sunday dates have been chosen. They are: June 5, July 10, August 7 and September 11. We hope that you’ll consider coming to Redeemer on these Sundays and helping us reach out to their neighborhood and introduce them to Christ and his church.

Street Outreaches Continue
We’ll keep on during the summer reaching out to the homeless with lunches and prayers. Every third Saturday you can come at 9:00 a.m. and make lunches and then go and distribute them.

Out of town on weekends this summer?
Try our midweek worship service.
The more service will continue this summer. Wednesdays are the new Sundays. more offers a different look at the Sunday sermon in a casual, come as you are, relaxed environment in the Fellowship Hall. Service begins at 6:35 p.m. A light supper is available beforehand beginning at 5:45.

New Clothes Closet (and furniture and housewares, too)
To better serve our community and our Zion family, Zion will be having a clothes closet. Donations of clothes and household goods can be made in the Fellowship Hall.  They will be sorted and available for distribution downstairs in room 110.  Jodi Whitsitt will be heading up this ministry.  We are currently seeking donations of plastic tubs, hangers, and garment racks in order to get started.  These items can also be dropped off at the church. This ministry will function in conjunction with clothing donations made to our Street Outreach ministry and Hope Ministries.

Community Gardens
Where are we with our plans to make garden plots available to the community and church members on the land just to the south of our building? Well, we have some great volunteers waiting for land to till and mark off in plots. We also have great volunteers looking for truckloads of compost to improve the poor soil quality that currently exists on the site. Once we have the dirt and a way to mix it into our current soil, we’ll be ready to start. Even if we can’t get a crop in this summer, we’re still excited to be ready for next year with plots assigned to members and friends in the community. Many of the plots will be given to immigrant families who miss their connection to the land. If you have any compost to donate or would like to help with the project in any way, please contact Pastor John. Brian Thielges is our new project manager on this exciting new project.

Well Done
A huge thank you to all who volunteered this past academic year at Zion. Thank you to everyone who helped clean the church, teach Sunday School or other classes, who gave time or money to help us in our mission efforts. Sunday School and Wednesday Wow volunteers will be honored at 9:15 on Sunday, May 22. It was a fantastic year and we wish you all a magnificent summer and hope to see you back in the fall.

A big thank you as well to those of you who drove kids to school this year. From December 1 through the end of the school year, we have transported 14 kids to and from school each school day. This effort has resulted in 13 van driving volunteers. Thanks.

Thanks to all who folded bulletins, stuffed letters, helped with IT or the website or answered phones or ran vacuums or went on a Street Outreach or a Monday Night Supper or who made our guests welcome during an Invited Inn week.

And for those of who have been helping tutor kids on Wednesday night or helping us with crowd control - praise God! What more can we say. We had 15 steady volunteers and saw and increase from 4 kids in September to nearly 70 in May. Thank you.

And to the Wednesday night kitchen crew and those who did the grocery shopping and Tuesday night food prep - thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and this year we had a new record for meals served on a Wednesday night - 289. Thank you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

This Summer Pastor John Shall Read

Turns out the books on ministry were right: it does take between 3 and 5 years to establish your ministry as a pastor in an established church. In my case, I think it took the entire five years. Now, contemplating the end of my sixth year at Zion, and the beginning of my sixth summer here, I look back and wonder where all the time went. I simply don’t recall having time to read during the summer before. It seems the first summer we were having a baby and after that we were always completely redoing all the programming or running at a frantic pace to try and get the right people to the right places or raise the necessary revenue to continue the ministry. But this year is different. This summer, Pastor John shall read.

I’m looking forward to reading again. It seems like it’s been ages since I had time to read. It doesn’t help that I’m a slow reader, a fact complicated by my need to stop and take notes and think things through.

So I have a big pile of books on my desk in my study at home. They’ve been accumulating throughout the year. I’d like to share my reading list with you in part to invite you to read along with me, but also so that you will know what I’m thinking about and mulling over this summer.

1, The Bible. Yes, it’s true. I’ll be reading the Bible. I’ve decided to try a radically different translation, however. I’ll be reading Eugene Peterson’s The Message. It claims to be the Bible in today’s English so I’ll be interested to see how reading the old, old story with updated words will affect me. I look forward to new insights.

2. Building A Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church by Mark DeYmaz. I’ve quoted DeYmaz in my blog from a recent podcast he did. He referenced his own book and I bought it right away. I’ve started it already and I think the insights are extremely helpful for where we are as a church that is being integrated by God and for what I think He has in store for us in the not so distant future. Last Wednesday night I referenced DeYmaz’s list of seven things we must do to integrate the church during my sermon. This is very thought provoking stuff and I’m particularly grateful for his astonishing exegesis of John 17. I’m grateful to have recently joined DeYmaz’s Mosaix network of churches who are intentionally integrating different races.

3. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. The subtitle is: “The Alternative Gospel of the American Church.” Been on my desk for a year, I think. Recently re-recommended by a reader of this blog. I’ve seen it referenced elsewhere and I look forward to delving in. I assume, (which is always dangerous!) that it will tell me the church has left behind the teachings of Jesus for either customer service, entertainment, or cultural accommodation. I think that might be true in many cases. My fear is always that we tend to paint with too broad a brush and wind up cursing what God is blessing. I’ve seen so many people come to faith in Christ because they were attracted by the “parlor tricks” we sometimes play at church in order to make it interesting. At the end of the day, however, what got them in the door wasn’t what saved them. They met Jesus. So I’m interested to see this book’s take on the relationship between throwing a good party (Jesus was always going to parties) and straight forward, no nonsense biblical preaching.

4. Eric Jensen’s Teaching with Poverty in Mind, given to me by one of the great teachers in our school district. The subtitle is: “What Being Poor Does to Kid’s Brains and What Schools Can Do About It.” I’m intrigued. I wouldn’t have chosen this book off the shelf, but since it comes from a respected colleague in the fight to teach kids about Jesus, I will devour it this summer. I want to make sure that our attitude to teaching the kids in poverty who come to our church is godly. I suppose I fear that maybe my presuppositions about education are incorrect. So I look forward to the challenge this book might present.

5. The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. One of the associations we belong too sent it to me for free and I was intrigued. I’d heard about it from a good friend before. The subtitle declares: “A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives.” I hope it does. I’m tired of wasting time watching the same folks live out the same scenarios over and over again. Sometimes I think our congregations are only interested in what the church will give them, i.e., a good youth program. They don’t seem to be affected by what we preach at all. If they comment at all it’s because we taught them some new fact about 1st century Judaism they didn’t know before. They don’t say, “Wow. That teaching from the Bible changed my life.” I simply don’t know how to preach to people who think they know it all but whose lives appear to be joyless and devoid of sacrifice, cross carrying, struggle, or peace. So, needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s inside this one.

6. George Barna’s Revolutionary Parenting. Turns out, the problem with kids these days might well be their parents. We believe putting our kids in the right situations will make them the right kinds of people. But there is so much more to raising a “spiritual champion.” Lately, I’ve been shocked by the parents who seem so out of touch with what their kids are actually doing. “My child would never do that!” But it seems as if the kids are teaching each other and the parents are completely out of the mix. Kids in our church are having oral sex and saying it isn’t real sex; they are soliciting sex on FaceBook; they are “sexting;” they are bullying each other and figuring out how to guilt their peers into doing what they want. We need some heart to heart talks with parents and I have to have some information to share. So this is a start. Wish me luck. :) I want my own kids to be spiritual champions. Don’t you?

7. Swedish novels by such authors as Kjell Erickson and Henning Mankell. You could say that it’s good to read something besides church stuff. But what fascinates me about these novels (and I have three on the docket), is how they are filled with anxiety and hopelessness, especially when it comes to death. Here are a couple of quotes to show what I mean:

“He said silent, agitated prayers - not really to any god, but more to himself, urging himself to resist, to not allow himself to be dragged down into eternal silence.”

“I can feel death tugging me at me. The earth is pulling me down. Sometimes, when I wake up during the night, just before the agony gets so bad that I need to scream, I have time to ask myself if I’m scared of what lies in store. I am.”

In these novels there is no relationship with God. No Jesus. No hope. No salvation. After living in Europe, I can tell you they are accurate indicators where many, many people are in terms of their understanding about what death is. It is silence. It is non-being. It is over. Wow. How tragic.

I feel I must be continually reminded about how Europeans just 10-20 years old than I feel about death. Hopeless. I feel this is important because I believe as a culture we shall soon be there. In my brief life of ministry, spanning some 20 plus years now, I have met so many people older than I who attend church regularly but who seem to have no peace when it comes to their mortality. I cannot comment harshly, as I am younger and, people argue, less likely to die soon. But I also remember the day I made peace with death through Jesus Christ. I remember Jesus assuring me it wasn’t something to worry about. And that, in fact, is what Scripture tells us. So I read these kind of novels so as not to loose touch with the audience we need to reach with the hope and peace and love and joy of Jesus Christ.

8. The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, by Gabe Lyons. I bought this book in the winter and took it on our vacation to Florida but never got to read much of it. The idea behind the book is that the emphasis of churches is changing. Many churches will die out because they are self centered. But there are many churches who are finding Jesus is leading them into a glorious future full of hope. These are churches that are both deep in their teaching and effective in their local outreaches. They make a spiritual difference in the lives of their members and make a real impact in their city. I plan to finish the book this summer.

9. Here’s a real classic. My wife recently read it in one of her group studies. The Christian’s Secret of A Happy Life.” Written by Hannah Whitall Smith in 1952, it’s a classic. But good books are timeless. So I look forward to her advice. If Christian’s need anything in 2011, it’s joy.

10. The last book is all about me and for me. So I may very well read it first. But I doubt it. For years I’ve been trying to find a way to have a healthy lifestyle as a preacher. Food, it appears, is my downfall. Growing up, food was a reward. It was the thing you got when the work was done, when you’d done a good job. I put on a 100 pounds at my last church because I didn’t eat dinner until late at night - when the work was done. For almost a decade I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to take it off. It’s hard to believe that I was once tall, tan, thin and blond. But I have pictures! So I’m reading Eat Your Way to a Healthy Life, by Ed and Elisa McClure. The McClure’s are from Texas and I wish I was there now. He ate bbq (without sauce) for the first 100 pounds. Being a preacher presents a time challenge as far as food prep is concerned (we have early morning, lunch, and evening meetings). Also, as far as money is concerned, fresh food costs more and let’s face it, it’s far, far more convenient to the schedule to eat out. So I have a lot to learn and am looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to suggest books I should read or share what you will be reading this summer. God bless. PJ