Posted tagged ‘church renewal’

Contemporary Simla

August 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         August 17, 2017

                                

Bill Hale, my co-conspirator….err, partner in ministry, bought me lunch yesterday and then told me about his previous Sunday’s experience at First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado. Bill, another great guy named Ed Stucky, and I have been filling the pulpit at the Simla church for the past year and a half.

Now, a couple of things about Bill! He is a retired school teacher who happens to be nine days younger than me, loves country music, and has a keen wit. He and his wife Sylvia have directed our regional denomination’s camp week at Quaker Ridge (Even though we’re American Baptists!) Camp for the past several years. The past two summers I’ve come alongside them, kind of like Larry came alongside Moe and Curly! On the last night of camp this past July Bill dressed up as the Tooth Fairy. I have pictures!

Simla First Baptist is a small congregation of 25…maybe! That’s if everyone, plus their pets, come to church! They have done the best they can, not having the financial resources to pay a pastor or make many improvements. One of the things they haven’t had is an organist, pianist, or even guitar player. So they make do with what we simply call “a music machine.” The music machine plays the background organ music for whatever hymn the congregation is struggling to sing. More times than not it plays the wrong music, or plays the music too slow or softly. Every hymn we sing is a potential Saturday Night Live skit. When you don’t have what you’ve never had you don’t know any difference!

Rev. Hale (as of his ordination service this past May 7) is a bit bolder than me. (We have coffee at Starbucks, but he brings his McDonald’s Diet Coke cup! Radical!) Last Sunday he brought a projector, a laptop, and a screen to Simla. The last projector Simla First Baptist had was the type that you connect a reel of film to and thread it through to connect to the back reel. He set up the screen and the projector and his laptop and, using DVD’s, had the congregation sing praise songs with music and words. For the Sunday message he used a power point to illustrate his sermon, plus a video clip! It was like a tsunami washed over the congregation…and they loved it!

This Sunday I’ll be joining Bill and Sylvia in Simla. They’ve got me doing the children’s story! He’s bringing the projector and screen again and we’ll see if they can bear two Sundays in a row of “the new stuff.”

The Simla church is like many small town churches (SImla’s population has shrunk down to around 500). The possibility of closure is greater than the hope of continuing. They remember in days and decades gone by when the sanctuary was close to capacity. Those days have long since disappeared, and yet in recent months this small congregation has done some amazing things. They paid for and sent four kids to the Quaker Ridge camp week, and  gave a gift of almost $2,000 to help a young couple raise the needed financial support they needed to begin their new venture as missionaries in Chiapas, Mexico. the church also committed to supporting the young family of four with a monthly financial gift. Those have all been great things, but…the music machine needed to have a “come to Jesus moment!” In other words, go on to the sweet by and by!

Bill Hale said something at lunch yesterday that resonated with me. He said, “They deserve better!” Churches like Simla have often been content to settle for less. They’ve settled for less for so long they may not even realize they deserve better.

Don’t get me wrong! Bringing a projector, a laptop, and a screen are not going to transform this little church. I think they’re already in the midst of transformation, ever so slowly, but still they are changing.

I’ve told them several times that they have allowed me to fall in love with the church again…even though on most Sundays we wouldn’t need a whole pot of chili to feed the entire congregation. But you don’t need a huge number of people to love the church. You simply need a group of people who are committed to one another for the journey. The Saints of Simla, as I call them, are great people…who deserve more!

Now it’s getting them to believe it! All things are possible with God! He can even use a 63 year old man who likes to dress up as the Tooth Fairy!

Moses and Joshua Renewal

March 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      March 30, 2015

                                       

If I typed the letters “M” and “J” on this page many of you who are reading this would instantly think of Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. It’s the end of March…March Madness…basketball frenzy time…Spartans in the Final Four (My excitement is showing!).

But since I’m a pastor who has “been through it” more times than I can count “MJ” also has another meaning for me…especially since we just went through a Renewal Weekend at our church.

“MJ” is short for “Moses and Joshua.” If the church is to experience renewal it needs to be a “Moses and Joshua Renewal.” Moses was in the final part of his journey. Joshua was in the first half of his. For that time in the history of the Israelites…from wandering in the desert to crossing into the Promised Land…it took both men to bring the people along in the journey. It took the elder and the younger walking together to figure things out.

I firmly believe that renewal amongst the people of God is a multi-generational event. Back in the 1980’s a multitude of churches bought into the idea that growth was tied to attracting people who look like you. Racially, economic class, theological beliefs, and such! The last twenty years has resulted in a new twist on the church growth idea: churches growing because they are focused on one or two generations. Elders worship with elders. Youngers worship with youngers.

Here’s the thing! Moses needed Joshua’s energy, strength, and courage; and Joshua needed Moses’ wisdom, experience, and depth.

Some might raise the point that the generation that exited Egypt, wandered in the desert, tested the patience of God, and questioned their leadership had to pass away before the Promised Land could be reached. That’s spot on, but think about those years of wandering. How often did those of Moses’ generation share their experiences, their mistakes, their “If I could do it over again” moments? There is a recent song by the group “Mercy Me” entitled “Dear Younger Me.” It tells of someone sharing with a younger version of the desire to talk about past errors in order to help prevent the younger person from doing the same.

Church renewal is everyone on the journey together, not just those you like or don’t get on your nerves. What would have happened if Joshua would have decided that Moses was too archaic and traditional to stay with him, so he departed “to start a new ministry?” What would have happened if Moses would have decided he wanted to put down roots in the desert and told Joshua if he wanted to go any further that was his choice? Leave him out of it!

One thing that needs to be understood: Leaders are called to lead. Seldom are leaders called to leave.

Leaving is a contemporary version of satisfying the self. It’s the statement that our culture has bought into that says “It’s all about me!”, but simply clothes in a spiritual sweater.

What would happen if the people of God committed themselves to Moses and Joshua renewal?

Another MJ moment!