An Invitation to Be Weird….

Over the years the church has been changing to meet perceived desires of potential clientele. The thought is that if the place looks more like a coffee shop or movie theater people would be more likely to come. Messages saw the enhancements of movie clips and other audio/visual effects. Pulpits disappeared and stools took their place. Worship sets included light shows and some have incorporated fog machines. The ‘feel’ is that of a concert.

There have been rumblings from some of the younger crowd who are wearied over being targeted by the church in these ways. It’s as if the church doesn’t think the younger folks can appreciate old traditions. Others have experienced a lift during the service that quickly fades similar to attending a concert. Emotions are targeted but they soon fade but where does transformation occur?

background-smaller

I am inviting you to be weird. Like when modern music wanes we look to the past to find authentic quality music. The church has had long standing, ancient traditions which are designed to move you along deeper in your faith. The historic practices of the church were not like attending a concert where people are merely recipients but they participated. They used a liturgy which encouraged people to join in the movement of the service. All good West Virginians know when they hear Almost heaven…….. that what comes next is West Virginia. Or when we hear We are……. we’re ready to respond with Marshall!

At Redeemer we practice an ancient/future faith with Christ at the center of all we do. With our use of light liturgy, celebrating ancient traditions like the church calendar and weekly communion, proclaiming our faith with words from 325 AD, and sermons from the Bible one gets the ‘otherness’ of church. Though we are made in the image of God, He is holy ‘other’ from us. Rooted in history, our traditions remind us that God is different than our everyday surroundings and this helps lead us into deeper worship. The future side is practiced as we sing contemporary songs and apply the Bible to our lives today in real and relevant ways.

Weird can be good. But, what if you don’t know how it all works? That’s OK. We’re user friendly and we explain as we go. Before long the awkward newness becomes comforting familiarity. In a world of shifting sand the ‘weird’ may be the anchor your faith needs.

 

 


How I came to faith

I love to hear how people came to faith in Christ. I chose this platform to share my story.

As a child I attended church with my mother and sisters.  As a youth I didn’t attend much.  My Dad and I would spend most weekends working on our farm. We enjoyed a lot of quality time together and I was always close to my Dad. He came to Christ later in life.  When he did it impacted the rest of the family. As we had children my wife and I started attending church.  The church we attended didn’t stress our need for a savior or living in relationship with Christ.  I felt I was a good person and I knew intellectually that Jesus died for my sins.  I didn’t live in gratitude or obedience of that fact.

I attended church and Sunday school but I didn’t really have a relationship with Christ.  I attended some YoungLife banquets and would hear young people (high school and college aged) give their testimony in front of other young people and adults and it occurred to me that they had something I didn’t have. I lived for myself. I loved my wife and my family but I really still lived for myself.

I was a respected business man in a small town in Virginia. I was in the lube business (think Jiffy Lube but different) and had the opportunity to sell one of my stores in 1995. I had long weeks leading up to our last day. To celebrate my manager and I enjoyed some beverages while counting inventory and even more as we went for pizza after we were finished. I almost made it home. At the bottom of a mountain on the interstate I had fallen asleep, awoke when I hit the median, turned the wheel, spun and flipped my truck over the guardrail. The truck was recently restored and very special to me (think golden calf special). It was destroyed. People couldn’t believe anyone survived. I couldn’t believe that I survived.

Truck3Truck2

I began searching for ‘more’ and seeking understanding as to why my life was spared. I attended a bible study because I knew I didn’t know enough. During this study I began to be aware of my sin and apathy. I surrendered my life to Christ. My life has never been the same. I have peace in all circumstances (almost always) because I know that everything here is temporary. I now see things from a Biblical perspective. I have hope for the future no matter how bad things are here. This is not our home.

Humbled, I began to recognize that I was not ‘good enough’ to enter the presence of a Holy God. I had to repent of my sins and my own righteousness and trust Christ to pay my sin debt and give me His righteousness. (I grew into this understanding over a long period of time. I came to understand that the only thing I contributed to my salvation was my sin.)

My walk with Christ impacted how I love my wife and children, how I lead my family and ran my business. Over the years I have grown through earnest study, attending retreats, conferences and serving in the church. I have been blessed to experience authentic community with other earnest believers who accepted me with all my faults and loved me anyway. They encouraged me. A major tool which God uses in our sanctification is the gift of others. We are saved into His body of believers, the church. I have come to understand my experience with Christ is not just for me but for others with whom I come in contact. As a believer we become the light of Christ to a darkened world.

My wife and I attended a Walk to Emmaus in 1997 the weekend after I returned from Promise Keepers’ Stand in the Gap. Our three children were ages 3 – 6 at the time. Emmaus helped me understand the basics of the faith, grow my confidence in God’s word and tangibly experience the love of Christ through the body of Christ. My wife and I both went back and served on a number of weekends ever since. Our life became an expression of gratitude for what the Lord had done in saving us. Emmaus became a tool which God used to shape us and prepare us for serving Him even more in the future. We continued to grow in our faith. Our children all came to real saving knowledge of Jesus. They each served the Lord in their college years and value authentic Christian community as they experienced in our home and at school.

We helped start a church in our family room. The planting pastor mentored me. I grew in my understanding of theology and knowledge of the Scriptures. Ultimately the Lord gave us an opportunity to sell our lube business and I attended seminary. I’ll write more about my call to ministry and our call to return to West Virginia to plant a church in another post.

Thanks for reading. If I can answer any questions please feel free to contact me.


How snow diminishes ministry……

2016-02-09 13.47.34.jpgMinistry suffers when finances dwindle. How does snow hurt church finances? Simple. No church service – no offering.

Does that mean you can save money by not going to church? If your answer is ‘yes’ you may want to consider why you give in the first place.

  1. Why do we give?

We read these verses to prepare for giving and receiving His tithes and our offerings.

Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. (1 Chronicles 29:12-14 ESV)

Gratitude

He owns it ALL! We are simply stewards or caretakers of HIS stuff. We model our giving after “first fruits” offerings from the Old Testament which Jesus commends in the New (Matt 23:23). In Acts 2 and 4 the church contributed all they had to share with those who had need. Like David and God’s people of the Old Testament they recognized that all they had belonged to God. They were grateful for who God is and all that He had done for them. They attributed their blessings all to Him so they gave generously simply because they were thankful.

Through the cross we are confronted with the ultimate goodness of Christ on behalf of undeserving sinners. Having received grace and His righteousness we will want to give.

Growth

Giving of our time and our money helps us grow in our self denial and our reliance upon God.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 ESV). As we give our hearts will follow. We release what is important to us and trust God will aid us to meet our needs. Our faith grows as a result of trusting Him with our finances.

Worship

The words above are King David’s as he led the people of God in worship as they contributed to the materials to build the temple. Giving is part of our worship. As often as people are offended at churches asking for money, I’m never embarrassed to present the opportunity. It is a way for us to ascribe to the Lord that He is ruler over all, even our finances.  “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!” (Psalm 96:8 ESV). It is a prescriptive element in our worship laid out in Scripture.

 2. How much do we give?

The New Testament examples are 100%. Jesus seems to affirm the tithe (10%) cited above in Matt 23:23 of the “first fruits” offering. It may take some adjusting or growth of one’s faith and finances to become a tither. The discipline of giving regularly helps develop a disciple of Jesus as listed above. So, one should give as he has set in his heart. Develop the discipline with a percentage of your gross income and trust God to help you discern your needs and wants until which time you want to give more. Systematically build to 10% to your local church (Mic 3:10).

If there is a desire to give beyond the tithe to other worthwhile ministries we refer to that as your offerings. At the offertory we frequently say, “His tithes and our offerings” to note the different categories.

3. How frequently should we give and how?

In our electronic age I know “there’s an app for that” now. I hate to write checks these days. If I can’t pay online or electronically that makes it tough on me. I’ve heard of ATM/Debit card machines positioned in the entrance of churches. I’d rather see a baptismal font there instead. If it wasn’t for my wife I would probably set up an auto pay through our online banking. Idealy we want to give as an act of worship each Sunday. My wife can still write checks and between the two of us we can remember the checkbook most Sundays. We want to participate in this act of worship weekly.

Since this is a first fruits offering most tithers arrange their giving in concert with their pay coming in or divide their total by 52 weeks. If we go on vacation we don’t “save” money by not being in our church to write a check. If we forget our checkbook (which happens a lot) we don’t “save” money by not writing a check. If it snows and we cancel church it has no bearing on us “saving” money. Tithers tithe. You give what you’ve set in your heart to give whether it snows or not. Your church continues to have expenses and commitments that need to be met. Staff salaries continue, missionaries, church plants, connected church ministries and ministry partners all are still relying on your involvement regardless of the weather in your hometown.

I’m a church planter in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Most of our people give as I’ve suggested above. Our needs are small and snow will not adversely affect our giving at this time. Your church may be supporting pastors like me. Don’t let snow diminish the ministry of the gospel going forth in your hometown or in towns far away which your church supports.

Only encouraging not chastising.

Bridging your story with God’s, I’m Jim Sallie from Redeemer.