Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pray 7-5-2

Photo credit here
A friend recently shared with me a reason he believes many people don't pray. He compared it to why many people don't go snow skiing. They know they are bad at it, so they don't even want to try.

Unfortunately, just because we think we are bad at something Jesus commanded, that's no excuse to avoid it. In Matthew 6, Jesus just assumes that His followers will be praying, and He gives instruction on correct motivations, right understanding, and even a model prayer. In light of this pattern, today our church kicked off what we are calling the Pray 7-5-2 campaign. We want to make it easier and more likely for prayer to become a part of your life and your family's life. With resources, challenges, and encouragement, we hope to build a pattern in our lives that becomes a lifestyle.

You can listen to the sermon online here. The Initial Assessment can be downloaded here, to see where you stand in your prayer life. And the Pray 7-5-2 Guide can be downloaded here, which is full of resources, ideas, and prompts.

We invite you to participate in this 90-day campaign with us, to better express our dependence on God to do what only He can do in our lives, our families, our churches, and our world. Let's dive in!

Let us know below if you are participating with us from afar! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Extended Family

Photo Credit: Sarah Willard
Every July 4th weekend, my extended family gathers at a pond and cabin on family land outside of my hometown in Oklahoma. My grandfather has 3 brothers, and each family line makes every attempt to attend this sweet time. This summer we had around 60 people.

Now, I understand our family's experience may differ from many other families. But as I was reading Carey Nieuwhof's article on things that get harder in a church as it grows, this family gathering came to mind. He said this: "Human reality dictates we can only truly know about 5 people deeply and about 20 people well." So regardless if a church is 100 or 1,000, you will not know everyone well (thus the importance of smaller groups and serving teams).

In this illustration, then, those few I know well in the church are like my immediate family (parents, siblings, etc.). They become the ones with whom I primarily spend time and call first when I need something. I approximate the rest of the church, then, to my extended family (second cousins, great uncles, etc.). You probably don't see them as often, and you don't know the details of their lives as well, but you still have that family connection and still love and support one another and have a great time together. I would wear myself out trying to keep up with every member in an extended family of 60+, but I know and love my smaller circle very well.

Nieuwhof closes with this nugget: "The point of church is not for everyone to know everyone. The point is for everyone to be known." So as a church gets bigger, it must get smaller. Members can cling to the feel of a small, immediate-family-style church, hindering any potential growth, or they can embrace the change demanded by reaching more people for Jesus and they can intimately know a few as they live life together and serve together. The extended family is an incredible blessing that can do more as a whole than they can do apart, but to be truly known one must cultivate the immediate family within a local church.

How have you seen this illustration to be true in your own life? In your church experience?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Loving God's Word

Photo credit here
I cannot remember where I came across this true story, but it is an incredible illustration of what it looks like to have a passion for God's Word. Enjoy it, and imitate it.

No one epitomizes a passion for God’s Word like Mary Jones, a little girl who lived around 1800. As an 8-year-old, Mary lived in a beautiful valley in Wales. Her parents were simple, godly people who took their little girl to church and taught her Bible stories from her earliest years. These stories had to be taught from memory since the family did not own a Bible in the Welsh language. Such Bibles were very scarce, and most people could not afford them. Yet Mary loved the Word of God and longed to read it for herself. When a school opened in her area, Mary enrolled so that she could learn to read. Then she began visiting a neighbor who owned a Bible in order to study the Bible for herself. She even memorized whole chapters of the Bible and shared them with her parents.

Next, Mary began saving money to purchase her own copy of the Bible. Over the next six years, she sold eggs, gathered wood, mended clothing, and cared for younger children. Finally, she had enough money to buy a Bible. The closest town where a Bible could be bought was Bala, more than 25 miles away. So very early on a spring day in 1800, Mary Jones began to walk, barefoot, to Bala. There she met Thomas Charles, a godly man who did a great deal of ministry throughout Wales. When Mr. Charles asked Mary about herself, her family, and her knowledge of the Bible, he was impressed. Moreover, he was amazed by her love for the Scriptures and her patient endurance in saving for a Bible of her own. But he sadly told the girl that all of the Welsh Bibles he had received from London in the past year had been sold months ago, except for a few that had been promised to friends who must not be disappointed. He also told her that the Bible Society in London had no plans to print more Welsh Bibles. At this news, Mary dropped into a nearby seat and began to sob. The little girl’s passion for the Word moved Mr. Charles. His own voice broken with emotion, he rose from his seat and placed a gentle hand on Mary’s head. “My dear child, I see you must have a Bible, as difficult as it is for me to spare you one. It is simply impossible to refuse you.” So Mary Jones walked the 25 miles back home with her own copy of the Bible.

The impact of Mary’s life was much more far-reaching than her little village. In 1802, Mr. Charles visited London and, moved by his experience with the girl, told Mary’s story to the Religious Tract Society. From that meeting, the British and Foreign Bible Society was established to spread the Scriptures around the world.