Who is Grace Church For?

Many questions float around this subject, such as: “Are we a seeker-sensitive church?” or “Who are we ‘targeting?’” and “What is acceptable in a church service and what is not acceptable?”

The cleanest way to answer these questions is to say we are a church for people. Not a church just for “lost” people, not a church just for “church” people – but a church for all  people.

If church is only for “church people,” then we communicate that Christianity is only for “church people,” and by implication that Jesus is only for “church people.” However, the Bible is quite clear that nothing could be farther from the truth – Jesus came for the world.

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Getting Away

The family and I are leaving today for a short vacation. No big plans, just get some time to be together as a family and have fun! I’m planning on bringing a bunch of books and hoping to actually read. We’re going to my parent’s house where it’s nice and warm, down south. It’s important to have times to refresh and regroup.

Although church has been challenging lately, I know God is at work, there are too many signs to doubt it. I pray that having time to refresh with the family will enable me to return to GCR energized and ready for the new challenges that await us all. In it all, I want you to know how much I appreciate being in this journey with you! Do keep checking the blog as I hope to write some thoughts on GCR and on the current series.

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Sermon-Redefining Normal (Extras)

This morning we talked about redefining normal from God’s perspective. We looked at Daniel 1:1-20 and how inspite of a culture that was going one direction, Daniel and his friends choose to do it God’s way and the results were telling. Anyway, for me, one of the most powerful points in our time together was the end of the message where I challenged us all to “try” it God’s way for 3 weeks in 3 distinct areas. The point is powerful because as a pastor I began to dream, what if people took me up on this? What if we all got serious about redefining our normal in these three areas of relationships, sexuality and finances? What would that mean for us individually? What could happen in our families? workplaces? schools? and what would happen in our church???! The potential is endless! 

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Life with the Normals

The new series begins in just a few days and I can’t wait! My study on this subject has been enlightening and obviously this series will be a little “counter-cultural”. It’s funny to talk about “normal” because it’s all around us and most of the time we don’t realize how much we’re affected by our culture. We don’t realize that is until we see an alternate. God has created us to live differently than our culture. And I’m wondering how people will take this series. Either people will be refreshed and excited about living in a different way, free from many of the demands of our world or people will be offended because God’s words and counsel fly in the face of what we’ve accepted as “normal”.

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Painful Decisions but Future Hope

I write this blog with a heavy heart. In the next day or two, those of you on the church mailing list will get a letter written by me and elder board chairman, Jim Gustafson. Our community of faith here at Grace has been growing in spiritual maturity, especially in generosity/ giving to God’s work, but the growth has been slow and gradual and therefore we’ve been really stretched financially as a church. Add to this the economic issues of our world right now and we have the perfect storm. Over the last many months we’ve worked hard to cut expenses and be real creative with what we’ve had to work with, but it wasn’t enough.

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The Hand of God

Last night at dinner I was praying. My middle daughter, Syndey had a slight fever and was sick with a cold. I prayed that God would put His healing hand on her body. When I said “amen” my oldest, Jessica, immediately said, “ya know dad, God has two hands!” At first I didn’t put together what she was talking about – then I connected it to the prayer. She said, “God can heal Sydney with both of his hands, he doesn’t just have the one!” I said, “you’re right Jessica!” Then I said, “ya know, Jessica, daddy has some things he says from being around church a lot and I need to pay attention to that, and but the point is God can heal and he does work in our lives. So just let daddy be the pastor and you be the kid, ok punk!” (ok that last sentence was a total fabrication and I said nothing of the sort! haha)

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Ah, the accomplishment of sports

I had an opportunity this morning to play some pickup basketball at Northwestern — I really have missed the game. Since coming to Minnesota, the times I’ve been able to play could be counted on one hand. Both in Rockford, IL and NJ, I was playing pretty much weekly and found it to be a great source of exercise and fun. I also reflected on how sports, like basketball can provide a “lift” because there is immediate results. In the world of church/ ministry, our work is more like a farmer planting seeds. You know the seeds are good ones, and you know if you take care of them and wait long enough you’ll see results (that obviously God brings about). Not a guarantee, but a worthwhile pursuit nonetheless. That being said, it’s really nice to have an environment (like basketball) where you play the game, your shots go in or they miss, the game is over and you feel like you accomplished something. I know, I know for you non-sports people you’re thinking, what did you accomplish? You got a little orange ball in a basket and no one was there to see it and no one remembers what even happened. And I’ll give you that, but accomplishment is not always something that others need to recognize and accomplishment isn’t always about recognizable results. Sometimes accomplishment can be a personal thing, a feeling, a sense. And well, I gained that sense this morning and I’m grateful for it.

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What do I whine about?

Yesterday at Grace we completed the On Mission series by looking at Paul’s undying commitment to the message of the Gospel. We ended the service by reading stories of martyrs and people who made significant sacrifices for the sake of God, His message and the Gospel. This prompted Lisa and I to talk yesterday afternoon about what kinds of things we get worked up about. And ultimately our discussion lead us to a place of thankfulness for what God has given.

I just realize the things I “whine” about and the things I get excited about often are so simple and so much less what is really worth getting up about. Especially as you look at your life in light of the commitment of others, the sacrifice of others. What am I doing to sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom? We even talked about our financial giving and said: are there things we could go without to give more money to the church? It’s amazing how the example of others can cause us to do a gut check and hopefully lead us to more productive ministry and lifestyle.

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blog series: Pt.3: To Win or Not To Lose (Church)

Today we conclude our 3 part blog series on being a prevailing church for the glory of God.

 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25 says this: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

What would a church look like that is in it to win? What would be the characteristics of a church that was pressing forward to please our Master, join His mission and surrender it all for His honor and glory?

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blog series: Pt.2: To Win or Not To Lose (Church)

Yesterday we began a 3 part blog series on “To win or not to lose” — today we’ll look at the characteristics the leadership brainstormed on a church that is in it, “not to lose”.

A church that is in it “not to lose” has the following characteristics: 

1. They work overly hard to keep people happy?

2. They can be overly defensive?

3. The elevate their tradition(s)?

4. They tend to be more “consumer-focused”?

5. They hang on to the current status?

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