Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Evaluating family ministry...

Twenty of us met today to discuss the growing number of young families at our church. We acknowledged, as well, the increased variety of challenges including single parent homes, blended families, "deadbeat" dads, cultural redefinitions of family and roles, options to public education including home-schooling...and the list goes on. Each of these factors--and others--make us ask, "What can we do to build stronger families?"

Several pieces of information have motivated me afresh to ask this question. A single mother told me about her daughter's losing battle with meth addictiton; another mother of six (friend of my sister) fell out of a swing and broke her neck, leaving six chidlren motherless. And there are the daily phone calls detailing family crises of every color and form--more than we can effectively counsel and address with our current personnel resources.

Sadly enough, the battle for the family is being lost as much within the church as without. Divorce, premarital sex, infidelity--these things, and more, are prevalent among believers even though they are allegedly committed to the teachings of the Word of God which warns against each. Ministers, as the news reminds us almost weekly, have succumbed to the temptations of marital failure, in alarming numbers. even amongst our leaders in the church there is alarming evidence that God's word is not being taken seriously.

What can we do?

As we evaluate family ministries at Grace we are being drawn back to the teachings of scripture that talk about the role of a husband and wife, the training of children and the principles of maintaining healthy relationships. Even as I write these words I can sense the cultural antipathy towards words like "roles" and "training", as if they were archaic remnants of a hideous past.

The dissipation of the family unit parallels the concomitant descent into what has become a largely dysfunctional society. The fact that there are those who clamor for same sex marriages, punishment for those who spank their children, and other things that were unthinkable to us decades ago, only accentuates the dangerous path we are on. It mirror the demise of other great civilizations who abandoned values that once were critical to their internal strength.

As we evaluate family ministry, we realize we occupy a very small spot on the horizon of the future. But at Grace we feel compelled to a better job of teaching what the Word of God proclaims to be true...though it may make us the object of ridicule, even from those who sometimes attend.

In May I will present a series AT Grace on the subject, "The Family...According to the Bible". Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Missions Faire

Every year at Grace Fellowship we have a missions conference weekend. It has looked familiar the last several years--though it has been well-done--but was curiously absent of young families. Our Board of World Missions decided to address that issue this year, figuring that if we don't get young families involved NOW, our missions program in the future could be on unsteady ground.

Enter the Missions Faire, a wonderfully interactive environment for families to see and feel missions. Nineteen booths housed the various missionary enterprizes we support--both foreign and local--and were complete with video presentations, slide shows, pictures, hand-out materials of various related subjects, as well as some hands-on activities for children. These booths were manned by local church people, in some cases, and by visitng and local missionaries as they were available.

The net result was a significant increase in participation and many comments reflecting on the effectiveness of an atmosphere that engaged our senses--allowing us to literally have a visual and sensory exposure to the various missionary outreaches we support. It was exciting for me to see young children pounding nails into boards-as if they were constructing a building to house missionary activity--and staring curiously at videos of far-away places that probably seem like another world to them.

It was equally gratifying to see our church families working hard to construct booths, communicate with missionaries so they could effectively decorate a booth with appropriate artifacts and pictures from their country, and enthusiastically answer questions while welcoming guests to the various mission outreaches they represented.

Many of the missionaries participated in the Sunday morning interactive sermon I prepared, utilizing their testimonies as a n illustration of how we can be "salt" and "light"--each one of us--in a world that so desperately needs the good news of the gospel (Matthew 5:13-16).

Marty Hooper (wife, Maxine)--evangelist to the world (affectionaely dubbed by me, "Pastor of Peace"), Bob and Lisa Margaron, missionaries to the very needy "underbelly" of Stockton's gang neighborhoods, and Mike and Shirley Pounds, working through City Team Missions in the most troubled area of San Francisco all helped to bring missions "home" to us as they shared over the weekend. These are missionaries that are closely-alligned with us at Grace and close nearby geographically, enabling us to benefit from their insights during the year.

All in all, our Missions Fires, so ably orchestrated by Paul Wesseler, was a huge success. It was not a Missions Faire--but a Mission Superbly done!

Monday, March 05, 2007

worship and weeds

Following a wonderful Sunday morning of worship I was transitioned on Monday to a job of weeding--something I wanted to do.

It was a little cloudy--but a patchy blue sky overhead--and the springlike warmth of a late morning sun enveloping me--that made me revel in the moments of extricating weeds that had invaded a new planter area with reckless abandon. My primary concern was that these weeds appeared ready to mount a takeover and their deceitful lush green was shrouding the potential beauty of an area to be appropriately planted with flowers and color.

And so I weeded, sitting in the middle of the planter area and filling my plastic bag with weeds to be later disposed of in a large wheel barrel, and then carted off to "weed heaven". My wife had turned on some music--some religious, some not--but it was a secondary background to the beauty of the moment and the contemplation of the task.

In a few hours the weeds were gone, the appropriate cleanup accomplished and my wife and I surveyed our accomplishment with some measure of pride amd satisfaction. There is planting still to be done, but the "wretched" job of pulling weeds is history.

I want to worship on Sundays. Sometimes I have to extract some things from my mind--pull out the weeds--but the process enables me to observe the true beauty of God.

Such "weeding" may be the precursor to true worship.

It is if you want a garden of flower and color with the face of God not obscured from view.