The Church

Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
[Augsburg Confession, Article VII: Of the Church]

We sometimes forget that the Church is not a building. The Church is people – the congregation of saints. People are made “saints” how – through the blood of Jesus. And thus the Church is wherever and whenever saints are gathered together – where the Gospel is rightly taught/proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered.

We also sometimes forget that a building does not and can not save us. The Church can exist without a fixed place to gather on a regular basis. No where does it say that the Church is a particular place or structure. Does a building help? Yes and no. Yes – if our eyes are on Jesus Christ as our savior and our worship is in Him and Him alone. No – if are attention is on a structure that in the end will not last. Buildings fail, but Jesus never will.

I am not saying buildings are bad, but when people start to focus on the building rather than Jesus, then they cease to be a Church. Brothers and sisters in Christ are people – saints – and therefore we need to remember them and care for them. Those who do not know Jesus – lost sheep – need to be sought out and fed. But more importantly we must remember and worship the One who makes us a family through Jesus Christ.

We Will Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord ! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.” [Psalm 111:1 ESV]

I pastor a congregation who can be described as a “church in a box”. What I mean by that is each and every Sunday a trailer is backed up to the building we rent at a county park. The trailer is then unloaded so we can set up for worship. Following our 9:00 AM worship, the take-down crew gets to work as we need to vacate the building by 11:30 AM. As long as this pastor doesn’t get too long winded, we still have plenty of time for Sunday school/Coffee fellowship time. For 10 years this congregation has had that routine. I’ve been part of that routine for the past 3 years.

Now, we are investigating a former church building that is up for sale. The location is a little farther away, but the size is great, the lot is big enough for expansion and the price is in our ballpark. There are still many questions that need to be answered, but the excitement is high. What is God up too? That is the question we are trying to discern. Is this God gift-wrapping a property for us that He may be glorified or is Satan presenting a stumbling block to trip and derail this congregation? Questions, questions and more questions. God help us.

Whatever the outcome I echo the psalmist in the verse above. Praise the Lord ! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Yes, Sundays are a challenge, especially considering this is an aging congregation. We don’t have the freedom to do certain things when we want to do them because the building is not ours (i.e. When funerals happen, we have to make phone calls to find a venue). But where ever God places us, we will worship and praise the Lord. We will praise the Lord in the company of the upright. The upright made that way through our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We will worship corporately as a congregation because we love the Lord and we love to be together:

– whether it is at a building in the park or in a school or in someone’s pole barn, we will praise the Lord.
– whether we have to meet in living rooms, basements or garages, we will praise the Lord.
– whether we have to share space in someone else’s fellowship hall, wander from place to place, or meet in a tent outside, we will praise the Lord.

With that said, my prayer is that we keep our eye on the ball and remember who we are and whose we are. We are not here to build our kingdom but we are here to advance THE Kingdom. I can not say that enough. If this place is being gift-wrapped by God for us, I will gladly unwrap it and give glory to God. If this is Satan putting a stumbling block in our way, then I say to him, “Go back to hell. We will worship the Lord where ever God places us.”

Praise the Lord where ever you are, for it is right to give God thanks and praise in all places and at all times. Praise the Lord, all you people – the upright, the congregation – praise the Lord.

Clubhouse

The joy of a childhood clubhouse is that it is a place for a child to get away from the world and hang out with their friends. The clubhouse is secret – only for those who are members. Others may know of its existence, but they know they are not welcome. The clubhouse is a meeting place for the members. What happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. To break the clubhouse code could mean excommunication. To bring guests is met with skepticism from the others. Clubhouses can serve a purpose – for a time – but in the end they become obsolete. A church that adopts or becomes what I have described, will be obsolete. They will serve a purpose for a limited time, but in the end, they will be no more. Jesus didn’t form a clubhouse of like-minded people. Jesus formed a Church that was to change the world.

The Persecuted Church

Mighty God,
You are holy and sovereign,
gracious and merciful.
I commend my brothers and sisters in Christ to You;
those who are undergoing persecution
because of the Name; Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that if the world hated him,
they would hate those who follow him.
Today, that is as true as it was then.
Many are dying because of the Name.
Many are imprisoned because of the Name.
Many are tortured because of the Name.
Many live in fear and worship in secret because of the Name.
Protect their faith, oh God, and give them perseverance.
Shield them with the hope of the resurrection.
Strengthen them to serve in a dangerous mission field.
Surround them with Your angel armies.
May the Name of Jesus be praised.
I also lift up to You those who are doing the persecuting.
You changed the heart of Paul,
and so I know You can change the heart of anyone,
namely, those who hate You.
May their eyes be opened and their hearts softened.
May they see the Truth of Your love
and refrain from the atrocities that they inflict upon Your children.
May they see their sins;
confessing and repenting of their hate-filled actions.
And through their conversion,
may You be glorified in the world.
It seems to be a far-fetched prayer,
but with You anything is possible.
Oh God, the world can’t stop You or Your Church.
May we take comfort in that truth.
May our worship and rejoicing be unhindered
by this world.
In the mighty Name of Jesus I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Light in the World

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
[Philippians 2:14–15 (ESV)]

It seems to me that many in the Church need to take these words of Paul to heart. Too Christians spend way too much time fighting and complaining about the stupidest things or whining and complaining about this and that politician. They do this all the while as this “crooked and twisted” generation is watching and thinking, “why do I need to listen to them?“. Or worse yet, this “crooked and twisted” generation doesn’t even notice the Church because it looks like everything/one else. What would it look like, though, if the Church kept the main thing the main thing and actually were “lights in the world“; proclaiming the Gospel and working out their faith with fear and trembling. What if the Church was actually holy; set apart, different from the world? What if the Church actually sought transformation through the Gospel instead of conforming to the world around them.

Hey there, Church, if you are trying to advance the Kingdom of God, stop trying to look and act like the world. Stop trying to please the world by conforming to them. Be a light in the world; lights among a crooked and twisted generation. Remember whose you are and live a life worthy of the Gospel. It’s time to grow up, Church, and be who you are suppose to be.

Rant done…now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

The Pastor -|—

Small Church, Big Spirit

On Sunday, I got to lead worship and preach at this little church in Elbe, WA; Historic Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church. What a neat place and what an incredible privilege and honor to be invited.
~ This is not a mega-church
~ There are no projection screens inside
~ There was no fancy multi-colored bulletin
~ There was no loud worship band
Just people, from different congregations, worshiping our awesome God; people who traveled a distance to get to this beautiful part of our beautiful state.

This worship service brought me back to my roots; back to SW MN. I grew up in a small town but in a large church. I eventually moved to a larger town but served in two small churches; one being a small county congregation. Even though I love serving where I do; at Living Word Lutheran Church, is was nice to reminisce with myself and be reminded of an important aspect of the local church.

You see, the size of a church does not equate ministry success. Too many people think that if you have a small church then there’s something wrong. Hogwash. It’s not quantity but rather quality, and I humbly believe quality is what we had on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t because of me but rather the Spirit working through me and the many volunteers that are responsible for this little church in the mountains. There is a reason that this church in Elbe is still operating. There is a reason that people come here on Sunday afternoons to worship. The Spirit is alive here.

So thank you to those volunteers and for the opportunity to worship with you. I hope to be able to come back again sometime. May God continue to bless the ministry of the Historic Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Pastor -|—

Prayer for those in Err

O God,
there are many who misuse Your Word;
there are many who devalue the Scriptures.
I see and hear,
I read and peruse,
and my heart is saddened;
anger threatens to rear its ugly head
against those who do not understand.
O God,
may anger not control my actions
but rather compassion for those who are in err.
Grant understanding,
O God,
to those who take Your Word as something
to suit their own desires;
redefining Your Word according to the culture;
according to the masses.

Grant insight,
O God,
to those who do not understand.
Grant ears of faith,
O God,
to those who do not and will not listen.
Grant me patience,
O God,
that I may be a steadfast beacon of light;
for this world needs Your Truth.
May I never back down

and may I never fail to glorify You.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—