When I Say I Am a Christian

In 1988, the poet Carol Wimmer, became concerned about the self-righteous, judgmental spirit she was seeing in some people because she felt strongly that being judgmental is a perversion of the Christian faith.  So, she wrote a poem about this. It’s called “When I say I am a Christian”.
 
I share it with you for your prayer time and reflection.
 
“When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not shouting, ‘I’ve been saved!’
I’m whispering, ‘I get lost!’ That’s why I chose this way.
When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t speak with human pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble – needing God to be my guide.
When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on.
When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt.
When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t think I know it all.
I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught.
When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not claiming to be perfect.
My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I’m worth it.
When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name.
When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I do not wish to judge.
I have no authority – I only know I’m loved.”
 
Safe to say we are Christian when we depend on God,
See you in Church,
Nels


Not Well Received

I received an email the other day from a church member.  The email said that some of my sermons made folks feel uncomfortable and I should preach more sermons that are more complimentary.  While I agree that we all need affirmation and compliments from time to time, I could not help but recall a story written by Frank Rothfuss.  I share it below for your reflection.
 
 
A Baptist pastor fresh out of seminary was assigned to a small church in the hills of Kentucky. In his first sermon, he condemned gambling, especially betting on the horses. The sermon was not well received. “You see, Reverend,” a parishioner explained, “this whole area is known for its fine horses. Lots of our members make their living breeding race horses.”
 
The next Sunday the pastor spoke on the evils of smoking, and again, his sermon was not well received – for many of his members also grew tobacco. The third week the pastor preached on the evils of drinking, only to discover after that a major distillery was one of the town’s largest employers.
 
Chastised for his choice of sermon topics, the frustrated pastor exclaimed, “Well, then, what can I preach about?” A kindly, older woman spoke up and said, “Pastor, preach against those godless Chinese communists. Why, there isn’t a Chinese communist within 4,000 miles of here!”
 
There are some sermons people do not want to hear because they contradict their dearly held values or their comfortable life styles. Jesus earned a reputation for preaching these kinds of sermons – sermons that were challenging and demanding, radical and divisive.
 
 
It is these kinds of sermons that challenge and demand that help us realize how much we need Christ.  Then we are comforted with grace, peace and hope.
 
See you in Church,
Nels


Update on What is Happening at Trinity

Even though it is summertime and many of you are vacationing, we have been busy at the Church. 
 
We have enjoyed the talents of Jacob Lyerly at our 8:45 services as he is leading our Sonrise Band.  Jacob will stay with us until we hire a new Worship Director for this service.  We are in need of new band members as we lose soon the services of Bryson Covert and Colin Smith to college. Let us know if you are interested in playing and singing to God’s glory. Darren Rhodes and Vance Sharpe have helped out on a few Sundays and we thank them for their time and talent. 
 
Most Chancel Choirs take the summer off.  This does not happen at Trinity.  Our Choir provides inspirational music every Sunday.  We enjoyed OASIS on June 26 and they will be back in the choir loft again soon.
 
Our sermon series on inviting the SHIFT towards becoming a Church ready to minister to a postmodern Church culture has challenged us to rethink the way we approach our ministry.  We are engaging in a SHIFT from Member identity to a Disciple identity; attractional Church to a missional Church; consumer Church to sacred partnering.  This Sunday, we will learn more about how we shepherd and love one another as we partner together. 
 
Why is your pastor so tan?  I did go to the beach but every Sunday night I have been out with our youth.  We have enjoyed a pool party, bowling outing and this Sunday we will have an explosive time of fun and learning with a special guest.  Our wonderful youth volunteers are preparing for more fun. ABIDE is AWESOME.
 
Did you know we have had 4 of our members go into the ministry in the past 2 years?  We have Jim Rogers in school at Duke. Roger Hovis serving Zion UMC. Tammy Blom serving Heyward Street UMC and Michaela Wickham in school studying youth ministry.  I have two more folks that are inquiring.  How excited it is to see God call some of our folks to ministry.
 
Have you seen some new faces in the pastor’s office?  We are advertising for our new Youth Leader and Praise and Worship Leader.  Official interviews will start very soon.
 
Our Children’s Ministry has plans to come back strong. Holly West is hard at work with her team and it is going to be great!
 
Will you worship with us Sunday? 
 
See you in Church!
Nels


Who Are You Anyway?

Some years ago, The Archbishop of Canterbury was rushing to catch a train in London. In his haste, he accidentally jumped on the wrong passenger car and found himself on a car full of inmates from a mental hospital. They were all dressed in mental hospital clothing.

 Just as the train pulled out of the station, an orderly came in and began to count the inmates, “1-2-3-4…” when suddenly he saw this distinguished looking gentleman there wearing a business suit and a clerical collar and he said:

 “Who are you?” The answer came back: “I am the Archbishop of Canterbury!” And the orderly said: “5-6-7-8.”

 The point of that story is this: It is so important to know who we are and who other people are. If we know what makes us tick and what makes other people tick, we get along better. If we understand where we are coming from and where other people are coming from, we relate better. There is more compassion, more empathy and more kindness.

 There are many instances where we see Jesus in the New Testament relating to people in this way. They knew that Jesus has discovered exactly who they were and because of that he could heal and help them. 

 How well do you know your neighbors or your co-workers?  How well do you know other folks at our Church?  Have you taken time to get to know the Church staff and make certain they know you? 

 May we reach out and get to know those around us so we can love one another in a Christ-like way.

 

See you in Church,

Nels


Rules of Life = Spiritual Disciplines for Sanctification

A few weeks ago, I offered you 8 rules of life for all who are disciples here at Trinity.  These rules of life are spiritual disciplines that will bring more holiness, sanctification and peace in your life.  They will change your behavior, attitudes, habits outlook, opinions and even change the priorities of your life. May we at Trinity become more attentive to seeking ways to become more like Christ.  As we grow in our discipleship, we will seek a spiritual invigoration.
 
 Rules of life:
Pray daily
Worship together weekly
Give Generously
Forgive and reconcile continually
Welcome and include everyone
Belong to a small group
Serve our community
Cherish children and youth
 
See you in Church,
Nels


Faith Is the Rare Courage

J. Howard Olds, a great pastor and preacher, writes this about faith:
Faith is the rare courage to act on that which you cannot yet prove to be true.
Faith is leaving a fresh grave with enough hope to carry on.
Faith is writing a song of thanksgiving when the rent is due.
Faith is accepting forgiveness when it seems nothing more than a distant dream.
Faith is proclaiming peace while you still feel the turmoil inside.
Faith is letting your hair down enough to receive the mercy of God.
 
As your pastor, I would like to challenge us here at Trinity to be people of faith.
Through faith, we will pray together and support one another. 
We will have faith in our leaders and staff and uphold them to move Trinity forward. 
We will have faith to invite someone to our Church and see them become disciples.
Through faith we will attend and give each Sunday.
With faith we will listen to His message and seek to abide in God’s Word.
We will have faith that Trinity will grow in spirit and in membership.
With faith, we will become the source of hope, help and home to those looking for a faith community.
With faith, we will offer grace, peace, and hope to a world that so desperately needs God’s grace. 
With faith, we will offer salvation given through Jesus Christ.
Living in faith, the Holy Spirit will move in us and through us as we reach out and touch lives in our community.
 
I have faith that I will see you in Church this Sunday,
 
Your Pastor,
Nels


All Tied Up

College students are notorious for their laundry problems while away at college. This seems to be especially true for freshmen. It is not uncommon, of course, for a student to put this task off for as long as possible. In fact, you can sometimes tell that students on campus will soon be dealing with their laundry when they start wearing the nicer clothing that they have. Sometimes they have been known to store up dirty clothes in anticipation of a visit home, where they just know that Mom will be more than happy to help out.

One college freshman went to the laundry room in his dorm with a pile of dirty clothes. They were all bundled together inside an old sweatshirt. He was so embarrassed by how dirty his clothes were that he did not want anyone to see them. He took the bundle of dirty clothes and without untying them stuffed them into the washer. When the machine stopped running he was delighted to find that they were still all tied together in one large knot. As he removed the bundle from the washer he kept them tied together as he placed the laundry into the dryer. After they had gone through the drying cycle he was even happier to find that the tied bundle was still intact.

When he finally returned to his dorm room he quickly discovered that the clothes had certainly gotten wet and were dried but they were still dirty. That is the same thing that happens to us when we fail to confess our sins. When we never admit to God our helplessness and our need for his power, we too keep the bundle all tied up. When we go to church and simply go through the routine we might get wet but we never really feel very clean. Only confession of our sins and faith in Christ can cleanse us from all our sins. Source: Michael Green, editor, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House), p. 336.”
 
See you in Church!
Nels


Vision for Mission

Jesus was certain about the mission God had sent him to do was the purpose of his life and death and nothing would keep him from fulfilling it. He also presents himself as an example to us.

 I share with you today an article adapted from Herold Percy, “Good News People,” which makes a contrast between “maintenance” and “mission”.

 

  1. In measuring the effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many pastoral visits are being made? The mission congregation asks, “How many disciples are being made?”
  2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, “If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won’t do it.” The mission congregation says, “If this will help us reach someone on the outside, we will take the risk and do it.”
  3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, “How will this affect me?” The majority of members in the mission congregation ask, “Will this increase our ability to reach those outside?”
  4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our past.” The mission congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our future.”
  5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer, “I’d like to introduce you to some of our members.” In the mission congregation the members say, “We’d like to introduce you to our pastor.”
  6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in the maintenance congregation asks, “How can I meet this need?” The pastor in the mission congregation asks, “How can this need be met?”
  7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost (but rarely succeeds). The mission congregation understands that conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.
  8. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a mission congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.
  9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The mission congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.
  10. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, “How many (United Methodists) live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?” The mission congregation asks, “How many unchurched people live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?”
  11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, “How can we get these people to support our congregation?” The mission congregation asks, “How can the Church support these people?”
  12. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The mission congregation thinks about how to reach the world.

 

Are you ready to vision for mission? 



When We Have Christ

One of the best newspaper cartoons of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin and Hobbes come marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.
 
“What’s up today?” asks his mom.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Calvin’s mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suit like that!”
 
That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suit like that would help, so we can say with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
 
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you, but I do have words: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
 
There is a defining phrase in that statement. One that tells us what kind of peace it is that Christ gives us…
 
See you in Church where the Peace of Christ is offered every Sunday,
Nels


Recovering our Servanthood

One of the worst things the secular world has brought to the church is consumerism. Church members have bought into the concept of consumerism. They don’t see themselves as servants, but as customers to be waited upon. Complaints about the church are frequently followed with the expression: “I do pay my money.” That is consumerism. It is a way of saying: I am the one who is to be served.

When a church buys into consumerism, they go about meeting the defined needs of the customers, rather than meeting God’s need for a redeemed world. Too often people treat church membership as though they are selecting a supermarket rather than a relationship. The call of Christ is not for consumers; it is for disciples. If we treat church members as consumers, then at what point do they quit becoming customers and start becoming missionaries. To make matters worse too many churches attempt to market themselves and in the process of developing a market strategy the subtle message is released: discipleship and missions are optional. Friends, they are not optional. The call of Christ is: You must lose your life in order to save your life. We dare not fall down before the idol of institutional success. When consumerism gets into the church, more time is spent on membership and expenditures than God’s dream of the Good News proclaimed, justice administered, and inclusiveness and healing accomplished. Discipleship cannot be seen as a church option, alongside volleyball and jazzercise. Likewise, worship cannot be viewed as a weekly variety show, but an opportunity for us to get in touch with the Transcendent God. And yes, clergy are guilty as well. Too much time is spent encouraging people to think positive about their sin. Our Pastor and Church leaders are preparing to move us towards reclaiming the Church God wants Trinity to be. You will be hearing more from our Leaders and in Church Sermons very soon. Get on board! Great things are going to be happening at Trinity.
 
Nels