Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Grace Goes Western

I hope you share the same excitement for our June 24 RODEO AND WESTERN EVENT as I do! Since we have announced the event, I have heard a lot of positive buzz about it! I’ve even heard of one couple who are changing their vacation plans so they can be here and another couple who is looking to fly red-eye home from a trip to California rather than waiting until Sunday! I have heard many people talking about the unbelievers they know that they will be inviting to the event. One man told me that he met a man at work the other day whose passion was rodeos. Sounds like a Divine Appointment to me. Along with a western style Sunday morning worship service, June 24 will also include:




· ANIMAL AREA (Petting zoo, Pony Rides)

· ENTERTAINMENT & CONTESTS (OB programs, Horseshoes, etc.)

What is the purpose of this event? This is a level one event. Our goal is to touch as many people within our community as possible so that they have a positive experience as they rub shoulders with people from Grace Church who are the salt and light of the world.

What kind of fruit are we looking for from this event? We believe that this will be very successful in taking many people who would never attend a church service and allow them to take a step forward in their spiritual journey, a step which God can use in their lives down the road. We believe that many of these hundreds of community visitors that attend June 24 will then come and check out one of our Sunday morning services or send their kids to our summer Bible School which will start the next day, June 25. At these events, people will be exposed to the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Where is the “rodeo” coming from? We are partnering with a Christian Ranch ministry who travel all around the country helping churches make inroads into their communities through these rodeo events. All the workers and cowboys that will be joining us for this June 24 event are committed believers in Jesus Christ with a heart to reach people.

How does the cost of this event fit within our church budget? Because this is the same weekend that we usually do our Patriotic Celebration, this year we are doing the rodeo and western event instead. As a result, most all of the cost for this event is already in the approved budget of the church. Does this mean that we are no longer going to do the Patriotic Celebration? Not necessarily. This rodeo event is a “one-time” event. To attempt to do this event and the Patriotic Celebration at the same time would be far too much of a ministry burden on our budget, staff and volunteers. The only real question left is whether I will be wearing a white or black cowboy hat on that day?!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And All God's People Said...YEEHAW!!

Listen, folks! All of you know what style of music I absolutely cannot handle. In fact, I still think that if I study my Greek New Testament long enough I will find that it is the music the devil listens to. That’s right! I’m talking about “country music.” I’m sorry, but I just can’t take the “twang.” However, as much as country music is completely against my personal preference, I have given my consent to enter the world of “twang” for what we are praying will be the largest outreach in the history of our church.

This June we will once again have all of the Operation Barnabas (OB) teams, consisting of over 100 of the cream of the crop teens from Grace Brethren Churches all across America, with us for their OB orientation in preparation for their summer ministry tours. Teens from our church, including my own daughter last year, are part of Operation Barnabas every summer. It is a fabulous ministry training program sponsored and run by CE National out of Winona Lake, Indiana. In fact our own Andy Brightbill and Doug Kegarise have been both students and leaders on Operation Barnabas. This group was with us two years ago for their orientation and we absolutely loved having them. Our only regret was that we had over 100 quality Christian teens with a ministry heart and mind-set with us but we never utilized them to impact our community.

We wanted to be sure to take advantage of this awesome opportunity this summer so I asked Doug Kegarise, our Director of Student Ministries and former OB participant and Senior Leader, to put a task force together and to plan an outreach that we could do in partnership with all of these Operation Barnabas participants. This task force has worked hard and is in the midst of putting together an outreach opportunity that is different than Lititz has ever seen and which will also utilize the 12 acres of land that we own across the street from the church.

At the end of their orientation, on Sunday, June 24, we will partner as a church with all of these Operation Barnabas teams to have one really big western day. This will include a country style worship service. Following this unique and exciting service we will be having a full-fledged rodeo. There is a Christian ranch that will be coming in and setting up a real rodeo arena along with the rodeo animals and Christian ropers and cowboys. Alongside of this rodeo we will be having a family-oriented western fair. It is our prayer that we will touch more people from our community on this one day than any other day in the history of our church.

Please be praying daily for this event, this task force, and for the involvement you will have come June 24. You will be hearing more about this as we move closer to the month of June. Because the date of this event is so close to the Fourth of July, we will be taking a year off of our annual Patriotic Celebration which is usually held at the Lititz Springs Park around the same time. This western day event on June 24 is not just an Operation Barnabas event or a Task Force event. This is a church-wide event. We need every person and every ministry to be involved…even those of us that don’t like country!

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Grace Moving List

Meeting people where they are; Moving people to where God wants them to be!” We have spent the last four Sundays focusing on this purpose as part of VISION MONTH here at Grace Church.

We spent the first week of the month over-viewing what our purpose statement means. We noted that “meeting people where they are” included meeting them where they were spiritually as well as geographically. We identified “moving people to where God wants them to be” as helping to move people through six levels…the community; the crowd; the curious; the convinced; the committed and the core.

On week two we looked at what our purpose statement means to those of us that are already part of Grace Church. Our need is to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). When we quit moving forward in our Christian life we become spiritually frustrated and spiritually stagnant.

On week three we focused on what our purpose statement means to our relationship with those who are outside of Grace Church. If we are going to meet people where they are we have to be willing to leave our circle of comfort and enter the zone of the unknown. To do this we have to look for divine appointments; leave our comfort zones; love lost people; learn to start conversations; and listen for a common interest.

Last Sunday was the final week of our VISION MONTH. We recapped the entire month and went through a moving list of 7 items, challenging everyone in our Grace Church family to pick at least one of these items to commit to as a next step. These included:

· Accepting Christ as your personal savior

· Being baptized (next baptism is March 18)

· Regular Bible reading

· Attending a “How to have personal devotions” or “How to share your faith” class as part of our Adult Bible Fellowship classes on Sunday mornings beginning in March

· Attending the next Pastor’s Class to learn more about what our church believes (the next Pastor’s Class begins April 25)

· Getting involved in a church ministry (Worship Arts Ministry; Children’s Ministry; First Impressions)

· Identifying an unbeliever that you will pray for and invite to an upcoming outreach event (Easter – April 8; Rodeo and Western Fair – June 24; Bible School - June 25-29)

Friday, February 23, 2007

I Inhaled

Remember the media heyday it was when Bill Clinton was running for President of the United States and admitted that he had tried marijuana but that he never inhaled? Well, if I ever run for the highest office of the land (which is on my “to do before I retire” list) I’m afraid there will be a similar media feeding frenzy surrounding my campaign. That’s right. I have a new skeleton in my closet that I am ready to come clean regarding.

Over the month of February I have struggled with an ongoing virus/cold. From the throat to the chest to loss of appetite to feeling blah, it was a miserable several weeks. It all culminated for the final 10 days in my nose. One evening I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was desperate. Cold medicine of no kind seemed to be working. I combed through the medicine cabinet looking for any possible aid to relieve my stuffy nostrils. I finally hit pay-dirt and found a bottle of nasal spray.

I don’t know how old it was, but I quickly unscrewed the top and begin to snort up as many sprays as I could take in. I was ready to knock out this congestion once and for all so that I could finally get a good night’s sleep. I then quickly jumped into bed, snuggled under the sheets, closed my eyes with a smile on my face and waited to drift peacefully into a wonderful dream where the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl.

But my medical treatment plan completely backfired. Within 15 minutes I experienced the most horrible sensation imaginable. Have you ever gone to the optometrist and had your eyes dilated? Remember how sensitive your eyes are afterwards where it seems like every light in the world is trying to enter your eyeballs all at the same time? That is exactly what happened to my nose and to my sense of smell.

As I lay in bed it felt as if my nostrils were the size of watermelons. Every breath I took was a new sensation in breathing overdrive. It literally felt like I was inhaling every odor existing in the world. I couldn’t sleep. Instead of having the best night’s sleep since I got sick, as I had planned, I was now wide awake. Sleep was now the furthest thing from me. I even tried rolling up toilet paper into little balls and stuffing them up my nostrils to try to deaden the sensory explosion that I was experiencing each time I inhaled.

Ultimately, I sat downstairs watching television until 3:30am and then I went back upstairs and finally climbed back into bed and stared at the dark ceiling for I don’t know how long until I finally drifted off. Then, in the morning, I was fidgety as all get out. Now just seeing a bottle of nasal spray sends shivers up and down my spine.

So there you have it. I wanted you to hear it from me before it became the headline stories on CNN and FOX News. Yes, it is true. One night in the year 2007, while pastoring Grace Church in Lititz, I overdosed on nasal spray. But I can promise you this, unlike when this all came out with Bill Clinton, you will never hear me say the words, “I never inhaled!” I inhaled and as a result, I inhaled every smell imaginable all night long.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Music Director and the Three Bears

Do you remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? While the Bear family is all away, Goldilocks enters the Bears' house. When the Bears come home they discover evidence of an intruder. Their porridge, which was on the table waiting for their return, had been eaten, at least in part, and their beds had been slept in. When they finally discover Goldilocks in Baby Bear’s bed she tells the story of what happened. She was hungry so she tried their porridge. Remember what was wrong with Papa Bear’s dish? It was too hot. What about Mama Bear’s dish? It was too cold. But Baby Bear’s dish was just right. The same thing happened with their beds. Papa Bear’s bed was too hard. Mama Bear’s bed was too soft. But Baby Bear’s bed was just right.

I think the same story can be told about the life of a Worship Arts Director, Music Director, or Worship Pastor in a local church. This is the one area in the local church that deals with the greatest variety of preferences among people. On a regular basis worship and music directors receive feedback that covers a wide variety of preferences.

Some want more hymns while others request fewer hymns.

• Some feel different instruments such as the drums or bass are too loud while others have asked for these areas to be increased in volume.

• Some like larger numbers of singers leading us in worship while others enjoy having just a lead singer along with one or two other vocalists.

• Some want more solos and special music while others prefer that the music is always participatory for everyone in the congregation.

While every piece of constructive criticism should be taken seriously, it is just not feasible for a worship director to adjust the worship and music ministry to each comment that is received. No matter what direction they take on a given Sunday regarding style, participants or volume, it will miss the mark of a segment of people’s preferences.

As a result, the leadership of our Worship Arts Ministry here at Grace Church takes seriously the need to make all of these decisions based on a ministry strategy which includes much thought, prayer and planning. They put much time into focusing on the theme of the morning and they have a purpose behind every decision they make. Unfortunately, the result will never be a Sunday in which every person who attends will be in perfect agreement that everything about the music and worship was just perfect.

Fortunately, worship is not about preferences but rather it is a Spirit led response to a truth about God. That is what I appreciate most about those who make these decisions each Sunday here at Grace Church. Whatever style is used, whatever the volume, and whoever the participants may be, the focus is always a Biblical truth about God.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Interim Worship Arts Director

I love how God works. He never ceases to amaze me. Over a year ago God brought a young man to us named Matt McElravy who interned under Bryan Nelson in our Worship Arts Ministry as part of his degree completion with Millersville University. We were so impressed with the person, passion, gifts and talents of Matt that we asked him to stay on as our part-time Assistant Music Director back in August of 2006.

Since that time Matt has overseen and coordinated the weekly activities of our Worship Arts Ministry here at Grace. He has organized our instrumental and vocal bands in both their rehearsals and our worship service settings. He has worked with the media production team to produce the audio/video components of our worship services. Matt has done a superb job in all of these areas. He has also become the consistent leader of our worship each Sunday which has been a very good thing for our church.

With Bryan Nelson’s leaving in April to become the Worship Arts Director in Topeka, Kansas, I have asked Matt to take the role of Interim Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church. This will be a full-time position that will officially begin Easter Sunday, April 8th and last through the end of the calendar year (December 31, 2007). I have also asked Matt between now and then to increase his Assistant Music Director hours beyond part-time so that he can learn and benefit from as much time with Bryan as possible before Bryan, Lisa and their precious kids move west.

Matt has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Business and Technology from Millersville University where he carried a 3.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale. His course work included Classical and Popular Music Business; Creative Skills; Conducting; Business Writing; Financial and Managerial Accounting; and 8 semesters of Piano Study. In May 2006, Matt was the recipient of the Millersville University Music Faculty Award. He is also the Founder of the Millersville University Songwriters of which he was President from 2003-2005.

Before coming to Grace, Matt served as the worship leader at DOVE Westgate and DOVE Newport on a regular basis, organizing bands and selecting music for services. He directed instrumentalists and vocalists for the University Christian Fellowship while at Millersville University. He acted as a part-time leader at The Christian Centre in Glasgow, Scotland during the Spring of 2005 while studying abroad.

Matt recorded keyboards and vocals on the DCFI Music For Small Groups Vol. 1 Worship CD. He has played piano, keyboards, guitars and done vocals for numerous local and regional worship services and conferences. He has also written original songs as well as vocal and instrumental arrangements for congregational worship. Matt has also had frequent public speaking experience in various settings.

Most of all, Matt has a heart for God. I have truly enjoyed his partnership in ministry in the office and on Sunday mornings. Please join me in welcoming Matt with open arms and with our encouragement and prayer support as he takes on this new role with us.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Learning from the Best

I have found no greater pattern for personal evangelism than that of Jesus in John 4 when He meets the woman at the well. From this we learn five steps in connecting with others.

1. LOOK for divine appointments!

Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. Why? It was because God had set up for Him a divine appointment. Does God still do that? I believe that daily God orchestrates our lives and the lives of others so that we cross paths with lonely, hurting people that God has pre-ordained for us to rub shoulders with. If we are going to impact people we must always be sensitive to the Spirit, looking for possible divine appointments.

2. LEAVE your comfort zones

Jesus was willing to travel out of His way to keep this divine appointment. To do so He had to walk through the land of Samaria. Jesus was a Jew. Jews hated Samaritans. Jews would avoid walking on Samaritan soil for all they were worth. If we are going to impact people we must be willing to leave our personal comfort zones.

3. LOVE lost people

The Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well had everything going against her. First, she was a Samaritan which would make her hated by all Jews. Second, she was a woman, which in that day would have been seen as nothing more than a piece of property. Finally, she was very immoral. Why else would she go to a well at noon to draw her water for the day? All the other women would have gone in the cool of the early morning hours. This woman wasn’t even accepted by her peers. If we are going to make an impact we must start each day by asking God to give us a love for lost, lonely and hurting people.

4. LEARN to start conversations

Jesus initiated a conversation with the woman at the well. If we are going to make an impact we must learn to do the same. It really isn’t that difficult. Here are some tips. First, smile. A smile is a great start to a conversation. Second, be a greeter. Never pass by anyone without saying, ‘hello.’ Third, ask good questions. These include questions about the other person and questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.

5. LISTEN for a common interest

The best way to connect with anyone is to find a common interest. That’s what Jesus did. He used a common interest they both had at the well…water. From that topic, Jesus was able to share with this dear lady about the living water that only He could provide. If we are going to make an impact we must listen for common interests we have with others.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Just 10 Steps

Over Christmas, while I was out in Colorado, I read the latest book by Bill Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room. It has been out for a while but I had been saving it specifically for this trip when I knew that I would have extra time to read it carefully and prayerfully. I love Bill Hybel’s books. All of them have greatly inspired me. I’m not sure that a man exists in the world today that has more of a passion for lost people and for the local church than he does. I find his passion contagious.

In the opening chapter of Just Walk Across the Room, we discover that the average person takes 10,000 steps each and every day from sunrise to sunset. I think I’ll take Bill’s word on this one as I have no desire to register each step I take in a given day to see how accurate of an estimate this really is. But if this is correct, than that would mean that we walk about 115,000 miles in the span on an average lifetime. That would allow us to walk around planet Earth not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times.

But in all these massive number of steps that we take in a lifetime, Hybels challenges us to consider that it is those few steps that we might take to walk across a simple room that could be the most meaningful, not just in our lifetime, but throughout all of eternity. Think about it. When you go anywhere that you are not by yourself, you will typically find yourself in what Hybels calls, your “circle of conversational comfort.” This is that small space that you share at any given event with the few others who are present that you know well and enjoy associating with. There is no personal risk involved when you are in this circle of comfort.

But the next time you are standing in this comfortable space, take time to look around and notice who might be in the same room or area that is standing or sitting all alone. What would keep you from leaving your circle of conversational comfort and walking across the room to where they are? It sounds so simple but in reality it is a difficult and often frightening idea. That is why Hybels calls the space outside of your circle of comfort, the “zone of the unknown.” In your circle of comfort you know that you are accepted. You know that you will enjoy the conversation and fellowship. But outside of this circle is nothing but the unknown. If you venture into this zone, you are at risk.

If only we would realize that personal evangelism can be as simple as a walk across the room. Hybels points out that if the average size room was 20 feet than all it would take to walk across it is just 10 steps. That is only 1/1,000 of your daily average. Our task of being a witness to those who are steamrolling ahead to an eternity apart from God begins when we leave our circle of conversational comfort and walk just 10 steps across the room into the zone of the unknown, put out our hand and simply say to someone we have never met, “Hi! My name’s Scott (you should use your name). What’s yours?” Hybels states that it is in the zone of the unknown where God does His best work. I think He is right. After all, it was Jesus who made the ultimate walk across a room when He left heaven and walked across the cosmos to enter our world to reach we who were sinners.

Friday, February 16, 2007

To Topeka with Love

Below is an edited copy of the letter I sent to Jim Congdon, Senior Pastor of the Topeka Bible Church in Topeka, Kansas, where Bryan Nelson will be starting as Worship Arts Director in April:

Dear Pastor Jim:

Hello! My name is Scott Distler and I am the Senior Pastor here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA. It has been my privilege for the past nearly 3 years that I have been here at Grace to have Bryan Nelson serve with me as my Worship Arts Director. As I have communicated with Doug Will previously, Bryan has been one of my key players and I have been amazed at his value and how God has used Him. Bryan has become more than just a ministry partner, he has also become a trusted friend.

As much as I will miss ministering with Bryan and the daily relationship I have with him, I could not be more excited for what God is doing in his life through opening this great opportunity with you at the Topeka Bible Church. Bryan will now be able to use his many gifts, talents and passions in a great local church while at the same time being able to be close to family. I know how much this means to Bryan and Lisa and it is as if God is giving them the desire of their hearts and the best of both worlds. That’s just like God, isn’t it? He is One who does super abundantly above anything we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Praise the Lord.

Jim, I am confident that you will find Bryan to be just as valuable as I have found him to be. God is blessing you with one of the best, in my opinion. As a result, it is obvious that God has great plans for your ministry and your church. For that, I am very thankful. I love Grace Church but I also realize that it isn’t about one local church, it’s about the Kingdom. As a result, I will be fervently praying for Bryan, for you and for the Topeka Bible Church.

I told Bryan when he first told me about this opportunity that as much as I would love to serve with him forever, what I want even more is God’s best for his life. As a result, I told him that if God clearly directed him to Topeka, that I would be his biggest cheerleader. I meant that sincerely.

I took the liberty of checking out your webpage so I could see a little bit more about the ministry Bryan was going to be part of. I enjoyed listening to a few of your messages. Thank you for the way you and your staff have handled this process. Doug Will’s phone call to me a couple weeks back meant a lot and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. I know that you will take good care of Bryan and Lisa and their kids. It is with joy that I entrust them to you.
If your schedule ever puts you near Lititz, PA, I would be thrilled to have you contact me. I would love to meet you someday in person. May God bless you with much fruit!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

God's Best for Bryan

For nearly a decade God has given our church the privilege of having Bryan Nelson on our staff leading our Worship Arts Ministry. Over that timeframe, Bryan has done a tremendous job and has been a key player in seeing God bless our church with numerical and spiritual growth. I personally have been thrilled to partner with Bryan day in and day out for the little over 2.5 years that I have been here. He has become much more than a ministry partner, he has also become a good friend whom I appreciate. I actually knew Bryan’s wife, Lisa, before I ever knew Bryan existed. Lisa took one of the classes I taught at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana while she was a student there (she even got an "A").

Over the time that Bryan has been with us there have been several churches who have contacted him about openings they had on their staff. Bryan, however, has been very content and challenged with his role here at Grace and graciously passed on these offers. However, just after Christmas Bryan told me that the Topeka Bible Church in Topeka, Kansas had initiated a dialogue with him regarding an opening they had for a Worship Arts Director. This also happens to be the church where Lisa’s parents attend (Bryan’s in-laws). God very specifically opened these doors of opportunity and now Bryan and Lisa have the opportunity to have the best of both worlds…to use their gifts, talents and passions in a very strong local church and to be near their family all at the same time. How cool is that? I am very excited for them.

As a result of God’s clear direction to them, Bryan has accepted this new position and he, Lisa and their children will be moving to Kansas this April. In fact, Bryan’s last Sunday with us will be Easter Sunday, April 8th.

When Bryan first told me about this possibility I communicated to him that as much as I would hate to see him leave, the thing I want most of all for he and Lisa is God’s Best for their lives. I assured him that whatever decision he ultimately made that I would be his biggest cheerleader. I am committed to that promise. I will miss serving with Bryan very much but I can’t wait to hear reports back from Kansas as to how God is using Bryan and Lisa to meet people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be.

Beginning April 8th, I have asked Matt McElravy to step in as our interim Worship Arts Director on a full-time basis as I prayerfully consider what next steps we will take regarding this staffing change at Grace. I ask each of you to give Matt your prayers, encouragement and your support. Matt is a very wonderful and talented young man that God has brought to us “for such a time as this.” He is very much in love with the Lord and I appreciate him very much as well as his ministry each and every Sunday morning.

Please be sure to be praying fervently for Bryan and Lisa and their children as they have much to do over these next several weeks to prepare for this transition. Please also be sure to communicate to them how much you have appreciated their ministry. I’m sure that we will put together a more formal opportunity to communicate our love to them as a church family and we will communicate these details to you as soon as they are more concrete.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Need for Movement (part 3)

Today’s entry is a continuation of the last two day’s blogs. To fully understand its context, you should read the last two day’s entries before continuing on with todays.

Peter doesn’t just give us the principle about moving as we discussed in yesterday’s blog, he also gives to us a pattern of one that constantly was moving in his faith. Peter begins as just any other member of his community. Before Peter ever even heard of “Jesus,” he was a typical Galilean fisherman who lived and earned a living near the Sea of Galilee. But he soon became part of the crowd. As word about Jesus began to spread throughout all of Palestine, Peter undoubtedly had some type of distant contact regarding Jesus. This brought him to the level of the curious. In Mark 1:14-18, Jesus enters the region of Galilee and invites Peter, along with his brother, Andrew, to follow Him. Though obviously not understanding exactly who this Jesus was, Peter was curious enough to give up his fishing business and follow Jesus.

The day then came when Peter verbalized that he had become part of the convinced. Peter being totally convinced in who Jesus was is seen emphatically in Matthew 16:13-18. While at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter dramatically replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” From there we see Peter becoming more and more committed in his faith. Peter made many strong claims regarding his commitment to Jesus, but these all came crashing down when on the night before Jesus’ death, Peter denied Him three times. Yet, after the resurrection, Jesus had a very intimate conversation with Peter in John 21:15-22 where He painstakingly led him in some serious self-examination by three times asking him the question, “Do you love Me?” Peter struggled in his answer but the Lord used this to take Him deeper by commanding him to “Shepherd His sheep.” Jesus ends the conversation by predicting the type of death that Peter would succumb to due to his faith in Jesus

Ultimately Peter became part of the core. He becomes the key human leader of the early church. On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 he preaches resulting in 3,000 people coming to faith in Christ. But this is just the beginning of Peter’s spiritual leadership in the book of Acts. Peter went on to perform miraculous healings (4:8-20); he led in the discipline of sinning believers such as Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11); he confronted Simon the magician (8:20); it was through Peter’s visit to Cornelius that God threw open the doors of the church to Gentiles (10:1-11:18); he was part of the Jerusalem Council (15:7-12); and he also wrote the New Testament Epistles of 1 and 2 Peter

So you see, the purpose of Grace is not just about evangelism. It affects you. It affects me. It affects each and every one of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ no matter how far or how little we have come since that day. We must understand that if we do not seek to grow as a Christian we will become frustrated and stagnant in our spiritual walk. We must each identify what level we are on when it comes to our walk of faith. We must then commit to action points that will take us to the next level of growth.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Need for Movement (part 2)

Today’s entry is a continuation of yesterday’s blog. To fully understand its context, you should first read yesterday’s entry before continuing on with today’s article.

In yesterday’s blog entry we saw that the purpose of our church involves far more than just evangelism. It is the need to see each of us continuing to move forward in our faith. Peter taught this need for movement in 2 Peter 3:18 when he exhorted believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The word “grow” means “to advance or increase.” We are to continue to grow (advance, increase, move) in the “grace” and “knowledge” of Christ. “Grace” deals with the practical aspect of our faith…how we live. “Knowledge” deals with the intellectual aspect of our faith…what we know. Over the past 30 days, how have you grown in the way you live out your faith? In that same time period, how have you increased in what you know about God and His Word? This is what brings vitality to our walk with Christ. Peter earlier writes:

Now for this reason also, applying all diligence. In your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

This describes in more detail this movement that we need. Notice that Peter says that our growing is something we must be “diligent” to do. The word “diligence” means to do something with great zeal or eagerness. When it comes to growing in our faith, we are to do it diligently. How eager have you been about growing in your faith? Peter says that we are to diligently “supply” things to our faith. The word “supply” literally described a choirmaster responsible for supplying all the parts needed for his musical group. What are these parts that we need to add to our faith?

 “Faith” - saving faith which is the foundation

 “Moral excellence” – virtue; one who excels in moral heroism

 “Knowledge” – divine truth that is properly applied to life

 “Self-control” – used to describe the self-discipline of athletes

 “Perseverance” – remaining strong under hardship

 “Godliness” – properly honoring and worshipping God

 “Brotherly kindness” – godly affection for others

 “Love” – self-sacrificial love always ready to serve others over self

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Need for Movement (part 1)

What is the purpose of Grace Church? Hopefully by now you are well on your way to being able to know it by heart…

Meeting people where they are; Moving people to where God wants them to be!”

Some would quickly say, “Here we go again…we are making our church all about evangelism.” Well to be honest, I am more convinced than ever that evangelism must be the engine that drives the church. However, as vital and as important as evangelism is, our purpose at Grace Church is not just about evangelism. Being used by the Spirit of God to help move people along to where God wants them to be does not end when someone makes the decision of faith to trust Christ. The need to continue to be “moving” in our Christian walk never ends this side of heaven.

I think that is why so many Christ-followers are anything but vibrant about their faith. They have stopped consciously “moving” in their walk with the Lord. We all need to keep moving (growing) in our Christian life! If we don’t, the results are predictable. What happens when we are not moving (growing) in our Christian life? Well, let’s think of times in our lives when things aren’t moving. How about a monster traffic-jam? How many of you like sitting bumper to bumper for hours on a hot summer day moving an inch at a time wondering what could possibly be causing such a back-up? What does this lack of movement cause in your life? For me, I can some it up in just one word…FRUSTRATION. It is the same with my faith. When I quit growing, when my faith isn’t continuing to move, I become spiritually frustrated. My faith becomes more of a frustrating routine than an intimate relationship with the God of the universe.

Take water as another example. What happens to non-moving water? After a while it becomes stagnant and filled with a stench that becomes a breeding ground for annoying mosquitoes. So it is with our faith. When we quit moving forward, when we quit taking the next step of faith, we become stagnant in our walk with the Lord. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that we become like salt that has lost its saltiness.

So you see, our purpose as a church isn’t just about unbelievers. It’s about you and it’s about me. Every believer in our church from the newest babe in Christ to the person who has been around seemingly since Moses must keep moving. Once we have moved from the community to the crowd to the curious and finally to the convinced as we put our faith in Christ, we must not stop. We must become grounded in our faith and move into the realm of the committed where we dig deeper into the meat of the Word and where we take greater steps of faith. We must then move into the level we call the core. We must begin to spiritually reproduce in others and become mature spiritual leaders. And even that is not the end. We never reach the full potential until we ultimately stand before Jesus face to face in heaven. Until then we must continue each one of us, to allow God to use Grace Church to help move us to where He wants us to be.

Friday, February 09, 2007


What a thrill it was last Sunday to see dozens of people walk across our stage at the end of the message each holding a card showing how God has used Grace Church to "meet them where they are and move them to where God wants them to be." On one side of the card they were holding was written a statement describing what their life use to be like. They then flipped the card over and on the other side was a statement describing what their life is like now. I don’t think I have ever been more moved and more impacted in a worship service. Below is what some of the cards said:

Couldn’t tame my mouth…My mouth worships God
Ashamed of my past…Free through the blood of Christ
Couldn’t find happiness…Found joy in Christ
Thought I was religious…Now I have a relationship
Pursuing the American dream…Living for something bigger
Knew Jesus loved me…Now He’s in my heart!
Ran away from God…He unconditionally took me back!
Didn’t like church…Can’t wait for Sundays!
Going thru the motions…Living on purpose
Partying…Self pleasures…”Getting all I could live for today”
Selfishly Sinned…Forever Forgiven
Tragedies!!! – Why me?!?!...Understanding God’s purpose for my life
Living life for Pleasure…Eternal Hope in Christ!
Searching for Something…Hope found in Christ
Unfaithfulness, broken marriage…Forgiveness and mercy Restored!
Broken hearted…Healed by God’s Grace
Broken Marriage because of lies…Mended Marriage because of God!
I did it my way…I’m loving it God’s way!
I thought I had everything I needed…Found out God is all that I need
Unsure of what is right…courage to act on convictions
Had God in a Box…He is in all of my life now!
Seeking for God…God is seeking me
All about ME…All about HIM
Worried about what others thought…Learning only God’s view matters
Anxious…Trusting God more & more
Used to be a “Sunday” Christian…Now I live everyday for Him
Our lives were structured with chaos…structured with God’s purpose
I was learning bad habits…Now I teach Sunday school
The Bible…Just a book…Now Livin’ it out…more than a Book!
Severed Marriage…Reconciled Marriage
Giving into lust…Now fighting the battle with God & accountability

Thursday, February 08, 2007

CEO's are Coming

There are few Sundays that are more exciting than Easter…Resurrection Sunday. This year Easter falls on April 8. This will be the one Sunday all year long that we have more opportunity to touch people who need Christ with the Gospel than any other Sunday. Why? The reason is because Easter will once again bring out all of the CEO’s. What is a CEO? It is a Christmas/Easter Only church attender.

Last year our total Easter attendance was 1,796. There seems to be little doubt that this Easter will be our first Sunday here at Grace that we break the 2,000 mark in attendance at a service held at our church. Now before some of you go down the, “There goes Pastor Scott, all about numbers” trail, please keep in mind that every one of those numbers represents a person that God loves and that Jesus died for. On April 8, we will have the opportunity to touch each of them with the Good News that Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost. I can’t help but get excited.

We will use Easter this year to start a 3 week series called LOST which will be a spin-off of the current hit television show. On April 8 the message title will be The Lost Planet in which we will look at the story in Luke 19 where Jesus meets the short tax collector, Zaccheus, right where he was…up a sycamore tree. We will hone in on the words Jesus gives at the end where He says that He came to seek and to save those who were lost. After all, that is what Easter is all about. On April 15 we will look at Jesus parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin in a message entitled Lost and Found. Then on April 22 we will examine Jesus’ story of the lost son (better known as the prodigal son) in a message entitled, When Home Seems So Far Away.

On Easter morning (April 8) we will have 3 identical morning services (7:15; 9:00; and 10:45). We want to encourage those without kids and Senior Citizens to attend the 7:15 service in order to free up seats for the later services which will have many more guests. There will be no nursery or children’s ministry for the 7:15 service but there will be nursery and a children’s program for the 9:00 and 10:45 services.

There will be no youth group or Adult Bible Fellowship Classes on Easter. However, we will have a continental breakfast on Easter Sunday from 8:30-10:30. This will take place in two different locations the entire two hours. These locations will be the Youth Room and the Fellowship Hall.

This year our Children’s Ministry, in conjunction with Morningstar Daycare and Lititz Christian School, will be having a huge Easter Egg Hunt the weekend before Easter on Saturday, March 31st, in which they will be promoting our Easter services. This will be a great addition to using Easter to reach as many people as possible.

Nothing of eternal important happens apart from prayer so please be praying fervently now for our upcoming Resurrection Sunday!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Yours Anonymously

Our staff here at Grace Church appreciates constructive criticism that is given from a proper heart and in the proper way. We desire feedback and we take all such comments seriously. But what is the “proper way” to communicate something negative or a concern about an area within our ministry?

The least effective way that anyone can ever communicate a negative or a concern is to do so in writing. Why? Because it is impossible for others to really understand your thoughts because they can’t hear your tone nor can they see your heart through your nonverbal communication. Written correspondence always runs the risk of being taken wrong. As a result, I would encourage you to think twice before ever jotting down any negative comments or concerns on notes or even on the Sunday morning response cards. For example, if you think the music is too loud or you don't like the looks of something in the church, written notes are the least effective way to communicate these concerns.

Every once in a while we receive a note containing a negative comment about an area of ministry within our church which is turned in anonymously. What makes this an improper as well as an ineffective way of communicating a concern or a negative? First, to do so is to communicate a concern in an unbiblical manner. According to Matthew 18, if someone offends us we are to go to them. There is no room in those instructions for anonymous notes of a negative nature. This is true even if the note is cloaked in the spiritual looking signature, “a concerned brother” or “a concerned sister in Christ.”

Second, when notes and letters are turned in anonymously it is impossible to be able to make a contact with the writer to have an honest dialogue about the concern. As a result, it is our practice here at Grace Church to disregard all such notes and letters. Once we ascertain that a note or letter is of a negative nature and is anonymous, we immediately quit reading it and dispose of it without passing it on to any other staff member and without taking any of its information into consideration.

And of course, it is never appropriate to discuss your concerns with others who attend our church or with staff members that are not over the area of ministry in which you have the concern when you have never gone to the person in charge of that area of ministry. We must be careful that we don’t mask gossip in spiritual sounding motives. Honest feedback and constructive criticism is valuable but it always needs to be done properly so that division does not occur in the church.

If you ever have a concern about an area of our ministry here at Grace Church, I would ask that you call the staff member over that area and set up a time to talk with them about your concern. Please do not bring that concern directly to me unless you have first gone to the staff member over that area and talked to them in person, not just through written correspondence. This is not only the Biblical way to handle these situations but it is far more effective than a comment written on a note or on one of our Sunday morning response cards, especially if it is turned in anonymously.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Moving People

In my blog yesterday I gave the results of the Purpose Task Force as they revisited and reevaluated the purpose statement of our church, taking the overall mission of our church and stating it in a brief, specific and transferable phrase. What is Grace Church all about?

Meeting people where they are; Moving people to where God wants them to be!”

I gave a description in yesterday’s blog about what we mean by “Meeting people where they are” both spiritually and geographically. Both the aspect of “meeting people where they are” and the aspect of “moving people to where God wants them to be” takes place as we develop a balanced ministry that reaches out to the following 6 levels of ministry:

The COMMUNITY: Those who live within driving distance of Grace Church but have no connection at all with Grace Church or with Jesus Christ. Our goal is to have events and activities which break down all barriers and allow people to have a very enjoyable time and to gain a positive perspective of Grace Church.

The CROWD: Those who have had very limited contact with Grace Church but have no real connection with Grace Church or with Jesus Christ. Our goal is to have events or activities which are fun and exciting but which also clearly present the Gospel.

The CURIOUS: Those who have a more regular contact with Grace Church but have made no commitment to Grace Church or to Jesus Christ. Our goal is to have events or activities that are not only exciting and present the Gospel, but which also gives the opportunity for individuals to respond to the Gospel invitation.

The CONVINCED: Those who have made a decision to give their life to Jesus and now need to grow in their faith. Our goal is to have events or activities which allow those who have made a decision for Christ to grow in their faith and get grounded in the Word.

The COMMITTED: Those who have learned the basics of the faith and are now ready to dig deeper into the meat of God’s Word. Our goal is to have events or activities which allow those grounded in their faith to learn and apply the deeper truths of God’s Word.

The CORE: Those who are ready to lead ministries within the church and who are spiritually reproducing themselves in others. Our goal is to allow mature believers to take on positions of leadership and invest in the lives of others in the levels below.

The goal of evangelism and discipleship is to move people from one level to the next. We want to see the Community become part of the Crowd; the Crowd become part of the Curious; the Curious become part of the Convinced; the Convinced become part of the Committed; and the Committed become part of the Core. Or in other words, it is “meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be!”

Monday, February 05, 2007

Meeting People

Over the past several months, our Purpose Task Force (made up of our full-time ministry staff here at Grace) has had several meetings to revisit and reevaluate the purpose statement of our church. Our goal was not to change are purpose but rather to take the overall purpose and mission of our church and to be able to state it in one brief, specific and transferable phrase in easy to understand terminology.

We begin our task by doing a SWOT analysis as we took time to examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that our church faces. From that we worked, reworked, than reworked some more our purpose statement over and over, taking time to analyze each and every word. It was quite the challenge and a great group building experience. We then shared our phrase with the Elder Board and with our church staff who all readily accepted the phrase and saw the value of it indicating our purpose and our mission. Here it is…Grace Church is all about:

Meeting people where they are; Moving people to where God wants them to be!”

Grace Church exists to meet people where they are which has two implications. The first implication is spiritual. Every person is somewhere on their spiritual journey. Some are far from knowing Christ while others are very near committing to a personal relationship with Jesus. Some are new believers in Christ while others are growing deeper in their Christian faith. We desire to meet people wherever they are at on their spiritual journey.

The second implication is geographical. We desire to be proactive in taking our ministries off of our campus and into our community so that we can meet people where they are at both spiritually and geographically. We saw this as being extremely important. Most all (with very few exceptions) of all that we do here at Grace occurs inside the walls or property lines of our property. This is good, but let’s be honest. The vast majority of the people who live in and around our community will never come on to our property as their first contact with us. As a result, if all we do is reach those who come on to our property, we will reach very few people in comparison to the number of men, women, boys and girls that God has put all around us. We must make it our mission and our purpose as a church to penetrate our community. We must take the ministries of Grace Church off of our campus and out into our community. We must meet people where they are, not just spiritually, but also geographically.

Grace Church also exists through the power of the Word and the Spirit to be used by the Lord to help move people from where they are at spiritually to where He wants them to be. We desire to see people far from the Lord move a few steps closer to a personal relationship with Him. We desire to see people who are close to saving faith in Jesus make that commitment to trust Him as Savior. We desire to see new believers grounded in their faith in Christ, and to see grounded Christians moved into a deeper relationship of maturity in Christ and service for Him. This is what Grace church is all about!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vision Month

This Sunday will begin what we are calling VISION MONTH here at Grace Church. This is not just a focus that we will be taking on Sunday mornings. This will be a ministry-wide focus which will also be including our children’s ministry and our educational ministries of Lititz Christian School and Morningstar Daycare.

But what is vision? God told Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:1-2 to record the vision and inscribe it on tablets so that the one who reads it may run. That sounds extremely significant. The best definition I have ever heard of vision came from Bill Hybels who said that “vision is a picture of the future that produces a passion.” Helen Keller was once asked, “What would be worse than being born blind?” Her answer was astounding. She replied, “To have sight with no vision.”

Unfortunately that describes a lot of Christians and a lot of churches today. They have sight…they know the truth of God’s Word, but they have no vision. They seem to be lacking any passion at all to do anything big for God.

What is it that limits our vision? In John 6, a great multitude of people (Luke's Gospel says 5,000 men which could mean up to 25,000 in total with women and children) were on a mountain in a very desolate place listening to Jesus teach. It was getting late and they were all hungry. Testing Philip, Jesus asked him where they could get enough food to feed such a crowd. I’m sure the answer Jesus wanted to hear was, “Why, you can do that Jesus…You’re God!” Instead, Philip replied that 6 months worth of wages would not be enough money to buy enough food for such a crowd. Philip could not look past the reality of his situation. Neither can many churches resulting in sight but no vision.

Andrew was asked to go through the crowd and see if there was any food available. All he could find was one boy’s lunch consisting of 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. He brings it to Jesus and pessimistically says, “What are these among so many?” Andrew could not look past his resources. Neither can many churches and vision is squelched.

How much vision should we have? Well, that depends. How big is our God? According to Ephesians 3:20, He is a God who is able to do super abundantly beyond anything we could ever ask for and anything we could ever imagine. Now based on that fact about God, how much vision do you think we should have? No wonder D.L. Moody once said, “If God be your partner make your plans large!”

Because vision is so important, we will be taking the month of February throughout our entire ministry to refocus our vision. What is Grace Church, Morningstar Daycare and Lititz Christian School all about? Why do we exist? What big things do we believe that God has called us to do? How can we become even more effective at meeting people where they are both geographically and spiritually as well as being used by God to help move people to where God wants them to be?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rapture Review (part 2)

In yesterday’s blog I started to give brief answers to 22 questions about the rapture of the church. Today is the conclusion of that entry. If you haven’t already, please be sure to go back and read yesterday’s entry before continuing on with today’s article.

What will happen to the bodies of dead believers when they are resurrected? They will be rejoined to their souls and changed into an incorruptible and eternal body.

What is the guarantee that the bodies of dead believers will be resurrected? It is the resurrection of Christ that guarantees that there will be a future resurrection of the dead.

Who will return at the rapture? The Lord Himself will return in the air for His church.

What sounds will accompany Jesus when He returns at the rapture? The Lord will return with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.

Who shouts and why? It is Jesus that gives this verbal shout which is probably a command for the bodies of dead believers to be resurrected.

How many archangels are there? The Bible only identifies one name of an archangel which is Michael. However, that does not mean that there are not other archangels.

What is the purpose of the sound of the trumpet? The trumpet is likely to be a sound of assembly for all believers though it could be a warning of the coming tribulation.

What will happen to the living believers when this occurs? Living believers will be "caught up" which is the idea of being suddenly taken away into the clouds.

What will happen to the bodies of the living believers that are raptured? Like the bodies of the dead believers, bodies of living believers will also be changed into an immortal and incorruptible eternal body.

How long will it take for all of this to happen? All of the events surrounding the rapture will take place in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye.

What kind of reunion will take place at the rapture? At the rapture we will be reunited with all of the believers who have already died.

What will be the best part of the rapture? The best part of the rapture is that we will get to see Jesus.

How long will we be with Christ after the rapture occurs? We will be with the Lord for all of eternity.