Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pastor of Connections Visit to Lititz

Over the last two blog entries I have introduced you to Steve Burghart, our potential Pastor of Connections candidate. Steve, his wife, and their two girls will be visiting Grace Church August 1-6. Below is the itinerary for Steve’s visit:

Friday, August 1:
Flights to Harrisburg
Check into hotel
Dinner with Pastor Scott and Pastor Tim and wives

Saturday, August 2:
Breakfast with Elders
Tour of Grace Church and Lititz
Lunch with Pastor Scott and Laura
Meeting with realtor
Dinner with Search Committee Chairman

Sunday, August 3:
Attend Morning Services
Lunch with Youth Directors and wives
Afternoon meet and greet with church family
Attend outdoor youth led communion

Monday, August 4:
Breakfast as a family
Individual introductions with staff
Meet with Lititz Christian School Administrators
Picnic lunch with staff
Tour of Lancaster County
Dinner with Small Group Steering Committee

Tuesday, August 5:
Free Day

Wednesday, August 6:
Flights back to California

Please be sure to drop by the church Fellowship Hall anytime between 3:00-5:30 on Sunday afternoon, August 3rd, for some refreshments and the opportunity for you to meet Steve and his family personally. This will be your opportunity in an informal setting to ask Steve any questions you would like to know about him. Following this special meet and greet time will be our outdoor youth led communion beginning at 6pm which will inlcude several teens being baptized. Please be praying for Steve, his family, and our time together August 1-6.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conference Update #7

After starting the morning at Dunkin Donuts, we attended the morning session where Ed Lewis, Executive Director of CE National, spoke on the subject of grace. Ed told the conference point blank, "If we are not going to be all about grace then let's take the word grace out of the title Grace Brethren." It reminded me of what I heard my mentor, Steve Peters, say often when I served with him in Ohio..."If we are going to err, let's be sure to err on the side of grace." By the way, I got to spend a few minutes with Steve prior to Doug and I attending the CE National luncheon today. It was great to see him! I miss that guy a lot!

Tonight we took the trip over to Lakeland to see the Todd Bentley (pictured) revival for ourselves. TK, who is one of our church missionaries with CE National, went with us. This revival (dubbed the Florida Outpouring) has been going on every night for about 120 evenings now. I have seen clips of some parts of Bentley's services where he convulses when he gets in the spirit and where he heals many, one in particular by kicking him in the stomach. I also have heard him talk about being taken to the third heaven and the many times he has seen and spoken to an angel. I struggle theologically with most all of this but wanted to see it for myself before making a public judgment. Unfortunately, Todd was not there tonight so I will not be able to give any first hand opinions of his ministry. The guy who led the meetings was from Texas. I can say that within the first 10 minutes of his message, my list of "doctrinal problems" was growing.
Before the speaker, however, there was literally 75 minutes of non-stop worship. For the most part the worship was centered on Jesus and the people seemed very sincere and genuine in lifting up His name. There were many different expression around the tent outside of simply lifting up of hands. I saw some dancing. I saw some waving flags. I saw some laying on the floor in the aisles as if asleep. In my mind I was trying to differentiate between if I was seeing worship expressions that were unbiblical or that were just uncomfortable for me personally because of my background, upbringing and personality. The worship leader seemed to stay focused on the Lord and didn't seem to be trying to manufacture emotion from the crowd. I did very much struggle when the worship leader claimed to be smelling the aroma of bread baking which was a sign to her that God was going to give His people spiritual bread that evening.
There were some testimonies that were quite interesting including two women who claimed that during the evangelism training that they were in earlier that day, they experienced immediate supernatural weight loss to the tune of one and a half pants sizes. I'm not exactly sure how supernatural weight loss fit into evangelism training.
The trip to Lakeland provided for some good conversation on the way home. TK likened what we saw to the attitude of the sick who gathered around the pool of Bethesda in Scripture where supposedly once a day an angel stirred the waters and whoever was the first to get in the pool when the water was stirred was healed. Theologians differ on if there was really healings at this pool or if it was a myth. And if it was real healings, theologians differ on if they were from God or not. One thing can be said for sure about those around the pool of Bethesda in Scripture and those who were in Lakeland tonight...people are desperate for a touch from God and if they think it might happen in a certain place, they come.
Tonight I still need to pack before going to bed because tomorrow after the Delegate Brunch, Doug, Matt, Tim and I will head straight to the airport. Doug, Matt and I will fly to Charlotte and then on to Harrisburg arriving tomorrow night just after 9:30pm. Tim flies back to Buffalo where his wife and kids will pick him up and they will drive back to Lititz. Pastor Whitie and his wife will leave tomorrow and drive home making a stop in Atlanta along the way to see family. Please be praying for safe travels for all of us.
It has been a great week. There are two things I look for in a productive conference. First, I want to see my socks challenged off of me spiritually. Second, I want to come home with ideas that we can use here at Lititz to more effectively meet people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be. I give this conference an "A" on point, were we ever challenged when it comes to evangelism. And I would give it a "B-" on point two. We came away with some ideas but not as many as I would have liked.
One thing I learned for sure, after hanging out with these three young guys (Matt, Doug and Tim) all week, I am flat tired. I am of the age now where bed sounds real good to me by 9pm...10pm at the very latest. These guys don't get their second wind until well after 11pm! Truth is, they wore me out but I enjoyed every minute of it. If you see Doug Kegarise, ask him what Gold Bond powder has to do with 10,000 angels. And if you see Matt McElravy, ask him what he learned about A/C in cars. If he won't tell you, ask Pastor Tim...He'd be glad to fill you in!

More On Steve Burghart

In my blog yesterday I began to introduce you to Steve Burghart who is our potential Pastor of Connections candidate. If you did not read yesterday’s blog entry, please be sure to do so. Below is some additional information about Steve:

Conversion Experience: Steve grew up in an atheistic, although socially conservative household ruled by the gods, science, reason and his father. After his marriage, as Steve worked as an engineer and his wife stayed home to raise their daughters, Steve became frustrated, feeling like he wasn’t in control of his life and not knowing how to be a father. During his morning commute to work he began to listen to the ministry J Vernon McGee on the radio and became convicted of the truth of the words he heard. Steve and Shawna decided to take the girls to church and started attending Saddleback Church where he ultimately put his faith in Christ.

Call to Ministry: Steve has always seen himself as gifted for teaching and team building. That gifting was expressed through being a small business owner, a team leader, and coaching soccer. After coming to faith, Steve began serving in the Baptism Ministry at Saddleback. His Ministry leader quickly realized that Steve had the gifts and the desire to manage, recruit, train and coach volunteers. This person asked Steve what he would be vocationally if there were absolutely no barriers. Without hesitation, Steve said that he knew God had made him a teacher. This leader went on to share with Steve how it was evident that he was called into pastoral ministry.

Summary: Steve has a deep yet practical knowledge of small group ministry. He is currently a part time staff member at Rick Warren’s Church (Saddleback Community Church) in Lake Forest, CA, as a Small Group Team Leader. He and his wife also host a small group in their home. He has served with Saddleback in this capacity for several years and has been part of their small group growth. Steve recently graduated from Talbot Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in evangelism and discipleship and where one of his professors (Dr McIntosh) is a leading expert on church growth. His experience serving under Rick Warren, coupled with his formal ministry education, bring many strengths in the area of local church evangelism and discipleship. There is no question, though, that Steve’s passion in ministry is small groups. That is his heart and his ministry calling. Steve is also very analytical and a very good problem solver. His love is taking the vision of the leader over him and making it happen in a practical and effective manner. Philosophically, he is right on board with the vision and strategy of our church and is 100% comfortable with our church’s doctrine and teachings. Because Steve found Christ as an adult he still very much understands the mindset of the unbeliever. This will be a great advantage to our team. Steve is extremely outgoing…a real people person. He is a natural at starting conversations and building bridges with people. He also has a very good sense of humor. He will fit in fine with our staff. He also will bring energy to the team and to me personally as the Senior Pastor. Steve is a doer and a self-motivator. He will not be timid in leading us into being a church of small groups.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Conference Update #6

One thing that is nice to know in our unstable ecomony is that the four of us have a profession to fall back on as long as Steak N Shake opens a franchise in Lititz!

Conference Update #5

After breakfast at IHOP to make Doug Kegarise happy, we attended the morning session today wherre Jeff Bogue, Pastor of the Greater Akron Grace Brethren Church spoke on the need for us to "give it all away" in order for praise to be brought to the Lord and for God to replenish us so that we can continue to invest our lives into ministry. It was a very challenging message that gave us plenty to talk about throughout the day.

After the session we headed to Clearwater Beach for the afteroon and then dinner at a great local restauant called Hops. Then it was a couple hour nap before the evening sessions where conference moderator, Jim Brown, who is also the pastor of our Goshen Grace Brethren Church spoke. Jim made a passionate presentation about the Biblical mandates in Scripture to care about and help the poor. I have nenver met anyone more passionate than Jim. This guy is amazing. At the end of the session he gave an opportunity for those at the conference to give toward allowing 600 African Orphans to attend James Gribble Christian High School. He did not tell us until after the offering what the amount needed was. The amount needed was $30,000. The offering totalled $30,050. It was truly a "God thing" and amazing to be part of. Following the session it was a stop at Steak and Shake. I will post a great picture of the four of us at the restaurant as soon as Matt sends it to me.

Tomorrow we hear Ed Lewis, Director of CE National in the morning session and then Doug and I will be attending the CE National luncheon. Tomorrow night we are doing something fairly interesting. A little under an hour away from Palm Harbor, in Lakeland, Florida, is a ministry of a man named Todd Bentley who hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are coming to see in his nightly revivals. I have many, many "red flags" based on what I have seen, heard and read about this ministry but I also realize that everything I have seen or read is mostly little snips from different bloggers. I know that I get irritated when people make conclusions about my ministry based on little snips that they see and read on other people's blogs, so we thought it would be interesting to go see for ourselves. So Wednesday night we are going to take a road trip to Lakeland. I'll be sure to give you my honest appraisal afterwards.

Meet Steve Burghart

On August 1-6, Steve Burghart and his family will be visiting Grace Church as our potential Pastor of Connections Candidate. Let me give you some information on Steve:

Family: Steve lives in Mission Viejo, California and has been married to his wife, Shawna, for 14 years. They have two children, Jessica (age 12) and Courtney (age 14) who are both currently home-schooled. Shawna has also served as Director of the South Coast Christian Home Educators which is a ministry of and to 150-250 home-schooling families. For the past 7 years, she has also served weekly during the school year leading in their church’s children's minsitry's centralized small groups program

Education: Steve received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership from Biola University in 2003. In 2008, he received his Master of Divinity in Evangelism and Discipleship from Talbot School of Theology.

Ministry Experience: Steve has served on the Staff of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, CA (Rick Warren’s church…Rick Warren is the author of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Live) as a Small Groups Community Team Leader since 2004. Saddleback is a church with an average Sunday morning attendance of over 23,000. This position entails the following:

· Motivating every member along their personal journey of faith toward living a life characterized by involvement in God’s purposes for His church

· Providing pastoral care and biblical conflict resolution for up to 100 groups

· Supplying visionary leadership to a team of up to 10 community Leaders

· Participating on Small Groups Team for program strategy and evaluation

· Training small group leaders in spiritual formation and group interactions

· Multiplying leadership through mentorship and modeling

· Creating curricula for decentralized, dialogical study

· Leading small group-based teams into local and international mission fields

· Interceding before the Lord on behalf of the leadership, membership and community

Steve also served as the Baptism Ministry Team Leader at Saddleback from 1999-2003 in which he assembled, developed and supported a volunteer ministry team of up to 50 individuals.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Conference Update #4

This morning's session went very least from my perspective. I ended up speaking on exaclty what I had planned to speak on after all. Even as I arrived at the meeting room I wasn't sure if I should change the direction I was planning to go or not. I felt that God gave me the "green light" to go with my original plan when I looked at the detailed order for the session and saw that the song right before I spoke was "Mighty To Save" which is my favorite worship song of all. Obviously, the worship leader did not know that when he selected the songs. Pastor Tim introduced me which was cool in and of itself.

After the session, Matt, Tim and I had lunch at Chilis and then we went with about 90 people from the conference for an exposure trip to the Hindu Temple in Tampa. The trustee of the temple and his family were delightful people who gave us an overview of Hinduism and a tour of their temple. They even prepared some Indian food for us to sample. It was very educational but even more motivational to see the depths of their spiritual blindness. Boy, do people all over the world ever need Jesus. I am more committed than ever that evangelism must be the engine that drives Grace Church...across the street and around the world!

When we returned from the Hindu Temple we picked up Doug and went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and then spent the evening down at the St Petersburg pier. As spiritually motivating as the conference has been, I still think the best part has been hanging out with these guys and the team building that we have experienced together. I love pastoring Grace Church but what makes it even more speical is the people I get to serve alongside of every single day. I love these guys!

Tomorrow Doug is begging for IHOP for breakfast and then we will hear Jeff Bouge who pastors in Norton, Ohio speak in the morning session. The plan as of now is to spend tomorrow afternoon at the Clearwater Beach and then be back in time for the evening session when Jim Brown speaks. Jim is the moderator of our Fellowship this year and pastor of our Goshen, Indiana Grace Brethren Church. He is the biggest evangelistic sparkplug I have ever met!


This morning I will be speaking in the main session of our Fellowship of Grace Brethren Adult Conference in Tampa, Florida. The topic I was given by our moderator, Jim Brown (pastor of our Goshen Indiana Grace Brethren Church) is “I Care”! I will be speaking from the lost parables that Jesus told in Like 15:1-10.

Large crowds were following Jesus including sinners and tax collectors who were trying to get close to Him. Tax collectors worked for the Romans and had a reputation for extortion making them hated by Jews. They were forbidden to have social interaction with Jews and were viewed as lying swine and traitors. The religious leaders grumbled against Christ accusing Him of being wrong by associating with lost people (v2).

As a result of these accusations, Jesus tells the parable of the lost Sheep, the lost Shekel and the lost Son beginning with the story of the lost sheep (v4-6). He directs this story toward the men. Jesus speaks of the man who had 100 sheep and lost one of them. What does he do? He leaves the 99 and goes out to find the lost sheep in a rough land after dark when he is already hungry and tired. And when he finds it, he celebrates.

Then Jesus tells the story of the lost shekel (v8-9) which is directed towards the women. In this case the woman loses a drachma which was the equivalent of a full day’s wages and was used as a hair dressing like a wedding ring. What steps does the woman take to find the lost coin? First, she spares no expense by lighting a lamp. Second, she spares no effort by sweeping the house. Finally, she shows persistence as she searches carefully until she finds it. And she too celebrates when she finds the lost coin.

From these two stories, Jesus gives us 3 reasons why He cared about lost people. Reason #1 is that they are lost and very valuable to God! The lost sheep and lost coin were very valuable to their owners. In the same way sinners are lost and very valuable to God. The word “lost” is used 8 times in chapter 15. GB Caird once said, “To call a man lost is to pay him high compliment, for it means that he is very precious in the sight of God!”

Reason #2 is because God will go through infinite trouble to find lost people! Both the shepherd and the woman went to great trouble to find lost items. In the same, way, God is willing to go through infinite trouble to find lost people (Luke 19:10; Romans 5:8).

The final reason is because nothing brings greater celebration to heaven than a lost person being found! The shepherd and the woman both rejoiced and invited their friends to rejoice with them when they found the lost item. In the same way, there is rejoicing in heaven (v7) and in the presence of the angels (v10) when a lost person is found. Some experts tell us that 170,000 every day trust Christ to be their Savior in our world. Now if there is a celebration in heaven for each and every one of them than that tells me that heaven is one non-stop party. So here is my question, “Who cancelled the party in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches?"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Conference Update #3

Hello again from hot, humid Florida. It is just before 11pm and I just got back to my room. Doug Kegarise and I attended the session tonight while Matt McElravy went to pick up Tim Auld from the airport. We all then went out and got a bite to eat afterwards.

I appreciate your prayers if you read this anytime before noon on Monday! I am scheduled to speak in the main session in the morning. The session starts @ 10am but I probably will not be on before 11am. Pray for wisdom for me, would you? Something came up tonight that is making me rethink what I had planned for my message tomorrow. Thanks!

Conference Update #2

This morning's session had Mark Cahill as the speaker. Mark is a speaker whose ministry is to equip and encourage believers to boldly stand up for what they believe. He is also author of two books....One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven and One Heartbeat Away.

Mark's talk was more than just a was a spiritual spanking of sorts due to the fact that most Christians do no share their faith. He told us that when he checked in at the hotel he asked the gal behind the counter how many people from the conference she had checked in. The answer, of course, was many. He then asked her how many of those people had shared Jesus with her as she checked them in. The answer, as you can imagine, was zero.

To be honest, the style of his talk was a bit unsettling to me personally. I'm not saying it was bad or wrong...just unsettling. Many times that is good because it is when we are unsettled that we often really grapple with issues being talked about and that is very positive. I left grappling with some issues from this morning's session which I am grateful for hearing. For example, I loved the challenge being given to our fellowship of churches to witness. Boy, do we need that! But I sometimes wonder if guilting people into witnessing is the most effective way of equipping them (by the way, I am not saying that Mark did is just a thought that crossed my mind and that Matt McElravy and I talked about after the session).

I appreciate so much those who like Peter in the New Testament can just boldly walk up to anyone and ask a spiritual hot question like, "What do you think happens when you die?" But I wonder if that approach is the best approach for every believer? Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that this is a bad approach. I believe that the best approach when it comes to sharing your faith is the approach that you actually use and I have used this direct approach many times before. But I also believe that there are many different styles of evangelism and ways to share Christ and I am not always sure that trying to narrow everyone's approach to one style or method is the most effective. I wonder how many people after being strongly challenged to participate in the direct approach with strangers respond by saying, "If that is evangelism...I can't do it so I just won't be involved at all and leave it to the evangelists among us." Again, I am just sharing out loud some thoughts I have been grappling with this afternoon which made the session this morning very effective.

Mark's talk was a great reminder that at the very least, wherever I go I need to start conversations with people I pass and see if God is doing anything in their lives that I can join Him in planting a seed in or watering a seed that had been previosuly planted by another. In fact, after the session Matt and I were at Best Buy and we were able to strike up a great conversation with an Italian man named Francesco who teaches Physical Education at a local high school and who is Catholic. We talked for a good 10-15 minutes and were able to bring the conversation around to spiritual things quite easily. Francesco asked a lot about our church and so I gave him one of my business cards that had our church's website on it.

Mark kept coming back in his talk this morning to a point that I have been thinking about a lot this afternoon. He said that witnessing is a conversation, not a presentation. I like that. If we could just learn how to start conversations with others we would be amazed at the direction God takes it. Anyway, Mark gave me a lot to chew on. He is also speaking tonight about how to use culture to share our faith. I am really looking forward to that session. Something else that was cool about Mark. Most speakers talk about their books a lot and then enourage you to go to the book table and buy them. Mark talked about his books a lot but then he gave every person at the conference a free copy of each of them. How cool was that? I look forward to reading them over the rest of this summer.

Matt and I picked up Doug Kegarise at the Tampa airport this afteroon and then we went to Smokey Bones for lunch. It was great hearing all about the exciting things that happened at Youth Conference. Be sure to plan on being at the youth led outdoor communion this Sunday evening, August 3rd to hear testimonies from our teens and to see several teens baptized!

Grace Original Makes Second Round in Contest

Matt McElravy, our Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church (pictured), is going to kill me for putting this on my blog but I think it is exciting and that you will enjoy the information.

One of the songs that Matt wrote that is a Grace Curch original and is on our worship CD is making progress in a songwriter's competition. “Crushed (You Laid Down Your Life)” has made it to the shortlist round of judging in this year’s Australian Songwriters Association competition, in the “International” category (for all the songwriters who are not native Australians)! There’s still another much tighter round of competition to go. Here’s a link to the shortlist page:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Conference Update #1

Hi Everyone!

It is just before midnight on Saturday.

I arrived in Florida via Charlotte on Thursday afternoon and spent Thursday night and Friday night with my parents who live in Lakeland, FL. It also allowed me to make a visit to my Grandma on my mom's side who is in a nursing home also in Lakeland. Grandma did not look good at all. She did recognize me but it also appeared that she had recently had some more mini strokes. Chances are very good that this was probably my last visit with my Grandma this side of heaven.

I arrived at the Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida near Tampa Bay today in time for the kick off session of the conference. Dan Gregory, who has pastored our Columbia City, Indiana Grace Brethren Church for the past 14 years spoke on the need for us to cast our nets from Luke 5. Dan did a great job as he talked about the fact that we can't simply do servant projects as a gimmick to get people into our church. Rather, we must serve because we are servants!

Matt McElravy and I enjoyed some good eating today at Sonny's BBQ for lunch and at Joe's Crab Shack later that evening for dinner. We also spent some time down at the St Petersburg Pier.

Pastor Whitie is also already here with his wife. Tomorrow we pick up Doug Kegarise and Pastor Tim from the airport as well. Others from our church are here including Nelson Peters, Marlin and Sue Weaver, and Dr Young and Loreen.

Tomorrow we will hear twice in main sessions from Mark Cahill. I will speak on Monday morning and we will be visiting a Hindu Temple later that afternoon.

Enjoy worshipping back at Grace on Sunday on our new floor! I sure wish I could be there. I know that you will enjoy the music of Lisa McCoy and be inspried as Mike Lutz shares on Small Group Ministry!

Thanks for your prayers!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why I Am PUMPED About Grace Church - Part 2

In yesterday’s blog I began to share with you why I am so pumped about the next three months of ministry here at Grace Church. Here are some more reasons:

A New School Year – The end of August will bring us another exciting academic year with many new teachers for MorningStar Daycare and Lititz Christian School.

Prophecy Month – The month of September will be a special prophecy month here at Grace Church. All four Sundays I will be sharing in our morning worship services on what the Bible teaches about the Anti-Christ, that coming one world ruler of the tribulation period. During this month, all ABF classes will be taking the month off and in their place their will be several ABF electives for you to chose from, all dealing with the topic of prophecy and what the Bible teaches about the future.

Small Groups Launch – The month of September will complete our first small group leader’s training which will set us up to launch our first wave of small groups in the month of October. Lord willing, by then our new Pastor of Connections will also have started in leading us into being a church of small groups.

Youth Fifth Quarter – Our Youth Group will start the month of October off with a huge Fifth Quarter Event held at the Lititz Rec Center following a Warwick Football game.

Additional Third Service – In order to free up more seats for our growing ministry, beginning in October we will be adding a third identical Sunday Morning Worship Service (8:30; 10:00 and 11:30). This will give us a seating capacity of 2,400 over our three services. All of the logistics will be given to our church family early in August.

Ghostbusters – On Sundays in October we will be having a new “Ghostbusters” series as we discover what the Bible says about ghosts. Is there such a thing as ghosts? If so, what are they? Is it possible for us to see or communicate with those who have died? What should the believer’s response be to the October Halloween holiday?

Stuff the Sunroom – During the month of October it is our hope to make a difference in the lives of hurting women and children in Lancaster County by stuffing the sunroom off of the church lobby with thousands of items that will then distributed to four local organizations who are working directly with disadvantaged women and children right here in Lancaster County. A list of items needed is available at the church office. If every person brought one item with them every time they came to church during the month of Octrober we would have no problem stuffing the sunroom and meeting a very real and practical need.

Children’s Harvest Party – The month of October will wrap-up with a big children’s harvest party in which details will be coming in the very near future. This will be a great way to end the next three months of ministry here at Grace Church.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why I Am PUMPED About Grace Church - Part 1

It was four years ago that Laura and I, along with our kids, moved to Lititz, PA in Lancaster County to be just the second Senior Pastor in the history of Grace Church. What a great four years it has been. I am so blown away at what God has been doing through our ministry. I am more excited about Grace Church than I was four years ago when I left a successful ministry in Indiana and a wonderful church full of people who loved and accepted me in order to launch a new chapter in my ministry here in Lititz. In short, I am absolutely pumped! So today and tomorrow I want to give you several reasons why I could not be more thrilled about the next three months of ministry here at Grace.

Auditorium Renovations – This week will complete the new floor being installed in our
multi-purpose building that is used as our auditorium and gymnasium. In the early weeks of August the new retractable basketball standards and brand new scoreboard will be put up on the walls and retractable bleachers will also be installed. Specially designed multi-media curtains will then be installed that will cover the basketball standards, bleachers and scoreboard in order for our worship and other special events to take place in a building that does not look like a gymnasium while allowing us to have an extremely professional and effective gym for sporting and other recreational events.

Just Say No – Over the five Sundays in August we will be studying a new series that we care calling, “Just Say No” in which each week we will see one individual from Scripture who personally faced temptation. We will see three examples who succeeded at resisting their temptation (Christ, Joseph, and Daniel) and two examples who failed (Eve and David). From these 5 example we will learn everything we can about how to resist the personal temptations that we face as followers of Christ every single day!

Pastor of Connections Visit – August 1-6 will see Steve Burghart and his family coming to Lititz to visit Grace Church as our potential candidate for our Pastor of Connections position. Steve is from Southern California where he is on staff at Saddleback Community Church which is pastored by Rick Warren, author of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. Next week I will give you all of the details for this visit but for now be sure to mark 3:00-5:30 down on your calendar for Sunday, August 3, for a special “meet and greet” time in the church fellowship hall with refreshments and an informal time for you to meet Steve and his family and to ask him anything you would like to know of him.

Outdoor Youth-Led Communion – Sunday evening, August 3, at 6pm following the meet and greet time with our potential Pastor of Connection Candidate, our youth will lead us in what I believe is the greatest communion of the year as we all meet outside.

Core Class Sunday – Our next Core Class Sunday will be the afternoon of August 10 as we offer Class 101 which is an introduction to Grace Church taught by me for those who are new or somewhat new to Grace Church and Class 201 which deals with developing spiritual disciplines and is taught by Pastor Tim. Free lunch and childcare is provided.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Pearl of a Funeral

Remember our series last March on heaven (The WOW Factor…World of Wonder)? On the Sunday of that series that we talked about the 12 gates around the wall of the New Jerusalem each being each made of one gigantic pearl, we gave out a white bead to everyone in attendance that resembled a pearl. We asked them that week to carry the bead in their pocket wherever they went as a reminder that the best is yet to come.

The wife of one of the newer young couples that attends our church works at a retirement village. She came to know one of the residents there who was failing in health. His name was Barry Shuler. He had trusted Christ but was really struggling with being scared to die. She took him into her office and had him watch all 3 messages of the WOW series online. God greatly used these messages in his life to give him peace and help prepare him for eternity. In fact, Barry shared with her that he was disappointed that he did not get one of those pearls we handed out in church that morning.

Barry wanted to come to our church so every Sunday since then this young woman and her husband would drive a good distance out of their way to pick him up for church. He loved attending Grace. During the week he would get on the computer in this woman’s office and listen to all the archived sermons on our website.

A few weeks back Barry took a turn for the worst and I was called. When I arrived at the nursing home I was able to meet most all of his family for the first time that were around his bed. I chatted with them for a few minutes about how Barry started coming to our church and how he could not get enough of the messages. I then bent down and read parts of John 14 and Revelation 21 to Barry as he clutched my hand.

After I prayed for Barry, I began to talk with his family about the WOW series. I was reminded that Barry was always disappointed that he never received one of those pearls that we gave out. I then shared with the family what the Bible taught about the pearly gates of heaven and why we gave out the beads. As I talked about those pearls, Barry sat straight up in bed with a huge smile on his face. His family was astounded. Barry had shown little responsiveness all day. But when we talked about those pearly gates – he got excited! I returned the next day for a second visit and brought Barry one of those fake pearls. His family made a little pouch for it and pinned it to his robe. Before I left, I said good-bye to Barry and told him that the next time I saw him it would be at those pearly gates! He smiled.

Last Saturday morning I had the privilege of preaching Barry’s funeral and I spoke about haven and the pearly gates. The pouch with the pearl in it was inside Barry’s pocket in the casket. After I told the story of the pearl, I gave everyone who was in attendance one of those fake pearls to take with them. Handing out beads representing pearls that Sunday morning back in March may have seemed like just a man-made gimmick to some, but to Barry it was a teaching tool that God used to help calm his fear of death and to make him look forward to heaven. It also became a bridge of ministry for me to his family.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Special Donor

Rick Bernhardt, Senior Administrator of Morningstar Daycare and Lititz Christian School which are both ministries of Grace Church, sent the following letter to all school and daycare families regarding our auditorium renovations.

Grace Church and its educational ministries have been blessed with 96,000 square feet of building space, where they meet people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be. Without question, one room that most ministries depend on greatly is the multipurpose room, which is often referred to as the auditorium or gymnasium. It is evident that seventeen years of athletic events, vacation Bible schools, worship services, youth activities, etc. have contributed to the need for room renovations, as well as upgrades. I am thrilled to announce that renovations of the auditorium/gymnasium have begun. Detailed research, professional advisement, and one generous donor are making this long-time dream a reality. Renovations include a new floor, retractable basketball goals mounted on the side walls, retractable bleachers, center volleyball court, safety mats, a new scoreboard, and fresh paint. Large multimedia screens will serve as curtains to mask the athletic accessories while enhancing the room’s sound and aesthetics when the room is used for auditorium events (worship services, graduation, chapel, etc.)

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to introduce you to the donor of this incredible project, Mr. Henry Weber. He and his lovely wife, Frances, have had a passion for Christian education for several decades. His ongoing, generous gifts to the school and the church have been greatly appreciated. When Mr. Weber agreed to fund the project I made it clear that I wanted him to be a part of the planning, as his years of experience, attention to detail, and ability to dream would be great assets to the project.

Henry Weber has been an elder at Grace Church for 8 years, having attended the church for 18 years. Mr. Weber received Christ as his Savior in 1931 at the Lititz Mennonite Church. He attended Webster School, a one-room country school, and graduated from Eastern Mennonite High School. He is married to Frances and they are parents of Sylvia, Joseph, Christopher, Anita and Eileen. They have 7 grandchildren, two of which are alumni of Lititz Christian School and one who is currently a Junior and who also attended MorningStar. A favorite Bible verse of Mr. Weber’s is Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” At the age of 87, he has logged over 32,000 hours flying time. Mrs. Weber is the epitome of the expression, “Behind every successful man there stands a successful woman.” Just stop Mr. Weber sometime and ask him to whom he owes his success. Without a doubt, he will give honor to the Lord first and then quickly tell you about his bride, Frances. This special woman began touching people’s lives at the young age of 16 when she became a vocal soloist, sharing her beautiful voice with anyone fortunate enough to hear her sing. Her gentle spirit and godly nature have been a blessing not only to Mr. Weber but to all who know her.

While gymnasium equipment will be installed in August, the projected completion date for the floor is July 24. If all goes well, volleyball players will have the privilege of initiating the floor during their volleyball camp the later part of August. Praise be to God for the great things He is doing at Grace Church.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Columbine Memorial

On vacation earlier this month our family flew the red eye direct from Philadelphia to Denver and then back. It is a little over a two hour drive from my in-laws home in Pueblo to the Denver Airport. Since our flight back home was not leaving until 12:30am, we had time to kill so we spent a few hours at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and then headed further north to meet some of Laura’s extended family in Littleton, Colorado. We arrived a bit early so we got directions to a high school that every adult in America is familiar with…Columbine High School.

Back in 1999, two troubled students took assault weapons into the school and open fired resulting in the death of 12 High School students and 1 teacher. If you are like me, you will always remember the news footage of that day. As we stood outside the school, we were looking right at the spot where law enforcement officials evacuated students from the school with their hands above their heads. As we walked around the school we could see through the windows into the library where so many of the deaths occurred. We then looked into the cafeteria where I could vividly remember the security film released by the school that showed the pandemonium that occurred in the lunchroom on that day.

We then walked over to the nearby park where the Columbine Memorial rests. This memorial is very well done with an inner circle with 13 slabs of concrete, each one of them representing one of the 13 individuals who were killed on that fatal day. Each slab has the person’s name and a paragraph about them that was written by their families. Around the wall surrounding this inner circle were quotes from students, faculty, parents, and even former President Bill Clinton regarding the events of that day.

As a parent of two teenagers and as a pastor who oversees a ministry that has well over 500 children, teenagers and adults in our building most every day through the ministries of Morningstar Daycare and Lititz Christian School, walking around Columbinbe High School and standing by this memorial captivated me. But the thing that most moved me was watching my two kids. Jonathan (age 16) was only 7 years old when the shootings took place and had very little knowledge of the events. As we walked around the school, looking into the library and cafeteria windows, I explained to him the timeline of that day as best as I remembered it.

But watching both he and Joy (age 18) as they slowly walked around the memorial reading every word that was etched in the stones was almost emotional for me. You could see them trying to take in the tragic events that this memorial was created because of and trying to identify with the victims who were the same ages then as my children are today. Joy could not get her mind away from the one quote on the wall that basically said that what happened at Columbine could happen anywhere. What a reminder to me as the leader of our ministry of my need to pray more fervently and more often for the safety of our students and our employees and for the effectiveness of our ministry day in and day out. I think Jonathan said it best as he and I walked back to the car when he said, “Dad, I’m going to be thinking about this for the rest of the day.” I know I did. In fact, I still am!

Friday, July 18, 2008

What's That Smell?

Two words…liquid manure. Before I moved to Lancaster County I didn’t even know it existed. Shortly after moving to Lititz, the fields by the church got their fall spraying of this liquid gold. You don’t realize how close I came to packing my bags and heading back to Indiana. To me (and most normal people) these smells are horrible. But talk to a farmer and you’ll hear a totally different story. To them it is the smell of life! One smell…two reactions. The same is true with being a follower of Jesus Christ as we learn in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. Paul states three facts about we who are followers of Jesus.

First, we are in a processional fanfare (2:14a). Paul states, “But thanks be to God who always leads us to triumph in Christ.” Historically, Paul had in mind a Roman Triumph which was a march of victory that honored the conquering general through the streets of Rome up to the capitol. Sometimes this parade would go long into the night.

Theologically, we are to give thanks to God that Christ is our conquering leader. We are His army who experiences the triumph of His victory over sin, death and hell. This is a victory we experience “always,” regardless of when problems arise and in “every place,” regardless of where problems arise. We are part of a processional fanfare!

Second, followers of Jesus are a penetrating fragrance (2:14b-16). Let’s go back to the Roman Triumph I described earlier. Historically, the priests in the parade waved censors filled with incense that gave off a very strong and sweet aroma. This aroma was in honor of their gods who they believed had given them victory. The thickness of this incense often obscured people’s vision. To those who were the victors, this was a delightful aroma of life. To those who had been taken captive, this same exact smell was the smell of death as most faced imminent execution.

Theologically, Paul says that we as Christians are that sweet smelling aroma of the knowledge of God to those around us. To those who will receive Christ, we are the aroma of life. To those who will reject Christ we are the aroma of death. Author and speaker, Charles Swindol, said it this way, “Christ has an unmistakable fragrance, and you can smell it on someone who is genuinely Christlike.”

Finally, we are also privileged Followers (2:16b-17). Paul asks, “Who is adequate for these things?” The answer is simple…no one is. As a result, we do not peddle the Word of God. The word “peddle” described a street salesman desiring only to make a sale (like a wine merchant who often sold watered down wine because their only goal was their own profit and not the benefit of their customer). Instead, we represent God out of “sincerity’ which is a compound word made up of the words “sunlight” and “to judge.” It is the idea of someone holding something up to the sunlight for careful inspection. Because he was part of a processional fanfare…because he was a penetrating fragrance of both life and death…because he was a privileged follower of Jesus Christ, Paul made sure that his life and his message stood up to the closest of scrutiny. So should we!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tent Worship

Decades ago, many mighty works of God were done in outdoor services under a big tent. Those tent meeting revivals have their place in church history. Today, our worship most always takes place inside where the comforts can be more controlled and where weather makes little to no difference. But this Sunday here at Grace Church we will get a small taste of the past as we move both of our morning worship services (9:00 and 10:45) outside on our soccer filed under a big tent. Our nursery, children’s program, youth group and Adult Bible Fellowship classes will meet inside as usual.

Why the “blast from the past?” The answer really has nothing to do with the tent meeting revival days of years gone by. The answer is because our present auditorium is getting a much needed face-lift. Last week the 17 year old carpet was removed and the walls were repainted. My how this was needed. That carpet served us well but it was a real distinct eyesore in recent years. It is covered with every stain imaginable including but not limited to blood from athletes diving for basketballs and volleyballs as well as the stain that remains from the day a few years ago that we brought a horse into the auditorium as an object lesson when we were preaching through the book of James on Sunday mornings. We put all kinds of plastic down “just in case.” Well, “just in case” actually happened and we found out that this specific horse was not “paper trained.” I’ll never forget watching the front two rows of the auditorium clear out as that horse turned its large rear end toward the crowd and lifted its tail. Man, I still laugh until I cry when I remember that morning.

This past week work began to install a new floor. This floor will be far more multi-functional than the athletic carpet was. Because there will be no carpet, this will be an ideal floor for all of the athletic events that take place in our gym/auditorium for Lititz Christian School. At the same time, we can still do everything else we normally do in that room as an auditorium and have it look even better than ever. We don’t even need to cover the floor. We can set tables, chairs and other items right on it. The dimples that this causes in the floor will raise back to a perfect surface within minutes of these items being taken down. This is going to be one nice floor. But as a result of installing the new floor, we must be out of the auditorium for one Sunday which is this Sunday. Thus, the reason for the worshipping under the big top July 20!

The month of August will bring the final touches to the gym/auditorium remodeling project. Retractable basketball standards and bleachers will be installed along with a new scoreboard. There will also be large multi-media curtains installed that will cover all of this on Sunday mornings so that it doesn’t look like we are meeting in a gymnasium. Lititz Christian School has worked hard on coming up with these plans so that our entire ministry is benefited. And we are very thankful that Rick Bernhardt, our Senior Administrator of Lititz Christian School and Morningstar Daycare was also able to find a donor who is passionate about all of our ministries here at Grace Church and who is underwriting the entire project. We’ll be back in the auditorium on July 27, but for this coming Sunday, July 20, I’ll see you under the big top as we worship outside under the tent!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Best Day of the Week

I think that most who attend Grace Church would agree that the best day of the week without any question is Sunday! This is such a great place to worship the Lord together. Below is what you can expect over the Sundays coming up here at Grace:

July 20 – Both of our Sunday worship services will be held outside under a big tent as I preach from 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 on the topic, “What’s That Smell?” This Sunday will also include a special Missions Digging Deeper Elective during both the 9:00 and 10:45 services in the Fellowship Hall on the topic, “God Loves the Nations.”

July 27 – We will be back inside as Lisa McCoy presents a mini-concert and Mike Lutz will be sharing about Small Group Ministry. We will also have special guests from Africa this Sunday sharing at 9:00 and 10:45 in the Fellowship Hall an exciting update regarding our Hand in Hand partnership helping orphans in the Central African Republic

August 3 – We will start our “Just Say NO” series on temptation as I preach on the temptation of Eve from Genesis 3. This Sunday will also be part one of a two part Digging Deeper elective at 9am in the Fellowship Hall on Coping with Change. Participants will be taught a practical model which they can use to think about and cope with change so as to increase the likelihood of having the life experiences they desire. This Sunday evening at 6pm will also be our outdoor, youth-led communion.

August 10 – We will continue our “Just Say NO” series on temptation as I preach on the temptation of Christ from Matthew 4 and Luke 4. This Sunday will also be the end of the two-part Digging Deeper elective on Coping with Change at 9am in the Fellowship Hall. This Sunday afternoon is also our next Core Class Sunday offering Classes 101 and 301.

August 17 – We will continue our “Just Say NO” series on temptation as I preach on the temptation of Joseph from Genesis 39. On this Sunday there will also be a special Digging Deeper Elective at 9am and then repeated at 10:45 in the Church Fellowship Hall on Dealing With Addictions.

August 24 – We will continue our “Just Say NO” series on temptation as I preach on the temptation of King David in 2 Samuel 11.

August 31 – Pastor Tim will wrap up our “Just Say NO” series on temptation as he preaches on the temptation of Daniel from Daniel 1.

September will be a special prophecy month here at Grace Church as I preach a series all month long on what the Bible teaches about the coming one-world ruler that is commonly called The Anti-Christ. During this month, all of our Adult Bible Fellowship classes will take a month off and in their place there will be special Digging Deeper electives being held each week on pertinent topics concerning Biblical Prophecy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Book I Almost Wrote

One of my dreams has always been to write a book and have it published. For the life of me I can’t figure out how guys in ministry find the time to do that! Actually, I did write a book one time. I spent years on it. I was going to call it “The Purposeful Driven Life.” One day I was in an airport and took my just completed manuscript with me into a stall in the men’s restroom to do some final proof-reading before sending it off to the publisher. I accidentally left it in the restroom. When I realized it was done and I went back to get it, the manuscript was gone. The only thing I can think of is that it was picked up by a slightly overweight man with a goatee who was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and laughing at himself who happened to be going into the restroom just as I was leaving. I wonder what ever happened to that manuscript?

I was even going to use it to launch a line of Christian underwear…Purpose Driven Underwear. It, along with my book, would have been the first item we sold when we opened our own bookstore here at Grace Church. Since deja vue tends to follow me, it actually happened to me a second time years ago with a manuscript I was nearing completion on which I was calling “The Intercession of Jabez.” I’m not sure what ever happened with that lost manuscript either.

So what books have I read lately? As I blogged about earlier, I have read Macel Falwell’s book on the life and legacy of her late husband, Dr Jerry Falwell. I also read Tim Stevens book, “Pop Goes The Church.” Tim is on staff at Granger Community Church which was voted the most innovative church in American in 2007 and the second most innovative church in America in 2008. This is a church near where I use to pastor before coming to Lititz and they are doing a terrific job at what the church is supposed to do...reaching people for Christ. This book is a look at how the church can and should leverage culture to reach people for Jesus. Our Worship Arts Director here at Grace, Matt McElravy, gave everyone on our Worship Design team a copy of it. This is the team that plans our Sunday worship services here at Grace.

Currently I am reading a book by A.J. Jacobs entitled, “The Year of Living Biblically.” This is a very intriguing book . Jacobs is an agnostic who decided that for one year he would live out every command found within Scripture literally. This is a highly funny and entertaining book. The Bible can be confusing enough to me and I have years of theological training and Biblical experience. To read this Jewish agnostic’s take on the Biblical commands and stories and following his attempt at living it out literally is amazing. It has helped me to catch a glimpse of how unbelievers would view the Bible if they just took the time to read it.

I’m not sure if I will ever accomplish my dream of writing a book and having it published or not. Maybe some day I’ll have one of our office ladies take some of my sermon series and type them into transcripts. Maybe some day I will take a month long hiatus and spend that entire 30 days on my laptop. And maybe I will just sit down and write my own personal memoirs…a tell all book about my life as a pastor. I just hope I don’t leave anymore manuscripts sitting around in any public restrooms.

Monday, July 14, 2008

From our WALL to our HEART

Nearly a year ago we concluded our series through the book of Jonah by writing on the wall of our auditorium. Remember? In the last chapter of this book we saw that this prodigal prophet was more concerned about a plant than he was the souls of the thousands of people that lived in the city of Nineveh. That is so like the church today. We are more concerned about our church traditions than we are lost people. We are more concerned about our bylaws and credentials than we are lost people. And in many cases, we are more concerned about our church buildings than we are lost people.

In order to try to “cement” home the fact that lost people must be more important to us than our “sacred cows,” on that morning we actually took time to use permanent black markers and write on the wall of our auditorium the names of lost people that we need to pray for and build bridges to for Christ. Over 3,000 names were written on the wall. Many pastors who have heard of what we did have contacted me saying, “Whew, I would have gotten fired if I would have suggested we write on the walls of our auditorium.” Yet, for Grace Church, this wall became a special part of who we are. We have seen people saved and baptized whose names were written on that wall. I never tired of seeing our people walk over to that wall and put their hand on the name of a friend or loved one and pray for their salvation. We even have had people bring their own marker to church with them to add to the wall another name of a lost person.

But now, the wall has been repainted as our auditorium gets a much needed “facelift” and the names are gone. It is really kind of cool that we didn’t have anyone get upset when we first wrote the names on the wall but since repainting over these names there have been many who have expressed sadness. It is so exciting to be part of our church that is seriously concerned about lost people. Keep a few things in mind:

1. The wall of names was meant to be temporary until the auditorium got remodeled. We are excited about the remodeling that is taking place as it is going to enhance every aspect of our overall ministry here at Grace Church.

2. It is more important that these names get impressed on our hearts rather than just put on a wall. When the names of these lost people are in our hearts we will pray for them daily, build bridges to them regularly and partner with the ministry of Grace Church to get them under the sound of the Gospel.

3. We will now be able to find a fresh way to keep these names in front of us as a church. As a Worship Design Team we will be praying about and looking for ways to keep lost people as an important focus of our ministry here at Grace. The bottom line is simple…God cares about lost people…We should too! The names may not be on the wall anymore but they are still in the mind and heart of God. Let’s be sure that we keep them in our hearts and minds as well. May God continue to use us to meet people where they are and help move them to where He wants them to be!

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Life: The Early Adult Years - Pic #5

Here I am holidng little Joy Laura on the day I that became a daddy...February 3, 1990!

My Life: The Early Adult Years - Pic #4

Here I am as a Youth Pastor...I wonder if I was counseling or scolding this young gal!

My Life: The Early Adult Years - Pic #3

This is me on our honeymoon! Yes, we really camped on our honeymoon! We were dirt poor and unfortunately, the tent leaked!

My Life: The Early Adult Years - Pic #2

Here is Laura and me on our wedding day, May 23,1987! We got married at Temple Baptist Church in Pueblo, Colorado!

My Life: The Early Adult Years - Pic #1

Here is Laura and me at our College graduation from Liberty University in 1987!

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Tale of Two WWII Vets

This Sunday will be our very special Patriotic Celebration here at Grace Church. This is a Sunday in which we will be honoring America and recognizing the many heroes among us. This will include anyone who is a veteran or active member of any of our Armed Forces as well as families of any American Service man or woman who is currently serving overseas. We will also recognize past and present members of our local police, fire and emergency medical personnel.

A special tribute will be given to all WWII Vets. Do you realize that 16 million Americans answered the call to arms in WWII? Of these, 400,000 made the ultimate sacrifice. There are only approximately 3 million remaining alive today and WWII Veterans are dying at a rate of 1,200 to 1,500 daily. The minimum age of a WWII Veteran is now 79. On this Sunday we desire to give special recognition to any WWII Veterans in attendance. If you are a WWII vet or know of a WWII vet who will be in attendance, please be sure to contact the church office (626-2155) and let us know in advance.

I will be sharing the stories of two WWII Veterans that morning as I use the Bible that my Grandpa Distler had with him on the USS Greely at the time of the announcement of the Allied victory. The attached picture is of my Grandpa, Grandma and my dad back in 1945, It was taken in New York City after my Grandpa returned from the war. That is his writing on the picture as he labels my Grandma as "my love" and my dad as "my boy." Please remember that on this Sunday only, July 6, we will change our service times. We will have two identical celebrations, each lasting one hour in length. The first will be from 9:30-10:30 and the second from 11:00-Noon. Following each service the celebration will move outside for a free lunch with an army camp set up including mess tent and military vehicles. There will also be games for all ages including dunk tanks and bouncies. Everything is free and will happen rain or shine here at Grace Church, 501 W Lincoln Ave in Lititz. For more information, visit our website at

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A World War II Vet Remembers

Mr. John H. Light is originally from the Pennsylvania Dutch farming community of Annville, PA. His daughter attends our church here at Grace. Mr. Light served during WWII as an infantryman in the 104 Army Division. He fought in the campaigns of Belgium, Holland and Germany, where he was wounded shortly before the war’s end. He also received the Silver Star Medal.

He wrote a book entitled, “An Infantryman Remembers World War II,” to share his experiences. I read his book and thoroughly enjoyed every chapter. Two of the most interesting facts from this book are in his experiences following being wounded while receiving treatment at Walter Reed Hospital. One experience centered around a visitor when his therapist asked if the patients would like a visit from her father who recently returned home from the European Theater of Operations. Here is what he wrote:

“’Who is your father?’ we asked. She said that her dad was General Patton and that she thought that he would be glad to visit their ward. The next day the general appeared in our ward and began to go down my side of the ward shaking hands with each patient and exchanging greetings. I have no idea what I said as I shook the hand of this famous general. You will have to accept my word that no other general in World War II had the military bearing and the imposing figure of General Patton.”

Imagine being able to meet General George Patton (pictured)! But Mr. Light’s experiences while at Walter Reed also included being able to touch something famous as well. In his wonderful book, he describes a very wealthy Washingtonian women named Mrs Evelyn Walsh McClean who would throw special parties for the patients. One day she came by while he was receiving a back rub from an aid who was admiring Mrs. McClean’s jewelry, especially the large blue pendent. Mrs McClean asked if the aid would like to wear it. She took it off and handed it to Mr. Light to pass to the aid. Mr. Light writes:

“It was a lovely huge blue stone surrounded by diamonds…Mrs McClean told her to wear it for a while…sometime later the party had ended and the ward was being prepared for lights out when the aid realized she was still wearing the necklace. The staff was discussing what action to take when several security people and several representatives of the insurance company descended on our ward to apprehend the person who had stolen the ‘Hope Diamond.’ Our ward was a scene of excitement until the precious stone was returned to its owner. You can see this stone now in the Smithsonian Institute under the most stringent conditions of security. And just think that I held it in my hands.”

Those are some incredible experiences. Meeting General Patton and touching the Hope Diamond. That’s pretty amazing, wouldn’t you say? But then again, one day I will get to meet Jesus face to face and touch eternal life in heaven. Now that’s even more amazing, wouldn’t you say?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Grace Church Dating Service

Since our purpose as a church revolves around the phrases “meeting people” and “moving people” it also seems to me that these would be very appropriate phrases to use in launching a Grace Church dating service. You have heard of E-harmony…maybe we could call this G-harmony. The only catch is that this service has only one relationship in mind. We want to find the right girl for our Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church, Matt McElravy (pictured here as a child). As a first step I have put together an application. Any single girl who is at least age 18 or older (hey, we want to keep all of our options open) and who loves Jesus (after all, we have to have a starting point) who would like to be considered for this honor may feel free to apply. Simply answer the questions below. Since we are not asking for a picture of each applicant and physical appearance is not being consdiered (sorry, Matt, those are the rules), it is crucial that each answer be made with absolute honesty!

G-Dating Application for Matt McElravy:

1. Do you, have you, or would you ever consider wearing black fingernail polish?

2. Do you play the guitar? If so, what kind of guitar(s) do you own? Depending on that answer, do you believe in sharing?

3. Can you hum the entire theme song to the television show, “The Simpson’s”? Did you find yourself in mourning when Homer Simpson’s mother died on the cartoon show?

4. How many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy have you ever missed?

5. How would you handle the fragile emotions of the sensitive, creative personality type?

6. Do you prefer tea or coffee? Sweet N Low, Sugar or Plain?

7. Can you name the current starting pitching rotation of the Philadelphia Phillies?

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest) how much do you like country music? Rock and Roll? Jazz? Blue Grass? Polka?

9. Do you use a Mac for a personal laptop? Why or why not?

10. Do you prefer choosing where to go when eating out or letting the person(s) with you make that decision?

Please submit your answers via e-mail to me at Pastor Tim Auld and I will serve as judges by carefully reviewing all applicants, weeding out those who would not be right for Matt, and then passing on the “possibilities” to our dear friend and colleague.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My Apostle Paul

It seems that every preacher can look back to a time early in their ministry when God brought them a mentor to teach them, guide them and protect them. For example, in Scripture the young pastor named Timothy had the Apostle Paul as his mentor. The same is true for me. Early in my beginning years of my ministry God graciously hooked me up with a mentor by the name of Pastor Steve Peters (sorry, this is the only picture of Steve I could find on-line) Pastor Steve was to me what the great Apostle Paul was to Timothy…a teacher, a guide and a protector.

I first met Steve after my freshman year of college. While I was away at Liberty, my parents moved from the only home I knew in Akron, Ohio to Hagerstown, MD were they begin their ministry as house parents at a boy’s home. They started attending Maranatha Brethren Church which was part of the Grace Brethren Fellowship. I had never heard of Grace Brethren before and associated any church with the word “Brethren” in it as being liberal. As a result, I refused to go to church with my parents and instead went to the little Baptist church down the street. At that time, Pastor Steve was the Youth Pastor at Maranatha and had himself graduated from Liberty (in fact he got saved while a student at Liberty). Steve came to visit me and told me that he was taking his teens on a ministry trip and could use another preacher. I wasn’t turning down opportunities to preach, so I went. In the end I grew to greatly love and admire Pastor Steve.

During my sophomore year in college Steve moved and became the Sr Pastor at the Community Grace Brethren Church in West Milton, OH. The church was without a youth pastor at the time so Steve asked me to spend the summer after my sophomore year of college as his summer intern youth pastor. I did the same thing after my junior year as well. In all honesty, I think Steve held the full-time position open for me until I had graduated. After graduating and getting married (Steve also came to my wedding all the way out in Colorado) I moved to West Milton and became Steve’s Youth Pastor for 6 years. Following that I spent 2 years as Steve’s Assistant Pastor in adult ministry.

Those were wonderful and formative years for me. Most everything I learned about pastoring and local church ministry I learned by watching Pastor Steve. The best parts of those 8 years at the West Milton church were the countless hours that I spent sitting in Steve’s office picking his brain about life and ministry or just chewing the fat. Man, I loved those times. I could write a book about all that I learned from my mentor but the two things that have stuck with me the most over the years are these two phrases:

“If you’re going to err, err on the side of grace!”

“We are free to do anything but sin in order to see people come to know Jesus!”

I’m not sure if I will ever have the chance again to sit in Pastor Steve’s office and just chew the fat, but I will always be thankful for the time that he invested in teaching me and protecting me. After all, every young pastor needs an Apostle Paul. I sure did!