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Making Ministry Count

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“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7, ESV)

As we have been studying the book of REVELATION at Redeemer, we are learning that there is much comfort and hope for the believer in the last book of the Bible… but there is also much warning. In John’s Revelation, believers are warned to stay active in the spiritual battle. We find great strength in knowing that the Lord and His army are victorious on the Last Day, and that all those who have faith in Christ are saved. But we also see that there will be great destruction and punishment for those who reject the Lord. Therefore, as Christians we are compelled to continue sharing the saving Gospel of Jesus, and to bring more people to Christ to be saved.

And so our ministry as a “lighthouse” in Carlsbad becomes even more critical, as we realize that the Lord will be returning for judgment soon (Rev. 22:7, above). We cannot afford to spin our wheels … or worse … fall asleep at the wheel!   Rather, we must be careful to ensure that any and all of our ministry effort is directed at Gospel-oriented mission that will bring both the sobering awareness of God’s Law, as well as the soothing comfort of Christ’s Gospel and His free gift of salvation.  Quite simply, we must work to make our ministry count!

We need to ask ourselves if what we are doing in ministry is just activity … or is it mission? Since we know that the Lord will separate the wheat from the weeds on Judgment Day (Matthew 13:24-30), we cannot allow ourselves to just be busy between now and then. It is a challenging truth that activity does not equal effectiveness. We have to continually ask ourselves how any program or event at Redeemer either brings the light of Jesus to people, or brings people to the light of Jesus – that’s what being a lighthouse to the community and the world means.

Often you may hear me express it this way: we need to “do fewer things better.” This is a direct challenge for us to make our ministry count. We don’t want to just fill our calendars with events and programs that are familiar and “easy,” we want to find ourselves working together on the kinds of things that really make a Kingdom difference – and require all of us working together to make happen. This is our challenge.

At Redeemer, like most churches, it is difficult to give up something good to make room for something better. I believe that when do, however, we will find that several good things happen[i]:

  1. Our volunteers are spread less thin. They have margin in their schedule for family and ministry.
  2. Our members and leaders are healthier. When we are focusing on too many things, too many events, and too many meetings, we have less time for personal health and relationships.
  3. We experience excellence rather than mediocrity. If we focus on too many ministries and programs, usually all of them become average (or worse), but none of them become excellent.
  4. We better communicate the urgency and significance of our mission. With too many messages coming from our church, our community and our own members don’t know what we’re all about.
  5. We are freer to live out our identity in Christ. With less busy activity our members are able to build relationships with people outside our church who need Jesus.

May more souls be in heaven on the Last Day because of the work that we do today.

Pastor Augie

[i] Concept from Michael Lukaszewski (michaellukaszewski.com)

Worship – Grow – Serve!

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“[Jesus] answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Luke 10:27)

You’ve heard and seen the phrase “Worship – Grow – Serve” at Redeemer for quite some time now.  What does it mean, and why do we repeat it so much?  We are going to spend the last few weeks of January asking and answering those questions on Sunday mornings.  We hope you’ll join us.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus beautifully summarizes commandments of God in the Old Testament found in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19.  In modern expression, we refer to this as the “Great Commandment,” which in actuality is a summary of all of God’s commands.  The Great Commandment has two parts to it – Love God and Love Neighbor.  This “vertical” and “horizontal” love comprises the foundational action and attitude of the Christian, and thus it is fitting that a vertical and horizontal line intersect to make a cross.  The Cross is a great visual for loving God and loving neighbor.

At Redeemer, we express loving God and loving neighbor as worship – grow – serve.  “Worship” is where we express our love and devotion to God… both on Sunday morning as well as in our private and daily devotions.  Further, worship is an adoration of God that is expressed through all our thoughts and actions, using our time, talent and treasure.  Therefore, we see the stewardship of our offerings also as an act of worship.  Truly, for the believer, all of life is and should be a worshipful expression of thanks and praise.

Grow” fits well at the intersection of God and neighbor.  It is our goal to grow both in our love and knowledge of God, as well as in our love and relationships of neighbor.  So “Grow” includes our study of the Bible and our fellowship with other believers.  We want to grow in both aspects of our relationship.  In fact, when we grow in our knowledge of God and His commands, He then turns our heart toward our neighbor as the beneficiary of our love toward and faith in Him.  Our Growth Groups at Redeemer are designed to the perfect place for you to grow in both love of God and love of neighbor!

Finally “Serve” is an expression of mature faith as we turn our focus off of ourselves and onto God and our neighbor.  Jesus himself said that He did not come to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28).  When we ask the question, “How can I serve the Lord?”  He responds to us, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40).  At Redeemer we serve the Lord by serving our neighbor – both inside our congregation and out in the community.   We seek to serve them both in physical and spiritual needs.

May this New Year be an opportunity for us to follow the Lord’s command to love God and neighbor, through worship, growth and service!

Worshipping, Growing and Serving Christ with you,

Pastor Augie.

What great things He has done!

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“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”  (1 Samuel 12:24)

As we look forward to the year 2014 and with 2013 now in the rear view mirror, I cannot help but marvel at what great things God has done for us!  At Redeemer we have experienced another year of blessing and growth.  We have seen increases in our Sunday School attendance, added new Growth Groups, added new members to the congregation, and have added new office staff!  All these things are only possible because of the powerful hand of the Lord at work.

When the prophet Samuel said these words in 1 Sam. 12, he was encouraging the people to ponder both the Lord’s faithfulness and His might.  For as they went forward, they needed to have a healthy understanding of the Lord’s provision as well as His power.  Samuel knew that while he would not be with them always, the Lord would be.  So Samuel gave his message to prepare the people to go forward in Godly confidence.

At Redeemer, we look forward to the New Year with hope, mindful of God’s faithfulness in the past, and therefore confident of His continued faithfulness in the future.  Lord willing, 2014 has some great things in store!   In fact, Jesus promises His disciples that those who believe in Him and do the work He has called them to, will do “even greater things!” (John 14:12).  May it be that God works even greater things in our midst next year!

But truly, if we accomplish anything great in our congregation, it will not be because of our own cleverness or ability; it will be because of God’s goodness and His faithfulness.  Samuel’s reminder that Israel needed to consider the great things God had done for them was as much a corrective as a comfort.  Our human nature is no different than in Samuel’s day – we want to take the credit for our accomplishments ourselves.  We need to both trust in God to work through us, but also to give Him the glory when He does!

So join me in thanking God for the great things He has done at Redeemer last year!  And with the wonder of Christmas still in our hearts, may we marvel at the great thing that God has done in sending His own Son into the world to take on human flesh!  Through His sinless life and painful death, He won us forgiveness of sins and showed us the way to the even “greater things” that God has in store!

Thankful and Hopeful,

Pastor Augie.

Vision 2014

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At Redeemer by the Sea, we are BLESSED with so many gifted and talented leaders.  We have on our Church Council and Board of Elders such a variety of life experience and skills; everything from military to corporate, education to government, and sales to service is represented!  But perhaps what is most encouraging is not the diversity that everyone brings, but the common goals that unite us.  Regardless of background, what everyone shares is a passion for God’s people and a love of our community!  We recognize though, that it is easy to pit those two things (passion for God’s people, and love of our community) against each other – focusing on one at the expense of the other.  This is something we do not want to do.

We have been studying Christian Discipleship the last couple months during our “Best is Yet to Come” series, so we are keenly aware of the importance of gathering in community for prayer, encouragement and growth.  But we are also reminded of Jesus words from Matthew 20:28 that, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve,” and from Luke 19:10, that He came “to Seek and Save the Lost.”  As God’s people, we must gather together and build up the Body of Christ, but we cannot only gather and build up.  Otherwise, we are like the marathoner who only carbo-loads, but never runs.  The image is simple, but glaring!  We gather as Church to be equipped for service – not to sit and soak, but to build up for the purpose of reaching out.

That was the focus of this year’s Vision Retreat. On October 25-26 our Church Council and Board of Elders met to discuss how we could both disciple the saved and reach the lost.  Even the shape of our retreat followed the build-up – then work model!  We met with spouses at the Burkholder residence on Friday and enjoyed a relaxing evening of community around conversation and food.  Then on Saturday from 8am to 3pm we worked hard on the Kingdom tasks that God has put before us – seeking His heart for the future of our congregation.

We focused our efforts on two areas that God has put on my heart as pastor recently: 1. The book “Doing Church as a Team” by Wayne Cordiero.  And 2. The focus of two conferences that I attended recently which were both on the same theme: reaching and saving the lost.  There is a definite trend in our churches today to recognize that ministry 1. Cannot be from the “top down.”  There is just too much work to do to leave it to the leaders and the professionals.  And 2. We can get so inward focused in our ministry that we are effectively of no value to our community.   So at the vision retreat we asked two big questions:  How can we mobilize more of our church into active discipleship and ministry? And would the community around our church miss us if we were not here?

We worked through the book chapter by chapter, with each member of the Board leading the discussion on a chapter, and we then worked on a strategic planning process that guided us all the way from how our congregation began to where we are today.   We reviewed our mission, core values and strategy of Worship, Grow & Serve, and we asked the questions: Where are we now? Where are we headed? What’s Important Now? What structure and activity is necessary to accomplish those things? And what must change in order to accomplish those objectives?

The outcomes of the process will be shared in more detail soon.  However, the upshot of the event is that we recognize that we need to nurture our existing members as disciples of Jesus, but we must also do a much better job at reaching our community for Jesus.  We have a good means to that nurture and growth with our Growth Groups.  But in 2014 we plan to do a much better job of training small group leaders and starting new groups as well as asking our small groups to work on service projects together, in addition to their study and fellowship.   Also in 2014, we will establish a task force to actively study and poll our community to determine what needs exist that we can best serve.  We don’t want to be so “heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good,” as they say!  Our local government, community agencies, schools – and even our own preschool – are well aware of the hurts, pains and struggles that are going on behind the doors of our beautiful homes, manicured landscapes and community spaces.  Finally, we will improve some logistics and administration items in 2014 that affect our growing Sunday School, as well as our internal communications.

Whatever we do in the New Year, we will be sure that we do not do alone; we must “Do Church as a Team!”  Working together, we can accomplish more for God’s Kingdom than we could ever accomplish alone.  Please begin to pray how God will use you in 2014 to help Redeemer by the Sea seek and save the lost.  And please pray that there will be more souls in heaven on the Last Day because of what we do today!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie

Wiki and District Conference Highlights!

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I am blessed to be part of a congregation that encourages continued growth and learning.  This Fall I attended the Wiki Conference 2013 hosted by the FiveTwo Network in Katy, TX.   The following week, I attended the annual Pacific Southwest District Pastors’ Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. Both conferences were excellent and brought lots of insights as well as a healthy dose of clarity and conviction for doing the Lord’s work wherever the Lord has you planted!  Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights of those conferences:

At the District Pastors’ Conference: “Seek and Save the Lost” …

Barna Research Group owner/President and author David Kinnaman shared with us some concepts from his book You Lost Me, illuminating what he calls “Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles.”  These are categories of people who are not active in church.  He shared how we live in a complicated and accelerated culture, which leaves many with images of the church as overprotective, repressive, anti-science, exclusive, shallow and rigid.  He challenged us to actually engage the current generation where they are at… to live our Christian walk as did the Jews who were in exile in Babylon.  He asked us whether we love our traditions more than our children.  Put another way … “Do we love our WAY of being Christian more than we love WHY we are in mission?”

Rev. Dean Nadasdy, former seminary professor and pastor, now Minnesota South District President, talked about ministry in the suburbs.  Being a product of a generation who fled the cities as crime increased, he knows well the mind of the suburbanite.  In short, they are looking to live an “ideal.”  They came to the suburbs looking for a sort of utopia.  They are always searching for something more or better.  They are never satisfied.  This can lead them to push their kids too far, have high stress, financial tension, and ultimately live in isolation.  They are the ultimate consumers!  This is the culture and context in which we minister at Redeemer.

Gretchen Jameson from purePR talked about “Reaching the Lost through Social Media.”  Like it or not, the culture has changed.  Social media is now used by over 1 Billion people around the world!  Her challenge to us is to use social media not just as another way to “advertise” … but to truly engage, motivate and stir the hearts of those we hope to reach.

Rev. David Kim from Link Houston talked about “reaching the Nations in our Own Backyard.” Born in S. Korea, ministering in Ecuador, and now in inner-city Houston, he has a passion for helping us cross cultures to reach the lost.  He presented many eye-opening statistics.  Perhaps the most staggering of which is that church bodies that are growing usually show only about 80% “white” in their churches, but churches that are declining show 90% or greater non-Hispanic Caucasian.  The Lutheran church tops the declining church list at 96% “white.”  Jesus tells us there is no longer Jew nor Greek … and our culture is now reflecting that.  The fastest growing population in our zip code is Asian.

At the Wiki Conference: “Start Something New, Do Something Now”

Rev. Bill Woolsey, founder of FiveTwo, CrossPoint church pastor and host of the conference, shared a video “mash-up” of music from the Summer of 2013, and related it to the “mashed-up” culture in which we live.  “Mash-up” is a term used to describe a mixture or fusion of separate songs, or other elements, into a single unified final product.  American culture is the perfect mash-up with elements from so many ethnicities, and even moreso, differing ideologies and values.  He also shared the importance of our churches being “incarnational” in our communities – literally bringing the gospel of Christ in-person to those who need to hear it.  He challenged us to the goals of baptizing 1 person for every 10 in worship, and also to start one new ministry for lost people in the next 10 months.

Dr. Michael Frost, Australian professor and author of the book The Shaping of Things to Come talked to us about how mission is rooted in a through-going belief that our God reigns! … But we must also recognize that we carry this mission out in a fallen world where the capacity to understand and access his reign is fitful, partial and mysterious.  He presented a powerful image of a dilapidated house with soot covered windows.  Outside of that house is a beautiful sunset, but all that can be seen inside is a faint glow.  Our job as missionaries is to clean the windows.  We don’t make the sun rise and set… but we help people see this work of God! Consequently, we must ask ourselves what will the “age to come” look like?  If it looks like healing, hope, wholeness, joy and laughter … then we must work now to allow that Kingdom reality to be seen.  Our mission is not to make those inside the Church comfortable, but to work together to announce the reign of God, and bring more to Christ!

Bob Goff, attorney, bestselling author of the book Love Does, and founder of Restore International was perhaps the most whimsical person I have ever seen!  He said we in the church are like Jesus “stalkers!” What does a stalker do?  They stay at a distance and find out stuff about people they don’t know.  He’s suggesting that we want to learn more about Jesus, but not really have a relationship with Him.  He challenged us to not just “invite” people to church, but to “welcome” them.  In other words, truly embrace those who find their way to our church – being more like a “porter” who asks the question “how can I help you on your way?” His motto is, “Love God, Love People, Do Stuff.” He thinks we should “leak Jesus” like wet tennis shoes leave a mark after skipping through a puddle! His greatest challenge is to move from what we are able to do … to what we are MADE by God to do!  What has God MADE you to do in life? Do that!

A Light to the Lost

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We’ve been studying the Gospel of John at Redeemer for the last several weeks, each week seeing a different facet of Jesus’ life and ministry.  In John Ch. 9 we see Jesus as the Light of the world.  In fact, John opens his Gospel with the words, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  In the Nicene Creed, we profess Jesus as “Light of Light.” Quite simply, we recognize that Jesus is the very source of all light – even when God said “Let there be light!” in the third verse of Genesis, Jesus was its source. Likewise, Jesus is our source of light.  When we baptize someone at Redeemer we give them a lit candle.  This is to signify that Christ is the light that came into the world, and now that they have received that light in baptism, they are to become light-bearers, and bring that light into a dark world.

At Redeemer by the Sea, our mission is to be a “lighthouse to our community and the world.” Even our building has a design that resembles a lighthouse, which is fitting since our church is on top of a hill not far from the ocean.  Clearly we have the light of Christ in our midst, but how are we doing at shining that light into a world of people that seem to be increasingly walking in the dark?  The news reveals to us the kind of darkness that surrounds us, and recent trends in the Church indicate that more and more of this generation are finding themselves wandering away from the church, into a world which spurns the light of Christ.

In the book You Lost Me (2011) author David Kinnaman laments the fact that young adults in increasing numbers do not consider the churches they were raised in as “safe and hospitable places” and that many of those will leave the church and even the faith.  Clearly there are cultural forces at work, he notes, but it’s also clear that the Church cannot just dismiss this problem as a sign of the times and then hunker down in our holy-huddles (my words, but his sentiment).  In fact, he challenges churches to recognize that we are “not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture.”

What all this means to me is simple.  It means that the Church, and especially we at Redeemer – with our mission to be a “light-house” – must intentionally find ways to bring the light of Christ to the lost and searching in the world.  We have the Light which brightens our way and directs our steps out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous light! It’s a Light that this generation desperately needs as they search in the dark.  It’s a light that we can’t just keep in our “house” but that we must carry to “our community and to the world.”  Join me in praying that God will make our light shine brightly so that more will see and know Him! And that He will move us to live our calling of being light-bearers.  … Hide it under a bushel? No!

… Illumine us, Lord Jesus.  Amen!

Doing Church as a Team

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As a leadership team at Redeemer, we are reading together the book “Doing Church as a Team” by Wayne Cordiero:

Wayne says in his book:

The church is not an organization.  It is more like an organism with living parts that must move and work together as a whole.  An individual part cannot function on its own.

We can readily agree with this assessment.  We know that together we can accomplish more than we can alone.  But it can be so challenging to work together!  Sometimes it seems easier to just “do it myself” than to go through the trouble to create a team environment.

It is a challenge to create and work with teams – how do you do it?  Wayne says in the book:

Building teams does not begin with a certain kind of technique; it begins with a certain kind of heart – an unselfish, authentic heart, desiring God’s best.  Such a heart constantly asks, How can I include others?  It anticipates the joy of sharing experiences, struggles and victories…

So how do we allow such a team culture and mindset to flourish at our church?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please share your comments below!

– Pastor Augie.

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