Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Friday, January 30, 2009

A New Direction-- Church Planting

A New Direction

Back in July I stepped down as the pastor of University Baptist Church and put my house up for sale, assuming that I would be searching to become the pastor of another established church. One thing was not on my mind: Church planting. It was too uncertain, too difficult.

But then a combination of things began happening. First, our house didn’t sell—and hasn’t sold (big prayer request) so moving on from Macomb has taken longer than expected. As a result we have had a longer opportunity to reflect on where God is taking us. If our house had sold quickly, or a new ministry position would have expressed interest relatively quickly, I would not have considered CP as a viable option.

Second, in our search for a new ministry position, it has been very difficult to find churches within the SBC that fit the style and kind of ministry that I am more energized by. Many churches can be described as “stifling” to new ministry perspectives. For new pastors in an existing church; changing a pre-existing church culture takes trust, transformation and especially time. Even then, any transition is often not pleasant. A repeated pattern is long standing members leaving the church they grew up with in bitterness at the new direction. On one hand, I like and agree with by Ed Stetzer’s oft used quote that churches will remain the same until “the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” On the other hand, I am disheartened and saddened by it as well. Pain and broken relationships are practically guaranteed.

Thirdly, was the strength of the church planting staff that has been put together here at the Illinois Baptist State Association: Charles Campbell, Eddie Pullen, Chris Wright, Sean Banesh. I doubt we would have been willing to move forward without the innovative staff being added to the church planting effort. By all accounts, Illinois seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to church planting and a willingness to try innovative ministry.

So here we are. Just this weekend, 1/25/09, the family and I took a trip up to Chicago to look over a couple of CP locations. We didn’t connect with the first on Saturday, but we really did on Sunday with the area around Joliet, IL, particularly Shorewood, IL. So much of this community is new: new homes, new businesses; all within the last 5 years. The county is one of if not the fastest growing counties in the US. The churches that are there have been there since the 50’s & 60’s and are resistant to the newcomers who have changed their small, country town to a bustling, crowded, trafficked, suburb.

The way the population is growing, I’d figure that if all the area churches were reaching 300 people, there still would be a great number unreached by any church. Unfortunately, that scenario is not true—90% of the churches are not reaching more than 70 and of those most of them have lived in the area for a long time. New work is needed. And I’m excited to be a part of it.

I’ve been working on a church name for a while, and since seeing the area, it fits perfectly. Already, God has helped us develop a motto for the church and just this morning a logo design.

We’re calling it:

The Pursuit

With the phrase:

A Love Worth Pursuing
A Life Worth Living
A Faith Worth Dying For

The logo still needs some professional work and we’re looking for partners to come along side us in planting The Pursuit in Shorewood. So please keep praying for us as we are led to go in this New Direction. And please consider partnering with The Pursuit to reach a rapidly growing community.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Barna Research came out with a new report today that has some serious implications for American Christianity.

Here are some of the implications off the research from the site.

--> Americans are increasingly comfortable picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible.

--> Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence. One consequence is that Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs. Barna pointed out, as examples, that millions of people who consider themselves to be Christian now believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the lessons it teaches at the same time that they believe Jesus Christ sinned. Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.

--> Today, Americans are more likely to pit a variety of non-Christian options against various Christian-based views. This has resulted in an abundance of unique worldviews based on personal combinations of theology drawn from a smattering of world religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam as well as secularism.

--> With people spending less time reading the Bible, and becoming less engaged in activities that deepen their biblical literacy, faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching. Feelings and emotions now play a significant role in the development of people’s faith views - in many cases, much more significant than information-based exercises such as listening to preaching and participating in Bible study.

From me:

This is a great concern--while most of the headlines will be that many Americans do not see Christianity as the default religious perspective anymore; I believe that headline is more a symptom or an after effect of these other statements.

Freedom and choice are all vital and good as well as the ability to live out choices without persecution, but when did our emotions and finite minds become the best and final arbiters of truth? Especially when it comes to Cafeteria Christianity--picking and choosing the things we like and dismissing or excusing the rest.

How is this situation not a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 4:3--"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

Here's another few questions to consider... what is the future for the Christianity in America? How does the church minister effectively in such a culture? How will society view those who still hold to absolutes or the truth of ALL of the Bible?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Tag

Thanks to Patrick Bailey, I've been tagged.

Here are the rules for this tag.

1. Go to your photo folders and open the 4th folder.
2. Choose the 4th photo.
3. Explain the photo.
4. Tag 4 other people!

Now technically, the fourth folder in My Pictures was a folder of clip art and this was the file.

But I'm pretty sure this doesn't count since it's not an actual photo. So here goes the next folder of pictures. This is Moriah dancing with curlers in her hair in October of 2007 a couple of weeks before her 3rd birthday. Gabriel seems to be trying to get out of the picture!

Of course, I looked at the next couple of pictures and couldn't resist posting this one as well. This is Moriah practicing her faces and tears in front of the mirror.

Now comes the hard part--trying to think of people with their own blog that I know who will do this.

Uwem Ekpenyong since he's a good friend who doesn't post near enough
Kevin Bussey since he posts all the time anyway!
Art Rogers since I've been revisiting his blog lately
Debbie Kaufman since I know she's been praying for me and my family.

Please post a link in the comments when you have successfully done it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow Days

Not enough to cancel school--but it's cool!

Prepare to be pounded!

cold "cheese" still makes a warm smile

I'm still not safe

Bundled and ready

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Reed Family Update--January 2009

Reed Family Update:

I’ve certainly posted sparingly the past few months but I believe it’s time to share where God has taken my family and I over the past year.

My wife and I just celebrated our 12th anniversary—and that is a wonderful thing. We celebrated with a sick little girl who threw up all day! Moriah is now 4 years old and Gabriel is now a very tall eight. Moriah is growing and talking and sharing her thoughts more and more. Gabriel has experimented this last semester at a local Christian school after a couple of years of homeschooling. They are both a joy to our lives and I am so thankful that God has made us a family.

In the previous post, I described this past year as “difficult”. There have been many changes and challenges that started happening early in January. Things culminated with me stepping down as pastor of University Baptist Church in July. It’s the first time my wife and I have not been in some official ministry capacity since the fall of 1996.

It was a step of faith and, I believe, obedience. I did so without having a new ministry position to go to. I described it as similar to the first time jumping off the high dive into a swimming pool. As a result, I am searching for a new place to serve as pastor; we are still trying to sell our house and find local work during what can be a long search process.

Along with continuing to teach at Spoon River College, God almost immediately provided me with a local temp job and I went to work assembling tractor accessories with a company that supplies John Deere. In that experience, I was around more “lost” people than I have been in years. It was a good reminder to me of the life of those who have little to no interest in church life. Everyone puts on the “good” behavior around the pastor—especially when it’s only a brief visit—their language changes, what they let their kids get away with changes, what they drink or smoke changes. Well, I wasn’t a pastor (though I shared that I had been one fairly quickly), I was around them for hours every day, and no one wanted to make me comfortable or felt the need to be “good” around me. The barriers were down.

In many ways it was refreshing. We at church like to put on the mask—everything’s fine… etc. There were no masks. And yet ministry and witness was still possible. I received the nickname “Secret Preacher Man” sung to the tune of “Secret Agent Man”. It wasn’t particularly meant to be a nice name, but it came because I didn’t check my faith at the door and join in with everything they were doing and talking about and planning.

In response to this I’ve been pondering the idea of requiring myself and any staff member of a church I pastor to spend at least one month a year part-timing at local job—not a cushy one either—to increase exposure to those who are distant from Christ and don’t believe they are missing anything.

As I said, ministry and witness was possible. People often brought questions and issues to me on the Bible and other topics. I was greatly blessed by God crossing my path with an unlikely new believer; a 31 year old with a history of alcohol, martial arts and avoidance of God. Now we talk regularly and I’m able to talk though some of his more unusual questions. This has proven to be a blessing.

In November, I had a greater sense of urgency and deliberateness of talking to people. I couldn’t explain why—but then I found out—on December 23rd, I was laid off from the factory work due to lack of work/orders. Fortunately, I at least made two invitations to church that very week—hopefully something will pan out there, but it may be hard to find out.

As much as this job has been a blessing, it’s been a dramatic drop in family income. I am trusting that God will provide something soon. All along we have been blessed by friends and family that are helping us along the way.

Besides the loss of jobs, my wife Vicky just lost her grandmother on the 16th of December. She was 90 years old and a believer in Christ. It was a hard loss but she was able to be there when she passed, singing songs of faith to her.

While she and our kids were in Mt. Home, AR, there was a powerful ice storm that came through Macomb. Branches were torn down all over town and some people were without power for days in bitter cold. I lost power at our house for about 15 hours. Even the fish had to evacuate to a warmer place.

I didn’t want Vicky and the kids coming home to bad and uncertain weather so they went to Murray, KY with her parents for Christmas. My getting laid off had a blessing with it. I was able to leave Macomb and go to Murray a day earlier. I got to be with my wife and kids after a week and a half of being by myself. Our dog Manna may have preferred the 1-1 time but I certainly missed everyone!

The past year in one word is Difficult, but I would say the word for this coming year is Expectant.

I believe and expect that many great things are going to happen this year for our family. They are current prayer requests, that I believe we will see God answering soon.

1. A Local Job—still needed and I’m searching—hopefully one will come quickly. In the meantime, I’m enjoying being home more, spending more time with the kids and my wife, and getting some projects done around the house.
2. Our House Sold—we haven’t had as many lookers as I was expecting, but from what I understand, Western Illinois University will be hiring a number of new faculty in the spring—pray we can continue to make payments in the meantime
3. A New Ministry Opportunity—we are searching for church positions and we are praying and considering church planting here in IL and elsewhere.