The Reality

In all the themes of change and reaching this generation, it is easy to get focused on all the necessary means of reaching younger people. This is very good in many respects. Each iteration of life has to find its identity. Each generation growing older has to make adjustments to stay current and not just become “old fuddy-duddies.” There are challenges for all age spectrums. The younger with zeal, creativity, and innovation must reach the generations that preceded them and relate. The in-betweens, usually the parents of the upcoming generation, are suspended between their children and their parents. Everybody has a job to do in order to relate to one another. Institutions have to adapt, change, re-emerge.

Business recognizes this. McDonald’s is always tearing down and remodeling sites. The menu is constantly adapting to current food fads. Major restaurants are constantly changing interior designs. Menus change with the seasons and trends. Church, on the other hand, usually resists change. People leave when change comes. When churches do not change, people leave. It is frustrating to say the least.

However, there has to be one constant…Jesus. In all the flurry of modernity, there still remains a rugged cross. There remains a body torn and bleeding. There remains a sacrifice so significant that it changed eternity, forever.

There is no sprucing up the crucifixion. There is no way to sell it as something less than brutality. There is no dressing it up to make it palatable for sensitive stomachs. It is the human-divine sacrifice. We dress up sin, we make unrighteousness comfortable and palatable. We excuse indiscretion. We willingly apply grace without understanding the price for it.

It is an old, old story that cannot be modernized. The transition from an old covenant that sacrificed animals to a new covenant that sacrificed the Son of God is phenomenal. It is an account of brutality, hatred, meanness, and revenge. And Jesus endured all of it. The treatment he received was worse than any animal sacrifice. If it were not for the resurrection, it would have been the discarding of a human as a piece of trash. Yet, the resurrection ratified the new covenant because the maker of that covenant died and instituted it and then came to life once again, victorious, making an open show of his victory over death and the enemy.

All that we do is to reach people so they might encounter the one who paid the price for them. It is not about making them a Christian; it is about making them face the Christ head on. Encounter the person, not a religion. You can dress up Christianity, but you cannot dress up the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

An encounter with Jesus is life shattering. You cannot be the same anymore. You are broken by the sin and corruption of your own heart. He comes in the brokenness and gives life. The life that he paid for through the most horrifying hours of pain and suffering. You can’t change that!

Pastor Bill

How Great a Love

How Great a Love

Love…that word that tries to describe one of the deepest needs that humans have. Love is rooted in the very fiber of life. We look for it, we long for it, we go to great lengths to experience it. It is so basic to life that babies fresh from the womb need that bonding love from their mother. They cannot talk, they cannot express, but they crave and require that nurturing love that comes from the mother’s caresses and the warmth of her breast. The baby lying cuddled up under the chin of the mother bonds with her as she bonds with the child. Love is expressed at this elemental moment.

Throughout our lives we look for affirmation, a word of encouragement, a touch of love and approval. Love is the essence of connection. Love connects us to one another. It can run so deep that we experience sympathetic pain, second hand offenses, and even second hand joy as our loved one succeeds. We crave the sincere love, the unfailing love, the laying down your life kind of love. We want to know someone loves us enough to not leave when we fail, not leave when we are angry, upset, depressed. Love is easy in good times. It is tough when life hands us sickness, problems, financial issues.

Sadly, some people never get to know the love that lasts. Some find loss when they are children; parents who do not love or show affection, some having abusive parents, or they experience the loss of parents through some tragedy. Sadly, life can change the fortunes of people through death of a spouse, or some physical issue can radically change life. Some have lost mental capacity, some have lost physical capacity, some start life with life limiting disabilities. These can limit the number of people who will reach out to love them. However, that need for love is resident in every person.

Where does that need for love come from? I believe it comes from God. God is love. It is his nature, his character, his essence. Anything that comes from him has that imprint. The human is particularly imprinted with God’s design and nature. We do not develop a need for love, we are born with it. It is not a conscious decision, it is inherent within us. Yet, we know that the fallen nature of things work against the principles of God, work against his character. Hurt, disappointment, hatred, frustration, all work against what God has intended.

In our whole experience we may come to the place that we become hopeless. We may believe that no one cares. But there is. We can then come face to face with the provision of love God provided. We come to face the one who said, For God so loved… God loved us enough to send his son to show us how much we are loved. He orchestrated the life of Jesus to show his love for us. This love is so intense that it endured the greatest pain and identification with those who suffer. In the midst of despair, we are loved. The climb out of despair is found in reaching for the hand of the one who loves us as we are, messed up, sin filled, hopeless, condemned. When we touch his hand, the flow of his love fills us and we are changed for eternity.

We can never fully plumb the depth of that love, but we can feel it, enjoy it, embrace it.

Preparing…#2

Preparing…#2

 I want to follow up on last week’s article.  There have been many “Destination” churches. They exist everywhere. They usually are fairly new offering some fresh perspective. Usually they are composed of younger people as they are searching for something dynamic rather than same old, same old. The current destination churches have modern technologies, the latest styles in presentation and dress, and the latest sound which reflects the music beats of current hits. Usually there is a very charismatic, young, vibrant preacher who can hold the attention of a crowd. They can either be very entertaining or very good teachers, and many of them are both.

How long a destination church remains so depends on the length of the movement. For instance, The River church was a destination church during the Charismatic Renewal. It was exciting. This destination church reached its peak in the mid 1990’s with a top attendance of 360 people. From that point on it dropped slowly at first, but continued downward as the movement waned and the excitement dwindled.

During this whole period of success, excitement, and being the “Destination” church, the community was not affected. As I have been in the community the church is little known. People down the street do not know where the church is. The name is unknown. Oh, there are a few, but asking some, they would not know how to direct you to the church. To me, that was shocking. When I was in Waynesburg, everyone knew where we were. We may have been known as the Jesus Freaks, but they knew where we were.

We are in the process of changing that. When I was starting in my 20’s a Presbyterian minister told me we would never last. He said denomination remain and independents die after a decade or less. I thought to myself, that will not happen. Sadly, many have come and gone, splashes in the pan. Looking at this now, I realize that being a “destination” church can have a short lifespan if it does not impact and become a part of the community, or at least be an option in the community. We are in the process of reaching into the community with our vision of GO-LOVE-SERVE. It is going to take some time. We will have to be persevering in our vision and goals. This becomes a vision that is long term and engaging.

The book on becoming a welcoming church is a first step. If we catch this truth and make it part of our culture, our opportunities to speak of Jesus and our faith in Him will increase. If we see people in the community as friends and neighbors and not targets, we may earn the right to share our faith, our reason to be. “raison d’être” I know that you are great people, love the Lord, and now are being poised to reach others with the love of Christ!

  • Pastor Bill

Preparing…

Preparing…

The website is now up and running. The address is theconnectionbutler.com. The name change will continue as we can accomplish things. When you visit the site, we have two drawings by Tim Beougher that could be used as a sign. I would like you to look and see what you think. Let me know.

Also, the book, “Becoming a Welcoming Church” by Thom Rainer is one that I want everyone to read or download to listen to. It is a short book with a BIG message. Thom Rainer has done church consulting for years and has worked at keeping current with trends in culture and church. This book is similar to the one I had the hospitality team read years ago called, “The Five Star Church.” However, this is shorter and to the point.

The reason I want everyone to read or listen to it is to create a common culture in our church that prepares us to receive new people, unchurched people, and post Christian people. We are facing new challenges to share the gospel, the Godspell, the good news. Once this book would have been given to the greeting and hospitality teams, but now it is imperative for all members to understand. This fits our vision of being a new covenant people, a people who will go, love, and serve.

An observation that I have thought about, but was articulated well, I would like to share with you. This church for years was a “destination” church. It was where people came from the region to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit as it was a part of the Charismatic Movement. Then it became a “Destination” church for pageantry and was recognized far and wide for the arts. It was a “Destination” church for the prophetic as there was a prophetic movement nationally. All these were good in their time. They were following movements and trends as they flowed through spirit filled circles. That was the past.

In spite of all the good things, the community was never impacted. In spite of all the good things, people coming to Christ were few in comparison to the seekers of spiritual growth. Growth came as people were seeking or were coming out of various denominations. Long term, there was a severe lack of go, love, serve. The theme was more of come, seek, be blessed.

The culture that developed was more exclusive rather than inclusive. It had more elitism and less get dirty reaching others. It became rigid with rules and regulations rather than supple and loving to take people where they were and allow changes to come as the Holy Spirit led.

Times have dramatically changed. We are preparing ourselves to do better. Preparing to reach people through connecting with them through the love of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Bill